The Internet Freedom Alert is a publication of Freedom House's Global Internet Program, that covers online developments related to censorship, Internet Governance and freedoms online. Issue 1.17 covers developments from Sept 10 - Sept 22, 2008. Links, Events and articles mentioned are summarized weekly from the Internet Freedom Bookmarks site - that can be accessed @ http://del.icio.us/internetfreedom
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News & Developments
Chinese sources report that the country's IP address (IPv4) resources can only sustain 830 days at current distribution rates if no measures are adopted. Li Kai, the director of IP team at China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) said most of China is still using IPv4 (as opposed to the newer virtually unlimited IPv6) and the resource is 80% used up.
A United Nations agency is quietly drafting technical standards, proposed by the Chinese government, to define methods of tracing the original source of Internet communications and potentially curbing the ability of users to remain anonymous. The U.S. National Security Agency is also participating in the "IP Traceback" drafting group, named Q6/17, which is meeting next week in Geneva to work on the traceback proposal. Members of Q6/17 have declined to release key documents, and meetings are closed to the public. The potential for eroding Internet users' right to remain anonymous, which is protected by law in the United States and recognized in international law by groups such as the Council of Europe, has alarmed some technologists and privacy advocates. Also affected may be services such as the Tor anonymizing network.
Recent reports suggest that the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a United Nations agency, is "quietly drafting technical standards, proposed by the Chinese government," aimed at preventing Internet attacks which could also put an end to anonymity on the Internet. At an up coming ITU meeting in Geneva next week, telecommunication experts will be discussing draft recommendation of "IP Traceback" use case and requirements, looking at ways to identify the source of packets sent across IP (Internet Protocol) network
8 Egyptian bloggers are in the US for a first-hand look at the election campaigns. They will be blogging on this site through the presidential inauguration as part of a project by the Kamal Adham Center for Journalism Training and Research at The American University in Cairo.
Today twitter, the most used micro blog here in Brazil is under attack. One of our elections sections, in Ceara, has ruled that a fake political profile should be taken down by the service. (Politicians are forbidden to have any type of interaction on social media channels)
The online version of The Irrawaddy and other Web sites run by Burmese exiles are back in operation after being hit last Tuesday by "distributed denial-of-service" or DDoS, attacks that jammed the sites with fake traffic.
Reporters without Borders informs that its main website has been blocked again in China, after being accessible since Aug. 1. The human rights group says in that period of time, some 13,000 Internet users in China visited the site.
Reporters without Borders have posted an interview with Zeng Li, the wife of cyber-dissident Huan Qi, who has been imprisoned since June 10 in Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan Province. Huan had the temerity to publish articles critical of the local authorities' performance during the aftermath of the terrible May 12 earthquake that devastated that part of China. His articles on www.64tianwang.com dealt with the humanitarian situation and how "international aid was mismanaged by local authorities." For that he was accused of the ludicrous charge of "illegal possession of state secrets."
Internet censorship is effectively preventing thousands of American and European e-commerce websites from reaching Chinese consumers, declare Internet marketing consultants Backbone IT Group in a recent study. Indeed, websites hosted outside mainland China's "Great Firewall" take over 20 times as long to load when compared to their Chinese-hosted equivalents, often rendering them completely unusable. Thousands of American and European e-commerce websites risk missing out on potential Chinese consumers, despite a recent relaxation of China's Internet censorship for the Olympic Games, according to Internet marketing firm Backbone IT Group
China unblocked many usually censored web sites following intense international pressure and scrutiny after having promised uncensored access during the Olympics. Five days later (August 6, 2008) the search engines that Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft customize for the Chinese market were tested as well as the leading domestic search engine Baidu. It was found that all of the search engines were still censoring content that was unblocked by China. one interesting find was that Yahoo! was censoring less than all the others and Baidu (and Google) were censoring much less than Microsoft.
The now widely published milk powder scandal in China is already having a larger number of suspects, who will have to take the blame for hundreds of infants struck with kidney stones. The famous Sanlu Group of course, health officials and the many farmers who delivered poisoned milk. Apart from the basic question - who did it - the question is also, why it took a month between the discovery of the issue and the general alarm that is hitting China and the rest of the world now. Latest suspect: the propaganda department which has ordered China's media not too report on any food security issues.
China's largest video hosting firm Tudou announced today it got its license from the State-Administration of Radio, Film and TV (SARFT) after a prolonged delay, so that is well worth a congratulation! A short summary of what happened to this rather new industry that has been able to survive in the rather difficult media-landscape where private companies and the country's regulator have been at odds for a rather long time.
The license China's largest video hosting firm Tudou received today was paramount for getting seriously into the advertising business, Shaun Rein says today. After a two-month wait Tudou got its license from the regulatory body SARFT, two months after everybody else got their permission
More interesting media news from Pacific Epoch: the State Administration of Radio, Film and TV (SARFT) will complete its own broadcasting system for 360 cities by the end of 2008, involving radio and TV channels. Total costs: Several billion Renminbi. China's government departments do have a long-standing tradition of trying to enter the industries they have to regulate and - in the case of the SARFT - even have to censor. The administrative trend goes definitely against this old trend, so it will be interesting to see if this expansion of the SARFT-business will be opposed by other participants in the media industry.
