WINGS CLIPPED? – Curbs on web Freedom to go up?

  • This year, the challenges for Silicon Valley will mount, with Russia and Turkey in particular trying to tighten controls on foreign-based internet companies.
  • Major American companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google are increasingly being put in the tricky position of figuring out which laws and orders to comply with around the world and which to ignore or contest.
  • Russia’s president, Vladimir V Putin, signed the latest version of a personal data law that will require companies to store data about Russian users on computers inside the country, where it will be easier for the government to get access to it.
  • With few companies expected to comply with the law, which goes into effect September 1, a confrontation may well erupt.
  • The clumsiness of current censorship efforts was apparent in mid-December, when Russia’s internet regulator demanded that Facebook remove a page that was promoting an anti-government rally.
  • After Facebook blocked the page, dozens of copycat pages popped up and the word spread on other social networks like Twitter.
  • The Turkish government faced similar embarrassment when it tried to stop the dissemination of leaked documents and audio recordings on Twitter in March.
  • The administration of Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the shutdown of Twitter within Turkey after the company refused to block the posts.
  • The above oeder implicated government officials in a corruption investigation.
  • Not only did the government lose a court fight on the issue, but while Twitter was blocked and legions of Turkish users taught one another technical tricks to evade the ban.
  • Despite such victories for free speech advocates, governments around the world are stepping up their efforts to control the internet, escalating the confrontation.
  • According to the company’s most recent transparency report :Pakistan, for example, bombarded Facebook with nearly 1,800 requests to take down content in the first half of 2014.
  • Google’s YouTube video has long been blocked there.
  • And the government briefly succeeding in getting Twitter to block certain “blasphemous” or “unethical” tweets last year until the company re-examined Pakistani law and determined the requests didn’t meet legal requirements.
  • In the EU, a court ruling last year established a “right to be forgotten,” allowing residents to ask search engines like Google to remove links to negative material about them.
  • Now privacy regulators want Google to also delete the links from search results on the non-European versions of its service because anyone in Europe can easily get access to the alternate sites.