It seems totalitarian states like Egypt aren’t the only ones struggling with the impact of social media and the desire to muzzle services like Twitter and Facebook. Britain says it’s considering a ban on social media in the wake of the riots in London.
To mark World Press Freedom Day, campaigners have examined the different tactics used by governments around the world to silence dissent and shut down free speech. And it seems the range of tools at their disposal is growing as fast as the Internet itself.
Anyone who posts early results during Monday’s federal election in Canada could be fined $25,000 or sentenced to five years in prison, according to an ancient provision in the country’s Election Act — but some Twitter users have said they will defy the ban anyway.
Most constitutional concerns surrounding cloud computing relate to privacy and whether cloud-based data is exempt from unreasonable search and seizure pursuant to the Fourth Amendment. Today, however, a First Amendment issue reared its head when Rackspace took credit for taking down the website of Florida’s suddenly notorious anti-Islam pastor. I understand Rackspace’s defense of its actions, but I think this sets an ugly precedent for free speech in the cloud. There is a fine line between free speech and prohibited hate speech, and it’s a bit scary to think of cloud providers making that determination based on citizen complaints rather on judicial orders. Of all the reasons to fear the cloud, a waiver of free-speech rights shouldn’t be one of them.
I sure feels like we’re headed for some sort of massive business, political and journalistic train-wreck over privacy. Earlier this week, Gawker revealed a massive privacy breach by AT&T that could have revealed personal data on 114,000 iPad 3G users, including some bold-letter names. The breach has now triggered an FBI investigation, including a demand that the web site that broke the story preserve all records of its communications with its source. The hackers who discovered the flaw in AT&T’s security now claim they did nothing wrong. All this is happening against a backdrop of growing concern among policymakers over the privacy policies of social networks and other online platforms, as well as increasing willingness of law enforcement to pursue online information leaks, including the raid on Gizmodo over the iPhone 4 leak. Pressure is building, and it usually comes out somewhere. Not always neatly.