Archive for July, 2010

Rwanda: Paul Kagame Supporters Turn to Power of Twitter, Facebook and Blogs

By Tsering

Flickr Creative Commons | David Shankbone

By Ndesanjo Macha | Global Voices Online | July 14, 2010

Supporters of the president Paul Kagame of Rwanda have turned to the power of Facebook, Twitter and blogs to help him win presidential election that will be held on 9 August 2010.

MyKagame is an online fan club for Paul Kagame. This is what the club is all about:

As a career statesman with a rich profile and long list of accomplishments, President Paul Kagame has a large following of admirers who look up to look up to him for guidance as Hero. This is their platform. The Fan Club is managed entirely by the president’s fans as a group with a common cause, purpose and direction.

As a fan of President Kagame, this August campaign is about you. Your voice counts. This is your platform to share thoughts and advise on issues to address during and after the presidential elections. Stand up for what you believe in, make Rwanda proud!

You may get involved in several ways:

Connecting with other supporters through Fan Club blogs.

Joining grassroots efforts to support the President’s campaign

Spreading the word about the Fan Club and our Hero’s agenda for Rwanda especially during the upcoming Presidential campaign.

Boosting morale of people who share our values and love Rwanda.

In addition to its website, the club has a blog. Following are two recent posts on the blogs:

1. Rwanda’s strides to build a regional ICT hub:

Rwanda has positioned itself as a regional hub for information and communication technology (ICT) with a robust ICT industry, including e-commerce, e-services, applications development, and automation. It is believed that ICT will be harnessed to generate wealth and be a key economic driver. As part of its policy goal to progressively transform Rwanda from a predominantly agriculture economy to a predominantly information-rich, knowledge-based economy (PIKE), the Government committed itself to the implementation of the envisaged four rolling NICI/ICT4D Plans over the 20 year life-span of Vision 2020 and the ICT4D Policy.

2. Our hero is cleared by NEC to contest:

As highly expected by the fans, President Paul Kagame was among the four candidates cleared yesterday by the The National Electoral Commission to contest in the August 09 poll.

NEC has accepted Kagame’s application for the race after the RPF returned as its flag bearer to run for the second and final term as provided for by in the constitution.

For this term, President Kagame has pledged to put leadership in the hands of the people. It will strengthen further the integration of the youth, women, vulnerable groups and the civil society. He also promises to fortify the means of disseminating information and consolidate the country’s security and sovereignty

There is a Facebook page called Paul Kagame will win 2010 presidential elections. At the time of writing this post there were 3,408 followeres. Following are a few messages on its wall:

Moses Ndayisenga says:

May God bless Rwanda’s paul kagame in his victory b’se he won 2010 election.VIVA KPAUL. OUR Mzee

Siriba AbdulKarim says:

May God be with you in leading Rwandans to their social welfare. Keep it up!

Sangano Gentle adds:

Yes our beloved PRESIDENt is gonna win 2010 ELECTION.no one like him.

There are two other Facebook pages for Kagame; PaulKagame with 6,327 followers and Paul Kagame with 8,169 followers (at the time of writing this post).

The latest message on PaulKagame page reads:

today co-chaired the meeting of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development held in Geneva, Switzerland.
In his remarks said “… There
is no doubt, that using Broadband to unleash peoples’ full potential is an
economic imperative for attaining an inclusive and prosperous global economic
society…Leaders in governmen…t, business and civil society organizations must be accountable to achieve concrete results.”

A speech by Paul Kagame at the 16th Commemoration of The Genocide is the latest message on Paul Kagame page.

One of the topics on the page is about the administrator/creator of the page. There were fears that the administrator may have passed away without the knowledge of his followers:

Mukiza I have this feeling that the anonymous admin for this page may have silently met his or her creator without our knowledge.
For what explains the fact that this page has gone non-updated since august of 2009.
That is a hell of a long time for a live person to be that un-responsive.

If my worries are founded,then my sincere condolences are guaranteed.

The administrator joined the discussion explaining his silence:

Paul Kagame Still kicking, I’m afraid ;)

I recently moved cities and have been largely without the internet for the past 3 months as well as splitting up with my partner of over a year. I’m sorry for neglecting you, but I still check in whenever I can. Unfortunately even admins are human.

