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September 29 2011

Global: Key Quotes and Tweets from the Internet Governance Forum

This post was originally published on Global Voices Advocacy.

As the Internet Governance Forum is a truly epic event both in the online and in the offline world, it's really hard to do justice to the whole complexity of the discussions and debates that are taking place amongst hundreds of representatives from governments, companies, civil society, the technical community, and grassroots activists who have gathered for four days in Nairobi, Kenya. (To learn more about the IGF, an annual multi-stakeholder meeting to discuss key issues related to the Internet's future now in its sixth year, see the Netizen's Guide to the Internet Governance Forum on Global Voices Advocacy.)

Therefore, in true Global Voices fashion, let me share some key quotes and tweets from participants accompanied by short commentaries. (Note: some quotations might not be 100% precise.)

United Nations Office in Nairobi, the location of the Sixth Annual IGF Meeting. Photo by Alexey Sidorenko.

United Nations Office in Nairobi, the location of the Sixth Annual IGF Meeting. Photo by Alexey Sidorenko.

1. Remi Caron, a Dutch cloud computing entrepreneur:

Data Schengen agreement could be very beneficial!

Comment: Remi said that it's really easy to break various European laws in the course of providing and using third-party cloud storage across European borders. In order not to criminalize cloud data, an international agreement is needed.

2. Open letter signed by Civil Society and Internet Governance Caucus and nine other NGOs about the Russia/China proposed cyber-security code of conduct:

[…] What we miss in the proposed code of conduct is any reference to the multistakeholder approach, established by the Tunis Agenda as best practice in internet policymaking, and the role of civil society in strengthening the security and stability of the Internet as proposed by the Code of Conduct. […]

3. A debate on DNS filtering:

@JosephOwino DNS blocking of illegal online content is like curing a disease with pain killers! :p

Comment by Dan McQuillan:

yes, because you get addicted!

Comment: The panel on content blocking, held for the most part by government representatives, didn't fully reflect the multi-stakeholder approach. The dominant discourse didn't even question the need for content blocking or removal, automatically assuming that there is some content that needs to be either blocked or removed.

4. Twitterer @Tadtel:

Amazed by Kenya's 3G prices. Paid USD 10 for 1 week of unlimited 3G access.Safaricom coverage throughout Maasai

Comment: The development of Kenyan ICT is incredible (at least on a technological level) - three backbone cables connect the country to the global web, and one more is in development. The locals, however, point out that the bottleneck is not in the backbone - rather it is in compute illiteracy.

5. Burt Kaliski, Director of the EMC Innovation Network:

not only the attack, the defense can also be distributed - through the cloud. The Cloud can absorb the threat.

Comment: Speaking of the advantages of cloud computing and the Internet's future security challenges.

6. Amr Gharbeia, Egyptian social media activist, and now Technology and Freedoms Programme Officer at Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights

Facebook and Twitter are social tools. *We* are the social network.

Comment: The Arab Spring and the much-debated mobilisation power of social networks have brought a huge wave of preventative regulation, and frankly speaking, pure fear among governments. The threat, however, is not the social networks, but the empowered citizens of the new world.

7. Panelist at panel on ccTLD's (country code top-level domain names like .uk, .cn, or .ru) :

There are three main trends in #ccTLD: Growth, growth, growth

Comment: The discussion about Internationalised Domain Names (IDN) and ccTLD's were discussed in positive, excited tones. The question of the balkanization and the fragmentation of the Internet was not debated.

8. Larry Strickling, United States Department of Commerce:

We can choose to expand bureaucracies or we can expand jobs…The future of the Internet is at risk. The multi-stakeholder model is being challenged.

Comment: Probably the most important debate of this IGF: the model of Internet governance is being challenged not only by the ‘usual suspects' (China, Russia, etc who simply disregard the multi-stakeholder model in preference of the governance made through inter-government agreements) but also the European Union who argue for a more important role of the national governments in the decision-making process.

9. Vint Cerf, co-creator of the TCP/IP protocol and a person commonly known as the ‘father of the Internet':

We need common agreements – what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behavior on the network. This has a great deal to do with ethics.

