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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' https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-thailand-election-socialmedia/in-thai-election-new-war-room-polices-social-media-idUKKCN1QZ1DJ 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 
2 days ago by dmcdev
Russia wants to cut itself off from the global internet. Here’s what that really means.
"In the next two weeks, Russia is planning to attempt something no other country has tried before. It’s going to test whether it can disconnect from the rest of the world electronically while keeping the internet running for its citizens. This means it will have to reroute all its data internally, rather than relying on servers abroad. The test is key to a proposed 'sovereign internet' law currently working its way through Russia’s government...Pulling an iron curtain down over the internet is a simple idea, but don’t be fooled: it’s a fiendishly difficult technical challenge to get right. It is also going to be very expensive. The project’s initial cost has been set at $38 million by Russia’s financial watchdog, but it’s likely to require far more funding than that...This coming test—no official date has been given— will show us whether the necessary preparation has been done. For the West, it’s important not to underestimate the Russian state’s will, or ability, to make sure it happens." - Charlotte Jee, MIT Technology Review

+ Meduza: Next month, Russia's parliament will vote again on sweeping ‘Internet isolation’ legislation. Here’s how one lawmaker justifies the initiative. https://meduza.io/en/feature/2019/03/21/next-month-russia-s-parliament-will-vote-again-on-sweeping-internet-isolation-legislation-here-s-how-one-lawmaker-justifies-the-initiative

+ The Moscow Times: Russia is Censoring More Than Just the Internet https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2019/03/21/russia-is-censoring-more-than-just-the-internet-a64905
otf  russia  access  shutdown  policy 
2 days ago by dmcdev
A New Age of Warfare: How Internet Mercenaries Do Battle for Authoritarian Governments
Repressive state powers are increasingly turning to use of sophisticated surveillance technologies sold to them by private sector firms - a lucrative market that is helping proliferate the use of high-tech spying tools that were once the sole provenance of major world powers. This New York Times report highlights how states large and small can, for a price, use digital surveillance tools to "hack criminal elements like terrorist groups and drug cartels but also in some cases to act on darker impulses, targeting activists and journalists."

"The rapid expansion of this global high-tech battleground, where armies of cybermercenaries clash, has prompted warnings of a dangerous and chaotic future. 'Even the smallest country, on a very low budget, can have an offensive capability,' or initiate online attacks against adversaries, said Robert Johnston, founder of the cybersecurity firm Adlumin and a key investigator on Russia’s 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee. 'Qatar and U.A.E. are going after each other, and that war is getting very, very bloody. 'The barriers to entry in this space are getting lower and lower.'" - Mark Mazzetti, Adam Goldman, Ronen Bergman and Nicole Perlroth, New York Times

+ "Tech firms in the United States are lending expertise, reputational credence, and even technology to Chinese surveillance companies, wittingly or otherwise." U.S. Firms Are Helping Build China’s Orwellian State https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/03/19/962492-orwell-china-socialcredit-surveillance/ Foreign Policy

+ New Citizen Lab research analyzes how "...Griselda Triana, journalist and the wife of slain journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas, was targeted with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware in the days after his killing." https://citizenlab.ca/2019/03/nso-spyware-slain-journalists-wife/
otf  surveillance  spyware  nsogroup  mena  privacy 
2 days ago by dmcdev
Maduro's internet blackout stifles news of Venezuela crisis
"Although the Venezuelan government has sporadically interfered with the web since 2007, internet activists say that online censorship has increased dramatically since January, when Guaidó swore himself in and was recognized as the country's legitimate president by the U.S. and about 50 other countries. News websites and internet users often figure out techniques to evade government-imposed firewalls. Still, analysts told CPJ that censorship combined with poor infrastructure--including frequent blackouts and one of the slowest internet speeds on the continent--mean that it's getting harder for journalists to do their jobs and for Venezuelans to stay informed...