If anyone has any complaints all they have to do is make a topic and I’ll see it.

As for the page, well it seems to take care of itself pretty much, or so it seems to me. But I’ll do some spring cleaning.

But maybe I’ve grabbed the wrong end of the stick here, is this a coup? Would the community like me to step down? :)

~ The Administrator

Kagame supporters are also on the popular microblogging site, Twitter. There is paulkagame, which is private (196 followers) and PaulKagame with 964 followers.

The latest tweet on PaulKagame reads:

in Eastern Province yesterday, commended success of land distribution and agricultural surplus -pledged more government support

There is also Paul Kagame photostream on Flickr and Paul Kagame podcast and pK blogs on paulkagame.com

We will have to wait and see the overall impact of social media in the 2010 presidential election in Rwanda.

China’s plan to use internet for propaganda

By Tsering

Flickr Creative Commons | Clemson

By John Garnaut | Sydney Morning Herald | July 14, 2010

BEIJING: The Chinese Communist Party has detailed its ambitious but secretive strategy for transforming the internet into a force for keeping it in power and projecting ”soft power” abroad.

An internal speech by China’s top internet official, apparently posted by accident on an official internet site before being promptly removed, outlines a vast array of institutions and methods to control opinion at home and also ”create an international public opinion environment that is objective, beneficial and friendly to us”.

”Those efforts provided powerful public opinion support for unifying thinking, consolidating strength, assisting in our diplomatic battles and safeguarding our national interests,” said Wang Chen, who is deputy director of the Propaganda Department, head of External (foreign) Propaganda and also director of the State Council’s Information Office.

Mr Wang’s speech was made to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on April 29 and posted on the Congress’s website on May 4, before being removed, sanitised and re-posted on a more mainstream government website the following day. It was picked up by Human Rights in China and included in its report released yesterday, China’s Internet: Staking Digital Ground.

”China has this goal of establishing a Chinese intranet, removing China from the global internet, and you can see that in this report,” said Anne-Marie Brady, an expert on China’s propaganda system at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. ”The average Chinese person knows basically how the propaganda system works but there’s no need to advertise so blatantly what the government is doing,” she said, explaining why large sections of the original speech were deleted.

Rather than shut off China to the outside world, the Communist Party has maintained its authoritarian rule in the information age by vastly expanding its propaganda apparatus and modernising its methods and messages. The country’s 400 million internet users are ”guided” towards government-friendly information and away from ”harmful” content but can nevertheless access and spread information far more easily than previous generations.

Mr Wang said the internet ”has increased the government’s capabilities in social management” but also brought new subversive threats. ”As long as our country’s internet is linked to the global internet, there will be channels and means for all sorts of harmful foreign information to appear on our domestic internet,” Mr Wang said. He outlined how the party has used internet platforms to ”markedly strengthen” its capability to promote messages overseas.

”These foreign language channels are becoming an important force in countering the hegemony of Western media and in bolstering our country’s soft power,” he said.

The Communist Party’s ”great firewall” blocks most overseas Chinese-language websites and many foreign-language overseas sites, and local internet companies must vigilantly screen and censor sensitive content.

Official censors, commercial internet operators and informal public opinion leaders – derisively labelled as China’s ”50 cent” army for the fees they receive per posting – are also deployed to push the government line on sensitive issues.

”Government agencies at all levels … have gradually built mechanisms to guide public opinion through integrating the functions of propaganda departments,” Mr Wang said.

China seeks to reduce Internet users’ anonymity

By Tsering

Flickr Creative Commons | Rob Pongsajapan

By Anita Chang | The Associated Press | July 13, 2010

BEIJING — A leading Chinese Internet regulator has vowed to reduce anonymity in China’s portion of cyberspace, calling for new rules to require people to use their real names when buying a mobile phone or going online, according to a human rights group.

In an address to the national legislature in April, Wang Chen, director of the State Council Information Office, called for perfecting the extensive system of censorship the government uses to manage the fast-evolving Internet, according to a text of the speech obtained by New York-based Human Rights in China.

China’s regime has a complicated relationship with the freewheeling Internet, reflected in its recent standoff with Google over censorship of search results. China this week confirmed it had renewed Google’s license to operate, after it agreed to stop automatically rerouting users to its Hong Kong site, which is not subject to China’s online censorship.

