#imweekly: July 15, 2013

“Put only on back pages… close the comment box.” Released last month, the Directives from the Ministry of Truth series revealed a repository of more than 2,600 messages sent from government officials to website editors in China during the last decade. The collection offers a window into the mechanisms and idiosyncrasies behind China’s censorship and information filtering systems – including addressing the government’s increasingly nuanced mechanism for how, when, and where to present sensitive information, if at all. In pouring over the archive of messages, experts concluded that one of the most fundamental aims of internet censorship and filtering in China is to prevent gatherings of unauthorized groups.

Are Nigerian officials positioning themselves to heighten online surveillance in the country?  Nigeria’s Minister of the Interior recently stated the government’s intentions to monitor activity online in the name of national security. Earlier this year, The Premium Times of Nigeria reported that the government brokered a $40 million contract with an Israeli software security company to allow widespread monitoring of Nigerian’s online activities. The move was met with widespread criticism from Nigerian netizens, worried about the potential of widespread surveillance without the protection of data privacy laws legal provisions for interception. Nigeria’s lower house of parliament ordered an immediate halt to the deal.

The Kremlin is taking a step back to take a step forward – ordering nearly $15,000 worth of typewriters to skirt fears of foreign government surveillance, in light of the NSA leaks. Russian officials expressed outrage after the leaks documented surveillance of Russia’s leadership at the London G20 meetings. Officials said they were able to deal with the threat.

For protestors in Turkey – it started with police deploying tear gas and water cannons to disperse their encampments. Now, those threats are beginning to move from the physical world into the digital space, reports the EFF. Dozens of social media users have been detained since the protests began in the country, on charges ranging from false information to insulting officials. Users have also been detained for sharing images of police brutality. Meanwhile, officials are using legal controls already at their disposal to potentially tighten the flow of information in the country – one representative called on Twitter to open an office within the country, which would legally give Turkey the right to obtain user data. There is also a push to enact legislation allowing for the removal of any “fake” social media accounts.

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

#imweekly: June 10, 2013

Amendments to media and publication laws lead to a swift shuttering of more than 200 websites in Jordan last week. The Press and Publications Department of Jordan claimed responsibility for generating the list of “unlicensed” sites, including Al Jazeera, the site of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, and Time Out magazine. Criticized as opaque and vague, recent amendments require sites viewable (if not necessarily based) in Jordan to register with the Jordanian government, obtain a license, and actively monitor all content produced on the site in order to actively cooperate with Jordanian law.

In what lawmakers defended as an attempt to curb cyberbullying, Internet users in the Mexican state of Nuevo León may now face up to three years incarceration for posting messages or images to social networks that cause “harm, dishonor, discredit to a person, or exposes him or her to contempt.” Defamation is a felon in Nuevo León and the amendment marks an expansion to the stringent laws to apply online. Website operators are also required by law to reveal to authorities the identity of anyone committing an act of defamation. Critics call the legislation opaque and vague, offering undue power to authorities who may wish to quell criticism against public officials.

As protests swell in Turkey, Internet users are using virtual private networks (VPNs) in large numbers to skirt suspected government censorship. Last weekend, more than 120,000 mobile users in Turkey downloaded the free VPM Hotspot Shield, according to the manufacturer. The figure marked a ten thousandfold increase in typical daily downloads for the software on Saturday. Sources inside Turkey reported access to social networking sites in the country were throttled over the last weekend while Turkcell, the largest mobile carrier in the country, denied claims it was blocking the sites. Protests continue in Turkey at time of writing, defying an appeal from the prime minister end the unrest.

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