"In a report this month, the Caracas-based Institute for Press and Society (IPYS) said that so far this year, 25 websites have been blocked during events of public interest, such as last month's Venezuela aid concert on the Colombian side of the border and efforts by opposition leaders to move humanitarian supplies into the country. Blocked domains included widely read independent news websites such as Efecto Cocuyo, El Pitazo, and Caraota Digital, as well as YouTube and Instagram. 'Most websites with anything valuable to read get blocked,' [[Venezuela Inteligente http://veinteligente.org/ director Andrés] Azpúrua] Azpúrua said. 'Live coverage of anything that is newsworthy is censored.'" - John Otis, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
otf  venezuela  shutdown  access  Southamerica  blackout  media  news 
4 days ago by dmcdev
For Africa, Chinese-Built Internet Is Better Than No Internet at All
"Huawei has built about 70 percent of the continent’s 4G networks, vastly outpacing European rivals, according to Cobus van Staden, a senior China-Africa researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs. The construction is often accompanied by loans from Chinese state banks, which are approved faster and with fewer conditions than loans from international institutions. While concerns about Huawei are shared by other countries around the world, in Africa they are largely overshadowed by the imperative for greater internet access. The continent is home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies, and its population is expected to double by 2050...

"As Chinese-built internet expands across Africa, many fear that the continent’s authoritarian leaders will seek to curb the internet’s ability to spread popular discontent by adopting a Chinese style restricted web. 'The Chinese are explicitly pushing this idea of internet governance,' said Joshua Meservey, a senior analyst with the Heritage Foundation. 'They frame it as a sovereignty issue, but what they are really talking about is the ability of a state to control the free flow of information online.'" - Amy Mackinnon, Foreign Policy
otf  china  africa  huawei  access  surveillance  censorship 
4 days ago by dmcdev
Google bans VPN ads in China
"Google has banned ads for virtual private network (VPN) products targeting Chinese users, ZDNet has learned today. The company cited 'local legal restrictions' as the cause of the VPN ad ban. 'It is currently Google Ads policy to disallow promoting VPN services in China, due to local legal restrictions,' Google said in an email today. The email was received and shared with ZDNet by VPNMentor, a website offering advice, tips, and reviews of VPN products. The company said Google prevented its employees from placing Google search ads for the Chinese version of its site." - Catalin Cimpanu, ZDNet
otf  china  asia  gfw  google  vpn  censorship  access 
4 days ago by dmcdev
Despots and Disruptions: Five Dimensions of Internet Shutdowns in Africa - @cipesaug
In 2019, so far, six countries in Africa have experienced internet shutdowns, contributing to a total of 22 countries experiencing internet disruptions in the past five years, according to a new report from the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA). Algeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), Chad, Gabon, Sudan, and Zimbabwe are the six countries where internet blackouts have occurred in 2019 in response to "elections, protests against government policies, and, what seemed like a coup attempt [in Gabon]." CIPESA predicts that "with several nations set to conduct elections during the course of 2019, many more shutdowns could be witnessed."

In the report, CIPESA highlights five trends observed from their study of internet shutdowns in Africa; 1) authoritarian states are more likely to shut down the internet, 2) the longer the head of state holds power, the more likely a shutdown will occur; 3) internet disruptions are costly and cause economic losses even after access is restored; 4) shutdowns tend to occur during politically sensitive times, and with "at least 20 African states" due to hold elections in 2019, there could be plenty more on the horizon in the near term; and 5) the governments and ISPs responsible for shutdowns have been more transparent about ordering service disruptions.

For more, read the full report (pdf): https://cipesa.org/?wpfb_dl=283
otf  africa  cipesa  shutdown  research  blackout 
4 days ago by dmcdev
Why China Silenced a Clickbait Queen in Its Battle for Information Control
"She was known as China’s clickbait queen, an irreverent blogger who prescribed shopping to combat sadness ('better than sex, orgasms, strawberry cake') and makeovers to win back cheating husbands ('men are visual animals'). But late last month, Ma Ling, a blogger who commanded an audience of more than 16 million people, went conspicuously silent. In the battle for control of the Chinese internet, the authorities had designated Ms. Ma a threat to social stability, pointing to an article she published about a young man with cancer whose talent and virtue were not enough to overcome problems like corruption and inequality. The state-run news media accused Ms. Ma of circulating false information, and her social media accounts were wiped from the internet.

