Netizen Report: Pan-African Edition

An Internet cafe in Burkina Faso. Flickr: intransit (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

An Internet cafe in Burkina Faso. Flickr: intransit (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Most of this report was researched, written, and edited by Tom Risen, James Losey, Weiping Li, Renata Avila and Sarah Myers.

This week the spotlight turns to Sub-Saharan Africa where Internet freedom advocates are demanding reform as a range of governments across the continent continue policies of censoring dissent. In Nairobi, Kenya, a Pan African Civil Society Workshop on “Who Controls the Internet?” published a statement calling for African nations to prioritize the UN Human Rights Council Resolution affirming freedom of expression online. The participating organizations also called on governments across Africa to endorse the African Platform for Access to Information and to apply its principles.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has called upon United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to increase pressure for free expression during her 11-day tour of the region. In one of her first stops on the tour Clinton visited South Africa, where proposed legislation could mandate up to 25 years in prison for journalists and government whistleblowers who leak, possess or publish classified government documents. This week Clinton is also visiting Nigeria, whose Senate President David Mark has called for a clampdown on social media. Amidst a backlash by Nigerian netizens, Mark said that his comments were taken out of context.

Censorship

Human Rights Watch has also issued a report calling upon Angola to stop censoring free speech in advance of its elections on August 31. Opposition party leader Isaias Samakuva has criticized attacks on press freedom by the ruling party, a repeat of government-biased media crackdowns practiced in 2008.

Two newspapers in Gabon, Ezombolo and La Une [fr], have been suspended by the government for six months for criticizing political figures in their columns. The government’s National Communications Council also accused Ezombolo of “threatening public order” by running an opinion piece urging troops not to obey orders to shoot protesters.

Moving on to Asia, two newspapers in Myanmar, The Voice and The Envoy, were also suspended for failing to submit stories to government censors, but solidarity support from other online publications caused the government to back down and allow their return as of August 18. Taking a cue from Wikipedia’s website blackout used to protest the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA), The Messenger, Express Time and The Nation blacked out their websites in protest on August 6, following a protest march on August 4.

Four employees at Chinese-based search engine Baidu were fired and three of them were arrested for accepting bribes to delete online messages.

Copyright

France’s new Minister of Culture Aurélie Filippetti plans to cut the budget of France’s Internet piracy police group, Hadopi, which some speculate could be part of a larger plan to shutter the agency by newly-elected French President Francois Hollande.

Leaked text obtained by nonprofit Knowledge Ecology International from negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement indicates that the United States and Australia would require that fair use exceptions to copyright to be subject to an international standard.

Embedding copyright-infringing video content from third party websites is not a crime, according to a US Court of Appeals ruling that favors social video bookmarking website MyVidster in a lawsuit leveled by Flava Works, a pornography production company.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York, the Authors Guild says Google should pay for US$ 750 for every book the company has digitized.

A leaked memo authored by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) describes how its employees are being briefed to tell reporters that TVShack.net founder and UK citizen Richard O’Dwyer “profited handsomely from advertising on the site,” which links to infringing videos rather than hosting them. With the help of Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales, O’Dwyer is fighting extradition to the US to face charges of copyright infringement.

Thuggery

Supporters in Washington, DC, New York, and elsewhere are campaigning for Ethiopia to release journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega. Nega was found guilty in June along with 23 other activists for “participation in a terrorist organization,” and in mid-July was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Nazir al-Majid has been released without charges by Syrian authorities after spending a year in solitary confinement.

Two Sri Lankan news websites, the Sri Lanka Mirror and Sri Lanka X News, have been raided by the Criminal Investigation Department’s Colombo Crime Division. Sri Lanka X News is tied to the primary opposition party the United National Party (UNP).

Iranian blogger Ahmad Shariat has been arrested. The National reports that Shariat is among pro-administration bloggers that have faced arrest in an ongoing power struggle.

A Vietnamese woman, Dang Thi Kim Lieng, self-immolated outside of a government building to protest the detention of her daughter, blogger Ta Phong Tan. She died of her burns on July 30. In a trial that began on August 7, which barred family from attending, Tan and two other bloggers face 20 years in prison for maintaining the Free Journalists Club blog, which the government states “distort[s] the truth, denigrat[es] the party and state.”

