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Netizen Report: Journalists Dive for Yanukovych Documents, Literally

Yanukovych documents float in reservoir. Photo by @aronets via Twitter.

Yanukovych documents float in reservoir. Photo by @aronets via Twitter.

Ellery Roberts Biddle, Mohamed ElGohary, Lisa Ferguson, Solana Larsen, Hae-in Lim, Sarah Myers, Bojan Perkov and Sonia Roubini contributed to this report.

Global Voices Advocacy's Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. This week's report begins in Ukraine, where a group of journalists have been hard at work in the days following Viktor Yanukovych’s departure from his estate outside Kiev to document and preserve evidence corruption under his administration. The group saved tens of thousands of documents (many of which were dumped into a nearby reservoir) found at the compound and has now posted them online. Among the dumped documents were receipts for millions of dollars in cash, a black list of local media workers, and plans for a military crackdown on protesters.

Free Expression: Google loses in “Innocence of Muslims” case

A US court ruled that Google must take down the controversial anti-Islamic film “The Innocence of Muslims” from YouTube. An actress in the film filed a copyright suit against Google claiming the film infringed upon her copyright to her performance. The decision is problematic, the Electronic Frontier Foundation writes, because it puts copyright ahead of free speech rights. On the bright side, the ruling has breathed new life into efforts by Pakistani digital rights NGO Bytes for All to pressure the Pakistani government to end its countrywide ban of YouTube. The video allegedly triggered the government’s decision to block the entire site.

Activists in Mexico confirmed that the government, in partnership with the US Embassy in Mexico and with the assistance of GoDaddy.com, censored 1DMX.org, a site that served as a platform for news and discussion during days of social unrest in early December 2013.

Russia’s Internet monitoring agency shut down 13 pages linked to Ukraine’s protest movement on social media website VKontakte, alleging the pages were related to “terrorist activity” and “participation in unsanctioned mass actions.”

Journalists and human rights group are criticizing a proposed law in East Timor that would infringe on free speech rights. The law, which was introduced in the parliament two weeks ago, would create a press council to supervise reporters and would restrict the definition of “journalist” to those working for corporate media.

Draft legislation to amend Spain’s intellectual property law would introduce a “Google tax” on aggregator websites, by restricting the use of “insignificant fragments” of online content without authorization of the rights holder. The law would grant authors an “inalienable” right to compensation even to works published under a Creative Commons license.

Thuggery: An ankle monitor for Russia’s most controversial blogger

A Russian judge placed opposition figure and blogger Alexey Navalny under house arrest, mandating that he not use the Internet or telephone for two months. Navalny, who has used social media to coordinate protests against the Kremlin, was accused of violating the terms of a travel ban after he participated in a peaceful demonstration against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Vietnamese blogger Truong Duy Nhat was sentenced to prison for online posts critical of the country's Communist Party-led government.

Surveillance: Suit over Cisco’s work with Chinese government dismissed

A US federal district court dismissed a case brought by Du Daobin, a Chinese writer and human rights activist, against the American networking equipment manufacturer Cisco for knowingly helping the Chinese government to facilitate the “Golden Shield” system that conducts online censorship and surveillance. The court found that the Cisco’s involvement in the system did not in itself qualify as a human rights violation, but also ruled that parts of the case constituted a “political question”, which was out of the scope of the court’s jurisdiction. In addition, the court ruled that it was not in the position to judge if the Chinese government has abused human rights.

According to The Guardian, agents of British surveillance agency GCHQ, helped by the NSA, intercepted webcam chats from over 1.8 million Yahoo users globally through a program called “Optic Nerve”. Between 2008 and 2010, the program was used for bulk collection of webcam chat images, which were then stored in GCHQ databases. A report from The New York Times states that an internal agency document shows that “Optic Nerve” was still active as of 2012.

Netizen Activism

#KholoBC, a rap video denouncing Internet censorship in Pakistan, has gone viral on Pakistani social media. The video makes explicit references to the country’s long-standing block on YouTube.

Filipinos protested the country’s new cybercrime law in Black Tuesday demonstrations on February 25. The Philippine Supreme Court affirmed the law, which sets a broad definition and steep punishment for online libel, at a February 19 hearing.

Open source developers and digital rights advocates in Venezuela have created a petition to push for Internet neutrality and online free expression in their country. Visit and sign the petition here.

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