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November 07 2013

Science Podcast - The Chelyabinsk meteorite, adaptation science, the forgotten malaria, and more (8 Nov 2013)

Peter Jenniskens discusses findings from the Chelyabinsk meteorite; Richard Moss outlines the future of adaptation science; Gretchen Vogel talks about the battle against the "forgotten" malaria.

January 26 2013

Video Advocacy Races Forward: 2012’s Dangers & 2013’s Solutions

Video is increasingly at the nexus of opportunity and danger for human rights activists. Video helps activists to document, confront, circumvent, and lobby against oppressive authorities—but it also allows those authorities to stalk them. Here's what we think will happen in 2013.

Elisângela used video against forced evictions in Brazil.

Elisângela used video against forced evictions in Brazil.

Both those using video for good and for evil made big advances in 2012. Activists marshaled video in new ways to tell their stories, share their evidence, and form their communities online. Activists in Brazil told the story of forced evictions ahead of the World Cup. Activists documented military attacks on civilians in Syria. Activists in Burma documented large-scale attacks on the Rohingya minority.

Activists used video to tell their stories—and they succeeded in raising awareness of issues that risked being lost in the cacophony of world affairs. In return, repressive governments developed new ways to use video to target activists.

2013 will undoubtedly see the next stages of this video tech race—in fact, they’ve already taken shape. Activists and their allies are developing defensive security innovations, and we’ll soon see these tools protecting activists as they use video to advance their causes.

Top Video Security Threats of 2012

1. Video as Lure for Malware

Important new video’ popped up in many Syrian Skype chats in the spring and summer of 2012. The intriguing but unremarkable message seemed to contain an innocuous pdf file, but it also came with spyware called “Blackshades.” Using video as a lure, allies of the Syrian regime could now spy through the camera’s webcam, access any file they wanted, and watch every key that was pressed–including passwords. They could use what they learned to target the activist, or to infiltrate his network. The software developer has since suspended new sales, and BlackShades can now be found and removed. But in many cases, the damage was done. Similar attacks in 2012 were waged against Uyghur activists in China, and others in Bahrain, and a fake version of YouTube was created to target Syrian activists.

Video activist Abdel Karim al-Oqda, aka Abu Hassan, was killed by Syrian government forces in 2012

Video activist Abdel Karim al-Oqda, aka Abu Hassan, was killed by Syrian government forces in 2012

2. Identification through Video

Using online videos to identify and target individuals was not a new trend—but regimes rolled it out on a larger scale in 2012, with increased effectiveness and heightened consequences. Video activists often lack the capacity and resources to effectively protect their own identity, as well as the identities of individuals in the videos they’re filming. In 2012, individuals on both sides of the camera were identified and targeted. A prominent videographer was killed; another activist was arrested merely for having the live-streaming app Bambuser on his phone. As video becomes an increasingly central battlefield, anonymity can literally be a life-or-death issue.

3. Evidentiary Failings of Video

One of the biggest threats to activist video is one you might not think of. Activists worldwide are risking their lives to record video that documents atrocities. Both judicial and journalistic bodies may be unable to use videos if they can’t adequately establish the location, the date, and the civilian status of victims, among other things. Much of it lacks the supporting evidence to stand up in court—say, at the International Criminal Court or your newspaper of choice—and the risks these filmmakers take can be in vain.

Top Video Security Solutions for 2013

1. InformaCam

Video activists who want their video to have the credibility to stand up in a court room or a news room can follow a set of guidelines. Soon, those using Android cell phones can use InformaCam. This app automatically embeds data into the video file, such as location (from GPS sensors and wifi signals), and time (from internal clocks). It also creates a ‘digital fingerprint’ to tie a video to a specific camera. Because all of this can be used against activists by the repressive forces they’re fighting, everything is encrypted to keep it safe. WITNESS and our partners at the Guardian Project are developing InformaCam, and we recently received a Knight News Challenge grant to help support the project.

2. Anonymity via ObscuraCam & the YouTube Blurring Tool

Screen Shot 2013-01-22 at 5.33.14 PMYouTube’s facial blurring tool automatically detects faces in videos, and blurs them to protect the individuals’ identities. This is a huge development—activists use YouTube far more than any other platform to share their video, and this has the potential to save lives. It doesn’t protect video before it’s uploaded, though, which is one reason that WITNESS and the Guardian Project are developing ObscuraCam. ObscuraCam also removes all identifying data stored in photos, including GPS location, data, and phone make and model. These tools can protect individuals who may not even know they’re being filmed, let alone have given their consent.

3. Platform Alternatives

Although some platforms are making efforts to protect the activists who use them, like YouTube with its face-blurring tool, there are still many vulnerabilities that can be exploited with tragic consequences. Skype, a popular tool for video chatting and also sending videos from one activist to another, has recently come under fire. So why not try an alternative? In an impressively thorough article, Lifehacker suggests Jitsi as a safer alternative to Skype. Jitsi encrypts both ends of the conversation, stores nothing online, and uses more secure protocols so “you don't need to worry about that data falling into the wrong hands.” The article also suggests safer alternatives to Facebook (Glassboard) and Dropbox (SpiderOak).

For Better and for Worse: The Revolution Will be Televised

A photo shared by the Saudi Arabia Branch of the Union of Syrian Free Students.

A photo shared by the Saudi Arabia Branch of the Union of Syrian Free Students.

“Protecting Your Account = Protecting Your Friends

A different password for each account”

Videos spread through trusted networks that, like so many things involving human rights video, are a double-edged sword. The Saudi Arabia branch of the Union of Syrian Free Students shared this message because activists’ digital security is increasingly fragile and increasingly important. Video images, social networks, and threats of violence are colliding in very powerful, very dangerous ways.

Wherever human rights issues are being fought, both sides will seek to use video technology. WITNESS will be following these issues through 2013 and beyond.

