Cards Against Humanity Funded This Amazing Anti-Trump Billboard
If you don’t play the Blizzard Entertainment team-shooter multiplayer game Overwatch, this Florida billboard is probably baffling. But if you do, this is a clever and incisive critique of Donald Trump’s temperament. (Maybe you don’t need another one, but it’s still nice to have.)
APPARENTLY IN MY AREA THERES A BILLBOARD THAT SAYS "DONALD TRUMP MAINS HANZO AND COMPLAINS ABOUT TEAM COMP IN ALL CHAT" I NEED TO SEE IT pic.twitter.com/Au70OthAAW— 🔮👻💀skeli💀👻🔮 (@GHOSTFXCKER) October 14, 2016
Here’s the billboard, which sits on the corner of North Alafaya Drive and Colonial Drive (Florida State Route 50) in the University of Central Florida’s campus, again from a better angle:*
Let me explain. It refers to Hanzo Shimada, a character in Overwatch who is a Japanese archer-slash-assassin with ties to a criminal dynasty. He’s a super #edgy loner with this tortured backstory that peaks when he causes the apparent death of his own brother. It’s a really sad story, I promise. There’s even a great animated short about it.
Overwatch requires players to pick a character and then carry out an objective with their team to win. Some of the options are great all-purpose characters, useful in many situations. But Hanzo, who fires arrows, is hard to use and not always relevant. Players who “main” Hanzo use him as often as possible, even if the situation doesn’t necessarily call for a Japanese assassin who fires arrows. When (not if) things go wrong, and if that player is a jerk, he will blame the whole team, even though he picked the wrong person to begin with.
Melissa Harris, spokeswoman for the Nuisance Committee, said the billboard was installed between Thursday and Friday and will stay up until Election Day.
“We're trying to remind college students, young people, gamers that they need to stand up and be counted,” Harris wrote via email. “And this is the it game right now.”*
“Donald Trump has no regard for the American democratic process,” the website reads, “and has said that if he loses the election, it’s because the system is rigged against him.”
Harris identified the Chicago-based Daniel Warren Johnson as the campaign’s illustrator and Lindsey Camelio as its designer.*
Even if you don’t play Overwatch, or any video games, you’re familiar with That Person. You know, the one who doesn’t usually have anything useful to contribute, picks fights, and is generally the most inflexible and infuriating individual around. Donald Trump is That Person, and he is running for president.
It’s kind of like this video by Rundle67:
This billboard was paid for by the super PAC Nuisance Committee, which is also behind an anti-Trump billboard in Illinois that directed people to TrumpDoesntPayTaxes.com. And who is behind the Nuisance Committee? Why, it’s the creators of Cards Against Humanity. The company launched campaign-themed card packs earlier this year with the promise to split the promotion’s proceeds between “direct, legal contributions to Hillary Clinton’s PAC, contributions to groups opposing Trump, and get out the vote programs in swing states.”
*Update, Oct. 14, 2016, 5:15 p.m.: This post has been updated with information from Nuisance Committee spokeswoman Melissa Harris.
Netizen Report: Brazilians Find the Limits of Free Speech on Facebook
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. Afef Abrougui, Ellery Roberts Biddle, Oiwan Lam, Leila Nachawati, Taisa Sganzerla, and Sarah Myers West contributed to this report.
Tensions between citizens and public officials in Brazil are running high this week, with the country’s uniquely restrictive defamation laws being put to the test on Facebook.
On Oct. 10, a judge ordered a nationwide block on Facebook over a page that made fun of Mayor Udo Dohler, who is running for re-election in Joinville, a city in the state of Santa Catarina. The court ruling states that the content was “clearly created to offend the candidate as its publications, despite containing a certain dose of humour, include constant attacks and aggressions against the candidate.” The ruling also demanded that Facebook reveal the IP address of the page’s administrator and provide Dohler with the right to respond to the content.
