#IMWeekly: August 1, 2014

by claire mcnear

AzerbaijanAzerbaijan authorities arrested a human rights activist and her husband Wednesday on charges of treason and fraud. Leyla and Arif Yunus are vocal critics of the ruling government, which has a history of stifling expression and activist movements. Leyla had recently been involved in a campaign to document the country’s political prisoners. BuzzFeed's Miriam Berger notes that over the last two years alone, “Human Rights Watch has recorded over 40 cases of political activists, bloggers, and human rights defenders being imprisoned on or threatened with bogus criminal charges.” The day prior to her arrest, Leyla Yunus published an open letter to Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, asking for an explanation of the crackdown on activists. The letter was titled “What are you afraid of, Mr. President?”

RussiaThe controversial “bloggers law” takes effect today. The new law means that all Russians whose websites have more than 3,000 readers or followers – a definition so broad that it encompasses Twitter and Facebook users and their followers or likes – must register with the state. Registered parties must comply with a number of troubling regulations, including verifying the accuracy of information published in both posts and comments. Also this week, the Russian interior ministry put out a call for research about Tor. The ministry’s request initially specified research about Tor’s users, but was later changed to a general “Tor cipher.” This comes the same week that the Tor Project revealed that an attack on its network, which helps users gain access to Tor, may have revealed the identities of those accessing Tor for a period of five months. The attack is thought to have been the work of two Carnegie Mellon researchers who cancelled a presentation on the subject at this week’s annual Black Hat conference. Finally, Twitter, under pressure from Russia’s federal communications agency, blocked access in Russia to the hacker collective @b0ltai. The collective has previously leaked Kremlin documents.

United StatesIn San Francisco, a law firm known for counseling clients through the process of evicting their tenants has taken a page out of Vietnam’s book and is fraudulently using YouTube’s reporting function to temporarily take down content it doesn’t like. In this case, the firm, Bornstein and Bornstein, issued a baseless DMCA claim to have a journalist’s footage of a protest that broke out at a Bornstein and Bornstein eviction workshop taken offline. Elsewhere, a social media specialist was fired from his post at a Utah language school for blogging about homophones, which his employer allegedly claimed would cause the school to be associated with homosexuality. Twitter’s latest transparency report, released Thursday, showed a 46 percent increase in requests for information about users, with more than 60 percent of those coming from the US.