The Internet is China’s most open and lively forum for discussion, despite already pervasive censorship, but stricter controls could constrain users. The country’s online population has surged past 400 million, making it the world’s largest.

Chen’s comments were reported only briefly when they were made in April. Human Rights in China said the government quickly removed a full transcript posted on the legislature’s website. But the group said it found an unexpurgated text and the discrepancies show that Beijing is wary that its push for tighter information control might prove unpopular.

Wang said holes that needed to be plugged included ways people could post comments or access information anonymously, according to the transcript published this week in the group’s magazine China Rights Forum.

“We will make the Internet real name system a reality as soon as possible, implement a nationwide cell phone real name system, and gradually apply the real name registration system to online interactive processes,” the journal quoted Wang as saying.

As part of that Internet “real name system,” forum moderators would have to use their real names as would users of online bulletin boards, and anonymous comments on news stories would be removed, Wang is quoted as saying.

The State Council Information Office did not immediately respond to a faxed request asking whether certain sections of Wang’s address to the legislature were altered in the official transcript.

Wang’s comments are in line with recent government statements that indicate a growing uneasiness toward the multitude of opinions found online. A Beijing-backed think tank this month accused the U.S. and other Western governments of using social-networking sites such as Facebook to spur political unrest and called for stepped-up scrutiny.

China has blocked sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, although technologically savvy users can easily jump the so-called “Great Firewall” with proxy servers or other alternatives. Websites about human rights and dissidents are also routinely banned.

Twitter users facing 11-year jail terms for criticising banking system

By Tsering

Flickr Creative Commons | Sean Hobson

Reporters Sans Frontieres | July 12, 2010

Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate release of two Venezuelan users of the social-networking service Twitter, a 41-year-old man and a 35-year-old woman, who were arrested on 8 July for criticising the Venezuelan banking system. They are facing the possibility of 9 to 11 years in prison under a 2001 banking law on charges of “disseminating false rumours” to “destabilise the banking system.”

The judicial authorities have said that charges could be brought against 15 other Internet users in the next few days for similar reasons.

“After initiating proceedings against the news and opinion website Noticiero Digital for alleged disinformation, the authorities are now targeting ordinary Internet users whose only crime is to express views on Twitter,” Reporters Without Borders said. “These utterly disproportionate measures confirm that the government’s strategy is to gain control of the Internet, a space that until now had been spared its censorship.”

The press freedom organisation added: “The authorities are treating Twitter users like criminals and challenging the view of the Internet as a space where freedom should prevail. President Chávez nonetheless maintains his right to affirm his presence and his opinions on the Internet, above all on his blog and his Twitter account.”

Luis Acosta Oxford (@leaoxford) posted the following message on his Twitter account on 30 June: “Ladies and Gentlemen, don’t say you weren’t warned… Pull out today… I’m telling you, there are just a few days left.”

The police seized the mobile phone from which the Tweet was allegedly sent, together with two external disk drives and USB flash drives belonging to the two suspects. They live in the southeastern state of Bolívar, 580 km from Caracas, and their Twitter accounts do not seem to have had a great deal of impact on Venezuelan Internet users.

More than 10 banks have been closed or placed under government control since November 2009. The investigations into the spreading of rumours and false information about the banking system began in March 2010, when the police began noticing a lot of online comments warning of an imminent “financial crash.”

The head of the Department of Forensic and Criminal Investigations said that investigators were initially trying to establish whether the two detainees and the 15 other suspects were in contact with a particular organisation that was trying to bring about a banking crash.

Former Vice-President José Vicente Rangel yesterday accused some Twitter users in Venezuela of spending all their time spreading rumours. Speaking on television on 13 March, President Chávez said: “The Internet cannot be a completely free space where anything is said and anything is done. No, each country must impose its own rules.”

A proposed organic law on telecommunications, information technology and postal services that has been submitted to parliament provides for the blocking of websites and the creation of a single point of entry for all Internet traffic, which would facilitate control and surveillance.

China Renews Google’s License

By Tsering

Flickr Creative Commons | Craig Maccubbin

By David Barboza | The New York Times | July 9, 2010

SHANGHAI — The Internet giant Google said Friday that the Beijing government had renewed its license to operate a Web site in mainland China, ending months of tension after the company stopped censoring search results here and moved some operations out of the country.

