About Adam Lewis

Adam Lewis is a Research Assistant at the Berkman Center where he works on both the Internet Monitor and Media Cloud projects.

#IMWeekly: December 16, 2013

North Korea
The North Korean government began an effort to remove all Internet content and references on state-run sites related to Jang Song Thaek, the former top government and party official who was recently executed. Jang, who was the uncle of supreme leader Kim Jong Un, was one of the most powerful men in the country. Since his death, the state has effectively tried to erase him from the country’s official history.

United Kingdom
Amnesty International filed a legal claim against the UK government based on concerns that “the organization’s communications have been unlawfully accessed by the UK intelligence services.” Amnesty’s concerns first arose following the release of documents by Edward Snowden in June 2013 that revealed how UK authorities had access to information obtained by the US NSA’s previously secret PRISM program—the concerns were amplified when it was revealed the UK’s GCHQ had its own program, Tempora, that may have subjected people to blanket surveillance.  Amnesty’s claim is one in a series of recent legal challenges to spying that have emerged in the UK.

United States
Documents released by Edward Snowden revealed that American and British intelligence agencies have infiltrated globally popular online games, such as World of Warcraft and Second Life, in order to conduct surveillance and gather data on game users. The documents suggest that the spy agencies were concerned that terrorists might use the online games to communicate, exchange funds, and/or plot attacks.

#imweekly is a regular round-up of news about Internet content controls and activity around the world. To subscribe via RSS, click here.

#IMWeekly: December 9, 2013

A senior Brazilian lawmaker said that a vote on a law that would require global Internet companies, like Google and Facebook, to store the data of Brazilian citizens inside Brazil will be delayed until next year due to disagreements about the bill’s content.

Chinese telecom giant Huawei announced that it will no longer be pursuing business opportunities in the US. US officials and lawmakers have regularly accused Huawei of being a proxy for Chinese military and intelligence agencies and have encouraged public and private efforts to inhibit Huawei’s influence in the US.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard arrested 16 cyber journalists and activists “accused of working against the country’s national security, having ties with foreign ‘enemy media’ and designing anti-regime websites.” The arrests followed on the heels of other recent government actions that have infringed on Internet freedom, despite promises by the administration of President Hassan Rouhani to peel back repressive government policies.

Documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed that the US National Security Agency is collecting vast amounts of cellphone location data to track the whereabouts and movements of hundreds of millions of cellphones around the world. The wide scope of the newly revealed programs has again raised concerns about privacy and is likely to provoke further resentment among foreign citizens and governments who have already expressed displeasure with US spying.

#imweekly is a regular round-up of news about Internet content controls and activity around the world. To subscribe via RSS, click here.

#IMWeekly: December 2, 2013

Documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed that Canada allowed the US National Security Agency to conduct widespread surveillance during the G8 and G20 summits that were held in Toronto in 2010. It is unclear who the specific targets of the surveillance operation were. Both US and Canadian officials declined to comment on the new revelations.

A seven-month investigation by the Dutch Data Protection Authority (DPA) found that Google’s policy of combining personal data from the various online services that it provides violates Dutch data protection law. The DPA’s recent conclusions are based in part a new privacy policy that Google introduced in March 2012 and implemented, according to the DPA, without adequately informing users about what it would be collecting and why. The same policy is under investigation in five other European states: France, Spain, Germany, Italy, and Britain.

South Africa
South African President Jacob Zuma signed a Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Bill into law. According to a statement issued by a presidential spokesman, “The act will give effect to the right to privacy, by introducing measures to ensure that the personal information of an individual is safeguarded when it is processed by responsible parties.” The new POPI law is designed to protect consumers’ right to privacy while not overly burdening online businesses and entrepreneurs who seek to legitimately use their customers’ personal information to provide better services.

The Vietnamese government issued two new decrees that create new fines for various offenses related to e-commerce and social media. The full impact of the decrees remains to be seen. Critics fear, however, that the new commerce fines place undue restrictions on young e-commerce sites. Activists are also concerned that the new social media fines, which penalize “propaganda against the state” and expressions of “radical ideology”, could be used to further suppress online activity and activism.

#imweekly is a regular round-up of news about Internet content controls and activity around the world. To subscribe via RSS, click here.

#IMWeekly: November 25, 2013

Indonesia recalled its ambassador from Australia and announced it would review ongoing cooperation between the two countries—including the position of the Australian ambassador in Jakarta. The move was made in response to documents released by Edward Snowden that revealed that Australian intelligence operators had attempted to tap the phones of the Indonesian President and his wife.

Iran has blocked Cryptocat, “a tool that allows for secure and encrypted chat, and is popular with human rights activists and journalists around the world.” This latest expansion of Iran’s “Filternet” comes despite recent promises by President Hassan Rouhani and other high level officials to relax Internet restrictions.

United States
The US Supreme court declined to consider a challenge to the legitimacy of the NSA’s global surveillance operations. The petition brought by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) specifically challenged whether the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court exceeded its authority when it ordered Verizon to give all of its telephone metadata to the NSA. The case was the first to reach the Supreme Court since documents released by Edward Snowden earlier this summer shed light on the NSA’s activities. The Court offered no explanation for why it declined to hear EPIC’s plea—a request that was unusual for being filed directly to the Court without prior lower court action. There are, however, other challenges to the surveillance program that are pending in lower courts and may reach the Supreme Court in the not too distant future.

#imweekly is a regular round-up of news about Internet content controls and activity around the world. To subscribe via RSS, click here.

#IMWeekly: November 18, 2013

A study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication surveyed over 800,000 Persian-language Wikipedia articles in order to better understand how the Iranian government censors the Internet. Censored articles (963 in total were found to be blocked) covered a wide range of content—from human rights issues to sexual topics—with a particular attention given to information about individuals and/or groups that have expressed opposition to the state.

United States
Critics of the FISA Improvements Act, a new Senate bill described by supporters as surveillance reform, argued that the bill would not only “make permanent a loophole permitting the NSA to search for Americans’ identifying information without a warrant” but also that it “contains an ambiguity that might allow the FBI, the DEA and other law enforcement agencies to do the same thing.” While the fifteen member Senate Intelligence Committee voted 11-4 to approve the legislation on October 31, a recently released committee report reveals that the members of the committee were sharply split on a number of proposed amendments that would have imposed stricter reforms.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) created a petition calling on the Vietnamese government to release imprisoned blogger Nguyen Van Hai. Hai was convicted under a vague law that bars “conducting propaganda” for writing blog posts on sensitive political topics. He is currently serving a twelve-year sentence.

#imweekly is a regular round-up of news about Internet content controls and activity around the world. To subscribe via RSS, click here.