Citizen Lab



New law allows government to regulate online content

“JORDAN–Reporters Without Borders is worried by a provisional cyber crimes law that the government decreed on 3 August and calls for its repeal. By establishing a legal framework for news and information websites and specifying sanctions for violators, it has created a legislative arsenal that can be used to regulate the Internet and punish those whose posts upset the authorities.

The penalties, which range from fines to forced labour, depend on the content posted. The authorities have invoked the need to defend the public interest and regulate the online “chaos” but website owners and online journalists regard the law as a threat to the freedom of the media and communications.”

From Reporters Without Borders

China Mobile search engine to rival Google

“Xinhua, China’s official news agency, and China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile operator, are setting up a mobile search company together, the two state groups said on Thursday.

The move comes amid upheaval in the Chinese online search market as other players attempt to grab market share following Google’s partial exit from the market earlier this year in a dispute with the government over censorship.

However, the joint venture’s political significance is expected to far outweigh its commercial impact.

“The co-operation is an important move to serve the … party and the state, thoroughly protect the national interest, safeguard China’s information security, strengthen the establishment of a public opinion front in the new media, and broaden the domestic and overseas propaganda influence and the public opinion guidance capability of the Chinese mainstream media,” said Zhou Xisheng, Xinhua’s deputy publisher, according to the news agency’s report.”

From The Financial Times

Activists Decry Repression on Internet

“A media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders has accused the United Arab Emirates of arresting people who used the popular BlackBerry device to organize a street protest against petrol price increases. The incident highlighted how governments around the world are increasingly using internet and mobile technology to undermine civil liberties.

Internet freedom activists say the Dubai episode is the latest incident in an alarming trend – that entire governments are censoring the internet.

“Increasingly, we see governments push businesses and ask them to take actions that actually assist in government surveillance and censorship,” Cynthia Wong said. “The way that companies decide to respond to these requests will have a huge impact on human rights.””

From The Voice of America

The decaying anonymity of the Internet

“We call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations. … It is filled with energy reaching it from the instincts, but it has no organization, produces no collective will, but only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle.”

Sigmund Freud was describing the Id in his theory of the Id, Ego and Super-Ego, but he may as well have been talking about the Internet.

The perceived anonymity of the Internet can make the Id run wild.

From the popularity of web pornography to the irresponsible sniping on comment boards, the Internet allows the illusion of a consequence-free interaction and the unleashing of base human instinct. The results are often troubling, sometimes chilling and yet can also provide astonishing creativity, innovation and enterprise.

From The Globe and Mail

Glitches in Blocking ‘Offensive’ Sites Provoke Indonesian Ire

“JAKARTA–The government’s plan to block “offensive sites” on the Internet has come under fire from several Web sites, including two major news portals, which have suffered from access problems, presumably as a result of the plan.

News portal’s advertisement section and were inaccessible on Wednesday morning, prompting Internet users and media experts to question a recent policy mandated by Communication and Information Technology Minister Tifatul Sembiring.

On Monday, Tifatul said that 80 percent of “offensive sites” on the Internet in Indonesia had been blocked.

Through social networking site Facebook, members of the public have formed a group rejecting the ban, calling it censorship by the government. Enda Nasution, a prominent blogger who is also a supporter of the Facebook group, said that such bans could be dangerous if allowed to continue. “Internet censorship could be used to silence political opposition,” Enda said. “This is useless.””

From Jakarta Globe

Germany to keep close eye on Google “Street View”

“BERLIN (Reuters) – The German government said on Wednesday it will scrutinize Google’s promise to respect privacy requests by letting people opt out of its “Street View” mapping system and that it would be ready to intervene if necessary.

In a country wary of surveillance due to the Nazis’ Gestapo and East Germany’s Stasi secret police, the response to Street View has been overwhelmingly negative even though Germans got assurances they can have images of their homes kept out. More than 10,000 Germans have already formally requested their homes be deleted from Street View. Criticism from civil rights watchdogs will likely push that figure higher.

“The Stasi would be green with envy if they could have collected this kind of data,” wrote the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper. “What in the past was called ‘state snooping’ is now called ‘Google View’.””

From Reuters Canada

BlackBerry could face shutdown Thursday in India

“NEW DELHI – India may temporarily shut down BlackBerry services if security concerns are not addressed in a meeting on Thursday, sources said, in a signal the Canadian firm’s tussle with authorities around the world is far from over.

The latest ultimatum for BlackBerry maker Research In Motion comes a day after the company agreed to hand over user codes that would let Saudi authorities monitor its BlackBerry Messenger, as it seeks to stop the kingdom from silencing the service, a source said on Tuesday.”

From The Toronto Star

Government orders ISPs to start anti-porn filtering

“INDONESIA–Reporters Without Borders calls on communication and information minister Tifatul Sembiring to rescind his announced plans for Internet filtering. According to the minister, Indonesia’s more than 200 Internet service providers have agreed to begin blocking access to porn sites today, the start of the holy month of Ramadan.

There are many reasons for opposing this policy. No list of sites to be banned has been given to ISPs, which will have to decide for themselves which sites should be blocked. Filtering websites inevitably causes collateral damage by blocking other websites with no direct link to pornography. Once the mechanism has been put in place, the authorities will be tempted to extend the filtering to more controversial and ill-defined areas such as violation of moral standards.”

From Reporters Without Borders

Stallman slams filter as ‘human rights attack’

AUSTRALIA–Labor’s controversial mandatory internet filter project is an attack on human rights, and Australians should beware of the project and other tyrannical government policies, free software luminary Richard Stallman has said in an interview ahead of a visit to Australia in October.

“Censorship is an attack on human rights. Australia already practices Internet censorship: it prohibits links to forbidden sites. Rudd was proposing to make this even worse by blocking access to those sites. If that plan is rejected, the existing censorship still stands between Australians and liberty,” Stallman said.

“The government also plans surveillance of Australians’ internet use, and is keeping the details secret to ‘avoid premature debate’,” he said.

“Has Australia taken China as its model?” he wondered. “Australians should stop being distracted by the minor issue of refugees that come from Asia, and start focusing on the real threat: tyrannical government policies that come from Asia.”

From Delimiter

Extensive Internet filtering in Iran to disrupt free flow of information

“NCRI – The clerical regime has carried out extensive filtering of websites in fear of people accessing information on the Internet. According to state-run media, the head of the Telecommunication infracture company , Khosravi, said, “In accordance with Article 21 of cyber crimes, a broad filtering mechanism has been defined for all service providers.”

US sanctions ban companies from selling filtering technology to the clerical regime.”

From The National Council of Resistance of Iran