January 10 2013

#DELETECONTROL/: Campaign Against Digital Repression

The time when governments were only starting to understand the power of the Internet is long gone. Repressive regimes have seen the power of the Internet to bring about change and they are trying to control it by developing sophisticated censorship and surveillance tactics, often working hand-in-hand with private companies.

Fortunately, ways to counter online repression and control do exist.

The Netherlands-based Humanist Institute for Cooperation, Hivos, in partnership with Global Voices AdvocacyWitnessMideast Youth and Tactical Technology Collective, is launching a campaign called #DELETECONTROL/.

The campaign aims to promote tools against censorship, online surveillance and repression to ”help bloggers […] stay under the radar and be safe online.” It also aims to create a supportive environment for threatened netizens through donations, by organizing trainings, creating free online platforms and the development of new solutions against digital repression.

One of the major vehicles of the campaign is an interactive film produced by Godmother Films, entitled “#DELETECONTROL/ Would you dare to upload the truth?”. The video walks us though the most common threats faced by digital activists in a repressive environment and offers simple solutions to avoid being caught.

Please support the campaign by sharing the video and by spreading the word.

#DELETECONTROL/: Campaign Against Digital Repression

The time when governments were only starting to understand the power of the Internet is long gone. Repressive regimes have seen the power of the Internet to bring about change and they are trying to control it by developing sophisticated censorship and surveillance tactics, often working hand-in-hand with private companies.

Fortunately, ways to counter online repression and control do exist.

The Netherlands-based Humanist Institute for Cooperation, Hivos, in partnership with Global Voices AdvocacyWitnessMideast Youth and Tactical Technology Collective, is launching a campaign called #DELETECONTROL/.

The campaign aims to promote tools against censorship, online surveillance and repression to ”help bloggers […] stay under the radar and be safe online.” It also aims to create a supportive environment for threatened netizens through donations, by organizing trainings, creating free online platforms and the development of new solutions against digital repression.

One of the major vehicles of the campaign is an interactive film produced by Godmother Films, entitled “#DELETECONTROL/ Would you dare to upload the truth?”. The video walks us though the most common threats faced by digital activists in a repressive environment and offers simple solutions to avoid being caught.

Please support the campaign by sharing the video and by spreading the word.

December 31 2012

10 New Year's Resolutions to Browse the Internet Safely in 2013

At Global Voices Advocacy (GVA), we are dedicated to defending freedom of expression online. We have always been keen on publishing guides and tools to help our fellow netizens navigate the internet safely, circumvent censorship and protect themselves online.

That is why, in 2013, we are committed to continue to defend your rights as netizens by publishing original reports and a new series of guides covering areas as diverse as circumvention, anonymity, surveillance, privacy, citizen journalism, visualization, online activism and advocacy.

As 2012 draws to a close, dear reader, here at team Advox, we've decided to suggest 10 resolutions for 2013, presented in the form of a review of the tools and strategies to protect yourself online. This is a selection of the best ways and methods we've come across in 2012. Remember that no one tactic will ever provide you with 100% security and safety online. At all times, stay armed with your common sense.

#1 - Hide your identity when using your mobile

Whether you're a company wishing to monitor the browsing habits of your potential customers or a repressive government obsessed with tracking dissidents online, mobile devices have been created for you. No technology has come so close to achieving Orwell's dystopian nightmare. Yet there are many ways to help users browse the Internet with their mobile devices in a smarter and safer way:

Orbot is a free, open source Android application that uses Tor's worldwide network of servers to conceal user's location and identity. The application was developed by Tor and The Guardian Project.

#2 - Learn good mobile reporting practices

Whether you're a professional journalist or a citizen media producer you might want to take a look at “Media Workers’ Toolkit for Safer Online and Mobile Practices“. This comprehensive guide, produced by Internews, a non-profit organization working to empower local media worldwide, offers good advice for media producers on how to protect themselves and their sources while using their mobile devices.

#3 - Stay anonymous online

Keep websites and governments from tracking you online, use Tor. Tor is a popular free browser that uses a global volunteer network of servers that helps you surf the internet securely while concealing your location from network surveillance and traffic analysis. Tor can also be downloaded onto a USB drive and used from any computer.

#4 - Remember the basics

It's always a good idea to remind ourselves of some basic online safety rules. Google offers a set of useful tips for staying more secure on the web.

Speaking of basics, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) Surveillance Self Defense page remains a must-read for those of us willing to know more about the fundamentals of defensive technologies such as encryption, secure deletion or virtual private networks.

#5 - Think ahead of trouble

If you're a blogger, especially if you live in a repressive environment, think of a contingency plan in the event of an arrest. GVA's own Jillian C. York offers a number of tips and premeditated actions for threatened bloggers in this article she wrote for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

#6 - Browse like James Bond… Don't leave a trace

Lifehacker walks us though how to use a portable Linux-based, live-boot operating system called Tails, to browse the internet from any computer “without leaving a trace.” The tactic is not completely infallible, but nothing ever is, isn't it?

#7 - Protect your privacy, stop online tracking

Your browsing habits say much about you. Most websites and online advertisers know it very well and use invisible tracking techniques to record personal information about you.

EFF offers an quick 4-step guide that will allow you to stop unwanted privacy invasion.

You may also want to use DuckDuckGo, an alternative search engine that, unlike Google, does not record user information.

#8 - Protect your data

Protect your sensitive data by using a hard disk encryption software like Truecrypt. Use it on every computer you own. Trucrypt is an easy-to-use, lightweight and intuitive freeware that can encrypt parts or your entire storage device. It is particularly useful for protecting and hiding your sensitive files, especially when travelling and crossing borders.

This Wikipedia article offers additional information on alternative disk encryption software and their system compatibility.

#9 - Destroy undesirable data

Deleted files may easily be recovered by interested parties. Make sure your sensitive data is not available to others by using data erasure software. One of the most popular of such tools is Eraser, a freeware available for Windows. It destroys undesirable data by overwriting it several times.