The ruling appears to contradict Brazilian electoral legislation that protects attributed online expression during the electoral period (anonymous speech is forbidden in Brazil). While the law also protects the target’s right of response, it is not clear how this right could be infringed within an online platform like Facebook, where the right to comment is built into the system. The same law also provides a penalty for whoever hosts the offensive content.
Facebook’s press office told Brazilian media outlets that it complied with the decision to remove the page within the deadline, and thus should not be penalized by blocking or a fine. Anatel, Brazil’s telecommunications regulator, did not comment on the decision.
A new page with the same title was created promptly and now has a little more than 200 followers.
In another example, Brazilian actress and TV presenter Mônica Iozzi was ordered to pay about $10,000 for posting on Instagram a photo of Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes with the word “accomplice” in capital letters beside his image. Iozzi was referring to the case of former fertility doctor Roger Abdelmassih, who was convicted on rape and sexual abuse charges involving at least 37 female patients at his clinic between 1995 and 2008. Abdelmassih was originally arrested in 2009 and held in pre-trial detention for four months until Justice Mendes granted him habeas corpus. Despite being convicted of the charges soon after, the court allowed him to remain free while he prepared an appeal. He then fled to Paraguay, where he remained until being apprehended and extradited.
Mendes argued that the photo damaged his public image by implying he was an accomplice to criminal practices. The court, which ruled in his favor, stated that Iozzi “overstepped her right to freedom of expression.”
Ethiopia’s mobile internet shutdown enters week two
Ethiopian authorities have shut down mobile internet services in the face of increasingly violent protests and a recently declared state of emergency. The blackout may be helping to diminish news coverage and international awareness of the protests, which oppose the expansion of the capital city into the minority region of Oromia. Ethiopian digital media expert Endalk Chala writes that “those close to the situation fear this may be the beginning of a dangerous new phase after 12 months of protests.”
Messaging apps go dark, just when Yemen needs them most
WhatsApp has been inaccessible in Yemen for several days. According to user reports, the messaging app first reported interruptions in service Oct. 5, which mobile service provider Yemen Mobile attributed to “technical” issues, though local experts fear it may be intentional. Facebook’s app has also been working off and on over the past several days. In the wake of the Oct. 8 airstrikes that killed at least 140 people, blocks on basic communication platforms are even more problematic, as they make it difficult for families seeking to communicate and account for one another’s safety.
Is “Consensus” no longer politically correct in China?
The Chinese website Consensus, a Communist Party–associated platform for writers and researchers to discuss sensitive issues of social and political development in China, was shuttered Oct. 1 following a government ruling that it was “transmitting incorrect ideas.”
Watchdog website goes down in Zambia
Opposition news website the Zambian Watchdog has been offline since late September. The website and its Facebook page both shut down Sept. 21, and a week later armed state agents raided web hosting company Hai Telecommunications searching for the website’s servers. While also known for controversial and sensational reporting, the Watchdog has a long record of conducting investigations critical of Patriotic Front party officials, who have in turn threatened to arrest Watchdog journalists and shut down the website. The site has been intermittently inaccessible in Zambia since 2012, and has used Facebook as a secondary platform to disseminate news during periods of shutdown.
Egyptian TV director faces insult accusations over Facebook posts
Ali Abo Hemela, director of the Egyptian TV station Nile Drama, is facing accusations of insulting the president over Facebook posts from earlier this year. In the posts, Abo Hemela commented on a government agreement transferring the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia, saying that whoever relinquishes the islands is a traitor.
Indonesia targets cyberbullies with new law
Proposed amendments to Indonesia’s Electronic Information and Transactions Law to criminalize cyberbullying may be used to stifle legitimate dissent, according to free speech advocates in the country. Though the revisions would soften the penalties for defamation under the law, these changes may be countered by the introduction of new punishments for cyberbullying.
