dmcdev + social   401

Sudan protests cuts off electricity, social media shutdown
"Sudan experienced a complete power outage on Sunday (Apr. 7), just hours after a social media block took effect across the country. Officials at the ministry of electricity and water didn’t give an explanation for the blackout, but the incidents conflated with escalating sit-in protests against president Omar al-Bashir’s three-decade rule...As the protests intensified in recent days, digital activists say telecom operators blocked social media outlets too, further limiting the flow of information and media coverage. The internet monitoring organization NetBlocks said operators including Sudatel and Kanartel cut-off access to platforms including Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and for the first time, instant messaging app Telegram. [Note: NetBlocks is a project previously supported by OTF.] The shutdown is the second the country has experienced since the protests began: the government also blocked social media networks for 68 days beginning Dec. 21 and ending Feb. 26." - Abdi Latif Dahir, Quartz
otf  sudan  africa  shutdown  access  social  socialmedia  netblocks 
15 days ago by dmcdev
Chad has blocked WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter for a year — @Lattif
"365 days: that’s how long people in the north-central African state of Chad haven’t been able to freely access major social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Viber. Digital activists first started reporting on March 28 last year that access to the sites on the country’s two main mobile operators, Tigo Chad and Airtel, had been restricted. The telecom companies have since confirmed the government ordered the restrictions. Activists say the shutdown violates international law, hurts vital economic industries, and deprives users of connecting with family and friends at home and abroad. 'The censorship of social networks has plunged citizens back into isolation,' says Abdelkerim Yacob of digital advocacy group Internet Sans Frontières (ISF). The lengthy cutoff, he added, has 'cut Chadians out of the global conversation, and curbed penetration and digital development.'" - Abdi Latif Dahir, Quartz
otf  chad  africa  shutdown  access  social  blackout 
26 days ago by dmcdev
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 
4 weeks 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 
7 weeks ago by dmcdev
How to get online if the internet or social media is blocked
For Quartz, Abdi Latif Dahir runs through some tips and tools that can help people stay online in the event that the internet is shut down in whole or in part - something that is happening with increasing frequency worldwide. From Zimbabwe to India and Venezuela to Cameroon, governments are increasingly relying on internet shutdowns as a way to suppress free speech and inhibit the free flow of information during politically contentious times, such as elections or during protests.

Abdi makes three general recommendations: 1. Keeping up on your 'digital hygiene' - "whether a blackout is imminent or not; 2. choosing effective, reliable circumvention tools - including some that have been supported by OTF, such as Tor, Tails, Lantern, and Briar; and 3. following the advice of experts in order to know what's happening during a shutdown event, and what can be done to mitigate its effects.
otf  shutdown  access  blackout  censorship  social 
9 weeks ago by dmcdev
Offline and Out of Pocket: The Impact of the Social Media Tax in Uganda on Access, Usage, Income and Productivity
A new report by Pollicy analyzes how Uganda's social media tax is affecting regular people in the country, finding that paying for the tax is a sizable expenditure (>6% of the average total monthly budget), 38% of interviewees use a VPN to avoid the tax, and 86% of respondents feeling that the tax should be removed.

Read "Offline and Out of Pocket: The Impact of the Social Media Tax in Uganda on Access, Usage, Income and Productivity" in full here (pdf). http://pollicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Offline-and-Out-of-Pocket.pdf
otf  uganda  socialmediatax  social  socialmedia 
10 weeks ago by dmcdev
Rouhani's Comments On Hijab, Censorship Draw Ire Of Ayatollahs
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said last week that "neither blocking nor filtering leads us to where we wish to be," Radio Farda reports:

"President Hassan Rouhani is under fire from two Grand Ayatollahs angered by his recent comments on Iran’s policies of compulsory hijab and Internet filtering. Speaking at a meeting with the Minster of Communications and Information Technology January 21, Rouhani reportedly remarked, 'Regarding hijab, the Koran addresses men first, forbidding them to look at women in lecherous ways; but, sadly, we go after women and girls, and arrest them for their [improper] hijab'...He had also criticized the absence of independent media in the country, lambasting the state controlled outlets. Rouhani went on to criticize Iran’s policy of blocking and filtering certain social media networks and websites, saying, 'Modern technologies have many advantages and limited risks, and we cannot separate people’s lives from developments in technology and communications… We should acknowledge that we have been wrong. Neither blocking nor filtering leads us to where we wish to be.'"

+ Iran’s looming Instagram ban shows hardliner disconnect - Asia Times http://www.atimes.com/article/irans-looming-instagram-ban-shows-hardliner-disconnect/
otf  iran  mena  instagram  social  access  censorship  block 
12 weeks ago by dmcdev
Russia opens civil proceedings against Facebook and Twitter
Russia’s communication watchdog opened administrative proceedings against Facebook and Twitter for failing to comply with local data laws.

Roskomnadzor, the regulator, said on Monday that the two social networks did not explain how and when they would comply with legislation requiring them to store Russian users’ personal data on servers in Russia.

The news was first reported by Russia’s Interfax news agency.

“The companies managing the social networks of Facebook and Twitter provided formal answers to our demands to confirm the localization of personal data of Russian users in Russia,” Roskomnadzor told CNBC in an emailed comment Monday.

“They do not contain specifics about the actual implementation of the legislation at the current moment, nor about the timing of the implementation of these standards in the future.”

The watchdog added: “In this regard, today Roskomnadzor begins administrative proceedings against both companies.” - CNBC
otf  russia  twitter  facebook  social  datalocalization  Roskomnadzor 
january 2019 by dmcdev
In Africa, A New Tactic to Suppress Online Speech: Taxing Social Media | @TOkunoye
"In 2010, protests swept across North Africa and the Middle East after a Tunisian vendor self-immolated in protest of police confiscating his cart. During those protests, activists’ skillful use of social media was pivotal in mobilizing the public and ultimately toppling strongmen like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. Since then, African leaders have turned to increasingly sophisticated forms of censorship to limit free speech and curb people’s ability to organize via platforms. Their most recent strategy: taxing people for using social media. Although African leaders claim they need these taxes to shore up government revenue, social media taxes are merely censorship cloaked in an economic argument." - Babatunde Okunoye of the Paradigm Initiative, writing for the Council on Foreign Relations
otf  africa  tax  social  speech  foe 
january 2019 by dmcdev
Iran Extends Social Media Crackdown With Move to Bar Instagram
"Authorities in Iran are preparing to block access to Instagram, extending their crackdown on social media to the only major platform still freely available. The National Cyberspace Council approved steps toward blocking the service, Javad Javidnia, deputy for cyberspace affairs at the public prosecutor’s office, was cited as saying by the semi-official Donya-e Eqtesad newspaper. Instagram would join Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Telegram in being banned in the Islamic Republic, ostensibly for reasons of national security." - Golnar Motevalli, Bloomberg

+ Current ICFP fellow Mahsa Alimardani spoke with PRI about Iran's plans to block Instagram. Listen to the interview here: https://www.pri.org/file/2019-01-03/social-media-crackdown-iran-continues Mahsa has been tracking the issue and laid out the potential block in context on this Twitter thread, explaining what led to the court order to filter Instagram. https://twitter.com/maasalan/status/1080446263387144192
otf  iran  icfp  social  instagram  block  access  mena 
january 2019 by dmcdev
Democratic Republic of the Congo cuts internet access following presidential elections
Following presidential elections held this past weekend, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has implemented an internet shutdown in order to avoid a "popular uprising," AFP reports. Outgoing President Joseph Kabila's diplomatic advisor told AFP the DRC's "national security council had decided it was 'imperative' to shut down the internet to allow the electoral commission to finish counting and compiling votes." However, AFP reports that "the opposition accused authorities of cutting the internet on Monday to thwart activism, while leading Western powers called on the troubled central African nation's government to quickly restore web access."

NetBlocks (a previously OTF-supported project) published technical evidence of the shutdown on December 31st, which you can access here https://netblocks.org/reports/evidence-of-internet-shutdowns-in-drc-amid-election-unrest-PW80YLAK. NetBlocks confirmed that there have been "[m]ajor outages affecting mobile and fixed-line connections, and a full blackout in some regions including Lubumbashi and parts of Kinshasa have been detected."

