On Thursday, prominent blogger and a leader of recent anti-corruption protests, Alexei Navalny was imprisoned for 15 days on charges of resisting the police. Navalny was one of hundreds arrested last week in recent widespread protests against political corruption and election fraud in the country. Navalny has been the leading voice in demanding social and political reform in Russia, spearheading an online campaign against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party for the past couple of years.
As political dissent grows in Russia, the state has started to position itself on the offensive. Last week, the Interior Ministery suggested a ban on Internet anonymity. Major-General Aleksey Moshkov said, “Social networks, along with advantages, often bring a potential threat to the foundations of society.” He claims that the goal of such a ban would be to fight political extremism, not to crack down on broader government criticism. In light of Navalny’s arrest however, such claims are highly questionable. In addition to rehashing the same tired rhetoric often used to justify attacks on privacy and anonymity (i.e. “if you’ve got nothing to hide, why does it matter?”) this may be the be beginning of an informal campaign to pressure tech companies and social media sites to start requiring real name policies.
EFF continues to stand for the right for user anonymity online, and opposes any attempts to impede this necessary right in the name of state security.
Twitter accounts of critics of the Chavez regime have been attacked by a wave of hacking over the past few months by a group supportive of the president and his policies. Global Voices released a report last week collecting reactions from the activists, scholars, artists, and the like who had their account compromised and hijacked to be exploited for presidential endorsements.
Many speculated that it was the government itself responsible for the hacking. However, the group N33 made a press release (in Spanish) two months ago that in fact they were the ones responsible for the attacks. They claimed that their motivation was to silence critics of their president, who abused their freedom of speech by defaming him. They have even asked Twitter to close parodic accounts of Chavez, however the company continues to ignore their requests.
On Thursday, an American blogger was sentenced to two and a half years in a Thai prison for translating and publishing excerpts of a banned biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on his blog under charges of lèse-majesté. Gordon, a Thai-born U.S. citizen, initially denied the charges but plead guilty in October in order to lessen the sentence from five years. Reporters Without Borders reacted to the news:
We are witnessing a game of one-upmanship in the penalties imposed on Thai netizens. Since it took office, the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has shown itself to be worse than its predecessor. In just four months, the number of allegations, prosecutions and convictions on lèse-majesté grounds is higher than for the whole of last year…The government must put an end to this repressive policy and repeal the lèse-majesté law and the Computer Crime Act, two anti-freedom pieces of legislation.
The U.S. government mildly acknowledged the news, stating that it was merely “troubled” by the incident, and it is currently not known whether the State Department has taken any action on his behalf.
EFF stands with Reporters Without Borders in condemning the arrest of bloggers, activists, and journalists in Thailand.
The Communications Standards Commission of South Korea last Wednesday launched a campaign to monitor “illicit content” on social networking sites. An eight-member team will be charged with the task of examining sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and smartphone applications for any “’harmful or illegal’ content relating to pornography, gambling, drug abuse, false information, and defamation.”
Officials claim that they enacted this program mainly in order to limit North Korean propaganda as part of a wider crackdown on nationalist sympathies for the neighboring state. Critics of the program however, argue that it is just a cover for their true motivation of silencing voices dissident to the government. "The commission must immediately stop its anachronistic act restricting freedom of expression," six civic groups said in a joint statement on Tuesday.
EFF condemns such overt attacks on online free expression, especially in light of South Korea's history of legalizing and institutionalizing censorship in the name of upholding copyright.
The Power Up Your Donation Campaign successfully ended moments ago, having raised $140,000 from over 1,000 members.
That's an average of over $1,000 per hour for the length of the campaign. We couldn't be more excited, or more thankful for the generous matching grants from the Parker Family Foundation, Nancy Blachman and David desJardins, and Blake Krikorian. As well as outstanding contribution from our Top Heroes and Heroines:
Last Thursday, EFF asked friends and followers on social networks to support our work and help spread the word that donations to our Power Up Your Donation campaign could be quadrupled for 140 hours. In addition to far exceeding our original fundraising goal of $10,000, supporters filled the social networks with messages encouraging others to do the same. Here are a few of our favorites:
@Le_Ted: "Hey, do you like the Internet as much as I do? Probably not, but give to the @EFF anyway. They need us! BOTS WITH SOUL"
@iglazer: "Why I donated to @EFF: Because civil liberties need more champions like the @EFF"
@GoinEasy9: "Why I donated to @EFF: We need someone looking out for us when our Liberties and Freedoms are being taken away."
@billkrikp: "Why I donated to @EFF: I kind of like this 'internet' thing and hope it sticks around a while."
@mtrumpbour: "Why I donated to @EFF: because electronic freedom isn't free."
