Week in Review: June 15, 2018

by Mary Meisenzahl

Tanzania orders bloggers to register with government or take down websites

On June 11, Tanzania ordered all unregistered bloggers to immediately take down their websites or face prosecution. This order follows a law passed in March that required bloggers and owners of online forums to apply for a government license, which costs up to $900. To be officially registered, bloggers must submit a form with information including investments, other involved parties, and future plans for growth. Government officials have the right to revoke registration if the blogger publishes content that “causes annoyance, threatens harm or evil, encourages or incites crimes” or endangers “national security or public health and safety” under the Electronic and Postal Communication Regulations 2018. Tanzania’s most popular online forum, Jamii Forums, has been unable to post reports because its owners refuse to comply with the law by revealing sources and contributors.

French lawmakers debate fake news bill

French lawmakers discussed a bill on June 7 that would give broadcasting authorities the power to take foreign media off the air if they are found to be attempting to destabilize France. The bill defines fake news as “any inaccurate or misleading allegation or imputation of a fact." The bill would allow parties and candidates to call upon a judge to determine “fake news” during the three months preceding an election. Judges then have 48 hours to decide if the information is credible and could impact the election, and they can choose to remove the content. Culture minister Françoise Nyssen, who is sponsoring the bill, said that it will primarily target social media rumors, but critics in Parliament expressed fears that the bill could endanger journalists and their sources.

Vietnam passes cybersecurity law

On June 12, Vietnam passed a cybersecurity bill that critics worry will have negative effects on privacy and freedom of expression. The law, which goes into effect in 2019, requires tech companies like Google and Facebook to open offices in Vietnam and store user data within the country. They will also have 24 hours to remove content flagged by the Ministry of Information and Communication and the Ministry of Public Security’s cybersecurity task force. Under this law, users are prohibited from anti-state organizing online, spreading false information, and participating in online activities that could undermine Vietnam’s solidarity. This comes after a crackdown on Internet activity in Vietnam, including a blogger who was sentenced to seven years for reporting on a chemical spill and others in prison for criticizing the government on Facebook.

Net Neutrality repealed in United States

The Federal Communications Commission voted on December 14 to repeal net neutrality rules, which required Internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all traffic equally. That repeal took effect on June 11. Under net neutrality, ISPs were prohibited from discriminating against any lawful content by blocking websites, throttling content, and prioritizing services for users and companies who paid a premium. Opponents of the decision argue that it allows ISPs to potentially censor content or charge additional fees that could hurt small companies. FCC chairman Ajit Pai argued in an op-ed in CNET that the repeal “will protect consumers and promote better, faster internet access and more competition.”

Oracle releases Internet Intelligence Map

On June 13, tech company Oracle released the free Internet Intelligence Map using research from Dyn. The tool allows users to view Internet disruptions by country in order of severity based on BGP impact, DNS impact, and traceroute impact. The map also displays traffic shifts, showing changes in how Internet traffic is routed.