November 17, 2011 | By Jillian York

This Week in Internet Censorship: SOPA, UAE Bloggers on Hunger Strike, Chilean Sites Attacked

International Community Rallies Against SOPA

This week the House of Representatives opens hearings on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a bill that EFF--along with a number of prominent organizations and other actors--has opposed loudly and vigorously.

Though the bill would have grave implications on free expression for American Internet users, website owners, and intermediaries, its effects on the international community are even worse.  In light of that fact, a coalition of international civil society and human rights groups have penned a letter expressing their opposition to the bill.  The letter--whose signatories include prominent groups like French groups La Quadrature du Net and Reporters Without Borders; UK-based Index on Censorship; and global consortium the Association for Progressive Communications--states:

"...by institutionalizing the use of internet censorship tools to enforce domestic law in the United States creates a paradox that undermines its moral authority to criticize repressive regimes.  We urge the United States to uphold its proclaimed responsibility as a leader in internet freedom and reject bills that will censor or fragment the web."

UAE Blogger Begins Hunger Strike

Emirati blogger Ahmed Mansour, along with the five activists with whom he was arrested--Nasser bin Gaith, Fahid Salim Dalk, Hassan Ali Khamis and Ahmed Abdul Khaleq--started a hunger strike on Tuesday.  In a statement published by Human Rights Watch, the activists state:

The charges against us involve merely a few lines written in October 2010, using aliases, on a website that the state authorities blocked in February 2010. These lines contained words that the Public Prosecution, in April 2011, deemed a misdemeanor punishable under Articles 176 and 8 of the Penal Code, which mandates a penalty of no more than five years imprisonment for any person who publicly insults the President, a member of the Supreme Council, a Crown Prince, or the national flag or motto. As some of us have actively expressed our opinions demanding some political, economic, and cultural reforms in the country, State Security alleged six months after the publication of these lines that we were the ones who had written the lines in question using pseudonyms. As a result, we were arrested on April 8 and 9, after which we endured numerous flagrant injustices that have nearly transformed our country from an oasis of safety and stability to something like a police state. Our attorneys refuted the charges and explained in their briefs that the allegations against us were false, unfounded, and legally unsound as the elements of the crime did not exist. Moreover, the prime witness in the case used an inaccurate surveillance system that repeatedly erred, and he gave a testimony that was replete with errors, lies, confusion, and falsification. The evidences presented in the case were weak and dubious, and raises questions about the timing of the arrest and charges.

The detained activists also highlight the abuses they've endured during their seven months of detention, and call for an independent investigation of their case.  The verdict in their case is slated for November 27.

EFF reiterates our condemnation of the proceedings and demands the immediate and unconditional release of all five activists.

Chilean News Sites Suffer Cyber-Attacks

Amidst ongoing student-led protests in Chile, several Chilean news sites suffered attacks earlier this month. According to a report from Reporters Without Borders, alternative news site Sitiocero experienced an attack that resulted in the loss of the site's records since June and required the site to go offline for 24 hours.  Two other news sites suffered lesser attacks.

In light of other recent attacks, such as the minor bombing of a building that houses Chilean daily La Tercera, EFF has concerns for the safety of bloggers and online journalists in Chile. We suggest a multi-faceted approach to online safety by utilizing tools like HTTPS Everywhere and Tor.  At the same time, website owners can mitigate the effects of online attacks by mirroring their site and regularly backing up its content.


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