+ Sudan blocked access to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram amid anti-government protests, Quartz reports. https://qz.com/africa/1510229/sudan-shuts-down-facebook-twitter-instagram-amid-bread-protests/ NetBlocks published data confirming that blockage as well. https://netblocks.org/reports/study-shows-impact-of-sudan-internet-disruptions-amid-demonstrations-qr8Vj485
otf  drc  sudan  shutdown  access  social  africa  facebook  twitter  instagram 
january 2019 by dmcdev
Crackdown in Beijing: 'Using Twitter is more dangerous than street demonstrations'
Though it's already blocked in China, Beijing is cracking down on Twitter users who access the social media site via circumvention tools, reports Global Voices Advocacy: "The December 5 release of 42 testimonies collected by China Change [https://chinachange.org/2018/12/05/china-steps-up-nationwide-crackdown-to-silence-twitter-users-the-unmediated-story/], a Chinese human rights advocacy site, details the ordeals of hundreds of Twitter users who have been detained and interrogated by national security police officers since September 2018. In most cases, police have asked — if not forced — these users to delete their posts or accounts...Mainland Chinese authorities have arrested Twitter users in the past, but there was no clear pattern or evidence of a strategic crackdown...The current crackdown is a new and more worrisome development. It is happening nationwide and is not restricted to a specific online incident or act. The number of Twitter users who have been directly threatened is estimated to be in the hundreds or even more."
otf  china  asia  twitter  social  censorship  gfw 
december 2018 by dmcdev
Facebook Blocks 'Defamatory' Post in Compliance With Russian Court Order
"Facebook has reportedly blocked a post on its social media networks in compliance with a recent Russian law that calls on tech giants to block content ruled defamatory by judges in what internet freedom advocates predict will become a common practice...The court order was enforced in compliance with a law that President Vladimir Putin signed in April that allows the authorities to block websites that publish defamatory information about public figures. The latest case will likely be followed by a surge in politicians and businessmen filing defamation lawsuits, internet freedom advocates told [business daily] Kommersant. 'The blocking [requests] are likely to remain inaccessible to ordinary people, since trials are quite long and impose costs,' the outlet quoted Sarkis Darbinyan, an attorney with the Roskomsvoboda internet rights group, as saying." - The Moscow Times
otf  russia  facebook  social  access  block 
november 2018 by dmcdev
Facebook makes connecting to their Tor onion service faster, easier
On Tuesday, Facebook announced a new way to connect to their Tor onion service (https://www.facebookcorewwwi.onion) that makes it easier for users, who won't have to remember that longwinded onion service address any more: "...Now, using a browser feature recently added to Tor Browser, we can help move this traffic [from 'facebook.com'] to onion services too. This helps secure people's connections to Facebook over Tor, while relieving some capacity from the Tor network.
When using facebook.com in the Tor Browser, we serve an HTTP response header called "Alternative Services" that specifies a different (i.e. onion) service that the browser can use. We've set up multiple new onion services for this purpose to help improve reliability and scalability. As a result, the Tor browser will connect to facebook.com using an onion service whenever possible. Unlike our original service facebookcorewwwi.onion, people no longer have to type in the onion address." - Will Shackleton, Facebook
otf  tor  facebook  social  access  circumvention 
november 2018 by dmcdev
Stealth crackdown: Chinese censorship extends to Twitter as activists' accounts disappear
"Despite being blocked in China, Twitter and other overseas social media sites have long been used freely by activists and government critics to address subjects that are censored on domestic forums — until now...People in China can use virtual private network (VPN) software to circumvent Beijing’s controls and access blocked foreign sites. But fearful that the platforms could be used to coordinate political activity, the authorities have launched a stealth crackdown over the past year. Chinese activists and other Twitter users say they have been pressured by police to delete sensitive tweets." - AFP
otf  china  asia  twitter  social  access  gfw  foe  censorship 
november 2018 by dmcdev
How Twitter endangered a Saudi activist after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi
"Twitter, the platform that once saved my life, is now putting it in danger. The events in the weeks following Jamal Khashoggi’s murder inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul showed that the lives of other journalists and activists are also at risk. Seven years after Twitter saved me, I recently made the choice to delete my Twitter account...Twitter has became full of harassment, death threats, intimidation and false news for us who have chosen to speak out in the Arab world. Twitter has not enacted any real change in making Twitter safer for us, which has pushed so many I know to quit the platform. Still, I continued to voice my views there. I believed that those governments should be the ones to be afraid, not us. I believed that I finally had a voice, and that I should use it." - Manal al-Sharif for the Washington Post
saudiarabia  twitter  social  speech  safety  mena  foe 
november 2018 by dmcdev
Iran Poised to Allow Military Full Control Over Internet, Messaging Apps
"After repeated denials by Iranian officials about the existence of a bill that would allow an elite branch of the Iranian army to control and monitor all internet content, activities and messaging apps in the country, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has obtained a copy of the pending legislation. Allowing the General Staff of the Armed Forces (GSAF)—which operates under Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and is directed by a commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)—to control the country’s internet infrastructure would put millions of Iranians at risk of prosecution for various online activities including accessing content on a banned social media app." - Center for Human Rights in Iran
otf  iran  mena  surveillance  privacy  social  messaging 
november 2018 by dmcdev
Vietnamese pop star Mai Khoi urges Facebook to halt censorship
"At the Oslo Freedom Forum in Taipei, Khoi opened her talk with a performance of her song 'Vietnam,' which urged her fellow citizens to 'step out from the fear' and 'raise our voice, speak, sing, scream.' Now 34 years old, Khoi is trying to use her celebrity to pressure Facebook to stop complying with, and instead push back against, government censorship. The singer said she became disenchanted with Vietnamese pop music because of how artists would censor themselves, leading her to spend time with the country’s dissident artists. One of them persuaded Khoi to use her platform to run as an independent candidate for Vietnam’s national assembly in 2016. She was eventually barred from the ballot, and used that publicity to get a sit down with then US president Barack Obama when he was in the country that year. 'Just as I thought things were starting to get better, freedom of expression is under threat now,' she said. 'Before the internet, we had nowhere to go and express ourselves freely. The government controlled everything. The advent of the internet and social media changed it.'" - Alice Truong, Quartz
otf  vietnam  asia  facebook  social  censorship  access  SoutheastAsia 
november 2018 by dmcdev
Saudis’ Image Makers: A Troll Army and a Twitter Insider
Incoming ICFP fellow Alexei Abrahams [https://www.opentech.fund/about/people/alexei-abrahams/] was quoted in this New York Times piece on the Saudi Arabian government's efforts to slant discussions and silence critical voices on Twitter.

From the article:

"Yet the government’s social media manipulation tracks with crackdowns in recent years in other authoritarian states, said Alexei Abrahams, a research fellow at Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto.

Even for conversations involving millions of tweets, a few hundred or a few thousand influential accounts drive the discussion, he said, citing new research. The Saudi government appears to have realized this and tried to take control of the conversation, he added.

'From the regime’s point of view,' he said, 'if there are only a few thousand accounts driving the discourse, you can just buy or threaten the activists, and that significantly shapes the conversation.'"
otf  saudiarabia  mena  twitter  social  misinformation  disinfo 
october 2018 by dmcdev
The Kingdom’s Hackers and Bots: how Saudi Arabia uses cutting-edge technology to track dissidents and stifle dissent
"According to experts who study Riyadh’s use of digital surveillance and propaganda, Saudi Arabia has deployed both spyware against critics of the regime and Twitter bots as part of its effort to maintain its grip on power, monitor dissident voices, and control its domestic public sphere. One of the Saudis apparently knowledgeable in the use of surveillance software, Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, has been described as an official close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Mutreb also appears to have played a role in [journalist Jamal] Khashoggi’s death, according to evidence compiled by Turkish authorities. He was spotted entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul shortly before Khashoggi. According to emails published by WikiLeaks in 2015, Mutreb and other Saudi officials were due to receive training in the use of spyware similar to what the Israeli firm NSO markets from the Italian company Hacking Team...Bill Marczak, a senior research fellow at Citizen Lab, said Saudi Arabia has deployed Pegasus in a large number of countries, including Bahrain, Canada, Egypt, France, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. 'It is possible that the Saudis were using it pretty recklessly,' he said. Riyadh has also deployed a sizable bot army to control the online narrative and drown out criticism of the regime."
otf  saudiarabia  mena  twitter  social  bots  misinformation  hack  nsogroup  surveillance 
october 2018 by dmcdev
Bangladesh: Crackdown on Social Media
"The Bangladesh government has embarked upon intensive and intrusive surveillance and monitoring of social media ahead of national elections, raising concern over a chilling effect on speech, Human Rights Watch said [last week]. Draconian new laws and policies are being used to target political opponents, journalists, internet commentators, and broadcasters. National elections are due in Bangladesh by January 2019. Opposition parties and independent observers fear that the increasing crackdown on privacy and free expression is an attempt to limit speech and criticism of the government in the election period. The government claims these efforts are to stem harmful rumors, false information, or objectionable content to maintain law and order. 'Bangladesh is using claims about public security to silence opponents and critics,' said Brad Adams, Asia director. 'The government’s surveillance practices are violating the rights to privacy and freedom of expression ahead of the elections.'"
otf  bangladesh  asia  southasia  elections  foe  social  speech 
october 2018 by dmcdev
Cambodia: First ‘royal insult’ conviction a new low for government
Former CNRP party member Ban Samphy was sentenced to a year in jail over a shared Facebook post which was critical of Cambodia’s king, marking the first conviction under the country's new lèse-majesté law which went into effect this year.

In response, Amnesty International said: "'Ban Samphy is behind bars for expressing himself – all he did was click a ‘share’ button for a post that included nothing but peaceful criticism. He should be released immediately and unconditionally, and his sentence must be overturned'...Ban Samphy, a 70-year-old barber and former minor opposition official from Siem Reap, was jailed for sharing a Facebook post that criticized Prime Minister Hun Sen and what the post called the 'fake king' over a dam project."
otf  cambodia  asia  SoutheastAsia  lesemajeste  facebook  social  foe 
october 2018 by dmcdev
UAE rights activist Ahmed Mansoor appeals 10-year sentence
Mansoor - a.k.a. "the million dollar dissident" https://citizenlab.ca/2016/08/million-dollar-dissident-iphone-zero-day-nso-group-uae/ who was the target of an iPhone 0day, likely by the UAE government - is appealing the jail sentence, handed down in response to Mansoor's tweets that the state interpreted as being overly critical:

"Prominent Emirati rights activist Ahmed Mansoor has filed a Supreme Court appeal in a bid to overturn a 10-year prison sentence handed to him earlier this year over several Twitter posts. Mansoor was sentenced in May by Abu Dhabi's Federal Appeals Court for 'defaming the UAE through social media channels'. A father of four, Mansoor was also fined one million dirhams ($270,000) for insulting the status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols, including its leaders. Several international rights groups, including a number of United Nations human rights bodies, the EU Parliament's Subcommittee on Human Rights, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch have condemned the move."
otf  uae  speech  jail  activism  mena  twitter  social  foe 
october 2018 by dmcdev
Vietnam jails another Facebook user for comments critical of government
"A court in Vietnam has jailed a Facebook user for 2-1/2 years over anti-government comments he posted on the social media website, police said on Thursday, as the Southeast Asian country continues its crackdown on dissent. Despite sweeping economic reform and increasing openness to social change, Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party retains tight media censorship and does not tolerate criticism. Thursday’s decision comes days after Vietnam jailed another Facebook user for two years and three months on the same charges. Bui Manh Dong, 40, was convicted of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state” at a trial in the Mekong Delta province of Can Tho, the Ministry of Public Security said on its official news website. He was accused of writing posts on his two Facebook accounts that 'distorted the guidelines and policies of the party and the state, and defamed party and state leaders,' the ministry said in the statement, citing the court indictment."
otf  vietnam  asia  facebook  social  speech  foe  seasia  SoutheastAsia 
september 2018 by dmcdev
Zambia social media tax an attempt to raise revenue for debt
"Following the examples of Uganda and Tanzania, Zambia announced in August that it plans to implement an internet tax. President Edgar Lungu’s government aims to tax over-the-top services like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Viber. Activists argued that it would shrink public discourse, confirming fears that Lungu’s government was hostile to critics. The information minister, in turn, said the tax would secure jobs by protecting large telcos from unregulated competition. In the weeks since, however, the fallout in Zambia has revealed that the proposed tax is more about a debt-ridden government trying to find ways to raise funds in a cash-strapped country...A tax of 30 ngwe (3 cents) on 2 million users could lead to a profit of around 600,000 kwacha (nearly $50,000) a day, he explains. For debt-ridden Zambia, the revenue from the social media tax sounds like a lot. Last year, after paying off debts and public servants’ salaries, Zambia only had 23% left of domestic revenue, according to a report by the Center for Trade Policy and Development. 'Its just desperation,' said Tevor Simumba, an economist with the center. 'The government sees it as a way to collect more revenue and reduce the usage of over the top services.'"
otf  africa  zambia  social  tax  policy 
september 2018 by dmcdev
Twitch is now blocked in China
"The major game streaming site is largely no longer accessible and its app has been removed from Apple’s local App Store, after it saw a noticeable boost in popularity last month, as spotted by Abacus. Twitch confirmed it was blocked in China to The Verge today but didn’t elaborate on details...Last month, Twitch hit the No. 3 spot among free apps in China, as locals began downloading the app to watch e-sports matches at the Asian Games...State-run broadcaster CCTV chose not to air the Asian Games, so users had to find alternative ways to watch the competition, especially as China performed well during the event and brought back two gold medals...The latest censorship follows the Chinese government’s pattern of banning any Western media platform that seems to be growing in popularity, often as a cautionary measure before anything controversial has even occurred."
otf  china  asia  twitch  gaming  social  gfw  censorship  access  block 
september 2018 by dmcdev
Anger mounts in Benin as new data tax drives up internet costs
Benin is the latest country in Africa to introduce a tax that effectively rescinds internet access, in this case by "driv[ing] up the price of using social networks from 2 CFA francs to 10 CFA francs per megabyte," AFP reports.