Google made the announcement early Friday morning in California in a blog posting by its chief legal officer, David Drummond.

“We are very pleased that the government has renewed our I.C.P. license,” Mr. Drummond wrote referring to an Internet content provider license. “And we look forward to continuing to provide Web search and local products to our users in China.”

Google’s chief executive, Eric E. Schmidt, said Friday that the renewal “was the outcome we were hoping for.”

Mr. Schmidt, who told reporters on Thursday that the company expected to obtain the renewal, said that he did not know China’s decision would come so soon and was informed of the decision early Friday. He had expected the decision to come down within 24 to 48 hours.

“We’ll keep doing what we’re doing, and they’ll keep doing what they’re doing,” he said Friday at the Allen & Company media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho.

If the license had not been renewed, Google would have effectively been forced to shut down its Web site, google.cn, in China. With the renewal, however, Google can continue offering limited services in China and direct users to the company’s uncensored Hong Kong-based Chinese language search engine, google.com.hk. Hong Kong, a former British colony that is now a special administrative region of China, is governed separately from the mainland. Under the current setup in mainland China, users can conduct a Google search and see the results, but often they cannot open the links.

The license renewal is a sign that Google, while uncomfortable with operating in China and censoring its search results on Beijing’s behalf, is determined to keep a foot in China, which now has more Internet users than the United States.

Google announced in January that it had suffered China-based cyberattacks on its databases and the e-mail accounts of some users. The company said it would also stop censoring search results, which it had agreed to do when it first began to operate in China several years ago. The Chinese government insists that its citizens’ access to the Internet be stripped of offensive and some politically sensitive material.

In March, Google closed its Internet search service in China and began directing users to the uncensored Hong Kong site.

Many analysts were stunned by the moves and questioned whether Google was acting prudently in risking its spot in the world’s largest Internet market.

Just a few weeks ago, however, Google signaled a softer approach to Beijing by saying that it had stopped automatically sending users in mainland China to its Hong Kong site. The company said it had created a Web page that offered users in mainland China a choice, rather than automatically directing them to its Hong Kong site.

The move, though seemingly insignificant, seemed to comply better with Beijing’s strict regulations.

“This approach ensures we stay true to our commitment not to censor our results on google.cn and gives users access to all of our services from one page,” Mr. Drummond wrote at the time.

Renewal is required annually for Google’s license, which officially expires in 2012.

“This is a reasonable move by the government,” Jake Li, an Internet analyst at Guotai Junan Securities in Shenzhen, told Bloomberg News. “Google has brought itself into compliance with regulations, so there’s no good reason to deny them the license.”

Even before the censorship issue came to the fore, Google was struggling in China to attain the same market dominance it has achieved in many other countries.

The hottest Internet companies in China are those like Baidu, Tencent and Alibaba — fast-growing local companies that are making huge profits.

Google is not the only American giant that has had trouble in China. Yahoo and eBay have failed to gain significant traction here. And Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are blocked by the government.

Lebanese Facebook Users Arrested for Defaming President

By Tsering

Flickr Creative Commons | Steven Damron

 By Sarah Hamdi | OpenNet Initiative | July 6, 2010

On June 28th, The Guardian, Menassat, L’Orient Le Jour, and the AFP reported that Lebanon arrested 3 individuals (Naim George Hanna, Antoine Youssef Ramia, Shebel Rajeh Qasab), and Prosecutor General Saeed Mirza issued an arrest warrant for a fourth (Ahmed Ali Shuman). They were all students in their early 20′s, and were placed under arrest for slander and defamation of President Michel Suleiman on Facebook. Currently, the first three have been released on bail of 100,000 L.L. each ($66.65 USD) and are expected to be tried later in Beirut with no news of the fourth suspect, according to NOW Lebanon.

Their posts are no longer available on Facebook (the AFP indicates that they were removed). No notice about who removed them is available – whether it was Facebook, an individual/the authors, or another institution is unknown. However, the Guardian reports that the comments, which were re-posted on President Suleiman’s official Facebook fan page included harmless gems like “You’re worth my foot,” “you’re like a snake; all you do is from under the table,” and “the king of racism and sectarianism.”

