Week in Review: November 11, 2015

by Muira McCammon

Berkman Center: Researchers Map 30 Internet Bill of Rights Initiatives

On November 9, 2015, Berkman Center Executive Director and Harvard Law School professor Urs Gasser and research assistants Dennis Redeker and Lex Gill published "Towards Digital Constitutionalism? Mapping Attempts to Craft an Internet Bill of Rights." The report charts the evolution of "Internet Bills of Rights” and how such initiatives have changed in form, function, and scope. Gasser, Redeker, and Gill propose a new term to describe these efforts: digital constitutionalism. As part of their research, they conduct an analysis of thirty separate initiatives that sought to advance the rights, principles, and governance norms for the Internet.

European Commission: Concerns Remain about Turkish Internet Laws

In a report discussing Turkey's status as a candidate country, European Union officials criticized backsliding in the areas of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. European Commission members wrote, "Changes to the internet law, which are a significant setback from European standards, increased the government’s powers to block content without a court order on an unduly wide range of grounds. [...] An amendment to the internet law in March 2015 allowing the Telecommunications Communications Presidency to remove or block access to content within four hours without a court order is a matter of concern." The report does note one positive development in Turkish Internet activity: a rise in the Internet penetration rate for households from 49% (2013) to 54% (2014). The report has received extensive coverage from international news outlets [EN], particularly English language newspapers based in Turkey [EN].

Hungary: Local Government Filed Lawsuit Against Facebook User

A number of Hungarian new outlets [HU] have written about an incident concerning a Facebook user in the small Hungarian of Tata. The local government of the town has allegedly filed a lawsuit against a resident, Maria Somogyi, who has been accused of publishing a Facebook post criticizing government spending. Global Voices has reported that the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union has started a crowdsourcing campaign to support Maria Somogyi as part of its work to end the abuse of libel laws.

Iraq: ISIS Allegedly Rounds Up 50 Facebook Users in Mosul

On November 10, 2015, Iraqi officials reported that ISIS had detained dozens of young male Facebook users for posting pictures and videos. Lawmaker Abdulraheem Al-Shimary [IN] said that ISIS had blocked Internet services and destroyed communication towers after seizing control of Mosul in June 2014. Al-Shimary explained that some netizens had restored access to the city's Internet service, but unbeknownst to them, ISIS was able to track their activities online. One Iraqi official - who, when speaking to NBC News, requested that his name be withheld - said that the Facebook posts from Mosul had been a "big help" to Iraq's government. According to NBC News, many Iraqi officials fear that the young men detained will face the most severe of consequences.