Since the surprise Arab uprisings of 2011, the Saudi government has worked assiduously to ensure it has all the tools of censorship it needs to control dissent. These tools--a combination of special courts, laws, and regulatory authorities--are starting to fire on all cylinders. The result has been a string of arrests and prosecutions in recent months of independent and dissident voices.
One big reason for the Internet's success is its role as a universal standard, interoperable across the world. The data packets that leave your computer in Botswana are the same as those which arrive in Barbados. The same is increasingly true of modern mobile networks. Standards are converging: You can use your phone, access an app, or send a text, wherever you are.
The University of Toronto's Citizen Lab has announced a research project to analyze the global infrastructure of Research In Motion, maker of the BlackBerry. It's looking for BlackBerry users from any country to take part--especially those in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, India, Indonesia, Russia and China.
All of these countries have at some point demanded that RIM make their BlackBerry network more surveillance-friendly. Some have threatened to ban BlackBerry services outright if their demands are not met. Other reports suggest that RIM has made concessions to some of these countries' demands.
One possible concession RIM might make is to move its Blackberry Internet Service (BIS) servers to locations within those countries' jurisdictions. BIS servers are the bridges between the internal BlackBerry network and the wider Internet. A locally-hosted BIS server would make it easier for domestic security services to monitor BlackBerry users' general Web traffic.
RIM has kept quiet about what agreements, if any, it has made with any government. Nevertheless, it is theoretically possible to work out the location of these BIS servers externally. If you're a journalist who uses a BlackBerry, all you have to do to help with this project is to visit the RimCheck website using your BlackBerry device and fill out a short form. The site will record the IP address of the machine your request comes from, and will attempt to determine where in the world that server could be located.
The discussions between Research In Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, and governments such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and India continue to hit the headlines. In each case, disagreements center on providing customer communications to security and law enforcement services. The rumblings from these nations over monitoring powers aren't just limited to RIM: India has announced its intention to put the same pressure on Google (for Gmail), and Skype (for its IM and telephony services).
This week, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill shielding journalists and publishers from “libel tourism.” The vote on Monday slipped past the Washington press corps largely unnoticed. Maybe it was the title that strove chunkily for a memorable acronym: the Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage (SPEECH) Act. Journalists and press freedom defenders outside the United States did, however, pay attention to the legislation, which they hope will spur libel law reform in their countries.
Saudi Prince Sultan bin Fahd bin Abdulaziz made an unexpected
phone call last week to a live talk show on a Saudi sports channel. The prince
made the angry call to Al-Riyadiyya from
The now infamous incident of
Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi throwing his shoes at President George Bush
became primetime news throughout the world. In the
Do you believe the free flow of information must be protected? Sign the #RightToReport petition and demand that President Obama immediately:
1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.