#10 - Commit to defeating censorship

Because the internet's original purpose is to allow people to communicate freely, without governments or corporations interfering, it is essential that we, netizens, learn about ways to make life difficult for the enemies of freedom of expression.

Floss Manuals, a Netherlands-based non-profit foundation dedicated to promoting the use of free software, published a comprehensive book earlier this year called “How To Bypass Internet Censorship” [PDF, 240 pages, 12 MB]. The book contains a diverse range of tools and techniques tailored to defeat censorship. It also assesses the risks associated with the use of each tool. A lightweight “Quickstart” version is also available here [PDF, 8 pages, 268 KB].

* * *

- Tactical Technology Collective's Security In A Box: A comprehensive set of digital security tools tailored for activists. Available in multiple languages.

- Access' “A Practical Guide to Protecting Your Identity and Security Online and When Using Mobile Phones“. Also available in multiple languages.

Thanks to the Global Voices Advocacy community for helping put together the resources available in this post.

10 New Year's Resolutions to Browse the Internet Safely in 2013

At Global Voices Advocacy (GVA), we are dedicated to defending freedom of expression online. We have always been keen on publishing guides and tools to help our fellow netizens navigate the internet safely, circumvent censorship and protect themselves online.

That is why, in 2013, we are committed to continue to defend your rights as netizens by publishing original reports and a new series of guides covering areas as diverse as circumvention, anonymity, surveillance, privacy, citizen journalism, visualization, online activism and advocacy.

As 2012 draws to a close, dear reader, here at team Advox, we've decided to suggest 10 resolutions for 2013, presented in the form of a review of the tools and strategies to protect yourself online. This is a selection of the best ways and methods we've come across in 2012. Remember that no one tactic will ever provide you with 100% security and safety online. At all times, stay armed with your common sense.

#1 - Hide your identity when using your mobile

Whether you're a company wishing to monitor the browsing habits of your potential customers or a repressive government obsessed with tracking dissidents online, mobile devices have been created for you. No technology has come so close to achieving Orwell's dystopian nightmare. Yet there are many ways to help users browse the Internet with their mobile devises in a smarter and safer way:

Orbot is a free, open source Android application that uses Tor's worldwide network of servers to conceal user's location and identity. The application was developed by Tor and The Guardian Project.

#2 - Learn good mobile reporting practices

Whether you're a professional journalist or a citizen media producer you might want to take a look at SpeakSafe's “Media Workers’ Toolkit for Safer Online and Mobile Practices“. This comprehensive guide offers good advice for media producers on how to protect themselves and their sources while using their mobile devices.

#3 - Stay anonymous online

Keep websites and governments from tracking you online, use Tor. Tor is a popular free browser that uses a global volunteer network of servers that helps you surf the internet securely while concealing your location from network surveillance and traffic analysis. Tor can also be downloaded onto a USB drive and used from any computer.

#4 - Remember the basics

It's always a good idea to remind ourselves of some basic online safety rules. Google offers a set of useful tips for staying more secure on the web.

Speaking of basics, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) Surveillance Self Defense page remains a must-read for those of us willing to know more about the fundamentals of defensive technologies such as encryption, secure deletion or virtual private networks.

#5 - Think ahead of trouble

If you're a blogger, especially if you live in a repressive environment, think of a contingency plan in the event of an arrest. GVA's own Jillian C. York offers a number of tips and premeditated actions for threatened bloggers in this article she wrote for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

#6 - Browse like James Bond… Don't leave a trace

Lifehacker walks us though how to use a portable Linux-based, live-boot operating system called Tails, to browse the internet from any computer “without leaving a trace.” The tactic is not completely infallible, but nothing ever is, isn't it?

#7 - Protect your privacy, stop online tracking

Your browsing habits say much about you. Most websites and online advertisers know it very well and use invisible tracking techniques to record personal information about you.

EFF offers an quick 4-step guide that will allow you to stop unwanted privacy invasion.

You may also want to use DuckDuckGo, an alternative search engine that, unlike Google, does not record user information.

#8 - Protect your data

Protect your sensitive data by using a hard disk encryption software like Truecrypt. Use it on every computer you own. Trucrypt is an easy-to-use, lightweight and intuitive freeware that can encrypt parts or your entire storage device. It is particularly useful for protecting and hiding your sensitive files, especially when travelling and crossing borders.

This Wikipedia article offers additional information on alternative disk encryption software and their system compatibility.

#9 - Destroy undesirable data

Deleted files may easily be recovered by interested parties. Make sure your sensitive data is not available to other by using data erasure software. One of the most popular of such tools is Eraser, a freeware available for Windows. It destroys undesirable data by overwriting it several times.

#10 - Commit to defeating censorship

Because the internet's original purpose is to allow people to communicate freely, without governments or corporations interfering, it is essential that we, netizens, learn about ways to make life difficult for the enemies of freedom of expression.

Floss Manuals, a Netherlands-based non-profit foundation dedicated to promoting the use of free software, published a comprehensive book earlier this year called “How To Bypass Internet Censorship” [PDF, 240 pages, 12 MB]. The book contains diverse range of tools & techniques tailored to defeat censorship. It also assesses the risks associated with the use of each tool. A lightweight “Quickstart” version is also available here - PDF, 8 pages, 268 KB.

 

* * *

More resources

- Tactical Technology Collective's Security In A Box: A comprehensive set of digital security tools tailored for activists. Available in multiple languages.

- Access' “A Practical Guide to Protecting Your Identity and Security Online and When Using Mobile Phones“. Also available in multiple languages.

Thanks to the Global Voices Advocacy community for helping put together the resources available in this post.
Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

December 18 2012

Right to Forget: Between Data Protection, Memory and Personal Life in the Digital Era

The embarrassing pictures we were tagged in ten years ago, the messages we've sent and received on our e-mail accounts, the chat record, the searches made through Google or Yahoo!, the online purchases, or information on our private lives posted by third parties on a portal; is it possible that Internet may ‘forget' all that data?

