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China’s Export To Iran: ‘Clean Internet’

(Pic courtesy US News & World Report)

In a perceptive blog postDaniel Calingaert, executive vice president of the New York-based Freedom House wrote March 2013 how “Authoritarian regimes around the world are exporting their worst practices and working together to repress their own citizens and undermine human rights standards internationally.”
He went on to say that although interactions between regimes are largely opaque, methods of repression are replicated in dictatorial regimes and “direct assistance is provided across borders to crack down on dissent, and joint efforts are made to chip away at international protections for fundamental freedoms.”

Among the areas in which dictatorships cooperate said Calingeart is through technology export.

“China has set the standard for sophisticated methods of control over the internet and actively exports technology for monitoring digital communications. It has reportedly supplied telephone and internet surveillance technology to Iran and Ethiopia and provided several Central Asian governments with telecommunications infrastructure that may increase their ability to spy on their own citizens.”
In an article on February 12, in The US News and World Report, Mark Eades said that Iran had announced recently that it had received Chinese help “to implement its closed ‘National Information Network’ or ‘clean Internet.'”
“For advocates of global Internet freedom, this is international cooperation of the worst kind imaginable. Iran already exercises strict Internet control, including censoring and filtering websites, limiting Internet speed, surveillance of Internet users and state-sponsored hacking. Unsatisfied even with this level of control over Internet use, however, Iran seeks to implement its own closed ‘national Internet’ or ‘clean Internet.’ Such a system already exists in North Korea, almost certainly developed with Chinese help given North Korea’s dependence on China,” writes Eades.
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Twitter Best In Protecting Citzen Privacy, Says EFF Report

Twitter’s Dick Costollo (Business Insider)

Days before US President Barack Obama outlined new steps his government hoped to take to minimise surveillance by the government spy agencies on US citizens and people overseas, an internet freedom monitor scored different tech companies on how well they had protected private citizens from government.    
 “When it comes to how Internet companies protect people when the government asks for data, Twitter wins,” says Business Insider of a survey done by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

Among the matters Obama addressed in his speech, Friday, was that of NSA issuing national security letters, which is an administrative subpoena to compel tech companies to hand over their records. It is significant that among the reforms the president proposed were that tech companies will not be subjected to an indefinite gag order to which they are now bound. But whereas the White House review panel recommended letters would require the approval of courts before they are issued, that was not accepted.
But well before the US administration announced its new policy on the letters (and other matters), Twitter was one of two companies surveyed by EFF that had scored big on six criteria used to evaluate how internet companies protect peoples’ privacy. The criteria include asking for a warrant before handing over records, fighting for users’ privacy rights in courts and championing for users’ privacy rights in Congress.
“Of the companies listed in the report’s summary, only two earned a ‘star’ for all six categories: Twitter and a company called, the EEF said. is a company based in Santa Rosa, Calif. that provides people with Internet access,” says Julie Bort for Business Insider.
“In this annual report, the Electronic Frontier Foundation examined the policies of major Internet companies … to assess whether they publicly commit to standing with users when the government seeks access to user data. The purpose of this report is to incentivize companies to be transparent about how data flows to the government and encourage them to take a stand for user privacy whenever it is possible to do so,” explained EFF in an Executive Summary of the report.
“So that means that Twitter outscored companies like Dropbox, Google and LinkedIn, though those companies also did well in the report. A few, like Amazon, Apple, Yahoo and Facebook, didn’t score so well,” commented Business Insider.

Internet Makes Governments More Responsive To Voters

The transformative role played by the internet is highlighted in an article in CircleID that says the top-down approach the conventionally powerful – politicians, business elites, international organisations among others – use to control the less-empowered masses is changing due to technology.
“Governments and international organisations will need to transform like all the other sectors. The top-down paradigm no longer works; a much broader approach needs to be taken, from the bottom up, if they are to remain relevant in the new digital age,” says Paul Budde of Paul Budde Communication.

Interestingly, as it is published, mass agitation for internal political change is taking place in Thailand where the people want a more responsive government, while in Ukraine people are using their power to influence the government in making foreign policy decisions – to break ties with Moscow by leaving the customs union or strengthen relations with the European Union by entering a stronger trade agreement. But in neither country is the media fully free.
Budde goes on to state that internet surveillance has alienated users from governments.”The current spy scandals are placing a further strain on the people-politician relationship. People might not react strongly to the issue but the spying situation will most certainly make them more wary of their governments. They will be more guarded towards them, and less trusting. This is, of course, further undermining the status of politics and politicians,” he says.
He goes on to say encryption and other methods will secure internet data leaving it invulnerable to mass surveillance.
As interesting is the role he sees for traditional media not as gatekeeper but as promoting of mass participation to enhance the quality of information and deepen its penetration.
“The internet enables people to obtain a much broader view what is going on around them. In the past political outcomes often had to be simply accepted, as — beyond elections — the people were unable to effectively influence them. Now these outcomes can be ongoing scrutinised and checked against the real facts. (…) Not only this — they have access to each other, and can organise themselves online to more effectively influence such outcomes.”
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