The Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. It originally appears each week on Global Voices Advocacy. Ellery Roberts Biddle, Marianne Diaz, Sahar Habib Ghazi, Weiping Li, Hae-in Lim, Taisa Sganzerla, and Sarah Myers West contributed to this report.
Brazilian legislator Silvio Costa is pushing a bill that would obligate every Brazilian Internet user to provide their full name and identification number in order to post comments on blogs, Web forums, and social media. The bill would function as an amendment to the Marco Civil, which establishes rights, principles, and obligations related to Internet use in Brazil. Costa, who originally proposed the bill in June, says it is “crucial” to preventing people from “misusing freedom of expression to incite hate, defame people or condoning a crime.” If it’s approved, Brazil will join the ranks of countries like China and Vietnam, which have introduced similar policies requiring users to provide identification documentation to publish comments online.
Meanwhile, policymakers and civil society leaders gathered in Salvador in July for Brazil’s Internet Governance Forum, where major topics of discussion included cybersecurity, human rights, and the pending regulation of “gray areas” of the law, such as technical exceptions to net neutrality principles. Brazil’s Ministry of Justice has been conducting an online poll and debate on the matter since December 2014. Notably, many of the forum’s participants expressed concerns with Facebook’s plans of bringing Internet.org to Brazil, on the grounds that it breaches net neutrality and creates a digital divide on the country’s Internet.
Gustavo Gindre, from Intervozes Collective and former counselor for Brazil’s official Internet Steering Committee, said that Facebook’s program should not be considered a solution to the persisting lack of Internet access for nearly half of the country’s 200 million-person population. “[This program] creates second-class citizens. You say ‘OK, they don’t need videos, they don’t need heavy photos,’ for instance. This interferes in the construction of citizenship.”
Indian women silenced by trolls, Facebook policies
While India’s flubbed ban on Internet porn continues to make headlines, feminist Facebook users from Kerala, India, have been targeted with sexual harassment, identity impersonation, and direct threats of violence on the social network. While some of their assailants have been quieted by removal of content and account suspensions, the onslaught has persisted. Among the women targeted is Global Voices author Inji Pennu, whose account was recently reported to Facebook for violating the company’s real name policy. She suspects the report came from one of her trolls. Despite the fact that Inji uses real name on her profile, her account has been suspended and will not be reinstated unless she sends the company proof of her identity. But she is afraid of the repercussions this could bring:
I have no guarantee of what they will do with this information or whom they might share it with. I also fear that they will reinstate my account using my full name, including my caste name. This could have dangerous implications for my family members in India.
The caste system in India is a deeply entrenched, centuries-old system of class hierarchy under which some castes are more vulnerable than others. For members of those groups, revealing caste names could result in greater harm to them and greater impunity for their attacker.
Colombia zeroes in on government workers’ social media accounts
As Colombia approaches a round of elections on Oct. 25, public officials are under greater scrutiny for their use of social media. The public prosecutor’s office announced that it will be monitoring the social media accounts of public servants and encouraging citizens to report any “irregularities which might affect the transparency and security of the electoral process.”
Treason charges for German bloggers trigger outcry
Germany’s justice minister fired the country’s top prosecutor following an investigation of two journalists on treason charges, for publishing classified documents on Germany’s plans to expand its surveillance of the Internet. The journalists, Markus Beckedahl and Andre Meister, run the investigative blog Netzpolitik with 30 other writers, and they report primarily on surveillance and privacy issues in Germany. The investigation was widely criticized as an attack on press freedom, and thousands of Netzpolitik supporters marched in Berlin to support their cause. Global Voices Advocacy also joined a long list of other digital rights supporters, journalists, and activists calling for an end to the investigation, which now appears to have been suspended.
Austria sends Pirate Bay packing
The Commercial Court of Vienna ordered A1 Telekom, a local Internet service provider, to block access to the Pirate Bay. This is the latest in a string of Austrian cases ruling in favor of copyright holders and against ISPs, which must bear the costs of blocking access.
- “Political Bots and the Manipulation of Public Opinion in Venezuela”—Andres Monroy Hernandez, Philip Howard, Michelle Forelle, Saiph Savage
- “World Press Freedom Index 2015”—Reporters Without Borders