Week in Review: July 13, 2016

by Patrick Drown

Gotta Catch ‘Em All - The Explosion of Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go was launched on July 6, 2016 and has quickly become the new gaming obsession for many in the US and around the world. The game, which allows players to travel around their neighborhood and city to find and capture different Pokemon, has been downloaded over 7.5 million times in the US. Pokemon Go now has more daily active users than Twitter and experiences more daily downloads than the popular dating application Tinder. While most new phone or computer games don’t require the physical movement of the user, Pokemon Go requires the user to actively explore their surroundings in order to find new Pokemon. This has caused random groups of users to meet up in places where a rare Pokemon might be found or a “training gym” might be located. The game's popularity, coupled with its requirement that players explore their surroundings, has led to a number of strange situations. A non-Pokemon Go user who owns a former church that has been remodeled into a residence posted on Buzzfeed his experience of coming to understand that his residence has been labeled as a “training gym” in the game, which has brought players lurking outside his home to “train at the gym.” A young woman in Wyoming found a dead body in a river while searching for nautical creatures. Other news is more concerning: the ability to see the location of other users has inspired criminals to find some unwitting victims and until yesterday, using Google to log in to the game provided Pokemon Go with full access—including the ability to read users’ email.

Iranian Man Imprisoned for Making Jokes on Facebook

Soheil Babadi has awaited the ruling for his appeal against his prison sentence for making offensive jokes on Facebook for almost a year in Iran. Babadi was imprisoned in October 2014 for posting satirical jokes on a Facebook page named “Campaign to Remind Shiites about Imam Naghi.” Imam Naghi is the tenth leader of Shia Muslims and is revered by Shia Muslims, especially in the largely Shia populated Iran. The 39-year-old engineer has been charged with a variety of crimes including “insulting the prophet Mohammad,” “insulting the supreme leader,” “propaganda against the state,” and “membership in a group planning to overthrow the state.” Babadi reports being interrogated while blindfolded in the corner of a room and put in solitary confinement for a period of 225 days. Babadi’s desire for a verdict on his appeal is particularly urgent because he needs treatment for his kidney problem, but officials refuse to allow him to go on medical furlough for treatment until he gets a final verdict. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran contends that authorities in charge of the case have deliberately prolonged Babadi’s prosecution.

Facebook Facing Possible Suicide Abetment Charge in Tamil Nadu, India

Authorities in Salem, Tamil Nadu, India are considering holding Facebook accountable for the suicide of a 21-year-old woman. On June 23rd Salem police in Tamil Nadu received a complaint from the woman’s father stating that someone had uploaded “morphed” nude photos of his daughter on Facebook. Five days after the Salem police administered a Law Enforcement Online Request to Facebook asking for details of the IP address from which the photos were posted, Facebook complied with the request. Twelve hours later Salem police apprehended the person suspected of uploading the photos, but the woman portrayed in them had taken her own life just the day before. Indian officials are considering charging Facebook with abetment to suicide, though there is no state precedent for charging an international website with a crime. Salem superintendent of police stated that Facebook responds quickly and appropriately to child pornography, but needs to become more responsive to the rights of other protected groups such as women.

Court Holds That Visiting Website With Disapproval Unlawful

According to the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, if you tell people to not visit your website and they do it anyways knowing that you disapprove, they’re committing a federal crime. This is the result of a decision on the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Facebook v. Vachani. Power Ventures operated a website at Power.com that let users aggregate their contacts on different social media sites. With the user’s consent, Power was authorized to gather information from a user’s Facebook account and send messages to other Facebook users for them. Insisting that Power was violating its terms of use, Facebook sent Power a cease-and-desist letter. The court holds that Power violated the Computer and Fraud Abuse Act when it continued its business after receiving the cease-and-desist letter. Many policymakers are worried about the implications of this case; read broadly, the case establishes that it is a crime for someone to visit a website if the owner of the website gives this person notice not to visit.

Chinese Government Tries to Hush the Intensity of Flooding

Recent flooding over the last few weeks in 26 provinces in China has displaced 1.5 million people and killed around 180 individuals. The floods have ruined farms, cut off transportation systems, and caused major impediments to economic growth. Many Chinese citizens from affected areas are angry that the Chinese media, heavily controlled by the government, is covering up the intensity and damage of the flooding. State-owned Chinese Central Television interviewed a disaster relief official who claimed that the floods only affected two major streets in the area she was working. Media outlets that accurately report the intensity of the flooding have been banned. News about protests on the lack of disaster relief could not be found on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, which many believe to be the work of censorship of the Chinese government. Many videos of flooding on Weibo have also been allegedly deleted by the government. The Chinese government is particularly sensitive to the intensity of massive floods because former Chinese Premier Li Peng was one of the greatest advocates of the construction of the controversial Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River that was supposed to stop even the most intense floods.