In December 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin took part in the Internet Economy Forum, where he suggested Russian federal security service and other state agencies should make information threats their top priority and seek out tools for
monitoring such threats online.
Now, a new center for monitoring information attacks is set to be launched in Innopolis, a new Russian smart city. Natalia Kasperskaya, CEO of InfoWatch and co-founder of the antivirus giant Kaspersky Lab, is launching her project there.
Kasperskaya told Vedomosti news outlet that the center is part of the response to Putin's suggestion to boost information security. Russia already has agencies that work to oppose and respond to cyberattacks, she says, but insists that her organization
will be the first of its kind, monitoring and preventing information attacks online.
Kasperskays says she's currently looking for investors for the project, but acknowledges that at the outset it will function mostly with grant money and government funding, and will serve state and public needs.
The new monitoring center is the joint brainchild of Kasperskaya and Igor Ashmanov, CEO of Ashmanov and partners, a big player in the Russian media and communications market. The partners envision that the center will monitor the web using technology
developed by Kribrum--another joint project of Kasperskaya and Ashmanov. Kribrum's social media analytics and reputation management software can scrape online content and analyze it for sentiment and emotion. Ashmanov says its capabilities are
sophisticated enough to be able to predict an information attack online as soon as it starts, as well as to spot its organizers. Most of the monitoring efforts will likely target the Russian social networks and blogosphere, where political debates and
metaphorical "mud flinging" are the most active.
Russian human rights NGO Agora reports that although content filtering and blocking remain the main tools of Russian Internet policy, they are largely regarded as ineffective due to the sheer volume of individual acts of censorship. In an effort to more
effectively suppress dissemination of information and free speech, the Russian authorities are attempting to increase the pressure on users--and this is where evidence from monitoring initiatives such as the one proposed by Kasperskaya and Ashmanov could
be seen as useful, especially when charging Internet users with legal violations such as posting extremist materials. Agora notes that the increasingly real prison sentences handed down for liking and sharing information published on social media aim to
intimidate users and deter them from discussing sensitive social and political issues online.
A new draft censorship law is being discussed in China. The measures outlined in the Internet Domain Name Management Rules (Chinese) have been released for public comment by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
The proposals allow the authorities to censor any domain names not registered within China. Only domain names approved by authorities would be permitted, while other names registered outside of China would be blocked automatically.
The measures specifically detail that domain names must not jeopardize national security, leak state secrets, or subvert state power, undermining national unity. The laws will most likely affect foreign tech firms, including
U.S. giants Apple and Microsoft, which host services from Chinese servers.
Those in violation of the new regulations could be fined up to 30,000 yuan (approx. £3,000).
The draft is open for public discussion until 25 April.
Europe's right to be forgotten is a nasty and arbitrary censorship power used to hide internet content such as past criminal history. Many think it tramples on the public's right to know, as quite a few examples have born out.
It seems that France and the EU thinks that such content should be censored worldwide, and have fined Google 100,000 euro for allowing non EU internet viewers to see information censored in the EU.
Since EU laws don't apply elsewhere, Google at first just deleted right to be forgotten requested results from its French domain. However, France pointed out that it would be easy to find the info on a different site and ordered the company to
scrub results everywhere. In an attempted compromise, Google started omitting results worldwide as long as it determined, by geolocation, that the search was conducted from within France.
But now EU internet censors have rejected that idea (as it would be easy to get around with a VPN) and fined Google effectively for allowing Americans to see content censored in the EU. Google commented:
We disagree with the [regulator's] assertion that it has the authority to control the content that people can access outside France.
In its ruling, France's CNIL censor says that geolocalizing search results does not give people effective, full protection of their right to be delisted ... accordingly, the CNIL restricted committee pronounced a 100,000 euro fine against Google.
Saturday was World Day Against Cyber Censorship and in a unique partnership Amnesty International and AdBlock combined to deliver 156,789,119 impressions of messages by prominent privacy and free speech advocates Edward Snowden, Ai Wei Wei, and Pussy
Riot in a campaign conceptualized and brokered by advertising agency ColensoBBDO.
Amnesty International experienced their highest ever daily web traffic.
For 24 hours AdBlock served banners with messages from these three influential individuals where they would normally remove banners altogether. During this period it's estimated that over 50 million internet users were reached with these thought
provoking messages speaking out against the dangers of cyber censorship.
At the heart of ad block usage is the users desire to tailor their online experience, but for many people around the world, their online experiences are tailored by what their governments are willing to let them see. This made this channel the perfect
way to share quotes and information from Snowden, Ai Wei Wei, and Pussy Riot, who are heavily censored themselves, to be broadcast across the internet whilst creatively bypassing a number of current censorship restrictions.