A new essay [en] by the Freedom of Expression on the Internet Initiative from the Center for Studies on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information (CELE, for its Spanish name) addresses the debate around the creation of a new “right to forget”, that might give back to individuals the control over their own information and, additionally, free them from their “digital past”.

This new right (or the broadening of the right of ‘habeas data’) would allow, for instance, for a firm to no longer possess certain information about someone, that certain pictures might be deleted from social networks, or that a search engine may exclude from its results false rumors that once affected that individual's reputation.

Image via Shutterstock. Copyright: Anneka

For those who criticize this proposal [en], this digital forgetfulness would suppose a problem for public interest issues: an officer that asks to delete a video where he accepts a bribe or a doctor trying to suppress a record about a professional malpractice, just to mention some examples.

This new essay by CELE aims to provide a general overview of the issue: it outlines a definition of the right to forget and its potential tension with other existing rights, it addresses its links with data protection or habeas data, and refers to some practical proposals to introduce some kind of forgetfulness in the digital landscape.

The document [pdf; es] notes:

Even though we point to reasons that make the discussion around the right to forget important, we don't pretend to assume the defense of it being implemented. We consider that, above all, it's important to understand the arguments at stake, to locate –especially- the different stances and to start to think about the issue from Latin America.

At the end of the paper CELE recommends, among other things, that when looking for solutions referring to digital forgetfulness, it's advisable to have in mind all the actors involved in Internet –starting from the users– and that the mechanisms to be implemented may be adjusted to international standards in topics such as freedom of expression and access to information.

December 15 2012

What Happened at the WCIT-12: Interview With Beatriz Busaniche

The World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), a UN-sponsored meeting, has just ended in Dubai, UAE. After two weeks of intense negotiations, mostly behind closed doors, representatives failed to agree on a proposed ITU treaty, supported by Russia and China, and that would give national governments more control over the internet.

The ITU is a UN body responsible for standardizing telecommunications protocols around the world.

The conference raised a lot of controversy among online freedom of speech advocates who have been calling for a multistakeholder approach, accusing the ITU of deliberately pushing civil society groups aside.

Why has the conference attracted so much interest? How significant is it for the future of internet use?

We talked to Beatriz Busaniche, member of Fundacion Via Libre and the founding member of Wikimedia Argentina. She explains what was at stake at the WCIT and why netizens should care.

December 11 2012

Global Voices Where Every Voice Counts

Every year Human Rights Day provides an opportunity, to many of us, to highlight issues that matter to us and to advocate  human rights for all. This year the spotlight is on the rights of  people - the poor, the  marginalized and the disingenuous, women and  youth and those across the gender spectrum. Every one has the right to be heard and the right to participate.

The idea that every voice counts is one that is very close to the  notion of Global Voices as a platform and as a community. As netizens unite to have their voices heard when the world's authorities argue  on who should run the internet, we decided to ask our  diverse community to participate and speak out on issues that matter to them and look back at issues we have covered over the year bearing in mind that every voice counts.

Global Voices community members make their #VoiceCount

Global Voices community members make their #VoiceCount. Image collage by author.

With Syria and Gaza plunging into information by pulling the plug on the internet, the right to access remained one of the most pertinent issues. Our special coverage included Syria,archiving online reactions to Syria's internet blackout and the resurgence as parts of Syria regained connectivity, protests in Bahrain and Yemen amid media blackout, conflict voices from Caucasus and Sudan revoltsin-depth coverage of Russia's protest movements,bearing witness to Egypt's historic presidential elections and the aftermath and the intense elections in Venezuela, seeking indigenous voices representing 370 million people that speak more than 4000 languages, a spotlight on the forgotten voices of Myanmar's Rohnigya, keeping an eye on the worldwide #occupy movements and SlutWalks a new protest movement defending women's rights and  most importantly monitoring and defending internet freedom,  free speech and freedom to access with Global Voices Advocacy evolving in to a community determined to take a stand.

Then there were other stories that needed the world's attention as we stood true to the notion that we are reminded of today; every voice counts.Qatar's life imprisonment of a poet that praised Arab spring,Russia's crackdown on online satire, women being barred and penalized from using mobile phones in villages in India, stricter SIM card registration process hampering communication in Zambia, Pakistan's consistent pursuit to replicate the great firewall of China, Tajikistan blocking of facebook and summoning Mark Zuckerberg - a move startlingly similar to that of Pakistani authorities, Internet companies overlooking user privacy, the fight for free expression as authorities muscle in more control, we continued to speak out against impunity and for justice for threatened voices, these are the few issues global voices as a community has been able to bring attention to. As we move forward towards the end of the year, there will be a more comprehensive overview of the year through the eyes of the networked.

For now, on Human Rights Day, we stand in solidarity with people around the world and believe in every individual's right to be heard, to participate and be counted. Our commitment remains, to amplify the voices of the networked and to enable and support the indigenous communities to become a part of the larger community.

 

 

December 07 2012

The WCIT Wake-Up Call: Time To Broaden the Discussion on Internet Governance

World leaders are meeting in Dubai this week for the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), and depending on whose perspective you get, the future of the entire Internet as we know it may be at stake.

Over the past few months, a number of civil society groups have sounded the alarm bells about the potential outcomes of the conference—and with good reason, since some of the proposed revisions to the International Telecommunications Regulations, particularly those submitted by countries already known for censorship online and human rights violations, could have serious consequences on the global Internet if they are implemented. The U.S. government has joined in, along with the leaders of several other countries, threatening to block any major changes that would expand the ITU’s authority over Internet governance. The best possible outcome for the United States is a continuation of the status quo, since US institutions and companies currently play a significant role in Internet governance.

