Week in Review: February 23, 2018

by Dan Bateyko

This week, Internet Monitor published its latest research bulletin, in which Berkman Klein Center affiliate Simin Kargar argues that Iranians prefer internationally hosted content and tools to the Iranian National Information Network.

Turkey introduces draft bill to regulate online broadcasters

The Parliamentary Planning and Budget Commission of the Turkish Parliament passed a draft bill on February 21 that would require online broadcast platforms such as YouTube and Netflix to be licensed by the state broadcasting agency, reports The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). According to Reuters, “The regulation would allow the RTUK watchdog to halt audio and video material streamed online, social media posts and films offered by Internet-based providers like Netflix if they are deemed a threat to national security or moral values.” Websites affected by the order could then contest the decision.

The CPJ expressed concern that the bill would expand the country’s Internet censorship, which according to Freedom House’s 2017 Freedom on the Net report, has expanded steadily in 2017. To visualize Internet censorship in Turkey, visit this Internet Monitor dashboard.

Mozilla Announces Winners of the Wireless Innovation for Network Society Challenge

This week, Mozilla and the National Science Foundation announced their winners for the Wireless Innovation for a Networked Society challenges, their call for innovative wireless technologies to connect people with unreliable Internet access. The organizations distributed $2 million in prizes for 20 projects in the categories of “off the grid Internet” for disaster relief communications and “smart community networks” for communities in the U.S. lacking reliable Internet access.

According to Mozilla, the project “winners are building mesh networks, solar-powered Wi-Fi, and network infrastructure that fits inside a single backpack” in ways that are affordable and scalable. The Equitable Internet Initiative, based in Detroit and discussed in a previous Week in Review, received first place in the smart community network category and “uses a system of relays to beam wireless broadband from a local ISP to vulnerable neighborhoods. The system includes solar-powered batteries, an intranet with apps, and training so local users can build and maintain the network.”

To read more about the projects, visit the Mozilla press release here.

Bangladesh backs down from Internet shutdown

In an effort to curb national exam questions leaking online, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission ordered an Internet shutdown on exam days, only to retract the decision an hour into the first day’s shutdown on February 12, reports Global Voices. In lieu of an Internet block, authorities have issued a mobile phone ban in and around the examination facilities. The Global Voices report shares bloggers and Twitter users accounts of the Internet shutdown.

A number of Twitter and Facebook users took to mocking the shutdown as ineffective and deleterious, with one comment stating that the exam questions had already leaked prior to the shutdown. One Internet commenter quoted in the Global Voices report described financial losses they incurred as a result of the shutdown: “The [February 12] internet shutdown has caused me a loss of US $265. I was bidding for a work contract for that amount with a client when the Internet went out. I contacted the client when Internet resumed and found that he had hired another person in the meantime.” Access Now, a digital rights organization, has made similar arguments as to the economic costs of Internet shutdowns as part of its #KeepItOn campaign.

February’s shutdown is not Bangladesh’s first, with Internet shutdowns ordered in 2016 for a security drill and a 2015 social media block. To read more bloggers’ accounts of the Internet shutdown, read the Global Voices story here.