National policy

The Verge reported that “Olympic ‘Wi-Fi’” police were spotted shutting down unsanctioned Wi-Fi hotspots, officially including Wi-Fi on the list of items controlled at the Olympics. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games also shut down a free service that would alert users when tickets for Olympics events were available.

Next month Iran will unplug its ministries from the global Internet as part of a move to operate a national intranet.

Brazil’s government will vote on August 8 on the proposed Marco Civil, a legal framework of civil rights for Internet users in Brazil. The bill outlines protection for Internet users’ personal data and requires Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to inform the public of content removals.

Internet governance

The US House of Representatives has passed a resolution opposing ITU proposals to increase control over the Internet, drawing support from Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf.

Freedom House has launched a contest called the Internet Governance Forum Incubator Project. Project finalists will be part of Freedom House’s delegation to the IGF and at least two projects will receive funding.

A 24-hour Global Voices marathon to translate the Declaration of Internet Freedom has brought the number of translation of to 63, including five indigenous languages from the Americas.

Netizen activism

In Sudan, bloggers are using online channels such as tweeting the hashtag #sudanrevolts in response to President Omar Hassan al-Bashir's crackdown on conventional media stifling protests against government austerity.

Sovereigns of cyberspace

Amidst rumors that Chinese-based telecommunications company Huawei is providing wiretap backdoors for the Chinese government, German security researcher Felix Lindner has told CNET that security flaws in Huawei’s routers already offer monitoring opportunities. In response Huawei stated that it seeks out such security gaps and requested input from businesses.

The now publicly-traded Facebook estimated 83 million of its approximately 955 million registered users were “fake” (not under the user's real legal name) according to its latest SEC filing released on Thursday, available here. It claims some use pseudonyms to seek privacy, but 14 million “undesirable” users estimated in the report use fake names to spread links to malware.

Cybersecurity

In the US Senate, the Cybersecurity Act was defeated, gaining only 52 of the required 60 votes. The bill would have established a National Cybersecurity Council to coordinate with network managers in critical infrastructure industries such as emergency services, energy, banking, health care and communications. President Obama supports the bill and is considering an executive order to strengthen security measures if Congress does not pass the legislation.

The Twitter account and blog of Reuters were hacked and posted phony news tweets favoring the Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad and fake White House statements taking Al-Qaeda off the terrorist agency list. While the hacks are unattributed, they resemble hacks by the Syrian Electronic Army on Al Jazeera’s Twitter account in January.

A set of recommendations released by the Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group (BITAG) outlines how to defend against a botnet attack.

Surveillance

An article by India's Economic Times reports that Research in Motion (RIM), best known for its popular BlackBerry mobile services, has bowed to years of pressure from Indian authorities and provided a data solution allowing the government access to encrypted communications. The company stated in response “RIM cannot access information encrypted through BlackBerry Enterprise Server as RIM is not ever in possession of the encryption keys.” RIM set up servers and interception facilities in Mumbai in October after India threatened to shut down BlackBerry services because it could not wiretap encrypted communications.

Privacy

The Norwegian Data Authority is investigating the privacy implications of Facebook’s Tag Suggestions feature, a default facial recognition option, which Facebook states complies with EU privacy laws because user can opt out of the feature. The US Senate questioned Facebook about facial recognition use on the website’s photos in July.

Cool things

The World Wide Web turned 21 on August 6.

Global Voices Advocacy announced a new Facebook page.

Santiago Atitlan, an indigenous Guatemalan village, has declared Internet access a human right and is working to build a community wireless network to provide access.

Publications and Studies

Subscribe to the Netizen Report by email

For upcoming events related to the future of citizen rights in the digital age, see the Global Voices Events Calendar.

4 comments

  • [...] published on Aug. 9, 2012, by Global Voices Advocacy An Internet cafe in Burkina Faso. Flickr: intransit (CC BY-NC-SA [...]

  • M. Alhaji

    What else do we need from the great Alhaji Mai Deribe !

