The Free Internet Project


Iran starts "smart filtering" of Instagram, may lead to unblocking Facebook, Twitter, YouTube in 2015

According to The Guardian, Iran has started a trial of a "smart filtering" of Instagram photographs, allowing Iranians access to the site but selectively blocking certain posts, such as those by @RichKidsofTehran, which shows wealthy, young Iranians "flaunting their wealth."  If the smart filtering proves successful, Iran may deploy the system on other popular social media like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, which currently are blocked in Iran. 

“Presently, the smart-filtering plan is implemented only on one social network in its pilot study phase and this process will continue gradually until the plan is implemented on all networks,” Mahmoud Vaezi, the Iranian Communications Minister, said.

The goal is to have the system in place by June 2015.  Some Iranians expressed fear that the Iranian government would start cracking down on virtual private networks (VPNs), which already allow people in Iran to bypass the blocking of popular websites and social media.

China blocks Gmail

Reports out of China indicate that Gmail service is being blocked since last Friday, the day after Christmas.  Google's own Transparency Report shows a steep decline--a virtual flatline--to Google Gmail service out of China as depicted in Figure 1 below.

Thus far, China's government denies blocking the Gmail service.  Users of Gmail in China may have to use a virtual private network (VPN) to get access to their emails in China. Google services have reportedly experienced major disruptions in China since the summer. 


Facebook, Google, Twitter won't comply with Russia's orders to remove info on opposition rally

The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter appear to plan on defying Russia's communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, which has ordered them to block information related to a January 15 rally for opposition leader Alexei Navalny posted on the U.S. social media sites accessible in Russia. Navalny is under house arrest under charges of fraud that his supporters claim are trumped up charges to silence the opposition. 

According to WSJ, Roskomnadzor issued its orders under a new law in Russia that authorizes prosecutors to issue such orders without court authorization or involvement.  

The Web Index Report 2014: Internet inequality and restrictions growing

The World Wide Web Foundation, which was founded by Tim Berners-Lee, issued its Web Index Report for 2014.  The Report finds a large digital divide, with over 4.4 billion people--primarily from poor and developing countries--with no Internet access.  Even in developed countries, there is a digital divide with lower income people having less access to the Internet.  In terms of mass surveillance, 84% of the 86 countries analyzed lack privacy laws to protect people from government surveillance.  Likewise, 84% of the countries analyzed lack suffiicient protections for net neutrality.  74% of the countries analyzed "are not doing enough to stop online violence against women."

What does Internet freedom mean to you?

On October 11, 2014, The Free Internet Project held its launch party in Chicago.  Festivities included eating great food, meeting new people, and making a video.  We asked people to answer this question: "What does Internet freedom mean to you?"  And then we compiled their answers in the video above.  We would love to hear your answers to the question "What does Internet freedom mean to you?" Please email us a photo or video with your answer or post it on our Facebook page or on Twitter under #thefreeinternetproject.




Net Neutrality Debate Hits Turning Point as Pres. Obama Comes out with Strong Plan to Protect Net Neutrality

After months of standing on the sidelines in the contentious debate over whether to adopt net neutrality in the United States, President Barack Obama has finally spoken.  The timing is pretty late, but it may well be that the President was waiting until after the mid-term elections to take a stand on what would be a controversial decision regardless of which way the President came out.  Yesterday, the President gave a full-throated endorsement of adopting a principle of net neutrality that would forbid companies from creating paid fastlanes on the Internet for those companies that can afford it.

Facebook Issues 3rd Government Requests Report (Censorship and User Information)

Facebook came out last week with its third Government Requests Report that compiles data regarding requests by governments around the world from January to July 2014 to take down information or obtain user information from Facebook. India led the requests for censoring material on Facebook, with 4,960 pieces of content removed upon India's government's request.  Turkey was second (1,893 pieces of content taken down), Pakistan third (1,773 pieces of content taken down), and Germany fourth (34 pieces of content taken down).

Argentinean Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Google and Yahoo on Civil Liability of Search Engines in María Belén Rodriguez case

On October 27, 2014 the Argentinean Federal Supreme Court of Justice issued its much awaited decision on the case involving the Argentinian model and actress María Belén Rodriguez vs Google Inc. (file number 99.613/06).  The case tackles the issue of the civil liability of web search engines derived from the content listed on their databases.  In an important victory for Internet service providers (ISPs), the Supreme Court ruled that Google and and other ISPs are not liable for the content of third parties if the ISP does not have knowledge of the allegedly infringing material or, having such knowledge, acts expeditiously to remove access to such material.  The Court balanced the competing interests of the freedom of expression and personal honor and reputation.

Mass Protests in Hungary Stops Government Plan to Tax Internet Use

Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said the government's plan to tax Internet use was not viable in present form.  The proposal was to charge Internet users 150 forint (£0.40) per gigabyte of data usage, which would be capped at 700 forint (£1.80) for individuals and 5,000 forint (£13) for businesses every month.  Orban's concession comes after dramatic protests in Budapest by tens of thousands of people who marched in the streets on Sunday and Tuesday of this week.  Orban said the government would hold public consultations on the Internet tax in 2015.

Kakao Talk CEO Lee apologizes for allowing South Korean law enforcement to access user information in crackdown against online rumors

Sirgoo Lee, the co-CEO of Kakao Talk, the leading instant-messaging service in South Korea, held a press conference to apologize to Kakao's 35 million users, many of whom had reportedly began leaving the popular service due to privacy concerns.  This year, the South Korean law enforcement started cracking down on false and malicious online posts.  The government effort was, in part, a response to unflattering posts related to President Park Geun-Hye, who complained about insults and rumors made about her online, especially related to her handling of the tragic Sewol ferry capsizing.



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