Comment: The search of the balance of the regulation and the self-regulation is a leading idea of the IGF11. How can our global society make the Internet a space that is simultaneously secure, innovative and free? There are no easy answers.

Editor's note:

Our sister website, Global Voices Advocacy recently launched a new series called “The Netizen Report”, a regular overview of recent global developments related to the power dynamics between citizens, companies and governments on the Internet. We hope that these regular reports can provide netizens around the world with useful information about who is seeking to influence and shape the digital platforms and networks we increasingly depend upon, and how. Armed with information, we are in a better position to defend our rights, and to make sure the Internet evolves in a manner that is compatible with the right to free expression of all people, everywhere.

September 28 2011

Barbados: Fire Service Hot on Social Media

“I am surprised and impressed by their use of social media”, says gallimaufry.ws of the Barbados Fire Service, adding: “Other government departments in Barbados could learn from their example.”

September 27 2011

September 25 2011

Colombia: Outrage at President of Congress Over Oil Subsidy

Last week, Juan Manuel Corzo [es], Senator and president of the Congress of Colombia, caused outrage when, in order to justify a fuel subsidy for congresspeople [es], he told W Radio [es] that it was impossible to fill the gas tanks for his two vehicles with his COP$16 million (€6,418 or US$8,784) salary (the minimum wage is COP$535,600, €207 or US$279). Despite living in a middle-ranked oil producing country, Colombians pay, as of August 2011, COP$8,635 (€3.34 or US$4.51) average per gallon, more than Americans.

During the next few days, Twitter and Facebook users showed their contempt [es] toward Senator Corzo, a member of the Conservative Party, with hashtags like #juanmanuelcorzo, #fueracorzo (”get out Corzo [from Congress]”), or #corzoton (Corzo + Telethon); Facebook pages like “We demand Juan Manuel Corzo's resignation”; and an event scheduled for Tuesday September 27 in front of the National Capitol. Even Anonymous staged a DDos attack [es] against the Senate's website.

Senador Juan Manuel Corzo, RedPaTo2 on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

On Monday September 19, the issue became “personal” when Senator Corzo declared in a press conference that the Twitter users criticizing him were “rude,” and added that [es] “I'd rather not steal from the State and that [others] pay for my gasoline.” After that, Corzo claimed [es] he was going to an Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Azerbaijan to defend his controversial bill of parliamentary immunity, even though, as blogger Hernán Castro Rodríguez shows [es], the last IPU Assembly took place last April in Panama and the next one is scheduled for October in Switzerland.

Here is a small sample of the thousands of reactions on Twitter during the last days:

Daniel Arango (@stultaviro) puts things into context:

En un país con un salario mínimo de 300 dólares oír a un presidente del congreso llorando por sus cuitas de ricachón es un maldito insulto.

In a country with a minimum wage of 300 dollars hearing a President of the Congress crying for his troubles of well-heeled man is a damn insult.

José Carlos García (@josecarlostecno), Technology Editor for El Tiempo newspaper, writes:

Como colombiano, creo que todas la novelas de narcos juntas no me producen tanta vergüenza como este senador Corzo

As a Colombian, I think that all the narco-novelas together don't embarrass me as much as this senator Corzo

User @bobadaliteraria tweets:

Mientras tanto Corzo anda en Azerbaiyán y adivinen quiénes pagamos por su vuelo.

Meanwhile Corzo is in Azerbaijan and guess who is paying his flight.

Omar Ferrer (@OFFezt) refers to the “coalition of national unity”:

Veo uribistas y antiuribistas (Antes fachos y mamertos) unidos en un solo #Corzoton Esa es la Unidad Nacional que sirve.

I see Uribistas and Anti-Uribistas (before fascists and commies) united in one #Corzoton That's the National Unity which is useful

Naylea Barros (@NayBarros08) asks:

Quien mas grosero nosotros los twitteros o #JuanManuelCorzo que nos quiere tratar de estupidos?

Who is ruder: us Twitter users or #JuanManuelCorzo who wants to treat us like we are stupid?

Angela G (@gatinita) brings up Corzo's salary:

No joda, con 6 meses de sueldo se compra una estación de servicio, para que nunca vuelva a llorar por falta de gasolina.

