Netizen Report: Follow What You Believe Edition

Originally published on May 1, 2012 by Global Voices Advocacy.

Most of this report was researched, written, and edited by Weiping Li,Mera Szendro BokJames Losey, and Sarah Myers.

This week, the Netizen Report launches its first weekly edition. With this change, we hope to make our news round-up more timely and actionable, as a first stop for news from around the world  for Internet activists.

Our inaugural weekly edition honors Ms. Chiranuch Premchaiporn, better known to her friends and supporters by her nickname “Jiew,” who told Digital Democracy in the interview captured above: “I just follow the things that I believe.”

Director of the popular online Thai newspaper Prachatai, Ms. Premchaipornwas arrested in 2009, accused of not acting quickly enough to remove reader comments that were deemed insulting to the King of Thailand. On Monday, the Thai Criminal Court delayed the delivery of a verdict in its lese majestetrial against Ms. Premchaiporn.

The case has fueled criticism from international human rights and press freedom groups of Thailand’s computer crime laws, which hold website operators and other Internet “intermediaries” liable for the actions of their users. The Southeast Asian Press Alliance points out that the postponement of a court verdict is “highly unusual” and reflects the importance of the case – which will have major “implications to freedom of expression, especially in the light of the trend towards online journalism, even in the region.”

Meanwhile, netizens around the world are taking inspiration from people like Jiew, as the struggle for online freedom and rights continues.

Censorship

China’s crackdown on Internet use has escalated this week, with Weibo (a microblog platform) accounts now being deleted to prevent to spread of dissent. Google’s launch this week of its new cloud storage service, Google Drive, has already been blocked in China as well.

An article by Radio France Internationale (in Chinese) describes a 2009 document revealed by Chinese netizens in which the Supreme People’s Court of China ordered lower courts not to hear cases involving Internet censorship, which may explain why lawsuits filed by netizens have been rejected by the courts.

Netizens are beginning to protest India’s IT Act passed quietly in April 2011, restricting web content designated as “disparaging,” “harassing,” “blasphemous,” or “hateful.” An article overviewing Internet regulations in India notes that there are more ways to ban content online in the country than there are to ban physical books and other kinds of media.

The Tor Project has a new tool called the Open Observatory for Network Interference (OONI) to help detect and map global Internet censorship.

In Palestine, the communications minister of the Palestinian Authority resigned this week, over claims senior officials had ordered websites critical of government leaders to be blocked.

Surveillance

Despite hopes by civil liberties groups that the United States House of Representatives would amend the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) to increase privacy protection, additional provisions for the unfettered sharing of information between government and private sector Internet companies were instead added last week, and the bill was passed by the House.

CISPA now moves to the Senate and faces a veto threat from President Obama in its current form. Internet Law Professor Susan Crawford writes in a Bloomberg article that CISPA is part of an escalating cyber arms race with negative implications for Internet freedom around the world. One danger of CISPA – in addition to legalizing unfettered surveillance in the United States – is overbroad definitions of “cyber threats” that could allow anti-censorship tools to be labeled as cyber-terror.

Swedish television has posted an online version with English subtitles of its recent exposé showing how “Nordic Telecom giant Teliasonera is intimately connected to human rights abuses in the former CIS countries where the company is a dominant player in the mobile telephony market.” In the same week the Swedish newspaper DN.se published an investigative report about Ericsson’s involvement with surveillance in Belarus.

Privacy

Austria has delayed implementation of the European Union Data Retention directive. Thousands of Austrians have voiced their support of Austria not implementing the directive and citizens have until May 18, to add their voice.

A new law in Mexico gives authorities greater power to access real-time geolocation data from mobile phone companies.

Thuggery

This week Décio Sá, a Brazilian journalist and blogger, was assasinated whilein a São Luis bar, clearly for political reasons according to the police.

Netizen activism

The Engine Room, a new organization that seeks to improve coordination between advocates, technologists, and support organizations, have outlinedin a Global Voices Advocacy post four principles for how technology can be used for advocacy, including the importance of localizing training to meet local advocacy needs.

Internet governance

Andrea Renda, a senior research fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies, authored a Wall Street Journal op-ed arguing against an increased role for the UN in overseeing Internet governance, and in favor of private governance.

In the United States, the District Court of Eastern Virginia ruled that Facebook ‘likes’ are not protected as free speech.

Copyright

Hong Kong artists are opposing an attempt to create a more restrictive copyright regime, a law that would not allow a fair use exemption for derivative works.

ACTA also continues to encounter resistance in the European Union, as the European Data Protection Official cautioned that the trade agreement could result in widespread monitoring and conflict with the right to privacy.

BitTorrent release group IMAGiNE members have been indicted and may face years in prison following a Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigation.

The New York Times profiled “one of the world’s most prolific bootleggers,” a 92 year old World World II veteran who copies Hollywood films to send to troops.

Tor Books, a major science fiction publisher, has announced that they will offer e-books without digital rights management restrictions.

Drafted guidelines were released this week by the Supreme People’s Court of China that seek to give a judicial interpretation of Internet copyright infringement. The proposed rules urge Internet companies to voluntarily censor their material, and unearth Internet copyright infringement by their users.

Cool things

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has launched a coder rights mailing list.

Publications and studies

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