Tag Archives: Internet censorship

After Twitter revelation, WikiLeaks suspects US of pressuring Google and Facebook

WikiLeaks suspects that Google and Facebook may be under pressure from the US Government to reveal information relating to the whistleblower’s site or its members.

The claim follows a court order issued by the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in December and published by Salon.com [PDF], which ordered micro-blogging site Twitter to hand over information about five accounts associated with WikiLeaks, including one belonging to Julian Assange.

WikiLeaks tweeted on Saturday:

Note that we can assume Google & Facebook also have secret US government subpeonas. They make no comment. Did they fold?

The subpeona issed to Twitter claims that there are “reasonable grounds” to believe the site had information “relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation”. This information included IP addresses, contact information, private messages and the addresses used to access the accounts, allowing investigators to establish potential connections between users.

Despite being ordered to the contrary, Twitter notified those targeted by the subpoena, WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange, Dutch hacker Rop Gonggrijp, Bradley Manning and Icelandic collaborator and MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir. It is over the request for Jónsdóttir’s information in particular that Iceland has requested an explanation from US authorities.

Assange’s lawyer, Mark Stephens, said in an interview with Channel 4 News that the U.S Department of Justice is seeking to target not just WikiLeaks’ main collaborators but also the organisation’s 634,000 followers on Twitter in an “intimidatory” act.

Yesterday, The Telegraph’s Shane Richmond commented that the news of this subpoena may change the way people react to social networking sites:

There’s also a risk that cases like this one will deter people from using social networks to express controversial opinions.

What has come out of this weekend’s events is the contrast in the types of information and their availability and use. As both Richmond and Stephens note, WikiLeaks’ publishing of classified government information reflects the reporting journalists have done “for years”. The American DOJ’s demand of personal details, however, may impact upon how individuals share information in future. Richmond highlights the warning Columbia students were given regarding public online discussion of WikiLeaks, but could similar discussion soon hold risks for journalists?

Blogging for a cause leads to first prize for Global Voices in Zemanta competition

Last week Global Voices Advocacy won first prize in a ‘Blogging for a cause’ competition run by Zemanta, a platform which aims to ‘accelerate on-line content production for any web user’. More than 60 different websites were nominated; the top 5 to receive the most votes from bloggers won US $1200.

Solana Larsen, managing editor of the GV site, sums the project up like this:

“A project of Global Voices to build a global anti-censorship network of bloggers and online activists. Its director is Sami ben Gharbia, a Tunisian free speech advocate and blogger.”

Larsen shared a few more thoughts with Journalism.co.uk: “The Zemanta win was fun because it was an opportunity for bloggers in our community to work collectively to raise some funds for Global Voices Advocacy in a simple way. So much of the time, we’re writing posts to draw attention to censorship, arrested bloggers, or different injustices around the world, that it’s nice with a little positive reinforcement.

“Global Voices Advocacy is working on developing more tools and resources for free speech activists online. A lot of the bloggers in this community are individuals who are working on their own or in small networks in different parts of the world, and we are connecting them with others and trying to develop a sense of unity across borders.

“When somebody discovers that their blog is blocked, or receives threats from authorities, it’s good to have someone to talk to about the risks and possibilities. Internet censorship is extremely common, but there are also many brave people who insist on making their voices heard. Sami ben Gharbia is one of them.”