Leave me f***ing alone, with 6 months of his salary he could buy a gas station, so he never cries for lack of fuel again.

With irony, Felipe Nuñez (@idreamofrobots) writes:

Yo cuando grande quiero ser como Juan Manuel Corzo y que ustedes me paguen la gasolina.

When I grow up I want be like Juan Manuel Corzo and make you to pay for my fuel

Angela Perversa (@AngelaPerversa) tweets about Corzo's statements:

“Prefiero no robar al estado” is the new “gracias al señor me estoy rehabilitando y no en la calle atracando a nadie, regálemen pa un pan”

“I'd rather not steal from the State” is the new “thanks to Lord I'm rehabilitating and not robbing anyone, gimme money to buy some bread”

Journalist and blogger Víctor Solano (@solano) refers to the same quote:

Dirán algunos: “Lo ‘bueno' de @juanmanuelcorzo es que nos da a escoger: O le damos para la gasolina o nos atraca; otros hacen las dos”

Some people will say: “The ‘good thing' about @juanmanuelcorzo is that he gives us a choice: or we give him money for his fuel or he robs us; others do both”

Catalina Palmer (@catalinapalmer) calls on Twitter users to act “in the streets”, not just online:

Lo de Corzo es más que #fueraCorzo. Hagan algo en la calle, no se queden en twitter. Construyan cultura política para que no se repita.

The Corzo issue is more than #getoutCorzo. Do something in the streets, don't stay on Twitter. Build political culture so it doesn't happen again.

Finally, Ramírez Jaramillo (@egolaxista_) says:

A menos que la Registraduría empiece a hacer valer el RT como voto, la indignación por lo de Corzo servirá para mierda y media.

Unless the National Civil Registry makes a RT worth a vote, the outrage about Corzo will be useless.

On the blogosphere, a heavily rotated post by @cynosargo titled “Colombia: who the f**k rules you?!” [es] slams the senator:

Es la primera vez que un político nos quiere robar de frente, en la cara. Literalmente, Corzo nos pidió a los contribuyentes colombianos que le pagáramos la gasolina de los carros que utiliza -carros por los cuales nosotros ya estamos pagando-, simplemente porque no le alcanza con su oneroso sueldo -el cual también pagamos nosotros-.

It is the first time that a politician wants to rob us overtly, in our faces. Literally, Corzo asked us, Colombian taxpayers, to pay for the gasoline fuelling the cars he uses —cars we are alreading paying for—, simply because his onerous salary —which we also pay— isn't enough.

The post includes a table showing that all the Presidents of Congress in the 21st century (the post is occupied by a Senator elected by fellow Senators at the beginning of the legislature, every July 20), except one, have been investigated either for corruption or for ties with armed groups, including Corzo.

Meanwhile, Ricardo Galán wonders [es] if the “I'd rather not steal from the State” remark by Corzo was a threat, blackmail, or a complaint; while Julián Rosero Navarrete, who has worked in Congress, supports [es] the general outrage but warns against discussing the issue based on erroneous information, and explains that the actual salary of a Congressman is COP$6 million (€2,321 or US$3,132), while the rest are “representation spendings,” which Corzo should be using to cover his fuel expenses.

September 24 2011

Update on Global Voices Mentorship: Meet the Activists

For over a month, ten Global Voices bloggers have been working with activists from ten different countries as mentors of members of the new Blogger Swarm of Activista, the youth network of international development organization ActionAid. The mentorship focusses on blogging, networking and online capacity building.

A group photo of the Blogger Swarm

Members of the Activista Blogger Swarm (pictured here) are each working with a Global Voices mentor

In a previous post we introduced all the participants, and now we would like to invite you to find out more about the activists involved, via the Activista Youtube channel. Here's Kodili, from Uganda, sharing why she became an activist, her motivations and her expectations of the Blogger Swarm project:

Follow the Swarm!

The Blogger Swarm aims to put youth at the forefront of the discussion about food and climate justice, the issues on which the activists involved are focusing their individual work and research.

With the help of Global Voices mentors they are working on their blogging skills while getting more comfortable with using digital tools for collaborative work and online networking. Here is a list of some of their latest blog posts:

To stay updated subscribe to the Blogger Swarm blog or follow our mentors and mentees list on Twitter.

