Posts tagged with ‘internet freedom’

Eight Jailed in Iran for Posting "Insults" on Facebook →

Via The Guardian:

Eight people, including an Iranian-born British woman, have been jailed in Iranon charges including blasphemy and insulting the country’s supreme leader on Facebook.

The opposition website Kaleme reported that two of the eight… each received 20 years in prison and the remaining six…vbetween seven and 19 years.

They were variously found guilty of blasphemy, propaganda against the ruling system, spreading lies and insulting Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

FJP: There seems to be some push and pull between President Hassan Rouhani and the country’s ruling conservatives. As The Guardian reports:

There is a growing row between President Hassan Rouhani’s administration, which favours internet freedom, and hardliners wary of relaxing online censorship. Last week, Iran’s national TV paraded six young Iranians arrested for performing a version of Pharrell William’s hit song Happy and posting a video of it on the internet. The arrests caused global outrage and prompted Rouhani to react in their support. The performers were soon released, but the video’s director, Sassan Soleimani, remains in jail…

…In recent weeks Rouhani has stepped up his rhetoric in support of internet freedom. “The era of the one-sided pulpit is over,” he said recently at a conference in Tehran, endorsing social networks and asking his communications minister to improve bandwidth in the country.

As Turkey Bans Twitter, Twitter Use Surges
Turkey banned Twitter Thursday night because of “biases" and "systematic character assassinations" it says take place on the network. Namely, that people are sharing audio recordings and other evidence of alleged mass corruption in the Erdogan government.
Despite the ban, or maybe because of it, Twitter use within Turkey just skyrocketed. Via Venture Beat:

After banning Twitter last night, the actions of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have failed spectacularly.
Immediately following Turkey’s ban, Twitter issued an SMS workaround. Then, ”#TwitterisblockedinTurkey” became a globally trending topic on Twitter. Into the night, usage of Google’s free DNS service exploded to circumvent the blockage of Twitter’s domain. Now, social media analysis firms Brandwatch and We Are Social report that Turkish tweets last night and this morning are up by a massive 138 percent…
…Turkish users collectively tweeted 2.5 million times since the ban went into effect, potentially “setting new records for Twitter use in the country,” according to a different study reported by the Guardian.

As Zeynep Tufekci explains, people in Turkey “banned the ban” by sharing tips on using proxies and adjusting DNS settings to get around government blocking:

By the end of the evening, I repeated the same line in interviews and also on Twitter: the only people “banned” from Twitter are pro-government supporters not wanting to openly circumvent. But then even some of them started popping up, arguing the ban must be a mistake or a devious plot by the opponents in the judiciary where they had been battling a faction. It was 3 am in Turkey and it seemed that many people on my Twitter list, who normally would be asleep by then, were awake, rejoicing in the freedom they’d clutched. They were not going to let go. Jokes were proliferating about the weakness of the ban, the fact that pro-government supporters had mostly decided to stay away, and the fact that the prolific Tweeter and mayor of Ankara from the ruling party had not been able to resist the temptation. He had circumvented.

Image: A woman paints Google’s Public DNS on her body, a method being used to get around Turkey’s Twitter ban, via @_cypherpunks_. Related, graffiti in Turkey is appearing that promotes the same.  

As Turkey Bans Twitter, Twitter Use Surges

Turkey banned Twitter Thursday night because of “biases" and "systematic character assassinations" it says take place on the network. Namely, that people are sharing audio recordings and other evidence of alleged mass corruption in the Erdogan government.

Despite the ban, or maybe because of it, Twitter use within Turkey just skyrocketed. Via Venture Beat:

After banning Twitter last night, the actions of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have failed spectacularly.

Immediately following Turkey’s ban, Twitter issued an SMS workaround. Then, ”#TwitterisblockedinTurkey” became a globally trending topic on Twitter. Into the night, usage of Google’s free DNS service exploded to circumvent the blockage of Twitter’s domain. Now, social media analysis firms Brandwatch and We Are Social report that Turkish tweets last night and this morning are up by a massive 138 percent…

…Turkish users collectively tweeted 2.5 million times since the ban went into effect, potentially “setting new records for Twitter use in the country,” according to a different study reported by the Guardian.