The silencing of Ms. Ma, better known in China by her pen name, Mimeng, reflects a broader campaign by President Xi Jinping to purge the public sphere of popular voices that the ruling Communist Party finds threatening, no matter how innocuous they may seem. 'There is no longer any freedom of speech in China,' Jia Jia, a blogger who writes about history, said of the campaign. 'In the end, no one will be spared.'" - Javier C. Hernández, New York Times

+ South China Morning Post: People’s Daily website becomes top stock pick as it ratchets up censorship to new level, fuelling revenue expectations https://www.scmp.com/business/banking-finance/article/3001228/peoples-daily-website-becomes-top-stock-pick-it-ratchets
otf  china  asia  censorship  speech  blogger  maling  mimeng  gfw 
6 days ago by dmcdev
Cambodia squeezes online speech despite threat of EU backlash
"Even as the European Union readies to visit Cambodia this week to decide whether the country should be removed from a preferential trade scheme due to lack of political reforms, Prime Minister Hun Sen is trying to enact two laws that could further stifle online speech, a move certain to rile EU negotiators. Hun Sen pushed his ministers earlier this month to consider new legislation aimed at curbing 'fake news' and to speed up drafting a cybercrime law, which was first proposed in 2012...

"A number of incidents may have convinced Hun Sen to speed the legislation. Recent social media posts falsely reported that the prime minister had died, while others erroneously claimed that a business tycoon with close ties to the government had been arrested. Late last month, Hun Sen claimed his Facebook account was hacked and a false message posted on it threatening to shut down his social media activities in Cambodia...It [is] still uncertain if, or when, the two laws will go on the books. According to [associate professor of diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College] Sophal Ear, legislation that the government deems objectionable, such as anti-corruption laws, can take more than a decade to conclude. Or it can be rushed through in just a few days, such as was the case with electoral law last year. 'These two laws appear useful for curtailing democracy, so I can't imagine it taking long for the National Assembly to rubber stamp them,' Ear noted."
otf  cambodia  foe  speech  asia  seasia  SoutheastAsia  policy  law  eu 
6 days ago by dmcdev
Under Vietnam’s new cybersecurity law, U.S. tech giants face stricter censorship
"When Vietnam’s government took offense at a game on Google’s app store in which a player could battle characters named after the country’s political figures, the tech behemoth caved. It blocked access to the app in Vietnam, one of Asia’s most promising online markets and a country whose communist leaders have long restricted free speech and criticism of the government.

Under a new cybersecurity law that took effect Jan. 1 and may require compliance within a year, those restrictions are poised to become even more onerous. The Vietnamese legislation could serve as a model for other repressive governments of how to control information and suppress dissent online while at the same time continuing to grow a vibrant tech sector — with activists fearing companies will choose lucrative market access over their censorship concerns. Although implementation guidelines are not yet set, the law will not only compel companies such as Google and Facebook to remove content that the government deems offensive but also to store data inside Vietnam. Additionally, they must set up offices in the country, something they are reluctant to do for fear of exposing staff to official pressure or even arrest." - Timothy McLaughlin, Washington Post
otf  vietnam  asia  SoutheastAsia  seasia  google  censorship  localization  datalocalization 
6 days ago by dmcdev
Russia's Putin signs law banning fake news, insulting the state online
"President Vladimir Putin has signed into law tough new fines for Russians who spread what the authorities regard as fake news or who show 'blatant disrespect' for the state online, an official portal for legal information showed on Monday. Critics have warned that the legislation could create a mechanism for state censorship, but lawmakers say the new measures are needed to combat false news reports and abusive online comments. The legislation grants authorities the power to block websites if they fail to comply with requests to remove information that the state deems to be factually inaccurate. Under the new law, individuals can be fined up to 400,000 rubles ($6,100) for circulating false information online that leads to a 'mass violation of public order'. People who show 'blatant disrespect' online for the state, the authorities, the public, the Russian flag or the constitution can be fined up to 100,000 rubles under the new legislation. Repeat offenders can be jailed for up to 15 days." - Reuters
otf  russia  putin  law  policy  speech  foe 
6 days ago by dmcdev
Russia's parliament backs new fines for insulting the state online
"Russia’s parliament on Wednesday approved new fines for people who insult the authorities online or spread fake news, defying warnings from critics that the move could open the way to direct state censorship of dissent. The bills - which now require only President Vladimir Putin’s signature before becoming law - received broad support in the upper house, days after thousands rallied to protest at tightening Internet restrictions...One bill proposes fining people up to 100,000 rubles ($1,525) for showing 'blatant disrespect' online for the state, authorities, public, Russian flag or constitution. Repeat offenders could be jailed for up to 15 days. The second draft law would give authorities the power to block websites if they fail to comply with requests to remove information that the state deems to be factually inaccurate." - Reuters