The police are watching Facebook watching you
According to research by the American Civil Liberties Union, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all provided access to public user data to a company called Geofeedia, which markets social media monitoring services to law enforcement agencies seeking to keep tabs on criminal activity online—and on activists and protesters. After the American Civil Liberties Union put forth documents revealing the nature of law enforcement agreements with Geofeedia, both Facebook and Instagram cut off the company’s access to their data. Twitter has taken steps to limit the company’s access but has not altogether ended the data-sharing relationship. At the moment, neither Facebook nor Instagram has a policy that prohibits developing tools to access user data for the purpose of surveillance, according to the ACLU. It is unclear whether and how these data-sharing agreements may have affected social media users, both within and outside the United States.
Saudis boycott mobile services, demanding renewed access to VoIP apps
During the first week of October, Saudi netizens staged a week-long boycott of mobile operators in protest of poor service and the blocking of applications that use voice-over-internet protocol. Participants were asked to stop using the mobile networks for three hours every day by switching their phones into flight mode from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saudi Arabia blocks several voice-calling applications including Viber, Skype, Facebook Messenger, and Whatsapp.
- “Unblinking Eye”—Electronic Frontier Foundation
- “Zambia: Internet Censorship During the 2016 General Elections?”—Open Observatory of Network Interference
- “The Role of the Internet in Democratising the Curation, Interpretation and Reconstruction of Cultural Heritage”—Association for Progressive Communications
- “African Declaration of Internet Rights and Freedoms: Interactive Platform”—Association for Progressive Communications
Assault With a Deadly Tweet?
Social media has raised tricky questions that judges are beginning to try to answer. It’s been found possible to violate a restraining order by becoming an unwanted Instagram follower, or liking or tagging a Facebook post. In another instance, an American plaintiff was permitted to serve notice of a lawsuit against a foreign defendant through a tweet.
But what about crimes of violence? Could someone commit criminal assault with a tweet? The question arises in the recent discussion by journalist Kurt Eichenwald of the Twitter threats he has received from Trump supporters. After Newsweek published his story investigating the complicated relationships the Trump Organization holds with foreign governments and business interests, Eichenwald received numerous responses on Twitter, many of them not only critical but threatening. One stood out, leading Eichenwald to write a new article. The tweet (since deleted) referred to Eichenwald’s epilepsy and included an embedded video. When Eichenwald played the video, he writes, he instantly identified it—complete with flashing lights and images—as an epileptogenic, or seizure-triggering, video. He dropped his iPad as soon as he recognized the video’s characteristics.
Trump supporters have sent death threats, mockery, and anti-Semitic imagery to journalists asking questions about Donald Trump’s finances, taxes, charitable giving, and ties abroad. The First Amendment doesn’t apply to Twitter, a private company, but many of these disturbing tweets could be analogized to protected hate speech. (And “true threats” can nonetheless be prohibited under the First Amendment.) Nearly all of them probably violate Twitter’s own terms of service.
In the case of the epilepsy triggering video, however, the person who trolled Kurt Eichenwald may have committed criminal assault.
In the physical world, most states define the crime of assault as either 1) the attempt to commit a battery (an unlawful application of force to another person), or 2) the intentional creation of a reasonable apprehension of imminent bodily harm. If A points a loaded gun at B, that qualifies as a criminal assault under the first definition. If A points an unloaded gun at B and succeeds in convincing B that he is about to be shot, that is also an assault under the second definition. Mere words, such as a verbal threat alone, usually do not constitute a criminal assault. But words by themselves can be a weapon in the right circumstances. In one influential legal commentator’s example, if A tells B, a blind person who is walking to a cliff’s edge, to “keep going” and B nearly falls over the edge, that’s an assault.
The Trump troll did more than send a verbal threat. The seizure-causing nature of the embedded video seems to have been intentional, not accidental. When reports surfaced in the 1990s that some video games with flashing lights were triggering seizures, no one suggested that these videos were intentionally designed to do so. But this is different: Eichenwald has been open about his epilepsy, and the tweet appears to have been intended specifically for him to view rather than a general tweet complaining about him. The tweet no longer exists, but Eichenwald’s statement that he “received” the tweet suggests it was posted to his @kurteichenwald Twitter handle. The entire point of the tweet, it seems, was either to cause harm to Eichenwald or to make him fearful. Whether Eichenwald actually suffered a seizure—which doesn’t seem to be the case—is irrelevant.