Gabriel Cubbage, CEO of AdBlock, explained why Adblock got behind this campaign.
People use Adblock for a number of reasons but ultimately no one except you has the right to control what shows up on your screen, or who has access to the contents of your hard drive. Not the websites, not the advertisers, not the ad blockers. And not
your government, either.
This is a view, which is shared by Salil Shetty, International Secretary General at Amnesty International:
Some states are engaged in Orwellian levels of surveillance, particularly targeting the lives and work of the people who defend our human rights -- lawyers, journalists and peaceful activists. This continuing development of new methods of repression in
reaction to increased connectivity is a major threat to our freedom of expression,.
Tor. VPNs. Website mirroring. The mere mention of these and other online tools for circumventing censorship could soon become propaganda under proposed amendments to Russian law.
Russian state media regulator Roscomnadzor plans to introduce fines for propaganda of online circumvention tools that allow users to access blocked webpages. The changes also equate mirror versions of blocked websites with their originals.
According to news outlet RBC, which claims to possess a copy of the draft document, Roscomnadzor would punish propaganda of circumvention tools online with fines of 3,000-5,000 rubles (USD $43-73) for individuals or officials, and fines of
50,000-100,000 rubles (USD $730-1460) for corporate entities. While the proposed fines may not be exorbitant, they set a dangerous precedent for the future.
Beyond restricting tips on accessing blocked websites, the bill also defines mirror websites and allows copyright holders to ask the court to block both the original website containing pirated content and all of its mirrors-- derivative
websites that have similar names and content, including those translated into other languages.
In February 2016, Russian copyright holders suggested a similar draft bill mandating a fine of 50,000 rubles (USD $730) for ISPs that published information about circumvention. At the time, the bill's creators claimed Roscomnadzor supported the bill, but
the state regulator denied it. Circumvention crackdown is bad for free speech
On the surface, Roscomnadzor's new bill seems to be aimed at protecting copyright holders and limiting access to pirated content online. But the implications of banning circumvention tools would be far greater. Russian officials have debated restrictions
on VPNs and anonymizers for quite a while, but have so far stopped shy of branding the tools--or information about them--as illegal.
As with other Internet-related legislation in Russia, experts see the new amendments as deliberately overreaching and broad, making them ripe for abuse and further restrictions on free speech. If the legislative changes were applied literally, many innocuous pages with mere mentions of circumvention technology could be branded as
Irina Levova, director for strategic projects at the Institute of Internet Research, told RBC that if the legislative changes were applied literally, many innocuous pages with mere mentions of circumvention technology could be branded as propaganda.
Levova believes Roscomnadzor and Russian copyright holders are deliberately pressuring ISPs in order to excessively regulate access to information online. According to her, Internet providers in Russia are technically capable of blocking up to 85% of
websites on the RuNet, and any additional restrictive capability would involve mass IP-address blocking, which means even more law-abiding websites could suffer. Kremlin's creeping war on anonymity
To date, the biggest row around circumvention tools on the RuNet erupted after the website of RosKomSvoboda , a Russian Internet freedom and human rights organization, was blocked.
In February 2016, the RosKomSvoboda website was added to the RuNet blacklist registry because of a page on the site that educates users on how to circumvent online censorship and access blocked materials. RosKomSvoboda said the blocking and the court
ruling were absurd, since neither information about anonymizing tools, nor the services themselves, were forbidden by Russian law.
Vadim Ampelonsky, Roskomnadzor's spokesman, stressed that the ruling against RosKomSvoboda created a precedent, since the prosecutor in the case who was in charge of enforcing anti-extremist legislation was able to prove that this information creates
conditions for users to access extremist materials. Ampelonsky said the ruling could inform the future work of prosecutors and courts, when it comes to policing information that helps Russians circumvent censorship.
It is worth nothing that just a month earlier, in January 2016, Ampelonsky told the news agency RBC TV that circumventing online censorship does not violate the law.
RosKovSvoboda's website was eventually unblocked after they changed the contents of their page with circumvention instructions. It now contains their report on the court battle and an official Ministry of Communications letter, which provides
explanations for some of the circumvention tools that the page previously linked to and explained. The activists also moved information and links to some other anonymizing and encryption tools to a separate page for their Open RuNet campaign.