In response to recent terrorist bombings in India where security officials believe the bombers made use of open wireless (WiFi) connections to communicate, the government is examining the possibility of making unsecured WiFi connections illegal
The South Korean government is planning a series of restrictions on Internet use to prevent what the beleaguered administration of President Lee Myung Bak calls the spread of false information that prompts social unrest, reports the "International Herald Tribune". Under the proposal, all forum and chat room users will be required to make verifiable registrations using their real names.
The establishment of an independent press council may help protect journalists and Internet activists like Raja Petra Kamarudin, writes Daniel Chandranayagam
Well-known blogger Syed Azidi Syed Abdul Aziz, also known as Kickdefella, was arrested at his home on 17 September under the Sedition Act. The arrest came after he posted blog entries in which he severely criticised the country's political and economic situation, with calls for bloggers to display the Malaysian flag upside down in protest.
In light of the its aim to encourage the people to use the internet as a means of disseminating information, the Malaysian government has restored access to the Malaysia Today news portal, together with the other sites which have been blocked since January 2008.
Just as the MCMC unblocks "Malaysia Today", Raja Petra Kamaruddin's controversial news portal, Malaysiakini reports that Raja Petra (or RPK) (pic below) has been arrested under the Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA). RPK's wife, Marina Lee Abdullah, was reported to have said that he was arrested at 1310 on 12th September 2008, with 10 police personnel in attendance at RPK's home. According to Malaysiakini, RPK was arrested under s. 73(1) of the Act, allegedly for being a threat to security, peace and public order.
The arrest of blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin under the Internal Security Act (ISA) Friday afternoon should serve as a warning to irresponsible bloggers who flout the law, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Malaysian blogger Syed Azidi Syed Aziz, or kickdefella, was arrested today. From initial reports, it is not clear if he was arrested for inciting the public to fly the national flag upside-down or for an article he wrote. Other reports suggest that Syed Azidi is being investigated under Section 4 (1) of the Sedition Act.
Former Singaporean citizen and naturalized American, Gopalan Nair, has been sentenced to three months imprisonment for insulting a high court judge on his blog. Newspaper reports that the court, in handing out the sentence, had stated that Gopalan had "scandalised
the judiciary and the administration of justice in Singapore"
From Aug 23, private firms, organisations and government agencies will be required to store all internet traffic data for 90 days so it is available as digital evidence for police. Pol Col Yannapol Youngyuen, commander of the Bureau of Technology and Cyber Crime at the Department of Special Investigation, said the IT Ministry order has no exceptions and will include banks, hotels, schools and internet cafes.
The government will soon pass the country's first telecom law that will allow telecom operators to buy or re-sell licenses to other companies. According to the current draft of the telecommunications law, each license purchase must be approved by the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) to ensure competition among operators and allow foreign investors to easily enter the market. The license buyer must take all rights and duties of the seller. "Current regulations ban telecom license purchasing, while almost nations in the world allow this to happen", said an MIC source. "The government will also define clear policies on services based on telecom resources such as frequencies and telephone numbers in order to grant licences to operators through a beauty contest, performance bond, auction or tender in order to take full advantage of frequencies limitations" added the official.
Middle East and North Africa
With most of its people struggling, and reform blocked, Egypt faces an uncertain and possibly dangerous future
Today a number of Egyptian artists and human rights activists submitted a statement to the General Prosecutor, demanding the release of blogger activist and novelist Mosaad Abu Fajr, who has been in jail since December 2007. Detained in Borg al Arab prison, Abu Fajr was arrested after the eruption of demonstrations in Rafah city in protest against the Egyptian government that tried to take over the houses of the Egyptian citizens living in the city. The Public Prosecutor's Office charged Abu Fajr, among others, with inciting the riot actions in addition to resisting authorities and assaulting civil servants on duty.
The Kuwait Ministry of Communications has issued an order to local ISPs denying access to Youtube due to video content considered offensive to Muslims and Islam
As Tehran's nuclear crisis grabs headlines and there is talk of easing relations with Iran by opening an US interest section in Iran for the first time since hostage crisis of 1979, an ominous development is taking place inside Iran: the escalation of state repression against Iranian dissidents online
In its latest pressure tactic against Iranian bloggers and text-messagers, Iran's government has declared blogs, texting, social networking sites and, more generally, the Internet "destructive," "tools of media warfare" and more dangerous to the public "than addiction." It also is threatening to charge some bloggers with heresy, which could carry a death sentence.
Blogger Mohammed Erraji was sentenced to two years in jail for criticising the King of Morocco. Bloggers and human rights groups described the ruling as "unacceptable".
A court of appeals in Agadir has ordered the provisional release of Moroccan blogger Mohamed Erajji who had been sentenced to two years in prison for criticizing the King's social policies.
The Moroccan blogosphere is still reeling from the shock of Mohamed Erraji's arrest and sentencing. Erraji, a blogger and collabarotor of the site hespress.com, was arrested on September 8 after he posted an article criticizing the Moroccan King's social policies. He was sentenced to two years in prison and a $640 dollar fine. On Thursday, the court of appeals in Agadir ordered Erraji's conditional release because of procedural mistakes but the blogger is still facing a new trial on the same charges.
