The Global Digital Download is a weekly publication that aggregates resources on Internet freedom, highlighting trends in digital and social media that intersect with freedom of expression, policy, privacy, censorship and new technologies. The GDD includes information about relevant events, news, and research. To find past articles and research, search the archive database.

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  • (ProPublica, Tuesday, April 15, 2014)

    The Heartbleed computer security bug is many things: a catastrophic tech failure, an open invitation to criminal hackers and yet another reason to upgrade our passwords on dozens of websites. But more than anything else, Heartbleed reveals our neglect of Internet security. The United States spends more than $50 billion a year on spying and intelligence, while the folks who build important defense software — in this case a program called OpenSSL that ensures that your connection to a website is encrypted — are four core programmers, only one of who calls it a full-time job.

  • (Reporters Without Borders, Tuesday, April 15, 2014)

    Kazakhstan’s nervous regime is becoming more and more repressive. President Nursultan Nazarbayev is on the point of signing draconian amendments to the communications law that were passed by parliament on 2 April. If he goes ahead, the authorities will not only be able to block any website or social network in a matter of hours without a court order, but also to disconnect all means of communication. “These amendments legalize the most extreme forms of censorship,” said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire. “It is intolerable that the Kazakh authorities are assuming the right to disconnect all networks at the drop of a hat.The explicit reference in these amendments to unauthorized demonstrations reveals their purpose, which is to prevent any criticism of the government even if it means dealing a fatal blow to freedom of information.”

  • (Reporters Without Borders, Monday, April 14, 2014)

    Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that two netizens who had spent several years in prison – Vi Duc Hoi and Nguyen Tien Trung – were released on 11 and 12 April respectively although they are now assigned to a form of house arrest. Arrested in October 2010, Hoi was sentenced in 2011 to five years in prison on a charge of anti-government propaganda under article 88 of the 1999 penal code for writing articles critical of the state. A former Communist Party official who ran a training centre in the northern province of Lang Son, he is now due to spend three years under house arrest.

  • (The New York Times, Monday, April 14, 2014)

    Ambassadors from the United States, Britain and France all told the United Nations Security Council on Sunday night that video evidence posted online — showing well-armed insurgents seizing police stations in eastern Ukraine — contradicts Russian claims that peaceful protesters in the region are under threat from government forces. “We have all seen the video footage of events over the weekend,” the British ambassador, Lyall Grant, observed. It showed, he said, “professional, well-armed, well-equipped, units wearing identical uniforms conducting coordinated military operations against Ukrainian state institutions. This is a pattern that is all too familiar. Coming just weeks after Russian troops illegally deployed to Crimea wearing uniforms without insignia.”

  • (Digital Media Law, Monday, April 14, 2014)

    Since December 2009, the DMLP has operated the Online Media Legal Network, a free attorney referral service for independent, online journalists and journalism organizations. The OMLN has served as a fundamental part of the legal support structure for online journalism, assisting more than 260 clients with over 500 separate legal matters. As a result of that experience, the DMLP has been in a unique position to observe the nature of these new journalism ventures and their legal needs. 

  • (Pew, Sunday, April 13, 2014)

    In a remarkably short period of time, internet and mobile technology have become a part of everyday life for some in the emerging and developing world. Cell phones, in particular, are almost omnipresent in many nations. The internet has also made tremendous inroads, although most people in the 24 nations surveyed are still offline. Meanwhile, smartphones are still relatively rare, although significant minorities own these devices in countries such as Lebanon, Chile, Jordan and China.

  • (The Guardian, Saturday, April 12, 2014)

    The CEOs of the major tech companies came out of the gate swinging 10 months ago, complaining loudly about how NSA surveillance has been destroying privacy and ruining their business. They still are. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently called the US a "threat" to the Internet, and Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google, called some of the NSA tactics "outrageous" and potentially "illegal". They and their fellow Silicon Valley powerhouses – from Yahoo to Dropbox and Microsoft to Apple and more – formed a coalition calling for surveillance reform and had conversations with the White House. But for all their talk, the public has come away empty handed. The USA Freedom Act, the only major new bill promising real reform, has been stalled in the Judiciary Committee. The House Intelligence bill may be worse than the status quo. Politico reported on Thursday that companies like Facebook and are now "holding fire" on the hill when it comes to pushing for legislative reform.

  • (Global Voices, Saturday, April 12, 2014)

    On April 7, 2014 two Russian MPs announced [ru] they would be proposing yet anther law controlling the flow of information on the RuNet. According to Andrei Lugovoi and Vadim Dengin, both Liberal Democrats, under their proposal bloggers with an audience of more than 3,000 readers would face the same regulations as all Russian mass media. The regulations would require fact-checking, age restriction warnings, and obeying election laws, among other responsibilities. As Vadim Dengin told the news portal TJournal [ru], the number of readers would be determined from the number of unique visitors, and that all “bots” would be excluded from the numbers. According to Dengin, Roskomnadzor, Russia's media regulator, has the capacity to maintain such a registry of popular blogs. 

  • (The New York Times, Saturday, April 12, 2014)

    Stepping into a heated debate within the nation’s intelligence agencies, President Obama has decided that when the National Security Agency discovers major flaws in Internet security, it should — in most circumstances — reveal them to assure that they will be fixed, rather than keep mum so that the flaws can be used in espionage or cyberattacks, senior administration officials said Saturday. But Mr. Obama carved a broad exception for “a clear national security or law enforcement need,” the officials said, a loophole that is likely to allow the N.S.A. to continue to exploit security flaws both to crack encryption on the Internet and to design cyberweapons.

  • (Al Jazeera, Saturday, April 12, 2014)

    In March, exactly twenty-five years after he first outlined his proposal for a "world-wide web", Tim Berners-Lee called for "a global constitution - a bill of rights" to protect the "neutral, open internet". This appeal for a "Magna Carta", a single document that enshrines certain fundamental rights and protections for citizens in the digital age, comes after a series of revelations about the extent of state surveillance online. And this state surveillance dovetails the business models of Facebook, Google and the other tech giants. Their profits derive from the ability to hoover up data from users of their "free" services and sell it to other businesses. They can charge a premium for a vision of the world where the wasteful banging on a swill bucket that is mass media advertising has been replaced with millions of moments of bespoke manipulation. We are living through the enclosure of subjectivity, one voluntary disclosure at a time.