But another trend has also become clear in the debate leading up to the WCIT and in the early discussions in Dubai. Many countries, particularly members of the Global South which see access to the Internet as an essential part of development, are unhappy with the current Internet governance process. It can be tempting to pretend that all of these countries are akin to Russia, China, and Iran, who seem to be angling to use the ITU as a means to assert greater control over the internet, but it would be misleading to lump them all together.

It’s clear that change needs to happen, although the consensus seems to be that the ITU is not the appropriate forum to make such changes. Nonetheless, the attention surrounding the WCIT could actually be an opportunity to shift the conversation. All of the energy that various groups are pouring into advocacy around this conference is encouraging, but it would be a shame if it stops on December 14. Many of the major issues on the table in Dubai are part of a larger, ongoing dialogue on Internet governance that will not likely end any time soon. It’s time for members of civil society, industry, and government to commit to working toward a better, more inclusive multistakeholder process that not only protects the Internet as we know it now, but encourages growth and innovation going forward.

The Open Technology Institute and Global Partners teamed up to put this message into a remixed version of “What is the ITU?”, originally produced by Access and Fight for the Future.

December 06 2012

Speak Justice: Voices Against Impunity

On November 23, 2009, 58 people, including 30 journalists were kidnapped and brutally killed while they were travelling in a convoy with the supporters of a local politician. It happened in the southern Maguindanao province, in the Philippines. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) it is the single deadliest event for journalists in history.

In memory of the Maguindanao massacre, this year on November 23, human rights groups and freedom of expression advocates have joined forces for the second International Day to End Impunity, an annual reminder of the dangers still facing journalists today.

Murder: the ultimate form of censorship

As part of that effort Global Voices Advocacy is joining CPJ's Speak Justice: Voices against Impunity.

The online campaign, which starts today, aims to raise awareness against impunity for those responsible of murdering journalists.

Worldwide, a CPJ report has shown that since 1992, more than 660 journalists have been murdered “in direct retaliation against their work.” Most of them were killed while covering issues of vital importance to their communities.

The research has also shown a clear pattern of impunity among perpetrators, with only 1 in 10 behind bars.

CPJ's María Salazar-Ferro, the campaign coordinator, explains that as a consequence, most journalists living in countries where the murder of their colleagues remains unpunished, tend to self censor: “They avoid dangerous beats, and ignore risky stories.”

Leaving stories unreported means depriving communities of the right to information and leaving those in power unchallenged. Impunity ultimately affects everyone.

To demand justice for journalists killed for uncovering the truth and to empower those still risking their lives to do their job, the campaign wishes to break the cycle of fear and silence, ”from the ground up, one voice at a time.”

To find out more about the campaign, visit the site here and take action today!

November 10 2012

International Day to End Impunity: Join the Campaign

Accountability: The acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies.

Impunity: In the international law of human rights, it refers to the failure to bring perpetrators of human rights violations to justice and, as such, itself constitutes a denial of the victims' right to justice and redress.

At Global Voices Advocacy, we strongly believe in accountability as a way to prevent crimes from repeating themselves. Freedom of expression online is our focus, and we have witnessed an alarming trend in online censorship in recent years. Whether it is to purportedly fight pornography, to supposedly protect intellectual property or for alleged security reasons, netizens everywhere are increasingly vulnerable to Internet restrictions and repression.

Source: IFEX's 2012 Toolkit

Acts of online “thuggery” by dictatorial governments against netizens have intensified. Cyberactivists are jailed, harassed, tortured and even killed for using the internet to denounce repressive regimes: Cao Haibao in China, Twitter users in Bahrain, blogger Ruy Salgado in Mexico, Facebook users in Iran, the Bulgarian authors of the local version of Wikileaks, Vietnamese musicians, and countless Syrian bloggers and video-activists, are all but just a few of the most recent cases we documented.

To keep track of this worrying trend, we launched a couple of years ago, Threatened Voices, a project of Global Voices Advocacy dedicated to documenting and publicizing the cases of endangered netizens around the world.

From our experience reporting on human rights abuses on a daily basis, the crimes which remain unaccounted for are the most likely to continue being repeated. Impunity gives oppressive governments a carte blanche to silence opposition to their policies, as we have witnessed in the case of Syria and other repressive regimes. That is why it is crucial that netizens worldwide stand up to demand protection of online rights and freedoms.

To demand justice for all artists, journalists, musicians and writers who are forcibly silenced around the world, IFEX has decided to name November 23th the International Day to End Impunity:

The goal of the Day is to achieve justice for those persecuted for exercising their right to freedom of expression by drawing global attention to the issue of impunity. The Day not only raises public awareness about what creates and sustains a culture of impunity, it also prompts concerned citizens worldwide to take action, make their voices heard and demand justice.

We, at Global Voices Advocacy, gladly join the campaign focusing on freedom of expression online.

You too can join by sending us a video, a photo, a hand-made drawing, a short text (500 words long) or any piece of creativity about one or all of the following:

  • How do you think the internet would look like if censorship was prohibited by law;
  • How the cyberspace would look like if censors could not get away with their actions anymore;
  • Tell us how you fight online censorship and share your successful stories with us!
For an overview of the state of online censorship worldwide, you can review our Online Censorship Special Coverage Page. You can also read the latest edition of our Netizen Reports: Netizen Report: Baku edition.
Thanks to Rayna St. and Hisham Almiraat for their help in writing this post.

October 31 2012

Talking With Rebecca MacKinnon About ‘Consent Of The Networked'

Rebecca MacKinnon, co-founder of Global Voices, is a journalist and blogger with many years of experience, very refined in her opinions on the topics that she is involved with, which are usually related to knowledge society and freedom on the Internet. Last January she published her book Consent of the Networked, where she goes in depth into this subject matter. To mark the publication of this book, Global Voices contributor Bernardo Parrella wrote:

How do we ensure that the Internet develops in a way that is compatible with democracy? Given the strong push provided by social media to the recent uprisings in the Middle East region and elsewhere, how can people ensure that the same tools are not being used for government censorship and surveillance (often with more than a little help from Western technology companies)? And ultimately, how can we stop thinking of ourselves as passive “users” of technology but rather as “netizens” who take ownership and responsibility for our digital future?

