March 22, 2012 | By Jillian York

This Week in Censorship: New Guidelines on Iran Exports, Salvadoran Journalists Under Threat, and More

Salvadoran site threatened for reporting on organized crime

According to a report from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Salvadoran site El Faro is under threat for investigative reporting conducted in February 2011 on an organized crime network in Northeast El Salvador. The crime ring, said CPJ, involved gang leaders, prominent businessmen, and local politicians, and resulted in journalists from the news site being followed and photographed. CPJ notes that Salvadoran journalists who report on organized crime in the country often report feeling threatened.

Extrajudicial threats allow governments to maintain the appearance of openness while simultaneously cracking down on speech. EFF is concerned for the safety of El Faro's reporters and joins CPJ in demanding the Salvadoran government accountable for their well-being.

China blocks "Ferrari" from social media after fatal crash

Following a fatal car crash in Beijing involving an unidentified Ferrari driver, the Chinese government has ordered the word "Ferrari" to be censored across the country's social networks. According to the Guardian:

Before the clampdown, the sinosphere was rife with rumour that he was the son of a party official. Bo Guagua, son of the recently disgraced Bo Xilai, was named initially; then speculation turned to the illegitimate son of politburo member Jia Qinglin. China's middle classes, who earn about £10 a day, want to know how the children of party bosses can get a car worth $200,000 (£126,000).

Indian court drops lawsuit against Microsoft

Back in December, a series of criminal and civil lawsuits were filed in Delhi courts against Microsoft, Google, and 19 other companies for hosting "objectionable content" on their sites. Yesterday, it was reported that at least one of those lawsuits--against Microsoft--has been terminated by the Delhi High Court after the company argued that there was neither a complaint nor evidence against the company. Yahoo was also reportedly dropped from the case.

While this is good news, Google, Facebook, and the other companies still face lawsuits and may be ordered to filter large volumes of data posted on their social sites. EFF believes that intermediaries must not be held responsible for third-party content and urges the Indian government to consider protections for intermediaries. Not only are intermediary protections good for free expression; they're also good for business.

Obama administration offers help to Iranian citizens

As part of both its broader efforts to address Internet freedom and its efforts to connect with individual Iranian citizens, the Obama administration has issued new guidelines that would allow American companies to more easily export communications tools to Iranians. The announcement was made in a video message by President Obama on the occasion of the Iranian holiday Nowruz.

In an interview with Mashable, Greg Sullivan, the State Department’s senior advisor for strategic communications on Iran, stated that the administration's approach is about "reaching out to Iranian citizens who 'aren't part of the regime,' people who they think 'have had their voice taken away' by the Iranian government."

While EFF is glad to see efforts being made to ensure Iranians can connect, we have concerns that others--including citizens of Syria and Sudan--are not being offered similar concessions. To that end, we will continue to monitor the situation and provide suggestions on how to ensure the free flow of communications tools.


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