Media Law Roundup: October 17th

Welcome to the Media Law Roundup October 17, 2014 — a survey of the week’s developing media news.

Anonymous App Tracks Users:

In an October 16th article, The Guardian revealed that the app Whisper, an allegedly anonymous social media network app, has been tracking its users, including those who disabled location services within the application. The tracking includes providing information to the United States Department of Defense. The Guardian contacted Whisper on October 9 for further information regarding its upcoming story, and, by October 12, Whisper had rewritten its Terms of Service. The Terms of Service “now explicitly permit the company to establish the broad location of people who have disabled the app’s geolocation feature.” The new service terms also state that data is stored and, on occasion, shared with law enforcement bodies. These terms will be officially implemented on November 2, 2014.

 

The Poodle SSL Security Breach:

While the names of previous SSL security breaches Heartbleed and Shellshock inspire panic and fear, the latest breach in series, named Poodle,seems far less threatening. The flaw (an acronym for Padding Oracle on Downgraded Legacy Encryption) allows hackers to use cookies to gain access to user accounts. POODLE affects multiple web browsers and, until patches have been provided, various sources are offering some “quick fixes” that users can employ in order to protect themselves. For example, for Internet Explorer users, the blog Tom’s Guide suggests disabling SSL 3.0 by going to ToolsàInternet OptionsàAdvanced and then clicking “Use SSL 3.0” until the checkbox is empty. To check if your computer is vulnerable, you can go to these websites: https://www.poodletest.com/  and https://poodle.io/

 

Revenge Porn Outlawed in the UK:

The United Kingdom passed an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts bill this week that outlaws “revenge pornography.” It is the second country (after Israel) to ban revenge porn. Any image shared via social media (such as Facebook and Twitter), text, or  print is covered by the law. The definition of revenge pornography according to the law is as follows: “The offence will cover photographs or films which show people engaged in sexual activity or depicted in a sexual way or with their genitals exposed, where what was shown would not usually be seen in public. Victims and others will be able to report offences to the police to investigate.” The maximum sentence for the crime is two years in prison, a number which can be increased to as high as fourteen years if perpetrators are found to use revenge porn in pursuance of a greater sexual offense. Similar laws in the United States have been criticized as being too broad. Arizona’s law banning revenge pornography has been challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union, whose suit claims that a professor’s display of a Pulitzer-Prize winning photograph of a naked child running from a burning village could technically be labeled revenge pornography under the new law.

 

Ecuadoran Censorship Takes Advantage of US Law:

The Ecuadoran government has been accused by social media users of impinging on Ecuadoran citizens’ right of free speech using the United States’ Digital Millennium Copyright Act. With the assistance of the Spanish company Ares Rights, the government has been requesting takedowns (on the grounds of copyright violation) of  material that uses the image of Ecuadoran president Rafael Correa in a critical manner. Examples of targeted material include a YouTube video posted to the Ecuatoriano hasta las Huevas Facebook page titled “What Correa Doesn’t Want You to See” and a documentary that filmmaker Pocho Álvarez posted on YouTube and Vimeo titled Harassment of Intag, which criticized the government’s constitutional reforms and undue pressure placed on citizens, respectively. The government’s censorship extends into the social media realm as well, as pro-Correa groups have systematically scheduled mass complaints against Correa-critical Facebook pages in order to remove such Facebook pages. To combat these attacks, the administrators of Correa-critical Facebook pages deactivate and reactivate their pages on a schedule to avoid these complaints, thus preserving their number of followers. “There needs to be solidarity networks, to speak out when there are attempts at censorship, to try to create a reaction that forces them to end the siege,” said Cesar Ricaurte, the executive director of the Fundamedios, a free speech organization.

 

Iran Media Warned…

On October 12, newspapers in Iran were warned not to publish the names of ministers who are currently embroiled in economic corruption scandals. Head of the Iranian judiciary Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani said, “That newspapers reinforce [the idea that corruption is everywhere] is a mistake, and it leads to hopelessness among the people, and this issue is a national security issue.” Conservative news website Mashregh News took advantage of Larijani’s comments to criticize several opposition newspapers for covering scandal issues (neglecting to mention that Mashregh News had also reported on the same scandals). Book translator and  editor Khashayar Dayhimi spoke out via open letter to Larijani, saying, that “media can’t be accused of making the corruption seem bigger than it really is” and that “the people have already made their judgments and they will do so again.”

 

Mass Media Laws in Russia:

The proposed amendments to Russia’s mass media law which would restrict foreign investment in Russian media were officially signed into Russian law on October 15. This law, which was initially reported on during the beginning of October, has limited the foreign percentage of Russian media ownership from fifty percent to twenty percent. The new law comes into effect on January 1, 2016, and will affect Russian-language versions of original English-language programming as well as the financial newspaper Vedomosti, which is partially operated by the Wall Street Journal.

 

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