Week in Review: April 15, 2015

by Rebekah Heacock Jones

China: "Powerful new weapon" behind GitHub and GreatFire attacks

A new report from the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab documents the existence of a new attack tool, labeled the "Great Cannon," that powered the recent DDoS attacks on GitHub and GreatFire. Unlike the Great Firewall, which is used to block Chinese Internet users from accessing certain content, the Great Cannon intercepts traffic and inserts malicious code: according to the report, the Chinese government has developed the capability to "hijack traffic to (or presumably from) individual IP addresses, and...arbitrarily replace unencrypted content as a man-in-the-middle." GitHub and GreatFire likely came under fire because they offer circumvention services for Chinese users. The report posits that one possible use of the tool, however, may be to target specific Internet users, as well as services: "A technically simple change in the Great Cannon’s configuration, switching to operating on traffic from a specific IP address rather than to a specific address, would allow its operator to deliver malware to targeted individuals who communicates with any Chinese server not employing cryptographic protections."

Spain: Protestors use holograms to fight new gag law

Spain's new Citizen Safety Law, scheduled to go into effect on July 1, will make protesting outside of government buildings and taking photos of police illegal. Most Spanish citizens oppose the law, and on Friday, the group Holograms por la Libertad (Holograms for Freedom) organized a protest that brought together thousands of people in front of a parliamentary building in Madrid—virtually, in the form of holograms.

Russia: Celebrity memes illegal

Roskomnadzor issued a statement this week announcing that creating memes that fail to accurately represent a public figure's "personality" "violate the laws governing personal data and harm the honor, dignity and business of public figures." The announcement, posted to Russian social network Vkontakte, clarified the country's pre-existing personal data laws in the context of a lawsuit brought by Russian singer Valeri Syutkin against popular culture site Lurkmore. Lurkmore is now debating whether to try to challenge the policy or to block content for Russian users.

Twitter suspends 10,000 accounts “for tweeting violent threats"

Twitter confirmed last week that it suspended 10,000 accounts related to ISIS. The purge came in the midst of an effort by anti-ISIS activists to document and report pro-ISIS accounts. In late March, activists—including groups such as Anonymous—posted a list of 26,000 Twitter accounts linked to the militant group. Of these, nearly 15,000 had already been suspended by Twitter in an ongoing effort that has led ISIS supporters to make death threats against Twitter employees.

United States: 15th anniversary of Metallica v. Napster, Inc.

Monday marked the 15th anniversary of the date that Metallica filed suit against Napster for copyright infringement. The case was the first in which an artist sued a peer-to-peer file sharing service, and it opened the door for a wave of other lawsuits that eventually led to Napster's bankruptcy.

The Internet Monitor Week in Review is a weekly round-up of news about Internet content controls and online activity around the world. You may also be interested in weekly editions of our previous round-up, IMWeekly.