Thanks for supporting this initiative!

September 23 2011

North Korea: Google Earth Reveals Death Camps in Detail

Kyle Wagner from Gizmodo site wrote a post on one of the most detailed images of the North Korean concentration camps taken by Google Earth. It is estimated that over 200,000 North Korean citizens are imprisoned in the camps under unimaginably harsh conditions.

Reposted bysciphex sciphex

Russia: Cyber Security Code of Conduct?

The year of 2011 has turned out to be a hot season for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA): the government is attempting to spread the system of Internet controls abroad - and the Russian bloggers interpret these attempts as either a basic self-preservation instinct of the current regime or, even more troublesome, as inadequate thinking about the Internet.

Spreading Internet regulations abroad

United Nations flag. Source: Wikipedia

Will the United Nations be able to confront the temptation of inadequate thinking? (United Nations flag. Source: Wikipedia)

In May 2011, the Interparliamentary Assembly of Member Nations of the Commonwealth of Independent States published a model law [ru]  “On the basics of Internet penetration” (not legally binding, recommended as a template for the CIS member state legislature).

On Sep. 13, together with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China, Russia proposed to the UN Secretary General a document called “International code of conduct for information security.”

Ten days later, Kommersant reported [ru] that the Russian Security Council together with the MFA and representatives of 52 countries, had produced an 18-page draft of a UN convention “On ensuring international information security” (the Convention; no original available, so far).

The documents share the idea that national governments have sovereignity over the ‘national Internet segments.' The proposed Code of Conduct states that the countries that sign it should pledge:

c) To cooperate in combating criminal and terrorist activities that use information and communications technologies, including networks, and in curbing the dissemination of information that incites terrorism, secessionism or extremism or undermines other countries’ political, economic and social stability, as well as their spiritual and cultural environment; […]

As the main arguments for proposing such a code, the Russian officials point to the militarisation of the Net (e.g., the setting up of the US Cyber Command, a military unit that conducts ‘full spectrum military cyberspace operations in order to enable actions in all domains […],'), and mass mobilisation for anti-government protests.

“Inadequate, [primitive] thinking”

A discussion [ru] at the IT forum Habrahabr has highlighted, however, different motives behind the MFA's recent activity. User whoozle wrote [ru] (the most popular reply):

Наши чинуши, прежде и больше всего, пекутся о своём благосостоянии. И смена политической обстановки(не говоря о режиме) им, очевидно, очень невыгодна.
Всю жизнь они воровали или просто были максимально неэффективными, и вроде бы, все на всё закрывали глаза. СМИ поприжали, демонстрации-выборы отменили. Всё стабильно и хорошо, остался лишь интернет.
Что можно сделать в этой ситуации? Можно начать думать, работать, перестать воровать. Но это не путь джедаяроссийского чиновника. Путь российского чиновника — бороться с теми кто его критикует. И это пока им удавалось, СМИ теперь легко снимают острые материалы, отбираются лицензии. :) Это простейший, одноклеточный ответ на угрозу и я думаю эволюционно общество найдёт действенное противоядие.

Our officials, first and most of all, care about their welfare. And the change of the political situation (let alone the regime) is, obviously, very disadvantageous. All their lives they've been stealing, or they've just been highly ineffective, and it seems that no one paid any attention to any of it. They've pressed the media down to the ground, cancelled demonstrations and elections. Everything is stable and well, and there's only Internet left.

What can one do in such a situation? One can start thinking, start working, stop stealing. But this is not the path of the Jedi Russian official. The path of the Russian official is to combat those who criticise him. And so far they've succeeded in it - the media are canceling critical stories, licenses are being taken away. :) And this is the simplest, unicellular [primitive] response to the threat, and I think that through evolution the society will find an efficient antidote.

User dimakey commented [ru]:

Подозрительно, что про детское порно ничего нет…

Suspicious that there's nothing about child porn…

Warrior127 replied [ru]:

По логике чинушей, пока педофилы не кричат «Путина в отставку» с педофилией бороться не зачем.

According to the officials' logic, until pedophiles start shouting “Putin should resign,” there's no sense in fighting pedophilia.

