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Ed Webb

Journalists concerned over Qatar's revised cybercrime law - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of th... - 1 views

  • The new law, according to the QNA release, will ban any dissemination via electronic means of “incorrect news” that endangers “the safety of the state, or public order or internal or external security.”

    The law also “stipulates punishment for anyone who exceeds any principles of social values.” The cybercrime legislation would also make illegal the publishing of “news or pictures or audio-video recordings related to the sanctity of the private and family life of individuals, even if they are correct, via libel or slander through the Internet or an IT device.”

  • Observers are worried because tightened cybercrime legislation in the United Arab Emirates has been used to prosecute dissenting speech seen on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube
  • Jan Keulen, the former director of the Doha Centre for Media Freedom, said that enacting the law could “impede the development of online journalism.”

    Keulen told Al-Monitor that Qatar’s new leader, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani — who took over for his father last July — has never mentioned topics such as democracy, elections or press freedom. Meanwhile, Qatar’s news powerhouse Al Jazeera touts these principles throughout the region.

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  • Despite the presence of Al Jazeera, Qatar’s internal journalism suffers from a lack of protections for journalists, operating under a media law passed in 1979. A revised media law was discussed in 2012 but never passed after criticism that its broad language would stifle good journalism. The advocacy group Freedom House labels Qatar’s press freedom as “not free” and the country is ranked at No. 110 out of 179 in Reporter’s Without Borders’ press freedom rankings
  • Qatar’s Twitter community is relatively robust with many commentators taking to the social media platform to complain about aspects of government services. However, no one has directly questioned or challenged the emir’s rule. Unlike other Gulf countries, the Qatari government has not arrested anyone for their social media speech.
  • Just last week, two Emiratis were convicted for violating a law that made it a crime to “damage the national unity or social peace or prejudice the public order and public morals.” The government also convicted 69 citizens of sedition last year and prosecuted two Emiratis for spreading “false news” about that trial.
  • Qatar’s move to pass cybercrime legislation could also be a nod to assuage security concerns of its neighbors. Earlier in March, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar. They announced that country needed to “take the appropriate steps to ensure the security of the GCC states.”
Ed Webb

Erdogan: Turkey freer than some EU states - Europe - Al Jazeera English - 0 views

  • "These regulations do not impose any censorship at all on the internet. On the contrary, they make it safer and freer."
  • Human Rights Watch said the restrictions raised concerns that a "defensive government is seeking to increase its power to silence critics and to arbitrarily limit politically damaging material online".

    Martin Schulz, European Parliament chief, called them a "step back in an already suffocating environment for media freedom", while the US also expressed misgivings.

    460

Ed Webb

Off the record? Why online publishers should be careful with the delete key - 1 views

  • When I noticed their disappearance a few weeks ago I wrote to Huffington, asking the reason, and so far I have had no reply.

    Although deleted web pages can sometimes be retrieved from web archives such as Wayback, that is only feasible if you know they once existed and have the relevant URL.

    I'm not suggesting that articles on the internet should never be deleted or changed but that it should not be done lightly, and when it does happen, publishers should be prepared to justify their decisions in public.

    When I worked at the Guardian there were strict rules about this because it understood the need to have a record of published material that was as complete and un-tampered-with as possible. Once published, articles could be removed only  in very special circumstances (such as legal requirements) and if something was changed (because of factual errors, for example), readers had to be made aware of the change and when it happened.

    If we don't want to end up in book-burning territory, that is how it should be.

  • When I noticed their disappearance a few weeks ago I wrote to Huffington, asking the reason, and so far I have had no reply.

    Although deleted web pages can sometimes be retrieved from web archives such as Wayback, that is only feasible if you know they once existed and have the relevant URL.

    I'm not suggesting that articles on the internet should never be deleted or changed but that it should not be done lightly, and when it does happen, publishers should be prepared to justify their decisions in public.

    When I worked at the Guardian there were strict rules about this because it understood the need to have a record of published material that was as complete and un-tampered-with as possible. Once published, articles could be removed only  in very special circumstances (such as legal requirements) and if something was changed (because of factual errors, for example), readers had to be made aware of the change and when it happened.

    If we don't want to end up in book-burning territory, that is how it should be.

