Top officials of countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) convened in New Zealand last week to sign the final agreement, which embraces Hollywood and Big Tech’s wish lists of regulatory policies without addressing concerns about how they would impact the Internet or people’s rights over their digital devices. But for the TPP to actually go into force, countries need to ratify it. Each of the twelve TPP countries have differing procedures for doing this, but in the U.S., both houses of Congress needs to vote up or down on the agreement.
The White House has announced an Executive Order establishing a new federal interagency privacy council. If the Obama administration wants to support privacy, however, it can start by finally offering straight answers to Congress on surveillance and intelligence practices that offend privacy. Congress could ensure its own access to facts in spite of executive evasion by reforming the bloated classification system, launching a new Church Committee to finally investigate what the intelligence committees have failed to explore, or requiring the executive branch to send credible officials to testify at oversight hearings.
In the UK, The House of Commons Science and Tech Committee published its report on the draft Investigatory Powers Bill, the first of three investigations by different Parliamentary committees. Comments submitted by 50 individuals, companies, and organizations, including EFF, raise a series of concerns that the UK government should answer in a revised bill built on a foundation of clarity, necessity, and proportionality. The current bill is a dangerous collection of vague and unbounded language poised to prompt a serious challenge in the courts.
Behind the Western-supported government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt lies a troubling trend threatening free speech. The Committee for the Protection of Journalists lists Egypt as the world’s second highest jailer of journalists, with 82% of journalists in Egyptian prisons having used the Internet as a medium. It’s no surprise then that this troubling trend has reached beyond official journalists, snaring Facebook admins in its wake.
Should a company be allowed to use its own contractual fine print to take away its customers’ free speech? What fundamental rights should not be waivable? Under proposed H.B. 131, vendors would not be allowed to use “gag clauses” in their contracts with customers—for example, an auto repair shop in Maryland wouldn’t be allowed to use a contract that tries to restrict its customers from complaining online about its services.
The Internet as we know it would be a very, very different place if 20 years ago this week, President Clinton hadn’t signed the Communications Decency Act. To be fair, nearly all of the CDA was a horrible mess that was actually a terrible idea for the Internet. A key part of the bill was about “cleaning up” pornography on the Internet. However, to “balance” that out, the bill included Section 230, which said that an Internet service is not liable for actions of its users.
Laura Poitras shared a Pulitzer Prize for her reporting based on Edward Snowden’s leaks and won an Oscar for her film “Citizenfour.” Her latest project is neither documentary nor journalism but a museum exhibition at the Whitney, “Astro Noise,” which continues her investigations into mass surveillance through installation art.
When more than 50 political activists from across Europe and North America were told by Twitter in December 2015 that their accounts had been attacked by anonymous “state-sponsored actors,” they had very little to go on