Tunisian Protests Result in Massive Online Crackdown. On December 17th, a young unemployed university graduate, Mohamed Bouazizi, burned himself to death in Sidi Bouzid to protest the economic situation for young people. His death inspired large protests and resulted in the government killing of three protesters so far.
With a non-existent media, Tunisians took to the internet to share information on the protests. This resulted in a savage censoring backlash by the Tunisian government. Anonymous, the 4chan-allied, Wikipedia-defending hacker group, subsequently targeted the government's official site and that of the prime minister, shutting both down.
Tunisians are being supported by bloggers around the world, especially in the Arab world. It has been absent, however, in the western media. This should, alas, be no great shock. On the plus side, as DemocracyWorks notes, are the development of the anti-censorship protest song in Tunisia, and protest hip-hop.
Saudi Arabia to increase official online repression. Two months after banning Facebook for "religious reasons," the kingdom, already one of the most repressive places on the planet, is introducing new rules. They include mandatory licensing for all blogs and websites, as well as government-approved editors. Anyone wishing to start an online publication will need "documents testifying to their good behaviour." It's almost funny. Almost.
Taiwan restricts free expression. One of the trends we predicted, that of democracies aping restrictive countries like China, is in full flower. The latest to join the Shutup Club is Taiwan. In a unique combination of direct government pressure on the media and government-funded advertising, Taiwan's media is becoming more docile. Freedom House has downgraded the country's free speech rating. Whether this will inspire a flowering of alternative online expression or muzzle it as well remains to be seen.
The Golden State is Tin. California's "mellow vibe" has never seemed quite real to anyone who's spent any time there, and the latest legal moves in the state should dispel the notion of a live-and-let-live state for good.
If you are arrested now in California, the police may, pursuant to a California Supreme Court verdict, seize and root through your cell phone without a warrant. Not satisfied with that, the CA legislature has also passed Senate Bill 1411, a law making "epersonation," masquerading as someone else online, a crime that can send you to jail for a year.
Bolivia makes racism-based censorship more palatable. Bolvia's "anti-racism" law, a cheap screen for censorship against troublesome journalists, has been criticized widely. Disappointingly, Reporters Without Borders has praised the change in language of the new law. Yes, it's more specific. But the real issue is that speech is being punished, it's aimed at media organs and it still provides a handy tool for prosecution of uncooperative newspapers, websites and broadcast stations.
Racism should be argued down with words and with actions - if a publication is a racist rag, withdraw your patronage, your advertising, your cooperation. But send a government (you know - the guys with the guns?) against it and you'd best start practice throwing your hands up over your head and remaining perfectly still - you'll find that yourself racist the minute you disagree with the reigning regime.
China arrests blogger for being a dirty bird. Given that China arrested a bride on her wedding day for a seven-word retweet, no one should be surprised that the country's government is as humorless as it is repressive. But as if to make 100% certain that no one is, China has arrested Lin Chenglong, a Guandong resident who wrote a blog called "Eating, Drinking, Whoring and Gambling." Please note: Lin was not arrested for soliciting a prostitute. Neither prostitutes, pimps nor madams were arrested. You can make a very good case that prostitution is deleterious for all participants (if you want). But that's not why Lin was arrested. He was arrested for "spreading obscene material on the internet." He was arrested, in other words, because China's leadership are a bunch of repressive grannies.