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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Even with Europe in an uproar over intrusive United States surveillance, its leaders are looking for ways to slow down legislation aimed at preventing violations of privacy at home. Two days after Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany telephoned President Obama to complain about the monitoring of her cellphone by the United States, she joined fellow European leaders at a summit meeting in Brussels last week in agreeing not to rush into a new data privacy law, perhaps putting it off until 2015, after elections next May for a new European Parliament. Kicking decisions into the future is a permanent feature of Europe’s cumbersome decision-making process. But Germany’s acquiescence in a British-led effort to freeze the privacy measures highlighted what appear to be contradictions between the verbal support for privacy among European leaders and their own policy decisions. “Everyone is very eager to protect privacy in their public statements,” said Miriam Artino, a policy analyst at La Quadrature du Net, a French organization that promotes digital rights and liberties. “But we can see that government leaders are not very enthusiastic and are looking for ways to delay the process.”
Drugs, alcohol and gambling. With those already under tight control, the South Korean government wants to add a fourth vice to the list – online gaming. Earlier this month, South Korean lawmakers proposed a bill that regulates online gaming in a similar fashion to drugs and alcohol. As local news reported, the country's Ministry of Health and Welfare took a step further towards the restriction last weekend by designating the online game as one of the four major addictive elements which merit state-level control. Net users have erupted with jeers and criticism, and the proposed regulation has unsurprisingly drawn severe backlash from members of the gaming industry who are enraged to be considered in the same category as drugs and gambling.
Saudi Arabia freed a young blogger after 20 months in prison after he enraged religious conservatives with tweets ruminating on the human side of Islam's Prophet Muhammad, a case that showed the determination of Gulf monarchies to contain Arabs' newfound freedom of expression on social media. Shortly after dawn on Tuesday, 24-year-old Hamza Kashgari walked out of a desert prison near Jeddah known for holding religious extremists and political activists. By full light, he had opened a new Twitter account and posted his first tweet: "Mornings of Hope and Undying Spirits. Praise to God whose Grace is Eternal." The message followed a period of confinement without trial during which he had no access to computers, pen or paper. Mr. Kashgari sparked a religious furor and international manhunt in February 2012 with tweets that spoke directly to the prophet, addressing him as a friend and an equal. He said in the tweets that there were aspects of the Prophet Muhammad that he loved, and aspects that he hated.
A Vietnamese court today sentenced independent blogger Dinh Nhat Uy to a 15-month suspended prison term and one year of house arrest in connection with his posts on Facebook, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the verdict and calls on Vietnamese authorities to end their escalating campaign of harassment against independent bloggers. In a one-day trial, a Long An province court ruled that Uy's use of Facebook to campaign for his brother's release from prison on anti-state propaganda charges was in breach of Article 258 in the criminal code, a vague charge that bans "abusing democratic freedoms." News reports said Uy's conviction was the first against a blogger or dissident specifically for using Facebook. Most independent bloggers in Vietnam use Facebook as their blogging platform. A new decree for governing the Internet that came into effect on September 1 restricts the types of content that foreign companies are allowed to host on their Vietnam-related websites or social media platforms.
The Kuwaiti Court of Appeals on October 28, 2013, upheld a 10-year prison sentence for a local blogger's comments on Twitter, Human Rights Watch said today. Hamad al-Naqi was sentenced for insulting the Prophet Mohammed and the kings of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, among other charges. The ruling is another example of a violation of the right to free speech in Kuwait, Human Rights Watch said. Any attempt to criminalize peaceful criticism, or even “insults” to public officials and institutions, violates international standards on freedom of expression. “Ten years in prison for peaceful criticism shows just how little Kuwait respects freedom of expression,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Locking up critics isn't going to make Kuwait's political crisis go away.” Authorities should quash the verdict and release al-Naqi immediately, Human Rights Watch said. Since a political crisis in June 2012, Kuwaiti authorities have attempted to limit freedom of expression, charging dozens of politicians, online activists, and journalists with “offending” the emir, Kuwait's head of state, among other charges. The authorities should drop charges against those accused or convicted of crimes solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and it should amend Kuwait's article 15 of the National Security Law and article 111 of the Penal code, Human Rights Watch said.
Reporters Without Borders has asked the Ministry of Communications and Internet Technology to change its approach to updating the Computer Crime Act of 2007. The law already authorizes the government to arrest journalists and bloggers for political reasons. If a newly proposed amendment were adopted, the government would have even more latitude to muzzle the independent and opposition media. “We support the five journalists association which have protested the bill,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The bill – in addition to eliminating a requirement for a judicial warrant to block a website – would allow that action without approval from the Ministry of Communications and Internet Technology, thereby distancing the law even more from international standards.” The press freedom organization added, “We request that the legislation be withdrawn in its entirety.” Any official attempt to amend the Computer Crime Act should be undertaken after consulting with representatives of the media and information sectors – a move not made in this case - RWB said. A cooperative effort would ensure that the crime of lèse-majesté could not be charged for political purposes. And expression of opinion and offenses arising from online publication would be decriminalized, the organization said.
When Edward Snowden leaked documents revealing widespread National Security Agency surveillance of phone and digital communication in June, he also thrust Rebecca MacKinnon's Ranking Digital Rights project into overdrive. The project aims to rank the world's internet and telecommunications companies on how well they respect users' rights of privacy and free expression. MacKinnon is working to determine the baseline standards of corporate policy and practice and to educate internet users, advocacy groups, policymakers and companies on the current state of affairs. "The Snowden leaks have drawn public attention to how government surveillance systems leverage commercial internet and telecommunications platforms – all over the world – in a way that no other investigative reporting, activism, or other whistle blowing had succeeded in doing previously," MacKinnon, author of Consent of the Network, said in an email. "A lot of research institutions, foundations and their boards are now waking up and saying: 'We need to understand this better. We need to figure out what can be done about this and try to support or be part of some solutions.'"
Surveillance dominates this year’s Internet Governance Forum in Indonesia, raising questions on the moral authority of China and the United States following allegations of spying. It’s a unique venue for a unique forum. Over 2,000 delegates from all over the world head to Bali, Indonesia for the United Nations’ 8th Internet Governance Forum. It’s the first time the forum is held in Southeast Asia but revelations of mass surveillance in the US and Europe steal the show. US officials are on the defensive over allegations the US spied on its own citizens and world leaders. Activists question the moral authority of America and China as they point fingers at each other’s spying.
Away from traditional free trade agreement negotiations with secret chapters on stricter intellectual property protection, perceptions are slowly evolving about the need to make IP systems work better. One of 100+ sessions at the 8th United Nations Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Bali, Indonesia last week featured “intellectual property exchanges” as marketplaces for knowledge. But IP policy did not take centre stage and neither did other access topics in Bali, which instead was overshadowed by the recent revelations of mass surveillance by US intelligence services. A the IGF, the 10-person US delegation faced stern warnings about lost trust. Brazil’s announcement to hold a summit on a new internet governance model in the end was cautiously welcomed by many. The chief economist of the UK Intellectual Property Office, Tony Clayton, underlined the need for changes in the IP system, and said legislative reform is being prepared for 2014. “The key principles of the UK reform are to use basic principles of copyright, but to make markets work in terms of creation and leaving room in the IP system for innovation and investment,” he said.
Last year, the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute published The Cost of Connectivity, a first-of-its-kind study of the cost of consumer broadband services in 22 cities around the world. The results showed that, in comparison to their international peers, Americans in major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC are paying higher prices for slower Internet service. While the plans and prices have been updated in the intervening year, the 2013 data shows little progress, reflecting remarkably similar trends to what we observed in 2012.
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.