Archive for the 'Internet' Category

Social networking communication: has the line on free speech been Drawn too far?

“Smash down in Northwich Town,” the name of a Facebook event page which has cost its creator, Jordan Blackshaw, four years in prison. The sentence followed the Chester Crown Court’s verdict that the event page, created during the London riots, was capable of inciting others to commit riot. However, given that the event went unattended, the town of Northwich left undisturbed, Brendon O’Neill, editor of Spiked, an independent online forum, questions whether the courts were justified in criminalising the defendant’s behaviour and considers whether the convictions were in fact a violation of the defendant’s right to freedom of expression. Continue reading ‘Social networking communication: has the line on free speech been Drawn too far?’


Apple and Net Neutrality – Relevant?

In recent months the legal and ethical debate over net neutrality and its implications for freedom of expression has drawn quite a bit of attention. Net neutrality is of utmost cultural, societal, and legal significance. Net neutrality regulation is one of the most important decisions the world’s lawmakers will have to make in the upcoming years. A prominent example can be found in Apple, the company famous for its computers, mp3 players, and most recently the iPhone. The quarrel over the submission and review policy for publishing an application on the Apple App Store has become highly controversial. Now, the actual review policy is too long to include in this blog but the gist is explained quite well in Apple’s official summary:

‘The app approval process is in place to ensure that applications are reliable, perform as expected, and are free of explicit and offensive material. We review every app on the App Store based on a set of technical, content, and design criteria…’ Continue reading ‘Apple and Net Neutrality – Relevant?’

Internet: A Fundamental Human Right?

The internet shutdown in Egypt in January 2011 sparked a lively debate on whether access to the internet is a fundamental human right or not? This discussion has re-emerged with the recent release of the report by Frank LaRue, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of speech and expression. The report identifies the internet as the key means by which individuals exercise their right to freedom of expression. The report concludes that the same framework that safeguards the right to freedom of expression must govern the right to internet access.

While welcomed by many, the characterization of internet access as a fundamental right has not been unanimously embraced. Continue reading ‘Internet: A Fundamental Human Right?’

‘Hactivism’ against Censorship: Civil Disobedience or Criminal Nuisance?

‘Hactivism’ – illegally tampering with websites as an act of protest – has gained unprecedented publicity, thanks to Anonymous, a scattered group of possibly thousands of activists who have collectively launched cyber-attacks on governments and private companies “to keep the internet open and free.” It first launched large-scale attacks in 2010 on the websites of Mastercard, Visa, and other companies who revoked services from WikiLeaks after the U.S. declared WikiLeaks illegal. Anonymous called any “anti-Wikileaks company” an enemy in a “war on data.”

In 2011, the group set its eyes on the revolts in the Middle East and North Africa, hacking into government websites to protest various internet censorship policies. In June, Anonymous launched “Operation Turkey,” disrupting Turkish government websites to protest its new mandate for all online users to sign up for one of four internet filtering settings, which according to Anonymous, not only restricted internet access but enabled the government to monitor individual internet activity. Anonymous launched a distributed denial of service (DDoS), in which numerous websites flooded the target websites with requests, rendering them too busy to function.  An unofficial Anonymous spokesman proclaimed the tactic a valid method of protest: “When truck drivers go on strike they block all the roads. It’s the same principle.” Anonymous also recently targeted Iran and United Arab Emirates, stealing and displaying ten thousand government user names and passwords. Reportedly, the attack on Iranian websites was conducted in view of the second anniversary of the controversial 2009 election.    Continue reading ‘‘Hactivism’ against Censorship: Civil Disobedience or Criminal Nuisance?’

The Value of Democracy: A Challenge to the ‘Hyper-Injunction’?

One could understandably become very confused by all the new terminology English Media Law has had thrown at it these days. First we had ‘super-injunctions’, described by Lord Neuberger’s report as:

 “…an interim injunction which restrains a person from: (i) publishing information which concerns the applicant and is said to be confidential or private; and, ii) publicising or informing others of the existence of the order and the proceedings (the ‘super’ element of the order)”

 Next we have been introduced to ‘hyper-injunctions’, which in addition to the above, explicitly prevent parties from complaining about matters to their local MP. This is designed to forestall claiming of Parliamentary Privilege in disclosing the information to the House of Commons. Apparently however, this does not prevent MPs from discussing the details of cases off their own bat. The distinction between hyper-injunctions and super-injunctions is not conceptually deep; essentially they are the same juridical tool, the difference is one of specificity. Continue reading ‘The Value of Democracy: A Challenge to the ‘Hyper-Injunction’?’

Behind the ‘Great Firewall’: Internet Censorship in the People’s Republic of China

Recognising the huge and growing importance of the Internet as a vehicle for facilitating in practice the free flow of information and ideas that lies at the heart of the right to freedom of expression’

– Preamble, International Mechanisms for Promoting Freedom of Expression – Joint Declaration by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media and the OAS Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression

In fact, a new term was coined to refer to the citizens the world over who interact through the Internet and participate in social, economic and political discussion on an unprecedented global scale; they are the ‘netizens’ and there are now more than 400 million of them in the People’s Republic of China. Continue reading ‘Behind the ‘Great Firewall’: Internet Censorship in the People’s Republic of China’

Libyan Attacks on Freedom of Expression – the Root of the Unrest

“All my people love me. They would die to protect me,” said Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi earlier this month.  This, however, contrasts starkly with the reality of the situation in Libya, leading to the US ambassador to the UN to declare the leader “delusional.”  Nearly two weeks earlier, anti-government protests broke out in Libya following the resignation of former Egyptian leader, Muhammad Hosni Mubarak.  The government responded with military action, leaving more than 100 dead in the first four days of protests.  The UN security council responded by calling for an end to the violence.  This, however, was nearly three weeks ago, yet the crisis in Libya remains. Continue reading ‘Libyan Attacks on Freedom of Expression – the Root of the Unrest’

Fired over Facebook: Employer Regulation of Speech on Social Media Sites

Experts have stated that “the intersection of social media and the office is a potential minefield,” creating numerous possibilities for a wide variety of lawsuits. A manager “poking” an employee on Facebook might give rise to a sexual harassment claim. Or perhaps an employer may rescind a job offer to an employee after learning via Facebook that the applicant is of a particular religion or sexual orientation. While these types of lawsuits seem inevitable, claims concerning employee speech on social networking sites have already become prevalent.   Continue reading ‘Fired over Facebook: Employer Regulation of Speech on Social Media Sites’

Twitter and the Right to ‘Menacing’ Jokes

In January 2010, Paul Chambers expressed his annoyance at the closure of his local airport on Twitter, with the comment, ‘Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!’ He was arrested a week later and questioned while police seized his computers and phones, and was subsequently charged under the Communications Act 2003. Continue reading ‘Twitter and the Right to ‘Menacing’ Jokes’

UK government urges ISPs to block porn

This week the government revealed plans to approach internet service providers (ISPs), in January, in a bid to curb easy access to internet porn. Ministers are hoping for a system (provided and administered by the ISPs) where customers must opt-in. It has been suggested that if ISPs fail to devise this system voluntarily, legislation may be introduced. The main supporting argument for these changes has been to control what children can access online. More and more young children are inadvertently viewing porn sites and only 15% of parents understand how to use the controls provided on their computers to restrict such access. Another more recent worry is the ability to access such sites on mobile phones, which is obviously much more difficult to monitor. Some, but not all, ISPs have recently blocked this ability. Continue reading ‘UK government urges ISPs to block porn’

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