Global Voices Advocacy's Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. We begin this week's report in Vietnam, where new information about a blogger imprisoned since 2011 has sparked both local and global campaigns calling for his release.
Dang Xuan Dieu, a Vietnamese blogger and community organizer, was arrested and imprisoned in 2011 and had scarcely been heard from until early October 2014.
After a fellow inmate who was recently released from prison reported that Dieu has been held in solitary confinement, and was beaten and starved by the authorities, his friends began a grassroots campaign that has since spread worldwide to raise awareness about his status. Dieu explained his motivations for his work in a message smuggled out of the prison, written in what close contacts believe was his own blood:
I long to live in a society of FREEDOM and TRUTH. One in which no class divisions exist and people live with LOVE and RESPONSIBILITY to one another. But it is because of this that I have been persecuted, and for this I am willing and ready to die!
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found Dieu’s imprisonment stands in violation of international human rights doctrine and international law.
Venezuela targets online activism with new “cyber terrorism” law
Venezuela's socialist party proposed an amendment to the country's Law on Organized Crime last week that would codify “cyber terrorism” as a crime. Deputy Eduardo Gómez Sigala, who opposes the bill, told media outlets that under the new policy, people who use social networks or other electronic media to “promote or attack the constitutional order” or “disrupt public peace” could face between one and five years in prison.
Censorship but no consensus at China’s World Internet Conference
A draft declaration on Internet governance failed to reach approval among participants at the World Internet Conference, a gathering of executives of many of the world’s largest technology firms including Amazon, Microsoft, Baidu and Apple, held in Wuzhen, China Nov. 19 – 21. The declaration sought to promote “multilateralism, democracy, and transparency” in Internet governance and advocated respect for Internet “sovereignty”, signaling strong support for national governments to lead the way on policymaking for the Internet.
In the lead-up to the conference, Chinese censorship authorities strengthened their restrictions on the web. Edgecast, one of the world's largest content delivery networks (CDNs), experienced a DNS “poisoning” attack which left thousands of websites and mobile apps inoperable across China.
Chinese viewers say so-long to subtitling sites
Two leading websites in China that facilitate movie subtitling closed their virtual doors last week. In China, S. Korea and other countries where foreign films are often not released with subtitles in their dominant language, Internet users often take it upon themselves to translate and write film subtitles into a special file format that can be activated and synced to a movie file so that viewers can see the subtitles as it plays. Shooter.cn, a popular platform for the subtitling industry, ceased operations last week after government officials announced new measures to reduce foreign film piracy. Another platform, YYeTs.com, paused operations in an effort to “clean up” their content.
The NSA, Tor and Taylor Swift
The U.S. National Security Agency hosted a question and answer session on its Tumblr page, with Civil Liberties and Privacy Officer Becky Richards taking questions on Tor anonymity, the legality of surveillance, Fourth Amendment rights, and pop icon Taylor Swift. Richards said the NSA plans to launch a privacy and civil liberties internship program, and that one of her main priorities was to increase transparency at the agency. We'll see about that.
European Parliament to push for Google split?
The European Parliament is considering a resolution that could push Google to split its products, making its search engine into a separate company. The resolution reflects concerns that the company may be deliberately downranking certain sites or imposing exclusivity restrictions on certain advertising partners in order to keep smaller ad businesses out of the market.
Similar concerns were raised in the U.S. in 2011, prompting a two-year investigation by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission into various concerns about ad practices, and whether or not the company engaged in “search bias”. The investigation resulted in some policy changes at the company, though search bias allegations were ultimately dismissed. Critics think it is unlikely that the EP resolution, if passed, could actually result in such a split.
New security tips and tools for human rights defenders online
Detekt, a new open-source detection tool developed by Italian security researcher Claudio Guarnieri, enables PC users to identify signs of infection by surveillance malware widely used by governments.
Berlin's Tactical Technology Collective released a digital security guide aimed at helping environmental rights defenders in Sub-Saharan Africa to protect themselves against increasing digital threats from governments and corporations alike.
A New York Times feature article on the secret life of passwords explores how these security measures often reflect some of the most intimate details of our lives.
- Technological Sovereignty: Missing the Point – Open Technology Institute