Media Law Roundup: March 6th

Welcome to the Media Law Roundup, a survey of the week’s developing media news.

Russia’s Orthodox Search Engine

On March 3, 2015, the Russian film director Yury Grymov launched a search engine and social network geared toward connecting members of the Russian Orthodox Church. The search engine is called Rublev, and its motto is the Biblical quote, “Seek, and ye shall find.” Grymov called the service “an intuitive and easy-to-use [Internet] guide for believers and those who are just beginning their path in the world of Orthodox faith.” The search engine lets users ask priests questions and search for information related to the Orthodox faith. Searches for “porn,” however, will lead to a page that quotes the seventh commandment: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” On March 4, 2015, the website was taken down by a DDoS attack, though it is now currently active. Over the next several months site developers are planning to continue improving the search engine and are using a Russian crowdfunding site to raise funds.

 

Florida Bill to Reduce Web Anonymity

Florida legislators have proposed a bill that will require the owners of websites hosting commercial video to operate using their legal names. The bill (available in both Florida Senate and House versions) would require hosts to post their names, addresses, and contact details on their websites, a move that TechDirt called “do it yourself doxxing.” The law applies to any website “dealing in substantial part in the electronic dissemination of commercial recordings or audiovisual works, directly or indirectly,” and could apply to any website that could be accessed from Florida. The law’s vague terminology also allows for the possibility of abuse, as a user who merely links to content covered by the law could be forced to de-anonymize his website. Additionally, Electronic Frontier Foundation points out that the law “could be used to unmask anonymous bloggers, vidders, or musicians who primarily put their own work online if even one recording or video belonging to someone else appears on their site-or perhaps even a link to someone else’s work.” Those who desire to speak against the bill can contact Florida legislators at these links (Senate/House).

 

FCC Passes Net Neutrality Rules

On February 26, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to pass strong net neutrality rules that ban paid prioritization and data throttling and reclassify internet service providers as common carriers. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the new rules would ensure “that no one-whether government or corporate-should control free open access to the internet. ACLU attorney Gabe Rottman called the decision “a victory for free speech.” John Sununu and Harold Ford, Jr. of Broadband for America, a group with members that include ISPs, called the decision “a giant step backwards for America’s broadband networks and everyone who depends upon them.” On March 4, 2015, Republican Representative Marsha Blackburn stated that the decision would “stifle innovation, [and] restrict freedoms,” and she reintroduced the Internet Freedom Act (originally proposed by John McCain), which now explicitly provides for the invalidation of the FCC net neutrality decision.

 

Google No Longer Attempting to Encrypt Phones by Default

Despite Google’s September 2014 announcement that the company would be encrypting all upcoming phone models by default, several new Android phones running the Lollipop operating system do not have default encryption. The design document for Lollipop states, “For devices supporting full-disk encryption, the full-disk encryption SHOULD be enabled all the time after the users has completed the out-of-box experience. While this requirement is stated as SHOULD for this version of the Android platform, it is very strongly RECOMMENDED as we expect this to change to MUST in the future versions of Android.” While the hardware in a phone is required to support full-disk encryption, manufacturers are not required to turn it on by default. Google confirmed with Engadget that the reason for its backtracking on default encryption is due to the limitations of its hardware manufacturers. While the Motorola Nexus phones are able to run with encryption out of the box, full-disk encryption on phones from other manufacturers causes the product to run slowly. Default encryption will not be enforced until more appropriate hardware becomes available. Apple, which also announced default encryption in September 2014, has complete control over its hardware, including a “separate coprocessor for accelerating encryption,” which has enabled it to encrypt its iPhone 6 and IOS 8 devices by default.

 

Iran Increases Social Media Monitoring But Welcomes American Companies

Iran stated on March 3, 2015 that it would be increasing its social network surveillance activity. Iran currently monitors around eight million Facebook accounts via its Spider surveillance program. The Center for Investigation of Organized Crime said of Facebook: “[It] is trying to push its users toward immoral content via its suggestion system, by making them choose harmful, decadent and obscene content over beneficial and educational subject matter.” Iran has expressed its willingness to allow companies such as Google to operate within its borders, provided that the company agrees to respect Iranian values. Deputy Telecommunications and Information Technology Minister Nasrollah Jahangard said, “We are not opposed to any of the entities operating in global markets who want to offer services in Iran. We are ready to negotiate with them and if they accept our cultural rules and policies they can offer their services in Iran.” He went on to state that several (undisclosed) companies have agreed to these terms and are currently planning to enter Iran. Discussions over the potential lifting of sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program have stalled some preparations. The deadline for a deal over Iran’s sanctions is March 31, 2015.

 

UK Fighting to Remove ISIS How-To Guide

On Wednesday, January 25, UK counter-terrorism police confirmed they are attempting to remove from the internet a fifty-page manual on how to successfully join ISIS in Syria. The manual purportedly gives tips on how to pack, methods of travel, and appropriate clothing. Though one “testimonial” from a foreign ISIS fighter recounts a story of Turkish border guards allowing passage into Syria, the manuals warns that “Turkish intelligence agencies are in no way friends of the Islamic State. They will try to imprison anyone they suspect of being members of the Islamic State.” The Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit of Scotland Yard said that they “have and will seek its removal from websites and social media platforms.”

 

Trouble for American Man after Rant against UAE Company

An American man faces jail time in the United Arab Emirates for comments he posted to Facebook while in the United States. Floridian Ryan Pate works as a helicopter mechanic for Global Aerospace Logistics (GAL). After he was denied extended leave due to a back injury, Pate made public social media posts about his anger toward the company, including a racial slur. He returned to the UAE to resign from his position at GAL only to be told that he was required to appear at a police station, where he was arrested for slander. In the UAE, it is illegal to use the internet in in a way that might mock or defame anyone. Pate cited his familiarity with his American First Amendment rights as his reason for being so open with his displeasure on social media. “I never even entertained the fact that I would wind up in a prison out here for something I put on Facebook in the United States.” Pate’s Congressman, David Jolly, has taken up his case and is working to get it dismissed. Pate is currently out on bail after spending ten days in prison. His court date is scheduled for March 17, 2015.

 

Featured Photo Credit: Attribution Some rights reserved by AndrewGould

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