+ TechCrunch: Russia blocks encrypted email provider ProtonMail https://techcrunch.com/2019/03/11/russia-blocks-protonmail/
+ ProtonMail's response: Update on the attempted blocking of ProtonMail email servers in Russia https://protonmail.com/blog/russia-block/

+ Meduza: As Russians protested ‘Internet isolation’ last weekend, hackers launched DNS attacks against Yandex, exploiting flaws in the government’s censorship system https://meduza.io/en/feature/2019/03/14/as-russians-protested-internet-isolation-last-weekend-hackers-launched-dns-attacks-against-yandex-exploiting-flaws-in-the-government-s-censorship-system
otf  russia  law  policy  speech  foe 
10 days ago by dmcdev
Russia internet freedom: Thousands protest against cyber-security bill
"A mass rally in Moscow and similar demonstrations in two other cities were called after parliament backed the controversial bill last month.

The government says the bill, which allows it to isolate Russia's internet service from the rest of the world, will improve cyber-security.

But campaigners say it is an attempt to increase censorship and stifle dissent.

Activists say more than 15,000 people gathered in Moscow on Sunday, which is double the estimate given by the police.

Some protesters chanted slogans such as 'hands off the internet' and 'no to isolation' while others gave speeches on a large stage." - Reuters
otf  russia 
13 days ago by dmcdev
Censored on WeChat: Chinese megastar Fan Bingbing's tax evasion scandal — and her disappearance - @wechatscope
Part of an ongoing series presented by OTF-supported WeChatScope, https://www.opentech.fund/results/supported-projects/wechatscope/ the team behind the tool outline one of the most censored topics on WeChat in 2018: Chinese actress Fan Bingbing: "The film and television actress went missing following allegations that she had misled authorities in order to avoid paying taxes on her earnings from the major film, Cell Phone 2. Three months later, she reappeared and was fined the equivalent of US $129 million for tax evasion. She subsequently offered a public apology in which she admitted her wrongdoing and attributed her professional success to the state and party. Fan's case highlights the importance of the entertainment sector as a major front in China's ideological struggle. In recent years, propaganda authorities have encouraged production companies to produce patriotic films and pressured celebrities of the sector to show their patriotism on Weibo."
otf  china  asia  wechat  censorship  wechatscope 
16 days ago by dmcdev
Creative police work How Russian law enforcement identifies Facebook and Telegram users
"When policing online behavior in Russia, law enforcement agencies enjoy total compliance from the country’s most popular social network, Vkontakte, which coughs up users’ personal data whenever requested. This information — account registration times, linked email addresses and phone numbers, and IP addresses — constitutes sufficient evidence in court to prove that an individual is responsible for the content posted on their account. When it comes to Internet services based abroad, however, there’s no such cooperation, and Russia’s police have to get creative. In a new report https://zona.media/article/2019/03/07/fb-tg-sk-fsb [in Russian] for the website Mediazona, journalist Alexander Borodikhin summarizes 10 cases brought against individuals who allegedly violated Russia’s Internet laws by sharing illegal materials on foreign-operated social networks. Meduza summarizes this report."

