Welcome to the Media Law Roundup, a survey of the week’s developing media news.
Over the past few weeks Vietnam has come under fire over censorship laws declaring that social media posts must only contain personal information cannot quote or share news from other sites. Now Vietnam is set to decide policy regarding free messaging services such as Whatsapp, Viber, and Line. It is currently unclear what exact actions the government actions will take, however fears are circulating that over-the-top (OTT) communications services will be banned.
On Wednesday New Zealand narrowly passed legislation that expands the domestic spying power of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB). When proposed, many feared the passage of this bill would mirror, or even exceed, the intense surveillance of the United States’ National Security Agency’s initiative PRISM. With its passage, concerns of mass communications surveillance remain. Prime Minister John Key states the bill will improve the GCSB’s capacity for, “Information assurance and cybersecurity; foreign intelligence, and; assisting other agencies.” The GCSB Bill was prompted after the government agency illegally spied on Megaupload’s founder Kim Dotcom as part as a U.S. investigation on online piracy.
Open Rights Group (ORG), a U.K.-based advocacy group promoting free speech and consumer rights, launched a campaign in support of a new error message that would notify users of government censorship online. Unlike Error 404 or 403 Forbidden messages, which only describe links as broken or forbidden, this new “451 Unavailable” error would specifically identify if a webpage is blocked by a government court order. Users would be given specific information about who issued the block, the duration of the block, and actions they can take to challenge it. Named in honor of Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, this error code was first proposed last year by Google developer Tim Bray. While Bray submitted an official proposal for the code to the Internet Engineering Task Force, it has not yet been approved.