Welcome to the Media Law Roundup, a survey of the week’s developing media news.
On the week of April 6th, news broke about the Heartbleed bug—a bug existing in a piece of open source software call OpenSSL (Secure Sockets Layer), which is designed to encrypt communications between a user’s computer and a web server. As about 66% of all websites use SSL, it is one of the most widely used encryption tools on the internet. Half a million sites are thought to be affected by this bug. According to security expert Bruce Schneier, this security flaw, “allows anyone to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software,” compromising “the secret keys used to identify the service providers and to encrypt traffic, the name and passwords of the users and the actual content.” While some experts state that it would be prudent to change passwords, many large technology firms have patched the vulnerability. On Tuesday April 15th, 19-year-old Canadian Stephen Arthuro Solis-Reyes became the first person arrested for theft of information related to the Hearbleed bug. Solis-Reyes is accused of hacking into the Canadian Revenue Agency’s website and stealing 900 social security numbers. More information about the bug can be found on the website Heartbleed.com.
The European Court of Justice, the EU’s top court, has declared the EU Data Retention Directive invalid. The law was adopted in 2006 and required telecoms firms to store citizens’ communication data for up to two years. The court ruling, which was prompted by Austrian and Irish complaints, stated that the law violated two basic rights: the respect for private life and the protection of personal data. While judges did acknowledge that data retention was justified in the fight against serious crime and to safeguard security, they argued that the law was disproportionate. The EU is currently drafting a new data protection law.
Wikileaks released the penultimate “Outcome Document” draft for NETmundial on April 8th. NETmundial is a multistakeholder conference that aims to set a roadmap for internet governance. It will be hosted in São Paulo, Brazil from April 23rd to 24th. The “NETmundial Executive Stakeholder Committee (EMC) Outcome Document” was prepared by the EMC from the 180 NETmundial submissions and was submitted to the High Level Multistakeholder committee (HLMC) for final comment. A final version of the document, incorporating the HLMC’s inputs, was released for public comments on NETmundial’s website. The public consultation will be open from April 14th until April 21st 12:00 UTC.
On April 8th Swiss authorities and the DiploFoundation launch the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) which seeks to engage digital actors, foster digital governance, and monitor digital policies. The GIP hopes to provide a forum where all internet governance stakeholders can promote their activities and engage in discussions. While the GIP will serve as a neutral and impartial space of discussion, the platform will also act as a capacity-building space and provide onsite and online training. One of the first initiatives launched by the GIP is “just-in-time” training and assistance for diplomats, an initiative that seeks to prepare diplomats on internet policy issues. Though officially launched on April 8th, the GIP has already been active providing the first “just-in-time” training for twenty diplomats in preparation for the upcoming NETmundial meeting in Brazil at the end of April. The GIP initiative additionally seeks to affirm Geneva as the world center for internet governance issues as fifty percent of organizations working in internet governances fields are based in Geneva.
As of March 31st, India exceeded 100 million users on Facebook and is inching to overtake the US as Facebook’s biggest market in terms of active users. Internet use and mobile phone subscription in India is growing, with about 200 million of the country’s 1.23 billion population currently connected. Of the over 100 million Facebook users in India, about 84 million access the platform on their mobile phones. While Facebook is aggressively pushing to increase revenue per user in markets outside the US, currently these markets are not necessarily top revenue sources.
Despite two separate courts orders to lift the March 27th ban on YouTube, according to a statement by Turkey’s Information and Communications Technologies Authority (BTK), the ban will remain, as illegal content is still available on the platform. YouTube was originally blocked after leaked recordings of a high level security meeting about possible interventions in Syria surfaced on the platform. On April 4th, a court in Ankara lifted the ban stating that a blanket ban violated human rights, though 15 videos on the site could be restricted. This court later reversed its decision, stating that the block would remain until the audio recordings were removed. After this reversal, YouTube appealed to Turkey’s Constitutional Court to lift the ban. On April 7th a higher court in Ankara declared the blocking of YouTube as illegal. While Twitter was also blocked in Turkey in late March, the Turkish government complied with an April 3rd court ruling that lifted the ban.
The University of the West Indies (UWI) will host a forum focusing on internet governance issues from the Caribbean perspective on May 1st. The goal of the conference is to strengthen the Caribbean presence in international fora where the future of the internet and its governance is being determined. The forum is sponsored by the Trinidad and Tobago Section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEETT), the Trinidad and Tobago chapter of the Internet Society (ISOCTT) and the Trinidad and Tobago Network Information Centre (TTNIC).