The book was published in Spanish last June by Editorial Deusto [es] under the title No sin nuestro consentimiento (Not Without Our Consent) [es]. The Spanish-language edition includes additional texts of two ‘gurus' of the Hispanic Internet: José Luis Orihuela wrote the prologue, and Enrique Dans wrote the epilogue. Orihuela blogged about it and posted the prologue online, which among other things says [es]:

El gran tema que plantea MacKinnon en esta obra es nada menos que la gobernanza de internet, y la exigencia de reclamar como ciudadanos digitales que las decisiones políticas y corporativas que afecten a la red no se tomen sin nuestro consentimiento informado.

No sin nuestro consentimiento es un amplio y detallado diagnóstico sobre las prácticas corporativas y los controles gubernamentales que están cercenando los espacios digitales de la sociedad civil, pero también un inventario de iniciativas en marcha que abren caminos para expandir los bienes comunes digitales frente al avance de las empresas tecnológicas y de los gobiernos sedientos de control.

The great topic that MacKinnon considers in this book is none other than the governing of the Internet, and the need to demand, as digital citizens, that the corporate and political decisions that affect the Internet should not be taken without our informed consent.

Consent Of The Networked is a wide and detailed diagnosis about corporate practices and governmental controls that are cutting off digital spaces in civil society, but also an inventory of initiatives working to open paths in order to expand common digital assets in face of the advance of technological businesses and governments thirsty for control.

Enrique Dans did the same and among what he comments on in the epilogue that he wrote, the following [es] can be highlighted:

si algo hace este libro es despertar la preocupación por comprobar hasta qué punto, si las cosas no cambian, tendremos que, cuando hablemos con nuestros hijos, referirnos a la red como a un espejismo de libertad que vivimos a lo largo de un par de décadas, pero que terminó por convertirse en otra cosa. Nunca, en ningún otro momento de la historia de la humanidad, hemos tenido tan clara conciencia de hasta qué punto estábamos siendo manipulados por un poder que, disfrazado de algo que llamaban democracia, se dedicaba a manejar a las personas mediante el uso de medios unidireccionales, de asimetrías comunicativas y de técnicas de manipulación colectiva. Si algo hace este libro es demostrarnos que, como debería ocurrir con el poder en el mundo físico, el poder en el mundo digital debe ser restringido, balanceado y controlado por los propios usuarios.

If this book does something, it is to evoke concern about realising up to what extent, if things do not change, we will have to, when we speak with our children, refer to the Internet as an illusion of freedom that we lived for a few decades, but which ended up becoming something else. Never, not in any moment in the history of humanity have we been so clearly aware to what extent we were being manipulated by a power that, disguised as something that used to be called democracy, spent time manipulating people through the use of unidirectional media, communicative asymmetry and techniques of collective manipulation. If this book does something, it is to show us, as should happen with power in the physical world, that the power of the digital world has to be restricted, balanced and controlled by the users themselves.

I spoke briefly with Rebecca about her book during the most recent Global Voices Summit in Nairobi, Kenya:

Perhaps it's not for sale in all Latin American bookshops, but in any case it remains a piece of recommended reading. Electronic versions are available in Spanish and English.

Original post [es] published in the blog Globalizado.

August 22 2012

“Don't Fear the Internet”: To Create is to Express Yourself

Note: Article [es] by Derechos Digitales originally published in Spanish, translated by Silvia Viñas.

Creating, informing, and thinking differently have always been viewed with suspicion. Today, when the Internet and digital technologies multiply information channels and offer new ways to create, there are many arguments fueled by certain interests that seek to discourage the free use of these platforms.

Because of entities seeking to protect the interests of dominant content industries, the Internet is presented today as a hub for piracy which will destroy culture as we know it. These are the tenets of proposed laws like SOPA, ACTA or TPP [es], which, in an effort to protect a business model based on an increasingly restrictive system of intellectual property, disregard fundamental rights like online freedom of expression and privacy.

However, at the same time, a new digital ethic has emerged from everyday uses of the Internet, which sees in the Internet an opportunity for the democratization of culture, free circulation of ideas and new ways to create. This is an ethic where barriers between artists and their audience are blurred; ideas are valued, not by enclosing knowledge in an elite group, but rather by sharing with the community; and where there is a belief in a balanced approach to copyright which not only protects creators, but also ensures access to creative and intellectual works.

This is the platform we need to use, take care of and defend. That’s why we say: “Don’t Fear the Internet” (#NoTemasaInternet.).


August 17 2012

“Don't Fear the Internet”: Copyright and Online Freedom of Expression

Note: Article [es] by Derechos Digitales originally published in Spanish, translated by Silvia Viñas.

We never get tired of saying it. Freedom of expression and the Internet are related: if one is affected, the other will be also. However, in modern democracies it is sometimes difficult to detect threats to online freedom of expression.

Therefore, at this stage of the “Don’t fear the Internet” [es] campaign we will focus on how some copyright laws and practices end up discouraging the use of the Internet for expression. Here are five introductory answers to a problem that has united activists around the globe against SOPA, ACTA, TPP, etc.


Why is copyright a good thing?

In principle, copyright aims to boost human creativity by providing incentives to scientists, inventors, artists and generally all people to invest their time and effort into creating works that lead to the development of science, culture and the arts. In return, the law gives them some exclusive rights over what they’ve created.

Why is the Internet a good place for creators of intellectual property?

The Internet has become a platform that can make creative works accessible to anyone, without physical or temporal barriers that limit distribution of and access to these works. A work uploaded to the Internet reaches a lot more people and generates far more impact than one that is distributed using only old technologies.