"A planned protest against a sharp hike in internet costs in Benin was blocked on Friday in Cotonou, the country's commercial hub, after the authorities refused to grant a licence for the demonstration...Opposition to the increased charges are growing momentum, ironically on social networks where activists have launched hashtags like #TaxePasMesMo (Don't tax my megabytes) and an online petition that has collected over 13,000 signatures. 'We think that the Beninese government should rather compel telecom operators to improve the quality of their service,' said the petition on the change.org platform...In late May, Uganda introduced a tax for WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter to silence 'gossip' that has been met with fierce resistance. Tanzania has also introduced a new law requiring online platforms to pay for a licence and regulating internet content, requiring operators of online platforms to divulge the names of their sources and contributors if the authorities require it."
otf  benin  tax  social  access  policy  africa 
september 2018 by dmcdev
Why Putin Is Softening on Internet Memes
The Kremlin is having second thoughts about jailing people for silly social media posts it calls “extremist.” It wants to look scary, not ridiculous.
russia  putin  kremlin  censorship  social  vkontakte 
september 2018 by dmcdev
Russia tries more precise technology to block Telegram messenger
Russia is looking into using Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to improve its ability to block Telegram, though initial tests haven't been successful, as unrelated (non-Telegram) traffic is still getting inadvertently blocked, Reuters reports: "Russia is experimenting with more precise technology to block individual online services after an attempt to shut down banned messaging service Telegram failed, but Moscow has yet to find a way to shut it down without hitting other traffic...Since Aug. 6, Russian state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor and state security agency the FSB have been testing systems designed to allow more precise blocking of individual services, according to the minutes of a meeting between officials to discuss the plan...The systems being tested now use a technology called Deep Packet Inspection. The technology operates in a more surgical way, analyzing Internet traffic, identifying the data flows of a particular services and blocking them. However, executives at two of the companies invited to take part said initial tests were not successful, because services other than the ones being targeted were still being blocked unintentionally." 
otf  russia  telegram  block  dpi  censorship  access  social  speech 
august 2018 by dmcdev
To protect big telcos, Zambia wants to tax calls made over social media apps
"Callers who thought they’d save money by using internet services will have to pay even more in Zambia. The country’s government has approved a tax on internet calls in order to protect large telcos, at the expense of already squeezed citizens.

The new tariff, announced last week, will be collected through mobile phone companies and internet service providers. The fee will be charged at a daily rate at 30 ngwee (3c) per day, irrespective of how many internet calls are made, explained minister of information and broadcasting Dora Siliya.

Siliya, who is also the government’s spokeswoman, defended the new regulation as a means to save jobs in Zambia. Apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Viber enjoy an unfair advantage over telecommunications providers because they don’t pay tax, she said on Twitter. The new law would ensure competitiveness in Zambia’s telecommunications industry."
otf  africa  zambia  voip  social  tax 
august 2018 by dmcdev
Research: "Don't @ Me: Hunting Twitter Bots at Scale"
New research from Duo Labs focusing on identifying Twitter bots at scale discusses ways of effectively identifying bots on Twitter, with Duo researchers applying their approach in a "case study" analysis focusing on a botnet spreading a cryptocurrency scam. Duo first identified a dataset of 88 million public Twitter accounts for the study, and then utilized "practical data science techniques" to find the bot networks.  Duo says that "by monitoring the botnet over time, we discover ways the bots evolve to evade detection," adding that "after finding initial bots using the tools and techniques described in this paper, a thread can be followed that can result in the discovery and unraveling of an entire botnet." Duo notes that their research is focused purely on identifying automated Twitter accounts, as opposed to automated accounts that are "necessarily malicious."

Duo made the data collection code they used open source; it's available on GitHub.

Read the full technical paper (pdf) here.
research  twitter  social  bot  botnet  bots  duo 
august 2018 by dmcdev
How Turkey silences journalists online, one removal request at a time - @pressfreedom
The Turkish government requests more content and account censorship on Twitter than any other government in the world, racking up the majority of such requests in both categories, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The press freedom watchdog based its findings off an analysis of Twitter's own transparency  report - specifically the data on "country withheld content" (CWC), which is what Twitter calls such government requests. Of course, other countries like Iran and China ban Twitter outright, while the site remains accessible in Turkey.  Twitter cooperated with about a quarter of the government's requests. Russia is also a big source of takedown requests, as these two countries "were responsible for 74 percent of all requests" between 2014 and 2017, CPJ says.

CPJ: "Twitter complied fully or partially with 24 per cent of legal demands from Turkey, compared with about 9 percent for the rest of the world...Journalists whose accounts have been censored by CWC requests told CPJ that Twitter is inconsistent with its compliance with such requests and complained about the lack of remediation options. [Turkish journalist Abdülhamit] Bilici told CPJ, 'It is a shame that Twitter silences a journalist already silenced by an authoritarian government.' The journalist is living in exile in the U.S. after Turkey seized and then shuttered his paper...Soon after Twitter recorded its first CWC use in Turkey during a two-week ban on the platform in 2014, then-Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay told the press that 'Twitter now toes the line.' Since then, Turkey has used the tool to withhold 1,482 accounts (82 percent of all accounts ever withheld worldwide), and 9,552 tweets (67 percent of all tweets withheld worldwide), according to Twitter's transparency reports."        
otf  cpj  press  pressfreedom  media  turkey  twitter  social  speech  censorship 
august 2018 by dmcdev
Vkontakte says it will reveal statistics about government requests for user data
Russia’s most popular social media platform, Vkontakte, has announced that it will publish a transparency report covering government requests for user data, Meduza reports, noting that the announcement comes as the company is fulfilling such requests more and more often. Vkontakte, or VK for short, outlined its plans to the BBC (Russian) https://www.bbc.com/russian/news-45188838 Activists say Vkontakte "surrenders virtually all personal data, whenever requested by law enforcement," according to Meduza. On August 6th, Vkontakte parent compant Mail.ru condemned the growing state crackdown on social media users' content and 'likes,' despite their routine compliance in such cases. https://meduza.io/en/news/2018/08/06/despite-playing-ball-with-authorities-mail-ru-says-it-opposes-russia-s-crackdown-on-extremist-likes-and-reposts VK then also rolled out new user privacy options amid the increased focus from law enforcement on content hosted on the platform.

Meduza: "Vkontakte...says it will release statistics about government requests for user data, despite federal regulations enacted in January that bar companies from revealing information about 'the concrete facts and content' of cooperation with the Federal Security Service...It remains unclear what data the company can publish without violating the government’s new gag order, though it’s worth noting that federal officials have yet to codify penalties for disclosing such information...In recent years (and especially in recent weeks), police officers have opened criminal cases against Russian Internet users, typically charging individuals with hate speech, extremism, offending religious views, or propagating Nazism. The vast majority of these criminal cases are filed against users of Vkontakte, which surrenders virtually all personal data, whenever requested by law enforcement, according to human rights activists."

- Positive vibes only: The Russian internet needs more "positivity," according to President Putin (Meduza): "Amid growing concerns about absurd criminal prosecutions against Russian Internet users, Vladimir Putin visited an educational forum on Wednesday and told the team behind an online animation studio that they’re giving the Web something it gravely needs: 'positivity.' 'Social networks need 100 percent positive [content], which it often lacks,' the president said."
otf  russia  censorship  social  vk  vkontakte 
august 2018 by dmcdev
A Generation Grows Up in China Without Google, Facebook or Twitter
With popular social media sites like Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram blocked (not to mention thousands of other websites), Chinese teenagers are not only unaware of these platforms but are also "uninterested in knowing what has been censored online, allowing Beijing to build an alternative value system that competes with Western liberal democracy," Li Yuan reports for the New York Times. Li Yuan notes that this outlook represents "a departure even from those born in China in the 1980s," with the "rebels" of yesteryear largely gone.

NYT: "Wei Dilong, 18, who lives in the southern Chinese city of Liuzhou, likes basketball, hip-hop music and Hollywood superhero movies. He plans to study chemistry in Canada when he goes to college in 2020. Mr. Wei is typical of Chinese teenagers in another way, too: He has never heard of Google or Twitter. He once heard of Facebook, though. It is 'maybe like Baidu?' he asked one recent afternoon, referring to China’s dominant search engine...Many young people in China have little idea what Google, Twitter or Facebook are, creating a gulf with the rest of the world...Many young people in China instead consume apps and services like Baidu, the social media service WeChat and the short-video platform Tik Tok. Often, they spout consumerism and nationalism."

