About Rebekah Heacock Jones

Rebekah Heacock Jones is a Senior Project Manager at the Berkman Center, where she focuses on Internet health, Internet governance, and access to information.

#IMWeekly: October 7, 2013

Iran
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani chatted about Internet censorship with Twitter founder Jack Dorsey last week. The medium for their conversation? Twitter itself, which is blocked in Iran. Dorsey launched the conversation by asking Rouhani if Iranian citizens were able to read his tweets. Rouhani responded by claiming that he intends to “ensure my ppl’ll comfortably b able 2 access all info globally as is their #right,” potentially signaling a move toward greater Internet freedom in the country.

Russia
According to documents collected by Russian journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan, Russia plans to monitor both the phone and Internet communications of Olympic competitors and spectators in February.

Vietnam
Dissident blogger Le Quoc Quan was sentenced to 30 months in prison and a $59,000 fine last Wednesday. Quan was arrested last December after criticizing the role of the Communist Party in Vietnam’s leadership; he was charged with tax evasion.

#imweekly is a regular round-up of news about Internet content controls and activity around the world. To subscribe via RSS, click here.

#IMWeekly: September 30, 2013

China
China recently enacted a new policy that allows Chinese Internet users to be charged with defamation (and sentenced to up to 3 years in jail) if they post a rumor online that is reposted more than 500 times or visited more than 5000 times. Earlier this month, a 16-year-old boy was detained under the policy for criticizing local police on Weibo.

Sudan
Internet connectivity in Sudan dropped to almost nil last week, the result of a suspected government Web shut down in the face of anti-regime protests sparked by the ending of fuel subsidies. In the absence of Internet access, a group in Khartoum has launched a cell phone-based map of crowdsourced data about the protests.

United States
News broke last Friday that the NSA has been documenting American citizen’s social media connections since 2010. According to the New York Times, the data that has been collected “can identify [Americans’] associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information.”

#imweekly is a regular round-up of news about Internet content controls and activity around the world. To subscribe via RSS, click here.

#IMWeekly: September 23, 2013

Bangladesh
Late last month, Bangladesh’s Ministry of Law approved several amendments to the country’s ICT Act that, among other changes, make posting “fake and obscene” material online illegal. Human rights activists, worried that the amendments will lead to an increase in politically motivated arrests of bloggers and others (earlier this year, the government established a special committee to identify Internet users deemed to be “anti-Muslim”), are urging Parliament not to approve new version of the Act.

Brazil
Brazil is considering requiring Internet companies to host data collected locally on servers located in Brazil. The proposed amendment to the country’s draft Marco Civil bill is widely seen as part of a backlash against PRISM and other US surveillance programs. The amendment is intended to protect the privacy of Brazilian Internet users, but some experts are worried that, because Brazil currently lacks specific data protection laws, a new local data storage policy may actually put privacy at risk.

India
The Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India, is blaming social media for instigating religious riots in the town of Muzaffarnagar earlier this month. The riots, in which at least 50 were killed and tens of thousands displaced from their homes, were sparked by the murder of three young men involved in a dispute about the harassment of a young woman. They escalated quickly, allegedly inflamed by local politicians intent on manipulating religious tensions for their own gain. Last week, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister stated at a press conference that social media was used to spread misinformation and hate speech and called for censorship to prevent further bloodshed.

#imweekly is a regular round-up of news about Internet content controls and activity around the world. To subscribe via RSS, click here.

Iran Accidentally Allows Access to Facebook, Twitter for 24 Hours

On Monday, Internet users in Iran noticed that they could access Facebook and Twitter—the first time the social media sites have been viewable in the country since 2009. Despite the block, Iranians can normally access the sites using a VPN, but Twitter and Facebook users reported that the sites were suddenly freely accessible.

On Tuesday, this access disappeared.

Abdolsamad Khoramabadi, who leads Iran’s filtering and monitoring committee, blamed the sites’ temporary accessibility on “technical problems”—in other words, it was an accident. Some are claiming that the unblocking was a test to see how citizens would respond, perhaps as the beginning of a greater easing of Internet restrictions in Iran, but Khoramabadi has declared that his office is conducting an investigation to determine who is responsible for the glitch, suggesting that it wasn’t entirely government-sanctioned.

For now, Iranians are back to using VPNs—many of which have been targeted by censorship officials—to post tweets and status updates.

#IMWeekly: September 16, 2013

China
Chinese Internet users, worried about the implications of the country’s new anti-online rumor policy, are scrambling to “un-verify” their Weibo accounts. The new policy, part of a judicial decision made earlier this month, allows Chinese Internet users to be charged with defamation (and sentenced to up to 3 years in jail) if they post a rumor online that is reposted more than 500 times or visited more than 5000 times. Weibo users with verified accounts—which indicate that the user, generally a celebrity, is who he or she claims to be—are asking the microblogging site to remove their verified status in the hopes that this might prevent them from being as easily identified (and potentially charged with defamation) online.

Germany
More than 20,000 people gathered in Berlin earlier this month to protest against surveillance. Protestors at Freiheit Statt Angst (Freedom Not Fear), organized by a coalition of human rights organizations, political parties, and NGOs, spoke out against the effects of surveillance on press freedom and human rights, among other issues.

Vietnam
Activist Ngo Hao has been sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of publishing false and defaming information about government officials online and of trying to overthrow the government. Hao is one of at least 35 bloggers and cyberdissidents currently detained in Vietnam.

#imweekly is a regular round-up of news about Internet content controls and activity around the world. To subscribe via RSS, click here.