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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  • (The Guardian, Friday, March 7, 2014)

    The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said Facebook and YouTube could be banned following local elections in March after leaked tapes of an alleged phone call between him and his son went viral, prompting calls for his resignation. Erdoğan claims social media sites have been abused by his political enemies, in particular his former ally US-based Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, who, he says, is behind a stream of "fabricated" audio recordings posted on the internet purportedly revealing corruption in his inner circle.

  • (The Guardian, Friday, March 7, 2014)

    Cross-border data-sharing mechanisms - a critical part in both online and non-internet crime investigations - have come under threat since the Edward Snowden leaks. Even though information-sharing deals covering banking and airline passenger data just about survived calls to suspend them, the Snowden files have caused problems for collaboration between public and private bodies. The heightened tensions lie not between law enforcement agencies, but between police and other organisations that potentially hold valuable information for investigations.

  • (Index on Censorship, Thursday, March 6, 2014)

    In February, thousands of websites urged their users to help stop web monitoring. The Day We Fight Back, led by American lobby group Demand Progress, condemned NSA Internet surveillance and remembered Aaron Swartz, opponent of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), who hanged himself last year when faced with fifty years in prison for downloading academic texts. Swartz, from whom courts sought $1m in fines, is synonymous today with US clashes over online justice, but the subject is a global one. Germany, where I moved just before SOPA hit the news, offers a frightening glimpse at what happens when copyright policing trumps privacy.

  • (Freedom House, Wednesday, March 5, 2014)

    Around the world, governments and non-state actors are using sophisticated techniques to monitor, threaten, and harass human rights defenders (HRDs) and journalists. The growing use of digital technology has empowered activists to rally citizens around common causes and hold governments accountable, but it has also opened new doors for surveillance and harassment of activists and citizens’ activities online. On November 14–15, 2013, Freedom House, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), held a global conference in Mexico City entitled “What Next? The Quest to Protect Journalists and Human Rights Defenders in a Digital World,” which brought together over 60 policymakers, donors, and activists to explore the full range of emerging threats and best strategies to overcome them; take an honest look at what is and is not working; and chart a path forward for more proactive and realistic solutions to build the resilience, sustainability, and relevance of HRDs and their movements. The conference sought to answer “what’s next?” by identifying opportunities that can be exploited to build up frontline defenders and their ability to uphold human rights principles fearlessly and strategically at home and abroad.

  • (Global Voices, Wednesday, March 5, 2014)

    Detained for the last two years for expressing himself, Jabeur Mejri has been released. The first prisoner of conscience in Tunisia since the events of January 2011 [ouster of former dictator Zeine en Abidin Ben Ali], has been released tonight. Mejri has been in jail since March 2012. He was convicted to seven and half years in prison for publishing content “liable to cause harm to public order and morality”, “insulting others through public communication networks” and “assaulting public morals”.

  • (International Business Times, Wednesday, March 5, 2014)

    The search engine, ChinaSo, is a platform that was born from the merge of two preexisting search engines, Panguso and Jike, which are rarely used. The site’s beta version, which includes image, video and news-search capabilities, was launched on March 1 with a multicolored logo that bears a striking resemblance to the now-iconic Google logo. Unlike Google, however, ChinaSo will be at the hands of China’s government, which is notorious for censoring certain searches on “sensitive” subjects. 

  • (Lexology, Wednesday, March 5, 2014)

    On 12 February 2014, the European Commission (“Commission”) submitted to the European Parliament a report entitled “Internet Policy and Governance: Europe’s role in shaping the future of Internet Governance”. The Report proposes a common vision on the development of Internet governance, which the Commission believes is essential to preserve the benefits of a single, open, free and unfragmented Internet, underpinned by the multistakeholder model of governance. As well as emphasising the need for careful yet robust stewardship of the Internet, the Commission also acknowledges that further work is required to address the legal issues that arise from the cross-border provision of Internet-based services, such as cloud computing, particularly in relation to conflicts of jurisdictions and laws. In 2015, the Commission plans to publish a progress communication on the key recommendations outlined in the Report.

  • (Electronic Frontier Foundation, Wednesday, March 5, 2014)

    The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas today filed a motion to dismiss 11 charges against Barrett Brown in a criminal prosecution that would have had massive implications for journalism and the right of ordinary people to share links. Brown, an independent journalist, was prosecuted after he shared a link to thousands of pages of stolen documents in an attempt to crowdsource the review of those documents—a common technique for many journalists. The records came from the US government contractor, Stratfor Global Intelligence and documented discussions of assassination, rendition and how to undermine journalists and foreign governments. They also included thousands of stolen credit card numbers. Brown had no involvement in the hack, but was charged nonetheless with identity theft.

  • (World Policy Blog, Tuesday, March 4, 2014)

    In the last five years, Africa has undergone a phenomenon that analysts refer to as the continent’s “digital revolution.” A recent wave of investor capital to the continent signals that this trend is unlikely to change course any time soon. The virtual revolution means sudden improvements to education, health and political spheres - prompting more leaders to embrace technological development as they would more “traditional” development projects.

  • (Karlstads Universitet, Tuesday, March 4, 2014)

    The Tor network was originally designed as low-latency anonymity network.However, as the years progressed, Tor earned a reputation as also being a useful tool to circumvent Internet censorship. At times, the network counted 30,000 users only from China. Censors reacted by tightening their grip on the national communication infrastructure. In particular, they developed techniques to prevent people from being able to access the Tor network. This arms race now counts several iterations and no end is in sight. This thesis contributes to a censorship-resistant Tor network in two ways. First, it analyses how existing censorship systems work. In particular, the Great Firewall of China is analysed in order to obtain an understanding of its capabilities as well as to explore circumvention opportunities. Second, this thesis proposes practical countermeasures to circumvent Internet censorship. In particular, it presents a novel network protocol which is resistant to the Great Firewall's active probing attacks.