Week in Review: May 6, 2015

by Rebekah Heacock Jones

Canada: Town in Quebec outlaws insulting police, municipal officials online

The town council of Granby, Quebec voted unanimously on Monday to outlaw insulting police officers and municipal officials online. Making such insults offline is already illegal; those who violate the new ordinance face fines of $100 to $1000.

Hong Kong: Civic groups speak out against online surveillance

Several civic groups in Hong Kong have called for a review of the Interception of Communications and Surveillance Ordinance, which governs wiretapping and other forms of traditional communications surveillance. In the wake of last year's Occupy Central movement, activists are increasingly concerned that the ordinance does not adequately address the surveillance of mobile instant messages, including those sent through applications like WhatsApp. Several officials have stated that the ordinance does not apply to online messaging applications. Some civil society organizations have interpreted this to mean that surveillance of these communications has no formal oversight, raising concerns about transparency and accountability. Hong Kong In-Media issued a statement calling on authorities to expand the ordinance to cover online communications and to clarify language in order to remove possible loopholes.

Rights experts issue statement condemning Internet "kill switches"

A group of rights experts—including representatives from the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Organization of American States, and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights—has issued a joint declaration on freedom of expression and responses to conflict that states in part, "Filtering of content on the Internet, using communications ‘kill switches’ (i.e. shutting down entire parts of communications systems) and the physical takeover of broadcasting stations are measures which can never be justified under human rights law." The declaration comes on the heels of a recent Internet shutdown in Burundi following protests opposing a third term for President Pierre Nkurunziza.

Russia: Hackers use malware to increase view counts for pro-Russia videos

Security firm Trustwave issued a report stating that it had observed a political use of malware: attackers are infecting computers with a virus that forces them to visit pro-Russian videos on Dailymotion, artificially raising the view counts for these videos. According to Trustwave, "Using bots to generate fake traffic to video clips is nothing new. It is a technique to raise a clip's popularity score and achieve higher visibility. However, this is the first time we've observed the tactic used to promote video clips with a seemingly political agenda."

The Internet Monitor Week in Review is a weekly round-up of news about Internet content controls and online activity around the world. You may also be interested in weekly editions of our previous round-up, IMWeekly.