The Netizen Report originally appears each week on Global Voices Advocacy. Ellery Roberts Biddle, Lisa Ferguson, Hae-in Lim, Sarah Myers, Bojan Perkov Lakshmi Sarah and Rezwan 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 Indonesia, where Communications Minister Tifatul Sembiring announced last week via Twitter that Vimeo would be banned due to allegedly pornographic videos. The Jakarta Globe reported that while some local ISPs followed the order, others did not, leading to controversy among Vimeo users and open Internet advocates.
According to public record [link in Indonesian], the ministry intended to prevent users from viewing videos tagged as “Art of Nakedness,” “Nudie Cutie,” and “Beautiful of Nakedness [sic]”. This came as no surprise to observers, who note that the ministry has ordered the blocking of thousands of porn and sex-related websites under Sembiring’s tenure, but it is unclear why the government did not ask ISPs to block specific videos, rather than the site as a whole. Others allege that Sembiring, a leader of the Prosperous Justice Party, ordered the ban because of a film on the site that satirized a recent television ad promoting the party.
Free Expression: Iran’s attempts at “loosening” censorship regime are odd.
Iranians are unable to access Google Sites and the Wikipedia Farsi pages for the 1979 Iranian Revolution and Iran’s Supreme Leader. The block comes just days after Communications Minister Mahmoud Vaezi announced a partnership between the Iranian government and academic institutions to “develop smart filtering to block only depraved and immoral sites.” This shift was described as "loosening" censorship, although the minister did not specify would be categorized as depraved or immoral content. Smart filtering—the inspection of HTML content for real-time blocking—has long been touted as an alternative to blocking websites like Facebook, but officials have said nothing about lifting the block on such sites.
Offended by comments on Twitter following the assassination of León province president Isabel Carrasco, Interior Minister of Spain Jorge Fenández Díaz said, “We have to combat cybercrime and promote cybersecurity, and to clean up undesirable social media.” Various political parties have put forth proposals for social media restrictions, but new laws have yet to be tabled.
“If you say anything remotely critical about the Ecuadorian government, you may face a copyright takedown,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Maira Sutton wrote in a research article published this week. Since 2010, a Spanish law firm has been filing copyright infringement claims with companies including Twitter, Vimeo, Google, Scribd, and Dropbox, demanding that they remove images, documents, and other materials concerning government matters in Ecuador from their platforms. In most cases, the sites have complied and taken down what appears to be lawful content.
In a recent news interview, Deputy Director of Russian communication body Roskomnadzor Maxim Ksenov claimed the government could block Twitter or Facebook in a “matter of minutes.” Russian PM Vladimir Medvedev issued a swift public response, deriding Ksenov and remarking that state officials “sometimes need to turn on their brains.” Nevertheless, Russian authorities appear to be ordering country-level blocking of Ukrainian nationalist accounts on Twitter, as reported earlier this week by Mashable. Roskomnadzor has taken various recent measures to crack down on free expression online, including the blacklisting of opposition media portals in March.
Aamir Atta at ProPakistani reports that social media apps like WhatsApp, Viber, and Skype may soon be blocked in Pakistan's Sindh province to “maintain law and order.” The Sindh government proposed a similar ban in October 2013, citing security concerns. Yet experts say that because a majority of IP addresses in Pakistan aren't city-specific or province-specific, a blockade of social media content may not be possible.
Thuggery: Chinese lawyer censured for sharing political news
Beijing lawyer Xiang Nanfu was arrested for posting thousands of news items to Boxun.com, a U.S.-based website that serves as a forum for discussing politically sensitive topics frowned upon by the Chinese government. In a nine-minute criminal confession aired on the state-owned CCTV, Xiang admitted to posting the news items, which he claimed to have “made up” or “exaggerated” in order to “showcase myself and also for money and building good connections.” He is the latest in a string of dissidents to have issued forced confessions in public fora.
Copyright: U.S. wags finger at India and China over copyright enforcement
A U.S. watch list named both India and China as countries not doing enough to protect intellectual property rights. India in particular avoided receiving the “worst offender” tag, which leads to trade sanctions from the United States Trade Representative.
Since 2008, a year after the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement was signed, the South Korean government has reportedly issued takedown notices left and right for alleged intellectual property violations. OpenNet Korea, a digital rights organization, is now challenging the Korean Communication Standard Commission’s decision to censor Grooveshark, an online music app, without seeking judicial approval as required under Korean law.
Netizen Activism: Freeing Ethiopia’s Zone 9 Bloggers
On last week’s edition of GV Face, Global Voices’ weekly video hangout series, Ethiopian blogger and GV author Endalk Chala spoke about the continuing detention of nine bloggers and journalists in Ethiopia, several of whom are his close friends and work as translators with the Global Voices community.
Publications and Studies
- “Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 2013: Annual Report of the Office of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion”—Organization of American States
- “Halftime for the Brazilian Press”—Committee to Protect Journalists
- “Getting a Grasp on Laws Governing Online Speech in Arab Countries”—Social Media Exchange