  • There's no doubt that today's social media contain a welter of trivia, often of no interest to anyone except the person who is posting. To view social media entirely in that light, however, is to grossly underestimate their power and importance. Social media also provide a running commentary on major events – through the eyes of ordinary people rather than elites. 

    There is no precedent for this. For the first time in history we have a vast public record of what masses of people are saying and thinking. This can be a valuable resource for current and future generations of researchers – if we preserve it intact.

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  • Visitors to Huffington's website last May could have seen 
    this page (preserved here by the Wayback Machine) which lists Narwani's articles. Look at the same page today and they have all been deleted except for one which she co-authored with someone else. It's as if the other articles never existed.
  • concern about Facebook's deletion of various pages connected with the Syrian opposition, possibly at the behest of pro-Assad elements. Some of them have been listed by Felim McMahon of Storyful and the blogger, Brown Moses.

    McMahon points out that some of these have helped Storyful to corroborate (or not) various claims about the Syrian conflict, while Brown Moses notes that "nearly every Facebook page" reporting on the chemical attacks in Damascus last August has now gone.

    Alongside the fighting on the ground, there's also a propaganda war being fought over Syria – mostly via the internet. At first sight this might seem like a sideshow but, as in all wars, it's an integral part of the conflict.

    One individual heavily involved in the Syrian propaganda war on the pro-Assad side, through Twitter and various websites, is Sharmine Narwani (who I have written about previously, here
    here, here, and here).

    Among other things, Narwani wrote a dozen highly contentious articles for Huffington Post, some of them about Syria. Whether you like them or agree with them is beside the point. Whatever their merits or de-merits, they were examples of the sort of arguments being used by Assad supporters and the fact that Huffington, a major American website, saw fit to publish them at the time is also interesting and relevant. 

  • I'm not suggesting that articles on the internet should never be deleted or changed but that it should not be done lightly, and when it does happen, publishers should be prepared to justify their decisions in public.
Ed Webb

BBC News - DotShabaka top-level internet domain goes live - 0 views

  • An Arabic net address ending has become the first to go live as part of the rollout of more than 1,000 new generic top-level domain (gTLD) name suffixes.

    The first websites ending in شبكة. - pronounced dot shabaka, and meaning web - went online a day ahead of schedule.

  • The DotShabaka Registry - the Dubai-based business running the شبكة. gTLD - announced that both its own homepage and that of the United Arab Emirates telecoms provider Etisalat had started using its new suffix, at a conference in Dubai.
  • "It's monumental, in my opinion, because it means the internet finally speaks in Arabic," Yasmin Omer, general manager of the DotShabaka Registry told the BBC.
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  • Although this is the first generic top-level domain in Arabic, there were already country code top-level domains in the script, including .الاردن for Jordan and .السعودية for Saudi Arabia, which went live in 2010.
  • Other non-Latin script gTLDs expected to launch over the coming days include 游戏, Mandarin for game; сайт, Russian for site; and онлайн, Russian for online.
  • "The constraints that we had in the past with top-level domains were purely artificial, which is one reason that the very popular ones - for example .com - can be so expensive," explained Dr Ian Brown from the Oxford Internet Institute.

    "But how far people actually use them to access sites is an important question. In reality these days most people tend to go to a search engine rather than try to remember a company's domain name that they have seen on an advert, for example.

Ed Webb

Authoritarian regimes retool their media-control strategy - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • our audiences that authoritarian state-controlled media seek to influence
  • The first is regime elites. Authoritarian governments must always worry about their elites because any split among this group could lead to regime collapse. State-controlled media make it a mission to reassure these regime mainstays that the incumbent ruler stands secure
  • The second crucial audience is the populace at large. State-dominated media work to make mass audiences respect and fear the regime, but breeding apathy and passivity is just as important.
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  • The third group is the political opposition and independent civil society. In democracies, open media are the lifeblood of politics. In authoritarian regimes, state-controlled media seek to isolate activists from society at large, with the idea of preventing them from organizing and mobilizing.
  • The fourth group is regular Internet users.
  • As with traditional media, restrictive online measures are not designed to block everything but are aimed chiefly at obstructing news about politics or other sensitive issues from consistently reaching key audiences.
  • The intense attention devoted to the rise of new media in recent years has led many to underestimate television’s enduring and powerful role as an undemocratic force in authoritarian societies.
Ed Webb

