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 Russia, where as of Aug. 1, any blogger whose site attracts more than 3,000 daily readers will be considered an “official blogger” and must register with the government. This entails turning over personal details including one’s full name, which effectively renders anonymous blogging illegal and impossible. Bloggers will be held liable for any alleged misinformation published on their blogs, including comments. Only a handful of names have appeared on the list since its launch last Friday, but there's no telling how many bloggers Russia's communications agency, Roscomnadzor, will add to its records. Apart from collecting bloggers’ names and URLs for the registry, Roscomnadzor encourages bloggers to submit their information voluntarily. To expedite the verification process, the government suggests (but does not require) that bloggers share something every Internet user knows never to divulge: their logins and passwords. It's unclear how many Russians have trusted the government with their social network passwords, but reports suggest that roughly 130 people submitted their information to Roscomnadzor on the day the blogger registry launched.
The Russian government also has ramped up censorship of online media in recent months, most recently blocking a number of pages on the social media network Vkontakte that called for more autonomy for Siberia. Roscomnadzor also says it is considering banning the BBC’s entire website after it featured an interview with the artist Artem Loskutov, whom the regulatory agency has called an “extremist” for advocating that Siberia become an autonomous republic. Russian authorities have already forced one major news website, Slon.ru, to remove an interview with Loskutov.
Free Expression: Former Malaysian PM urges government to censor the censors
In a recent blog post, former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad condemned platforms such as Facebook for policing content on their sites. Then Mahathir took a strange turn, arguing that the government should see this as a reason to impose new restrictions on Internet content. This marks a puzzling reversal of Mahathir’s previous position on the issue. An influential figure in Malaysian politics known for taking controversial positions on civil liberties, Mahathir was once an active promoter of Internet adoption and openness and even approved a 1998 law that intended to protect open expression and media freedom.
Thuggery: Whistle-blower arrested over Israeli Defense Forces information leak
Former Israeli combat soldier turned whistle-blower Eran Efrati was arrested by the Israeli authorities and questioned concerning his research on the use of illegal weapons in Gaza. On July 29, Efrati announced on Facebook that he received information from sources within the Israel Defense Forces suggesting that civilians were targeted and killed by Israeli soldiers in the recent Shuja'iyya massacre. In addition to being arrested and questioned, Efrati said that he was unable to access both his Facebook and email accounts.
Surveillance: China has more “Internet public opinion monitors” than military personnel
The Internet public opinion analysis sector is growing rapidly in China, expanding by about 50 percent a year. This suggests that surveillance of the population is increasing at an unprecedented pace. According to Chinese-language newspaper the Beijing News, 2 million people in China currently work as public opinion analysts, monitoring social networking sites, collecting information about users’ opinions and attitudes, and funneling information to policymakers through internal publications.
Internet Insecurity: Attack on Tor?
Tor issued a security advisory notifying users of an attack attempting to de-anonymize users who operate or access Tor hidden services. The attack began Jan. 30, 2014, and ended July 4. According to Tor, users who accessed Tor hidden services within this time frame “should assume they were affected”, though it remains unclear which users were de-anonymized or what data was captured.
Netizen Activism: “A Mighty Cry” to #FreeZone9Bloggers
On July 31, activists from Islamabad to Hong Kong to Cairo to San Francisco put forth a truly global effort to call for justice for nine bloggers and journalists jailed and charged with terrorism in Ethiopia. Global Voices founder Ethan Zuckerman tells the compelling story behind the Zone 9 blogger collective.
Cool Things: What is the Internet saying about Gaza?
Israeli data scientist Gilad Lotan published a comprehensive analysis of online conversations and media coverage of the war in Gaza. Lotan concludes that the breadth of information and perspective on the issue allows Internet enables the building of “personalized propaganda engines that feeds users content which makes them feel good and throws away the uncomfortable bits.”