Welcome to the Media Law Roundup September 19, 2014 — a survey of the week’s developing media news.
See Egypt: Social Media Under Mass Surveillance
Egypt has begun an extensive monitoring campaign with software from the surveillance company See Egypt. The software will allow the Egyptian government to sift through data from multiple websites, including Facebook, Twitter, and Skype. While the official word on the program is that it will be used to prevent terrorist attacks, an anonymous official said in an interview with Buzzfeed, “We are looking at any conversation, any interaction, we might find worrying or would want to keep a closer eye on.” Buzzfeed identifies See Egypt as the Egyptian arm of U.S. security company Blue Coat, but Blue Coat claims that See Egypt is simply a reseller of Blue Coat products and that no Blue Coat products are being used to monitor social networks in Egypt.
Iran Happy Dancers Sentenced
Earlier this year, seven Iranian citizens were arrested for their participation in a dance video to Pharrell’s song “Happy.” Those seven dancers have now received sentences for their actions, in the form of six months jail time and ninety-one lashes. According to the group’s lawyer, the jail time is for participation in the video itself, while the lashes are punishment for breaking Islamic law. These sentences will remain suspended so long as no further crimes are committed.
Default Encryption for Google/Apple
The latest operating systems for Google and Apple will, by default, encrypt user data. This news comes after the iCloud breach that saw nude photos from nearly one hundred female celebrities leak online. A Google spokesman stated that the company has offered encryption for three years, though the consumer was required to activate the service. Now, he says, “you won’t even have to think about turning it on.” These new measures not only protect against attack, but also free Apple and Google from having to honor government requests for consumer data. Apple has stated that it will no longer honor such requests devices running its latest iOS.
Public Comment Period Closed for Net Neutrality
The time to offer public comment on the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) proposed changes for net neutrality has come to an end. Approximately 3.7 million comments were submitted during this time, smashing the previous record held by the number of comments submitted after Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction at the 2004 Super Bowl. Now the FCC must decide how and by whom the internet should be regulated. Though the net neutrality conversation is often dominated by worries over paid prioritization, some net neutrality advocacy groups are lending those concerns new heft by considering how a failure to protect net neutrality might affect minority groups. A sampling of tweets from minority groups about what net neutrality means for them include references to Ferguson, immigration, and low-income groups. To quote Twitter user @culturejedi: “The #Fight4NetRights isn’t about the Internet, it’s about whether corps get to speak for communities of color, or we speak for ourselves.”
Internet Mana Party/Mass Surveillance in New Zealand
An event held Monday, titled Moment of Truth, featured Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, and Glenn Greenwald as they unveiled revelations of mass surveillance in New Zealand. Prime Minister John Key denied all allegations of surveillance, claiming instead that the government was working on a different, unrelated program. According to Edward Snowden, Key is lying. These revelations came just days before elections for the 51st New Zealand Parliament, and are expected to shake up the voting results. Moment of Truth was organized by Internet Mana Party founder Kim Dotcom (owner of the late file-hosting site Megavideo). Internet Mana’s platform is built on a commitment to free education, cheaper internet, and the elimination of citizen surveillance. The Internet Mana Party is expected to gain a few seats in the 51st New Zealand Parliament.
Cyber Laws in Qatar
A new cyber law in Qatar is raising concerns over freedom of expression. The law, which is meant to prevent the spread of false news, effectively criminalizes posting or promoting any content that runs counter to Qatar’s “social norms.” It is also illegal to publish news, photos, or audio content relating to the life of any individual, even if it is true. The vague terminology of the law means that it could be used against average citizens on social media. Jan Keulen,the Director of the Doha Center for Media Freedom, upon reading a draft version of the new law, said that “it blurred cybercrime and freedom of expression on the internet” and that “this freedom should be guaranteed.” He was later fired from his position.