For now, Roscomnadzor's spokesman Vadim Ampelonsky has confirmed to RBC news that the regulator worked with a group of copyright owners in Russia to draft the amendments to Russia's law On information, information technologies and protection of
information and the Administrative violations code. On March 17 the draft was discussed with Internet industry representatives at a Roscomnadzor roundtable on regulating the RuNet, with companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Yandex and MailRu in
attendance. The bill will now go to the Communications Ministry on March 21 before it moves to the Russian Duma for voting.
A scientific study has found that Instagram' s decision to ban certain words linked to pro-anorexia posts may have actually made the problem worse.
The study, conducted by a team at Georgia Tech, found that the censoring of terms like 'thighgap, thinspiration and secretsociety, commonly used by anorexia sufferers, initially caused a decrease in use.
However, they found that users adapted by simply making up new, almost identical words to get around Instagram's moderation, often by altering spellings to create terms like thygap and thynspooo .
Instagram's censoring of pro-eating disorder (ED) content began in 2012, when they began limiting what users could see when searching for certain terms.
Some terms, like #thinspiration, simply return no results when searched for in the app. Other terms, like #thin, are still searchable, but users first have to read a message warning them about the content and directing them towards ED support services
before they can see any pictures.
The researchers believe that by accidentally prompting the creation of these terms, Instagram polarised the vulnerable pro-ED community and actually increased how much members engaged with the content. Munmun De Choudury, an assistant professor at the
school, said: Likes and coments on these new tags were 15 to 30 per cent higher than the originals.
Following our previous articles
about increasing political censorship of the Internet in Malaysia, things have quickly gone from bad to worse. In fact since July 2015, the Malaysian government has blocked at least ten websites, including online news portals and private blogs, for
reporting about the scandal surrounding Malaysian Prime Minister Najib tun Razak over his mysterious private dealings with $700 million in funds.
And the Malaysian government still clamors for more censorship authority, adding to its existing broad powers under the Penal Code and the Sedition Act. Currently, the government is planning to table the amendments to both the Official Secret Act (OSA)
and the Communication & Multimedia Act (CMA) during its upcoming March or May Parliamentary sessions, to strengthen its control over content providers, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and end users.
As it stands, the CMA is already very expansive (although, we argue
, not expansive enough to make current acts of Internet censorship lawful). In its present form, section 211 of the CMA addresses intermediaries such as ISPs, and section 233 addresses users, both in somewhat similar terms. In both cases, criminal
penalties are imposed for any "comment, request, suggestion or other communication which is obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive in character with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person."
As concerns ISPs, proposed changes would remove the intention requirement of that provision, making it much easier for ISPs to be held liable for content of their users, regardless of their complicity or knowledge of the motivations with which it was
posted. Fines for breaching this provision would increase twenty-fold, with an additional daily fine to increase one hundred-fold, potentially putting intermediaries out of business for a single infringement.
For the users who post such content, penalties would also increase: fines would double and and prison terms triple. Not only this, but ISPs would be placed under new data retention obligations, allowing users' activities to be tracked online--perhaps to
the level of granularity of recording their Web browsing history, although this remains unclear.
The government also aims to add the power to immediately require the removal or blocking of offending content merely on the basis of a complaint, and unwarranted complaints would be penalized with merely a $50 slap-on-the-wrist. In "serious"
casesincluding those that fall within sections 211 or 233, as well as terrorism, pornography, and phishing, these blocks are permanent. In other cases, such as copyright infringement, the block would last for 5 days before they can be renewed by court
order. Blocking by court order is actually an improvement, if you can call it that, from the present situation in which such blocks are being made illegally in response to mere requests from government agencies.
Finally, foreign websites will be deemed to be subject to local laws, including Malaysia's restrictive content rules--amongst the films that Malaysia has banned is Zoolander. Any foreign websites that do not comply with Malaysia's demands could be
legally blocked, thereby consigning Malaysian Internet users to a government-approved walled garden of sanitized content.
What can Malaysians and their friends around the world do about these new censorship moves by the increasingly repressive Malaysian regime? One simple step that you can take now is to click below to join a Change.org petition to unblock Medium, which was
blocked in its entirety because, amongst its millions of pages, it also mirrored
the content of the banned Sarawak Report
. Unfortunately Malaysia is not the only country within its region whose residents are suffering online censorship--read more about
the state of free expression online in Southeast Asia
If you use Google in Europe, your search results will be censored under the EU's's disgraceful 'right-to-be-forgotten'.
Until now if you used Google.com rather than, say, Google.de, you could still find results that have been arbitrarily removed based on how loud people shout.
The censorship has been implemented as follows. Assume that someone in Germany files a Right To Be Forgotten request to have some listing censored for their name. If granted, the censorship will work like this for searches on that person's name:
Listing censored for those in Germany, using ANY version of Google.