In an open letter to the President, blogger pinkfloyed rightfully expressed outrage that the government chose to waste resources on this, considering all the other domestic issues worth of governmental attention and action, such as widespread poverty and Israeli military presence in Lebanon. In protest, a petition has been circulating online, to Protect Free Speech in Lebanon, with up to 139 signatures as of July 6th.

However, this is not the first time that Lebanon has harassed a netizen for defaming the President. Threatened Voices reported that on March 15, Lebanese blogger and journalist Khodor Salameh was interrogated by Lebanese security forces and threatened with arrest “unless he changed his tone” regarding criticizing the president.

It is telling that these events occur in the wake of upcoming parliamentary voting on a Lebanese e-Transaction law. The law, which activists fought and succeeded in postponing voting on, would legitimize the surveillance of Internet users through regulation of ISPs, as well as limit their ability to communicate by preventing the use of VOIP services. Government monitoring of bloggers and other Internet users becomes especially concerning in light of these arrests.

While Lebanon is frequently considered liberal in terms of freedom of speech (see the Global Freedom of Speech Index) and contains no evidence of Internet filtering (ONI Country Report), these incidents are significant because they indicate the lack of transparency about the limits of Lebanese liberalism. There is apparently a ceiling that these individuals hit which is not explicitly legally defined, as The Guardian notes: “Since these insults were made online – where Lebanese law doesn’t yet reach – that ceiling is only as high as the president deems appropriate.” This sentiment was further reinforced by Justice Minister Najjar who defended the decision of the Prosecutor when he stated that “media freedom in Lebanon and any civilized country reaches its limits when the content is pure slander and aims at undermining the head of state.”

If the results of this case prove Najjar’s statement right, it might have dire consequences for Lebanese bloggers and other Internet users’ freedom of speech online. This is particularly true if the Lebanese e-Transaction bill gets voted and signed into law, legitimizing government surveillance of Lebanese internet users.

Conroy backs down on net filters

By Tsering

Flickr Creative Commons | Hai Linh Truong

By Asher Moses | The Sydney Morning Herald | July 9, 2010

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has capitulated to widespread concerns over his internet censorship policy and delayed any mandatory filters until at least next year.

Academics, ISP experts, political opponents, the US government and a broad cross-section of community groups have long argued that the plan to block a secret blacklist of “refused classification” web pages for all Australians was fraught with issues, for example, that blocked RC content could include innocuous material.

Having consistently ignored these concerns, Senator Conroy today announced that implementation of his policy would be delayed until a review of RC classification guidelines could be conducted by state and territory censorship ministers.

This is not expected to begin until at least the middle of next year.

“Some sections of the community have expressed concern about whether the range of material included in the RC category … correctly reflects current community standards,” Senator Conroy said.

“As the government’s mandatory ISP filtering policy is underpinned by the strength of our classification system, the legal obligation to commence mandatory ISP filtering will not be imposed until the review is completed.”

In the meantime, major ISPs – including Optus, Telstra and iPrimus – have pledged to block child-abuse websites voluntarily. This narrower, voluntary approach has long been advocated by internet experts and brings Australia into line with other countries such as Britain.

“It will be just child porn, and that will be consistent with best practice in Scandinavia and Europe,” Peter Coroneos, chief executive of the Internet Industry Association, said.

But the government does not seem to be backing out of the deeply unpopular mandatory filtering policy altogether, as it has today announced a suite of transparency and accountability measures <http://www.dbcde.gov.au/all_funding_programs_and_support/cybersafety_plan/transparency_measures> to address concerns about the scheme.

These include:

  • an annual review of content on the blacklist by an “independent expert”.
  • clear avenues of appeal for people whose sites are blocked.
  • content will be added to the blacklist by the Classification Board, instead of the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
  • affected parties will have the ability to have decisions reviewed by the Classification Review Board.
  • people will know when they surf to a blocked page as a notification will appear.

“The public needs to have confidence that the URLs on the list, and the process by which they get there, is independent, rigorous, free from interference or influence and enables content and site owners access to appropriate review mechanisms,” Senator Conroy said.

One of Senator Conroy’s strongest political critics, Greens communications spokesman Scott Ludlam, took the move by the government as a sign the critics were winning their battle to have the policy modified.

