China Targets Online Rumor Mill With Threat of Jail
Today in international tech news: China's Supreme Court rules that jail awaits those who post popular online rumors (no word yet on what constitutes a "rumor"). Also: Google resists a request to nix The Pirate Bay from its search results; Iranian cabinet members are reportedly urged to join Facebook (even though it's blocked in Iran); and BlackBerry lays off several dozen U.S. workers.
China's Supreme Court announced new guidelines for Internet use, including years-long jail stints for people who author "online rumors" that are viewed more than 5,000 times or reposted 500 times.
Such a post would qualify as defamation, which in China carries a max sentence of three years in jail. Should a post "seriously endanger social order and national interests," more serious charges could be pursued.
Aside from the 5,000 views and 500 reposts criteria, there appear to be no objective guidelines for what sort of posts would violate this new decree from Beijing.
This could stifle free speech, sure, but could also invite scandalous behavior. Some Chinese PR firms, for instance, rent themselves out to repost social media musings via "zombie" accounts -- indeed, a huge percentage of Chinese social media accounts are believed to be zombies. A lawyer in Beijing joked (apparently) that the next time someone posted something mean about him, he would get zombie followers to repost and get him sent to jail.
Google Resists Request to Blacklist Pirate Bay
British music industry group BPI was rebuffed by Google after asking the search giant to remove a link allegedly directing users to the homepage of notorious file-sharing site The Pirate Bay.
The BPI request was issued in the form of a Digital Millennium Copyright Act notice. Such notices grant copyright holders -- and sometimes people making specious claims that they are copyright holders -- leeway in asking companies to remove content. Google, however, was unmoved by BPI's request, or at least the Pirate Bay part.
Four years ago, Google did indeed remove The Pirate Bay homepage from its search results; the move was later reversed.
Report: Iranian Cabinet Members Implored to Join Facebook
Members of the Iranian president's cabinet were implored to create their own Facebook pages Monday, even though authorities in the country generally try to block social media.
The Facebook push, according to the pro-reform newspaper Shargh, is thought to be part of president Hasan Rouhani's efforts to nurse public opinion of high office, which had eroded during the tenure of the previous president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Facebook is blocked in Iran, but proxy servers and other tools can be (and are) employed to skirt the barriers.
Despite some online tiffs over whether or not ministers' Facebook pages were authentic, the overall direction of Rouhani's government seems to be to promote interaction online. That said, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehei, head of the supervisory board on Internet content, said that Iran was not about to lift all Internet filters.
[Source: The Associated Press]
BlackBerry Downsizing US Staff
BlackBerry nixed numerous members of its U.S. salesforce Monday.
The exact magnitude of the cuts wasn't disclosed, but reports put the number at "several dozen."
The layoffs are reportedly part of rolling cuts that began several weeks ago. Weak sales and a diminished (and still shrinking) market share are the impetus for the downsizing.
[Source: The Wall Street Journal]