Home Imprisoned Syrian Blogger a Fake: This Week in Online Tyranny

Imprisoned Syrian Blogger a Fake: This Week in Online Tyranny

Gay Girl in Damascus a straight man in Scotland. When the “cousin” of blogger “Amina Abdallah Arraf” reported her abduction, people around the world were upset. This lesbian, half-American Syrian blogger seemed like someone they could relate to. Soon, questions arose and, in part due to the efforts of NPR’s Andy Carvin, it came out that this was a fake account.

It turned out the blog was created by Tom MacMaster, an American living in Scotland. Regardless of his motivations, which seemed decent, it was a profoundly stupid move that will be seized by detractors to “prove” there are no oppressed bloggers in tyrannical regimes and no gay women in Arabic countries.

F.B.I. takes more power to root through databases. The new F.B.I. manual to be distributed to its 14,000 agents will give them “more leeway to search databases, go through household trash or use surveillance teams to scrutinize the lives of people who have attracted their attention.” These are internal rules but they occur within the limits of U.S. law, which gives you a sense of how loose privacy restrictions have become. Now, F.B.I. agents do not have to open an inquiry to search a database. Now, they can, well, just do whatever they damned well please it seems.

If you’d like to actively support Chinese repression, here’s your chance – the Chinese Twitter is coming. China’s Sina company is introducing an English version of its Weibo microblogging service. If you aren’t acutely aware of how China treats its citizens online, just take a peak at our China coverage over the last year. If you sign up for Weibo, you are actively, tangibly supporting the muzzling of millions of people, as well as their imprisonment and torture.

Arab Spring has not led to summer. The Arab Spring – the Jasmine Revolution – the hashtag revolts – the uprisings in the Arab World: whatever you call them, they’re ongoing and as long as they go on, their proponents and opponents use, and misuse, technology. Technology played a great role in communications between protesters in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and between those protesters and the global public; it was also the fulcrum for the efforts of the regimes to stay in power, such as shutting down their connections to the Internet. It retains both of those functions. We took a look at how things are progressing. There are positives and reasons for hope, but there are big, enduring negatives.

Hacking continues to turn Internet into a battleground. In the last week, the hacking group LulzSec has attacked both the U.S. Senate website and that of the C.I.A.; the latter occasioning the promise of retaliation from a pro-U.S. hacker. Not sure what’ll happen as hacking, and cyberattacks across borders, mount in size and frequency. But it won’t be good for you and I.

U.S. Hopes “Internet in a Suitcase” Will Offset Internet Censorship. The U.S. government has created what it is calling an “Internet in a suitcase” to cheat the switches on the filtering regimes of repressive countries. A kit of hardware, the suitcase creates a “shadow Internet” within a country that allows users to communicate with each other and the outside world despite electronic censorship.

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