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<nettime> RWB/RSF: Enemies of the Internet 2014
nettime's avid reader on Fri, 21 Mar 2014 06:18:04 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> RWB/RSF: Enemies of the Internet 2014


< http://12mars.rsf.org/2014-en/enemies-of-the-internet-2014-entities-at-the-heart-of-censorship-and-surveillance/ >

Enemies of the Internet 2014: entities at the heart of censorship and
surveillance

   Natalia Radzina of Charter97, a Belarusian news website whose criticism
   of the government is often censored, was attending an
   [18]OSCE-organized conference in Vienna on the Internet and media
   freedom in February 2013 when she ran into someone she would rather not
   have seen: a member of the Operations and Analysis Centre, a Belarusian
   government unit that coordinates Internet surveillance and censorship.
   It is entities like this, little known but often at the heart of
   surveillance and censorship systems in many countries, that Reporters
   Without Borders is spotlighting in this year's Enemies of the Internet
   report, which it is releasing, as usual, on World Day Against
   Cyber-Censorship (12 March).

   Identifying government units or agencies rather than entire governments
   as Enemies of the Internet allows us to draw attention to the
   schizophrenic attitude towards online freedoms that prevails in in some
   countries. Three of the government bodies designated by Reporters
   Without Borders as Enemies of the Internet are located in democracies
   that have traditionally claimed to respect fundamental freedoms: the
   Centre for Development of Telematics in India, the Government
   Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in the United Kingdom, and the
   National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States.

   The NSA and GCHQ have spied on the communications of millions of
   citizens including many journalists. They have knowingly introduced
   security flaws into devices and software used to transmit requests on
   the Internet. And they have hacked into the very heart of the Internet
   using programmes such as the NSA's Quantam Insert and GCHQ's Tempora.
   The Internet was a collective resource that the NSA and GCHQ turned
   into a weapon in the service of special interests, in the process
   flouting freedom of information, freedom of expression and the right to
   privacy.

   The mass surveillance methods employed in these three countries, many
   of them exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, are all the more
   intolerable because they will be used and indeed are already being used
   by authoritarians countries such as Iran, China, Turkmenistan, Saudi
   Arabia and Bahrain to justify their own violations of freedom of
   information. How will so-called democratic countries will able to press
   for the protection of journalists if they adopt the very practices they
   are criticizing authoritarian regimes for?

Private sector and inter-governmental cooperation

   The 2014 list of Enemies of the Internet includes "surveillance
   dealerships" - the three arms trade fairs known as [19]ISS World,
   Technology Against Crime and Milipol. These forums bring companies
   specializing in communications interception or online content blocking
   together with government officials from countries such as Iran, China
   and Bahrain. Here again, the contradictory behaviour of western
   democracies should be noted. France hosted two of these forums in 2013
   - TAC and Milipol. At the same time, it issued a [20]notice in December
   2013 requiring French companies that export surveillance products
   outside the Europe Union to obtain permission from the General
   Directorate for Competition, Industry and Services (DGCIS).

   The censorship and surveillance carried out by the Enemies of the
   Internet would not be possible without the tools developed by the
   private sector companies to be found at these trade fairs. Ethiopia's
   Information Network Security Agency has tracked down journalists in the
   United States thanks to spyware provided by [21]Hacking Team, an
   Italian company that Reporters Without Borders designated as an Enemy
   of the Internet in 2013. Even the [22]NSA has used the services of
   Vupen, a French company that specializes in identifying and exploiting
   security flaws.

   Private-sector companies are not the only suppliers of surveillance
   technology to governments that are Enemies of the Internet. Russia has
   exported its SORM surveillance system to its close neighbours. In
   Belarus, Decree No. 60 on "measures for improving use of the national
   Internet network" forces Internet Service Providers to install SORM.

   China has begun assisting Iran's uphill efforts to create a Halal
   Internet - a national Internet that would be disconnected from the
   World Wide Web and under the government's complete control. An expert
   in information control ever since building its Electronic Great Wall,
   China is advising Iran's Revolutionary Guards, the Supreme Council for
   Cyberspace and the Working Group for Identifying Criminal Content.
   Deputy information minister Nasrolah Jahangiri announced this during a
   recent visit by a delegation from China's State Council Information
   Office.

   China's pedagogic zeal has not stopped there. The Zambian Watchdog
   website reported in February 2013 that the [23]Zambian government is
   working with China to install an Internet surveillance network. [24]The
   blocking of the Zambian Watchdog and Zambia Reports websites in June
   and July 2013 showed that Zambia wants to be able control online
   information. China is also represented in Uzbekistan by ZTE, a Chinese
   company that opened an office there in 2003 and has since become the
   country's main supplier of modems and routers.