Blogger CLR, however, noted [ru] that the document does address some crucial issues:

Цель — расширение сотрудничества правоохранительных органов между странами членами ООН, потому что сейчас любой мало мальски важный запрос, например данные по почтовому ящику на hotmail.com (заказчик убийства например с него ведет переписку) можно осуществлять только через интерпол и ждать ответ месяцы, с нашими реалиями такие преступления если они действительно не очень громкие автоматом переводятся в разряд глухарей. Что совершенно не нормально.

The goal is to increase cooperation between security services of the UN member states, because now even the least important inquiry - for instance, the retrieval of the data from hotmail.com (e.g., a guy who ordered a murder uses it to give instructions) can be made only via Interpol and it takes months to get a response, and with our realities such crimes, unless they're very loud, are being transferred to the ‘unsolveable' category. And this is not normal at all.

Blogger tachidi wrote [ru] that the problem is not with the control itself, but rather with the officials' poor vision of what the Internet and our age really are:

Вообще, у проблемы две стороны. Современному рядовому «потребителю интернетов» весьма фиолетов статус свободы, прозрачности и доступа к информации. Более того, его это практически не интересует. Т.е., даже в худшем варианте развития событий он попросту не заметит кардинальных перемен.
Остальные же, скорее всего смогут найти способ обхода проблемы.

Но печальное здесь, да, именно «квадратно-гнездовое» мышление наших власть имущих, их абсолютное несоответствие эпохе и мироустройству.

Actually, the problem has two sides. Today's average ‘Internet consumer' [doesn't really care] about the issues of freedom, transparency and access to information. Moreover, all this basically does not interest him. That is, even under the worst-case scenario, he will simply not notice any serious changes.
Others, most probably, will find ways to circumvent the issue.

But the saddest thing here, yes, is the [inadequate] thinking of our [politicians], their total discrepancy with the epoch and the world order.

September 22 2011

CEE: Top 10 Worldwide Download Speed

Watcher.com.ua reports [uk] that, according to a 6-month study of 27 million downloads by 20 million computers in 224 countries conducted by Pando Networks, Romania (1,909KBps), Bulgaria (1,611KBps), Lithuania (1,462KBps) and Latvia (1,377KBps) have the second, third, fourth and fifth highest download speeds in the world, while Ukraine has been ranked #8 (1,190KBps).

September 21 2011

Global: Online Dialogue on Technology for Transparency

The Technology for Transparency Initiative, together with New Tactics in Human Rights, invites you to join an online dialogue on ‘Using Technology to Promote Transparency', starting today.

There has been an expanding and increasingly global movement of technology and digital media projects aimed at promoting government transparency, accountability, and public participation in political processes. After documenting dozens of cases around the world, the Technology for Transparency Network, a project of Rising Voices, documented these transparency projects to gain a better understanding of their current impact, obstacles, and future potential. Now it is time to start the conversation, with the help of the wonderful platform ‘New Tactics for Human Rights'.

Image by whiteafrican on Flickr (under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license).

Image by whiteafrican on Flickr (under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license).

This week we are inviting 11 experts from all over the world, from different projects promoting openness, collaboration and transparency, to answer your questions, comment on interesting topics and discuss the future of technology in promoting transparency.

Join Elizabeth Wolf from Ciudadano Inteligente (Smart Citizen), Chile; Susannah Vila and Jorge Soto from Citivox, Mexico; Mike Linksvayer from Creative Commons; Jonathan Gray from Open Knowledge Foundation, UK; Diego Casaes from Eleitor 2010, Brazil; Camila Bustamante from Dateros, Peru; Ulrich Muller from Germany; Maya Indira Ganesh from Tactical Technology Collective; John (Kipp) Kipchumbah of InfoNet, Kenya; Amr Gharbeia, Technology and Freedoms Programme Officer for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights; and Mendi Njonjo, Fund Manager for the Africa Technology and Transparency Initiative in Kenya.

The dialogue is an opportunity to share these case studies and tools with the New Tactics online community, learn from the experiences of practitioners implementing these projects, and discuss new ideas, challenges, risks and opportunities. Join us online from September 21 to share your stories, ideas and resources.

