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China’s Coronavirus Information Warfare
"In China, the pandemic, and its disastrous handling in the initial phase that is crucial to disease control, threatens social and political stability and its effects could be long-lasting. For the Chinese, the 'social contract' between an authoritarian but effective and protective regime and a population assured of a decent life has been broken. This crisis has also added to the negative elements already heightened by Xi Jinping’s offensive strategy, from an economic slowdown to a trade war with the United States and the challenges posed by Hong Kong and Taiwan. By repressing vital information, costing the life of Dr. Li Wenliang among thousands of others, the authorities demonstrated yet again that the good of the Communist Party, and its image, comes before the well-being of the people it is supposed to serve." – Valérie Niquet, The Diplomat

+ ProPublica: How China Built a Twitter Propaganda Machine Then Let It Loose on Coronavirus
otf  coronavirus  china  asia  misinfo  disinfo  social  censorship  speech  foe 
12 days ago by dmcdev
It's Not Just the Content, It's the Business Model: Democracy’s Online Speech Challenge
New Ranking Digital Rights report "articulates the connection between surveillance-based business models and the health of democracy. Drawing from Ranking Digital Rights’s extensive research on corporate policies and digital rights, we examine two overarching types of algorithms, give examples of how these technologies are used both to propagate and prohibit different forms of online speech (including targeted ads), and show how they can cause or catalyze social harm, particularly in the context of the 2020 U.S. election. We also highlight what we don’t know about these systems, and call on companies to be much more transparent about how they work...

"Reliance on revenue from targeted advertising incentivizes companies to design platforms that are addictive, that manufacture virality, and that maximize the information that the company can collect about its users. Policymakers and the American public are starting to understand this, but have not taken this insight to its logical conclusion: the business model needs to be regulated...Policymakers and activists alike must shift their focus to the power that troubling content can attain when it is plugged into the algorithmic and ad-targeting systems of companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter. This is where regulatory efforts could truly shift our trajectory...we can drastically reduce the power of [content like disinformation and violent extremism]—its capacity to throw an election or bring about other kinds of real-life harm—if we focus on regulating companies’ underlying data-driven (and money-making) technological systems and on good corporate governance."
otf  speech  foe  policy  social 
20 days ago by dmcdev
Pandemics & Propaganda: How Chinese State Media Shapes Conversations on The Coronavirus
New research from Stanford's Cyber Policy Center looks at how Chinese state-back media has covered the coronavirus across its English-language outlets as compared with mainstream American press, looking specifically at coverage of topics like the death of Dr. Li Wenliang, the Chinese government's handling of the crisis, and differing emphasis when it comes to topics like "recovery" vs. "sick" or "affected" people:

"The perception of China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been a significant challenge for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) over the past two months. The CCP has been attempting to control the narrative and deflect blame since the start of the outbreak, both domestically and abroad. It has done this by drawing on its substantial state- and CCP-owned media apparatus...To look at how coronavirus narratives targeting English-speaking audiences have played out on Chinese state media, and how they evolved as the outbreak has moved through various phases, we analyzed a data set of Facebook posts containing the keyword 'coronavirus' from two distinct sets of media properties: 1) a collection of English-language Chinese (state) media outlets, and 2) a collection of U.S. media outlets*. This 'coronavirus' dataset contained 6,870 posts from Chinese media between December 31, 2019 and March 16, 2020, and 13,522 posts from U.S. media outlets over the same period. While Chinese media has increased its coronavirus coverage in January and stayed at a consistent level since then, U.S. media Facebook posts on the coronavirus stayed at low levels until late February, then soared...

"It is both true that the Chinese government made strikingly bad decisions in its early response to the virus - and also that the United States will suffer from its own lack of preparation. Meanwhile, amid the bungled U.S. COVID-19 response - including a lack of coordination even with close allies - the Chinese government is supporting hard-hit countries by sending supplies and medical experts, garnering praise from around the world. As Western democracies struggle to land on effective COVID-19 responses, experts expect a more aggressive narrative to come from Beijing." - Vanessa Molter, Stanford Internet Observatory

+ Wall Street Journal: China’s Glowing Coronavirus-Response Coverage Triggers Anger at State Media

+ "As a major tech powerhouse, it’s no surprise that Taiwan made use of tech tools to fight the outbreak. This includes using big data for analytics and developing platforms to inform people where masks are currently available and where infected people have been. Taiwan’s health insurance and immigration agencies integrated local and foreign residents’ 14-day travel history with their health insurance card data, allowing hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies to access that information when dealing with patients. People undergoing self-quarantine were called frequently by officials and had their phones tracked to make sure they didn’t leave their residence. It also helps that Taiwan has one of the world’s best health systems—thanks to massive reforms in the 1990s—which provides affordable, comprehensive, and convenient services to its entire population, including the elderly and low-income groups. User health data is stored on a centralized system accessible to hospitals and clinics, so doctors can quickly see their patients’ history." via Foreign Policy: Fear of China Made Taiwan a Coronavirus Success Story

+ Slate: Lessons From China on the Coronavirus and the Dangers of App Consolidation
otf  misinfo  social  media  press  asia  gfw  china  coronavirus  taiwan 
20 days ago by dmcdev
Pakistan’s new digital law could prompt social media companies to stop offering services in country
"The biggest threat posed by the new rules is the requirement that social media companies structure their systems to allow for the delivery of any data that government investigators ask for in a decrypted and readable format. In essence, this would mean an end to strong and safe encryption technologies not just in Pakistan, but around the world. No tech company in their right mind would jeopardise their global operations for the sake of a single country’s market. This means, in practical terms, that the impact of the rules will be to push every social media company out of offering services in Pakistan. It would, in essence, cut the country off from the world. This cannot be the future that Pakistanis want." - Michael Karanicolas,
otf  pakistan  asia  southasia  social  law  policy 
26 days ago by dmcdev
Facebook, Google and Twitter Rebel Against Pakistan’s Censorship Rules
"When Pakistan’s government unveiled some of the world’s most sweeping rules on internet censorship this month, global internet companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter were expected to comply or face severe penalties — including the potential shutdown of their services. Instead, the tech giants banded together and threatened to leave the country and its 70 million internet users in digital darkness. Through a group called the Asia Internet Coalition, they wrote a scathing letter to Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan. In it, the companies warned that 'the rules as currently written would make it extremely difficult for AIC Members to make their services available to Pakistani users and businesses.' Their public rebellion, combined with pressure and lawsuits from local civil libertarians, forced the government to retreat. The law remains on the books, but Pakistani officials pledged this week to review the regulations and undertake an 'extensive and broad-based consultation process with all relevant segments of civil society and technology companies.'" - Vindu Goel and Salman Masood, New York Times
otf  pakistan  facebook  google  twitter  social  censorship  southasia  asia 
5 weeks ago by dmcdev
In Kashmir, a spree of arrests for alleged ‘misuse’ of social media and VPNs
"In Kashmir, there has been a surge of interest in VPN applications after the government allowed limited access to 329 websites in January, after six months of a complete internet shutdown. Keen to clamp down on VPN use, the security forces first resorted to physical checks of smartphones, as multiple Kashmir residents told Then, on February 17, the Jammu and Kashmir Police’s cyber wing filed a first information report on the alleged 'misuse of social media' through VPNs. The FIR invoked the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and various sections of the Indian Penal Code against unknown persons.

According to police officials, there have been no arrests directly under the cyber police’s FIR. But it has kicked into motion several arrests under FIRs filed at the district level. tracked down at least five cases of arrest since February 17, all for social media and VPN use." - Safwat Zargar,

+ Quartz reports on how some Kashmiris have fallen prey to sketchy VPNs in attempting to circumvent the blocks, resulting in lost photos and breached social media accounts.
otf  kashmir  vpn  circumvention  social  india  southasia  asia  access  shutdown  blackout 
5 weeks ago by dmcdev
Here's How China Is Hunting Down Coronavirus Critics
"As China ramps up efforts to control the narrative around the coronavirus outbreak, it is also expanding its efforts to leverage online platforms to track down people who dare to speak out. From tracking down Twitter users using their mobile numbers to hacking WeChat accounts to find out someone's location, Beijing is eager to stop any negative news from being shared online — and is will to use intimidation, arrests and threats of legal action." - David Gilbert, VICE

+ New York Times (video): China Is Censoring Coronavirus Stories. These Citizens Are Fighting Back.
otf  china  asia  gfw  coronavirus  censorship  access  wechat  twitter  social 
6 weeks ago by dmcdev
How Saudi Arabia Infiltrated Twitter
"[Ali] Alzabarah and Ahmad Abouammo, a colleague on Twitter’s global media team, regularly accessed and delivered information that could’ve led Saudi intelligence to identify anonymous dissidents. While news of the allegations against them has been public since November 2019, the extent of their roles and abilities inside the company have never previously been reported. Alzabarah, Abouammo, and al-Asaker did not respond to requests for comment. Though Azabarah fled, he and Abouammo, who remained in the US, are currently indicted in United States federal court on charges of acting as undeclared agents of the Saudi government. No matter the verdict, the case has exposed tech companies’ vulnerability to attempted foreign infiltration. One well-placed employee can potentially do extensive damage." - Alex Kantrowitz, BuzzFeed News
otf  saudi  saudiarabia  mena  twitter  social  surveillance  awareness  security 
6 weeks ago by dmcdev
Indian police open case against Kashmir social media users
"Authorities in Indian-controlled Kashmir have registered a case against unidentified internet users who employed virtual private networks, or VPNs, to circumvent a social media ban in the disputed region, police said Tuesday, in an apparent effort to stop their use. Police said they misused social media 'to propagate a secessionist ideology and promote unlawful activities.'

