Welcome to the Media Law Roundup, a survey of the week’s developing media news.
Google recently began encrypting searches made by users in China. This encryption obstructs government monitors from detecting and tracking what individual users are viewing online by making search terms appear as indecipherable strings of numbers and letters. While users in nations such as the US and UK had an option to encrypt searches since 2010, Google says it will soon encrypt all text involved in searches by default globally. Google’s move to expand encryption is part of a global growth of privacy technology, a development many cite as a consequence of Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations last year. While China and other nations can still block Google search services completely, governments will have a more difficult time filtering content for specific search terms. The effects of Google’s search encryption, however, may have a limited reach in China since the company only holds a five percent share in China’s search markets and those who use Google in China often already know ways to circumvent the Great Firewall.
United States Listed as an Enemy of the Internet
For the first time, the United States was included in Reporters Without Borders’ “Enemies of the Internet” list. The US inclusion on this list is due to the June 2013 Snowden NSA revelations which revealed the extent of surveillance practices by the US and British intelligence services. The United Kingdom also graced the list as well as countries such as Russia, Iran, India, China, Syria, North Korea, and Ethiopia.
Telecom Namibia Seeking Change in Domain Name Registrar
Telecom Namibia called for a change in how the country’s domain name registry is managed, proposing the formation of a multi-stakeholder body. According to Telecom Managing Director Frans Ndoroma, the Namibian country code top level domain should conform to global internet policies and be managed and administered in an effective, transparent and equitable manner. Currently, the .na domain name is managed and administered by the Namibian Network Information Centre (NA-NiC), and is controlled by individuals who do not represent all stakeholders and do not contribute to the development of Namibia’s ICT community.
Crackdown on WeChat
On March 13th Chinese authorizes cracked down on the popular social messaging app WeChat (Weixin), shutting down dozens of popular accounts. Some of the closed accounts were run by widely read columnists, such as Xu Daniel and Luo Changping, and had hundreds of thousands of subscribers. People who tried to click on affected accounts instead encountered a pop-up message saying that the account had been shut for violating regulations. Tencent, the Chinese company that owns WeChat, responded to reports stating that the company “was committed to combatting the transmission of pornography, rumors and violence.” The tightened control of social media platforms has been building since Lu Wei assumed the position of director of the State of Internet Information Office last year.