Welcome to the Media Law Roundup, a survey of the week’s developing media news.
Turkish citizens finally regained access to YouTube on June 3rd after a 67-day block on the video sharing platform. On March 27th, the Turkish government blocked access to YouTube after leaked recordings of a high level security meeting about possible interventions in Syria surfaced on the platform. Turkey’s Constitutional Court, the country’s highest court, struck down the ban on Thursday May 29th, echoing its April decision on the government’s blocking blockage of Twitter. In its decision, the court cited Article 26 of the Turkish constitution which states “Everyone has the right to express and disseminate his or her thoughts and opinion by speech, in writing, pictures or through other media, individually or collectively.”
Saudi authorities are reviewing the 2007 Anti-Cybercrime Law to amend it to allow legal proceedings against social networking sites, such as Twitter, for allowing accounts that promote adultery, homosexuality, and atheism. The Anti-Cybercrime Law aims at combatting cybercrime by ensuring information security; protecting rights pertaining to the legitimate use of computers and information networks; protecting the national economy; and protecting public interests, morals, and common values.
On May 29, Google said it made available a web form through which people can submit their request to remove objectionable material from search results. This follows the May 13th Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) ruling stating that citizens can have objectionable links removed from internet search results. This ruling has brought attention to the balance between privacy and freedom of information. Despite its web form, Google has yet to say how soon it will remove links that meet criteria for being taken down. Since the EJC’s ruling, Google has received thousands of removal requests. While disappointed with the ruling, Google says while evaluating requests it will determine whether results include outdated information and whether there is a public interest in the information.
On June 1st, comedian John Oliver and host of the HBO show Last Week Today went on a rant about net neutrality in response to the recent Federal Communication Commission (FCC) proposal. This proposal would enable internet service providers such as Comcast and Time Warner to charge for internet fast lanes, going against the principle of net neutrality which maintains that data on the internet should not face prejudice from companies who pay to get users faster content. The FCC opened up its commenting period on May 15th and has since received more than 110,000 comments and 300,000 emails in a special inbox for public comments. The commenting period closes on July 15th.
The UK government will seek to amend the 1990 Computer Misuse Act in order to impose harsher sentences on hackers that sabotage computer networks and jeopardize national security by causing deadly civil unrest though actions like cutting off food distribution, telecommunications networks, or energy supplies. A proposed Serious Crime Bill would increase the sentence for such hackers from ten years to life in prison.
About two months after discovering the Heartbleed Bug, a vulnerability in the OpenSSL cryptographic software library, on June 5th the OpenSSL Foundation published an advisory warning users to update their SSL again to fix an unknown but over ten-year-old bug. The foundation issued a patch and advised sites to that uses its software to upgrade immediately. According to an FAQ published by the software firm Lepidum, this new vulnerability “allows malicious intermediate nodes to intercept encrypted data and decrypt them while forcing SSL clients to use weak keys which are exposed to the malicious nodes.”
In a policy briefing, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) criticized new laws in Uganda on internet and mobile usage, as well as freedom of journalists. CIPESA highlighted Uganda’s 2014 Anti-pornography Act (which seeks to eliminate porn by forcing ISPs to block access to porn and allows police to search premises allegedly containing pornography), the October 2013 Public Order Management Act (which provides regulation of public meetings but no protection to the rights of the media to access and report on assemblies), and the 2014 NGO Amendment Bill (which includes two laws that legislate on individuals’ and organizations’ actions in the online sphere).
The Law Commission of India has published a consultation paper on media law, calling for public comments and suggestions. The Law Commission intends to change existing media laws in India, and has groups concerns, issues, and questions under the following categories: media regulation; paid news; opinion polls; cross media ownership; media and individual privacy; trial by media and rights of the accused; defamation; regulations surrounding government owned media; and social media and section 66A of the Information Technology Act of 2000. Submissions close June 10th.
Vodafone revealed the existence of secret wires that allows government agencies to listen to all conversations on its networks. These wires are widely used in 29 countries in which it operates, and six countries in which Vodafone operates require telecom operators to install direct access pipes or allow governments to do so. Vodafone broke its silence on government surveillance in order to push back on broadband and phone spying and released its first Law Enforcement Disclosure Report on June 6th.
Reset the Net, a global campaign aimed at protesting mass internet surveillance, went live on June 5th, a year after Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations. The campaign, organized by nonprofit internet advocacy group Fight for the Future, is supported by individual users as well as companies and organizations such as Google, Twitter, Mozilla, EFF, Reddit, Amnesty international, the Open Technology Institute, and Dropbox. In support of the campaign, Google, for example, made available the source code for a Chrome extension that provides easy end-to-end encryption for Gmail and added a section to its Transparency Report to help users understand which emails are encrypted and which are not. Twitter and WordPress now both default to SSL. Reset the Net also provided people with a Privacy Pack that supplied links to apps and free downloadable programs, such as Adium, Tor, and Cyptocat, to help users protect themselves from mass surveillance.