EFF was built as a membership organization to ensure that we represent the rights and freedoms of technology users. Our members give credence to the importance of our work when facing Congress, companies, and the Court.
But being a member of EFF is more than that. As a member, you can stay on the bleeding edge of breaking issues in the fight for digital rights through activism campaigns or EFF updates. EFF members also get exclusive opportunities to attend EFF-only events and cool discounts, and even get awesome EFF swag like our metal Bill of Rights card (great for your pocket when going through airport security).
We're growing a movement to defend civil liberties in an era of ever-changing technologies. When you become a member of EFF, you stop being a spectator in the battle for digital rights and start being a digital defender. If you're kicking yourself for missing the Power Up challenge, then don't worry: you can still join EFF. And thanks to the incredible generosity of the Brin Wojcicki Foundation, you can still double your donation. So show your commitment to a future that upholds privacy, free speech, and innovation by becoming an EFF member or giving a year-end gift today.
Update: According to her lawyers, Razan has been charged with "establishing an organization that aims to change the social and economical entity of the state" and "weakening the national sentiment, and trying to ignite sectarian strife" and "weakening national sentiment" -- all of which, according to Lebanon's Daily Star, can lead to a penalty of three to fifteen years in prison.
Syria's crackdown on opposition, condemned by the international community, has long extended to bloggers and journalists. In August, prominent blogger Anas Maarawi made headlines for his arrest; he was released almost two months later after considerable international attention. More recently, Hussein Ghrer was released on $1,000 bail, after spending a month and a half in prison without charge. Numerous other bloggers, journalists and netizens remain imprisoned.
On Sunday, December 4, Razan Ghazzawi, a blogger who also works with the Syrian center for Media and Freedom of Expression, was arrested while en route to Amman, Jordan to attend a workshop on media freedom in the Arab world. Ghazzawi is one of the few bloggers writing from inside Syria under her real name. Her blog, Razaniyyat, covers a range of topics but has most recently focused on Syria's crackdown on bloggers; in her most recent post, she wrote about Hussein Ghrer, stating: "It’s all going to be alright, and it will all be over very soon." Ghazzawi also tweets under the handle @RedRazan.
A campaign in support of Ghazzawi has been launched, with Twitter users adopting the hashtag #freerazan and a range of organizations, including Amnesty International, lobbying for her release.
Razan Ghazzawi is being held for her personal beliefs and should be released immediately. EFF calls for her release as well as the release of other detained Syrian netizens.
When the government claims the right to shut down websites by breaking the Domain Name System and forcing search engines to dump user requests to reach a site, there’s only one word for it: censorship. And when big media groups like the RIAA can essentially cut off the financial services to a website based on accusation alone, it’s censorship at the hands of corporations.
EFF and a coalition of organizations, tech companies, innovators, and users are joining forces to fight back against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a bill that would give the government and big content unprecedented authority to censor the web in the name of so-called copyright enforcement. This week, we need to pull out all the stops because the House Judiciary Committee is slated to hold a critical hearing on Thursday.
SOPA's supporters are desperate to rush this bill through quickly by convincing Congress there's no real opposition to it. We know better, but we need to make our voices heard. That’s why we’re calling on you to join us in a dedicated week of action against the SOPA blacklist bill.
This legislation, if passed, will wreak havoc on our Internet community, jeopardizing the innovative and creative ecosystem that has created hundreds of thousands of jobs, helped countless people access information, and spurred a new generation of artists and creators. But big media groups are willing to sacrifice all of that in a ham-fisted attempt to control how you consume online content. And in the process, they'll undoing long-standing legal protections for websites and endangering the basic infrastructure of the Net.
We can’t let that happen. So join us in standing up and speaking out. Show Congress that we’re willing to fight for an uncensored web, and deep-pocketed lobbyists will never drown out the voices of the Internet community.
A Week of Action Against Censorship
We’ll be adding to this list daily. Check back to see what you can do to join the fight!
EFF is working with a coalition of advocacy organizations, tech companies, entrepreneurs, and creators in our Week of Action Against Censorship. Check out some of the creative ways the Internet is pushing back against this misguided bill. Know of actions that aren’t on our list? Email them to Rainey@eff.org
American Censorship is activating the Internet community to call Congress to protest SOPA. They've also created a cool #CensorshipEverywhere tool that let's you "censor" text which you can then post on a websites or social networking site. Friends who want to see what you wrote will need to call or email Congress to reveal what was redacted.
Avaaz launched their Save the Internet petition against SOPA and Protect-IP. They've already gotten over one million signatures!
The Center for Democracy and Technology is running a Stop SOPA campaign to rally support against this bill and provide an easy way for users to call their Representatives. Also check out their awesome Chorus of Opposition page, which showcases how many diverse organizations and companies are fighting this legislation.