'Hundreds of suspected misusers have been identified and are being probed,' said Tahir Ashraf, who heads the police cyber division in Srinagar, the region’s main city. Police said in a statement Monday that they have seized 'a lot of incriminating material,' adding that the accused could be charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which also allows the government to designate individuals as 'terrorists.' Police officials questioned several users about their social media posts. However, no formal arrests have been made." - Sheikh Saaliq, AP

+ "While surveillance technology has proliferated in India over the last decade, institutional and legal safeguards have not kept pace. The Indian Parliament has yet to enact a data protection law, and the courts have failed to adequately grapple with the ethical and constitutional challenges posed by invasive new technologies. The Indian public, for its part, has largely shrugged off the steady creep of the surveillance state, which now collects huge amounts of data in a legal and judicial vacuum—and at times in open defiance of the law and judicial orders.

"India’s neighbor to the north, China, looms large in international media as an Orwellian state, with its expanding use of facial recognition technology and invasive data collection practices. By contrast, India is often portrayed as a chaotic democracy, its government far weaker and less capable than the fine-tuned autocracy in Beijing. That image belies the changing reality in India, where the government’s embrace of powerful new surveillance technologies increasingly threatens the rights of its people."

- via Foreign Affairs: India’s Growing Surveillance State
otf  kindia  kashmir  vpn  circumvention  social  access  asia  southasia 
6 weeks ago by dmcdev
Pakistan's government approves new social media rules, opponents cry foul
"Under regulations that were approved by the cabinet late last month but were not immediately made public, social media companies will be obliged to help law enforcement agencies access data and to remove online content deemed unlawful. Companies that do not comply with the rules risk being blocked online, according to a copy of the regulations seen by Reuters. The approval of the new rules follows accusations by opposition parties that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government has sought to intimidate and silence its opponents and allegations of media censorship. Pakistan’s military has also faced accusations of cracking down on media and free speech." - Asif Shahzad, Reuters

+ Coda Story checks in on the status of Pakistan's launch of a nationwide "web monitoring system", which Coda first reported in October 2019. In a story published today, Coda reports that they received confirmation from the Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA) that the system " now fully operational across Pakistan."
otf  pakistan  asia  southasia  policy  legislation  social  socialmedia  foe  censorship  content 
7 weeks ago by dmcdev
Nepal: Information Technology Bill threatens freedom of expression
ICYMI: Amnesty International called on Nepal's parliament to amend a proposed Information Technology (IT) Bill that "provides heavy prison sentences and hefty fines against those who freely express their opinion through electronic medium...Provoking widespread criticism from Nepal’s civil society, the proposed IT Bill would empower the government to arbitrarily censor content online, including on social media, and punish offenders with up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 1.5 million Nepali rupees (approximately 13,000 USD). he IT Bill is one of three proposed pieces of legislation that use vague and overbroad clauses to unduly restrict the right to freedom of expression. The bills have been proposed against the backdrop of intensifying attacks on free expression in the country."
otf  nepal  legal  itbill  foe  speech  censorship  social 
9 weeks ago by dmcdev
Internet and social media shutdowns cost African economies over $2 billion in 2019
"Shutting down internet and social media access—an increasingly popular choice for governments on the continent in response to protests and dissent—came at a cost of $2.1 billion last year. Deliberate internet and social media blackouts lasted nearly 8,000 hours across Sub-Saharan Africa, according to analysis in The Global Cost of Internet Shutdowns in 2019 report The report’s analysis excluded internet outages due to natural disasters or infrastructural failure. With losses of $8 billion attributed to internet and social media shutdowns around the world, Africa accounted for around 25% of global economic impact." - Yomi Kazeem, Quartz
otf  shutdown  africa  suda  access  blackout  block  social 
11 weeks ago by dmcdev
Awash in Disinformation Before Vote, Taiwan Points Finger at China
"As Taiwan gears up for a major election this week, officials and researchers worry that China is experimenting with social media manipulation to sway the vote. Doing so would be easy, they fear, in the island’s rowdy democracy, where the news cycle is fast and voters are already awash in false or highly partisan information. China has been upfront about its dislike for President Tsai, who opposes closer ties with Beijing. The Communist Party claims Taiwan as part of China’s territory, and it has long deployed propaganda and intimidation to try to influence elections here. Polls suggest, however, that Beijing’s heavy-handed ways might be backfiring and driving voters to embrace Ms. Tsai. Thousands of Taiwan citizens marched last month against “red media,” or local news organizations supposedly influenced by the Chinese government. That is why Beijing may be turning to subtler, digital-age methods to inflame and divide." - Raymond Zhong, New York Times
otf  taiwan  asia  election  social  socialmedia  disinfo  misinfo  china 
january 2020 by dmcdev
Thai Twitter users face threats over comments on royal motorcade
"On 1 October 2019, the hashtag #ขบวนเสด็จ or #royalmotorcade trended on Twitter in Thailand as innumerable critical tweets were posted in response to a royal motorcade causing a traffic jam around Victory Monument, Bangkok, in the evening rush hour. It remains unknown who was being transported in the royal motorcade. The hashtag trended despite legal restrictions on criticism of the Thai royal family. However, several users reported receiving threatening messages over their critical tweets...Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that an activist who commented on the hashtag also faced a threat from a sender who claimed to be from the Palace. The text message says “Please delete all your social network accounts by tonight for your safety.” Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said the threat had no legal basis and the Palace should investigate if it was made by an imposter." - Global Voices Advox via Prachatai
otf  thailand  twitter  asia  SoutheastAsia  social  speech  foe 
october 2019 by dmcdev
The information nation A Kremlin-managed research center is selling services that can deanonymize anyone in Russia — Meduza
The Russian Presidential Affairs Department’s Scientific Research Computing Center develops systems to monitor and deanonymize social-media users, and it sells these systems to government and private clients alike. Using the services “PSKOV” and “Sherlock,” for example, insurance companies can root out dishonest employees, and security-guard companies can recruit new staff. “Poseidon,” meanwhile, allows the police to hunt down “extremists” online. Meduza has learned that these computing systems collect information on Russians not just from open sources, but also from leaked databases that are sold illegally on the black market. Many of those using these systems, moreover, are the same law-enforcement officials who leaked the private data in the first place. It turns out that it’s easier to conduct searches this way, outside the confines of formal police work.
otf  russia  surveillance  anonymity  social 
september 2019 by dmcdev
Vietnam's social media crowd swells with new entrant to take on Facebook, Google - Reuters
Vietnam has tightened internet rules over the past few years, culminating in a cybersecurity law which came into effect in January requiring foreign companies like Facebook to set up local offices and store data in the country.
otf  vietnam  asia  seasia  SoutheastAsia  social  facebook  censorship  google 
september 2019 by dmcdev
Twitter and Facebook take first actions against China for using fake accounts to sow discord in Hong Kong
"Twitter and Facebook said Monday they had taken action against China for using hundreds of fake accounts to sow political discord during the Hong Kong protests, marking the first time the social media giants had identified Beijing directly for spearheading such an operation. Twitter said it was suspending nearly a thousand Chinese accounts and banning advertising from state-owned media companies, citing a 'significant state-backed information operation' related to protests in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Facebook said it was removing five Facebook accounts, seven pages and three groups after being tipped off to the use of 'a number of deceptive tactics, including the use of fake accounts'...Facebook said that the pages it removed had about 15,500 accounts following one or more, while 2,200 accounts joined at least one of the groups. The company said its investigation had found 'links to individuals associated with the Chinese government.' Though Facebook is not considering a ban on advertising from state-sponsored media, the company said it is working on additional transparency measures...The [Twitter] accounts were part of a larger network of roughly 200,000 accounts that were proactively deleted before they were substantially active, Twitter said in a blog post. That’s despite Twitter being blocked in China, the company added. Twitter said that the accounts it suspended were accessed from virtual private networks, or VPNs, or unblocked Internet protocol addresses originating from China." - Marie C. Baca and Tony Romm, The Washington Post

+ New York Times: Going From Hong Kong to Mainland China? Your Phone Is Subject to Search
otf  social  twitter  facebook  disinfo  hongkong  china  asia 
august 2019 by dmcdev
Vietnam says Facebook steps up local content restrictions
"Facebook is restricting access to increasing amounts of content in Vietnam, a government official said on Thursday, as the Southeast Asian country ramps up a campaign to tighten access to the internet. The social media platform is widely used in Vietnam where, despite sweeping economic reform and increasing openness to social change, the ruling Communist Party continues to censor media tightly and does not tolerate criticism. 'Facebook now meets 70 to 75% of the Vietnamese government’s requests, compared to around 30% earlier, information minister Nguyen Manh Hung said at a parliament meeting in Hanoi. Hung was referring to government requests for Facebook restrictions, meaning a piece of content posted to the website which cannot be viewed in some countries because it is deemed to violate local laws. Facebook said in May it had increased the amount of content to which it restricted access in Vietnam by over 500% in the second half of 2018." - Reuters
otf  vietnam  facebook  social  asia  seasia  SoutheastAsia 
august 2019 by dmcdev
Resurgence of Internet Censorship in Ethiopia: Blocking of WhatsApp, Facebook, and African Arguments
In June of last year, the then-newly formed Ethiopian government moved to unblock hundreds of websites, seemingly taking its pledges for a more open, democratic society seriously. But following an alleged coup attempt in June 2019, Internet access was shut down again, according to research conducted by OTF-supported Open Observatory of Networking Interference (OONI). A new OONI report looks at this new wave of online censorship in Ethiopia, finding that WhatsApp and Facebook were both blocked, as was the investigative news site African Arguments.

From the report: "Ethiopia seems to be sliding back to old ways when internet censorship was a pervasive practice. After the political changes of 2018, hundreds of websites were unblocked, but the recent internet blackouts, social media censorship, and the ongoing blocking of WhatsApp and Facebook point to a dangerous path for freedom of expression, access to information, and associated human rights in the country. In addition, the lack of transparency and accountability as to why these websites and apps are blocked is a cause for concern. Network measurement data collected from Ethiopia indicate a pattern: The lifting of complete internet blackouts is followed by the blocking of social media and messaging applications, with WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, and being the most affected. We also observed more censorship on mobile networks than on fixed-line (WiFi) networks."