As Zeynep Tufekci explains, people in Turkey “banned the ban” by sharing tips on using proxies and adjusting DNS settings to get around government blocking:

By the end of the evening, I repeated the same line in interviews and also on Twitter: the only people “banned” from Twitter are pro-government supporters not wanting to openly circumvent. But then even some of them started popping up, arguing the ban must be a mistake or a devious plot by the opponents in the judiciary where they had been battling a faction. It was 3 am in Turkey and it seemed that many people on my Twitter list, who normally would be asleep by then, were awake, rejoicing in the freedom they’d clutched. They were not going to let go. Jokes were proliferating about the weakness of the ban, the fact that pro-government supporters had mostly decided to stay away, and the fact that the prolific Tweeter and mayor of Ankara from the ruling party had not been able to resist the temptation. He had circumvented.

Image: A woman paints Google’s Public DNS on her body, a method being used to get around Turkey’s Twitter ban, via @_cypherpunks_. Related, graffiti in Turkey is appearing that promotes the same.  

Post to YouTube? You'll Need a License for That →

Via Global Voices Advocacy:

This week’s report begins in Saudi Arabia where government officials say they will soon require Internet users to obtain a state-issued permit in order to post videos on YouTube. Videos would be evaluated based on their consistency with Saudi “culture, values and tradition.” The policy could have troublesome implications for activists, whose strategic use of YouTube for actions like the Women2Drive campaign has brought international attention to the issue. Saudi citizens reportedly boast the highest YouTube usage rate per capita in the world.

A Saudi judge recommended that blogger Raif Badawi face charges of apostasy, or denouncing Islam, before the country’s high court. Individuals convicted of apostasy in Saudi Arabia typically receive the death penalty. Last summer, Badawi was convicted of insulting Islam on his blog, Free Saudi Liberals, and sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes. The current recommendation came after Badawi’s lawyers appealed the decision.

FJP: Maybe the Kingdom’s tired of seeing videos such as these. Or these. Or these. Or these.

Renowned Rights Watchdog to Downgrade United States in Freedom Rankings →

Via Slate:

If you thought the astounding (and ongoing) revelations about the NSA’s PRISM regime were going to hurt America’s reputation, it appears you were right. Freedom House just made it official.

In an exclusive statement to Future Tense, the internationally renowned rights watchdog said it’s going to downgrade the U.S. in its annual Internet freedom rankings.

“The revelation of this program will weaken the United States’ score on the survey,” the organization told me in an email.

Freedom House ranked the United States 23rd overall in its 2013 Global Press Freedom Rankings (PDF) and second overall behind Estonia in its 2012 Internet Freedoms report (PDF).

Without advanced technology, authoritarian regimes would not be able to spy on their citizens. Reporters Without Borders has for the first time compiled a list of five “Corporate Enemies of the Internet,” five private sector companies that it regards as “digital era mercenaries” because they sell products that are used by authoritarian governments to commit violations of human rights and freedom of information. They are Gamma, Trovicor, Hacking Team, Amesys and Blue Coat…

…Their products have been or are being used to commit violations of human rights and freedom of information. If these companies decided to sell to authoritarian regimes, they must have known that their products could be used to spy on journalists, dissidents and netizens. If their digital surveillance products were sold to an authoritarian regime by an intermediary without their knowledge, their failure to keep track of the exports of their own software means they did not care if their technology was misused and did not care about the vulnerability of those who defend human rights.

Reporters Without Borders, Era of the Digital Mercenaries.

Today is World Day Against Cyber-Censorship and for it, Reporters Without Borders is focusing on the five countries and five companies it believes are the worst in the world when it comes to censorship and surveillance.

A must read.