Demand Progress has created Stop Censorship which lets you email Congress to protest SOPA and Protect-IP.
Public Knowledge launched a great tool to fight SOPA on their website that connects you to legislators. You can sign up to get mobile action alerts that will alert you via text message when there is a breaking issue and connect you to your legislator immediately.
Congress is debating dangerous legislation that would give the Department of Justice unprecedented power to “blacklist” websites without a trial and give Hollywood copyright holders a new way to shut down a website’s financial services for alleged copyright infringement. It’s nothing short of a bill to create a U.S. censorship regime, and it’s moving fast.
We need your help to stop this legislation before it can undermine Internet security and censor the web. Ready to join EFF, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, Free Software Foundation, Creative Commons, CDT, the Participatory Politics Foundation, and Public Knowledge in the fight? Here are 12 things you can do right now to help us stop the blacklist bills.
Call your Senators and Representative and tell them to oppose Protect-IP and SOPA, respectively. Click here for some suggested talking points. Then tell your friends about the call on social media sites.
Contact Congress through EFF’s action center. Customize your letter to explain who you are and why you are worried about this bill. If you’re outside the United States, try this petition from Fight for the Future instead.
If you work for a tech company, approach the leadership at your company and explain to them your concerns. Urge them to join you in speaking out. These companies (PDF) already took a stand.
Write a blog post about the blacklist bills. Whether it’s a candid explanation of why you oppose the legislation, a discussion of the effect on human rights, or a call to filmmakers to protest the blacklist, there are plenty of things to say about this scary legislation. Help us get the word out by writing articles on your own blog, your school blog, or on blogs that take guest contributors.
Are you an artist? Showcase the dangers of censorship through art and music, and use your art as a way of reaching people who might otherwise not know about this issue. You can make stickers, posters or patches, create a YouTube video, or hold an open-mic night around censorship.
Coordinate a teach-in or debate at your local college or community center. Invite local experts in copyright and free speech to come discuss the issue.
If you’re in high school, talk to your civics and media studies teachers about a class discussion on the implications of this bill. Point them to our free Teaching Copyright materials.
If you’re in college, speak out through like-minded organizations working for digital freedom, such as Students for Free Culture or Electronic Frontier on Campus. If there isn’t a chapter at your school, start one. Then use that platform to coordinate with other students to speak out against this bill.
Netherlands - On Thursday and Friday last week, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Uri Rosenthal, hosted the Freedom Online Conference in the Hague. The stated purpose of this Google-sponsored event was to forge a coalition of state, corporate, and civil society members to stand for freedom of expression on the Internet, especially for activists and bloggers. Participants included European parliamentarian Marietje Schaake, Tor Project’s Director of Public Policy Karen Reilly, and European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes.
The conference may have had some degree of useful impact in bringing together activists (such as Syrian blogger Amjad Baiazy) with state leaders in demonstrating the real effects these internet policies have on real people’s lives. However, it was also disappointingly clear how much of disconnect there is between what these state leaders practice, and what they preach.
Minister Uri Rosenthal gave the opening address, calling for legislation against technology exports of mass Internet surveillance equipment and a vague promise to invest millions of euros to “help Internet activists in repressive regimes.” We're excited to see that world leaders are giving thoughtful discussion to the issue of surveillance exports and hope their stance is in accordance with the standards we published earlier this year. But as the Electronic Intifada (EI) reported, Rosenthal's support for digital freedom seemed contradictory, given his mixed record for supporting the rights of news publications that conflict with his personal political beliefs
Next on schedule was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who gave a keynote that outlined the need for the U.S. and its international allies to uphold free expression on the Internet. Among many broad enthusiastic statements about the need for free expression on the net, Clinton said:
[T]he more people that are online and contributing ideas, the more valuable the entire network becomes to all the other users. In this way, all users, through the billions of individual choices we make about what information to seek or share, fuel innovation, enliven public debates, quench a thirst for knowledge, and connect people in ways that distance and cost made impossible just a generation ago.
On condemning draft proposals introduced by nations that would allow greater global state mandate over the Internet in their individual countries, Clinton said:
…They aim to impose a system, cemented in a global code, that expands control over Internet resources, institutions and content and centralizes that control in the hands of the government...
Her acknowledgement of online censorship and oppression showcased just as limited a view as Rosenthal. While she continued to assail oppressive regimes of Syria, Iran, and China for human rights violations and stifling press freedom, she ignores the way the U.S. has and continues to take shamelessly draconian measures in trying to suppress the revelations published by WikiLeaks. In fact, Clinton’s former spokesman at the State Department, P.J. Crowley, just remarked this week that the U.S. government’s investigation into WikiLeaks undermines the United States’ ability to pressure Russia and China to allow greater press freedom.
