Global Policy Weekly – July 3, 2013
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.
A Russian court ruled that state-run Internet service provider Rostelecom must block access to pages on 15 websites, including two major news sites. The company responded by blocking not just specific pages but entire sites, reporting that it lacked the capability to isolate and block individual pages. Prosecutors said that the sites are being blocked because they contain content about how to bribe civil servants and avoid prosecution. The Committee to Protect Journalists urged the court to rescind the order, calling its actions “censorship based on a whim.”
Iran’s minister for communications and information technology confirmed that the Iranian government throttled Internet speeds before national elections that took place earlier this month. The minister told the Tasnim news agency that the officials reduced the speed of Internet in Iran to “preserve calm.” In response to government actions, activists submitted a letter to president-elect Hassan Rohani urging him to prevent throttling in the future. CDT strongly opposes network shutdowns in Iran and all other countries.
In June, Tunisian rapper Alaa Yaacoubi, who performs under the name Weld el 15, was sentenced to two years in prison for insulting the police in a song posted online. This week, a court of appeals reduced his sentence to a suspended six-month term. Local media reported that supporters cheered outside the courthouse as the ruling was announced. The performer’s lawyer called the court’s decision “a victory for liberty, for democracy, and for Weld el 15, who did nothing but create a work of art.”
India’s department of telecom (DoT) ordered Internet service providers to block 39 websites that allow users to share pornography. Some of the websites in question primarily host non-pornographic content. The DoT order does not provide any legal justification for the agency’s actions. The Center for Internet and Society called the order a “clear overreach” and discussed a string of recent government actions aimed at blocking citizens’ access to content considered objectionable by authorities.
Zambian Watchdog, an independent website that reports on government corruption, has become inaccessible to users in Zambia. A representative of the website said that the government is likely responsible for blocking the site. Since being blocked, the site’s traffic has decreased by two-thirds. The government has a history of criticizing the site and in 2012 the president reportedly asked government agencies to investigate options for blocking Zambian Watchdog.
The EU Advocate General issued an opinion, which precedes final judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union, on a case addressing intermediary liability and the “right to be forgotten.” The opinion follows a case in which a Spanish citizen complained that Google search results revealed outdated data about his finances. The Advocate General concluded that current EU data protection law does not establish a right to be forgotten. He also determined that an Internet search engine provider cannot be considered responsible for personal data on the web pages to which it directs its users. As detailed in a recent blog post, CDT supports the Advocate General’s conclusions.
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) conference in Marrakesh, Morocco concluded with the adoption of a treaty to improve access to books for blind and visually impaired people. The treaty facilitates reproduction and distribution of content in accessible formats, such as braille, large print, and audio books, through limitations and exceptions on copyright. The Centre for Internet and Society, based in Bangalore, has been a strong advocate for the treaty and called the adoption a “win.” CIS commented, “for the 15 million people who are blind in India, the treaty is expected to open education doors as well as provide entertainment needs.” Public Knowledge and Knowledge Ecology International also applauded the treaty.
Myanmar granted two telecom companies, Telenor of Norway and Qatar’s Ooredoo, licenses to operate within the country. Cynthia Wong of Human Rights Watch responded to the announcement by saying, “Burma’s long record of rights abuses should give pause to the two license winners about government censorship, illegal surveillance and even network shutdowns.” HRW discusses the fact that Myanmar’s parliament has not yet passed a telecommunications law. Legislation is being drafted, but observers worry that the process taking place behind closed doors.