Media Law Roundup October 2, 2015

Welcome to the Media Law Roundup, a survey of this week’s latest in global media news.

Nepal Blocks Indian TV Channels in Developing Border Crisis

This week, Nepali cable TV operators blocked 42 Indian channels  in what Nepali operators are calling an “indefinite” blackout. This is the most recent retaliation in an ongoing dispute between Nepal and India. The move comes after a former Maoist splinter party started a campaign against Indian movies and TV channels in Nepal, BBC reports. The disruption between the two countries originated with the passing of Nepal’s new constitution on September 20, 2015, a move heavily criticized in India. Since the legislation passed, India has made efforts to block supplies from coming into landlocked Nepal territory.  In an effort to leverage power, Nepal has fought back, holding protests in Madhes and the Kathmandu Valley. Sudhir Parajuli, president of the Federation of Nepal Cable Television, told BBC in a statement that Nepal is blocking Indian channels because “India has been intruding [on] the national sovereignty of Nepal.” According to the BBC, Indian TV channels are very popular in the Kathmandu Valley and beyond. This media restriction is only the latest in a series of national efforts by both countries to stifle one another, resulting in violence across both borders.

650,000 Chinese Smartphones Unknowingly Involved in Massive Cyberattack

On Monday, September 28, more than 650,000 Chinese smartphones were used to execute a large-scale web attack on an unnamed target website. On the day of the attack, the target website received approximately 4.5 billion requests for data. Chinese phone owners involved in the attack were unaware their phones were being used for this purpose. It is speculated that cellphone users were exposed to a malicious Javascript through advertisements. The advertisements themselves appeared on a number of popular apps in China, but why the ads received so much attention from users is still unknown. Cloudflare security analyst Marek Majkowski believes that “the attack had worked because its creators had joined one of the networks that piped advertisements to people as they browsed the web.” Majkowski also warns that attacks of this type present a great danger to the internet. Defending against this type of malicious code is difficult for small website operators.

Chinese Tech Leaders Unsatisfied with Internet Forum Results

Following last week’s U.S.-China Internet Industry Forum, held in Seattle, WA, President Xi Jinping left for Washington to discuss with President Obama strategies for reducing the number of cyberattacks between the two countries’ economies. Results of the meeting left internet analysts with cautious optimism that the two countries can work out international standards for internet conduct, according to the New York Times. On September 29, however, Hao Yeli, former deputy head of the Fourth Department of the People’s Liberation Army General Staff, pushed for the U.S. to double the online surveillance standards outlined in the Presidents’ meeting. Hao claims that “the uncertainty behind the origin of digital attacks makes it difficult to apply traditional rules of engagement to the internet.” Later in her statement, Hao pushed for the two countries to stop ‘demonizing’ each other and instead start a broader dialogue about new rules of engagement for online attacks. These suggestions follow not only the recent U.S.-China forum, but more broadly the history of cyber-espionage between the two countries.

International Partnership Mounts Open Data Revolution

This week, the 2015 Sustainable Development Summit, held in New York, gathered UN agencies, ministers, business leaders, and research groups to launch a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs). Among the issues addressed were the huge gaps in availability and collection of data, particularly those which depict death and birth rates in many African countries. According to the contributing UN member states, these gaps make it difficult for governments to accurately monitor progress on crisis alleviation in cases such as poverty or maternal mortality rates. “When two-thirds of deaths and causes aren’t registered, we have a crisis,” says Jamie Drummund, co-founder of advocacy group One. John Pullinger, chairman of the UN statistical commission, has pushed for not only a new system and protocol to collect data, but for the openness and accessibility of the figures. The 2015 summit was not the first time the issue has been called to the attention of international leaders. Last year, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon proposed a global partnership to ensure more coordinated data collection and mobilization of resources, according to the Guardian. “There’s been an addiction to bad data,” says Drummond, “and it ends now.”

Pheu Thai Party Opposes Single Gateway Bid

This week, officials from Thailand’s Pheu Thai Party expressed public opposition to the government’s proposal to establish a single internet gateway in Thailand. Former Pheu Thai minister of information and communication technology Anudith Nakornthap says a single conduit would adversely affect online services and activity in the country. Other concerns for the proposed plan include sluggish online services; the power of one glitch to affect every user; and curtailing freedom of expression and user privacy. According to ZD Net, the Thai government has downplayed possible negative effects of the gateway and stated that “the proposal is still undergoing review.” Government officials have unanimously rejected insinuations that the proposal is meant to control information, framing it instead as a way to reduce costs of increasing internet traffic. The Committee to Protect Journalists has accused the Thai government of using the proposal to curb online dissent and creating a “danger to online freedoms.” Other national news outlets have also expressed disdain towards the proposal, including online newspaper The Nation, which gave the plan a ‘thumbs down.’ The country currently has nine gateways operated by state enterprises and private companies.

Australia Launches Rural broadband Satellite

This week, a 780-ton rocket carrying communications hardware worth $500 million was successfully launched from French Guiana. The satellite is designed to provide high-speed internet services to 200,000 Australians living in rural areas, the BBC reports. The satellite, known as Sky Muster, is meant to deliver broadband access to Australians living in rural and remote areas. Currently, Australia and its surrounding islands make up only 0.8% of the world’s internet users. There is a great disparity in reliable internet access between users in urban Australian regions and those in remote islands and rural regions, such as Macquarie and Cocos Islands. National Broadband Network (NBN) spokesperson Frances Kearey said in a statement that “the NBN satellite service will provide speeds that people in the cities take for granted, opening up new opportunities in education, health, social connectivity and business.” Expectations for Sky Muster have it slated to provide a connection to NBN users by the second half of 2016, after a series of connectivity tests are carried out. Although the rocket’s takeoff has been described as loud and explosive, the launch was successful and the satellite now in orbit. Reported to be one of the most expensive commercial satellites ever launched, Sky Muster has been described as the “great hope” of Australia’s broadband network.

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