+ CNN: New law lets Russia jail people who 'disrespect' the government online https://edition.cnn.com/2019/03/07/europe/russia-internet-law-intl/index.html
otf  russia 
16 days ago by dmcdev
In the Middle East, a booming market for spy technology - @JennaMC_Laugh
"The Middle East has long been home to autocratic governments seeking for ways to assure domestic stability. But what has changed, particularly after the wave of Arab Spring protests in 2011, is how they are seeking to prevent what they perceive to be threatening dissent. Countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and others are buying up increasingly sophisticated computer equipment and expertise to help monitor and control the flow of information in their societies." - Jenna McLaughlin, Yahoo! News
otf  mena  surveillance  digisec  awareness 
16 days ago by dmcdev
Google Is Still Working on China Search Engine, Employees Claim
"Google Employees have carried out their own investigation into the company’s plan to launch a censored search engine for China and say they are concerned that development of the project remains ongoing, The Intercept can reveal. Late last year, bosses moved engineers away from working on the controversial project, known as Dragonfly, and said that there were no current plans to launch it. However, a group of employees at the company was unsatisfied with the lack of information from leadership on the issue — and took matters into their own hands. The group has identified ongoing work on a batch of code that is associated with the China search engine, according to three Google sources...The employees have been keeping tabs on repositories of code that are stored on Google’s computers, which they say is linked to Dragonfly. The code was created for two smartphone search apps — named Maotai and Longfei — that Google planned to roll out in China for users of Android and iOS mobile devices. The employees identified about 500 changes to the code in December, and more than 400 changes to the code between January and February of this year, which they believe indicates continued development of aspects of Dragonfly." - Ryan Gallagher, The Intercept
otf  china  google  dragonfly  asia  censorship  access  search 
18 days ago by dmcdev
Egypt: Activists, government critics hit by wave of digital attacks
"An investigation by Amnesty International has revealed that dozens of Egyptian human rights defenders have been targeted by phishing attacks since the beginning of this year, putting them in grave danger amid Abdelfattah al-Sisi’s government’s intensifying crackdown on dissent. Since January 2019 Amnesty Tech has analyzed dozens of suspicious emails sent to Egyptian human rights defenders, journalists and NGOs. The organization found that the emails used a technique known as OAuth Phishing to gain access to private accounts, and that attacks spiked during key political moments such as the anniversary of Egypt’s uprising on 25 January.

'These digital attacks appear to be part of a sustained campaign to intimidate and silence critics of the Egyptian government. Over the past year Egyptian human rights defenders have faced an unprecedented assault from the authorities, risking arrest and imprisonment whenever they speak out, and these chilling attempts to target them online pose yet another threat to their vital work,' said Ramy Raoof, Tactical Technologist at Amnesty Tech."
otf  egypt  mena  phishing  awareness  digisec 
18 days ago by dmcdev
China’s “democracy” includes mandatory apps, mass chat surveillance
"The China Media Project reports http://chinamediaproject.org/2019/02/13/the-dawn-of-the-little-red-phone/ that the CPP has mandated party members download a new smartphone application called "Xi Study (Xue Xi) Strong Nation" (学习强国)—an application that provides a library of articles and videos carrying the teachings of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Party and government groups were to institute mandatory group training periods using Xi Study—similar to the periods of study of Mao's 'Little Red Book' once required by the party. The application also tracks how much time each party member spends on each Xi-related activity. Points are awarded every time they complete an activity, with bonus points awarded for completing 'Xi Jinping Thought' articles or videos watched during 'lively intervals,' or huoyue shiduan (活跃时段)...Social media posts indicate some government workplaces have set extraordinarily high quotas for the Xi Study points employees must accumulate. A post on China's Douban social media service reported that teachers at a school in one town had been told they had to earn 40 Xi Study points a day; considering that 1 point is awarded for a full 30 minutes of reading articles and videos and 0.1 points are awarded for completion of each piece of media, that could add up to every waking moment of a teacher's spare time." - Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica
otf  china  gfw  censorship  app  privacy  surveillance  asia 
18 days ago 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 
23 days ago by dmcdev

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