The article points to research shared in this newsletter yesterday, conducted by two economists from Peking University and Stanford University, which explored Beijing university students' use of censorship circumvention tools and the factors that make their use more or less likely, which found that "...simply offering the tool did little to change behavior or beliefs, as there doesn’t appears to be much natural demand for the material that the government considers off-limits. But the tool had a big impact on those who were encouraged to use it." [The Impact of Media Censorship: Evidence from a Field Experiment in China (pdf) https://web.stanford.edu/~dyang1/cgi-bin/pdfs/1984bravenewworld_draft.pdf]
otf  china  asia  gfw  censorship  social  facebook  twitter  access 
august 2018 by dmcdev
Russia, Accused of Faking News, Unfurls Its Own ‘Fake News’ Bill
Under a proposed law introduced by Russia's governing party, "websites with more than 100,000 daily visitors and a commenting feature must take down factually inaccurate posts or face a fine of up to 50 million rubles, about $800,000," the New York Times reports. According to the bill, social media companies will have 24 hours to take down posts containing "inaccurate" information. The 24 hour takedown window echoes the one in place as part of a new "incident management" system being tested in Russia, as Meduza reported yesterday. https://meduza.io/en/news/2018/07/23/the-kremlin-is-spearheading-a-new-social-media-monitoring-system-to-hold-local-officials-more-accountable Critics worry that companies will overcompensate to comply with the law and will be more liberal in taking down content.

New York Times: "Critics worry that out of an abundance of caution, moderators [from social platforms' are likely to interpret truthfulness to the authorities’ advantage. They say the bill would make it easier for the state to pressure social media companies to cooperate with security services by requiring them to establish offices in Russia, a step that the social media giants Facebook and Twitter have avoided so as not to fall under Russian legal jurisdiction...The bill 'will become an instrument of censorship' unless social media companies develop algorithms to distinguish real news from fake news, removing the human element and potential bias, Vladimir V. Zykov, the head of an association of social media users in Russia, warned in a recent meeting with lawmakers...In contrast with debates on fake news in the United States and Europe, Russian lawmakers seem most focused on domestic dissent, rather than foreign meddling...Activists are skeptical that the authorities have Russians’ best interests at heart. The language of public safety often conceals efforts at censorship, said Artem Kozlyuk, the founder of Roskomsvoboda, an anti-censorship website. The end result, he said, is always 'expansion of the government’s powers and censorship.'"
otf  russia  censorship  social 
july 2018 by dmcdev
The Kremlin is spearheading a new ‘social-media monitoring system’ to hold local officials more accountable
Russia is upping its social media surveillance with a new "Incident Management" monitoring system designed to speed up local police response times, with regions already giving the thing a test drive, Meduza reports.

The system "allows the authorities to follow social networks in real time, watching for complaints from locals and coordinating local officials responses. According to the magazine RBC, the system (developed by the company Medialogiya for 8.5 million rubles, about $135,000) is already being tested in two regions, including in Moscow. The system monitors five networks (Vkontakte, Odnoklassniki, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram), creating an 'incident' whenever related disgruntled posts start appearing on multiple networks. Local officials are apparently supposed to respond to these incidents within 24 hours, and the Kremlin reportedly has real-time access to the statistics about all 'solved and unsolved' 'incidents.'"
otf  russia  censorship  social  speech  foe 
july 2018 by dmcdev
Uganda's Regressive Social Media Tax Stays, at Least For Now
Uganda's parliament is buying some time on its review of a recently implemented "social media tax" that requires citizens to pay 5 cents (USD) per day to use popular social media sites. The government was forced to reconsider the law, which went into force on July 1, after street protests sprang up over the tax's implementation. https://edition.cnn.com/2018/07/11/africa/uganda-social-media-tax-protest/index.html The parliament has referred the law to the body's finance committee for "public consultation," local media report. https://www.today.ng/news/nigeria/uganda-tables-social-media-tax-bill-public-protest-134382

Wired: "'The primary motivation behind [the social media tax] is to silence speech, to reduce the spaces where people can exchange information, and to really be able to control, with the recognition that online platforms have become the more commonly used way for sharing information,' says Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn, and the Great Lakes...Political analysts have categorized Uganda’s government as 'dictatorship light.' The country’s 73-year-old president, Yoweri Museveni, has been in power since 1986...When the social media tax was first announced at the end of May, Museveni reportedly told parliament it was to discourage the spread of 'gossip' and to earn revenue from the use of popular social media apps run by foreign companies. International and domestic outrage followed, but Museveni doubled down on his defense of the tax. "
otf  uganda  africa  social  tax  socialmedia  socialmediatax  access 
july 2018 by dmcdev
Egypt targets social media with new law
Under a law passed by the country's parliament on Monday, the Egyptian government now has the power to block social media accounts and hold journalists accountable for "publishing fake news," Reuters reports. Under the law, accounts on social platforms like Twitter and Facebook with more than 5k followers "will be treated as media outlets," which opens them up to more legal scrutiny from the government.

Reuters: "Under the law passed on Monday social media accounts and blogs with more than 5,000 followers on sites such as Twitter and Facebook will be treated as media outlets, which makes them subject to prosecution for publishing false news or incitement to break the law...The bill prohibits the establishment of websites without obtaining a license from the Supreme Council and allows it to suspend or block existing websites, or impose fines on editors. The law, which takes effect after it is ratified by Sisi, also states that journalists can only film in places that are not prohibited, but does not explain further...critics say it will give legal basis to measures the government has been taking to crack down on dissent and extend its control over social media."
otf  egypt  mena  social  twitter  facebook 
july 2018 by dmcdev
Iran arrests 46 in fresh crackdowns on Instagram models
Iran appears to be doubling down on its Instagram crackdown, as authorities in a single city in the south of the country arrested dozens for posting content deemed "immoral," AP reports. The arrests follow news last week of Iranian authorities arresting high profile Instagram user Maedeh Hojabri for posting videos of herself dancing; Hojabri was then forced her to confess on state television for her "crime." https://www.article19.org/resources/iran-arrest-of-instagram-celebrities-part-of-efforts-towards-filtering-the-platform/

AP: "The official IRNA news agency reported Monday that officials in the southern port city of Bandar Abbas, some 1250 kilometres, or 630 miles, south of the capital Tehran, arrested eight women and 36 other people in the photography, beauty salons and wedding businesses who used Instagram to share what they considered indecent images and clips. Police said they were 'damaging public virtue through the organized spreading of anti-cultural' activities."
otf  iran  mena  instagram  social  censorship  access 
july 2018 by dmcdev
Iran: Arrest of Instagram celebrities part of efforts towards filtering the platform
Iran's arrest and forced, television confession of popular teenage Instagram user Maedeh Hojabri shows the government's "new attempts to filter the platform in the country," according to Article 19, which condemned the arrest of Hojabri and other popular Instagram accounts.

"Earlier this year, the Iranian authorities temporarily blocked online platforms Telegram and Instagram during widespread protests across the country, while a number of other platforms remain permanently blocked. The latest threats towards Instagram, used widely in Iran, represent yet another attack on online freedoms in the country, and the harassment and arrests of those using the platform to justify restrictions must end. The judiciary has been threatening to filter Instagram within Iran since the beginning of July, pointing in particular to its use to enable the ‘illicit activities’ of so-called instagram celebrities. The arrest of these high profile Instagram users, in what appears to be the beginning of a wider crackdown on the platform, has sparked a worldwide outcry after the government forced 18 year old Hojabri into confessing to the 'crime' of posting videos of herself dancing."
otf  iran  instagram  social  censorship  mena 
july 2018 by dmcdev
Uganda police use teargas to disperse protest against social media taxes
Ugandans continue to mobilize both online and in-person in opposition to a recently imposed tax that forcing citizens to pay 5 cents (USD) per day to use popular social sites like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Skype: on Wednesday, police used teargas to disperse a crowd of demonstrators in Kampala, Reuters reports.

"A crowd of about 200 people wearing red T-shirts and shouting 'Power! Power' as they marched through downtown Kampala was dispersed after police tried to arrest an independent lawmaker critical of President Yoweri Museveni, a Reuters witness said. Two of the new taxes, one on access to social media and a second on transactions on Mobile Money, have both stoked widespread outrage from telecom firms’ customers. Relations between governments and social media companies are widely watched in Africa, where rapidly growing mobile internet connection is hailed by human rights groups as an essential tool of political and economic development...Opponents of the tax including Amnesty International have said the tax is a move to limit voices critical of long ruling Museveni on the platforms, disguised as a measure to increase public revenues."

The ongoing pushback against the tax has prompted the Ugandan government to "review" the tax, CNN reports. https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/11/africa/uganda-social-media-tax-protest/index.html
otf  uganda  africa  tax  social  protest 
july 2018 by dmcdev
Iran’s Shaming of Young Dancer Draws Backlash
Last Tuesday, Maedeh Hojabri - an Iranian girl popular on Instagram for posting clips of herself dancing - was forced to appear on a state-run TV show and publicly confess her "crime." In response to the forced confession, "scores of Iranians" have joined in solidarity with Hojabri, posting videos of themselves dancing, Thomas Erdbrink writes for the New York Times.

Erdbrink writes: "Like many teenage girls, Maedeh Hojabri liked to dance in her bedroom, record it and post clips to Instagram. But Ms. Hojabri lives in Iran, where women are not allowed to dance, at least not in public. The 19-year-old was quietly arrested in May and her page was taken down, leaving her 600,000 followers wondering where she had gone. The answer came last Tuesday on state television, when some of her fans recognized a blurred image of Ms. Hojabri on a show called “Wrong Path.” There she sobbingly admitted that dancing is a crime and that her family had been unaware she had videos of herself dancing in her bedroom to Western songs like “Bonbon,” by Era Istrefi. Whatever the authorities’ intent, the public shaming of Ms. Hojabri and the arrest of others who have not been identified have created a backlash in a society already seething over a bad economy, corruption and a lack of personal freedoms. Since Ms. Hojabri’s televised confession, scores of Iranians have posted videos of themselves dancing in protest, while thousands more have posted pictures of her and written supportive posts on their Instagram pages."

The Center for Human Rights in Iran published a blog "condemn[ing] the Iranian authorities’ arrest and inhumane treatment of" the 18-year old Hojabri. https://iranhumanrights.org/2018/07/irans-forcing-of-teenage-girl-to-confess-on-state-tv-for-posting-dance-video-prompts-strong-outcry/
otf  iran  mena  instagram  social  dance 
july 2018 by dmcdev
How Facebook’s Rise Fueled Chaos and Confusion in Myanmar - @TMclaughlin3
As Myanmar came online in recent years, "the internet" and Facebook came to be known as, essentially, one and the same: if you were online, that meant you were on Facebook. The social media platform got extremely popular at a rapid pace in the country, and with its explosion in users came a rampant rise in the spread of misinformation and rumors, which in turn fueled anger and violence - often targeting minority Muslims - including Myanmar's ethnic minority Rohingya Muslim group, writes Timothy McLaughlin for Wired in a long piece on a complex topic that is worth the read.

