This Week In Internet Censorship: Hackers DDOS Eurovision and Indian websites, France Calls Out Amesys, South Korean Podcasters Under Fire
Eurovision Song Contest Sets Stage for Online Protest
Last Thursday, Azeri hackers calling themselves Cyberwarriors for Freedom temporarily took down four different websites for the Eurovision Song Contest, which is being hosted by Azerbaijan this week. Hackers replaced the home pages with an Azeri-language message demanding that President Ilham Aliyev cancel the event. While they condemned the destruction of homes to make way for the Eurovision arena and the silencing of independent journalists, the hackers’ message also included homophobic language, calling the contest a “gay parade.”
While Azeri authorities continue to investigate the hacking, the International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan also launched a new campaign petitioning Eurovision performers to show support for human rights in Azerbaijan. The campaign echoes statements from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, who have called upon Azeri authorities to release detained opposition activists and guarantee free expression for peaceful protesters planning demonstrations before the contest.
The Azeri parliament is currently debating laws curtailing social media access, even though 78% of Azeris have never used the Internet and only 7% go online daily.
French Judicial Investigation Calls Out Amesys’ Complicity With Libyan Torture
The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and the League of Human Rights (LDH) announced on Monday that Amesys, a subsidiary of the French defense firm Bull S.A., will be investigated for supplying the Gadhafi regime with electronic surveillance tools. Both NGOs have accused Amesys of complicity with the dictator’s crimes against humanity after NATO forces found equipment bearing the company logo in an abandoned security building in August 2011. FIDH and LDH originally filed their complaint against Amesys with a French civil party in October 2011.
A Wired report coinciding with the announcement of the French judicial investigation details Libyan Internet activism and government monitoring during the 2011 revolution. Amesys’ EAGLE Interception system was one of the many Western-built Internet surveillance systems that NATO found in the monitoring bunker. The EAGLE equipment suite can monitor Internet users beyond the scope of “lawful interception” wiretaps that require a warrant for a particular IP address. Instead, EAGLE uses “massive interception,” which can analyze all network communications and store them in a database that is searchable by keywords, dates, and user names or addresses.
If Amesys has to pay damages for working with Gadhafi during the revolutions, it will serve as a warning for Internet technology firms that sell to human rights abusers. Earlier this year, the United States Congress re-introduced the Global Online Freedom act, which seeks to restrict exports of surveillance or censorship technologies to Internet-restricting governments. While the bill is imperfect, its commitment to corporate accountability for human rights could inspire a set of legal best practices for multinational corporations that governments could use for future investigations of firms like Amesys.
Anonymous Hacks Indian Government Sites to Protest Blocking of Video-Sharing Services
The Indian Congress Committee and Supreme Court websites were both taken down by distributed denial-of-service attacks as part of Anonymous’ #OpIndia, which sought to chastise Indian Internet service providers for blocking video-sharing websites such as Vimeo. The ISPs acted in response to a state proposal for a UN Committee for Internet Related Policies (CIRP) that would give India’s ruling party discretion to censor all online content. This proposal comes in the wake of several movie piracy lawsuits that Indian and international media conglomerates have filed since February 2011.
These lawsuits have resulted in the issuance of court orders, known in India as “Ashok Kumar” orders, that ask all parties to halt the distribution, display, or download of particular movies. It is unclear why the ISPs chose to block entire websites, a move that removed access to considerable non-infringing content. Indian copyright law is similar to the American Digital Millennium Copyright Act in that intermediaries such as Vimeo and Dailymotion are actually protected from most copyright litigation. ISPs reported that they were following the temporary restraining order the Madras High Court recently published, which condemned “copying, recording, reproducing, camcording or communicating, or allowing others to communicate" the contents of the film 3 in any form.
Anonymous was not the only organization to protest the sloppy content-management of ISPs and Indian state lawyers. Sanjay Tandon, vice president of music and anti-piracy from Reliance Entertainment, stated, “Our requirement from ISPs has never been to block entire sites… ISPs just want to block the entire site because it’s less work than to identify content individually.”
South Korean Podcasters Accused of Breaking Election Law
Two hosts of the popular South Korean liberal podcast “Naneun Ggomsuda” (“I’m a Petty-Minded Creep”) have been summoned for questioning in regards to the Seoul Metropolitan Election Commission’s charges relating to the organization of eight large, public rallies showing support for the Democratic United Party. South Korea’s election laws prohibit any endorsement of candidates outside of a two to three-week official campaign period, but the rallies in question were held within ten days of the election. Typically, the government contacts the hosting providers of websites or media outlets found to have violated this rule before investigating citizen journalists, but the investigation of Kim Eo-Joon and Joo Jin-Woo began immediately following the election and has been ongoing for over a month.
South Korea has a rich history of arbitrarily censoring online free expression. In 2008, newly-elected conservative President Lee Myung-bak created the Korean Communication Standards Commission. This organization patrols the web for obscenity, national security threats, and defamation, and it has great latitude when defining standards for these offenses. Park Jeong Keun was slapped with a prison sentence last week for re-tweeting “self-evidently ludicrous missives” from North Korean regimes own Twitter account. After Park’s arrest earlier this year, Sam Zarifi, Asia-Pacific director of Amnesty International, said, "This is not a national security case; It's a sad case of the South Korean authorities' complete failure to understand sarcasm."