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WeGov

Canadian Government Spied on Aboriginal Activist's Social Media Accounts

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, May 29 2013

Screenshot (video below) of Bernard Valcourt, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, defending Canadians' privacy

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada found two government departments violated the Privacy Act when they gained access to aboriginal advocate Cindy Blackstock's social media accounts. According to the Toronto Star, officials began monitoring her Facebook page in February of 2010 to ensure Blackstock was not releasing sensitive information about her human rights lawsuit against Ottawa, but they gathered private, personal information entirely unrelated to the case.

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Beijing Health Department Shuts Down Online Consumer Health Service

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, May 29 2013

Long lines for health services worse than rush hour traffic in Beijing via Wikipedia

The Beijing Health Department shut down an online medical appointment booking service only three days after it launched. The service had the potential to reduce waits and save patients exorbitant scalper fees. The Health Department claimed that the service misled patients and put their personal information at risk, but the department operates an online reservation service of its own and the new website, by the massive e-commerce site Taobao, threatened that service.

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Top Russian Social Network VKontakte Briefly Banned "By Mistake"

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, May 24 2013

Screenshot from Russian social network VKontakte sign-in page

The most popular social network in Russia worked its way onto a blacklist this Friday, allegedly “by mistake,” according to the state communications regulator. However, Pavel Durov, the founder of VKontakte, has had run-ins with the authorities in the past for allowing activists to organize protests on the platform. Some interpret this supposedly accidental blocking as a warning shot.

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"Accidental" Blocking of Australian Websites Raises Concerns About Government Censorship

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, May 22 2013

Sydney Opera House (Anthony Winning)

An Australian government agency admitted last week to unintentionally blocking more than 1,200 perfectly legal websites in the process of shutting down one allegedly fraudulent site. In their defense, they pointed out that they have successfully blocked a number of websites in the past nine months without such digital collateral. This assertion came as no consolation to Australian netizens concerned about Internet censorship, especially opaque and hazily legal censorship.

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Russian State Regulation - and Censorship - of the Internet Begins in Earnest

BY Julia Wetherell | Monday, April 1 2013

Though around 50 percent of the population remains offline, Russian users make up the largest Internet presence in Europe.  There were 67 Russians people online last April, and projections have that number rising to over 90 million by this year.  Yet as the Russian web has grown, so have attempts to rein it in.  Now Russian leadership under Vladimir Putin has made a first major step towards centralized state control of the Internet, by acting on new legislation that will allow the government to selectively censor online content. 

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Blackouts in Cambodia Spark Online Demands for Explanation

BY Julia Wetherell | Thursday, March 28 2013

Reports of local blackouts in Phnom Penh on the Urban Voice website. [Screengrab]

As the dry winter season interferes with hydroelectric power production in Cambodia, the capital city of Phnom Penh has been facing rolling, unpredictable blackouts.   Now, an urban mapping platform has taken up a campaign to understand when and where in the city the outages are happening, and to make the government answerable to residents who are living in the dark. 

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In the Aftermath of Major Snowstorm, Crowdmapping the Recovery Effort in Ukraine

BY Julia Wetherell | Thursday, March 28 2013

The crisis map at HelpKyiv [screenshot].

Last week, a state of emergency was declared in Ukraine when a freak blizzard brought down nearly a month’s worth of snowfall over just 24 hours.  The storm shut down major thoroughfares during the afternoon commute on Friday in the capital city of Kiev, and caused power outages in hundreds of municipalities in the northwest region of the country. As the government struggles to restore transportation and infrastructure, a volunteer effort is crowdmapping information on shelters and other resources for storm victims – offered, in many cases, by an informal corps of citizen aid workers.

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After Chavez, Social Media Picks Up for Venezuelan Politicians and Censors

BY Julia Wetherell | Wednesday, March 20 2013

"He's becoming a wax doll." Pérez's tweet from March 8.

Longtime Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez may have passed away earlier this month, but that won’t silence his voice on social media.  Chavez’s official Twitter account, from which he last tweeted to 4 million-plus followers in February as he entered the hospital, will be reactivated as a platform for the leader’s thoughts and works, as state media announced last week.  Yet recent reports of social media censorship – including a woman whose computer was confiscated by the police – confirm that, in the aftermath of Chavez’s death, Venezuela is taking a hard line on online discourse. 

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For American IT Giants, A Mission to Burma

BY Julia Wetherell | Wednesday, March 6 2013

After nearly 30 years of U.S. government imposed sanctions, several American information technology firms sent delegates on a trade visit to Burma (Myanmar), for the first time in the Internet age.  Facilitated by USAID, the US companies – including Google, Microsoft, HP, Intel, and Cisco – convened with the Burmese Chamber of Congress during an economic conference in Rangoon on February 25.  With Burma’s bid to join the Open Government Partnership looming, the meeting raises questions of a military regime’s ability to foster government accountability and transparency. Read More

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Rocked by a Corruption Scandal, Spain's Government Limits Media Access

BY Julia Wetherell | Tuesday, March 5 2013

The Congreso de los Disputados, home of Spain's Lower Parliament in Madrid (Wikimedia Commons).

It’s not an easy time to be a journalist in Spain.  Even as the country’s ongoing economic and unemployment woes continue, and a political scandal of unprecedented scale rocks all levels of government, trust in the press – and incentives to produce objective journalism – are at an all-time low. 

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