Clinton has not yet recognized the devastation the SOPA and PIPA bills would cause to the State Department’s own Internet Freedom Initiative in the name of upholding copyright. If these bills aren’t part of a system that “expands control over Internet resources, institutions and content, and centralizes that control in the hands of the government,” who knows what is.
If she were truly as committed to statements about an open and free Internet, she would be fighting harder against the existing offensive forces in her own country trying to break the internet, instead of, as Glenn Greenwald put it, working to “self-righteously impose standards on other countries which they [themselves] routinely violate.”
Yesterday, in part one of our series, we looked at how corporations are already abusing the current copyright system as part of their business model, and how the blacklist bills would increase their ability to do so. Today, we’ll look at how the Justice Department and private companies have already been going after domain names seizures, without due process, and how the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT-IP (PIPA) will make this much easier.
Yesterday, Techdirt’s Mike Masnick reported on the shocking case of a music blog that was hijacked and censored by the U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement (ICE) and the Justice Department for over a year. In November 2010, ICE seized a number of domain names, including the popular hip-hop blog Dajaz1.com, based on allegations of copyright and trademark infringement. As was widely reported at the time, Dajaz1 should never have been targeted — indeed, many of the allegedly infringing links were given to him by artists and labels themselves, including Kanye West, Diddy, and a VP a major record label.
What followed was a year of frustration: Dajaz1 tried to follow the government’s bewildering procedure for retrieving his domain names, while the government abused the process, seeking secret extensions and declining to cooperate with Dajaz1, even minimally, to get the matter resolved (or at least heard by a court). Finally, the government dropped the case, with no apologies. As Masnick says in his piece, “This was flat out censorship for no reason, for an entire year, by the US government… Everyone should be horrified by this.”
Spanish site Rojadirecta has been subjected to a similar experience at the hands of ICE. Under accusations of copyright infringement, the agency seized both Rojadirecta.org and Rojadirecta.com, two domains of a popular sports streaming site run by a company called Puerto 80 — even though Spanish courts had already found the sites were not violating copyright. Puerto 80 then spent months attempting to resolve the issue informally, but was given the runaround by government officials. This week, after months of litigation a federal court dismissed the governments’ case against Puerto 80, but that doesn’t mean Puerto 80 gets its sites back. (Puerto 80 is seeking redress from an appellate court, with amicus support from EFF and other public interest organizations).
As outrageous as this government behavior is, these are not isolated cases. For example, one U.S. judge recently ordered hundreds of domain names seized and ordered Facebook and Google to delist them from their services. The fashion company Chanel asked a court for the seizure and after a series of unopposed hearings granted Chanel’s request in full. Ars Technica explains the less-than-scientific evidence Chanel submitted:
How were the sites investigated? For the most recent batch of names, Chanel hired a Nevada investigator to order from three of the 228 sites in question. When the orders arrived, they were reviewed by a Chanel official and declared counterfeit. The other 225 sites were seized based on a Chanel anti-counterfeiting specialist browsing the Web.
Under SOPA, this kind of slipshod takedown will be standard procedure. Not only will the Attorney General have the ability to go to a court and, without any hearing from the other side, get an order blocking websites’ domain names, he or she could also force search engines like Google to delist the websites from their index. In addition, the Attorney General — at his or her sole discretion — can prohibit advertisers, payment processors, and servers from doing any business with the websites. Essentially, the government can “disappear” the website entirely — at least for U.S. residents who haven’t taken advantage of the numerous workarounds that will undoubtedly spring up.
This can be a huge problem not just for individual websites wrongly accused, but for anyone on the web, as the ICE seizure of mooo.com shows. Remember that fiasco? The authorities thought they were seizing domains related to child pornography, but inadvertently ended up censoring an astounding 84,000 sites under the domain owned by Free DNS. The overwhelming majority of these sites, of course, had nothing to do with child pornography. The domains were restored, but it surely didn’t help the websites traffic to display a “seized by ICE” page to regular visitors. As for the myriad of constitutional and practical problems with this, we’ll let Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) speak for us:
They [ICE] don't even have the authority to do what they're doing. Their effort to essentially seize—I think illegally—these domain names lacks due process, in some cases has violated the First Amendment rights of individuals…Can you imagine as a small business person what that would do to your business, if you are completely innocent? It's a mess.
Indeed. Please help keep the Internet free and take action to help stop this bill.
But did you know that you could help direct as much as $3 million to fund EFF’s work — all without spending your own money?
Right now CREDO Mobile customers and activists are voting on how to distribute an expanding pool of donations among 40 nonprofit organizations including EFF. If you are a current CREDO long distance, mobile or credit card member, or have sent a CREDO Action alert, you are eligible to give EFF a slice of this multimillion-dollar donation pie. You have until December 31, 2011 so please vote!