Week in Review: October 16, 2017

by Dan Bateyko

Tanzania Considers Social Media Regulations

The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has drafted strict regulations on social media platforms and content producers such as bloggers.

According to IT News Africa, “users will be held liable for posting content deemed “indecent, obscene, hate speech, extreme violence or material that will offend or incite others, cause annoyance, threaten, or encourage or incite crime, or lead to public disorder” and face penalties of “ a fine of 5 million Tanzanian Shillings ($2,300), a minimum of 12 months in jail or both.”

In addition to individual user liability for content, the draft calls on social media platforms and service providers to apply for registration with the TCRA, install CCTV cameras on their premises, and ban anonymous users from their platforms. As of writing, the bill has not been signed into law, with public forums on the draft planned for the upcoming week.

The social media draft comes on the heels of a parliament-approved communications act against "moral decadence” passed earlier this year.  Last year, the Tanzanian police faced criticism from civil society for jailing a digital rights activist after he refused to disclose users’ identities on a popular online discussion forum. The BBC also reported that Tanzania government workers faced a social media ban during their work hours.

For statistics on Tanzania’s Internet, see The Internet Monitor Dashboard .

1,000 Weibo supervisors tasked with reporting content

Following a September 27 hiring announcement, Weibo has begun asking its new staff of “supervisors” to report  "on no less than 200 pieces of content (including both original posts and comments) that either are pornographic, illegal or harmful” according to an article published in The Diplomat.

According to an article in Global Voices, the new policy is already affecting users—user accounts containing photos of women displaying their legs, abdomen, or cleavage are being reported as "pornographic", causing their “Weibo scores” to drop. Users with a low Weibo score may no longer appear on other users’ timelines or risk account suspension.  

These new hirings come after Tencent, Baidu, and Sina Weibo were hit with fines by China's Cyberspace Administration for violating a recently passed Cybersecurity Law by hosting banned content such as pornography. Josh Chin for the Wall Street Journal writes that a preliminary investigation “found their users passing around content that regulators said threatened national security and public order.”

In the run up to the Communist Party's National Congress, users in Mainland China have reported disruptions to service on the Facebook-owned messaging service, WhatsApp.

For further reading, check out Citizen Lab Research Fellow Jason Q. Ng’s book and blog, “Blocked on Weibo.”

OnlineCensorship.org Releases a Resource Kit for Covering Content Moderation

OnlineCensorship.org, a project that encourages social media companies to work with greater transparency and accountability when regulating speech, released a new resource kit for journalists last week to help cover issues of content moderations.

The kit aims to be a "a one-stop resource for information on issues related to content moderation policies", providing "analysis of the impact of a number of policies related to specific areas of content moderation across multiple network" and showcasing a number of censorship case studies. Issue areas the kit addresses include "The Human Body", "'Real Name’ Policies", and "Hate Speech, Threats, and Extremism".

To view the resource, visit https://onlinecensorship.org/content/a-resource-kit-for-journalists

See our Internet Monitor dashboard to compare social media companies on corporate accountability.