If the Internet and copyright enhance intellectual works, why does copyright sometimes come into conflict with Internet users?

While the Internet provides unprecedented levels of dissemination and access to culture, and while new technologies give us a number of freedoms to manipulate, reinterpret, remix, mix and parody cultural works, copyright gives owners exclusive rights to intellectual works they’ve created, such as the right to copy, upload to the Internet, edit and translate cultural creations.

Therefore, there is a constant tension between the things you can do on the Internet and the things that at the same time are prohibited by copyright, even in cases of daily Internet use where there are no commercial purposes, like sharing files with your friends, linking to articles on social networks, etc.

How does this conflict affect online freedom of expression? Three examples:

One. Because it limits the capacity to create and share knowledge. For example, if copyright is protected over the the right to freedom of expression, daily actions of the Internet are challenged: when you upload a video which has parts of other works (like other videos or music), if you use the base of a song to create a new song, or if you upload a parody of another work to your blog, etc.

Two. Because there is a tendency to prosecute these cases. When faced with any use of a work protected by copyright, many companies respond by filing expensive lawsuits and demanding the removal of the content that was uploaded to the Internet. That happened to Stephanie Lenz, who uploaded a video to YouTube of her son dancing to a song playing on the radio, and the record label [that held the copyright to the song] sued her for infringement.

Three. Because copyright rarely recognizes exceptions for noncommercial use. The law (and the industry) does little to recognize that your daily actions on the Internet, such as maintaining a blog or sharing links with friends, do not have a commercial purpose. And if citizens don’t even have that guarantee, our freedom of expression is highly compromised.

So, what can we do?

The first and easiest step is to get informed. In the upcoming posts we will publish tips and recommendations for using, protecting, and defending your online freedom of expression. #NoTemasaInternet [es] [Don’t fear the Internet].

August 08 2012

Argentina: New Study Analyzes Human Rights Impact of Online Surveillance Practices

This article [es] was originally written in Spanish by Paz Peña, for Chilean NGO Derechos Digitales. Translation by Silvia Viñas.

SOPA, PIPA, ACTA, CISPA, TPP and a long list of draft laws, international treaties, and practices seek to impose the idea that the Internet is a wild space that must be controlled at all costs. At the same time, governments around the world increasingly claim their sovereignty on the Internet, and in turn interfere with Internet architecture, leaving its protagonists, from users to intermediaries, with new responsibilities [including legal ones].

These initiatives, sometimes driven by good intentions and other times (as we know) not so much, look to control the free flow of Internet content in some way. This can have profound implications for the rights of citizens.

Online surveillance: What does monitoring and detecting content on the Internet mean? (download pdf in Spanish) is a new study by the Center for Studies on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information (CELE) of the University of Palermo, Argentina, which seeks to delve into the consequences of these measures.

First, it offers a conceptual overview of the architecture of the Internet. Then, it analyzes the concept of control on the Internet, putting an emphasis on intermediaries and the use of technologies such as deep packet inspection. Finally, it discusses the tension between national security and the prevention of violence, and rights such as freedom of expression and privacy.

In a context where users increasingly understand the threats that such policies can pose for free expression online, in both international (The Internet Defense League) and local spheres (No Temas a Internet [es]), this text is essential reading.

August 07 2012

“Don’t Fear the Internet”: An Infographic

Note: Article [es] by Derechos Digitales originally published in Spanish, translated by Silvia Viñas.

We’ve already shown you how the Internet, without freedom of expression, loses its value; and how this right involves things as simple as choosing a domain name.

Indeed, sometimes we are not aware of freedom of expression on the Internet, we take it for granted. However, many of the things we do online on a daily basis depend on that right, and without freedom of expression, those practices would be compromised for different reasons: from police censorship and persecution in some countries; to excesses in criminal and copyright prosecution in Chile.

Now we present a new infographic from our campaign #NoTemasaInternet [es] (Don’t fear the Internet) where we want to show, in simple and didactic terms, some of the things you can do on the Internet thanks to your right to freedom of expression.

Visit our Tumblr [es] and see this infographic in more detail. See the English version below:

June 29 2012

January 25 2012

International Privacy Day: Fighting Data Retention Mandates Around the World

This January 28 marks International Privacy Day. Different countries around the world are celebrating this day with their own events. In EFF, we are calling on governments to repeal mandatory data retention schemes. Mandatory data retention harms individuals' anonymity, which is crucial for whistle-blowers, investigators, journalists, and for political speech. It creates huge potential for abuse and should be rejected as a serious infringement on the rights and freedoms of all individuals.

It has been six years since the highly controversial Data Retention Directive (DRD) was adopted in the European Union. Conceived in the EU and steamrolled by powerful U.S. and U.K. government lobbies, this mass-surveillance law compels EU-based Internet service providers to collect and retain traffic data revealing who communicates with whom by email, phone, and SMS, including the duration of the communication and the locations of the users. This data is often made available to law enforcement. Europeans have widely criticized the DRD, and year after year, it has inspired some of the largest-ever street protests against excessive surveillance.

The European Commission has begun mounting a defense for this highly controversial mass-surveillance scheme, though they have thus far been unable to show that the DRD is necessary or proportionate. For the DRD to be legal in the EU, any limitation to the right to privacy must be “necessary” to achieve an objective of general interest and “proportionate” to the desired aim. This requirement is important to ensure that the government does not adopt severe measures to address a problem that could be otherwise solved in a way that is less harmful to civil liberties.  But the Commission has been arguing that all uses of retained data illustrate that the Directive is “valuable.” This doesn’t meet the legal standard. Instead, the Commission should provide evidence that in the absence of a mandatory data retention law, traffic data crucial to the investigation of “serious crime” would not have been available to law enforcement.

