January 31 – February 6 2015
NSA surveillance systems in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyz journalists discovered a secret NSA base in a former transit freight traffic centre. The alleged secret facility has technical equipment which allows the Government to intercept private and commercial communication. At the present time, the National Guard of Kyrgyzstan is occupying the building. Journalists suspect that the US supplied a special electronic radio equipment named Echelon to the Kyrgyzstani authorities. The Echelon system, used by the NSA worldwide, allows monitoring and analysing communications and Internet traffic. Government authorities and the Kyrgyzstani media currently offer no comment the situation.
Azerbaijan’s scientists seek to establish a National Centre for Safe Internet
Institute of Information Technology of Azerbaijan (IIT) will conduct a study on issues of protection of children from the harmful influence of the Internet. The study intends to provide scientific justification for the creation of a National Centre for Safe Internet. Rasmiya Mahmudova, the chairman of Training-Innovation Center, said that protecting children from the harmful effects of the Internet is a global problem, touching the whole world. She also noted that it is possible to filter content, educate parents, or implement an agreement between ISPs and parents. She also noted that the IIT will consider using biometric data as a way of identifying children on the Internet, although she is not clear how that will be done. Currently, European countries which implement biometric passports only collect biometrics from adults as the use of children’s biometrics raises privacy concerns.
Ukraine’s new law bans Russian audiovisual products on TV and radio
On February 5th 2015, Ukrainian Rada passed a law which establishes general criteria for determining audiovisual products which can be a threat to national security of Ukraine. The law also banned public use of audio and visual products that “praise the armed formations of the occupant country,” namely Russia. Ukrainian TV channels and radio stations will no longer broadcast Russian audiovisual products made in Russia after 1991 or any products with persons banned from the entry to Ukraine. The legislation is broad and can apply to TV shows, series, and movies. It also introduces heavy fines for non-compliance.
Censorship volunteer groups in Russia
In Volgograd, volunteers created censorship groups that will monitor social networks and websites in order to find and report any content violating Russian laws. Volgograd authorities support the initiative and advised the volunteers to focus on extremist content and terrorism. The Civic Chamber of the region provided volunteers with a spot on its official website. Any illegal content can be reported to the group’s headquarters. However, normally social networks and websites are in direct contact with Russian authorities who monitoring content independently. It is yet to be seen whether the initiative will succeed or not.
Azerbaijan enacts the media shutdown law
On February 3rd 2015, Azerbaijani President Aliyev signed a mass media law which allows the government to shut down any media outlets with foreign financing. Under the new legislation, the court can order a shutdown of a foreign-financed media after two defamation charges within the span of a year. The Parliament passed the mass-media law in December 2014. Ten days after parliamentary approval, prosecutors raided the RFE/RL bureau in Baku, confiscating computers, cameras, and documentation. NGOs and advocacy groups say that the mass media law targets independent media in Azerbaijan.
Uzbekistan establishes the Ministry for Development of Information Technologies and Communications
On February 4th 2015, President Islam Karimov signed a decree establishing the Ministry for Development of Information Technologies and Communications. The Ministry will implement the government’s IT strategy, regulate licensing and facilitate e-government development in the country. The Internet accessibility in Uzbekistan is poor. Development of the e-government will facilitate the use of government services and make them more accessible for Uzbeks. The new department will also work on international cooperation in the field of cybersecurity and scientific research. This is an important step towards modernisation of the country’s IT development considering its low ranking of Internet accessibility and Internet freedom in the past.
American companies leave Crimea
Online shopping giant Amazon asked Crimean customers to delete their accounts by February 13th 2015. The company sent notices to its customers saying that their accounts will be closed due to the US sanctions imposed in December 2014. Following Amazon, one of the top domain names registrar, GoDaddy, will not service its Crimean clients. GoDaddy asked its clients to move their websites to another domain provider. In January 2015, Apple, Google and PayPal suspended their operations on the peninsula. In December 2014, Visa and Mastercard announced that they will no longer service any card transactions in Crimea. This is another example of the effect that US sanctions are having.