Week in Review: February 3, 2016

by Muira McCammon

Egypt: Cartoonist Detained Briefly for Internet Activity 

Islam Gawish, an Egyptian cartoonist, was detained on Sunday, January 31, 2016 for "running a website without a license." The Egyptian government arrested him while conducting a police raid on the headquarters of the Egypt News Network (ENN). In a statement released to ONTV, a pan-Arab news channel, Gawish declared that he was wrongfully arrested by Egyptian security forces, who were looking instead for the owner of ENN. "I refused to sign a statement saying that I'm the manager of ENN. I was not officially charged with anything," he said. "I was told unofficially that Islam Gawish was accused of using [means of communication] to spread anti-regime cartoons," Mahmoud Othman, Gawish’s lawyer, explained to Ahram Online on Sunday. Word spread quickly throughout Twitter that Gawish had been arrested. Jonathan Guyer, a cartoonist and cartooning scholar, described Gawish's style: "Gawish’s comics often feature gags about relationships, technology, and pop culture. Though he does address politics, most recently with some cartoons about the martyrs of the 2011 revolution, his illustrations are no more dissident than anything else published in Egypt’s independent media outlets and newspapers." During a phone call with an Egyptian news channel on Monday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi remarked, “I swear I don’t get upset with anyone. There’s nothing called ‘consensus on someone’. I swear I’m not upset with Gawish or any other individual." 

Indonesia: Telecommunications Company Blocks Netflix Outright 

The state-owned PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia Tbk., the country's largest telecom company, has started blocking Netflix. Telekom cited two reasons for the decision. First, it said that Netflix had not acquired the proper permits to operate in Indonesia. Furthermore, it expressed concern that some of Netflix's movies might be deemed too violent or sexual to satisfy the Indonesian Censorship Agency (LSF). The block came as a surprise to many netizens and Netflixers alike, many of whom expected the Indonesian government instead to seek to regulate the service's contents. In the past month Netflix has faced multiple obstacles in trying to enter Indonesian markets. Ahmad Yani Basuki, chairman of the LSF, held a meeting on January 9 to discuss Netflix. Of the meeting, he reflected, "Last Saturday we watched the movies [available on Netflix].  There are some movies that we have forbid from being screened in the cinemas." Basuki also alluded to the fact that Netflix had not obtained operating licenses yet from the Indonesian Ministry of Communication. "We reminded [Netflix] that if they don't want to apply for licenses, then don't enter [Indonesia]," he warned

France: Government Decides to Not Strike Deal with Google Over Back Taxes 

The French government has rejected the idea of negotiating with Google over the back taxes the company owes. Michel Sapin, the French Finance Minister, called the £130m settlement struck between Google and the UK government earlier this year "more the product of a negotiation than the application of the law." He explained, “The French tax administration does not negotiate the amount of taxes owed. It applies the rules.” It is thus expected that Google will end up paying France much more than it paid the UK in its settlement. Many economists argued that Google got off lightly in the UK and are now waiting to see what happens in France. Part of the issue stems from the fact that there is not a standard corporate tax rate across E.U. member states. UK corporate tax is 20%, while in France it is 33.33%. 

United States: Civil Liberties and Human Rights Orgs Ask that House Judiciary Committee Hold Open Hearings

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and two dozen other organizations have asked the House Judiciary Committee to permit members of the public to attend some of its hearings on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Section 702. In an open letter, they say, "In the case of Section 702 implementation oversight, a completely closed hearing is unnecessary to provide members with an adequate understanding of how the law is currently implemented by the executive branch and whether that exceeds Congress' original intent. [...] As you know, when the FISA Amendments Act was written, the deliberations happened largely in open session." FISA is set to expire next year in 2017. Section 702 specifically has caused considerable controversy. Ben German and Jason Plautz of The Atlantic note, "Leaks from Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency has been using Section 702 of FISA [...] for a sweeping Internet-surveillance program." A House committee member told The Hill hat Congress is keeping the hearing classified "so that members can do their job to conduct meaningful oversight over the FISA Amendments Act so that they can make educated decisions based on all the facts about how to proceed."