Syria tightens its censorship
Syria, is up to its old tricks again, this time blocking 160 websites which purportedly expressed dissident views.
Tunisian journalist and blogger Zied El-Hen filed a suit this week in a Tunisian court against the Tunisian Internet Agency for blocking the social networking Web site Facebook, according to a report by Reuters (Arabic). The journalist demands about $5,000 as a compensation for the damages which the blocking caused to him. He said the fact that the Tunisian President himself had to intervene to have the site unblocked last week is an evidence that the blocking was wrong and illegal. In an interesting technical argument he said that the the agency mislead him by serving the message 404 (Not Found) error message instead of the 403 message (Access Forbidden), which the agency serves to users who attempt to access banned sites. This action of misleading (Not Found vs. Forbidden) caused him material as well as punitive damages, he said.
Tunisian blogger and journalist Ziad El Heni has filed a legal action against the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI), seeking damages sustained as a result of censorship. This is the first case of its kind against ATI since its creation in 1996 to manage the national internet backbone and provide internet services.
Calls for Participation
Call for Participation of the 25th Chaos Communication Congress 2008 (25C3). The Chaos Communication Congress is the annual four-day conference organized by the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) and taking place in Berlin.
September 26 - 28: The 36th Research Conference on Communication, Information, and Internet Policy
Location: Center for Technology and the Law, George Mason University Law School, Arlington, Virginia
October 3 - 4: Tech4Africa
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
A web and emerging technology conference for Africa
October 9 - 10: 9th Latin American Congress of Communication Researchers
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
October 14, 2008: Open Web Asia Conference ‘08
Location: Seoul, Korea
The first pan-Asia web technology event bringing together executives, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists from throughout Asia”
The event is organized by members of the Open Web Asia Workgroup and other prominent entrepreneurs, thinkers, and bloggers from within the Asian web industry. This year’s Open Web Asia Conference will be held in association with the World Knowledge Forum (WKF).
The one day conference will be divided into four sessions focusing on the following key areas: Insights and Best Practices, Innovations in Asia; Collaboration - An Introduction to Asia’s Social Web; and East Meets West - The challenges of Internationalization To and From Asia. We already have 16 top executives and entrepreneurs as confirmed speakers from China, Japan, Korea and USA.
October 20 - 21: European Dialogue on Internet Governance
Location: Council of Europe, Strasbourg, France
Consultations before the 3rd IGF in Hyderabad with a particular emphasis on : "Fostering security, privacy and openness on the internet" European actors interested in Internet Governance issues will meet in Strasburg on 20-21 October 2008, to discuss openly and freely their ideas, experiences and concerns in a fully multi-stakeholder format.
October 26 - 29 : The Internet: Governance and the Law
Location: Montréal, Québec, Canada
Conference on Internet Policy, regulation and governance, McGill University
Sessions will deal with topics such as Internet Governance beyond the Nation State, Cyber Regulation, Convergence of Telecommunications, PC and Broadcast; Competition; Deregulation; Free Speech vs. Defamation/Hate Speech, Privacy vs. Security; Consumer Protection, Cryptography, Domain Name, Open Source, Patents, Copyright, Trademarks, Cybercrime and Terrorism, E-Commerce, Legal Liability and e-Transactions, Property and Piracy, Telemarketing Fraud et. al.
November 3-4, 2008: Chinese Bloggers Conference 2008 和而不同，多志兴邦
Location: Beijing, China
November 2-7, 2008: Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) - Public Meeting
Cairo, Egypt will host the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers' 33rd International Public Meeting
November 8 - 10: VIII International Human Rights Colloquium : "60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Challenges for the Global South"
Location: Sao Paulo, Brazil
The VIII International Human Rights Colloquium is an annual capacity building and peer-learning event designed for young activists from the Global South (Africa, Asia and Latin America). The objective of the VIII International Human Rights Colloquium is to strengthen the impact of human rights activists work and to offer the opportunity to build new collaborative networks among activists, academics and the Organization of the United Nations (UN).
November 14-16: Evento Blog España
Location: Seville, Spain
Evento Blog España aims to be a big event, one that brings together bloggers from the Spanish and European Blogosphere. This year the event will be held in Seville, Spain
November 27-28: How technology (and internet in particular) influences society.
Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
XS4ALL is holding a two-day conference on the influence of technology on society, naturally devoting particular attention to the internet. The conference is being organised in an unusual way: a weblog and a wiki have been set up to enable a large group of people to draw up the programme jointly.
December 2: Third Annual GigaNet Symposium
Location: Hyderabad International Conference Center, India
December 3- 6 : United Nations Internet Governance Forum (IGF)
Location: Hyderabad, India
February 9 - 13, 2009: Informática 2008 - New Technologies: Development and Sovereignty
Location: Havana, Cuba
March 1- 6, 2009: Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) - Public Meeting
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City, Mexico will host the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers' 34th International Public Meeting from 1-6 March 2009.
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