Russia: Google Office Invites Iranian Ambassador to ‘Disperse Myths' About ‘Contemporary Persia'

“Mr Ambassador [Reza Sajadi] had told us about contemporary Persia: about progress in science and technology in his country, developing tourism, situation of women in the Iranian society, had dispersed many myths around Iran and its traditions, and had invited us to visit Iran and enjoy ancient culture of the country and hospitality of its citizens,” writes [ru] Google's Official Russian Blog about the recent visit of Ambassador to the Google office in Moscow.

Reposted byiranelection iranelection

September 20 2011

Zambia: Netizens Ahead of Mainstream Media in Poll Reporting

Zambians went to the polls on September 20, 2011 to elect the president, members of parliament and local government representatives, but as voting got underway at 6:00 AM, Twitter, Facebook and election monitoring website, Bantu Watch were abuzz exposing the chaos that characterised the start of the process.

On social media websites citizens revealed delays of opening of polling stations, late-coming presiding officers, change of polling stations and even a shortage of ballot papers. These websites also reported violence where it broke out, particularly in the capital Lusaka where suspicious voters were on the look out for possible rigging.

On the late opening of polling stations, one netizen had this to say:

@Mama_Kankasa: Preparedness is very critical, they urged people to vote day…yet open up polling stations late?

Another said:

@luchi7: Unconfirmed reports that voting in some areas of Lusaka hasn't started polling station in chelstone reports presiding officer is late

Mama Kankasa said she is also worried about the situation in rural areas if even areas within the capital, where the Electoral Commission of Zambia is located, are facing serious logistical problems.

@Mama_Kankasa: If Matero/Lilanda which is just next door to ECZ offices can experience such what more people in the rural?

Some netizens posted pictures of queues at polling stations and yet others posted video and audio clips of events of where they were.

An audio report from @Luchi7 in Lilanda (in Lusaka) conveys the sounds of a skirmish at one polling station where voters were dispersed by police and teargas.

One of our reporters got caught up in the skirmishes in lilanda sent this report (mp3)

At one point during the day, the national broadcaster, Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation, was just playing music instead of giving election updates which frustrated one netizen:

@VusumuziS: Oh #ZNBC, we all love our culture but we also need election updates. WE can watch cultural programs everyday, but elections once in 5 years

At one point it seemed that election monitoring website, Bantuwatch.org was offline, and people speculated that it was hacked to stop it from reporting poll irregularities (this is unconfirmed):

@alexmichelo: @mwanabibi yes am in zambia and i cant access the site #Bantuwatch

Meanwhile, others call for people to resist spreading rumours. On Facebook, in the public group “I voted on 20/09/11″, Maliq Malekano in Lusaka said:

(L)et us all exercise restraint during this period of voting. Let us avoid jumping to conclusions every time we hear a rumour. Avoid posting sweeping statements that are unsubstantiated. Let us all be messengers of peace even when our preferred candidate is trailing in votes. Every word that you post on fb can either build or destroy Zambia. I choose to build Zambia by posting responsibly on face book.

Cuba: Headed for Technological Illiteracy?

Writing at Havana Times, Alfredo Fernandez suggests that “if it doesn’t allow free access to the Internet soon, Cuba will be a country of virtual illiterates in the next few years.”

Russia: Unjustly Convicted Businessman-Blogger Released From Jail

Alexey Kozlov, businessman and a former millionaire, who was imprisoned in 2007 under trumped-up accusations, has been released from jail, rian.ru reported [ru]. Kozlov received online popularity for his “Butyrka [name of Moscow prison] blog [ru].” The blog was set up by Olga Romanova, Kozlov's wife and a renowned journalist. Starting 2010, Forbes.ru started its own version of Butyrka blog [ru], telling about other unjustly convicted Russian businessmen.

Russia: Governor's Death Rumors Provoke Harsh Reaction Among Authorities

Alexander Mikhelson, head of “United Russia” fraction at Kemerovo regional Duma, has proposed [ru] a new draft bill that implies stricter responsibility for online libel. The action followed the appearance of the rumors [ru] that Aman Tuleyev, governor of the Kemerovo region, was found dead. Previously, local police had set up a task force to identify the personality of Bogdan Sukhikh, who is recognized as the source of the rumor.