Image: OONI's research indicates that WhatsApp remains blocked in the country.
otf  ethiopia  censorship  social  block  africa 
august 2019 by dmcdev
Turkey Bans Access to Dissenting News Website Backed by Sweden
"A Turkish court banned dozens of websites and social media accounts that reflect dissenting political views for posing risks to national security, including a news outlet that’s supported by the Swedish government. Turkish news portal Bianet, one of the affected sites, published a copy of the Ankara court decision on Tuesday listing those facing restrictions. A pro-Kurdish lawmaker’s personal Twitter account was also announced off-limits to Turkey-based internet users. The case was initiated by Turkey’s paramilitary police force. Bianet is known for news coverage that defies the official narrative carried in Turkey’s mainstream or pro-government media. According to its website, Bianet is operated by a foundation that receives support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, or Sida." - Onur Ant, Bloomberg

+ The total number of sites blocked was 136, said Amnesty International.
otf  turkey  media  censorship  block  access  europe  mena  social 
august 2019 by dmcdev
China’s State Media Show Hong Kong Protest Images, Fanning Public Anger
"China’s state media aired images from the aftermath of Hong Kong’s latest antigovernment protests, a change in tack that appears aimed at fanning public anger against the demonstrations, as Beijing signaled support for a stronger crackdown by authorities in the city...In high-profile commentaries Monday, major Chinese news outlets reported that 'radical protesters' in Hong Kong a day earlier defaced the Liaison Office by splashing black paint on the state emblem on the front of the building and writing derogatory slogans on its walls. Footage showing the vandalized emblem and building appeared on China Central Television’s Monday evening newscast, which the state broadcaster later described as its first time airing 'images of the violence causing disorder in Hong Kong.' Pro-Beijing opinions were allowed to proliferate on Chinese social media, as censors appeared to tolerate the sharing of footage and images of the unrest in Hong Kong—as long as they kept to the official narrative on the protests." - Chun Han Wong and Eva Dou, Wall Street Journal

+ Quartz: China's internet trolls target Hong Kong protesters "Di Ba, an online Chinese patriotic group, is venturing outside the country’s walled internet garden to aid China’s efforts to shape the narrative around Hong Kong’s unflagging protests. On Monday (July 22) night, hundreds of Chinese internet users flooded Facebook pages of two Hong Kong organizations— the Civil Human Rights Front, a major organizer of some of the city’s massive protests against an extradition bill that is now suspended, the Hong Kong National Front, a local political party—with thousands of comments. The organizer of the attack, Di Ba, announced (in Chinese) on social media platform Weibo that the aim of the campaign is to 'support Hong Kong police and condemn some of the Hong Kong rioters for insulting the Chinese emblem.'"
otf  hongkong  china  asia  social  media  gfw 
july 2019 by dmcdev
Facebook-style app launches in Vietnam amid tightening internet rules
"A Facebook-style social network was launched in Vietnam on Tuesday, following calls by the Communist-ruled government for domestic tech companies to create alternatives to U.S. tech giants Facebook and Google. Gapo, a mobile app that lets users create personal profiles and share posts to a Facebook style 'news feed', has received 500 billion dong ($21.55 million) in funding from tech corporation G-Group, its chief executive, Ha Trung Kien, said. 'Vietnamese users and enterprises are relying too much on Facebook as there are not so many social networks for them to choose from,' Kien said, adding that Gapo plans to reach 3 million users in 2019 and 20 million by January 2021." - Reuters
otf  vietnam  asia  seasia  southeastasia  facebook  social  censorship 
july 2019 by dmcdev
Chad's Idriss Deby unblocks social media after record shutdown
"After a year, three months, and 17 days, the Republic of Chad finally lifted restrictions on accessing social media outlets. President Idriss Deby on Saturday (July 13) announced access will be restored to blocked platforms including WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook. Deby said the government had restricted access to electronic communications for 'security reasons' and in 'a context of terrorist threats.' The declaration brought to an end a 16-month blackout, which activists and consumers described as frustrating, violating human rights, and harming the nascent digital ecosystem." - Abdi Latif Dahir, Quartz
otf  chad  africa  shutdown  social  access  blackout 
july 2019 by dmcdev
Banned at home, Twitter becomes a new tool for Chinese diplomats abroad
"According to Chinese officials, Twitter is a destabilizing carrier of foreign influence, a platform banned inside China on national security grounds. Also according to Chinese officials: 'We are pleased to join Twitter in which we can engage in more frequent and productive dialogue with Americans.' That was the optimistic message posted Monday by the Chinese Embassy in Washington as the delegation and its ambassador, Cui Tiankai, opened two new accounts on the social media platform. Never mind that Twitter is blocked back home — and that government critics caught posting can find themselves engaged in frequent dialogue with law enforcement authorities. The Chinese diplomats are joining a raft of state media outlets that have opened Twitter accounts in recent years as part of a push by Beijing to spread its influence beyond its tightly censored domestic media bubble." - Gerry Shih, Washington Post
otf  china  twitter  censorship  social  access  speech  foe 
july 2019 by dmcdev
Chinese Cyber-Operatives Boosted Taiwan’s Insurgent Candidate
Foreign Policy

"When a pro-Beijing Taiwanese politician won an upset victory in the city of Kaohsiung last year, his supporters credited it to his charisma, political savvy, and tempting promises of richness and economic wealth from China. Barely six months into office, Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu is already eyeing a run for the presidency in 2020 and is seen as the godsend that Beijing has been waiting for: the emergence of a populist, pro-China candidate in Taiwan. But Han’s rise from obscurity to superstardom had a little help: a campaign of social media manipulation orchestrated by a mysterious, seemingly professional cybergroup from China. As Taiwan’s presidential elections approach, with Han as one of the front-runners for the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party, just who is surreptitiously backing him—and why—is a matter of critical importance." - Paul Huang, Foreign Policy
otf  taiwan  china  social  democracy  asia 
june 2019 by dmcdev
Vietnam warns YouTube advertisers over anti-state channels
"YouTube advertisers should stop posting on channels that feature 'toxic' anti-state content, a Vietnamese official said Tuesday at a meeting with major brands including Yamaha and Grab. The communist country has tightened its grip on online dissent as critics turn to social media to air grievances about the one-party state. A controversial cybersecurity law passed last year calls for global tech giants such as Google and Facebook to scrub 'toxic' content from its sites and hand over user data if requested by the government. A separate advertising decree bars companies from advertising on alleged anti-state sites, though the issue is not included in the cyber bill. On Tuesday, Vietnam's Ministry of Information and Communications (MOIC) chaired a meeting with top advertisers, requesting them to stop paying to post ads on YouTube channels featuring 'bad or toxic' content. Vietnamese authorities often use the term toxic to describe anti-state material." - AFP
otf  vietnam  asia  southeastasia  social  seasia  youtube 
june 2019 by dmcdev
Two news websites inaccessible in Algeria amid protests, social media shutdowns
"Independent news websites Tout Sur l'Algérie and Algérie Part have been widely inaccessible within Algeria since June 12, according to local journalists and news reports. The apparently targeted disruption took place amid anti-government protests that have been ongoing for nearly four months, and began shortly before several social media services were blocked in a shutdown that local news reports said coincided with high school exams on June 16...Algérie Part said it was one of several sites affected by censorship ahead of high school exams beginning June 16. Internet service nationwide was disrupted and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and WhatsApp were difficult to access or blocked, according to international censorship watchdog NetBlocks, Tout Sur l'Algérie, and other outlets. Authorities have ordered the internet to be shut down ahead of exams in the past, according to news reports. But unlike last year, no disruption was officially announced last week, the reports said." - Committee to Protect Journalists

+ "For almost a week, Sudan has been almost completely cut off from the internet. It started slowly, with a series of intermittent disruptions during months of protests against former President Omar al-Bashir's 30-year rule...The situation is alarming, but not unique. As more and more people rely on the internet for everything from communication to banking, authorities around the world are increasingly switching it off." - Al Jazeera: Internet blackouts: The rise of government-imposed shutdowns
otf  algeria  mena  access  media  news  shutdown  protest  social  blackout  sudan 
june 2019 by dmcdev
Measuring Facebook Live-Streaming Interference during Protests
During protests "against a controversial fiscal reform bill" in Jordan last December, users in-country reported experiencing problems with Facebook's live-streaming feature. This report by the Jordan Open Source Association (JOSA) investigates that suspected interference, finding "that Facebook Live Stream was temporarily interfered with in Jordan during protests between 20th December 2018 to 10th January 2019," providing detailed technical evidence as well as the methodologies used to analyze the incident.

