A Week in Review: December 7, 2018

by Hannah Ellis

Cuba expands Internet to mobile phones

This week the Cuban government expanded Internet access to mobile phones across the country. The service will cost the equivalent of $7 for 600 megabytes of data, $10 for 1 gigabyte and $30 for 4 gigabytes, according to the state-run Granma news agency. While this is comparable to the global standard, it is out of reach for most Cubans, considering 60 percent of the population lives on $100 or less a month. Cuba has one of the lowest rates of Internet use; Freedom House calls Cuba "one of the world's least connected and most repressive environments for information and communication technologies." It was only in 2013 when some citizens were first allowed access to a government-run Internet portal.

Consequences of exporting surveillance tech

Justin Sherman, a cybersecurity policy fellow at New America, and Robert Morgus, the deputy director of the FIU - New America Cybersecurity Capacity Building Partnership released an interesting article this week on the export of surveillance technology by authoritarian regimes. They argue that these regimes are not only exporting a physical commodity but also a concerning ideology. Exporting these technologies is a way to reinforce values of a “sovereign and controlled vision of the Internet” around the world. Just this year, Chinese companies have exported facial recognition technology to Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Zimbabwe, and Malaysia. Last month an investigation by Reuters exposed a Chinese tech giant ZTE aiding Venezuela build a citizen monitoring system.

Internet access threatened leading up to Senegalese elections

Upcoming elections have threatened Internet access in Senegal where government officials are tightening controls to “stop the threat of misinformation”. However, many claim that free speech is under attack. Article 19, an organization that focuses on freedom of expression and information, has been critical of past Senegalese Internet legislation, reporting that Internet legislation that limits content would have effects on freedom of expression in the country. Additionally, Freedom House reported that new press codes allow the government to block access to Internet content that was “contrary to morality.”

Activists challenge Turkish Internet censorship in court  

Two Turkish law professors, Yaman Akdeniz and Kerem Altıparmak, are challenging Turkish Internet censorship laws this week. The Turkish government currently blocks more than 220,000 Internet sites and more than 150,000 URLs. Last month, between November 12 and 19, the Turkish Ministry of Interior investigated the owners of 324 social media accounts and initiated legal action against 280 of them. It is common for Turkish officials to block whole websites due to one controversial image.