A Week in Review: November 26, 2018

by Hannah Ellis

Civil society groups call on Facebook for greater transparency over takedowns

On November 13th, EFF, Human Rights Watch, and over 70 civil society groups called on Mark Zuckerberg to implement a meaningful appeals process at Facebook. In recent months, Facebook has received negative attention for removing content without transparency. Journalists using the platform to voice their political dissent have seen their posts taken down, yet politicians posting hateful statements have often retained their posts. There are discrepancies over what is deemed acceptable and what violates Facebook’s Community Guidelines. EFF, the ACLU and several others organizations came together in February and created a set of guidelines called The Santa Clara Principles. These principles outline minimum transparency and accountability standards around the moderation of user-generated content.

Backlash at Chinese university over search of student and staff electronic devices

This week the Guilin University of Electronic Technology is having to reconsider a university-wide search of personal electronics after intense backlash. “Most people in China are willing to tolerate Big Brother as long as it contributes to social stability, but for many, this is going too far,” said Christopher Colley, a National Defense College of the United Arab Emirates assistant professor who has lectured at Chinese universities. This latest response is another example of pushback against the extreme nature of state surveillance and censorship in China. Searches of electronics are common in Xinjiang in China’s far west, a predominantly Muslim region that has seen heavy surveillance in an attempt to suppress unrest. However, this recent event in Guilin is worrying some about the expansion of the surveillance state across greater China.

Internet shutdowns on the rise in India

Freedom on the Net, an annual study by Freedom House on Internet and digital media freedom recently released its 2018 annual report on online freedom. The report, which scores countries from zero (most free) to 100 (least free), details 65 countries around the globe and covers 87% of the world’s Internet users. This year, India leads the world in the number of Internet shutdowns, with over 100 reported incidents in 2018 alone and has scored 43, two points lower than last year. Internet shutdowns pose a threat to business, emergency services, journalism, among many other aspects of society. Countries that have seen a dramatic expansion of Internet access have been the most at risk of future Internet shutdowns according to Conor Sanchez, a guest writer for the Council on Foreign Relations.