Netizen Report: Mexican Spring Edition

Originally published on May 31, 2012 by Global Voices Advocacy.

Marianna Fierro via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Most of this report was researched, written, and edited by Tom Risen,Weiping LiJames Losey, and Sarah Myers.

Galvanized through Twitter and Facebook, tens of thousands of protestersmarched in Mexico’s capital last week calling for more engaging issue campaigns by politicians and less biased reporting by Mexico’s mainstream media of the upcoming July 1 presidential election.

The Twitter campaigning under #YoSoy132 began with protests in reaction to a May 11 speech at Iberoamericana University in Mexico City by Enrique Peña Nieto, front-runner candidate for the Mexican presidency and member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (also known as the PRI), which ruled Mexico for seven decades before the last presidential election 2000. Part of the protesters’ goal was to shake off public apathy about a presidential election in a country torn by drug wars and Peña Nieto’s presumed victory.

When some politicians and media decried the student activists as “porros,” or thugs paid by Leftist politicians, students posted video on YouTube explaining their aim of political awareness against the status quo, entitled “131 Ibero students answer back.” The movement generally opposes status quo politics instead of alternatives to Peña Nieto. Some activists believe this could be the beginning of a Mexican spring, as citizens take to the streets and the Internet in a movement for democratic reform.

Thuggery

Bad news in Thailand this week: Chiranuch Premchaiporn, better known by her nickname “Jiew,” was convicted for “computer crimes” on May 30 by the Bangkok Criminal Court. As we recently reported, Premchaiporn was director of the popular online newspaper, Prachatai. She was arrested in 2009,accused of not acting quickly enough to remove reader comments deemed insulting to the King of Thailand. Despite the fact that her one-year sentence was suspended, the verdict is widely condemned as a blow to free expression in Thailand and beyond.

A Kuwaiti man faces ten years in prison for allegedly using Twitter to insultthe Prophet Muhammed, the rulers of Bahrain and the rulers of Saudi Arabia. He has pleaded not guilty, claiming his account was hacked.

Censorship

In the United States (US), a law proposed in the New York State Assembly would ban anonymous comments made on New York-based websites unless the poster agrees to attach their name to the post; however, oddly it does not require identification of those who request the takedown of anonymous content.

Saudi Arabia’s Communication and Information Technology Commission hascensored Wikipedia articles relating to evolution, sexuality and the human body.

Surveillance

Wired article has described the inner workings of Libya’s Electronic Army, a surveillance network organized by former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and the Free Generation Movement of activists that hacked around government Internet control.

A Columbia Journalism Review article describes the need for journalists to take digital security seriously in protecting themselves while reporting on repressive nations like Libya. A guide to surveillance self-defense is available on the Electronic Frontier Foundation website.

Piecing together details, CNET reports the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is creating a covert Domestic Communications Assistance Center (DCAC) unit to develop electronic surveillance technologies to monitor Internet, VoIP and wireless communications. The FBI’s new surveillance push also includes lobbying Internet companies not to oppose a proposal making backdoors to allow more efficient government surveillance mandatory.

Sovereigns of cyberspace

Google announced its Picasa, Google Earth and Chrome programs are now available for download in Syria, while the company remains in compliance with US export controls and sanctions against providing other programs for use in that nation.

Google also launched a new section in its Transparency Report, disclosing that the company removes an average of 250,000 search links each week due to copyright and piracy concerns, a figure that exceeds the total number it removed in all of 2009.

Facebook will announce plans to open its first office in the Middle East, in the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai.

Facebook is also rumored to be rebooting its 2010 attempt to develop its own smartphone, codenamed “Buffy,” having netted US$ 16 billion from its initial public offering of stock.

National policy

President Obama issued an order mandating all major federal agencies to make many more services available to the public on mobile phones within the next 12 months.

Seeking to counter the online satire of Shi’ite saint Imam Naghi, Iran’s Ministry of Culture unveiled Hadinet.ir on May 23, a social-networking site devoted to the Imam.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said that nation now has 72 million high-speed Internet connections, nearly twice as many as in 2010.

Cambodian officials are drafting the nation’s first cyber policy law, which would “prevent any ill-willed people or bad mood people from spreading false information.” Several Cambodian NGOs are monitoring the development of the laws, which could borrow from the Thai model of Internet censorship.

A high-speed network in Cuba using a new undersea fiber-optic cable is 10 months late for activation, leading critics to suspect embezzlement of project funds or reluctance by Cuban politicians fearful of online activism. According to government statistics just 2.9 percent of Cubans have reported having direct Internet access.

Internet governance

US House of Representatives subcommittee is holding a hearing this weekon a proposal made by nations including Russia and China about whether the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union, which regulates telephones and satellites, should extend its control to governing the Internet.

Internet activism

An Economist article overviews the discussions by Arab online activists at this month’s Oslo Freedom Forum on the role of social media after the Arab Spring.

Internet freedom nonprofit Fight for the Future launched a “Privacy is Awesome” campaign over Memorial Day weekend aimed at countering the proposed Cyber Information Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which already passed the US House of Representatives and is headed to the Senate.

Members of hacktivist group Anonymous are planning non-violent protestson June 9 in India, against blocking and censorship of file-sharing websites, and against the Information Technology Act and recently updated rules that allow the Indian government to block websites and demand user information from Internet service providers in a manner that critics believe lacks due process and invites political abuse.

Copyright

San Francisco-based BitTorrent Inc. is suing German-based BitTorrent Marketing GmbH, accusing the company of ripping off their intellectual property and deceiving users into thinking the two companies are associated.

US Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced a bill entitled the “Congressional Oversight Over Trade Negotiations Act,” demanding access for Members of Congress and their staff to draft texts of trade agreements under negotiation by the Office of the United States Trade Representative, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. The leaked intellectual property rights chapterof the agreement has provisions that have a direct impact on the future of the open Internet.

Twitter suspended the account of a group parodying the London 2012 Olympic Games for using the logo of the Games as their profile picture.

Russia’s most popular social network, vKontaktelost a court challenge from subsidiaries of EMI Music, who claimed the website’s feature integrating with file-sharing software violates copyright laws.

Cybersecurity

Apple’s personal assistant application Siri and file storage app iCloud are now banned from IBM-issued iPhones because there are no details on where and for how long the data from spoken queries is stored.

Cool things

Internet freedom non-profit Fight for the Future took liberty with a popular Texas motto, “Don’t Mess With Texas,” by posting a crowd-funded billboardentitled “Don’t Mess With the Internet” across the street from the office of Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the author of the failed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

The United Kingdom’s Guardian newspaper launched an online journalism toolkit called n0tice, which allows smaller news websites to access API in order to develop crowdmapping, mobile publishing and live-blogging functions.

Publications and studies

For upcoming events related to the future of citizen rights in the digital age, see the Global Voices Events Calendar.

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