Had this Twitter troll walked up to Eichenwald and pointed what appeared to be a loaded gun at the journalist, most would agree that the troll would be guilty of assault. Had the troll walked up to Eichenwald and surprised him with a tablet displaying the video, the result would likely be the same. After all, not all weapons are guns. It’s the same thing with the tweet—the distance does not change the analysis. For instance, the intentional hacking of a networked connected medical device, like an insulin pump, resulting in a person’s death would be criminal homicide even if the perpetrator were hundreds of miles away.
Finally, a separate question raised by Eichenwald’s troll is whether Twitter itself faces any potential liability. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provides broad protection from civil liability to online intermediaries for the content posted by third parties. Specifically, Section 230 states that no “provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” Such legal protections permit services like Facebook, Twitter, and Craigslist to avoid being shut down for any of its user-generated content. That protection, of course, doesn’t free influential platforms like Facebook or Twitter from social and political pressures to protect its members from abusive or intimidating comments.
What is clear, however, is that the existing tools of criminal law probably do address a tweet likely intended to harm its recipient or to create a reasonable apprehension of fear in him. That doesn’t speak to the likelihood of prosecuting the troll, which may be low. But it does mean that the law continues to be flexible enough to identify social harms that seem novel but harm people in familiar ways, whether it’s murder by a hacked driverless car, or assault by tweet.
Rejoice! The iPhone Just Became a Little More Accessible to the Left-Handed.
The life of a lefty is riddled with inconveniences and obstacles. We jam our thumbs into right-handed scissors, hang our elbows off of those annoying right-handed desks in lecture halls, and bruise our hands on spiral notebooks. Simply writing leaves ink or graphite smeared down the sides of our left hands and up our forearms. In sixth grade, my violin teacher essentially told me to “get over it” when I struggled to play the instrument with my right hand. “Typical Americans,” he told my mom. “Reinvent the violin for my left-handed child!” (One in 10 people is left-handed, but half of U.S. presidents since the end of World War II have been lefties. No word on how many of those left-handed presidents played the violin.)
Alas, the world is made for the right-handed majority, and we elite 10 percent accept our sad fate, dreaming of the Leftorium. But lefties, rejoice! We can now more easily use our iPhones with our left hands. Because now, we no longer have to slide to unlock.
One of the many major changes that came with downloading Apple’s iOS 10 was the elimination of the slide-to-unlock function. Now, iPhone users simply push the home button to unlock the phone and travel to the home screen.
Future Tense Newsletter: From Media to Content
Greetings, Future Tensers,
We’re in the midst of an important shift, one that’s taking us from media to content, as digital, on-demand services replace older physical formats such as VHS and DVD. While that transformation enables a culture of convenience, it also opens a host of new questions, most of all because copyright laws cover these new systems differently. Accordingly, as law professor Aaron Fellmeth writes in a contribution to our Futurography unit on the state of ownership, “your consumer rights depend almost entirely on service and license agreements that, most likely, you never read and couldn’t fully understand if you did read them.” It’s a gap that, Fellmeth argues, threatens to have far-reaching consequences if we don’t develop clearer legal standards.
A related set of problems arises around the question of whether consumers have the right to modify items that they’ve legally purchased. As Charles Duan explains, many manufacturers make it as difficult as possible to let us fiddle: Think, for example, of the proprietary screws on an iPhone. Given that benign hacking can actually expand the value of a device, Duan writes, “Companies, for their part, have an obligation … to encourage DIY experimentation.” Will they listen?
Here are some of the other things we read while mindlessly accepting end-user license agreements:
- Autonomous vehicles: Distracted driving is increasingly dangerous. Can driverless cars push back against that trend?
- Privacy: When Yahoo complied with a government surveillance order, it may have done so in a way that put users’ broader cybersecurity at risk.
- Science fiction: Francis Fukuyama explores the prescient power of the film Children of Men.
