Corporations don’t have to wait for the SOPA bill to pass to start censoring the Internet, it turns out. Under a ruling just handed down by a federal judge in Nevada, hundreds of websites accused by Chanel of selling counterfeit goods are having their domains confiscated and their names removed from search engine results, with scanty evidence of the accusation’s validity. Read More
You know it’s getting serious when people aren’t using Facebook. The social networking giant now says it has noticed significantly reduced traffic from Egypt as a result of the Egyptian government’s attempt to shut down its country’s Internet this week to quash political protests. Though we’ve seen governments attempt to censor the Internet in times of uprising before (like during the 2009 Iranian election), Forbes says this is “the first time in modern history a major Internet economy is being shut down.”
Mobile phone networks have reportedly been disrupted, leaving millions without access to text messaging or phone calls. The country’s key Internet Service Providers are also off the air, says James Cowie, the chief technology officer of Internet monitoring firm Renesys on his blog. “Virtually all of Egypt’s Internet addresses are now unreachable, worldwide. [Forbes]
Indeed, Cowie says, this is something new compared to other government internet censorship:
Similar demonstrations and Web outages are occurring in Tunisia, though Cowie noted that the Egypt Internet downtime “is a completely different situation from the modest Internet manipulation that took place in Tunisia, where specific routes were blocked, or Iran, where the Internet stayed up in a rate-limited form designed to make Internet connectivity painfully slow.” [PC Magazine]
Thoughts of a government being able to just “turn off the Internet” has people in other countries frightened, but it was particularly easy to achieve in Egypt.
The software tool called Haystack was supposed to protect dissidents in Iran who wanted to use the Internet free of the government’s censorship. If third-party software testers are correct, though, flaws in the system meant to help those dissidents could have led authorities right to them. The Censorship Research Center, the San Francisco-based organization that created Haystack, has now pulled it back and asked users to destroy the existing copies.
“We have halted ongoing testing of Haystack in Iran pending a security review,” HaystackNetwork.com said in a brief statement. “If you have a copy of the test program, please refrain from using it.” [AFP]
Jacob Appelbaum, a security expert who volunteers with WikiLeaks, sounded the alarm.
The world’s largest search engine and the world’s most populous country traded barbs and threats this spring when Google said it might leave the country over the Chinese government’s Internet censorship. That fight cooled to a simmer over the last few months. Today, Google announced on its official blog that China has renewed its content provider license, further defusing the tension between the two.
Google has been waiting to hear back from Chinese authorities about its ICP license since the company filed for its renewal last week. The company’s license must be reviewed annually. Its renewal will allow the search giant to continue operating its China-based site, Google.cn. If Google had been unable to renew its license, it could have meant the end of the company’s operations in China [PC World].
As of this writing, the “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” Facebook page has nearly 83,000 likes and is rising steadily. Presumably, none of those fans are in the government of Pakistan, as the page prompted the conservative Muslim country to block first Facebook, but then also YouTube, parts of Wikipedia, and other Web sites—more than 450 in all.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) keeps itself busy scanning the Internet for material that it says would offend its population, the second-largest Muslim population of any country. Two years ago it temporarily banned YouTube until the site removed cartoons of Mohammed. Typically the PTA bans particular links, but this week it complained that the amount of objectionable material on Web was increasing and decided to cut off it citizens from some of the biggest sites on the Web. The ban is said to run through the end of May, giving Web sites the chance to remove offending materials if they choose.
Social networking sites are extremely popular in Pakistan, a country of 170 million, where more than 60 percent of the population is under the age of 25. Pakistan has about 25 million Internet users, almost all of them young, according to Adnan Rehmat, a media analyst in Islamabad [The New York Times].
Is the Vietnamese government following China’s example, and muffling online dissent to pursue its own political ends? Internet giant Google seems to think so. Writing on the company’s online security blog, Neel Mehta of Google’s security team has revealed that tens of thousands of Vietnamese computers were subject to a potent virus attack this week–and that the attack targeted activists who are opposed to a Chinese mining project in Vietnam.
Google writes that the activists mistakenly downloaded malicious software that infected their computers. The infected machines could be used to spy on the users, and were also used to attack Web sites and blogs that voiced opposition to the mining project. This cyber attack, Google says, was an attempt to “squelch” opposition to bauxite mining in Vietnam, a highly controversial issue in the country. The computer security firm, McAfee Inc, which detected the malware, went a step further, saying its creators “may have some allegiance to the government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment [Moneycontrol].
Google’s current spat with China began with a similar accusation, when the company accused Beijing of hacking into and spying on Chinese activists’ gmail accounts. Just this week, journalists in China said their email accounts were compromised because of yet another spyware attack.
In the latest episode of the ongoing Google-Beijing dispute, Google’s attempt to bypass Chinese censors by sending Chinese users of its search engine to an uncensored Hong Kong-based site seems to have failed.
Within 24 hours of the rerouting, Beijing has clamped down, restricting mainland users’ access to the uncensored content on the Hong Kong site. Mainland Chinese users on Tuesday could not see uncensored Hong Kong content because government computers either disabled searches for objectionable content completely or blocked links to certain results [The New York Times]. Earlier, the Chinese government described Google’s move to redirect users to the Hong Kong site as “totally wrong.”
The clash comes two months after Google and China began a bitter standoff over internet censorship on the mainland. Instead of exiting the country entirely, Google has taken on Beijing by defying its censorship controls and sending mainland users to its Hong Kong site, where censorship rules are more lenient.
While the move seemed provocative, Google’s founders at first seemed to think that this redirection would be acceptable to the Chinese government. “We got reasonable indications that this was O.K.,” Sergey Brin, a Google founder and its president of technology, said. “We can’t be completely confident” [The New York Times]. Google said that while the search operations were being redirected to Hong Kong, it would continue to host its maps and music search service in China. However, it now seems that the company misjudged the Chinese government’s mood.