McLaughlin writes: "Facebook’s sprawling bureaucracy and its excitement over the potential of the the Myanmar market appeared to override concerns about the proliferation of hate speech. At the time [March 2014], the company had just one Burmese speaker based in Dublin, Ireland, to review Burmese language content flagged as problematic...A spokeswoman for Facebook would say only that the content review team has included Burmese language reviewers since 2013. 'It was seen as a connectivity opportunity rather than a big pressing problem'...To critics of the social media company, the early response to the Mandalay riots [in which two were killed and around twenty injured] were harbingers of the difficulties it would face in Myanmar in the coming years—difficulties that persist to this day: A slow response time to posts violating Facebook’s standards, a barebones staff without the capacity to handle hate speech or understand Myanmar’s cultural nuances, an over-reliance on a small collection of local civil society groups to alert the company to possibly dangerous posts spreading on the platform. All of these reflect a decidedly ad-hoc approach for a multi-billion-dollar tech giant that controls so much of popular discourse in the country and across the world."
otf  myanmar  burma  asia  southeastasia  facebook  social 
july 2018 by dmcdev
Zambia considers social media clampdown, through new laws or tighter regulation
Zambia's communications minister Brian Mushimba told the country's parliament on Thursday that new social media regulations are needed, telling the lawmaking body that "it is evident that social media in Zambia has become a catalyst for the detachment of members of the Zambian society from our cultural norms," Lynsey Chutel writes for Quartz, citing an AFP report on the speech. https://www.news24.com/Africa/News/zambia-planning-social-media-clampdown-20180705

There are no laws drafted at present, so it is unclear whether these measures will come to light. "Mushimba said Zambia already had adequate laws to police online behavior, according to a report in the Lusaka Times. Instead, his department would focus on sensitizing Zambians about responsible use of social media, but would not hesitate to prosecute perceived misuse...This week, Mushimba assured Zambians that the country would not be following Uganda’s example [of implementing a social media tax]. The Zambian government had no plans to introduce a levy on social media because the country already has enough laws to protect Zambians, he said. New policies would not infringe on Zambians’ rights, Mushimba added. The lack of clarity around the new regulations means the process could be drawn out or become obfuscated, making it difficult for Zambians to respond."
otf  zambia  tax  social  africa 
july 2018 by dmcdev
Egypt's proposed tax for Facebook, Google, and more
Just as a "social media tax" is put into force across the Sahara to the south in Uganda, "Egypt’s parliament is evaluating an option to tax people and organizations that advertize on platforms like Facebook and Google," iAfrikan News reports, while noting the distinction that in the case of Egypt, the tax would target advertisers targeting users on big tech platforms and not individual users.

"Egypt is about to reach a strategy allowing the government to implement advertisement taxes on social media websites, especially Facebook and Google. According to Parliament statements, imposing these taxes on the advertising companies will protect the Egyptian advertising market, and adjust its mechanisms. However, it is not fully clear yet how the Egyptian state is going to collect money from advertisers, as some of the companies, which use Facebook and Google to target the Egyptian users, don’t have regional offices inside the country. One of the parliamentarians suggested that implementing these ad taxes on Facebook and Google is an option, but other options and possibilities are still on the table for further discussions."
otf  egypt  tax  social  access 
july 2018 by dmcdev
Uganda social media and mobile money tax now in effect
Uganda's government followed through on its promise to implement a new "social media tax" yesterday, as "many Ugandans woke up [yesterday] to find that if they hadn’t paid the new tax on social-media use, services like WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook and Skype were inaccessible," Yinka Adegoke writes for Quartz. Users need to pay 200 Ugandan shillings (about 5 cents USD) per day in order to use these sites. The tax also affects the use of mobile money apps.

"
Uganda’s government has long had an issue with social media as it tries to keep tabs on its young population. Back in February 2016, the country’s telecoms regulator blocked the internet during elections, ostensibly for security purposes. This year, the regulator proposed a tax on social-media use, designed to curb gossip online and raise billions of shillings in government revenue. That levy came after president Yoweri Museveni complained that idle talk on social media was costing the country much-needed time and income...Many tech-savvy Ugandans have already taken to virtual private networks to get around having to pay an extra 200 Ugandan shillings ($0.05) per day. The new fee is expected to impact usage of social media and mobile money, which now has an additional 1% tax."
otf  uganda  africa  tax  social 
july 2018 by dmcdev
Zimbabwe has cut data tariffs in the run-up to its first social media-led election
Zimbabwe is set to hold presidential, parliamentary and local government elections on July 30th, and WhatsApp will likely play a key role in deciding the races, as the app accounts for nearly half (44%) of the country's internet traffic. To better facilitate information flow over WhatsApp, the government announced last week the reduction of data tariffs for mobile internet providers starting on July 1st - which "will mean cheaper social media access and usage," Tawanda Karombo writes for Quartz.

"Social media is seen as having a key role in the polls, as a report by the telecom industry regulator, Potraz last year showed that WhatsApp alone accounts for 44% of internet usage in Zimbabwe. The country has an internet penetration rate of 50%, mostly driven by mobile gadgets...In a country where more than half the country is under 25, the youth vote is key. The 37-year rule of former president Robert Mugabe since Zimbabwe’s independence means at least 70% of the country’s population had never known any other leader than Mugabe until last November when he was pushed out in a coup. And in a break with tradition, online platforms are playing a major role in the battle for the 5.6 million Zimbabweans who have registered to vote. Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have taken center stage. President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who replaced Mugabe, has gone all out to appeal to the youthful populace with new Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts."
otf  zimbabwe  africa  social  vote  access  whatsapp  twitter 
june 2018 by dmcdev
Pew Research: Social Media Use Continues to Rise in Developing Countries
A new Pew Research study finds that Internet and smartphone use are on the rise globally, with social media use in developing markets quickly approaching those of more developed countries. In fact, Pew's research found that "among people who use the internet, those in developing countries often turn out to be more likely than their counterparts in advanced economies to network via platforms like Facebook and Twitter." However, large gaps remain in terms of gender (men more likely than women to access the Internet), income, and age.

Other highlights: "There has been a steady increase in internet use over the past five years among the 19 emerging and developing economies surveyed. Between 2013 and 2014, a median of 42% across these countries said they accessed the internet at least occasionally or owned a smartphone. By 2017, a median of 64% were online...A similar story is seen in smartphone use. In 2013-14, about a quarter of people in emerging and developing economies reported owning a smartphone, i.e., a mobile phone that can access the internet and apps. By 2017, that share had risen to 42%...Despite growing internet use and smartphone ownership, the world remains digitally divided. It is still the case, for example, that people in wealthier countries have higher rates of internet use and smartphone ownership. However, among people who use the internet, those in developing countries often turn out to be more likely than their counterparts in advanced economies to network via platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Within countries, too, digital divides persist. Age, education, income and in some cases gender still differentiate who uses the internet and who does not, who is active on social media and who is inactive."

Access the full report (pdf) here. http://assets.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2018/06/15135408/Pew-Research-Center_Global-Tech-Social-Media-Use_2018.06.19.pdf
otf  social  connectivity  access  research 
june 2018 by dmcdev
Commentary by @davidakaye: How to ‘fix’ social media without censorship
In the wake of rising attention given to the role social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter play in our societies and political processes, the UN's Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion & expression David Kaye offers insight on a path forward. These private companies have increasingly become the arbiters of what is deemed acceptable speech, blurring the lines on what was previously the provenance of states.

Kaye writes: "Social media, messaging and search platforms offer real value. They provide connections, information and security for people who might not otherwise have them, such as sexual minorities in traditional societies, reporters in authoritarian environments, or dissenters in repressive regimes...And yet the most influential corporations in this sphere wield extraordinary power from a distance. They develop rules, standards, and guidelines, often in Silicon Valley, to determine for people around the world the appropriate boundaries of expression...Much as they may try, they are often out of touch with local and national concerns in the places where they operate...In places like Myanmar, where activists note that 'Facebook is the internet,' the companies lack the linguistic and cultural expertise to distinguish a racist word from an ordinary one. As a result, they may over-regulate, censoring the good with the bad."

Kaye goes on to lay out three key recommendations: "First, internet companies need to involve local communities in governing their platforms...Second, the companies must disclose radically more information about the nature of their rulemaking and enforcement concerning expression on their platforms...Finally, the companies make claims to global roles, so they should adopt global standards – not the First Amendment, and not terms of service allowing them complete discretion. They should apply human rights law, which provides global standards protecting everyone’s right to 'seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers.'"

Kaye's recommendations echo those made by him in a report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in April - the UN's first on online platform content regulation, complete with recommendations to states and companies. https://freedex.org/a-human-rights-approach-to-platform-content-regulation/
otf  social  platform  regulation  policy  speech  foe  un 
june 2018 by dmcdev
Cambodian civil society groups slam gov’t web-monitor group
More than 115 civil society organizations are calling on Cambodia to break up a new government working group whose purpose is to surveil social media activity in the country, calling the proposed effort an "abuse on the rights and freedom of expression via the internet."

Niem Chheng reports for the Phnom Penh Post: "In a statement issued on Friday last week, [the 116 organisations and associations] said the new government group, jointly operated by the ministries of interior, information and telecommunications, infringes on peoples’ freedom and also violates international human rights laws...They said the announcement of the group was ambiguous, leaving authorities room to self-determine what they see as a 'violation' or which 'causes the destruction of social orders'...It said the blocking of content and closure of social media accounts seemed to be at the discretion of the ministries, with no judicial oversight or right to appeal. This, they said, gave the authorities the power to silence individuals at the 'click of a button'. The reaction from civil society has come after the three ministries issued a joint statement last week that said, with immediate effect, the working group will aim 'to prevent the spread of information that can cause social chaos and threaten national security'. According to the inter-ministry announcement, the group’s purpose is 'to oppose and prevent the broadcast or distribution of information or writing, voice, picture, video and/or other forms which intend to cause chaos for national defence, national security, economic progress, public order, culture and traditions.'"
otf  cambodia  legislation  SoutheastAsia  asia  surveillance  speech  foe  social 
june 2018 by dmcdev
A plague of Twitter bots is roiling the Middle East
Governments in the Persian Gulf are creating Twitter bot armies made up of "thousands of bots" that are ordered "to tweet in a coordinated fashion," focusing their efforts on politically relevant topics that states in the region want to shape public opinion on, according to researchers Marc Owen Jones and Alexei Abrahams, who studied the bots and their behavior.

