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9 Jul

French National Assembly approved law to fight against hate speech online 

The French National Assembly approved Act against hate speech online. The Act forces online platforms and search engines, such as Facebook and Google, to remove hate content targeting ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation, and disability in 24 hours. The deputies also added to this list incitement to terrorist and child pornography. If the intermediary refuses to remove the illegal content, it can be condemned to pay up to 4% of their annual global profit. The act also requires platforms to implementing a button, common to all intermediaries, that will allow users to report any hate content. The superior audio-visual council will watch and ensure that online intermediaries enforce the Act.

2 Jul

Civil rights audit concludes that Facebook’s policy against white supremacy is insufficient

Since March 2019 Facebook’s has implemented a new policy banning from the platform any content that used the term ‘white nationalist’.  An external audit, conducted by former American Civil Liberties Union (UCLU) director Laura Murphy, reported that Facebook’s present white nationalism policy is too limited, because it bans only explicit support of the term ‘white nationalism’ or ‘white separatism’. As a result, content that expressly supports white nationalist ideology without using the terms has flourished in the platform. Facebook reacted to the audit by having formalised a civil rights team at the platform. The team will identify hate slogans and symbols connected to white nationalism and white separatism. Despite Facebook’s efforts on content moderation, online intermediaries are exempted from liability for illegal third-party content in the United States.

1 Jul

Tech companies lobby against UK proposal to enforce duty of care

The Internet Association (IA), an American lobbying group formed by Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter among others, have publicly attacked the UK online harms proposal that imposes online platform a duty of care to protect users. The government of the UK has published for consultation a regulatory proposal to address online harms, which includes the enactment of a statutory duty of care on online businesses for their users’ safety; the appointment of an independent regulator to oversee and enforce the regulation; and extraterritorial application of the statute. The proposal was opened to public consultation until 1 of July.

24 Jun

US Supreme court rules in favor of freedom of expression

The US Supreme Court has invalidated a law banning scandalous trademarks as going against the US Constitution’s First Amendment protecting the right to freedom of expression. The decision overturned a lower court decision that banned the use of the trademark 'Fuct' (for 'Friends U Can't Trust', according to the designer). The position referred to a similar case regarding the use of the name 'The Slants' for an Asian-American dance rock band, which was considered by some to be offensive to Asians. The decision agreed with the contention that a prohibition 'prohibition on “immoral” trademarks ran afoul of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment right to free expression' while the dissenting opinion of three of the justices said that the 'bar on “scandalous” trademarks should have been upheld'.

13 Jun

Sudan cuts off Internet access nationwide

A recent article, has analysed the impact of Internet shutdowns in Sudan which has been hit by massive citizen protests since December 2018.

The article notes that the Sudanese authorities are desperate and are shutting down the Internet as part of a ‘last-ditch’ strategy to break the protesters’ momentum and buy time for the regime.

Secondly, the article notes that only 31% of Sudan’s 40 million citizens have Internet access, while only 7% of the population on social media, the Sudanese authorities are not expecting realise any huge impact to the economy when they turn off the Internet.

Thirdly, the article points out that blocking Internet access appears to be the only tactic the Sudanese know well since they lack right infrastructure to implement more complex methods of digital repression.

13 Jun

Ethiopia shuts down the Internet to prevent exam leaks

According to an article from a leading Ethiopian news source, the Internet has been shut down and the reason given by authorities is to prevent leakage of exams papers.

Internet has not been accessible largely across the country for three days. According to NetBlocks, an organisation that monitors Internet shutdowns, access to in Ethiopia was totally cut off on 9 June and has since only been an intermittent restoration of Internet services since then.

This is not the first time Ethiopian authorities are shutting down the Internet for exams leaks. The article further suggests that considering the dire need for the Internet in everyday lives of citizens and businesses, the government must adopt and implement best practices around the world in dealing with exam leakages.

7 Jun

Wikipedia files lawsuit against Turkey in ECHR

Wikipedia has filed a lawsuit with the European Court of Human Rights, to lift the ban on all language versions of Wikipedia, in place since April of 2017 as an 'administrative measure', which Wikipedia has been fighting for two years. Wikimedia  Foundation (the nonprofit organisation which runs Wikipedia) said in a statement: 'We are taking this action as part of our continued commitment to knowledge and freedom of expression as fundamental rights for every person'. The topic is mentioned in discussions of Turkey's bid for EU membership.

5 Jun

US visa applicants to disclose social media accounts

The US State Department of State (DoS) is now requiring social media details from most visa applicants. Unlike previous practice where only applicants that are flagged for additional vetting were asked for social media information, almost all visa applicants are now required to submit their social media usernames, previous email addresses, and phone numbers. This follows the application of the March 2018 regulation that only exempts certain diplomatic and official visa applicants from disclosing their social media history.

According to reports, the US DoS State Department is reported to have explained the requirement as a way to improve screenings, to protect US citizens while promoting legitimate travel. It is estimated that approximately 14.6 million people apply for US visas annually.

The new visa application form names social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube and provides spaces for additional platforms not listed. Applicants are also required to list social media accounts and emails they have used in the previous five years.

Civil rights groups questioned the efficacy of social media vetting, saying that it could have a chilling effect on online freedom of expression online.

1 Jun

US State Department requires social media and other info for visa applications

The US State Department now requires almost all visa applicants to provide social media platform account names (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube) for the previous five years, as well as e-mail addresses and phone numbers (some diplomatic and official visa types are exempt) for those five years. According to the State Department, this additional information, in the past only required of persons identified as needing extra scrutiny, 'will strengthen our process for vetting these applicants and confirming their identity'.

However, others are concerned that this policy 'poses a serious threat to freedom of expression'. The action also puts privacy at risk, by creating a database of very personal details about these applicants, especially since it is unclear how the data will be stored or shared beyond the visa process, considering that there is no domestic data protection framework in place.

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