Netizen Report: Free Speech Under Fire in Catalonia’s Push for Independence

Global Voices Advocacy’s Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. The story of Catalonia’s push for independence has been one of judicial threatspolice violencedigital censorship, and intimidation of journalists both online and off. Although it was technically prohibited by Spain’s Constitutional Court, Catalonia’s regional government organized a referendum, offering its citizens the choice to vote for or against Catalonia becoming an independent state. Forty-three percent of the electorate participated in the vote, which was marred by irregularities including the same people voting twice. A total of 90% favored secession. Weeks before the vote took place, the official website for the referendum — which explained the implications of the referendum and its origins, and also gave citizens practical information about when, where and how to vote — was taken offline by a domain name
Image courtesy Roosevelt Skerrit (public domain)
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Netizen Report: Germany’s New Social Media Law Puts a Price on Hate Speech

Global Voices Advocacy’s Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in internet rights around the world. A new German law set to take effect in October will impose fines on social networks if they fail to remove “manifestly unlawful” hate speech within 24 hours of being posted. Under the Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz, called the NetzDG for short, companies have up to seven days to consider the removal of more ambiguous material. Germany’s criminal code already defines hate speech, so the law does not create new measures or definitions. Instead, it forces companies to police hate speech or face astronomical fines. The law is unprecedented at the global level, and could have game-changing ripple effects worldwide. The final draft of the law sets clear punishments for companies that fail to comply and places the burden of determining what messages, images or videos count as hate speech on companies themselves.
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Netizen Report: Online Supporters of Myanmar’s Rohingya Face Censorship, Legal Threats

Global Voices Advocacy’s Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. Violence in northwest Myanmar has dominated headlines in recent weeks. More than 100,000 people from the ethnic minority Rohingya group have been displaced from their homes due to clearing operations of the Myanmar military, in response to attacks by a pro-Rohingya insurgent group. Tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees, who are mostly Muslim, are crossing into Bangladesh to escape the fighting. There is plenty of coverage of the situation by various media, ranging from mainstream wire services to independent Rohingya-run outlets like Rohingya Blogger. But it is still difficult to obtain accurate information about the conflict, as journalists both from the region and from abroad have been struggling to gain access to the conflict areas, and local media have a history of being punished for — and barred from
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Netizen Report: Togo Government Shuts Down Internet and SMS as Protests Escalate

Global Voices Advocacy’s Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. Internet and mobile SMS fell into a total blackout in the West African nation of Togo on the morning of September 7. Anti-government protests have been surging in the capital Lomé, with opposition leaders now demanding that President Faure Gnassingbé step down. On September 5, users began reporting that mobile internet connections were spotty and that social media sites like Facebook were inaccessible altogether. By the morning of September 7, the same researchers told Global Voices that all internet networks (mobile and fixed connections) were down, and that all mobile SMS and mobile money transactions were being blocked. Network testing firm Dyn and West African digital rights group Internet Without Borders, which has members in Togo, verified these reports through technical tests.

Netizen Report: Vietnam Targets ‘Illegal Cyber Information’ — and Political Speech

Global Voices Advocacy’s Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in internet rights around the world. Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang called for tougher controls on the internet, charging that “hostile” entities online had “undermined the prestige of the leaders of the party and the state, [bringing about] a negative impact on cadres, party members and people.” Quang, who is a former minister of public security, also vowed to increase online surveillance in the name of protecting national security. His comments come on the heels of a public consultation on Vietnam’s new draft Law on Cybersecurity, which was written by — and gives broad powers to — the Ministry of Public Security. The draft includes special provisions around “illegal cyber information” that “incites any mass gatherings that disturb security and order, and anti-government activities in cyberspace.” The law also sets new standards for “critical
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Netizen Report: U.S. Tech Company Bans White Supremacist Group for Being ‘Assholes’

Global Voices Advocacy’s Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. Several U.S. technology companies have banned hate groups from their services following an August 12 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. that turned deadly. The domain hosting service GoDaddy announced it would no longer provide hosting to the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer after the site disparaged Heather Heyer, an anti-racism counter demonstrator who was killed by a man who drove his car into a crowd of protesters. Google followed suit after the website attempted to register with its service, saying that the Daily Stormer violated their terms of service. Website security firm CloudFlare discontinued its security support for the website soon thereafter, despite its historically absolutist approach to free speech online. The Daily Stormer has now moved to the so-called “dark web,” which is accessible mainly
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Netizen Report: Tech Community Mourns Open Source Activist Executed in Syria

Global Voices Advocacy’s Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. This week, open technology and knowledge advocates around the world mourned the execution of Bassel Khartabil, an open web advocate and close friend of many in the Global Voices community. Bassel was reportedly sentenced to death in November 2015, at which point his whereabouts and condition became unknown. His wife Noura Ghazi learned this week that he was executed in 2015. Khartabil spearheaded the open source technology movement in Syria, as an avid contributor to global projects like Creative Commons and Wikipedia, and as co-founder of the country’s first open technology lab in Damascus. To honor his country’s historic past, he worked with technologists and architects to virtually reconstruct the ancient city of Palmyra, in hopes of reviving its historical notoriety. Like so many other peaceful technology developers and
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