September 16 2011

Kenya: WordCamp Kenya 2011

7 reasons to attend WordCamp Kenya 2011: “This is a great chance to meet up with other WordPress fanatics and learn from the different levels of the conference. WordCamp is coming to East Africa for the first time and it is a great thing that it is happening in Kenya.”

September 13 2011

North Korea: Inside the House of Upper-class North Koreans

A net user ID:CheeseNoodle posted photos of a North Korean house in South Korean citizen journalist website, Wiki Tree. The house, which belongs to upper-class people, is equipped with a flat-screen TV, electric devices and just like any other households, portraits of Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung in one corner.

September 12 2011

Ukraine: Crimean Tatar Language on Twitter

Hirano Takaci (@hiranotakaci), a Lviv-based photographer and teacher of the Japanese language, has recently launched a Twitter bot - @ukr_crh - that posts Ukrainian words/phrases and their Crimean Tatar (Qırımca) translations. “The thing is, I've been searching but haven't found any Ukrainian-language books about the Crimean Tatar language,” he explained [uk] on Twitter. “People would like to learn, but it is hard to find. And this is sad.”

September 11 2011

South Korea: Google Raided over Alleged Antitrust Violations

Google's South Korea offices have been raided once again as the country's largest mobile search operators raised a claim that Google unfairly discouraged competition by limiting search engine options in Android handsets. The South Korean regulator accepted this argument and stormed Google's Seoul offices on September 6, 2011, reigniting numerous debates online about whether it was a fair decision and what motives lie behind such harsh action.

It is the third time Google Korea has been raided. The first raid was in August, 2010 over a large amount of traffic information Google accidentally collected during its Google Street View project. The second raid came in May this year after the allegation that AdMob, Google's mobile advertising unit, had gathered personal location data without permission.

Google and Naver Apps

Image of Google and Naver Apps on phone, by Lee Yoo Eun (CC-BY-2.0)

This time, South Korea's two largest search engine companies, Naver(NHN Corp) and Daum Communications filed a complaint with the Korean Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) in April 2011 that the Android mobile phone operating system unfairly hinders competition by setting Google's search engine as the default option, making it difficult for users to switch to different portals. They also argued that Google continues to discourage competitors by delaying OS certification for phone manufacturers.

Even to Koreans who regularly visit the two local portals, the companies' argument was widely seen as irrational, or even ungrateful. Kang Min-soo (@bombshots) tweeted [ko] that it is only natural for Google search to be pre-loaded on Android, and that Naver and Daum should be thankful they are even allowed onto the device.

구글압수수색 들어갔다고. 안드로이드에 구글기본탑재가 불공정거래? 윈도우에 IE 기본탑재는? iOS 검색기본이 구글인거는? 그나마 무료로 재워줬더니 주인보고 안방에서 나오라는 꼴.

So they raided Google. They claimed that pre-loading Google on Android phones was unfair […] What about [Internet Explorer] installation on Windows? Or about Google being the basic search engine on the [iPhone] iOS? This situation is like a landlord who allowed a guest to stay at his place for free, but is on the verge of being kicked out from the master bedroom by that same guest.

J.S. Park (@unclecow) tweeted [ko]:

경쟁력없는 것도 부끄러운 일인터인데 법이 이러쿵 저러쿵 하는 걸 보니 안쓰러울뿐이다. 기분 나쁘면 네이버OS,다음OS만들어서 네이버폰,다음폰 만들어~ 너희들도 네이버폰이랑 다음폰 만들면 구글검색 이용 못하게 할꺼면서.

It is already shameful that they [the Korean companies] lack competitiveness, but that they so brazenly ramble on about this and that law article. It is almost pitiful to watch. If you dont like the situation, then create your own OS, such as Naver OS or Daum OS and make your own cell phones, Naver Phone and Daum Phone. If this happened, you would never allow Google to be pre-loaded onto your devices.

Many also accused the Korean regulator for being inconsistent in judging antitrust violations. Blogger 어설프군YB pointed out [ko] that while Naver enjoys dominant position in the search market despite numerous anti-trust allegations, Google who only has about a 15 percent market share was raided.

