#IMWeekly: January 31, 2014

China & Iran
Iran’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology announced this month that it is in talks with China’s Information Council about best practices for implementing a closed internal “National Information Network.”

A new anti-terrorism law in Egypt, which will come into effect next month, enables the government to censor websites that “instigate terrorism.” Critics of the law worry that this framing could be applied to popular social media sites, including Facebook.

After The Hague ruled that blocking access to peer-to-peer file sharing websites such as The Pirate Bay had no measurable effect on piracy, the government of the Netherlands has decided to unblock these sites.

Mashable reports that the Russian government has ramped up surveillance in anticipation of the 2014 Winter Olympics, which begin in Sochi next Friday. The country’s System for Operative Investigative Activities (SORM) allows the Federal Security Service to access servers directly, and according to independent reports from within Russia, the government recently has been experimenting with Deep Packet Inspection as well.

#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: 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.

#IMWeekly: November 12, 2013

A group of hackers claiming to be affiliated with an Indonesian branch of Anonymous defaced dozens of websites belonging to Australian businesses with a message reading, “Stop Spying on Indonesia.” The defacements appear to be in response to recent news about Australia’s involvement in US-led surveillance efforts.

The Brazilian government issued a decree that made good on earlier promises to ensure that from now on government email will be state run and all government data will henceforth be stored in government facilities in Brazil. The move was made as a result of concerns about US spying.

A growing number of high-level Iranian officials are calling for a lift of the government ban on Facebook and Twitter. The ban has been in place since 2009 when social media was viewed as playing a key role in fueling civil unrest.

Hackers claiming to be affiliated with Anonymous defaced numerous government websites to protest alleged government corruption. Five of the hackers were apparently arrested later while protesting near the House of Representatives. The incident appeared to be separate from the abovementioned attack on Australian websites by Anonymous-affiliated hackers from Indonesia.

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