“A review of the RC is helping; that’s a good idea. I think the fact that ISPs are putting their own initiatives forward voluntarily is also helpful,” Senator Ludlam said.

“[But] if we’re still pursuing mandatory ISP-level filtering then obviously we’re not there yet. All we’ve got today is a useful acknowledgment of some of the flaws in the system and I’m hoping that they take this period to reflect on the overall objectives of the scheme.”

He said even if the policy was narrowed to encompass just child-abuse material, major issues remained, such as that the filters are easy to bypass and will not block even a fraction of the nasty material available on the web. There was nothing stopping future governments from expanding the blacklist to cover other types of content.

“I don’t interpret [the move] as killing it but I do interpret it as trying to neutralise the issue in the short term as far as the election is concerned,” said Colin Jacobs, spokesman for the online users’ lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia.

“They’re tinkering around the edges with the classification scheme without having a rethink around how you apply a system that was designed for books and movies to the internet.”

The Safer Internet Group, which includes state schools, libraries, Google, iiNet, Inspire Foundation, Internet Industry Association, Yahoo and the System Administrators Guild of Australia today welcomed the new approach the government was taking on cyber safety.

Google, which has been at war with Senator Conroy over the policy, said it was “heartened” to see the government had taken into account “the genuine concerns expressed by many” on the RC category.

“While we’re yet to see full details, a voluntary proposal by ISPs, limited to child abuse material, is consistent with the approach taken in many of Australia’s peer countries worldwide,” Google Australia managing director Karim Temsamani said.

“Our primary concern has always been that the scope of the proposed filter is far too broad. It goes way beyond child sexual abuse material and would block access to important online information for all Australians.”

Simon Sheikh, chief executive of the online activist group GetUp!, said the delay on the mandatory filters was proof that the government had heard the voices of the hundreds of thousands of Australians prepared to vote on this issue.

“But a delay is not enough – the Government needs to announce that they will either scrap, or change the policy to an opt-in model, so that Australians themselves can judge how best to protect their children online,” he said.

“When it comes to protecting our children online we need investment in education, home-based filters and the federal police. These investments will better equip parents to protect their children at home, and better equip police to combat the issues at their source.”

Russia: New “One Day Rule” for Censoring Comments on Demand

By Tsering

Flickr Creative Commons | Mixy Lorenzo

By Alexey Sidorenko | Global Voices | July 8, 2010

A decision [EN] by the Supreme Court of Russia on June 15 to “exempt” online news media outlets of responsibility for user comments has in fact turned out to be the introduction of a full-scale censorship procedure. Roskomnadzor, a federal service that supervises Internet and mass media communication for the Russian Ministry of Telecommunications, has introduced a new “one day rule” that says online media must delete or edit “inappropriate” comments on their websites within one day of being notified or risk losing their mass media registrations.

Forbidden topics are listed in Article 4 of the law “On Mass Media” [RUS]. These include incitement to hatred, terrorism, and violence, links to pornography, and disclosure of state secrets.

Roskomnadzor issued its first legal warning to a website Apn.ru by e-mail on June 23, but at that point it was not clear how quickly the comment should be deleted, or whether an official demand could be sent by e-mail. On July 6, Roskomnadzor published [RUS] a document describing the guidelines for notification with the lengthy title: “Procedure for Issuing Appeals to News Media Outlets that Circulate in Telecommunication Networks and on the Internet on Inadmissibility of the Abuse of Freedom of Mass Information” (full text [RUS])

The procedure is as follows.

  • A Roskomandzor employee makes a screen shot image of the inappropriate comment, saves it on a hard drive, and prints it.
  • Then an official “responsible for government control and law enforcement online”, approves the evidence of “abuse of the freedom of mass information” (the document clearly says “approve” not “judge” or “decide”).
  • After this, the department sends an e-mail and a fax to the website owner with an order to delete or edit the questionable comment.
  • If the media outlet does not follow the order within 24 hours, it will receive a legal notice. Several notices will lead to a lawsuit against the media outlet. If Roskomnadzor wins the lawsuit, the website loses its mass media registration.

Neither the law “On Mass Media“ nor Roskomandzor explain if the website would be shut down after losing its registration, but for most commercial media outlets it would mean an inability to function legally (get paid for ads, pay wages to its employees, etc).