National security as pretext

   The NSA and GCHQ, Ethiopia's Information Network Security Agency, Saudi
   Arabia's Internet Services Unit, Belarus' Operations and Analysis
   Centre, Russia's FSB and Sudan's National Intelligence and Security
   Service are all security agencies that have gone far beyond their core
   duties by censoring or spying on journalists and other information
   providers

   The tendency to use national security needs as grounds for riding
   roughshod over fundamental freedoms can be found in other agencies
   named in this report. In Colombia, a digital surveillance unit that was
   almost certainly run by the Colombian [25]government intercepted more
   than 2,600 emails between international journalists and spokesmen of
   the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombian (FARC) during recent peace
   talks between the FARC and Colombian government representatives.

   Ignoring [26]the objections of many human rights groups, France's
   parliament cavalierly adopted a [27]Military Programming Law in
   December 2013 that allows the authorities to spy on phone and Internet
   communications in real time without asking a judge for permission. The
   grounds given are vague and general, ranging from the need for
   "intelligence affecting national security" and "safeguarding the
   essential elements of France's economic potential" to "preventing
   terrorism, criminality and organized crime."

   In Tunisia, the government gazette announced the creation of a
   Technical Agency for Telecommunications (ATT) on 12 November 2013 for
   the purpose of monitoring communications in order to assist judicial
   investigations into "information and communication crimes." Its sudden
   creation by decree without any consultation with civil society
   triggered immediate concern, as it revived memories of the Tunisian
   Internet Agency (ATI), the symbol of online censorship under ousted
   President Zine el-Abine Ben Ali. The lack of any safeguards and
   mechanism for controlling its activities is particularly alarming.

Dangerous monopoly of infrastructure

   In countries such as Turkmenistan, Syria, Vietnam and Bahrain, the
   government's control of Internet infrastructure facilitates control of
   online information. In Syria and Iran, Internet speed is often reduced
   drastically during demonstrations to prevent the circulation of images
   of the protests.

   More radical measures are sometimes used. In November 2012, the Syrian
   authorities cut the Internet and phone networks for more than 48 hours.
   In China, the authorities disconnected the Internet for several hours
   on 22 January 2014 to stop the circulation of [28]reports about the use
   of offshore tax havens by members of the Chinese elite. In Sudan, the
   authorities disconnected the Internet throughout the country for [29]24
   hours on 25 September 2013 to prevent social networks being used to
   organize protests.

Censors enlist Internet Service Providers

   Internet Service Providers, website hosting companies and other
   technical intermediaries find themselves being asked with increasing
   frequency to act as Internet cops.

   Some cases border on the ridiculous. In Somalia, for example, [30]the
   Islamist militia Al-Shabaab banned using the Internet in January 2014.
   As it did not have the required skills or technical ability to
   disconnect the Internet, it ordered ISPs to terminate their services
   within 15 days. Ironically, to ensure that the public knew of the ban,
   it was posted on websites sympathetic to Al-Shabaab.

   More insidiously, gender equality and anti-prostitution laws in France
   have increased the burden of responsibility on technical intermediaries
   for blocking content after being notified of it. [31]Article 17 of the
   law on gender equality requires ISPs and hosting companies to identify
   and report any content inciting or causing hatred that is sexist,
   homophobic or anti-disability in nature.

   In Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro has forced ISPs to filter
   content of a sensitive nature. The authorities ordered them to
   [32]block about 50 websites covering exchange rates and soaring
   inflation on the grounds that they were fuelling an "economic war"
   against Venezuela. This did not prevent a wave of protests against
   shortages and the high crime rate. On 24 February, when many photos of
   the protests were circulating on Twitter, the authorities ordered ISPs
   to [33]block all images on Twitter.

   In Turkey, [34]the latest amendments to Law 5651 on the Internet, voted
   on 5 February 2014, turn ISPs into instruments of censorship and
   surveillance, forcing them to join a new organization that centralizes
   requests for content blocking or removal. If they do not join and
   install the surveillance tools demanded by the authorities, they will
   lose their licence. Law 5651 also requires ISPs and other technical
   intermediaries to keep user connection data for one to two years and be
   ready to surrender them to the authorities on demand. The law does not
   specify what kinds of data must be surrendered, in what form or what
   use will be made of them. Experts think the required data will be the
   history of sites and social networks visited, searches carried out, IP
   addresses and possibly email subjects.

Draconian legislation

   Legislation is often the main tool for gagging online information.
   Vietnam already has penal code articles 79 and 88 on "crimes infringing
   upon national security" and "propaganda against the Socialist Republic
   of Vietnam" but the information and communications ministry decided to
   go one step further with [35]Decree 72. In effect since September 2013,
   this decree restricts the use of blogs and social networks to the
   "dissemination" or "sharing" of "personal" information, effectively
   banning the sharing of news-related or general interest content.

   In Gambia, the government gave itself a [36]new legislative weapon in
   July 2013 by getting the national assembly to pass amendments to the
   Information and Communications Act - the main law limiting freedom of
   information. The amendments make the "spreading of false news against
   the government or public officials" punishable by up to 15 years in
   prison or a fine of 3 million dalasis (64,000 euros).