[Iran] is developing “intelligent software” that aims to manipulate, rather than fully control, citizens’ access to social networks. Instead of blocking Facebook, or Twitter, or even Google, the regime… will allow controlled access to those services. As Iranian police chief Esmail Ahmadi Moghadam put it to Iranian local media, cheerfully: “Smart control of social networks will not only avoid their disadvantages, but will also allow people to benefit from their useful aspects.”…

…[T]he “intelligent software” announcement is itself revealing: It suggests the increasing normalization of censorship — and, more specifically, the increasing normalization of strategic censorship.

This is the highly effective Chinese model put to use by another regime: Block content if you must, but monitor content first of all. Allow your citizens to indict themselves with the freedom — “freedom” — you give them. And that is, as a strategy, very likely the future of repression — one in which access to the web won’t just be the black-and-white matter of blocked vs. not , but rather something more insidious: curtailing Internet freedom by the very illusion of granting it. As Iran’s Moghadam noted, “Smart control of social networks is better than filtering them completely.” What’s scary is that he’s probably right.

Megan Garber, The Atlantic. The Age of Surgical Censorship.

Meantime, Iran has cut off access to most Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) that its citizens use to get around government filters.

In announcing the move, Ramezanali Sobhani-Fard, head of parliament’s information and communications technology committee, told the Mehr news agency, “Within the last few days illegal VPN ports in the country have been blocked. Only legal and registered VPNs can from now on be used,” according to Reuters.

Iran is reportedly in the process of creating a “Halal” Internet, or a countrywide intranet, that is closed off from the rest of the Web.

Tibetan Jailed For Having Photos of Self-Immolators on Mobile Phone →

Via Radio Free Asia:

A young Tibetan traditional artist was sentenced to two years in jail with hard labor for having photos on his mobile phone of two compatriots who self-immolated in protest against Chinese rule, according to exile sources Saturday.

Ngawang Thupden, 20, was detained in October last year in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), but relatives learned of the prison sentence for “subversion” only four months later, the sources said, citing contacts in the Himalayan region…

…Chinese authorities have been cracking down hard on any efforts by Tibetans to publicize self-immolation protests after steps taken by Beijing to stop the burnings failed. 

Thupden was accused of “subversion, propagating incorrect political messages, and  causing disharmony among ethnic minorities.”

The decadence and corruption associated with [Rightel’s] use outweighs its benefits. It will cause new deviances in our society, which is unfortunately already plagued with deviances.

Grand Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi in a fatwa against Rightel, a 3G mobile operator that’s bringing video calls to Iran. AL Monitor, Fatwa Issued Against 3G Internet Operator in Iran.

FJP: A second Ayatollah says the video calls “jeopardize the public chastity”.

A petition signed by some residents in the city of Qom says that services like Rightel are a part of “enemy culture” and “facilitate access to sin and decadence”.

#InternetFreedomDay
Visit the Internet Freedom Day web site for various resources and events; see why you should post Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” video even though it’s copyrighted; get a free copy of Marvin Ammori’s On Internet Freedom; and if you’re in San Francisco, join the Electronic Frontier Foundation and friends at an evening get together. 
Image: Partial screenshot, InternetFreedomDay.net.

#InternetFreedomDay

Visit the Internet Freedom Day web site for various resources and events; see why you should post Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” video even though it’s copyrighted; get a free copy of Marvin Ammori’s On Internet Freedom; and if you’re in San Francisco, join the Electronic Frontier Foundation and friends at an evening get together

Image: Partial screenshot, InternetFreedomDay.net.

In Vietnam, 17 bloggers and activists will stand trial [today]. This trial will be the largest of its kind in Vietnam—14 of the defendants will appear at once. They have been charged under Article 79 (“activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s government”) of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The allegations include: attending workshops on digital security; writing and linking to blog posts that are critical of the Communism Vietnamese government; calling for peaceful protests and political pluralism; and association with the Vietnam Reform Party (Viet Tan). If convicted, the defendants could face sentences ranging from five years in prison to capital punishment. Three of the accused activists—Nguyen Xuan Kim, Thai Van Tu, and Le Sy—have fled the country and the Ministry of Public Security has issued a warrant for their arrest.

