Global Voices Advocacy's Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world.
Brazilian legislator Silvio Costa is pushing a bill that would obligate every Brazilian Internet user to provide their full name and identification number in order to post comments on blogs, Web forums, and social media. The bill would function as an amendment to the Marco Civil, which establishes rights, principles, and obligations related to Internet use in Brazil. Deputy Silvio Costa, who originally proposed the bill in June, says it is “crucial” to preventing people from “misusing freedom of expression to incite hate, defame people or condoning a crime.” If it’s approved, Brazil will join the ranks of countries like China and Vietnam, which have introduced similar policies requiring users to provide identification documentation to publish comments online.
Meanwhile, policymakers and civil society leaders gathered in Salvador in July for Brazil’s Internet Governance Forum, where major topics of discussion included cybersecurity, human rights, and the pending regulation of “gray areas” of the law, such as technical exceptions to net neutrality principles. Brazil’s Ministry of Justice has been conducting an online poll and debate on the matter since December 2014. Notably, many of the forum’s participants expressed concerns with Facebook’s plans of bringing Internet.org to Brazil, on the grounds that it breaches net neutrality and creates a digital divide on the country’s Internet.
During a panel focused on net neutrality, Gustavo Gindre, from Intervozes Collective and former counselor for Brazil’s official Internet Steering Committee, said that Facebook’s program should not be adopted as a public policy solution to the persisting lack of Internet access for nearly half of the country’s 200 million-person population. “[This program] creates second-class citizens. You say ‘OK, they don’t need videos, they don’t need heavy photos’, for instance. This interferes in the construction of citizenship.”
No porn? No thanks! Indians speak out against overblocking by ISPs
The Indian government backed away from a plan to block access to 857 websites after a massive public outcry, now saying that it will block a smaller list of sites yet to be released. It initially blocked the sites, which the telecommunications department called “pornographic”, despite including non-pornographic sites such as torrent site kickass.to and the humor sites CollegeHumor.com and 9Gag. The ban, imposed by Internet service providers, can be circumvented by accessing the sites using a VPN or proxy server. According to Pranesh Prakash of the Centre for Internet and Society, this was the “largest single order of its kind” to ban content in India – the outcry it received suggests Indian citizens won’t stand for such incursions on the right to free expression.
Indian women silenced by trolls, Facebook policies
While India’s controversial porn ban continues to make headlines, a growing group of feminist Facebook users from Kerala, India have been targeted with sexual harassment, identity impersonation, and direct threats of violence on the social network. While some of their assailants have been quieted by removal of content and account suspensions, the onslaught has persisted. Among the women targeted is Global Voices author Inji Pennu, whose account was recently reported to Facebook for violating the company’s real name policy. She suspects the report came from one of her trolls. Despite the fact that Inji uses real name on her profile, her account has been suspended, and will not be reinstated unless she sends the company proof of her identity. But she is afraid of the repercussions this could bring:
I have no guarantee of what they will do with this information or whom they might share it with. I also fear that they will reinstate my account using my full name, including my caste name. This could have dangerous implications for my family members in India.
The caste system in India is a deeply-entrenched, centuries-old system of class hierarchy under which some castes are more vulnerable than others. For members of those groups, revealing caste names could result in greater harm to them and greater impunity for their attacker.
Google balks at French proposal to globalize Right to Be Forgotten
France’s privacy regulator demanded that Google implement the European “Right to Be Forgotten” worldwide, rather than just on Google.fr and other European domains. Google has pushed back on the proposal, which would require the company to honor requests from individuals to remove search results pointing to information about them that is either out of date or “irrelevant” to the public interest. Global Privacy Counsel wrote in a blog post that because countries have different laws, France’s approach would make the Internet “only…as free as the world’s least free place.”
Colombia zeroes in on government workers’ social media accounts
As Colombia approaches a round of elections on October 25, public officials are under greater scrutiny for their use of social media. The public prosecutor’s office announced that it will be monitoring the social media accounts of public servants and encouraging citizens to report any “irregularities which might affect the transparency and security of the electoral process.”
Treason charges for German bloggers trigger outcry
Germany’s justice minister fired the country’s top prosecutor following an investigation of two journalists on treason charges, for publishing classified documents on Germany’s plans to expand its surveillance of the Internet. The journalists, Markus Beckedahl and Andre Meister, run the investigative blog Netzpolitik.org with 30 other writers who report primarily on surveillance and privacy issues in Germany. The investigation was widely criticized as an attack on press freedom, and thousands of Netzpolitik supporters marched in Berlin to support their cause. Global Voices Advocacy also joined a long list of other digital rights supporters, journalists and activists calling for an end to the investigation, which now appears to have been suspended.
Austria sends Pirate Bay packing
The Commercial Court of Vienna ordered A1 Telekom, a local ISP, to block access to The Pirate Bay. This is the latest in a string of Austrian cases ruling in favor of copyright holders and against ISPs, which must bear the costs of blocking access.
The Internet is full of cats and puppies and all kinds of cute animals – and so is Global Voices. The GV Community celebrated the animal kingdom with a special edition on our community blog featuring pets of Global Voices.
- Political Bots and the Manipulation of Public Opinion in Venezuela – Andres Monroy Hernandez, Philip Howard, Michelle Forelle, Saiph Savage
- World Press Freedom Index 2015 – Reporters Without Borders