Discussing their findings for the Washington Post's Monkey Cage blog, they say that "...Propaganda bots operating in the gulf do not attempt to engage other users directly, tending instead to focus on increasing the public salience of statements tweeted by prominent human accounts. For example, bots often amplify tweets by critics of the Qatari government or royal family, such as the leader of the Qatari opposition abroad, Khalid al Hail, or @QatariLeaks, an anti-Qatar website. Thousands of bots have been mobilized against Qatari news station Al Jazeera...Beyond promoting particular opinions, bots are useful even more fundamentally for deciding the topic of conversation. Twitter hashtags can be started by anyone. To gain public salience, however, many other accounts must take up that same hashtag in their own tweets...Hashtag manipulation is such a pervasive phenomenon in the gulf that only a month after the outbreak of the crisis, the hashtag 'don’t participate in suspicious hashtags' began trending...There is also a more fundamental authoritarian logic at play. While social media may ultimately act as an incubator for political opinion formation, it is more crucially the place where citizens go to find out what other citizens think — a vital ingredient to mobilizing. By inflating the importance and salience of specific political figures, millions of bots are drowning out citizens’ opinions with the voice of a small authoritarian elite."
otf  mena  twitter  bots  propaganda  social  gulf 
june 2018 by dmcdev
What a partial internet shutdown would mean for Papua New Guinea
Last week, Papua New Guinea made headlines when the country's Communications Minister Sam Basil proposed banning Facebook for one month in order to address problems associated with the social media platform. But how would such a shutdown actually play out?

For The Interpreter, University of Papua New Guinea researcher Kasek Galgal writes: "It is difficult to estimate the impact of the proposed temporary ban. Statistics show that only about 12% of the PNG population are internet users, and the number of Facebook users is likely smaller still. However, Facebook plays a major role in information sharing in PNG. A ban would certainly affect the ability of this small yet influential population to share news and information...At the technological level, although the PNG Government doesn’t have a central filtering system, it could require all internet service providers (ISPs) in the country to restrict access to the addresses of Facebook’s servers. This would be an unpopular decision from a business perspective – social media use accounts for a significant portion of data traffic which ISPs charge customers for...A complete ban of an important, if imperfect, platform would be a serious impediment to freedom of expression, and all but confirm speculation that the ban was merely censorship under the guise of user protection...If the government is serious about protecting its citizens online, then creating an environment where they can safely use the internet should be the goal, not blocking parts of it altogether."
otf  png  papuanewguinea  facebook  social  block  access 
june 2018 by dmcdev
Social media use taxed in Uganda to tackle 'gossip'
Using Facebook, WhatsApp, and Skye will cost you in Uganda, as citizens will need to pay a daily tax that goes into force in July in accordance with a new law that seeks to curtail the impact of online "gossip," AFP reports:

"Users of Whatsapp, Facebook, Skype and other social media in Uganda will have to pay a daily tax from July, according to a new law that rights activists have criticised as a bid to stifle free speech. Uganda’s parliament passed a law late on Wednesday imposing a tax of 200 shillings (five cents) a day on users of so-called 'over-the-top' services which publish content bypassing traditional distributors. The new law did not spell out how the tax would be applied and collected. Finance minister David Bahati said the aim of the legislation was only to raise revenue for public services. However, the president, Yoweri Museveni, wrote to the finance ministry in March urging the introduction of the tax as a way to deal with the consequences of online 'gossip'...The new law also includes a new tax of one percent on mobile money transactions. With little access to formal banking services, many Ugandans rely on mobile telephone companies to store and transfer money electronically."
otf  uganda  africa  tax  social 
june 2018 by dmcdev
Youtube is banned in Egypt over the anti-Islamic 'Innocence of Muslims' video
Egypt will block access to YouTube, according to a ruling handed down by the country's top administrative court on Saturday - the latest legal decision in a case that has been ongoing since the video went viral in 2012. "In 2013, a lower administrative court ordered Egypt’s ministry of communications to block the video-sharing website, but the ruling was stayed as the case was appealed in the courts," Abdi Latif Dahir reports for Quartz:

"It was not yet clear whether Saturday’s verdict was being implemented. Sources in Egypt confirmed to Quartz that YouTube was still accessible as of today (May 28). Mohamed Hamid Salem, a lawyer who filed the case in 2013, told Reuters https://www.reuters.com/article/us-egypt-youtube/top-egypt-court-orders-temporary-youtube-ban-over-prophet-mohammad-video-idUSKCN1IR0FD the ruling also orders that all links that broadcast the film be blocked...When it first came out in 2012, the video triggered deadly riots across North Africa, the Middle East, and the Muslim world. Extremists also used hostility to the film as a pretext to launch attacks on US interests abroad. After YouTube removed the movie, a US federal appeals court ruled in 2015 that the website should not have been forced to take it down. The video was then reposted on YouTube, with a warning that cautions viewers it contained 'inappropriate or offensive' material."
otf  egypt  youtube  social  access  mena 
may 2018 by dmcdev
Papua New Guinea to ban citizens from Facebook for a month
The government of Papua New Guinea is planning to hit the "off" button on Facebook for one month in order to facilitate researchers attempting "to identify fake accounts and users who post pornography and misinformation" to the social media network in the country, the Washington Post reports (citing a report from the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier): https://postcourier.com.pg/shutting-facebook-png-reality/

"Papua New Guinea's communications minister, Sam Basil, told the newspaper that the temporary shutdown would give researchers a chance to analyze how Facebook is used in the country and to explore the development of its own social network for the nation's citizens. According to Basil, preventing access to Facebook in the country could reveal benefits to the population or lead to the conclusion that people are actually better off without it. Basil did not say when the ban would begin...Facebook said in a statement to The Washington Post on Tuesday, 'We have reached out to the government to understand their concerns.' According to government estimates cited by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, about 600,000 to 700,000 people in Papua New Guinea use Facebook, out of a population of roughly 8 million."
otf  facebook  social  access  censorship  papuanewguinea 
may 2018 by dmcdev
Flock of followers descends on Southeast Asia’s Twitter users, but are they real?
Prominent Twitter users in Southeast Asia have reported a sizable uptick in new followers, most of whom have the look and feel of a bot. First reported by FInancial Times https://www.ft.com/content/e59dba5a-421d-11e8-803a-295c97e6fd0b, most of the accounts have few if any followers or posts and have followed high profile journalists, activists, academics, diplomats, media personalities, and the like. Some are concerned that the bots will be used to influence elections in the region, while some users want to see Twitter do more to address the issue.

The Democratic Voice of Burma reports: "High-profile Twitter users in Southeast Asia have reported an ongoing wave of new followers, a social media phenomenon first noted in March which has stoked fears that regional governments are zeroing-in on the platform amid growing concerns that their countries’ leaders are muzzling online speech...The reason for the recent influx is pure speculation while the accounts lay dormant...Twitter users from Cambodia to Sri Lanka and Vietnam to China, among others, have reported a deluge of new followers, leading observers to speculate that country-specific automated accounts are targeting users that have a specific country or countries mentioned in their Twitter biography...Former Dutch diplomat Laetitia van den Assum, who also served on the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, called on Twitter to take action. 'This is ridiculous. What is happening and is condoned by Twitter is probably linked to an illegal bot factory that targets Twitter users like me who are active tweeters about issues related to Myanmar,' she said via email. It’s 'high time' Twitter implemented a mechanism to flag suspected bots to the user, she added."

AFP reports https://www.rappler.com/technology/features/200864-suspected-twitter-bots-asia-spark-fear that the timing of the "Botmageddon" has raised concerns that there may be plots afoot to influence voters ahead of upcoming elections in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.
otf  twitter  southeastasia  social  bots 
april 2018 by dmcdev
Uganda to tax social media to stop gossip on Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter
More details on Uganda's proposed social media tax: the country wants to impose the tax in order to a. prevent the spread of gossip online and b. raise billions of shillings in revenue for the government (naturally).

Abdi Latif Dahir writes for Quartz: "Starting July, president Yoweri Museveni’s government wants to charge a daily price of 200 Ugandan shillings ($0.05) to mobile phone subscribers using services including WhatsApp, Viber, Twitter, and Skype. The new measures come after Museveni reportedly wrote a letter to the treasury in March stating how idle talk on social media was costing the country much-needed time and income. As part of the new levy, telecom companies providing data used for accessing over-the-top (OTT) networks will be liable to account and pay excise duty on the services. The finance ministry has already offered amendments to the 2014 Excise Duty Act and has sent the proposal to parliament for review following a cabinet approval...If passed, the current measures will not be the first time officials instituted a plan to restrict digital access. In Feb. 2016, Uganda blocked Twitter and Facebook besides mobile money services during an election where president Museveni’s main opponent was placed under house arrest and observers dismissed the poll result as a sham...The crackdown on digital access is also prescriptive of the government’s efforts to restrict digital activism and the awareness campaigns mobilizing for internet freedom. In a country where more than 70% of the population was born after Museveni came to power in 1986, social media has been a pivotal tool to demand the release of journalists and government critics."
otf  uganda  social  tax  africa 
april 2018 by dmcdev
Chad has blocked social messaging apps and BBC amid political and economic anxiety
Chad has again shut down the Internet in the face of opposition political activity, blocking Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber and BBC, Quartz reports, while pointing to OTF-supported OONI's confirmation of the blockage of the BBC website:

"From as early as Mar. 28, users started reporting a shutdown, according to the organization Internet Without Borders (IWB). The internet censorship watchdog, the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI), also confirmed network measurement data showed the BBC’s news website was blocked. The cutoff comes after a national conference, boycotted by the opposition, recommended constitutional changes that could extend president Idriss Deby’s rule until 2033. Deby has ruled over the Central African nation since 1990...The current shutdown comes just days after advocacy groups submitted a report to the UN Human Rights Council detailing evidence of breaching freedom of expression, access to information, and the right to privacy. The violations included the January internet blackout ahead of demonstrations organized by civil society organizations, besides the eight-month social media cutoff following controversial elections in 2016. IWB estimates all these blackouts combined cost the Chadian economy €18 million ($22.1 million)."
otf  chad  africa  shutdown  access  blackout  social 
april 2018 by dmcdev
Tanzania passes new social media and blogging regulations
Tanzania's new Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations 2017 recently came into official effect, a law governing social media and blogs. The law introduces a license fee for anyone running an online radio station or video site, mandatory adoption of a PIN password for mobile phones, and licensing fees (upwards of $900 annually) for personal bloggers, iAfrikan reports:

"Tanzania's government has said that the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations 2018 will help to put a stop to the 'moral decadence' cause[d] by social media and the Internet in the country. The eastern Afrikan country's policy makers also said that social media is a threat to Tanzania's national security...There is no doubt that the new regulations are an infringement of people's basic human rights but more interesting will be to observe how TCRA intends to monitor violations to these regulations."
otf  Tanzania  africa  social  policy  legal 
april 2018 by dmcdev
The Yemen War Online: Propagation of Censored Content on Twitter
In Yemen, Twitter is a platform that enables the dissemination of content blocked elsewhere on the web, and while censored content is made available there, users tend to "coalesce into self-defined media spheres aligned around social and political affinities" a new Berkman Klein Internet Monitor report finds. Additionally, a sizable proportion of users in Yemen and Saudi Arabia make use of Psiphon to circumvent government-imposed censorship.

