Global Digital Download
The Global Digital Download is a weekly publication that aggregates resources on Internet freedom, highlighting trends in digital and social media that intersect with freedom of expression, policy, privacy, censorship and new technologies. The GDD includes information about relevant events, news, and research. To find past articles and research, search the archive database.
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Given the increasing penetration of technology into the lives of billions of people around the world, context for how we think about intersection of diplomacy and civil society is shifting. No one has been more central to that discussion than Alec J. Ross, the senior advisor for innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who in many ways defined the practice of "digital diplomacy" in the 21st century. Almost three years ago, I talked with Ross about his role and goals, like supporting "Internet freedom" through funding technology.
The French government on Tuesday called for a law requiring Internet service providers to give all the traffic on their networks equal priority, saying existing rules were insufficient for protecting free speech online and ensuring fair competition among Web publishers. The proposal would mark a big shift in French policy and a break with existing European Union practice on the thorny issue of so-called net neutrality. And though almost certain to meet resistance from some Internet service providers, it could fuel calls for similar rules throughout the 27-country European Union.
Information and communications technology (ICT) companies—from search engines and software providers to network operators and equipment vendors—enable access to information and the exchange of ideas around the world. But the more we depend on technology in every part of our lives, the more that company business decisions can impact human rights, particularly free expression and privacy.
Iran’s powerful Ministry of Information and Communications Technology has blocked the most popular software used by millions of Iranians to bypass an elaborate official Internet filtering system, stepping up a campaign to gain more control over the way Iranians use the Internet. As of Thursday, a collection of illegal virtual private networks, or VPNs, was successfully closed off by the ministry, making visits to Web sites deemed immoral or politically dangerous — like Facebook and Whitehouse.gov — nearly impossible. Popular mobile applications like Viber, for free phone calls, and WhatsApp, for free text messaging service, have also been experiencing problems.
After more than a year in pre-trial detention, five independent bloggers amid other activists stood in a Vietnamese court for two days in January to hear they would live behind bars for up to 13 more years. They join a growing cohort of bloggers imprisoned for "activities aimed at overthrowing the people's administration," "undermining of national unity" and committing "propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam." Vietnamese bloggers tasted internet freedom over the last decade as online access grew, but social media is no game changer in a paranoid state.
Last week, Edith Ramirez, the newly named chair of the Federal Trade Commission, participated in her first public appearance as chairwoman at the International Association of Privacy Professionals conference. Her comments there bode well for the future of domestic privacy protection, especially when paired with the FTC’s recent settlement with HTC concerning the mobile device maker’s unfair and deceptive trade practices.
The narrowing space for dissent and free exchange of ideas in the Iranian public sphere and in public space has been one of the driving forces behind Iranians’ use of cyberspace as a mechanism for expression. The Internet is one of the few remaining platforms where Iranians can practice some level of open debate, less susceptible to social and political limitations. Research on Internet use in Iran sheds light on a large online community engaged in a diversity of activities and expanding at a significant pace. This study seeks to complement standard online research techniques by providing a richer picture of Iranian Internet users.
As Xi Jinping takes office as president of China, the citizenry he governs is more sophisticated and interconnected than any before, largely because of the Internet. A complex digital censorship system--combined with a more traditional approach to media control, such as jailing journalists--keeps free expression in check. Repressive regimes worldwide look to China as a model, but Beijing's system of control is increasingly endangered.
China’s social media censors never sleep, though they do fall behind on their work late at night. That’s one of a number of findings from a new study by independent researcher Zhu Tao and a handful of U.S. academics that analyzes the mechanics of censorship on China’s most popular microblogging platform, Sina Corp.’s Weibo. Based on an analysis of 2.38 million Weibo posts published between July and September 2012 by users known to have run afoul of censors, the report lays out the approach most likely taken by Sina’s team of “editors” who are at the heart of the world’s largest effort to control social media.
Reporters Without Borders condemns last week’s supreme court ruling upholding one-year jail terms and 200-rial fines (400 euros) for five netizens who were convicted of cyber-crime and insulting the sultan. The five are Ali Bin Hilal Al-Muqabali, Mohamed Bin Zayed Al-Habsi, Abdullah Bin Salem Al-Siyabi, Hilal Bin Salim Al-Busaidi and Abdullah Al-Abdali. As Abdali is a medical student, the court released him so that he can finish this year’s course, but told him he will have to begin serving his jail sentence as soon as it is over.
All content presented in the Global Digital Digest is aggregated from public news sources. This information does not reflect the opinions of Internews, and is not produced or verified by Internews.