R22 | News - 0 views

  • undeterred by the overwhelming evidence that such policies are always destined to fail, governments continue to announce plans to block access to X-rated websites, often with large scale public support. In 2011, when many thought the days of Ben Ali-style censorship were coming to an end, a Tunisian court decreed that porn sites would henceforth be banned, as they “contravened the values of Arab Islamic society.” And just a few months before its overthrow, the Islamist government of Muhammad Morsi in Egypt thought nothing of dedicating endless hours to discussing a new $3.7 million anti-porn initiative. Clearly they didn’t think their country had bigger priorities
  • Put simply, porn is BIG in the Arab world. According to Google AdWords, the 22 Arab states account for over 10% of the world’s searches for “sex”; A total of 55.4 million unique monthly Google “sex” searchers in the 22 (ignoring a further 24 million searches for “sex” transliterated into Arabic) that matches both the United States and India, two countries often cited as world leaders in porn consumption
  • But how should we interpret these figures? In the West, where the Muslim world is often seen as a place that doesn’t “do” sex, stories that reveal supposedly traditional societies to be hotbeds of depravity gain wide traction in the media as amusing exposes. Religious conservatives in the Arab world meanwhile draw on evidence of a growing porn habit as proof of the “corrupting” influence of Western values, and the need to return to the supposedly pristine morals of the past. For example, the leading Saudi Internet “expert”, Dr Mishal bin Abdullah al-Qadhi, regularly warns that porn sites are part of an insidious Western plot. “The people of the West”, he wrote, in one particularly damning diatribe, “with their corrupt values, reprehensible principles and pernicious sicknesses, are not content to reveal their vices and sins […] to themselves alone, but continuously strive to spread these afflictions and sicknesses to the lands of Islam.” 

    In reality, both reactions rely on ahistorical ideas about the role of sex in Arab society. Instead, as the writer and academic Shereen El Feki, author of Sex and the Citadel, points out in a discussion with Raseef22, there really is nothing shocking about the revelation that Arabs watch porn. Before the twentieth century and the rise of the modern state, Arab culture had a long tradition of erotic imagery in literature and music. Medieval books such as The Perfumed Garden and the Encyclopaedia of Pleasure may have had a factual purpose, but they were also read for pleasure. “They are meant to arouse,” explains El Feki, “they are pornography. These notions of pornography as some sort of alien entity to Arab culture are completely untrue.”
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  • when these numbers are adjusted to reflect people’s ready access to the Internet (which ranges from 85% of the population in the UAE to just 1.4% in Somalia) Arab Google searches for “sex” outweigh those from almost anywhere else worldwide. As per AdWords, for every 100 Arab Internet users, an average of 52 searches are made each month, compared to 21 in the United States, 36 in India, 45 in France and 47 in Pakistan
  • Sexual desires are a universal phenomenon, and when conventional means to fulfilling those desires are restricted – for example through strict rules about pre-marital sex and an accompanying range of socio-economic impediments to getting married – it is hardly surprising, that people turn to their computers for help.
Ed Webb

10 Questions for 7iber.com - 0 views

  • Fayez Al Shawabkeh, the head of Jordan’s Press and Publications Department, was asked why 7iber was not also banned. He responded that if 7iber turned out to be a news website, it would also be blocked.
  • Shawabkeh argued that a blog cannot be accessed publicly, that it can only be accessed by friends. So the two of us went back-and-forth as to what the definition of a blog is. He went on to say that blogs, or Twitter and Facebook accounts, are not public – that they can only be accessed by friends… I think he is really clueless about online media.
  • In order to get approval we need to have an editor-in-chief who is a member of the Jordan Press Association, but this organization does not allow membership for online publications.
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  • For me, Ammannet is the most important website to have been banned. They produce great content on local issues. Even though it is blocked, the site continues to use mirror portals. While the Press and Publications Department blocked a third mirror yesterday, there are ways to continue circumventing the ban.

    As for 7iber: We plan to set up a separate blog. We will also republish a lot of our original content. Last night, we posted a comment on Facebook about 7iber being blocked, and it was viewed by 20,000 people – so there are ways of reaching our audience anyway.

     

    I definitely think the ban is ineffective.

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