From the report: "When we heard that demonstrators in Jordan couldn’t live-stream on Facebook, we investigated whether this was due to overloaded networks, or if Facebook Live Stream was interfered with. We started off by mapping out the Facebook cache servers to identify those in Jordan and we subsequently ran OONI Probe tests to measure their availability. OONI measurements presented anomalies on Zain Jordan (AS48832), DAMAMAX (Al-Hadatheh Lil-Itisalat) (AS47887), and VTEL (AS50670) on 30th November 2018 and 13th December 2018. To investigate further and in more depth, we ran a series of custom network measurement tests using cURL. These tests, run on Zain Jordan (AS48832) between 20th December 2018 to 10th January 2019, allowed us to rule out the initial hypothesis (that Facebook users in Jordan couldn’t live-stream due to overloaded networks) and to confirm that Facebook Live Stream was temporarily interfered with during the protests."
otf  jordan  mena  facebook  censorship  livestream  protest  video  access  social 
june 2019 by dmcdev
Sudan internet blackout forces battered protesters to rethink
"The Sudanese authorities have extended an internet blackout into a second week, forcing citizens in Khartoum to find new ways to communicate as a bloodied protest movement regroups after a brutal crackdown. Last week, after government soldiers stormed the protesters’ sit-in in central Khartoum and left more than 100 people dead, Sudan’s network operators Sudatel, Zain and MTN switched off mobile internet access for customers. Then on Monday fixed line internet services for most offices and houses were also cut, plunging the country into near complete data darkness. The blackout is the latest in a series of controversial disruptions to internet services in Africa this year, where authoritarian governments are increasingly leaning on telecoms firms to shutdown communications services to disarm opposition movements or hide rights violations...In Sudan’s nascent revolution, which began last December with demonstrations against former President Omar al Bashir’s 30-year rule, internet access was as central as a sit-in outside the defence ministry in Khartoum that grabbed international attention. Platforms including Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter were used widely to organise protests with hundreds of thousands of images and videos shared online despite regular disruptions to access. But a government militia known as the Rapid Support Forces cleared the sit-in with brutal force last week in a move that coincided with network disruptions that were followed by a full shutdown of mobile internet access." - Tom Wilson, Financial Times

+ "Sudan’s ongoing internet shutdown is a gross violation of human rights and should be lifted immediately, Human Rights Watch said today. Disruptions to access escalated over the past week and the country is now almost entirely cut off from the internet, after forces violently attacked and dispersed protesters. The authorities should immediately restore access to the internet. It is vital for emergency communications, including information from health care providers, and to access other basic information in times of crisis." - Human Rights Watch statement on the Sudan internet shutdown, issued today.
otf  sudan  access  shutdown  africa  protest  blackout  social 
june 2019 by dmcdev
Looking for Free Speech in Russia? Try YouTube
"Mainstream television in Russia, stage-managed by the Kremlin, barely mentions Pussy Riot, the anti-Putin punk band, or Aleksei A. Navalny, the country’s most prominent opposition figure. Forget about hearing much feminist talk, or humor at the expense of the government or Russia itself.

“The entire social, political part of television is controlled by the authorities,” said Leonid G. Parfenov, an independent news anchor who has been shut out of state TV since 2004 for being too critical of the government. “For that reason, you cannot consider this television journalism — it is just propaganda, they are just employees of the presidential administration.”

Yet voices that the government would mute are heard regularly by tens of millions of Russians in another format: YouTube.

For more freewheeling opinions and commentary — particularly from those critical of President Vladimir V. Putin — YouTube has become the leading way to reach Russian audiences. In particular, it is challenging — if not supplanting — state TV as a source of information for the young." - Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times
russia  youtube  LGBTIQ  censorship  foe  freespeech  access  social  media 
june 2019 by dmcdev
CPJ calls on Liberian authorities to ensure access to internet and social media services
"Starting this morning, social media services including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and WhatsApp were disrupted throughout Liberia, according to data from the internet advocacy group NetBlocks and local journalists who spoke with the Committee to Protect Journalists. NetBlocks also reported disruptions to the Associated Press website and Google's Gmail and News services on Liberia's leading wireless internet provider, Lonestar.

Users have had only intermittent access to the social networks amid large protests today in Monrovia, the capital, against alleged corruption in the administration of President George Weah, according to news reports.

It is not clear who is responsible for ordering the blocks. CPJ's calls and WhatsApp messages today to Liberian Minister of Information Lenn Eugene Nagbe went unanswered.

"President George Weah and his government must ensure that social media and internet are restored and that journalists have the ability to work," CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna said from New York. "The Liberian public's access to information should be prioritized, and this means maintaining an uncensored internet."" - Committee to Protect Journalists
otf  liberia  africa  access  social  media  netblocks  projects  projectmentions  protest 
june 2019 by dmcdev
Tinder and the Russian Intelligence Services: It’s a Match!
"The announcement this week that Russian authorities had asked the dating app Tinder to hand over photos and messages exchanged by Russian users is just the latest step in a sweeping clampdown on free speech in the country by President Vladimir Putin—one that has taken a turn for the absurd lately.

Last year, authorities cancelled the shows of dozens of Russian rappers and hip-hop artists to supposedly protect youths from immoral content. In April, a man was fined $470 after calling Putin “an unbelievable fuckwit,” in violation of a new law against insulting the authorities. And last week the Kostroma regional office of Roskomnadzor—a government body that oversees the media and internet—coached local journalists on how to cover sensitive topics such as drugs, suicide, and insults to the authorities, according to the news site Mediazona. Since detailed reporting on suicide methods is banned in Russia, journalists were handed a cheat sheet on how to stay on the right side of the law. If a man throws himself in front of a train, the journalists were told to report that the man was “accidentally hit by a train.”

Tinder isn’t the first Western tech company to face scrutiny from Roskomnadzor, which has taken on an increasingly powerful censorship role in recent years. In 2016, the networking site LinkedIn was blocked in Russia for refusing to store the data of Russian users in the country. In a statement issued at the time and reported by TechCrunch, LinkedIn it believed it had complied with all applicable Russian laws, but the company had been unable to reach an understanding with Roskomnadzor to have the ban lifted." - Amy Mackinnon, Foreign Policy
otf  russia  tinder  data  localization  datalocalization  policy  social  LGBTQ  censorship 
june 2019 by dmcdev
Censored Commemoration: Chinese Live Streaming Platform YY Focuses Censorship on June 4 Memorials and Activism in Hong Kong - @CitizenLab
In a country where there is no shortage of censored content, the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre "is one of the most consistently blocked topics on social media in China." In this new report, Citizen Lab looks specifically at censorship on YY, a live streaming social media platform popular in China, finding that in the days prior to the 30th anniversary of the event YY "...updated its keyword blacklists with content focused on Democracy Movement related memorials and activism in Hong Kong," with terms like "six four thirty," " thirtieth anniversary," "64 event," and "Tiananmen suppression" among the keywords on the YY blacklist, which by Citizen Lab's count has seen 306 new Tiananmen-related keywords added between January 1 and May 31, 2019.

+ See samples of censored images and keywords from Citizen Lab's Net Alert in June 4th: Censored Histories

+ Bloomberg: Digital Dissidents Are Fighting China’s Censorship Machine

+ Wired: US Companies Help Censor the Internet in China, Too

+ EFF: 30 Years Since Tiananmen Square: The State of Chinese Censorship and Digital Surveillance
otf  china  asia  gfw  yy  censorship  social  Tiananmen  citizenlab 
june 2019 by dmcdev
The war for truth in Myanmar’s cyberspace - @ayleighk
In Myanmar's "new age of connectivity, the army which once censored the internet and press, hacked dissidents and mounted denial of service attacks on exile media outlets, has turned its hand to disinformation," writes Kayleigh Long for Coda Story. "For every conflict that plays out on the ground in Myanmar today, there’s a parallel one being waged in cyberspace, by activists, ethnic armed groups, political parties, civilian government actors — and the army itself."
otf  myanmar  burma  facebook  social  disinfo  misinfo  asia  seasia  SoutheastAsia 
june 2019 by dmcdev
Tinder faces Russian demand to share user data
"Russian authorities have told dating-app Tinder it will have to comply with requests to hand over messages and photos of its users in Russia. Under recent Russian laws, 175 companies have been put on a register that requires them to store data for six months on Russian servers. Companies that refuse, like the private messaging app Telegram, risk being blocked in Russia. Tinder said it had 'registered to be compliant'. However, it was adamant that 'this registration in no way shares any user or personal data with any Russian regulatory bodies and we have not handed over any data to their government'." - BBC

+ Meduza: Russian tech giant facing FSB requests for its encryption keys argues ‘law enforcement is possible without violating privacy’
otf  russia  tinder  social  data  datalocalization 
june 2019 by dmcdev
How digital taxes are hurting connectivity rates across Africa
"Several countries in Africa have recently introduced taxes on fundamental parts of the internet. Often considered a means of generating revenue streams during economic hardships, the taxes have ultimately limited connectivity and, with it, infringed upon important digital rights. Most famously, in July 2018 Uganda introduced a tax on the use of social media platforms. However, Zambia, Kenya and Benin have also introduced similarly regressive pieces of legislation in the past year. According to the Alliance for Affordable Internet, more than 75% of Africa’s population is still offline. Without addressing the impact of these new taxes, there are risks that internet penetration rates will continue to stagnate, leading to dramatic economic, political and social consequences." - Samuel Woodhams, Techpoint Africa
otf  africa  access  social  socialmedia  socialmediatax  tax 
may 2019 by dmcdev
Somalia to block social media during national high school exams
"African nations have increasingly taken to blocking social media access during protests and contentious elections. Now, Somalia is doing the same—to stop students cheating. The government has announced it will shut down social media during upcoming national high school exams after officials at the ministry of education discovered papers were being sold and shared on social media platforms. Education cabinet secretary Abdullahi Godah Barre canceled tests that began last Saturday (May 11), postponing them to May 27 through May 31...Cutting off social media access to try control events is a growing trend across Africa. Just this year, DR Congo, Algeria, Sudan, and Benin all cut off connectivity to platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp during crucial elections or anti-government protests. Citizens of Chad, meanwhile, haven’t had access to social networks for over a year. Recent research has shown that internet disruptions in Africa were correlated with authoritarianism, with dictatorships blocking access more than partial or full democratic states." - Abdi Latif Dahir, Quartz

+ Amnesty International statement: Somalia: Social media shut down over exam leakages unjustified
otf  somalia  africa  shutdown  access  blackout  social 
may 2019 by dmcdev
Who wins? Who loses? Understanding women’s experiences of social media taxation in East and Southern Africa
A new report by the World Wide Web Foundation "explores how social media taxes in Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia are affecting the ability of citizens — in particular, women — to connect and access the internet’s benefits." The report finds that "One of the main barriers keeping many women offline is skills. The tax is likely to exclude those who could most benefit from the ease of use of select services, widening the digital divide between those with and without digital skills," and "With higher costs preventing individuals from participating in online discussions and accessing online government services, the taxes were also believed to have a negative effect on the freedom of expression and civic engagement."