From the report: "While selective exposure to web content is often associated with polarization, we show that social media—in this case Twitter—is used to propagate censored content from the open web, making it more visible to users behind open-web filtering regimes. The evidence shows that government attempts to corral social media users into government-friendly media bubbles does not work, although government filters make it more difficult to access some content...Data from circumvention tool service Psiphon confirm that a significant number of users in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, the two countries directly involved in the war, bypass local filtering regimes by employing circumvention tools. We can infer from this that users behind filtering regimes can access censored open web content and share blocked content on social media platforms including Twitter. Twitter and other platforms that have implemented HTTPS serve as recommendation systems for both blocked and unblocked content. Users who encounter blocked URLs on Twitter can use circumvention tools to bypass the filtering. Moreover, the sharing of blocked content on social media platforms serves as an incentive to adopt circumvention tools."
otf  yemen  saudiarabia  mena  censorship  social  twitter 
march 2018 by dmcdev
China's Dystopian Tech Could Be Contagious
There's no reason the type of all-encompassing "social credit" scoring system being rolled out by Beijing couldn't be similarly employed elsewhere, writes urbanist Adam Greenfield for The Atlantic, while exploring the actual implications of living in such a society. The implementation of China's social credit system has been "piecemeal so far," but the Party has spent many years fine tuning what China expert calls "networked authoritarianism," with the social credit system arguably becoming the most comprehensive result of a multitude of repressive policies and systems.

Greenfield writes: "This end-to-end grid of social control is still in its prototype stages, but three things are already becoming clear: First, where it has actually been deployed, it has teeth. Second, it has profound implications for the texture of urban life. And finally, there’s nothing so distinctly Chinese about it that it couldn’t be rolled out anywhere else the right conditions obtain. The advent of social credit portends changes both dramatic and consequential for life in cities everywhere—including the one you might call home...

"As laid out in the proposal [that announced China's plans for the social credit system], the system’s stated purpose was to ride herd on corrupt government officials, penalize the manufacture of counterfeit consumer products, and prevent mislabeled or adulterated food and pharmaceuticals from reaching market. This framing connects the system to a long Confucian tradition of attempts to bolster public rectitude. The means was certainly novel, though, yoking together advanced machine-learning systems, online databases, municipal CCTV networks and the pocket-sized sensor platforms known as smartphones...

"The Chinese genius, if you can call it that, was to take credit scoring as a tool of social discipline to its logical conclusion, building a formal public-private partnership around it. This move extends dominion across the entire range of interactions any member of modern society is more or less compelled to pursue by the very style and structure of contemporary life."
otf  china  socialcredit  social  credit  privacy  awareness  asia  gfw 
february 2018 by dmcdev
Zambia tables legislation to regulate social media
Zambia's parliament is reviewing three draft laws "designed to regulate internet usage and social media," ITWeb Africa reports. The three bills focus on security, crime, commerce, and data protection. The drafts follow on a challenge made by Zambian President Edgar Lungu to the country's ICT regulator to counter the "the threat of social media abuse," ITWeb Africa says.

More: "In January, presidential spokesperson Amos Chanda communicated with the Inspector General of the Zambia police, Kakoma Kanganja and requested intervention to curtail what he described as 'repeated forgery and altering of state house statements on social media.' 'We have been talking about the abuse of social media and the digital space, and we're [also] expressing our displeasure at other abuses regarding social media and other fora,' Chanda said. This week, Zambia's communications ministry stated that regulation is being pursued to prevent 'uncontrollable usage' of the internet and online services such as social media. Mushimba also said the government will not shut down social media, but only regulate its use."
otf  zambia  africa  policy  social 
february 2018 by dmcdev
Iranian Authorities Block Access to Social Media Tools
As protests in Iran entered their sixth day, authorities moved to further restrict access to social media tools used by protesters to organize or document and share events as they happen. Telegram, a messaging app that is popular in Iran, has been blocked since December 31, "while internet access has been sporadically cut off to several cities where protests have taken place, according to cybersecurity researchers monitoring internet activity in the country. Access to other social media platforms like Instagram has also been intermittent...Many social media tools — as well as a number of products that encrypt internet conversations — have long been unavailable in Iran. Twitter and Facebook have been banned since 2009, although many Iranians still find ways to use them. Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, even opened a Facebook account. But messaging apps like Telegram, which claims some level of encryption, report wide usage in the country...No app is more popular among Iranians than Telegram, [Middle East analyst Holly] Dagres said. There are 40 million to 46 million Telegram accounts in Iran. 'The Iranian government is active on Telegram, as is the president, and members of Parliament,' she said. 'Iranians use it to sell clothes or find doctors, she added. 'In the last week it has become a key source of information about the protests.'" - Sheera Frenkel, New York Times
otf  iran  mena  iranprotest  telegram  censorship  social  access 
january 2018 by dmcdev
Ethiopia has blocked social media sites as new Oromo protests hit the country
Ethiopia has again blocked access to the internet in the wake of violent protests in the Oromo region and throughout the East African country, Abdi Latif Dahir reports for Quartz. "In Chelenko town in Oromia region, media reports noted the killing of 16 people aged between 15 and 60 years, including family members who were harvesting sorghum on a farm. The family was reportedly not aware of the initial demonstrations in a nearby village, where locals blamed the killing of a prominent member of the community by the controversial Somali special forces known as the Liyu. This was followed by heightened ethnic tension in campuses, where students were allegedly killed at the hands of security forces.

