Week in Review: June 22, 2018

by Mary Meisenzahl

EU votes for new copyright law

On Wednesday, June 20, a European parliament committee voted to change copyright laws in the EU in an attempt to update them for the Internet. Article 13 of the law will require that platforms that allow users to post text, sound, code, and images implement a filtering system to catch copyrighted material. On Tuesday, over 70 notable people in technology including Vint Cerf and Tim Berners-Lee signed a letter to the president of the European Parliament asking him to oppose Article 13. Article 11 of the copyright law is controversial as well. Also called the link tax, this section will force publishers like Facebook or Google to pay to link to or quote from a news site.

Algeria shuts down Internet during exams

On Wednesday, as high school exams began in Algeria, the entire country went offline. The Algerian government ordered telecom companies to shut down the Internet for several hours each day during the five day exam period. Facebook will also be blocked for the entirety of the period. According to the Algerian government, these measures are intended to prevent cheating after exam questions leaked online in 2016. The Internet Intelligence project by Oracle confirmed the shutdown.

Report shows negative effects of Telegram ban in Iran

On June 19, The Center for Human Rights in Iran released a 40 page report called “Closing of the Gates: Implications of Iran’s Ban on the Telegram Messaging App.” The report found that the ban has led to self censorship, forced campaigns, and political speech onto state-sponsored media, and hurt businesses that had infrastructure based on Telegram. Researchers found that many Iranians continue to access Telegram through circumvention tools including VPNs, which they already use to reach Facebook. This report comes after Telegram was temporarily banned in January 2018 following protests and permanently banned in May.

Belarus adopts new media law

On June 14, the Belarusian National Assembly passed amendments to the country’s media law that would require identification and registration for authors of all posts and comments online. The government will have the power to block social media websites without a court order, and all media companies must register with the Information Ministry. Unregistered media outlets will not be allowed to record video or audio or keep their sources anonymous. Advocacy organizations like Reporters Without Borders have condemned the law as a threat to freedom of expression, but members of the Belarusian parliament argued that it would enforce citizens’ rights to receive “truthful information.”