The Netizen Report originally appears each week on Global Voices Advocacy. Hae-in Lim, Sonia Roubini, Alex Laverty, Richard Teverson, Mohamed ElGohary, Ellery Roberts Biddle, and Sarah Myers contributed to this report.
Global Voices Advocacy's Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. This week's report begins in the United States, where rights advocates are responding to President Barack Obama’s highly anticipated speech on surveillance reforms, delivered last Friday. Obama pledged to dismantle the system of collecting phone call metadata “as it currently exists.” Other changes will include the addition of a public advocate in the FISA court who will be responsible for approving surveillance requests; the adoption of stricter standards for accessing metadata; and raising the threshold for authorizations for spying on foreign leaders. Despite the reforms, Obama’s speech came under criticism for not going far enough. Reactions from rights advocates in the United States and around the globe were mostly critical.
PEN International’s Deji Olukotun noted the historical irony in Obama’s treatment of state surveillance, an issue that plagued civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. “[It] makes little sense for the President to open the door on the deeply-flawed surveillance program that plagued King while making cosmetic reforms to his own far-flung surveillance program.
Global privacy leaders largely reiterated the need to take further steps to protect privacy rights. Government officials in the EU, U.K., and Germany had mixed reviews, while Brazilian leaders, who have been highly critical of the NSA program, refused to comment publicly.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation put together a scorecard rating the reform plan 3.5 out of a possible 12.
Free Expression: Winter Olympics bring chilling effects to the RuNet.
New legislation in Russia allows security authorities to block websites and social networks that host calls for "participation in mass public events." The policy goes into effect in Russia on Feb. 1, just ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Other laws still under consideration would introduce new data collection requirements for websites and restrict online money transfers for NGOs.
Ukraine’s Parliament passed a law that openly restricts free speech, peaceful protest and free communications in the country.
Thuggery: “Watchdog” journalists threatened over leaked draft constitution.
Zambian police are threatening to prosecute the operators of independent news site the Zambian Watchdog after the embattled site published a new draft constitution that lawmakers wrote but failed to release to the public. This is one in a series of attempts to shut down the Zambian Watchdog.
Privacy: Canada spanks Google.
Industry: China expands its reach in Africa.
The Kenyan government will award national digital television distribution rights to Chinese company PANG, a decision that has caused alarm among local TV stations and activists who fear the change could lead to censorship. The government’s Digital Transition Committee says that PANG is required to be a “neutral signal carrier.”
Publications and Studies
- “Reporter’s Guide for Covering the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia”—Human Rights Watch
- “Finding a Formula for Brazil: Representation and Legitimacy in Internet Governance”—Internet Policy Observatory