Week in Review: August 3, 2018

by Mary Meisenzahl

Cambodia blocks news sites before presidential election

On July 28, two days before Cambodia’s general election, the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM) noted that at least 17 media websites were blocked by the government. Some of these sites included Radio Free Asia and the Phnom Penh Post. Prime Minister Hun Sen won the election and will continue his 33 year rule. Under Hun Sen, there has been other Internet censorship as well. In May 2018, the government released directives to block websites containing incitement and threats to national security. In CCIM’s statement on the blocked media websites, they said “CCIM strongly believes that with the lack of independent media covering the election process, the status of transparent, free, and fair election is being questioned. Once the election cannot be free and fair, the legitimacy of a new government is absolutely doubtful.”

Social media access disrupted during Mali elections

July 29 was the Mali presidential election, and on that day many reported that they were unable to access social media. Internet Sans Frontieres and OONI released network measurement data to confirm local reports. According to that data, WhatsApp, Twitter, and circumvention tool websites were accessible until last Sunday when they were blocked. They were available again after the election. The government of Mali has turned to blocking social media before, such as last month following protests calling for greater transparency in the government.

OONI releases report on Internet Censorship in South Sudan

OONI and The Advocates for Human Rights and Democracy (TAHURID) used network measurements to analyze Internet censorship in South Sudan. The report found that media outlets including Sudan Tribune and Radio Tamazuj, as well as independent blogs, have been blocked for over a year. The report highlights that many of the URLs they tested were accessible in South Sudan, including reports from the United Nations on South Sudan. The report concludes that Internet censorship is not pervasive in the country but is focused on content that could incite violence. Local journalists and media are mostly subject to other forms of censorship, such as jail time.

Leaked documents reveal Google plans for censored search engine in China

Google is planning to launch a censored version of its search engine in China, which would block websites and terms related to human rights and protests, among other topics, according to The Intercept. The project, which is code named “Dragonfly,” has been in development since 2017 and takes the form of an Android app. The project could launch as soon as the next six to nine months, which would make it the first time since 2010 that the search engine has operated in China. It is currently blocked by the Great Firewall. According to the leaked documents seen by The Intercept, the search engine will automatically filter out search results blocked by the Great Firewall, and no results will be shown for certain blacklisted words and phrases.