Sergey Sitnikov, head of Roskomnadzor, explained [RUS] the goal of his department was to “prevent further dissemination of unlawful information,” but many Russian bloggers were disturbed by the idea, and heatedly discussed the matter on Habrahabr [RUS], an IT-related portal.

Some bloggers tried to look on the bright side (unsuccessfully). StrangeAttractor wrote [RUS]:

Если закон запрещает призывать через интернет к актам террора и хулиганства, то это нормально и хорошо. Но если запрещает высказывать своё мнение о чём либо … или гордиться своим национальным наследием …, то это чистой воды маразм и провокация

If the law forbids to incite to terrorism or hooliganism, it’s OK and it’s good. But if it forbids you to express your own opinion about something… or to be proud of your national heritage…, then it’s clear idiocy and a provocation

Newpravda wrote [RUS]:

С одной стороны мысль конечно хорошая, поясню – не давать права людям которые занимаются террором права слова, но зная нашу действительность под эту статью будут подводить всё что угодно, не удивлюсь что и крокодила Гену с Чебурашкой запретят за пропаганду чего нибудь.

On the one hand, it’s a good idea, let me explain – not to give the right to terrorists to speak freely. But knowing our reality, they [Roskomnadzor] will apply the ['one day rule'] to anything they want, I wouldn’t be surprised if they forbid Gena and Cheburashka [EN] [heroes of a popular cartoon] for propaganda of something.

Various effects and implications of the law have also been discussed Vitaliidaniuk expressed [RUS] skepticism about the efficiency of the document, arguing that it would be very hard to control Twitter comments often posted next to the articles or in integrated commenting systems (like Disqus or IntenseDebate).

Voldar suggested [RUS] that the awaited National Search Engine [EN] might be used to look for inappropriate comments and automatically send notices to the authors. XaosSintez wrote [RUS] about the huge potential for fake Roskomnadzor notices to block any kind of discussion. And xoco shared [RUS] his story of how authorities already monitor and control online and offline expression:

Печально все это. Как причастный к созданию одного из сайтов о городе Люберцы хочу поделиться своей историей. На форуме этого сайта ведется обсуждения о плохих дорогах, новостройках, чиркизонах. Так вот, там на форуме люди собрались выйти на улицу с демонстрацией на тему — почему ямы на дорогах полметра глубиной, ну и _поразмышляли_ о том что куда это годится и не перекрыть ли дорогу демонстрацией. В тот же день мы получили сообщение от «органов» из которого следовало, что мы должны предоставить всю информацию о пользователях активистах — ip, время захода и т.п. Якобы эти люди занимаются экстремистской деятельностью. Что будет дальше? Свободой слова тут и не пахло.

It is all very sad. Being connected to the creation of one of the community website of the city of Lyubertsy [EN] (Moscow satellite), I’d like to share my story. On the forum we discus bad roads, new buildings, chaotic markets. So, forum users were thinking of going to the streets to attract attention to the roads with holes that are a half meter deep, and were discussing if they should block city streets with a demonstration. The same day we received a message from the authorities that demanded information about the forum activists – IP-addresses, time of forum access, etc. As if these people were involved in extremist activities. What will happen next? There isn’t a trace of freedom of speech.

As a result of the discussion, bloggers established a hashtag on Twitter #ru_cenz in order to track all the incidents related to the new measures of content removal and RuNet censorship in general.

The latest practices introduced by Roskomnadzor not only violate the text of the Russian Constitution, that forbid any kind of censorship, but also appear to contradict president Medvedev’s point of view on the matter [RUS]. The case illustrates several features of the current political regime: lack of respect for laws and human rights, contradiction between words and deeds, and finally, a clear will to affect and control RuNet.

France, Netherlands seek to halt Internet censorship

By Tsering

Flickr Creative Commons | Jared Tarbell

AFP | July 8, 2010

PARIS — France and the Netherlands called Thursday for international guidelines to prevent private firms from exporting high-tech equipment that could be used for Internet censorship.

Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said there must be “concrete measures taken to ensure that the Internet remains a universal forum” and singled out Iran for blocking access to anti-government websites.

“We must support cyber-dissidents in the same way that we supported political dissidents,” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told a meeting in Paris attended by some 20 countries including the United States and Japan.