2012 was a year of crackdowns on free expression in Vietnam, including the introduction of new censorship laws. But just as important as the new regulations was the ongoing harassment, intimidation, and detainment of bloggers who had spoken out against the Communist regime. Dozens of social activists were arrested, some of whom received harsh prison sentences, and many of whom have been detained for over a year without trail. In the summer, the mother of imprisoned Vietnamese blogger Ta Phong Tan died after setting herself on fire to protest her daughter’s detention on charges spreading anti-state propaganda.

The Hackers of Damascus →

Via Businessweek:

Taymour Karim didn’t crack under interrogation. His Syrian captors beat him with their fists, with their boots, with sticks, with chains, with the butts of their Kalashnikovs. They hit him so hard they broke two of his teeth and three of his ribs. They threatened to keep torturing him until he died. “I believed I would never see the sun again,” he recalls. But Karim, a 31-year-old doctor who had spent the previous months protesting against the government in Damascus, refused to give up the names of his friends.

It didn’t matter. His computer had already told all. “They knew everything about me,” he says. “The people I talked to, the plans, the dates, the stories of other people, every movement, every word I said through Skype. They even knew the password of my Skype account.” At one point during the interrogation, Karim was presented with a stack of more than 1,000 pages of printouts, data from his Skype chats and files his torturers had downloaded remotely using a malicious computer program to penetrate his hard drive. “My computer was arrested before me,” he says.

Much has been written about the rebellion in Syria: the protests, the massacres, the car bombs, the house-to-house fighting. Tens of thousands have been killed since the war began in early 2011. But the struggle for the future of the country has also unfolded in another arena—on a battleground of Facebook pages and YouTube accounts, of hacks and counterhacks. Just as rival armies vie for air superiority, the two sides of the Syrian civil war have spent much of the last year and a half locked in a struggle to dominate the Internet. Pro-government hackers have penetrated opposition websites and broken into the computers of Reuters and Al Jazeera to spread disinformation. On the other side, the hacktivist group Anonymous has infiltrated at least 12 Syrian government websites, including that of the Ministry of Defense, and released millions of stolen e-mails.

The Syrian conflict illustrates the extent to which the very tools that rebels in the Middle East have employed to organize and sustain their movements are now being used against them. It provides a glimpse of the future of warfare, in which computer viruses and hacking techniques can be as critical to weakening the enemy as bombs and bullets. Over the past three months, I made contact with and interviewed by phone and e-mail participants on both sides of the Syrian cyberwar. Their stories shed light on a largely hidden aspect of a conflict with no end in sight—and show how the Internet has become a weapon of war.

Stephan Feris, Businessweek. The Hackers of Damascus.

Where should freedom of speech begin and end when you are a web-based entity with a global audience? That’s the question raised by a couple of recent events, including the furor over a Reddit moderator’s creepy behavior, and now the news that Twitter has blocked an account for the first time at the request of a state government — in this case Germany, which asked the service to take action against a Twitter user posting neo-Nazi sentiments, something that is forbidden by the laws of that country. As the web and social tools become more mainstream, these kinds of battles over the limits that should apply to free speech are only going to become more frequent, but the solution to them remains elusive at best…

…Twitter has said that it will make its own judgments in such cases, as Google does — but what recourse do we have if they decide to do something we disagree with? More than anything, these kinds of cases reinforce how much influence private entities like Twitter and Google now have over what information we receive (or are able to distribute), and the responsibility that this power imposes on them.

Matthew Ingram, GigaOm. Twitter, Reddit and the battle over freedom of speech.

Important programming note as you think on this one: In the United States, at least and as Matthew points out, “free-speech protection is something that is only legally or constitutionally required of governments, not corporations.”

Philippines Suspends Internet Law
The Philippine Supreme Court suspended a far reaching Internet law that went into effect October 3. The law passed new restrictions on online behavior and speech in an attempt to address child pornography, identity theft and other computer related crime.
However, journalists and free speech activists protested that the libel provisions bundled into the law would curtail free speech.
Via ABC Radio Australia:

However one provision that metes out heavy jail terms for online libel, tougher than for defamation in the traditional media, has caused an uproar.
Equally controversial is a provision that allows the government to shut down websites and monitor online activities, such as video conversations and instant messaging, without a court order.
Human rights groups, media organisations and netizens have voiced their outrage at the law, with some saying it echoes the curbs on freedoms imposed by dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s.
Philippine social media has been alight with protests, while hackers have attacked government websites and petitions have been filed with the Supreme Court calling for it to overturn the law.