Read the full report here: Who wins? Who loses? Understanding women’s experiences of social media taxation in East and Southern Africa

+ Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA): How Social Media Taxes Can Burden News Outlets: The Case of Uganda
otf  africa  social  tax  access  Tanzania  uganda  zambia 
may 2019 by dmcdev
Cuban gay rights groups hold unauthorized march in Havana
"Gay-rights activists organizing on social media held an unauthorized march Saturday down eight blocks of one of Havana’s main thoroughfares before they were stopped by police. The march was the second by a non-governmental organization in Cuba in slightly more than a month. That’s highly unusual in a country where the only legal civil society groups are de-facto arms of the Communist government. Any sort of unofficial march or demonstration has long been met with a swift and overwhelming police response. The march was organized largely using Cuba’s new mobile internet, with gay-rights activists and groups of friends calling for a march over Facebook and WhatsApp after the main government-run gay rights organization, the Center for Sex Education, canceled a Saturday march." - Michael Weissenstein , AP
otf  cuba  Caribbean  protest  lgbt  lgbtq  social  activism 
may 2019 by dmcdev
Sri Lanka Has Blocked Most Major Social Networks After A Facebook Post Sparked Anti-Muslim Riots
"Sri Lanka on Monday temporarily banned social networks Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube and instant messaging apps Snapchat, Viber, WhatsApp, and IMO after a Facebook post sparked attacks on mosques and Muslim-owned businesses across several towns on Sunday. The move comes three weeks after jihadist bombers killed at least 300 people in the country, sparking fears of sectarian violence against the country’s minority-Muslim population. On Twitter, Sri Lanka’s largest mobile carrier, Dialog Axiata, confirmed that it had restricted the websites and apps according to a directive from Sri Lanka’s telecom regulator. NetBlocks, a nonprofit organization that tracks internet outages [and formerly a recipient of OTF funding], tweeted that this was the third time in weeks the country had banned social media in the wake of religious tension." - Pranav Dixit, BuzzFeed
otf  srilanka  social  access  southasia  asia  blackout  shutdown 
may 2019 by dmcdev
Heavy Internet censorship in Kazakhstan - @RSF_en
"Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the massive Internet censorship that accompanied today’s opposition protests in Kazakhstan and calls on interim President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to abandon the repressive practices of his predecessor, Nursultan Nazarbayev. Many news websites were inaccessible at dawn, including those of Radio Azattyk, the news agency Ferghana and the newspaper Uralskaya Nedelia, as well as the,,, and news sites. Access to Facebook, Telegram, YouTube and Instagram was disconnected at midday. In some places, mobile phone users reported problems connecting to the Internet. As in the past, the censorship was prompted by peaceful demonstrations throughout the country. This time, the protests were called by Mukhtar Ablyazov, a Kazakh oligarch and government opponent now living in exile."
otf  rsf  Kazakhstan  CentralAsia  censorship  protest  access  social  facebook  telegram  youtube  instagram 
may 2019 by dmcdev
Iran Prosecutor Warns Minister To Tame Social Media Or Face 'Consequences'
"The Islamic Republic Attorney General has once again lambasted what he called 'out of control cyberspace', describing two popular messaging apps, Telegram and Instagram, as "infernal," and called for restrictions on social media. The ultraconservative mid-ranking clergyman Mohammad Jafar Montazeri also explicitly threatened the Minister of Information and Communications Technology, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, with judicial consequences. The minister should amend the situation of the internet in Iran before the judiciary's final decision on the case, Montazeri warned, adding that Azari Jahromi has only weeks for the reforms demanded by the judiciary...Introducing the newly appointed Prosecutor-General of Tehran on Saturday, May 4, Montazeri lamented that while cyberspace has its benefits, it is a field for a myriad of “corrupt” activities and crimes. The Prosecutor-General had earlier repeatedly called for further restrictions on the internet, but it was for the first time he explicitly warned the Minister of Communication, insisting that current status of how the internet is accessed and used in Iran should be revised; otherwise, the judiciary will step in to control it." - Radio Farda
otf  iran  mena  social  censorship  block  access  instagram 
may 2019 by dmcdev
Benin Internet Shutdown Repeats Pattern of Government Censorship Across Africa
"When authorities in Benin turned off the country’s internet during parliamentary elections Sunday, they became the ninth African government to restrict access this year. The outages last hours or days and may target specific services — or the entire internet. Governments don’t often explain the outages, but when they do, they focus on the need for security and civil order. The shutdowns usually accompany protests, demonstrations and elections. But data from The NetBlocks Group, a nonpartisan organization that tracks global internet freedom and monitors outages, indicate the serious economic and social impacts of even a short outage...In Benin, a one-day shutdown costs the country $1.54 million, according to data compiled by NetBlocks and The Internet Society, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization focused on internet freedom." - Salem Solomon, Voice of America

See NetBlocks' report on censorship in Benin on election day here.
otf  benin  africa  social  access  election  shutdown  blackout 
april 2019 by dmcdev
Iran's Rulers Speak Of More Cyberspace Restrictions As Conditions Worsen
"Controlling social networks at the time of crises is a 'must' that should 'seriously be considered,' says the head of the Islamic Republic's Passive Defense Organization (PDO), Brigadier General Gholamreza Jalali. Jalali, who is a Revolutionary Guard general, made the remarks April 28 while visiting Bushehr, the home of Iran's sole nuclear power reactor, to supervise a drill labeled as 'Radiation maneuver', without providing more details. Iran has witnessed scores of radiation drills in recent years. Echoing repeated calls of the Islamic Republic's conservative authorities for more restrictions on using the internet in Iran, Jalali asserted, 'During crises, social networks provoke people against the government and pressure the executive administration; therefore, it should be controlled.'" - Radio Farda
otf  iran  mena  access  censorship  social 
april 2019 by dmcdev
Sudan protests cuts off electricity, social media shutdown
"Sudan experienced a complete power outage on Sunday (Apr. 7), just hours after a social media block took effect across the country. Officials at the ministry of electricity and water didn’t give an explanation for the blackout, but the incidents conflated with escalating sit-in protests against president Omar al-Bashir’s three-decade rule...As the protests intensified in recent days, digital activists say telecom operators blocked social media outlets too, further limiting the flow of information and media coverage. The internet monitoring organization NetBlocks said operators including Sudatel and Kanartel cut-off access to platforms including Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and for the first time, instant messaging app Telegram. [Note: NetBlocks is a project previously supported by OTF.] The shutdown is the second the country has experienced since the protests began: the government also blocked social media networks for 68 days beginning Dec. 21 and ending Feb. 26." - Abdi Latif Dahir, Quartz
otf  sudan  africa  shutdown  access  social  socialmedia  netblocks 
april 2019 by dmcdev
Chad has blocked WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter for a year — @Lattif
"365 days: that’s how long people in the north-central African state of Chad haven’t been able to freely access major social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Viber. Digital activists first started reporting on March 28 last year that access to the sites on the country’s two main mobile operators, Tigo Chad and Airtel, had been restricted. The telecom companies have since confirmed the government ordered the restrictions. Activists say the shutdown violates international law, hurts vital economic industries, and deprives users of connecting with family and friends at home and abroad. 'The censorship of social networks has plunged citizens back into isolation,' says Abdelkerim Yacob of digital advocacy group Internet Sans Frontières (ISF). The lengthy cutoff, he added, has 'cut Chadians out of the global conversation, and curbed penetration and digital development.'" - Abdi Latif Dahir, Quartz
otf  chad  africa  shutdown  access  social  blackout 
march 2019 by dmcdev
Taking No Chances, Thailand’s Junta Locks Down the Internet ahead of Elections
Thailand is set to host general elections this Sunday, March 24th - the first elections in the country since the military took over the government five years ago. The process is tilted in favor of the ruling junta, though, as Allie Funk describes for Just Security, since "[a] new constitution, drafted under the generals’ supervision, provides the structural means for the military to maintain political dominance while tolerating superficially democratic processes."

Ahead of the vote, the ruling junta has actively sought to suppress opposition political activity, especially in online mediums: "In January, the Election Commission of Thailand released strict guidelines that limit parties’ use of social media. Parties must register social media pages with the commission or be subjected to fines and prison terms. The rules also include penalties for sharing or 'liking' defamatory content or spreading 'false information'...The Election Commission set up a 'war room' with a half-dozen monitors reviewing and flagging content deemed to be in violation of the guidelines." - Allie Funk for Just Security
otf  thailand  asia  seasia  SoutheastAsia  election  social  socialmedia  foe 
march 2019 by dmcdev
Nepal social media bill sparks freedom of speech concerns
"Nepal's government [last week] tabled draft legislation that would impose harsh penalties for "improper" social media posts, igniting concerns it could be used to suppress freedom of speech and stifle dissent. Under the proposed law, the government would have the power to block social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube unless they register in Nepal. And social media posts deemed defamatory or against national sovereignty could be punished with up to five years in jail and a fine of 1.5 million Nepalese rupees ($13,000). No timetable was given for passing the bill, but activists have described it as an attempt to shackle criticism of the powerful communist government, which has a two-thirds majority in parliament.

'The bill is against the freedom of expression and justice as it criminalises online expression,' Tara Nath Dahal of Freedom Forum, a media freedom organisation, told AFP. The government has defended the bill, saying it is needed to ensure data and internet security." - AFP
otf  nepal  southasia  social  censorship  access 
march 2019 by dmcdev
How to get online if the internet or social media is blocked
For Quartz, Abdi Latif Dahir runs through some tips and tools that can help people stay online in the event that the internet is shut down in whole or in part - something that is happening with increasing frequency worldwide. From Zimbabwe to India and Venezuela to Cameroon, governments are increasingly relying on internet shutdowns as a way to suppress free speech and inhibit the free flow of information during politically contentious times, such as elections or during protests.

Abdi makes three general recommendations: 1. Keeping up on your 'digital hygiene' - "whether a blackout is imminent or not; 2. choosing effective, reliable circumvention tools - including some that have been supported by OTF, such as Tor, Tails, Lantern, and Briar; and 3. following the advice of experts in order to know what's happening during a shutdown event, and what can be done to mitigate its effects.
otf  shutdown  access  blackout  censorship  social 
february 2019 by dmcdev
Offline and Out of Pocket: The Impact of the Social Media Tax in Uganda on Access, Usage, Income and Productivity
A new report by Pollicy analyzes how Uganda's social media tax is affecting regular people in the country, finding that paying for the tax is a sizable expenditure (>6% of the average total monthly budget), 38% of interviewees use a VPN to avoid the tax, and 86% of respondents feeling that the tax should be removed.