- Elections: Is voting online worth the risk? We assembled a panel of experts to debate that and other related questions.
- Why own anything when you can access everything? Join Future Tense on Tuesday, Oct. 25, in Washington, D.C., to consider how technology is transforming the concept of ownership. For more information and to RSVP, visit the New America website.
for Future Tense
Francis Fukuyama Explains Why Children of Men Is So Great
Does the knowledge that our species has a collective future influence the way we live in the present? For Francis Fukuyama, the author of The End of History and the Last Man, the answer to that question is a resounding yes.
Fukuyama, who is also the Olivier Nomellini senior fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, explored this question on Sept. 19 in Washington, D.C., during a screening of Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men. The event was part of Future Tense’s “My Favorite Movie” series, in which thought leaders host screenings of and discussions on their favorite movies with science and technology themes. Children of Men, the 2006 film adaptation of PD James’ dystopian novel, is set in the year 2027, 18 years after the last child was born, due to worldwide infertility. In the video at the top of this post, filmed Sept. 21, Fukuyama expanded on the thoughts he shared at the screening.
Unlike apocalyptic tales which humanity’s existential crisis is brought about through an abrupt event—like an alien invasion, nuclear war, or the threat of an asteroid crashing down to earth—Children of Men creates an alternative end-of-the-world scenario. Here, men and women continue to live out their lives, but must do so with the knowledge that the future is no longer accessible to their (our) species.
Fukuyama believes the film allows us to question what it means if there is no one to come after us, and whether our very existence is predicated on the understanding that others will follow. Fukuyama noted that this work of fiction increasingly resembles a reality, at least in some respects—some aging, increasingly infertile countries such as Taiwan and Japan will begin to face population crises in the not so distant future.
What Slate Readers Think About Nanotechnology
Throughout September, Futurography focused on the question of nanotechnology, with articles from and about experts in a wide range of research areas. We looked into the history of the field, the difficulty of defining nanomaterials, and even the relationship of nanotechnology to art. But we’re also interested in what you have to say. To that end, we’ve written up your responses to our survey on the topic. We hope that you’ll continue to follow along as we look into the changing state of ownership this month.
Responding to a question about the most promising research areas in nanotechnology, the majority of readers indicated that they’re most intrigued by the field’s biomedical potential. A few got more specific, suggesting that they think it might make useful contributions to the study of aging, while others highlighted its role in cancer research. Additional points of interest included computing technology, materials science, and energy storage.
Though that last angle proved compelling for many readers, at least one counted nanobatteries among the most overhyped angles of nanotechnology, since “they are not coming to market yet.” Unsurprisingly, many also scoffed at the the promise of Terminator-style “robot people” or nanomachines more generally, suggesting that such considerations distract from more serious research. Taking a similar approach, one more reader claimed the “utopian view” that sometimes circulates around nanotechnology more generally is dubious, since “most new technologies create new problems.”
Despite that vague possibility of future issues, readers generally suggested that they weren’t especially concerned about nanotechnology. “[U]ntil the build self-replicating nanobots there’s no worry of grey goo,” a respondent proposed, alluding to the most prominent apocalyptic scenario associated with the field. Others expressed similar positions: “No, it seems cool,” one answered, while another wrote that he or she was “not even a little bit” worried. That may be because, as a reader claimed, “we’re not far enough along in [nanotechnology’s] development” to worry about anything really practical.
In response to the question about hype, another reader nodded to Andrew Maynard’s feelings of nanofatigue, observing, “Use of the phrase nanotechnology” is itself a little too common. To be sure, not everyone who wrote in felt that the term was worthless. Like some of the experts we spoke with while assembling the course, a significant percentage of readers who wrote in suggested that nanotechnology is still a compelling term. Elaborating on this, one reader pointed out that it’s partially useful as because its appearance in popular science fiction has given it “decent enough penetration so that the public understands it.”