As such, from Dec. 12, internet users in Ethiopia started mentioning that they couldn’t access several social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Moses Karanja, a doctoral candidate at University of Toronto and researcher at the Citizen Lab, said network scans on the state-owned operator Ethio Telecom confirmed that the websites were inaccessible. The government has a monopoly over the provision of mobile and internet services, and users couldn’t access these sites without using virtual private networks."
otf  ethiopia  access  shutdown  social  blackout  africa 
december 2017 by dmcdev
In China, a Three-Digit Score Could Dictate Your Place in Society
China's social ranking system is about as close as the world has come to a real life Orwellian dystopia, wherein citizens are ranked and filed according to a broad range of factors that essentially assess one's obedience to the state and its ideology. Even making an 'inappropriate' comment online will set you back, while staying within the bounds of acceptable behavior is rewarded. "For the Chinese Communist Party, social credit is an attempt at a softer, more invisible authoritarianism. The goal is to nudge people toward behaviors ranging from energy conservation to obedience to the Party. Samantha Hoffman, a consultant with the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London who is researching social credit, says that the government wants to preempt instability that might threaten the Party. 'That’s why social credit ideally requires both coercive aspects and nicer aspects, like providing social services and solving real problems. It’s all under the same Orwellian umbrella.'...The State Council has signaled that under the national social credit system people will be penalized for the crime of spreading online rumors, among other offenses, and that those deemed 'seriously untrustworthy' can expect to receive substandard services. Ant Financial appears to be aiming for a society divided along moral lines as well. As Lucy Peng, the company’s chief executive, was quoted as saying...[the social credit system] 'will ensure that the bad people in society don’t have a place to go, while good people can move freely and without obstruction.'" - Mara Hvistendahl, Wired
otf  china  asia  social  privacy 
december 2017 by dmcdev
How Duterte Turned Facebook Into a Weapon—With Help From Facebook
How the Philippine government is using Facebook to take down a critic with the help of some "patriotic trolling.": "Until it became crushing. Since being elected in May 2016, Duterte has turned Facebook into a weapon. The same Facebook personalities who fought dirty to see Duterte win were brought inside the Malacañang Palace. From there they are methodically taking down opponents, including a prominent senator and human-rights activist who became the target of vicious online attacks and was ultimately jailed on a drug charge. And then, as [journalist Maria] Ressa began probing the government’s use of social media and writing stories critical of the new president, the force of Facebook was turned against her." - Lauren Etter, Bloomberg
otf  philippines  asia  facebook  social 
december 2017 by dmcdev
How social media can both weaken — and strengthen — democracy
Social media is simultaneously an empowering tool for the voiceless and fodder for manipulation by authorities, find the authors of a new Journal of Democracy article, "From Liberation to Turmoil: Social Media and Democracy." Social media is both "liberation technology" and a tool for undermining democracy, they say: "First, social media is a tool for giving voice to those excluded from access to the mainstream media. Second, despite the fact that social-media democratizes access to information, those using it can simultaneously censor and manipulate information to try to silence others’ voices. Some of these forms of censorship — such as hindering access to information or threatening would-be opposition figures — are centuries old. Others — such as employing bots and trolls to change the online conversation — are particular to the digital age. Taken together, these two factors — using online tools both to expand opportunities to speak up, and to expand opportunities to silence — can illuminate the complex relationship between social media and democracy. We conclude that social media itself is neither inherently democratic or nondemocratic, but yet another arena in which political actors contest for power." - Joshua Tucker, Yannis Theocharis, Margaret E. Roberts and Pablo Barberá for the Washington Post. Access the full article here: https://www.journalofdemocracy.org/article/liberation-turmoil-social-media-and-democracy
otf  socialmedia  social  access  speech  foe 
december 2017 by dmcdev
Fake news and botnets: how Russia weaponised the web
"The digital attack that brought Estonia to a standstill 10 years ago was the first shot in a cyberwar that has been raging between Moscow and the west ever since," write Hannes Grassegger and Mikael Krogerus for The Guardian: "Vast 'botnets' – networks of captured and linked computers – were attempting to bring down computer systems with automated queries as part of a large DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attack. 'Mail-bombing' email barrages and volleys of status and location queries overloaded servers across the country, bringing crucial parts of the Estonian internet to a halt. Some websites, according to the BBC, were 'defaced,' redirecting users 'to images of Soviet soldiers and quotations from Martin Luther King Jr about resisting evil'. 'War dialling', in which automated phone calls target a company or institution, placed a virtual blockade on phone numbers for government offices and parliament. On 10 May, Hansabank, Estonia’s biggest bank, had to cease online services and international card transactions temporarily. The digital firepower arrayed against Estonia was massive and intense."
otf  russia  information  misinfo  social  botnet  media 
december 2017 by dmcdev
How Pakistan blocked news outlets, social media sites, and IM apps amidst protests - @OpenObservatory
OONI analyzes how the Pakistani government blocked access to several social media and news outlets last week amid violent Islamist protests in the capital of Islamabad. Demonstrators were demanding the resignation of Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid after he failed to include reference to the Prophet Muhammad in a revised edition of the country's electoral oath - an error protesters deemed 'blasphemous.' OONI data "confirm[s] the DNS-based blocking of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram...[and] the DNS blocking of 14 news websites, as well as the censorship of applications including Facebook Messenger, Telegram, and WhatsApp’s web interface. All of these censorship events were temporarily implemented last weekend, and are no longer in place."
otf  pakistan  social  censorship  access  blackout  southasia  protest 
november 2017 by dmcdev
Spike in Chinese censorship over Beijing migrant worker evictions, kindergarten scandal
"Censorship in China has spiked in recent days as the government scrambles to contain public anger over the forced evictions of migrant workers and claims of child abuse at a kindergarten in Beijing, according to a monitoring group.
The percentage of posts deleted on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, has risen sharply in the wake of the controversies, according to Weiboscope, a University of Hong Kong project tracking censorship on the social media platform.
Keywords in posts most frequently deleted on Monday included 'kindergarten', 'low-end', 'population' and 'Beijing'. On Wednesday, the term 'low-end population' was censored on the mainland in group chats on the WeChat messaging app and blocked by Weibo’s search engine." - Viola Zhou, South China Morning Post
otf  china  asia  weibo  speech  censorship  social  gfw 
november 2017 by dmcdev
Myanmar's Slow Strangulation of Online Speech
"In the years since [Myanmar's historic 2015 national] election, though, it has become clear that Myanmar’s utopian vision is not to be. Violations of free speech have had pervasive consequences throughout the country. In both metropolitan and rural areas, artists and writers are arrested and jailed. Citizens have been turned in for “defamation” by their coworkers, neighbors, and even, in at least one case,  mothers. The number of those imprisoned for exercising free expression is in the dozens and rapidly increasing, despite massive online protests and growing outrage. The arrests largely stem from Article 66(d) of the 2013 Telecommunications Act, the same law that imprisoned [popular poet] Saung Kha over two years ago. Officially, Article 66(d) states that the accused may receive three years in prison for 'extorting, coercing, restraining wrongfully, defaming, disturbing, causing undue influence or threatening any person using a telecommunications network.' The language used in this clause is intentionally vague and covers everything from blackmail to revenge porn to defamation. Its use reflects an arbitrary definition of 'justice' that threatens to escalate into something even more monstrous." - PEN America
otf  myanmar  burma  SoutheastAsia  asia  speech  foe  social 
november 2017 by dmcdev
St. Petersburg court sentences ex-con to two years in prison for an Internet post about Russia's ‘repressive regime’
"A court in St. Petersburg has convicted a man from Kislovodsk of inciting hatred of state officials and law enforcement with a post on Vkontakte, sentencing him to two years in prison.

In August 2015, Vladimir Timoshenko was serving out a previous sentence at a prison in the Novgorod region, when he called a friend and dictated the text of a post that would be published in a Vkontakte community called 'Slavic Power: Nord West Peterburg.' According to the website Fontanka.ru, the post included the phrases 'anti-national regime' and 'vindictive-repressive system.' Timoshenko went free in December 2016, but police detained him two weeks later." - Meduza
otf  russia  social  speech 
november 2017 by dmcdev
Challenges for Facebook in Southeast Asia, where it is synonymous with the internet itself
"Asia is now Facebook’s biggest user base. That has given the company unprecedented political sway across the continent, where it inadvertently shapes the media consumption of hundreds of millions of people. The impacts are amplified in the region because vast swathes of relatively new internet users turn to Facebook first as their primary gateway to the rest of the web. Meanwhile, it’s become clear that the attitudes and policies the Menlo Park-based company adopted when it was primarily a U.S. social network are inadequate, or even perilous, when applied in authoritarian states, fragile democracies, or nations with deep ethnic divisions...Facebook can no longer deny its moral responsibility to try to understand how cyberspace, law, and politics collide in each of the countries where it operates, nor its responsibility to do something about it." - Christina Larson, Foreign Policy
otf  facebook  social  asia 
november 2017 by dmcdev
China Spreads Propaganda to U.S. on Facebook, a Platform it Bans at Home
"China does not allow its people to gain access to Facebook, a powerful tool for disseminating information and influencing opinion.

As if to demonstrate the platform’s effectiveness, outside its borders China uses it to spread state-produced propaganda around the world, including the United States. So much do China’s government and companies value Facebook that the country is Facebook’s biggest advertising market in Asia, even as it is the only major country in the region that blocks the social network...While much of [the paid content China pushes] is unlikely to sway the average American’s mind, such posts reach people across the world, many of whom are newer to the internet and may have a less sophisticated understanding of media. China’s state media has Facebook channels dedicated to Africa and other regions of the world, and it seems evident that it is offering itself as an alternative to the Western media for a more global audience."- Paul Mozur, New York Times
otf  china  asia  facebook  social  propaganda 
november 2017 by dmcdev
Zimbabwe police arrest U.S. citizen over Mugabe 'Goblin' Tweet
"Zimbabwe police detained a U.S. citizen and seized her laptop on Friday on suspicion of calling President Robert Mugabe a 'Goblin' on Twitter, the first arrest since the creation of a Ministry of Cyber Security last month, her lawyers said.

Martha O‘Donovan, who works for Magamba TV, which describes itself as Zimbabwe’s leading producer of political satire, was picked up during a dawn raid on her Harare home, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said in a statement.

The police were armed with a search warrant linked to an investigation of a case of 'undermining authority of or insulting the President', it added.

Central to their investigation, it said, was a post on O‘Donovan’s Twitter feed referring to a 'Goblin' whose wife and step-sons had imported a Rolls Royce, an apparent reference to 93-year-old Mugabe even though he was not named." - Reuters
otf  zimbabwe  africa  twitter  social  speech  foe 
november 2017 by dmcdev
China says social media companies must 'punish' employees
"China has ordered online platforms to punish staff who spread 'illegal' content domestically, in the latest move by authorities to tighten policing of the web.

Service providers must 'establish a sound information security management system', the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said in a Monday (Oct 30) statement.

'While we benefit from new applications or technologies... they are also improperly used by some people to post illegal information or even to commit crimes,' it said.

It was unclear what companies would have to do to comply with the new standards." - AFP
otf  china  social  surveillance  privacy  asia  gfw 
november 2017 by dmcdev
CPJ calls on Paraguay to reject social media regulations
"The Committee to Protect Journalists, along with more than 20 international and local rights organizations sent a letter to Paraguayan lawmakers on October 25, calling on them to reject a proposed law regulating anonymous online posts during elections.

Under the proposed law, service providers would be required to delete content posted by anonymous users that is deemed 'offensive or defamatory' toward political parties or candidates. Comments would be allowed only if the social media user was identified by their name and ID card number. The joint letter said that the proposed law poses a threat to journalists and their sources, and restricts citizens' right to freedom of expression.

Several Latin American countries, including Brazil, have introduced legislation similar to the Paraguayan proposal in recent months." - Committee to Protect Journalists
otf  paraguay  southamerica  social  legal  policy 
october 2017 by dmcdev
Chinese Internet Regulators Target Social Media Use
"Instant-messaging apps, video streaming and other new content platforms in China will face closer scrutiny under new rules issued by the country’s internet regulators.

In a statement Monday, the Cyberspace Administration of China said messaging apps and other new forms of information dissemination can be used to engage in illegal behavior. The administration said that operators of such platforms will soon be required to conduct extensive reviews to ensure they aren’t used to spread illegal content." - Liza Lin and Josh Chin, Wall Street Journal
otf  china  asia  gfw  social 
october 2017 by dmcdev
Myanmar: Lower House to Debate Social Media Surveillance
"Lower House lawmakers will debate whether to monitor social media—particularly Facebook—and step up Internet surveillance after a motion passed on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

National League for Democracy (NLD) MP of Magwe Region’s Gangaw Township Daw Yin Min Hlaing urged the government to monitor online activity, saying that irresponsible use of the Internet can disrupt law and order and corrupt morals.

'While the use of social media has increased a lot, [fabricated] reports that disrupt the stability of the state and morals of citizens are spread far and wide on social media. They have caused disruption and also negatively affect the current government,' she told reporters after the parliament session." - Htet Naing Zaw, The Irrawaddy
otf  burma  Myanmar  facebook  social  surveillance  speech 
october 2017 by dmcdev
Zimbabwe has a new “minister of WhatsApp” whose first job seems to be to stop WhatsApp
"[Last] week, Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, said a new cybersecurity ministry had been created as a trap to catch 'rats' who get up to mischief using cyberspace. It was the latest fodder for jokes doing the rounds on social media about former Zimbabwe finance minister, Patrick Chinamasa who will now head this new Cyber Security, Threat Detection, and Mitigation ministry. Locals have joked that Chinamasa’s appointment makes him the 'minister of WhatsApp and Facebook'. But the appointment also raises more serious concerns over freedom of expression, access to information and a clampdown on social media messaging." - Tawanda Karombo, Quartz
otf  zimbabwe  whatsapp  surveillance  privacy  social  africa  facebook 
october 2017 by dmcdev
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