Seeing Anonymous primarily as a cybersecurity threat is like analyzing the breadth of the antiwar movement and 1960s counterculture by focusing only on the Weathermen. Anonymous is not an organization. It is an idea, a zeitgeist, coupled with a set of social and technical practices. Diffuse and leaderless, its driving force is “lulz” -- irreverence, playfulness, and spectacle. It is also a protest movement, inspiring action both on and off the Internet, that seeks to contest the abuse of power by governments and corporations and promote transparency in politics and business. Just as the antiwar movement had its bomb-throwing radicals, online hacktivists organizing under the banner of Anonymous sometimes cross the boundaries of legitimate protest. But a fearful overreaction to Anonymous poses a greater threat to freedom of expression, creativity, and innovation than any threat posed by the disruptions themselves.
Last fall, the Associated Press introduced an updated social media policy for its reporters and editors. As recently reported in Yahoo! News, the AP memo advised reporters and editors that “Retweets, like tweets, should not be written in a way that looks like you’re expressing a personal opinion on the issues of the day. A retweet with no comment of your own can easily be seen as a sign of approval of what you’re relaying.” The guidelines note, “[W]e can judiciously retweet opinionated material if we make clear we’re simply reporting it.”
Members of the media might want to be careful, however, that statements like “No comment” or “without comment” before tweets do not take on meanings of their own. Often, retweeting something “without comment” can indicate an unwillingness to comment due to an either enthusiastic support for or disapproval of the content of the original tweet.
When we last reported on the prevalence of Internet filtering globally in early 2010, we estimated there were over 500 million Internet users residing in countries that engage in the systematic filtering of online content. In 2012, after close to a decade of documenting Internet censorship worldwide, ONI estimates that number has increased to over 620 million.
Since 2003, ONI has conducted testing of Internet filtering in 74 countries. Of these 74 countries, 42 have been found to engage in some form of filtering of content that ONI tests for, while 21 have been found to be engaging in “substantial” or “pervasive” filtering based on the breadth and/or depth of content filtered. Within those countries found to be engaging in “substantial” or “pervasive” blocking, ONI has estimated that the number of Internet users is approximately 620 million, which makes up 31% of all Internet users worldwide.4 When this is widened to include countries that engage in “selective” blocking, the number of affected users grows to over 960 million, or 47% of all Internet users.
We all know by now that SOPA/PIPA — the Stop Online Piracy Act, and the Protect IP Act, respectively — died a sudden death in Congress in January. When online giants like Wikipedia and Tumblr went dark on January 18th of this year to protest the measures Congressional switchboards were overwhelmed with calls to just drop it.
But how did a set of measures like SOPA/PIPA, otherwise unheard of and generally projected to pass into law quietly, get suddenly thrust into the limelight?
Welcome to another edition of the Global Voices podcast. In this edition we have company in the voice of co-host Yazan Badran, a Global Voices author from Syria based in Japan. The topic this month is global social media campaigns: the good, the bad, and the ugly.