   In Bangladesh, four bloggers and the secretary of the human rights NGO
   Odhika were arrested in 2013 under the [37]2006 Information and
   Communication Technology Act, which was rendered even more draconian by
   amendments adopted in August. Its definition of digital crimes is
   extremely broad and vague, and includes "publishing fake, obscene or
   defaming information in electronic form."

   The Electronic Crimes Act that Grenada adopted in 2013 prohibits use of
   "an electronic system or an electronic device" to send "information
   that is grossly offensive or has a menacing character." Here again,
   vaguely-worded legislation is posing a real threat to freedom of
   information.

Permission to publish

   The creation of a licencing system for news websites serves as an
   administrative and sometimes economic barrier and is a widely-used
   method for controlling online information.

   In Singapore, [38]the authorities have created a major economic barrier
   for online news media. Under a measure that took effect in June 2013,
   news websites that post more than one article a week about Singapore
   and have more than 50,000 Singaporean visitors a month need a licence
   that requires depositing "a performance bond" of 50,000 Singaporean
   dollars (39,500 US dollars). The licence has to be renewed every year.

   Since 2007, news websites in Uzbekistan have had to register with the
   authorities just as radio, TV and print media already did. The
   registration procedure is arbitrary and accreditation depends on an
   inspection of content. In Saudi Arabia, [39]the websites of traditional
   media have had to obtain a licence from the information and culture
   ministry since 2001. The licence has to be renewed every three years.

   This overview of censorship and surveillance is far from exhaustive.
   During the coming months, we will probably learn about more
   surveillance practices from Edward Snowden's files, which Glenn
   Greenwald and other journalists have been serializing since June 2013.
   The latest and perhaps most outrageous practice to come to light so far
   is [40]GCHQ's "Optic Nerve" programme, used to capture the personal
   images of millions of Yahoo webcam users. It suggests that there are no
   limits to what the intelligence agencies are ready to do.

   What forms of response are possible in order to preserve online freedom
   of information? We think it is essential to:

     * Press international bodies to reinforce the legislative framework
       regulating Internet surveillance, data protection and the export of
       surveillance devices and software. Read Reporters Without Borders'
       recommendations.

     * Train journalists, bloggers and other information providers in how
       to protect their data and communications. Reporters Without Borders
       has been doing this in the field for several years. It has
       organized workshops in many countries including France,
       Switzerland, Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

     * Continue to provide information about surveillance and censorship
       practices. That is the purpose of this report.

References

 <...>
  18. http://www.osce.org/event/internet2013
  19. http://12mars.rsf.org/2014-en/2014/03/07/arms-trade-fai%E2%80%A6ce-dealerships/
  20. http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000028275273
  21. http://surveillance.rsf.org/en/hacking-team/
  22. http://rt.com/usa/nsa-vupen-exploit-hack-978/
  23. https://www.zambianwatchdog.com/?p=51552
  24. https://www.wefightcensorship.org/censored/zambia-offensive-against-independent-news-websiteshtml.html
  25. http://en.rsf.org/colombie-spying-on-journalists-compromises-19-02-2014,45904.html
  26. http://fr.rsf.org/france-lpm-rsf-la-fidh-la-ldh-et-la-13-12-2013,45623.html
  27. http://en.rsf.org/alarm-over-massive-spying-12-12-2013,45606.html
  28. https://www.wefightcensorship.org/censored/china-censors-media-reports-about-elites-offshore-accountshtml.html
  29. http://en.rsf.org/sudan-all-out-censorship-in-response-to-30-09-2013,45248.html
  30. http://en.rsf.org/somalia-al-shabaab-bans-internet-in-areas-09-01-2014,45717.html
  31. http://www.pcinpact.com/news/85607-lassemblee-nationale-adopte-projet-loi-sur-egalite-femmes-hommes.htm
  32. https://www.wefightcensorship.org/censored/online-censorship-ban-reporting-parallel-exchange-rateshtml.html
  33. http://en.rsf.org/venezuela-government-restricts-coverage-of-18-02-2014,45885.html
  34. http://en.rsf.org/turkey-parliament-urged-to-rejected-18-01-2014,45745.html
  35. http://en.rsf.org/vietnam-government-wants-to-ban-internet-02-08-2013,45008.html
  36. http://en.rsf.org/gambia-internet-users-targeted-by-changes-05-07-2013,44899.html
  37. http://en.rsf.org/bangladesh-concern-about-reinforced-online-27-09-2013,45250.html
  38. http://en.rsf.org/singapore-government-subjects-news-websites-30-05-2013,44689.html
  39. http://en.rsf.org/saudi-arabia-repressive-regulations-target-08-01-2011,39243.html
  40. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/27/gchq-nsa-webcam-images-internet-yahoo
 <...> 

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