Despite the European Commission’s efforts to preserve the Directive as-is, a leaked letter confirms that the Commission has been scrambling to conjure evidence for the “need” of a DRD scheme in the European Union. It also underscores the fact that there is no system of oversight that would allow citizens to monitor the impact of the proposed program on their privacy rights. Perhaps the most disquieting detail that has been confirmed by the letter is that service providers have already been storing instant messages, chats, uploads, and downloads. This type of data collection falls outside the scope of the DRD. Moreover, the letter indicates that “unnamed” players seek to broaden the uses of the DRD to include prosecution of copyright infringement including “illegally downloading.” Since this is not a serious crime, this legally falls outside the scope of the DRD.

In response to this leak, EDRI stated, “The leaked document however shows that the Commission can neither prove necessity nor proportionality of the Data Retention Directive - but still wants to keep the Directive.” The leaked letter also disclosed that the EU Commission is evaluating the possibility of amending the Directive. The Commission has commissioned a study into data preservation in the EU and around the world. According to the letter, this exercise is to be completed by May 2012.

Ending Data Retention: Constitutional Challenges

Constitutional courts have begun weighing in on the legality of this mass-surveillance scheme. In a decision celebrated by privacy advocates, the Czech Constitutional Court declared in March 2011 that the Czech data retention law was unconstitutional. Earlier this month, the same Court dealt another blow to data retention by annulling part of the Criminal Procedure Code, which would have enabled law enforcement access to data stored voluntarily by operators. Most importantly, the Czech Court used compelling language in articulating the importance of the protection of traffic data. The Court stated that the collection of traffic data and communication data warranted identical legal safeguards since both have the same “intensity of interference”.

We couldn't agree more. Sensitive data of this nature demands stronger protection, not an all-access pass. Individuals should not have to worry whether one sort of private information has less protection than another.

Jan Vobořil of Iuridicum Remedium, which led the legal complaint against the Czech data retention law, told EFF:

I believe that both decisions will help ensure that new legislation enforces the same restrictions as exist for use of wiretap. These include strong privacy safeguards for government access to citizen's data, the obligation to inform individuals about the use of their data, and so on.

Several other courts in EU member states have also ruled on the illegality of data retention laws. Earlier in 2009, the Romanian constitutional Court rejected the imposition of an ongoing, sweeping traffic data retention program. The Court rightly emphasized that mandatory data retention overturns the presumption of innocence in a way that treats all Romanians like potential suspects. Despite this court decision, a new draft data retention bill was introduced in the Parliament, but the Senate finally rejected it at the end of 2011.

In March 2010, the German Court declared unconstitutional the German mandatory data retention law. The Court ordered the deletion of the collected data and affirmed that data retention could “cause a diffusely threatening feeling of being under observation that can diminish an unprejudiced perception of one's basic rights in many areas.” The lawsuit was brought on by 34,000 citizens through the initiative of AK Vorrat, the German working group against data retention.

Over in Ireland, the Court is referring to the European Court of Justice the case challenging the legality of the DRD, thanks to the complaint brought by Digital Rights Ireland. The Irish Court acknowledged the importance of defining “the legitimate legal limits of surveillance techniques used by governments”, and rightly emphasized that “without sufficient legal safeguards the potential for abuse and unwarranted invasion of privacy is obvious”. The Courts in Cyprus and Bulgaria have also declared their mandatory data retention laws unconstitutional.

The DRD compels EU member countries to implement the Directive into national law. Fortunately, many member states have not yet done so. The Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Romania, and Sweden have not adopted this piece of legislation, despite pressure from the European Commission to do so. In Austria, the data protection law will take effect in April 2012.  AK Vorrat Austria plans to use all legal means to challenge the legality of the DRD. They have also handed over a petition to the Austrian Parliament asking the government to fight against the DRD at the EU level and to review all existing anti-terror legislation. (If you are Austrian, sign the petition today at zeichnemit.at.) In Slovakia, the NGO European Information Society Institute is opposing the Slovakian data retention implementation law.

Meanwhile, civil society groups are resisting and campaigning against this oppressive data retention law. EDRI, along with EFF and AK Vorrat, has fought to repeal the DRD in favor of targeted collection of traffic data. EDRI has previously reported that Deutsche Telekom, a German telco, illegally used telecommunications traffic and location data to spy on roughly 60 individuals including journalists, managers, and union leaders. They also reported that two major intelligence agencies in Poland used retained traffic and subscriber data to illegally disclose journalistic sources without any judicial oversight. These are only a few examples in which data retention policies have directly threatened individuals’ expression and privacy rights.

The DRD is a threat to Internet privacy and anonymity, and has been proven to violate the privacy rights of 500 million Europeans. EFF, together with EDRI, will keep fighting to repeal the DRD in favor of targeted collection of traffic data.

Mandatory Data Retention in the United States

Two bills introduced in the U.S. Congress in 2009 would have required all Internet providers and operators of WiFi access points to keep records on Internet users for at least two years to assist police investigations. Neither bill became law. Some legislators and law enforcement officials continue to argue, however, that mandatory data retention is necessary to investigate online child pornography and other Internet crimes. In January 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security held a hearing that discussed whether Congress should pass legislation that would force ISPs and telecom providers to log Internet user traffic data. In May 2011, H.R. 1981, which would require retention of such traffic data, was introduced in the House of Representatives. This bill is still alive and continues to be a threat to the privacy and anonymity of all Americans. EFF has joined civil liberties and consumer organizations in publicly opposing H.R. 1981. Please join EFF, and help us defeat this bill before it is made law. Contact your Representative now.

Katitza Rodriguez is International Rights Director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. @txitua

December 10 2011

Title TERRA 617: Our Tomorrow

The environmental problems of the world are overwhelming and terrifying, yet something about this fear seems so familiar. Are we living in The End Times? Should we simply give up and admit defeat? In a fascinating mix of interviews, images, and animation, "Our Tomorrow" muses on the natural world and the Apocalypse.
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