France and the Netherlands plan to hold a ministerial-level meeting in October to flesh out the guidelines for firms who sell technology that could be used to suppress democracy.

Officials from Google and Microsoft attended the meeting in Paris, the first by a working group on freedom of expression on the Internet.

Concerns about Internet censorship have mostly focused on Iran and China.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi has accused German engineering giant Siemens and Finnish telecoms firm Nokia of supplying Iran with technology to help it suppress dissent. The firms have denied the charges.

The Dutch foreign minister said blocking websites and social networking sites was “a violation of human rights”.

Jean-Francois Julliard, from the media rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF), accused French phone equipment provider Alcatel of selling bugging equipment to Myanmar.

He also singled out networking giant Cisco for allegedly selling encoders to China.

“We can also raise questions about the responsibility of France Telecom as a shareholder in operators in Morocco and Tunisia where information does not flow freely on the Internet,” Julliard said.

Several non-governmental groups such as Amnesty International and Internet Sans Frontieres took part in the Paris talks along with experts and business groups.

Authorities step up Internet restrictions, harassment of online journalists

By Tsering

Flickr Creative Commons | Novocortex

Reporters Sans Frontieres | July 6, 2010

Reporters Without Borders is concerned about the constant harassment of online journalists and Internet users. In the latest case, Natalia Radzina, the editor of the Charter’97 opposition website (www.charter97.org), was interrogated in Minsk on 1 July about a comment posted on the site. It was the fourth time she has been interrogated since March.

“The authorities are stepping up the tension by increasing the frequency of interrogations, confiscation of material and legislative initiatives that limit online free expression,” Reporters Without Borders said. “They are trying to reinforce their control over the Internet as they already have for other media.”

The press freedom organisation added: “The intimidation attempts, which have been mounting in the run-up to a presidential election due to be held in the coming months, must be brought to an end to permit the criticism and pluralistic debate that are necessary for any free election.”

The comment that prompted Radzina’s latest interrogation voiced support for Soviet-Afghan war veterans who refused the jubilee medals issued by President Alexander Lukashenko. The computers and equipment that were seized from the Charter ’97 office in March in connection with an earlier case have never been returned (http://en.rsf.org/belarus-journalists-emails-probed-charter-29-04-2010,37233.html).

Decree No. 60 “On measures for improving use of the national Internet network,” issued last February, meanwhile took effect on 1 July. It establishes extensive control over Internet content and access, and requires Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to register with the communication ministry and provide technical details about online information resources, networks and systems.

The decree also requires ISPs to identify all the devices (including computers and mobile phones) that are being used to connect to the Internet. The aim of this provision is clearly to allow the government to control online access.

At the same time, anyone going online in an Internet café or using a shared connection (for example, in an apartment building) now has to identify themselves, while a record of all online connections will have to be kept for a year. All these measures will inevitably discourage people from visiting independent and opposition websites.

The decree also creates an “analytic centre” attached to the president’s office that will be tasked with monitoring content before it is put online – clearly establishing censorship at the highest level of government.

Every request by this centre for a website’s closure must now be carried out by the ISP concerned within 24 Hours.

Regulations currently being drafted by the government and expected to be enacted on 1 September envisage a filtering system for controlling access to websites that are considered dangerous, including “extremist” sites and sites linked to pornography, violence and trafficking in arms, drugs or human beings. If banned by the communication ministry, such sites will be rendered inaccessible from state agencies, state companies and Internet cafés. ISPs could also render them inaccessible for other Internet users (at their request).

Vilejka.org, a news website based in the town of Vileyka, has been blocked as a result of a police investigation into comments posted on the site. Police arrested one of the site’s users, Mikalay Susla, on 1 July on suspicion of posting one of the insulting comments about the principal of the town’s high school. Susla told Reporters Without Borders he thought the site had been blocked because of criticism of local and national policies, and that the crackdown was linked with the fact that Decree No. 60 had just come into effect.

Nine members of the National Bolshevik Party (Nazbol) meanwhile staged an unauthorised demonstration on Freedom Square in Minsk on 23 June, waving placards and wearing T-shirts with the words “Internet Freedom.” They were all arrested and convicted of violating procedures for holding demonstrations. Leader Yawhen Kontush was fined 875,000 roubles (236 euros). The others were fined 175,000 roubles (47 euros) each.

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