한국에서 독과점 형태로 모든 온라인 사업에 주도적 역할을 하고 있는 상황에서 […] 여러 면에서 산업 발전을 저해하는 정책을 펼치고 있습니다. 특히나 네이버는 검색시 자사 DB 즉, 네이버가 구축한 블로그, 카페등의 검색 비율을 높임으로 인해 70% 이상의 검색을 독점하고 있는데도 이와 관련해서는 조사를 진행하지 않고 구글에게 문제를 제기한다는 것자체게 어처구니 없는 접근이 아닐까 생각됩니다.

These major Korean portal sites have formed an oligopoly and are playing major roles in almost every web business. But they block development by enforcing their monopolistic policies. And in the case of Naver, they manipulate the search results by directing users to first visit Naver blogs and Naver community sites [before they visit other platforms] keeping people within their network. This manipulation enabled Naver to hold on to more than a 70 percent share of the Korean search market. Questioning Google before they ever investigate Naver is an incomprehensible approach to solving antitrust issues.

Worrying that these series of raids may chill freedom of speech online, activists railed against the government's decision. The international digital rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in the United States even sent an open letter to the Korean Communications Standards Commission (see Jillian York's commentary). Several bloggers who tried to read between the lines, raised suspicions that this is a strategy of the government to ‘tame’ Google who has refused to follow certain local laws that may restrict online freedom of expression or undermine people's privacy.

Blogger ‘Photography is Power' wrote [ko] about Google's ongoing conflict with the Korean government that has continued over several years.

수사할것이 있으면 해야죠. 그런데 이 구글 압수수색을 곱지 않게 보는 네티든들이 많습니다. […] 네이버나 다음입장에서는 국내 실정법을 따른 것 이겠지만  자사의 고객 정보를 경찰 영장 하나로 고객에게 당신 정보 경찰에 열람토록 하겠습니다 라는 통보도 없기 그냥 보여줍니다.[…] 2년전 4월  국내는 유튜브 실명제 도입으로 뜨거웠습니다.  동영상도 실명제를 통해서 올려야 한다는 것이죠. 한국법이 그러니 너희도 따르라고 압박을 했습니다. 그러자 구글코리아는 꼼수를 냅니다. 한국지역을 설정하면 업로드를 못하게 막아 놓았죠. 하지만 지역설정을 한국 이외로 하면 올릴 수 있습니다.[…] 구글코리아는 표현의 자유를 억압하는 실명제를 거부했습니다.

If there really is something to investigate, then we should investigate Google. But quite a few net users have cast suspicious glances at this raid. […] In the case of Daum and Naver, the police has full access to their customer information whenever an arrest warrant is issued. Police can access all the information even without prior notification. The companies can just argue that they are following local laws.[…] Two years ago, in April 2009, YouTube’s real name verification system heated up online debates in South Korea. Back then, the Korean regulator insisted that people need to upload videos using their real names, and forced other foreign websites to follow this law. Then Google found a loophole; they blocked people from uploading a video if their country setting was South Korea. But simply by switching the setting to another country, one can upload a video from South Korea [using any name] […] Google Korea argued against the real name verification law since they said it would restrict the freedom of expression of their users.

The blogger also noted that Google Korea seemed “lackluster” in recent months after a localization project failed to materialize and they lost a tight partnership with Daum. But he still expressed support for Google, describing it as “the only company that can break down the language barrier”. He suggested Google should streamline translation services in order to better survive in the hostile Korean online ecosystem.

September 10 2011

Russia, Ukraine: “PayPal’s Epic Fail”

Svetlana Gladkova of Profy writes about PayPal's erroneous announcement of the upcoming lifting of some of the limitations for users in Russia and Ukraine.

September 08 2011

Russia: Crowdsourced Map of Electoral Violations Launched

Electoral monitoring association “Golos” together with gazeta.ru had launched Kartanarusheniy.ru, a crowdsourced mechanism for collecting user data on electoral violations. Ushahidi-like map (although developed on a different software) allows users to report agitation violations, administrative and police pressure, bribery, misuse of power, violation of candidates' rights.

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