Read "Offline and Out of Pocket: The Impact of the Social Media Tax in Uganda on Access, Usage, Income and Productivity" in full here (pdf).
otf  uganda  socialmediatax  social  socialmedia 
february 2019 by dmcdev
Rouhani's Comments On Hijab, Censorship Draw Ire Of Ayatollahs
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said last week that "neither blocking nor filtering leads us to where we wish to be," Radio Farda reports:

"President Hassan Rouhani is under fire from two Grand Ayatollahs angered by his recent comments on Iran’s policies of compulsory hijab and Internet filtering. Speaking at a meeting with the Minster of Communications and Information Technology January 21, Rouhani reportedly remarked, 'Regarding hijab, the Koran addresses men first, forbidding them to look at women in lecherous ways; but, sadly, we go after women and girls, and arrest them for their [improper] hijab'...He had also criticized the absence of independent media in the country, lambasting the state controlled outlets. Rouhani went on to criticize Iran’s policy of blocking and filtering certain social media networks and websites, saying, 'Modern technologies have many advantages and limited risks, and we cannot separate people’s lives from developments in technology and communications… We should acknowledge that we have been wrong. Neither blocking nor filtering leads us to where we wish to be.'"

+ Iran’s looming Instagram ban shows hardliner disconnect - Asia Times
otf  iran  mena  instagram  social  access  censorship  block 
january 2019 by dmcdev
Russia opens civil proceedings against Facebook and Twitter
Russia’s communication watchdog opened administrative proceedings against Facebook and Twitter for failing to comply with local data laws.

Roskomnadzor, the regulator, said on Monday that the two social networks did not explain how and when they would comply with legislation requiring them to store Russian users’ personal data on servers in Russia.

The news was first reported by Russia’s Interfax news agency.

“The companies managing the social networks of Facebook and Twitter provided formal answers to our demands to confirm the localization of personal data of Russian users in Russia,” Roskomnadzor told CNBC in an emailed comment Monday.

“They do not contain specifics about the actual implementation of the legislation at the current moment, nor about the timing of the implementation of these standards in the future.”

The watchdog added: “In this regard, today Roskomnadzor begins administrative proceedings against both companies.” - CNBC
otf  russia  twitter  facebook  social  datalocalization  Roskomnadzor 
january 2019 by dmcdev
In Africa, A New Tactic to Suppress Online Speech: Taxing Social Media | @TOkunoye
"In 2010, protests swept across North Africa and the Middle East after a Tunisian vendor self-immolated in protest of police confiscating his cart. During those protests, activists’ skillful use of social media was pivotal in mobilizing the public and ultimately toppling strongmen like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. Since then, African leaders have turned to increasingly sophisticated forms of censorship to limit free speech and curb people’s ability to organize via platforms. Their most recent strategy: taxing people for using social media. Although African leaders claim they need these taxes to shore up government revenue, social media taxes are merely censorship cloaked in an economic argument." - Babatunde Okunoye of the Paradigm Initiative, writing for the Council on Foreign Relations
otf  africa  tax  social  speech  foe 
january 2019 by dmcdev
Iran Extends Social Media Crackdown With Move to Bar Instagram
"Authorities in Iran are preparing to block access to Instagram, extending their crackdown on social media to the only major platform still freely available. The National Cyberspace Council approved steps toward blocking the service, Javad Javidnia, deputy for cyberspace affairs at the public prosecutor’s office, was cited as saying by the semi-official Donya-e Eqtesad newspaper. Instagram would join Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Telegram in being banned in the Islamic Republic, ostensibly for reasons of national security." - Golnar Motevalli, Bloomberg

+ Current ICFP fellow Mahsa Alimardani spoke with PRI about Iran's plans to block Instagram. Listen to the interview here: Mahsa has been tracking the issue and laid out the potential block in context on this Twitter thread, explaining what led to the court order to filter Instagram.
otf  iran  icfp  social  instagram  block  access  mena 
january 2019 by dmcdev
Democratic Republic of the Congo cuts internet access following presidential elections
Following presidential elections held this past weekend, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has implemented an internet shutdown in order to avoid a "popular uprising," AFP reports. Outgoing President Joseph Kabila's diplomatic advisor told AFP the DRC's "national security council had decided it was 'imperative' to shut down the internet to allow the electoral commission to finish counting and compiling votes." However, AFP reports that "the opposition accused authorities of cutting the internet on Monday to thwart activism, while leading Western powers called on the troubled central African nation's government to quickly restore web access."

NetBlocks (a previously OTF-supported project) published technical evidence of the shutdown on December 31st, which you can access here NetBlocks confirmed that there have been "[m]ajor outages affecting mobile and fixed-line connections, and a full blackout in some regions including Lubumbashi and parts of Kinshasa have been detected."

+ Sudan blocked access to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram amid anti-government protests, Quartz reports. NetBlocks published data confirming that blockage as well.
otf  drc  sudan  shutdown  access  social  africa  facebook  twitter  instagram 
january 2019 by dmcdev
Crackdown in Beijing: 'Using Twitter is more dangerous than street demonstrations'
Though it's already blocked in China, Beijing is cracking down on Twitter users who access the social media site via circumvention tools, reports Global Voices Advocacy: "The December 5 release of 42 testimonies collected by China Change [], a Chinese human rights advocacy site, details the ordeals of hundreds of Twitter users who have been detained and interrogated by national security police officers since September 2018. In most cases, police have asked — if not forced — these users to delete their posts or accounts...Mainland Chinese authorities have arrested Twitter users in the past, but there was no clear pattern or evidence of a strategic crackdown...The current crackdown is a new and more worrisome development. It is happening nationwide and is not restricted to a specific online incident or act. The number of Twitter users who have been directly threatened is estimated to be in the hundreds or even more."
otf  china  asia  twitter  social  censorship  gfw 
december 2018 by dmcdev
Facebook Blocks 'Defamatory' Post in Compliance With Russian Court Order
"Facebook has reportedly blocked a post on its social media networks in compliance with a recent Russian law that calls on tech giants to block content ruled defamatory by judges in what internet freedom advocates predict will become a common practice...The court order was enforced in compliance with a law that President Vladimir Putin signed in April that allows the authorities to block websites that publish defamatory information about public figures. The latest case will likely be followed by a surge in politicians and businessmen filing defamation lawsuits, internet freedom advocates told [business daily] Kommersant. 'The blocking [requests] are likely to remain inaccessible to ordinary people, since trials are quite long and impose costs,' the outlet quoted Sarkis Darbinyan, an attorney with the Roskomsvoboda internet rights group, as saying." - The Moscow Times
otf  russia  facebook  social  access  block 
november 2018 by dmcdev
Facebook makes connecting to their Tor onion service faster, easier
On Tuesday, Facebook announced a new way to connect to their Tor onion service (https://www.facebookcorewwwi.onion) that makes it easier for users, who won't have to remember that longwinded onion service address any more: "...Now, using a browser feature recently added to Tor Browser, we can help move this traffic [from ''] to onion services too. This helps secure people's connections to Facebook over Tor, while relieving some capacity from the Tor network.
When using in the Tor Browser, we serve an HTTP response header called "Alternative Services" that specifies a different (i.e. onion) service that the browser can use. We've set up multiple new onion services for this purpose to help improve reliability and scalability. As a result, the Tor browser will connect to using an onion service whenever possible. Unlike our original service facebookcorewwwi.onion, people no longer have to type in the onion address." - Will Shackleton, Facebook
otf  tor  facebook  social  access  circumvention 
november 2018 by dmcdev
Stealth crackdown: Chinese censorship extends to Twitter as activists' accounts disappear
"Despite being blocked in China, Twitter and other overseas social media sites have long been used freely by activists and government critics to address subjects that are censored on domestic forums — until now...People in China can use virtual private network (VPN) software to circumvent Beijing’s controls and access blocked foreign sites. But fearful that the platforms could be used to coordinate political activity, the authorities have launched a stealth crackdown over the past year. Chinese activists and other Twitter users say they have been pressured by police to delete sensitive tweets." - AFP
otf  china  asia  twitter  social  access  gfw  foe  censorship 
november 2018 by dmcdev
How Twitter endangered a Saudi activist after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi
"Twitter, the platform that once saved my life, is now putting it in danger. The events in the weeks following Jamal Khashoggi’s murder inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul showed that the lives of other journalists and activists are also at risk. Seven years after Twitter saved me, I recently made the choice to delete my Twitter account...Twitter has became full of harassment, death threats, intimidation and false news for us who have chosen to speak out in the Arab world. Twitter has not enacted any real change in making Twitter safer for us, which has pushed so many I know to quit the platform. Still, I continued to voice my views there. I believed that those governments should be the ones to be afraid, not us. I believed that I finally had a voice, and that I should use it." - Manal al-Sharif for the Washington Post
saudiarabia  twitter  social  speech  safety  mena  foe 
november 2018 by dmcdev
Iran Poised to Allow Military Full Control Over Internet, Messaging Apps
"After repeated denials by Iranian officials about the existence of a bill that would allow an elite branch of the Iranian army to control and monitor all internet content, activities and messaging apps in the country, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has obtained a copy of the pending legislation. Allowing the General Staff of the Armed Forces (GSAF)—which operates under Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and is directed by a commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)—to control the country’s internet infrastructure would put millions of Iranians at risk of prosecution for various online activities including accessing content on a banned social media app." - Center for Human Rights in Iran
otf  iran  mena  surveillance  privacy  social  messaging 
november 2018 by dmcdev
Vietnamese pop star Mai Khoi urges Facebook to halt censorship
"At the Oslo Freedom Forum in Taipei, Khoi opened her talk with a performance of her song 'Vietnam,' which urged her fellow citizens to 'step out from the fear' and 'raise our voice, speak, sing, scream.' Now 34 years old, Khoi is trying to use her celebrity to pressure Facebook to stop complying with, and instead push back against, government censorship. The singer said she became disenchanted with Vietnamese pop music because of how artists would censor themselves, leading her to spend time with the country’s dissident artists. One of them persuaded Khoi to use her platform to run as an independent candidate for Vietnam’s national assembly in 2016. She was eventually barred from the ballot, and used that publicity to get a sit down with then US president Barack Obama when he was in the country that year. 'Just as I thought things were starting to get better, freedom of expression is under threat now,' she said. 'Before the internet, we had nowhere to go and express ourselves freely. The government controlled everything. The advent of the internet and social media changed it.'" - Alice Truong, Quartz
otf  vietnam  asia  facebook  social  censorship  access  SoutheastAsia 
november 2018 by dmcdev
Saudis’ Image Makers: A Troll Army and a Twitter Insider
Incoming ICFP fellow Alexei Abrahams [] was quoted in this New York Times piece on the Saudi Arabian government's efforts to slant discussions and silence critical voices on Twitter.

