Media Law Roundup: October 24th

Welcome to the Media Law Roundup October 24, 2014 — a survey of the week’s developing media news.

Connecting India to the Internet

There are still one billion people in India who are not connected to the internet, a number equal to the combined populations of Europe and the United States. A collection of companies called Internet.org wants to bring all one billion of those people online. Facebook creator and CEO Mark Zuckerberg went to India earlier this month to announce the launch of Internet.org in India. The largest obstacle in the path of greater internet connectivity in India is that of cost. The companies that make up Internet.org, such as Ericsson, QualComm, and Samsung, are committed to finding creative, low-cost solutions to help bring people online, such as building small mobile-network boosters that could be placed in high-traffic areas to bring mobile internet users faster, more consistent service. Somshubhro Pal Choudhury of Analog Devices India does not want India to simply be more connected to the internet–he wants to see it play an active role in the building of the Internet of Things. He lays out some suggestions for India’s foray into the Internet of Things, such as partnerships with IT companies and the development of an Internet of Things fund.

 

Russian Internet Control: The Push for State Sovereignty Continues

Russia has begun a renewed push for state control of the internet. On October President Putin announced Russia’s plan to isolate websites with Russian domain names from the rest of the internet by building a separate system that would remain online in the event of a national emergency. In a speech to the International Telecommunications Union during its conference in Busan, South Korea (which runs from October 20-November 7, 2014), Russian Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov proposed that the internet “should be reformed under United Nations auspices so that individual states can establish their own sovereignty over the network.” That same proposal advocated for the return of “individual internet users to the fold of their countries’ jurisdictions.”

 

Canada Bests America in News Coverage

American news media received heavy criticism after an attack by a lone gunman at Canada’s parliament highlighted the differences between American and Canadian news coverage. Several people took to social media to commend Canada, particularly news anchor Peter Mansbridge, for the calm, informative coverage of the event. The Telegraph provided a screenshot of the CNN and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation webpages for comparison: the CNN headline read “Terrified Capital” while the CBC headline read “Soldier dies after Parliament Hill attack, gunman also shot dead.” Investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill condemned American coverage of the situation, saying “What we are really seeing right now in the US media is a push for Canada and Canadians to adopt this default rhetoric that now permeates the discussion on terrorism in this country that this needs to be immediately labeled terrorism, and there has to be a paramilitary or military response to what may have been a deranged individual.”

 

Websites Restrict Right to Sue

Many popular websites have, hidden inside the densely worded “Terms and Conditions,” provisions that restrict their customers’ right to sue. The Upshot, a New York Times website, did an analysis of the terms of service for two hundred online stores to see which sites included provisions such as forced arbitration clauses or class-action ban clauses. They found that sixty-eight sites, including Amazon, OKCupid, Dropbox, and Domino’s all included some form of these restrictions. These provisions force consumers who desire to sue a company to do so through individual arbitration as opposed to joining a large class-action suit, which can pose a more severe challenge to companies. F. Paul Bland, executive director of consumer advocacy group Public Justice, said, “The main point of a class-action ban is to exempt the corporation from consumer protection laws.” Though several websites may use their terms of service to avoid such laws, those same terms cannot prevent agencies like the Federal Trade Commission from suing on behalf of consumers, such in the case regarding unauthorized Amazon app purchases made by children without the consent of their parents. The FTC lawsuit included thousands of families who may not have been able to work through Amazon’s terms of service in order to file suit on their own.

 

UN Human Rights Expert Says “Protect Privacy”

The UN’s human rights expert called for greater transparency from countries involved in mass surveillance. Ben Emmerson, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights While Encountering Terrorism, said that the mass surveillance from countries such as the UK and the US make it so that no one is able to enforce his right to online privacy. The surveillance then “amounts to a systematic interference with the right to respect the privacy of communications and requires a correspondingly compelling justification.” Without such a justification, Emmerson warned that states engaged in mass surveillance were in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Emerson’s report stated, “Nothing short of detailed and explicit authorization in primary legislation suffices to meet the principle of legality.”

 

Hong Kong Protests Continue

The Hong Kong protests for democracy, also known as Occupy Central or the Umbrella Revolution, continued throughout the week. A twenty-three year old man was arrested Sunday for the content of his online messages. According to a statement from the Hong Kong police, the man posted in discussion boards urging people to “join an illegal assembly, attack police, and paralyze subway lines.” Despite this arrest, the destruction of barricades, and continued calls for protesters to leave the streets, support for the movement continues to grow. Fifty-five Hong Kong civil servants pooled their resources in order to take out a full-page advertisement worth 42,000 Hong Kong dollars (USD 6000) in support of Occupy Central. A total of 1,314 civil servants signed the open letter, which says, “We understand that if we were to ask the protestors to give up before achieving anything, it would be equivalent to the democracy [movement] ending in complete failure.”

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