Global Policy Weekly — August 14, 2013

Written by Emily Barabas

CDT’s Global Policy Weekly highlights the latest Internet policy developments and proposals from around the world, compiled by CDT’s Global Internet Freedom Project.

FREE EXPRESSION

A new law in Vietnam contains language that could significantly restrict citizens’ ability to communicate online. Decree 72, which is scheduled to take effect in September, limits the use of social media to “providing or exchanging personal information” and forbids sharing information from news outlets. A number of critics, including Reporters Without Borders, United States officials, a coalition of large technology companies, have raised concerns about human rights impact of the law. The Vietnamese government says that critics misunderstand the intention of the law.

Pakistan’s Minister of State for Information Technology reported that the government is developing new software to block objectionable Internet content, including videos on YouTube. The minister reported that the nation’s ban on YouTube would end once the software is in place. The government blocked all of YouTube in September 2012 after protests broke out over “The Innocence of Muslims,” a video posted on the website. Google has resisted demands to remove the video and is not cooperating in the government’s effort to block content.

The Chinese government has shut down more than 100 independent websites in an initiative that may be targeting watchdog groups. According to Global Voices Advocacy, some of the sites in question had not applied for permission to produce original news content or had failed to register domains properly. Other sites were accused of blackmailing public officials. A third group of sites were accused of using the words “people,” “China,” or “Chinese” in their names, which is illegal in the country. Critics report that these laws are used selectively to silence dissenting voices.

SECURITY AND SURVEILLANCE

People in Zimbabwe experienced a series of cyberattacks before and after the nation’s presidential election, including two distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against hosting providers. Individual websites, including Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum, have also claimed to be the victims of targeted cyber attacks. The exact source of the attacks has not been determined, but some victims suspect government involvement. The Mugabe regime has recently attempted to control other forms of information distribution, ordering mobile phone service providers to block mass text messages leading up to the election.

PRIVACY

The City of London Corporation, the governing body of London’s historic center, has told a local advertising company that it must stop tracking mobile phones in the vicinity of its commercial installments. The ad firm, called Renew, installed technology in LCD ad screens attached to sidewalk trash bins to track the wifi MAC addresses of passersby. A Chief Executive of the company reported that the project collected “extremely limited, encrypted, aggregated and anonymised data” about local footfalls. Such practice falls in a legal “grey area” in the UK. Renew has put the initiative on hold and raised the issue with the Information Commissioners’ Office.

COPYRIGHT

Protests continue in Russia following the implementation of a new anti-piracy law that critics compare to the American SOPA bill. This week, a petition against the protest gained 100,000 signatures. The petition follows an Internet “blackout” that opponents staged on the day the law went into effect. The law allows the government to block websites if operators fail respond within three days to complaints that they are aiding copyright infringement. Critics say that the law is too vague and may be open for abuse.

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