Listing censored for those in the EU, using a European version of Google.
Listing NOT censored for those outside Germany but within the EU, using non-European versions of Google.
Listing NOT censored for those outside the EU, using ANY version of Google.
Google's Peter Fleischer explained the reasons for the censorship:
We're changing our approach as a result of specific discussions that we've had with EU data protection regulators in recent months.
We believe that this additional layer of delisting enables us to provide the enhanced protections that European regulators ask us for, while also upholding the rights of people in other countries to access lawfully published information.
The Gaming Control Authority under the Ministry of Finance of Lithuania has announced that it has blocked further online gambling websites that do not adhere to new restrictions introduced in the country earlier this year.
In January, the Lithuanian gambling censor pledged to take strict legal action against operators that organise remote gambling contrary to the wishes of Lithuania. The Gaming Control Authority has followed up on this by blocking a number of
companies that have transgressed the restrictions. Websites on the list include Betway, Unibet, William Hill, PokerStars, Marathonbet and 188bet.
Virginijus Dauksys, director of the Gaming Control Authority, said:
It is surprising that certain world-wide known companies, reluctant to legalise their activity, are blatantly violating the laws of the Republic of Lithuania.
Changing of the internet domain name in order to avoid the legal measures and to operate illegally in Lithuania can be treated as smuggling activity.
The Gaming Control Authority will continue by all means available to ensure the protection of Lithuanian gambling market from illegal offers and protection of customers of the Republic of Lithuania from uncontrolled gambling flows to prevent compulsive
and minors gambling.
Sri Lanka's new government which came to power promising media freedom, has revived a move to censor news web sites.
The Ministry of Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media took out an advertisement in the state-run Daily News websites that they must register before the end of this month or will be considered unlawful.
Former government of Mahinda Rajapaksa slapped restrictions on news websites which had become the most effective medium of dissent during his decade in power. However, there is no law in Sri Lanka to implement such a registration.
The ministry in its latest advertisement did not say under what law it required websites to register. However, a purported Application for Registration of News Casting Web sites demanded to know the names, addresses and telephone numbers of all
Sri Lanka's government has now admitted it had no legal authority to call for the registration of news websites and rolled back an order which amounted to regulation and potential censorship of the Internet.
The Parliamentary Affairs and Media Ministry had taken the cover of two supreme court decisions on website regulation, but it was pointed out that the highest court had only asked the ministry to come up with guide lines.
Deputy minister Karunaratne Paranavithana agreed that the court had not conferred legislative powers on his ministry and that what they proposed to do had no legal basis. But he added:
We are in the process to develop a mechanism. We will introduce it to parliament, only then will it become law.
Facebook has been fined 100,000 euros in Germany after failing to follow orders regarding clearer privacy terms and conditions for users.
The regional court of Berlin ruled that the company did not sufficiently alter the working of an intellectual property clause in its terms and conditions, despite being told to do so following a complaint filing by the Federation of German Consumer
Organizations. The entity's head, Klaus Mueller, said that Facebook keeps attempting to evade customer laws in Germany as well as in the entire continent.
In March 2012, a German court originally ruled that the company's terms and conditions were vague on the extent to which it could go with users' data and intellectual property, implying Facebook could license its users' photos and videos to third parties
for business reasons. However, the authorities' primary issue was Facebook's compliance with the US government to provide data for its mass surveillance programs. After Edward Snowden's revelations on the US government's spying programs and how the tech
industry complies, the issue has gained more gravity.
While Facebook complied with the ruling four years ago, the Berlin court now concludes that it merely changed the wording of the clause in question without changing the message that it conveyed. Meanwhile, the company defended itself saying that it had
complied with the original ruling and was issued the fine because it couldn't implement the changes quickly enough.
Indonesia's Ministry of Communications and Informatics spokesperson Ismail Cawidu told Reuters that in March, the Ministry aims to issue a new law to streaming and messaging providers, as well as social media websites. He cited national interests on
taxes as well as controlling terrorism and pornography-related content as the main reasons for the proposal. He added:
If they do not comply, Indonesia will reduce their bandwidth or block them entirely..
Meanwhile, Minister of Communication and Informatics Rudiantara said that the Ministry estimated that the country's digital advertising sector was worth about US$800 million in 2015, but the business was left untaxed because of loopholes in regulations.
Google has an office in Indonesia, but digital age transactions do not go through that office. That is what we're looking to straighten out.
30 British fetish film-makers met to discuss UK porn censorship, particularly the news that at the start of 2016 video-on-demand regulator ATVOD was shut down and re-absorbed into its parent body, Ofcom