Note that the law has been suspended, not struck down. This gives the government time to amend it.
Image: A protester in Manila rallies against a cyber-crime law in front of the Supreme Court building. By Noel Celis, AFP/Getty Images via the Los Angeles Times.

Philippines Suspends Internet Law

The Philippine Supreme Court suspended a far reaching Internet law that went into effect October 3. The law passed new restrictions on online behavior and speech in an attempt to address child pornography, identity theft and other computer related crime.

However, journalists and free speech activists protested that the libel provisions bundled into the law would curtail free speech.

Via ABC Radio Australia:

However one provision that metes out heavy jail terms for online libel, tougher than for defamation in the traditional media, has caused an uproar.

Equally controversial is a provision that allows the government to shut down websites and monitor online activities, such as video conversations and instant messaging, without a court order.

Human rights groups, media organisations and netizens have voiced their outrage at the law, with some saying it echoes the curbs on freedoms imposed by dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s.

Philippine social media has been alight with protests, while hackers have attacked government websites and petitions have been filed with the Supreme Court calling for it to overturn the law.

Note that the law has been suspended, not struck down. This gives the government time to amend it.

Image: A protester in Manila rallies against a cyber-crime law in front of the Supreme Court building. By Noel Celis, AFP/Getty Images via the Los Angeles Times.

Cypherpunks
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is coming out with a book next month, co-authored with Jacob Applebaum, Andy Müeller and Jérémie Zimmerman.
Via OR Books:

Assange brings together a small group of cutting-edge thinkers and activists from the front line of the battle for cyber-space to discuss whether electronic communications will emancipate or enslave us. Among the topics addressed are: Do Facebook and Google constitute “the greatest surveillance machine that ever existed,” perpetually tracking our location, our contacts and our lives? Far from being victims of that surveillance, are most of us willing collaborators? Are there legitimate forms of surveillance, for instance in relation to the “Four Horsemen of the Infopocalypse” (money laundering, drugs, terrorism and pornography)? And do we have the ability, through conscious action and technological savvy, to resist this tide and secure a world where freedom is something which the Internet helps bring about?
The harassment of WikiLeaks and other Internet activists, together with attempts to introduce anti-file sharing legislation such as SOPA and ACTA, indicate that the politics of the Internet have reached a crossroads. In one direction lies a future that guarantees, in the watchwords of the cypherpunks, “privacy for the weak and transparency for the powerful”; in the other lies an Internet that allows government and large corporations to discover ever more about internet users while hiding their own activities.

Cypherpunks

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is coming out with a book next month, co-authored with Jacob Applebaum, Andy Müeller and Jérémie Zimmerman.

Via OR Books:

Assange brings together a small group of cutting-edge thinkers and activists from the front line of the battle for cyber-space to discuss whether electronic communications will emancipate or enslave us. Among the topics addressed are: Do Facebook and Google constitute “the greatest surveillance machine that ever existed,” perpetually tracking our location, our contacts and our lives? Far from being victims of that surveillance, are most of us willing collaborators? Are there legitimate forms of surveillance, for instance in relation to the “Four Horsemen of the Infopocalypse” (money laundering, drugs, terrorism and pornography)? And do we have the ability, through conscious action and technological savvy, to resist this tide and secure a world where freedom is something which the Internet helps bring about?

The harassment of WikiLeaks and other Internet activists, together with attempts to introduce anti-file sharing legislation such as SOPA and ACTA, indicate that the politics of the Internet have reached a crossroads. In one direction lies a future that guarantees, in the watchwords of the cypherpunks, “privacy for the weak and transparency for the powerful”; in the other lies an Internet that allows government and large corporations to discover ever more about internet users while hiding their own activities.