Week in Review: February 9, 2018

by Dan Bateyko

The Internet Society shares snapshot of post-hurricane connectivity in the Caribbean

The Internet Society released a report last Friday on the status of the Caribbean region’s internet connectivity following 2017 hurricane storms Irma and Maria. The report includes a another report from the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, messages from Internet Society members in Dominica, St. Maarten, and Puerto Rico, and Internet Society’s proposed next steps.

Describing some of the many challenges in strengthening Internet connectivity, one Internet Society member in Puerto Rico notes a lack of coordination, structural fundraising, and electricity distribution as obstacles on the island. As part of an effort to address these obstacles, the Caribbean Telecommunications Union has tasked a commission for Caribbean Network Resilience with creating recommendations to support the region in developing more resilient networks. As a member, the Internet Society will aid in investigating the failures leading to lost connectivity and assessing alternative technologies. The Internet Society has also proposed to partner with Caribbean organizations on network resiliency and telecom infrastructure, as well as to develop a disaster relief fund aimed at restoring Internet connectivity.

To read more about post-hurricane connectivity, see the Internet Society’s report here.

Russian human rights group releases report on Russian Internet freedom

The Russian human rights group Agora released its annual report on Russian Internet restrictions titled "Internet Freedom 2017: Creeping Criminalization” this week. The report points to a growing number of blocked websites in Russia, threats of violence against bloggers, and criminal prosecutions for online activities as evidence of the state’s expansion of online content controls.

According to Meduza, a Russian online newspaper which provided an English-language summary of the findings, Agora counted 110,000 decisions by regulators to block and filter online information and an average of 244 web pages blocked each day. These figures conflict with the state regulator Roskomnadzor’s count, which tops out at 88,000 blacklisted websites in 2017. As Meduza reports, Agora also describes Russian state efforts to restrict anonymity and access, including “the Federal Security Service demanding that Telegram hand over its encryption keys, the criminal case against mathematician Dmitry Bogatov, who operated a Tor exit node, and legislation requiring VPN administrators to block websites prohibited in Russia.”

Agora’s report includes a catalog of each documented act of Internet censorship and a map of cases by region.The full text (in Russian) can be read here.

Cambodia blocks access to The Cambodia Daily website

Cambodia’s government ordered Internet service providers to block access to The Cambodia Daily newspaper’s online presence, reports The Phnom Penh Post. In a letter addressed from the Cambodian Tax Department head to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, ISPs were ordered to block the newspaper’s IP address, as well as its Facebook page and Twitter account. One ISP, Sinet KH, admitted to the order in a Tweet made last Friday.

While Cambodians report difficulty accessing The Cambodia Daily website, the Facebook page and Twitter account are still accessible, reports the U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Asia (RFA). The Cambodia Daily closed last year due to trumped-up tax charges in what RFA describes as a crackdown on media and civil society groups: “Cambodia’s government at about the same time expelled U.S.-funded NGO the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and suspended some 20 radio stations that aired content by U.S. broadcasters Radio Free Asia and Voice of America” The RFA cited government intimidation as cause for shuttering its own Cambodia bureau last September.