While many seemed to share that conviction, a few felt that we still need a clearer term, or multiple terms that are more specific to the varied topics the word currently encompasses. Another reader proposed that it may be too early for the quest, writing, “Ultimately the end user defines the language used in any technology, there’s almost no dramatic examples of this technology in daily use. Show me that self-cleaning carpet or blood cells with RNA backup and there’ll be better lingo.” In other words, we may have a better sense of how to talk about nanotechnology when we’re truly living with it.
Regardless, readers were left with a few questions as the field continues to develop. “When is it going to be commercial?” one wondered. “Exactly who is investing in it?” another asked. And one especially enthusiastic reader wondered, “How small can we go??” We’re eager to find out the answer to that one too.
Isn’t It Time We Designed an Election for the 21st Century? A Future Tense Event Recap.
It’s a common refrain: We do our banking online, self-driving cars are hitting the road, and even fridges and coffee machines connect to the internet. Yet voting seems stuck in the past.
On Oct. 5, Future Tense—a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University—held an event in Washington, D.C., to ask the question: “Isn’t It Time We Designed an Election for the 21st Century?” The happy hour conversation examined the problems with our current voting process, and paid particular attention to barriers to participation for many eligible voters, and how technology might help fix them. Of course, as is so often the case in technology, to perform a major upgrade might be to download a whole new mess.
The event opened with a presentation from Matt Adams, program director at the design firm Ideo, who led a project with Los Angeles County to create “the first publicly owned voting system.” The initiative had two primary goals: “to remove the barriers that kept some voters from feeling like they could vote,” and “to create a system that worked really well now” as well as in the future, should regulations and technology change. At heart, “Every machine should serve every voter,” regardless of challenges related to mobility, literacy, vision, or other issues. Technology can help there by offering more accessibility settings, for instance. In the conversation that followed Adams’s presentation, Jamelle Bouie, Slate’s chief political correspondent, reinforced this message, saying that what we need is “an election system that meets voters where they are.”
For example: wherever they are waiting in line, most voters are probably staring at their phones. Adams said that people often express a wish to vote on their smartphones, but “we haven’t figured out yet how to vote anonymously and securely over the internet.” That point is borne by the recent revelations that hackers, likely from Russia, have attempted to infiltrate voter registration systems. Jeremy Epstein, senior computer scientist at SRI International, expressed frustration with the “I can bank online, why can’t I vote online?” refrain. He doubts “that cities and counties with very limited budgets are going to be able to successfully do online voting.” Banks “spend billions of dollars securing their systems; election offices don’t,” he said. And a margin of fraud that might be acceptable to banks would not be to voters. (Those smart fridges connected to the internet? A photo circulating online purports to show one at a Home Depot that was hacked to display Pornhub.) Furthermore, he said, new voting technology needs to take into account the fact that the average poll worker is over 70, which could complicate Election Day troubleshooting. If malfunctioning technology ends up creating longer lines to vote, some people might decide not to bother casting a ballot.
Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick pointed out, though, that the problem with voting goes well beyond infrastructure that is at once antiquated and not ready for primetime. “Even if I could vote by blinking twice,” she said, many people still fundamentally believe that their votes don’t matter. And the fix for that won’t come from technology.
Watch the full event on the New America website. Also in Slate:
- “Changing Votes Isn’t the Only Way Hackers Could Undermine an Election,” by Rep. Zoe Lofgren
- “What Hacks Into Voter Registration Systems Say About the State of Local Government Cybersecurity,” by Brian Nussbaum
- “Bring On the Ballot Selfies,” by Mark Joseph Stern
Netizen Report: What Happened to the Syrian Technology Advocate Who Disappeared From Prison?
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. Mahsa Alimardani, Ellery Roberts Biddle, Weiping Li, and Sarah Myers West contributed to this report.
Bassel served as the public affiliate for Creative Commons Syria and contributed to Mozilla Firefox, Wikipedia, and other open communities online. He also was the CTO of Al-Aous, a publishing and research institution dedicated to archaeological sciences and arts in Syria. In November 2012, Foreign Policy named Bassel one of the world’s 100 top global thinkers.
