Week in Review: July 20, 2016

by Grant Baker

Hacktivists Release Thousands of TIME Articles

Hacktivists have released close to one hundred years of TIME magazine issues and made them available free online. Michael Best, a freedom of information activist who obtained the files, argues that “they should be freely viewable online as they would in a well stocked library.” The dump includes 3,471 archived issues of TIME Magazine from the paywall-protected section of the TIME website known as “The Vault,” which adds up to over 370,000 pages. While Best dumped the documents on the internet, Thomas White, an English activist who also goes by the name “The Cthulu,” is hosting the files. Although Best has posted government documents online before, he notes that this is a different situation because TIME is a private company. If TIME does not take legal action that forces Best and White to take the documents down, Best hopes to organize them more effectively, so that readers can filter them topically and easily access PDFs. Currently, the issues are arranged by date.

Social Media Celebrity Killed in Pakistan

Qandeel Baloch, a Pakistani women who used social media to achieve her celebrity, was murdered by her brother, Waseem Azeem, last week in an honor killing. Baloch, who used a pseudonym, was originally a contestant on the Pakistani version of American Idol, but she used social media to become famous as a model, often challenging Pakistani cultural norms and mocking prominent figures in Pakistani society. Her brother killed her because he felt that her actions brought dishonor upon the family and “said he found the social embarrassment unbearable.” Some Western news outlets have compared Baloch to Kim Kardashian, but Pakistanis have pointed out that unlike Kim Kardashian, Baloch came from a working class background. Some Pakistanis lauded her efforts to promote feminism, but conservative members of Pakistani society thought that she was too promiscuous online. In the wake of her murder, many expressed their outrage at the killing on social media and via a petition that currently has over 3,000 signatures, but others applauded her brother and argued that his actions were justified. The petition places considerable blame on Mufti Qavi, who some believe helped incite the murder. In the wake of the attack, the BBC published an article detailing some of the online harassment that female Pakistani journalists have faced for reporting on women’s rights and other taboo issues in the country.

What Happened to Turkey’s Internet During the Coup

Over the past week, many have noted the irony that the Turkish government, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, relied on the internet that it has so heavily censored to mobilize Turkish citizens in the wake of the attempted coup. As news of the coup broke out, the Committee to Protect Journalists tweeted that there were reports that Twitter and Facebook had been blocked. CNN and Twitter’s public policy team corroborated that the internet was “slowed” in the early hours of the coup and that many may not have been able to access social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter. It is unclear whether the government or the plotters of the coup were responsible for the block, but in an hour service was back up. Then, in a defining moment, Erdogan used FaceTime to call in to CNN Turk to encourage the Turkish people to rise up against the plotters of the coup. Erdogan also tweeted a similar message in an effort to reach the Turkish people.

Erdogan was not the only person in Turkey using social media; the coup plotters used WhatsApp to pass their plans along to one another. Turkish people were using these apps to communicate as well; Zeynep Tufecki writes in the New York Times that she saw everyone glued to their phones as she took a cab from the airport into the Antalya. Furthermore, the largest phone company in Turkey gave everyone extra data so that they would be able to easily contact their relatives and exchange news with one another. Tufecki also notes that Erdogan was not the only prominent figure on Twitter; each political party used Twitter to distance themselves from the coup, and a politician used it when the parliament house was bombed. Erdogan’s leveraging of social media here stands in stark contrast to his earlier statements regarding freedom of speech on social media. In the aftermath of the coup, the government initially blocked 12 websites, one of which negotiated with the government to work around the block. In addition to the initial dozen, Turkey also blocked WikiLeaks after the organization leaked hundreds of thousands of emails from ruling party members.

WhatsApp Briefly Banned in Brazil, Again

In May, the Brazilian courts banned WhatsApp for refusing to give up information about a user in a criminal case. The country recently banned WhatsApp once again. Judge Daniela Barbosa made the ruling, and the government informed the mobile companies on Tuesday; however, in a matter of hours the Brazilian Supreme Court reversed the decision. According to Barbosa, WhatsApp had failed to comply on three occasions, and she felt they had no choice but to take block WhatsApp once again. On top of banning the app, the judge also ordered that Whatsapp must pay $50,000 per day until the information is released. WhatsApp’s CEO stood firm against the ban in a Facebook post, writing, “as we’ve said in the past, we cannot share information we do not have access to.” He is referencing WhatsApp’s end to end encryption, which means that even WhatsApp cannot see the messages. Like prior shutdowns, this brief shutdown will probably increase the usage of other similar messaging apps like Telegram, which already benefitted from the first ban of WhatsApp (it is worth noting that WhatsApp did not have end to end encryption at the time, giving Telegram the upper hand in terms of security). With the Olympics right around the corner, it will be interesting to see if another shutdown occurs in August.

Protests Lead to Mobile Internet Shutdown in Kashmir

On July 9th, protests began in the Kashmir region of India in the wake of the death of Burhan Wani. The Indian security forces killed Wani, who was a “top commander of Hizbul Mujahideen,” the most prominent separatist movement in the region. Almost as soon as the protests began, the government restricted mobile internet access to prevent disorder and violence. The government’s worry is not completely unfounded; 40 people have been killed and 1600 injured since the protests began. The Indian government went a step further on July 14, demanding that cellular providers cut off all phone service as well. Only Bharat Sanghar Nigam Limited kept its services on; however, service was only fully available on “post-paid” phones. Reportedly, Facebook has also removed Facebook posts by Kashmiri citizens due to complaints. Kashmiris claim that this practice is fairly common and allege that “ultra-nationalist overseas Indians” are responsible for reporting these posts.