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Defending Free Expression Online

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Today, a broad coalition of technology companies, human rights organizations, political groups, and others will take to the Web and to the streets to protest mass surveillance. The mobilization, known as "The Day We Fight Back," honors activist and technologist Aaron Swartz, who passed away just over a year ago. Throughout the day, the campaign will encourage individuals to contact their representatives, pressure their employers, and march for an end to government surveillance practices that sweep up huge amounts of data, often indiscriminately.

By the time the first story based on former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's disclosures splashed across the front pages of the world's newspapers, India had reportedly begun deployment of its own major surveillance architecture, the Central Management System (CMS). The system is a $132 million project that allows central access to all communications content and metadata carried over Indian telecommunications networks. According to documents reviewed by The Hindu:

Mhamed Krichen/CPJ Board member

There seems to be no end to American surprises when it comes to Al-Jazeera. The latest was revealed by Der Spiegel, the German weekly news magazine, which reported the U.S. National Security Agency hacked into our internal communications system, according to documents provided by Edward Snowden, the former NSA security analyst.

This screenshot shows Singapore Minister of Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim telling a BBC interviewer that new license regulations will ensure users see the 'right' content online. (BBC)

Singapore's Internet community is in backlash since the government announced on May 28 a new licensing scheme for "news websites"--a term it did not define--arguing that digital news platforms ought to be regulated on par with offline media. The government said the scheme would take effect June 1.

With more than a billion users, Facebook is not only the biggest global social network but also an increasingly important forum for journalists. In some repressive countries it has even served as a publishing platform for journalists whose newspapers or news websites have been closed down. That is why journalists and bloggers should note today's news that after a year of standing on the threshold, Facebook has decided to step inside the Global Network Initiative tent.

More than a quarter million Twitter accounts have been hacked worldwide, the social media company disclosed in February, but Tuesday's attack on The Associated Press's verified account, @AP, had unusual effect. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 143 points after someone hijacked the AP's account to falsely tweet that two explosions at the White House had wounded President Barack Obama. The market recovered, but the hacking--just the latest in a series of attacks on news organizations--sent shudders through a profession that's grown accustomed to breaking its news on Twitter.

You have to wonder how this will be enforced, but China's State Administration of Press Publication, Radio, Film and Television has issued a "Notice on Strengthening Control of Media Personnel's Online Activities" (关于加强新闻采编人员网络活动管理的通知). Chinese media organizations have been told to stop posting foreign media news without government permission:  "Without authorization, no kind of media outlets shall arbitrarily use media release from overseas media agencies and media websites," is the way Caijing magazine translated it.

Kachin Independence Army soldiers guard an outpost in Northern Burma's Kachin-controlled region on January 31. Journalists who cover the conflict have been subject to email hacking attacks. (AP/Alexander F. Yuan)

Cyberattacks on news websites and apparent government hacking into journalists' email accounts have raised new questions about the integrity of media reforms in Burma. The New York Times reported on Sunday that several journalists who regularly cover Burma-related news recently received warning messages from Google that their email accounts may have been hacked by "state-sponsored attackers."

The Times reported in January that it had succeeded in expelling hackers from its computer systems. (AFP/Emmanuel Dunand)

Not every media company is as tempting a target for hackers as The New York Times, The Washington Post, or The Wall Street Journal. Not every company can afford high-priced computer security consultants, either. Is there anything that everyday reporters and their editors can learn about protecting themselves, based on the revelatory details the Times and other targets made public last week?

China's new Communist Party leaders are increasing already tight controls on Internet use. (AP/Alexander F. Yuan)

China's mounting crackdown on online news dissemination took an extra step today, when the country's Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, its de facto legislative body, announced new requirements on Internet service providers and mobile phone companies to identify their users. The new rules would potentially allow ISPs and the authorities to more closely tie real identities to posts and commentary on micro-blogging sites like Weibo, as well as connect text messaging and mobile phone conversations to individuals.

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The CPJ Internet Channel examines the battle for free expression online.

12 Internet cases in 2014