A REFLECTION ON TURKEY’S CONTESTED INTERNET AND PUBLIC DEMAND FOR INTERNET FREEDOM

Turkish media expert Dr. Bilge Yesil reflects on findings from the newly released report “Benchmarking Demand: Turkey’s Contested Internet.” In her post, Dr. Yesil examines what the report’s results mean for researchers, policymakers, and internet freedom activists in Turkey. Click here to read the full report.

Do a quick online search on Internet policy in Turkey, and it’s very likely that you will see reports and news stories with “censorship fears,” “decline in online freedoms,” and “Internet crackdown” in the title. It is also likely that you will read about how Internet and free speech activists in Turkey are decrying the AKP (Justice and Development Party) government’s heavy-handed approach to online communications, and maybe you will even get the sense that the level of support for Internet freedoms is quite high among ordinary users. You will also come acrossnews stories that celebrate Turkish users’ expert circumvention of social media bans: “Battle-trained… users…quickly turned on VPN services that reroute access through other countries to conceal the point of access to a platform, effectively nullifying the [Twitter] blackout.”

I bring up these talking points because they shed light on our assumptions about Internet users in Turkey—that they are concerned about online restrictions, do support Internet freedoms, and easily bypass social media bans. But I have often wondered who these users are. What is their socio-economic background? Are they the tech-savvy youth? Are they in fact the “upper classes…the ones who can afford the technology”? What do users think about Internet restrictions? How much of a difference do socio-economic background, education level and political party affiliation make in their approval/disapproval of the government’s Internet policies? Are there users who perhaps are not concerned about Internet censorship at all (gasp!) and do think that social media threatens traditional values? If so, who are they?

The OSU/Koc/Annenberg survey offers valuable…

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Fragmented Internet: National Interest or Human Rights Violation?

//Fedor Smirnov, a participant in the 2015 Annenberg-Oxford Summer Institute and ICT practitioner in Russia, discusses internet fragmentation and privacy in Russia with key insights from AnOx speakers.

Fragmentation of the internet, triggered by Snowden’s revelations, is a key issue for internet governance researchers and practitioners alike. As Professor Milton L. Mueller argued during the 2015 Annenberg-Oxford Summer Institute, there are two types of fragmentation: unintentional technical incompatibility and intentional limitations of access, latter of which raises concerns in both academic and civil societies. Today’s internet is generally open, interoperable and unified, but governments across the world strive towards greater control of the net. Some threats to internet freedom are of technical nature (threats to Domain Name System, DNS), others political (internet censorship and blocking), and others still economic (breakdown peering and transit agreement) and legal (local privacy regimes). Over the past few years, Russia has taken many steps towards more fragmented internet access, particularly by introducing blacklists, requiring bloggers registration, and holding discussions about a “disconnected Runet’  (a scenario when .RU top level domain may be separated from the global DNS).

Russia is not the first country to implement data localization requirements. Along with countries like Vietnam, Brazil and India, Western democracies such as Germany, France, and Canada are heading towards a fragmented internet as well.[1] Russia’s tendency towards fragmentation resulted in the Russian Data Localization Law (242-FZ) that took effect September 1, 2015. The law, which pushes Russia further down a data localization trajectory, stipulates that digitalized personal data of Russian citizens  should be recorded, systematized, and stored using databases located within national territory. Websites that break the law will be added to a special register, which will enable Russian government-controlled communication regulator Roskomnadzor to block those who are non-compliant.

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China’s Internet Governance under the Leadership of Xi Jinping

//Dr. Jian Xu, a visiting scholar with the Center for Global Communication Studies and the Center for the Study of Contemporary China, analyzes the government’s role in China’s internet governance and law-making, with a special focus on policy developments under Xi Jinping’s ruling.

Since Xi Jiping began his presidency in November 2012, the Chinese government has tightened their control of media — rather a surprise to those who expected political and judiciary reform.  In April, the New Yorker journalist Evan Osnos called Xi “the most authoritarian leader since Mao,” in regards to his treatment of internet governance, among other issues.  This blog post focuses on the role of the state in governing the internet, and does not focus on the roles other actors (corporate entities and civil society) play in internet governance. It will discuss various restrictions on the internet under Xi’s leadership, including key policies, regulations, and events, as well as the impacts of such actions.

Immediately after Xi took office, China started expanding its oversight of the internet. In December 2012, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress issued the Decision on Strengthening Network Information Protection, new rules requiring internet users to provide real identity information to internet service providers (ISPs) while signing a service agreement for internet access. The Decision also requires internet service providers to work more closely with the government’s internet regulations and censorship, including deleting politically sensitive postings, reporting those who post such material to relevant authorities, and providing necessary technical support to the government. On the surface, the Decision appears to protect users’ security and information. However, because a real name (or pseudonym) is required to access the internet, netizens are afraid to post critical information online.

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THE BIRD’S EYE VIEW OF CHINA’S TWITTER COMMUNITY ON INTERNET CENSORSHIP

As part of CGCS’s Internet Policy Observatory, Wayne Weiai Xu, a PhD candidate at the State University of New York, Buffalo, and Yoonmo Sang, a PhD candidate at the University of Texas at Austin, developed a visualization tool that captures the network of Chinese-language Twitter discussions on China’s internet censorship issues. Click here to view the visualization.

This week we rolled out a visualization tool that captures a community of Twitter users active in discussing China’s internet censorship. The visualized network, in many ways, provides the bird’s eye view of the social fabrics of this community.

On the homepage, you will find a network of Twitter users. These users have two things in common: They are Mandarin-speaking, many of them live in China, and they used hashtags related to China’s censorship issue. The data for the current network captures user activity between May 16, 2015 and May 22, 2015. This data will periodically be updated. Hashtags that were used in the selection criteria include: “f***gfw”, “翻墙“, “被墙“, “被封“, “科学上网“, “防火墙“, “greatfirewall”, “真理部“, “审查“, “屏蔽“.

Users are represented by dots on the graph. They are connected by lines which indicate documented Twitter interactions (i.e., Twitter mention and reply) during the study period. When your click a user, you will see the user’s degree centrality (DoC), that is, how many times a user is connected through Twitter mention and reply.

On the website you will also find information about…

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