    The great Alhaji Mai Deribe you single handedly & using ur personal wealth gave us the two central mosques in Maiduguri (The DERIBE Central Mosque & the BULUMKUTU Central Mosque plu
    s 27 extra smaller mosques in Nigeria along),you gave us the Deribe Islamic schools,you gave us the first soft drink factory in the whole of North eastern Nigeria with a capacity of a Million bottle per day (The Dalaram Soft drink factory), you build the Baga road central Market/shopping mall,you gave us the Deribe hospital,you convinced the federal government in the 1980′s to give us one of the only four international airports in Nigeria,you build the airport yourself,when they gave you a contract you execute it in the best & strongest long lasting quality because we have seen that with the Maiduguri main general hospital building-The Mai Malari Barracks-The University of Maiduguri lecture theaters,the science complex including the Agrovet /agricultural department complex building. In addition you gave us the first and the only five star hotel in the North eastern region of Nigeria (The Deribe Hotel) in addition to the Deribe Motel,you personally paid or gave a sum of $ 1,000,000 (One) Million Dollars USD to the Oil /Petroleum prospectors prospecting for oil in the Gajiganna and Kukawa areas of Borno state in the mid 1980s to stay and continue their prospecting for this Oil who initially decided to stop the prospecting and leave the state when they realized that there were no signs of Oil or Petroleum in the Chad Basin area of Borno state and today we are happy with the result and even started benefiting from your dream for the communities of Borno and Yobe states and the northern region of Nigeria in fact even the entire nation in terms of petroleum resources,you single handedly convinced General Babangida to give or make Damaturu to be the capital of Yobe state despite the fact that Babangida himself initially gave the capital to another place,you gave us the “Preussag drilling company” that is helping the governments of the Northeastern region states of Nigeria (Borno,Yobe,Taraba,Adamawa,Gombe,Bauchi and even Kanuna state) to be using when they want to reach the third aquifer water reserves bc of the strengths of their machines ,the same preussag company build and donated over 60 boreholes in our rural areas of Borno and Yobe states without publicizing the donation,you gave 5 million Naira to our Maiduguri central mosque on 1st January,1987 on behalf of your family and the family of the Late Alhaji Kuli Deribe which was equivalent to $ 4.5 Million dollars USD as at that time,you give your neighbors the People of Fezzan and Old Maiduguri Food (a bag of millet per family ) and money in each fasting,you kept taking people to hajj with your money for 44 years non stop and in some occasions even in your Gulfstream Private Jet (http://www.gulfstream.com/products/g550/ ),you gave scholarship to some indigent of Borno state who went and studied in England and in some of your houses at Gloucester London in the late 1970s to late 1980s although many people do not even heard about that apart from the beneficiaries of the scheme and their relations,Your house,mosque ground and Islamic schools became a camp for thousands of displaced indigents of Maiduguri during the flood disaster of September 1994 and recently during the Maiduguri unrest of July 2009 and in fact during the September 1994 flood disaster in Maiduguri during your life time you gave the sum of N 1,000,000 (one) Million Naira equivalent to 375,000 USD to the Borno state government to help buy foods and other provisions to this displaced families while you were out of the country as at that time,you respected our culture,value as well as our traditional leaders and scholars and finally you gave us our own version of “Taj Mahal” (The Deribe palace) so that Maiduguri can host any visitor coming to visit us without calling our city a village as a result Maiduguri hosted the great king Carlos of Spain, Late lady Diana and prince Charles of UK,The son of the American president with each vistor turning to be a villager in Maiduguri as a result of the unique architects of the Deribe Palace !!! What else can you give us that you have never given us ? None !!!

  • [...] Netizen Report: Pan-African Edition Moving on to Asia, two newspapers in Myanmar, The Voice and The Envoy, were also suspended for failing to submit stories to government censors, but solidarity support from other online publications caused the government to back down and allow their … Read more on Global Voices Online [...]

  • [...] China, France, United States, the United Nations, Facebookistan, and beyond. Read the whole thing here. Share this:TwitterFacebookMoreEmailLinkedInLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Filed Under: [...]

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