Bassel is credited with opening up the Syrian internet and extending online access to the public before and during the 2011–12 uprisings. According to the European Parliament, his detention was part of Syrian government efforts to restrict access to online communities and stifle freedom of expression in the country.
While he has been in the custody of Syrian government authorities since March 2012, he has been unaccounted for since October 2015, when he was taken from Adra prison to an undisclosed location. A month later, his wife, Noura Ghazi, received a phone call from an unidentified source telling her that her husband had been sentenced to death. She has received no information about him since. This past week, Ghazi wrote in a public post on Facebook that she is beginning to lose hope that her husband is still alive.
My life stopped with Bassel. Bassel isn’t coming back and every day the hope that he will ever come back fades away. ... Holding on to hope is something beautiful and powerful. But hanging onto an illusion is a very dangerous illness. I should probably accept that my future will not have Bassel in it. Maybe it’s time for me to face that reality in a way that won’t hurt me even more. I know that this is difficult and ugly. But unfortunately this is the Syrian situation that me and Bassel are a part of. …
In other recent milestones that no one wants to celebrate, Oct. 4 marked the eighth anniversary of Iranian technologist and open-source developer Saeed Malekpour’s arrest.
Malekpour was living in Canada as a permanent resident before he embarked on what was supposed to be a short trip to Iran in October 2008 to visit his father. Authorities took the opportunity to target Malekpour for his open-source software program, a simple tool that helps upload images to the internet. Others had used Malkepour’s code to upload pornographic images.
In a trial that reportedly lasted 15 minutes, Malekpour testified that he did not know how his program and code had been used and developed by others, as it was distributed on GitHub, an open-source code repository. He was sentenced to death as a “corrupter of the earth.” In December 2012, Malekpour’s death sentence was commuted from death to life in prison, where he remains today.
Nigerian bloggers, journalists detained during local elections
Nigerian authorities have detained at least 11 journalists, bloggers, and media support staff last week, according to reports from the Committee to Protect Journalists. Ten of the journalists worked for the independent news website Watchdog Media News and were in the southern Nigerian state of Edo to cover gubernatorial elections. They were reportedly beaten with barbed wire by the State Security Service at the time of their arrest. Another journalist, Jamil Mabai, was arrested in the neighboring state of Katsina after criticizing the governor on social media.
Ethiopian police arrest blogger recently featured in New York Times
Ethiopian blogger Seyoum Teshome was arrested Oct. 1 and is being held on unknown charges. Teshome is frequently quoted in international media commenting on affairs in Ethiopia, including in a recent New York Times article on the symbolic protest at the Rio Olympics by Ethiopian marathon runner Feyisa Lilesa. Teshome’s arrest comes at a volatile moment in Ethiopia: The day after his arrest, 52 people were killed during a protest in Oromia after police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd, causing a stampede.
The protesters are fighting against the marginalization of Ethiopia’s Oromo ethnic group, which could be displaced under a planned expansion of the Ethiopian capital into the region. Since November 2015, human rights groups have documented nearly 600 killings of protesters.
More heat for WhatsApp users in Tanzania
Five Tanzanian citizens were charged with insulting President John Magafuli on social media. Several of them are accused of allegedly posting on social networks and in private WhatsApp groups messages critical of the president, an indication that expressing political opinions online in Tanzania is under increasing scrutiny by the government.
Messaging tools up their game, fend off court orders
The encrypted phone app Signal said it received its first federal grand jury subpoena for a customer’s data this year, but only shared limited information with the FBI. Open Whisper Systems, the company that makes Signal, told the government it does not gather or keep the metadata that it sought under the subpoena—only the date and time an account is created and the date of the user’s last connection to Signal’s servers. The subpoena was accompanied by a gag order demanding Open Whisper Systems not publicly release any information about the subpoena. The subpoena was disclosed following a legal challenge by Open Whisper Systems and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Meanwhile, Facebook has built a new layer of security into Messenger that will allow users to more securely send messages between one another by selecting the “Secret” option when writing a new message. These messages will automatically vanish after a day (or less, if you choose).