The Brazilian government said it is forging ahead with a plan that would require global Internet companies to store any data obtained from Brazilian users on servers inside the country. While the plan might better protect Brazilian citizens from US spying it could have significant implications for how global Internet companies are able to operate in the future in Brazil and elsewhere.
Recently released documents obtained by Edward Snowden reveal that the NSA has tapped into the main communication links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers all over the world.
A hacktivist going by the name “The Messiah” defaced a number of websites in Singapore to protest proposed Internet licensing rules that critics have called back door state censorship. In one instance, the hacktivist, who claims to be part of Anonymous, targetedThe Straits Times website writing, “Dear ST: You just got hacked for misleading the people!” Other critics of the proposed rules include Google, Facebook, eBay, Salesforce, and Yahoo.
A major reform bill was introduced, designed to rein in the NSA’s spying powers. While the bill boasts bipartisan support, critics were quick to argue that the “reform” bill does little more than preserve the status quo. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged that there have been cases where US efforts to gather information have “reached too far inappropriately.”
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Tougher Internet filtering policies are being applied throughout Southeast Asia. Singapore’s government initiated new rules requiring online news websites to apply for individual licenses and put up a $50,000 bond. The move met with strong response from 150 websites that blacked out their homepages to protest in May, and from 2,000 demonstrators who took to streets in protest. Vietnam has been putting activists and dissidents in jail on specious charges. The country has detained forty-six bloggers and democracy activists so far this year – more than during the whole of 2012—amid erupting strikes and social unrest stirred by inflation, land-rights abuses, and corruption. Thailand has also clamped down on the Internet, strengthening Internet censorship: 20,978 URLs were blocked last year, compared to just 5,078 in 2011.
The Gambia House of Representatives has enacted a new law banning criticism and derogatory content towards government officials on the Internet. The Information and Communication Bill 2013 puts stringent punishments in place for those who violate the law: up to 15 years in prison, a fine of up to three million Dalasi (about 100,000 US dollars), or both. The law targets any person found to be spreading false news or derogatory statements against the government or any public officials. The bill seeks to provide deterrent punishment of people who are engaged in campaigns against the government both in and out of the country, according to Nana Grey-Johnson, the Gambia’s Minister of Information, Communication and Information Infrastructure. Human rights groups say the new law takes the restriction of freedom of expression in the Gambia to “a shocking new level”.
Russia has been pushing new legislation that allows copyright holders to ask courts to block access to allegedly pirated content as well as hyperlinks to such content. The anti-piracy law has stirred much controversy, for it may cause Wikipedia to be blocked in the country, since Wikipedia has millions of hyperlinks to content that may or may not be authorized. If the legislation comes into force on August 1, Russian Internet users may be denied access to the whole service of Wikipedia. Wikipedia blacked out its Russian-language website in protest of the proposed law.
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The Straits Times reported that more than 150 websites and blogs in Singapore went black yesterday to protest a new government-imposed licensing requirement that, “casts a chill over the city-state’s robust and free-wheeling online communities,” said Cynthia Wong, Human Rights Watch’s senior Internet researcher, in a statement.
Beginning June 1, the Media Development Authority requires websites that “report regularly on issues relating to Singapore” and attract more than 50,000 unique monthly visitors in Singapore obtain a license and put up an approximately USD$40,000 bond. If the MDA finds “prohibited content,” including that which “undermines racial or religious harmony,” the sites must remove it within 24 hours.
The MDA identified ten mainstream media outlets that must apply for the license, including Yahoo! Singapore, which calls the requirement unsettling. The government said the measure provides consistency with existing media regulations. Siew Kum Hong, a former presidentially appointed member of Parliament, disagreed with the assertion that the law creates parity with traditional forms of media, mentioning that newspapers found to publish prohibited content do not have to collect unsold copies within 24 hours.