From the article:

"Yet the government’s social media manipulation tracks with crackdowns in recent years in other authoritarian states, said Alexei Abrahams, a research fellow at Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto.

Even for conversations involving millions of tweets, a few hundred or a few thousand influential accounts drive the discussion, he said, citing new research. The Saudi government appears to have realized this and tried to take control of the conversation, he added.

'From the regime’s point of view,' he said, 'if there are only a few thousand accounts driving the discourse, you can just buy or threaten the activists, and that significantly shapes the conversation.'"
otf  saudiarabia  mena  twitter  social  misinformation  disinfo 
october 2018 by dmcdev
The Kingdom’s Hackers and Bots: how Saudi Arabia uses cutting-edge technology to track dissidents and stifle dissent
"According to experts who study Riyadh’s use of digital surveillance and propaganda, Saudi Arabia has deployed both spyware against critics of the regime and Twitter bots as part of its effort to maintain its grip on power, monitor dissident voices, and control its domestic public sphere. One of the Saudis apparently knowledgeable in the use of surveillance software, Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, has been described as an official close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Mutreb also appears to have played a role in [journalist Jamal] Khashoggi’s death, according to evidence compiled by Turkish authorities. He was spotted entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul shortly before Khashoggi. According to emails published by WikiLeaks in 2015, Mutreb and other Saudi officials were due to receive training in the use of spyware similar to what the Israeli firm NSO markets from the Italian company Hacking Team...Bill Marczak, a senior research fellow at Citizen Lab, said Saudi Arabia has deployed Pegasus in a large number of countries, including Bahrain, Canada, Egypt, France, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. 'It is possible that the Saudis were using it pretty recklessly,' he said. Riyadh has also deployed a sizable bot army to control the online narrative and drown out criticism of the regime."
otf  saudiarabia  mena  twitter  social  bots  misinformation  hack  nsogroup  surveillance 
october 2018 by dmcdev
Bangladesh: Crackdown on Social Media
"The Bangladesh government has embarked upon intensive and intrusive surveillance and monitoring of social media ahead of national elections, raising concern over a chilling effect on speech, Human Rights Watch said [last week]. Draconian new laws and policies are being used to target political opponents, journalists, internet commentators, and broadcasters. National elections are due in Bangladesh by January 2019. Opposition parties and independent observers fear that the increasing crackdown on privacy and free expression is an attempt to limit speech and criticism of the government in the election period. The government claims these efforts are to stem harmful rumors, false information, or objectionable content to maintain law and order. 'Bangladesh is using claims about public security to silence opponents and critics,' said Brad Adams, Asia director. 'The government’s surveillance practices are violating the rights to privacy and freedom of expression ahead of the elections.'"
otf  bangladesh  asia  southasia  elections  foe  social  speech 
october 2018 by dmcdev
Cambodia: First ‘royal insult’ conviction a new low for government
Former CNRP party member Ban Samphy was sentenced to a year in jail over a shared Facebook post which was critical of Cambodia’s king, marking the first conviction under the country's new lèse-majesté law which went into effect this year.

In response, Amnesty International said: "'Ban Samphy is behind bars for expressing himself – all he did was click a ‘share’ button for a post that included nothing but peaceful criticism. He should be released immediately and unconditionally, and his sentence must be overturned'...Ban Samphy, a 70-year-old barber and former minor opposition official from Siem Reap, was jailed for sharing a Facebook post that criticized Prime Minister Hun Sen and what the post called the 'fake king' over a dam project."
otf  cambodia  asia  SoutheastAsia  lesemajeste  facebook  social  foe 
october 2018 by dmcdev
UAE rights activist Ahmed Mansoor appeals 10-year sentence
Mansoor - a.k.a. "the million dollar dissident" who was the target of an iPhone 0day, likely by the UAE government - is appealing the jail sentence, handed down in response to Mansoor's tweets that the state interpreted as being overly critical:

"Prominent Emirati rights activist Ahmed Mansoor has filed a Supreme Court appeal in a bid to overturn a 10-year prison sentence handed to him earlier this year over several Twitter posts. Mansoor was sentenced in May by Abu Dhabi's Federal Appeals Court for 'defaming the UAE through social media channels'. A father of four, Mansoor was also fined one million dirhams ($270,000) for insulting the status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols, including its leaders. Several international rights groups, including a number of United Nations human rights bodies, the EU Parliament's Subcommittee on Human Rights, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch have condemned the move."
otf  uae  speech  jail  activism  mena  twitter  social  foe 
october 2018 by dmcdev
Vietnam jails another Facebook user for comments critical of government
"A court in Vietnam has jailed a Facebook user for 2-1/2 years over anti-government comments he posted on the social media website, police said on Thursday, as the Southeast Asian country continues its crackdown on dissent. Despite sweeping economic reform and increasing openness to social change, Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party retains tight media censorship and does not tolerate criticism. Thursday’s decision comes days after Vietnam jailed another Facebook user for two years and three months on the same charges. Bui Manh Dong, 40, was convicted of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state” at a trial in the Mekong Delta province of Can Tho, the Ministry of Public Security said on its official news website. He was accused of writing posts on his two Facebook accounts that 'distorted the guidelines and policies of the party and the state, and defamed party and state leaders,' the ministry said in the statement, citing the court indictment."
otf  vietnam  asia  facebook  social  speech  foe  seasia  SoutheastAsia 
september 2018 by dmcdev
Zambia social media tax an attempt to raise revenue for debt
"Following the examples of Uganda and Tanzania, Zambia announced in August that it plans to implement an internet tax. President Edgar Lungu’s government aims to tax over-the-top services like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Viber. Activists argued that it would shrink public discourse, confirming fears that Lungu’s government was hostile to critics. The information minister, in turn, said the tax would secure jobs by protecting large telcos from unregulated competition. In the weeks since, however, the fallout in Zambia has revealed that the proposed tax is more about a debt-ridden government trying to find ways to raise funds in a cash-strapped country...A tax of 30 ngwe (3 cents) on 2 million users could lead to a profit of around 600,000 kwacha (nearly $50,000) a day, he explains. For debt-ridden Zambia, the revenue from the social media tax sounds like a lot. Last year, after paying off debts and public servants’ salaries, Zambia only had 23% left of domestic revenue, according to a report by the Center for Trade Policy and Development. 'Its just desperation,' said Tevor Simumba, an economist with the center. 'The government sees it as a way to collect more revenue and reduce the usage of over the top services.'"
otf  africa  zambia  social  tax  policy 
september 2018 by dmcdev
Twitch is now blocked in China
"The major game streaming site is largely no longer accessible and its app has been removed from Apple’s local App Store, after it saw a noticeable boost in popularity last month, as spotted by Abacus. Twitch confirmed it was blocked in China to The Verge today but didn’t elaborate on details...Last month, Twitch hit the No. 3 spot among free apps in China, as locals began downloading the app to watch e-sports matches at the Asian Games...State-run broadcaster CCTV chose not to air the Asian Games, so users had to find alternative ways to watch the competition, especially as China performed well during the event and brought back two gold medals...The latest censorship follows the Chinese government’s pattern of banning any Western media platform that seems to be growing in popularity, often as a cautionary measure before anything controversial has even occurred."
otf  china  asia  twitch  gaming  social  gfw  censorship  access  block 
september 2018 by dmcdev
Anger mounts in Benin as new data tax drives up internet costs
Benin is the latest country in Africa to introduce a tax that effectively rescinds internet access, in this case by "driv[ing] up the price of using social networks from 2 CFA francs to 10 CFA francs per megabyte," AFP reports.

"A planned protest against a sharp hike in internet costs in Benin was blocked on Friday in Cotonou, the country's commercial hub, after the authorities refused to grant a licence for the demonstration...Opposition to the increased charges are growing momentum, ironically on social networks where activists have launched hashtags like #TaxePasMesMo (Don't tax my megabytes) and an online petition that has collected over 13,000 signatures. 'We think that the Beninese government should rather compel telecom operators to improve the quality of their service,' said the petition on the platform...In late May, Uganda introduced a tax for WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter to silence 'gossip' that has been met with fierce resistance. Tanzania has also introduced a new law requiring online platforms to pay for a licence and regulating internet content, requiring operators of online platforms to divulge the names of their sources and contributors if the authorities require it."
otf  benin  tax  social  access  policy  africa 
september 2018 by dmcdev
Why Putin Is Softening on Internet Memes
The Kremlin is having second thoughts about jailing people for silly social media posts it calls “extremist.” It wants to look scary, not ridiculous.
russia  putin  kremlin  censorship  social  vkontakte 
september 2018 by dmcdev
Russia tries more precise technology to block Telegram messenger
Russia is looking into using Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to improve its ability to block Telegram, though initial tests haven't been successful, as unrelated (non-Telegram) traffic is still getting inadvertently blocked, Reuters reports: "Russia is experimenting with more precise technology to block individual online services after an attempt to shut down banned messaging service Telegram failed, but Moscow has yet to find a way to shut it down without hitting other traffic...Since Aug. 6, Russian state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor and state security agency the FSB have been testing systems designed to allow more precise blocking of individual services, according to the minutes of a meeting between officials to discuss the plan...The systems being tested now use a technology called Deep Packet Inspection. The technology operates in a more surgical way, analyzing Internet traffic, identifying the data flows of a particular services and blocking them. However, executives at two of the companies invited to take part said initial tests were not successful, because services other than the ones being targeted were still being blocked unintentionally." 
otf  russia  telegram  block  dpi  censorship  access  social  speech 
august 2018 by dmcdev
To protect big telcos, Zambia wants to tax calls made over social media apps
"Callers who thought they’d save money by using internet services will have to pay even more in Zambia. The country’s government has approved a tax on internet calls in order to protect large telcos, at the expense of already squeezed citizens.

The new tariff, announced last week, will be collected through mobile phone companies and internet service providers. The fee will be charged at a daily rate at 30 ngwee (3c) per day, irrespective of how many internet calls are made, explained minister of information and broadcasting Dora Siliya.

Siliya, who is also the government’s spokeswoman, defended the new regulation as a means to save jobs in Zambia. Apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Viber enjoy an unfair advantage over telecommunications providers because they don’t pay tax, she said on Twitter. The new law would ensure competitiveness in Zambia’s telecommunications industry."
otf  africa  zambia  voip  social  tax 
august 2018 by dmcdev
Research: "Don't @ Me: Hunting Twitter Bots at Scale"
New research from Duo Labs focusing on identifying Twitter bots at scale discusses ways of effectively identifying bots on Twitter, with Duo researchers applying their approach in a "case study" analysis focusing on a botnet spreading a cryptocurrency scam. Duo first identified a dataset of 88 million public Twitter accounts for the study, and then utilized "practical data science techniques" to find the bot networks.  Duo says that "by monitoring the botnet over time, we discover ways the bots evolve to evade detection," adding that "after finding initial bots using the tools and techniques described in this paper, a thread can be followed that can result in the discovery and unraveling of an entire botnet." Duo notes that their research is focused purely on identifying automated Twitter accounts, as opposed to automated accounts that are "necessarily malicious."

Duo made the data collection code they used open source; it's available on GitHub.

Read the full technical paper (pdf) here.
research  twitter  social  bot  botnet  bots  duo 
august 2018 by dmcdev
How Turkey silences journalists online, one removal request at a time - @pressfreedom
The Turkish government requests more content and account censorship on Twitter than any other government in the world, racking up the majority of such requests in both categories, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The press freedom watchdog based its findings off an analysis of Twitter's own transparency  report - specifically the data on "country withheld content" (CWC), which is what Twitter calls such government requests. Of course, other countries like Iran and China ban Twitter outright, while the site remains accessible in Turkey.  Twitter cooperated with about a quarter of the government's requests. Russia is also a big source of takedown requests, as these two countries "were responsible for 74 percent of all requests" between 2014 and 2017, CPJ says.

CPJ: "Twitter complied fully or partially with 24 per cent of legal demands from Turkey, compared with about 9 percent for the rest of the world...Journalists whose accounts have been censored by CWC requests told CPJ that Twitter is inconsistent with its compliance with such requests and complained about the lack of remediation options. [Turkish journalist Abdülhamit] Bilici told CPJ, 'It is a shame that Twitter silences a journalist already silenced by an authoritarian government.' The journalist is living in exile in the U.S. after Turkey seized and then shuttered his paper...Soon after Twitter recorded its first CWC use in Turkey during a two-week ban on the platform in 2014, then-Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay told the press that 'Twitter now toes the line.' Since then, Turkey has used the tool to withhold 1,482 accounts (82 percent of all accounts ever withheld worldwide), and 9,552 tweets (67 percent of all tweets withheld worldwide), according to Twitter's transparency reports."        
otf  cpj  press  pressfreedom  media  turkey  twitter  social  speech  censorship 
august 2018 by dmcdev
Vkontakte says it will reveal statistics about government requests for user data
Russia’s most popular social media platform, Vkontakte, has announced that it will publish a transparency report covering government requests for user data, Meduza reports, noting that the announcement comes as the company is fulfilling such requests more and more often. Vkontakte, or VK for short, outlined its plans to the BBC (Russian) Activists say Vkontakte "surrenders virtually all personal data, whenever requested by law enforcement," according to Meduza. On August 6th, Vkontakte parent compant condemned the growing state crackdown on social media users' content and 'likes,' despite their routine compliance in such cases. VK then also rolled out new user privacy options amid the increased focus from law enforcement on content hosted on the platform.

Meduza: "Vkontakte...says it will release statistics about government requests for user data, despite federal regulations enacted in January that bar companies from revealing information about 'the concrete facts and content' of cooperation with the Federal Security Service...It remains unclear what data the company can publish without violating the government’s new gag order, though it’s worth noting that federal officials have yet to codify penalties for disclosing such information...In recent years (and especially in recent weeks), police officers have opened criminal cases against Russian Internet users, typically charging individuals with hate speech, extremism, offending religious views, or propagating Nazism. The vast majority of these criminal cases are filed against users of Vkontakte, which surrenders virtually all personal data, whenever requested by law enforcement, according to human rights activists."

- Positive vibes only: The Russian internet needs more "positivity," according to President Putin (Meduza): "Amid growing concerns about absurd criminal prosecutions against Russian Internet users, Vladimir Putin visited an educational forum on Wednesday and told the team behind an online animation studio that they’re giving the Web something it gravely needs: 'positivity.' 'Social networks need 100 percent positive [content], which it often lacks,' the president said."
otf  russia  censorship  social  vk  vkontakte 
august 2018 by dmcdev
A Generation Grows Up in China Without Google, Facebook or Twitter
With popular social media sites like Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram blocked (not to mention thousands of other websites), Chinese teenagers are not only unaware of these platforms but are also "uninterested in knowing what has been censored online, allowing Beijing to build an alternative value system that competes with Western liberal democracy," Li Yuan reports for the New York Times. Li Yuan notes that this outlook represents "a departure even from those born in China in the 1980s," with the "rebels" of yesteryear largely gone.

NYT: "Wei Dilong, 18, who lives in the southern Chinese city of Liuzhou, likes basketball, hip-hop music and Hollywood superhero movies. He plans to study chemistry in Canada when he goes to college in 2020. Mr. Wei is typical of Chinese teenagers in another way, too: He has never heard of Google or Twitter. He once heard of Facebook, though. It is 'maybe like Baidu?' he asked one recent afternoon, referring to China’s dominant search engine...Many young people in China have little idea what Google, Twitter or Facebook are, creating a gulf with the rest of the world...Many young people in China instead consume apps and services like Baidu, the social media service WeChat and the short-video platform Tik Tok. Often, they spout consumerism and nationalism."

The article points to research shared in this newsletter yesterday, conducted by two economists from Peking University and Stanford University, which explored Beijing university students' use of censorship circumvention tools and the factors that make their use more or less likely, which found that "...simply offering the tool did little to change behavior or beliefs, as there doesn’t appears to be much natural demand for the material that the government considers off-limits. But the tool had a big impact on those who were encouraged to use it." [The Impact of Media Censorship: Evidence from a Field Experiment in China (pdf)]
otf  china  asia  gfw  censorship  social  facebook  twitter  access 
august 2018 by dmcdev
Russia, Accused of Faking News, Unfurls Its Own ‘Fake News’ Bill
Under a proposed law introduced by Russia's governing party, "websites with more than 100,000 daily visitors and a commenting feature must take down factually inaccurate posts or face a fine of up to 50 million rubles, about $800,000," the New York Times reports. According to the bill, social media companies will have 24 hours to take down posts containing "inaccurate" information. The 24 hour takedown window echoes the one in place as part of a new "incident management" system being tested in Russia, as Meduza reported yesterday. Critics worry that companies will overcompensate to comply with the law and will be more liberal in taking down content.

New York Times: "Critics worry that out of an abundance of caution, moderators [from social platforms' are likely to interpret truthfulness to the authorities’ advantage. They say the bill would make it easier for the state to pressure social media companies to cooperate with security services by requiring them to establish offices in Russia, a step that the social media giants Facebook and Twitter have avoided so as not to fall under Russian legal jurisdiction...The bill 'will become an instrument of censorship' unless social media companies develop algorithms to distinguish real news from fake news, removing the human element and potential bias, Vladimir V. Zykov, the head of an association of social media users in Russia, warned in a recent meeting with lawmakers...In contrast with debates on fake news in the United States and Europe, Russian lawmakers seem most focused on domestic dissent, rather than foreign meddling...Activists are skeptical that the authorities have Russians’ best interests at heart. The language of public safety often conceals efforts at censorship, said Artem Kozlyuk, the founder of Roskomsvoboda, an anti-censorship website. The end result, he said, is always 'expansion of the government’s powers and censorship.'"
otf  russia  censorship  social 
july 2018 by dmcdev
The Kremlin is spearheading a new ‘social-media monitoring system’ to hold local officials more accountable
Russia is upping its social media surveillance with a new "Incident Management" monitoring system designed to speed up local police response times, with regions already giving the thing a test drive, Meduza reports.

The system "allows the authorities to follow social networks in real time, watching for complaints from locals and coordinating local officials responses. According to the magazine RBC, the system (developed by the company Medialogiya for 8.5 million rubles, about $135,000) is already being tested in two regions, including in Moscow. The system monitors five networks (Vkontakte, Odnoklassniki, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram), creating an 'incident' whenever related disgruntled posts start appearing on multiple networks. Local officials are apparently supposed to respond to these incidents within 24 hours, and the Kremlin reportedly has real-time access to the statistics about all 'solved and unsolved' 'incidents.'"
otf  russia  censorship  social  speech  foe 
july 2018 by dmcdev
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