#imweekly: August 26, 2013

Internet Monitor 2013-08-26

China Chinese mobile app WeChat has a growing international presence, making it the fifth most popular mobile app worldwide. Within the country, WeChat is heavily monitored, and users are blocked from sending messages containing prohibited keywords. TeaLeafNation reports that TenCent, which owns WeChat, is now offering two versions of the app: a censored version for Chinese users, and an uncensored version for international use. The problem: the lines between the two are unclear, as shown by the suspension last week of a US-based WeChat account belonging to ChinaGate, a Chinese-language web portal hosted outside of China.

Finland The Finnish Supreme Administrative Court ruled today that the country’s National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) was within its rights when it added an anti-censorship website to its secret list of blocked sites. The blocking took place under a 2006 law that enabled the NBI to maintain a secret blocklist of sites that distribute child pornography. The website lapsiporno.info (“childporn.info”) has been monitoring the bureau’s activities, criticizing the secrecy behind the blocklist and compiling a list of known blocked sites. When lapsiporno.info was blocked, operator Matt Nikki sued the NBI. The court ruled that even though Nikki’s site did not host any child porn, by listing blocked sites it was enabling users to find such sites, and therefore, the NBI’s blocking of lapsiporno.info was legal.

United States Mark Zuckerberg announced last week that Facebook, along with a handful of tech companies, is launching an effort to bring Internet access to everyone on Earth. Zuckerberg told the New York Times that the project—Internet.org—is more about doing “something good for the world” than for profit, but many commentators disagree. The New Yorker’s Matt Buchanan notes that the project offers little in the way of infrastructure building, which is one of the biggest obstacles to Internet access. And The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal points out that the project heavily recuts a John F. Kennedy speech, stripping the original Cold War context and perhaps, Madrigal argues, changing the meaning entirely.

United States The newest piece of the NSA surveillance scandal: LOVEINT. Last week the Wall Street Journal reported that several NSA officers have used their power to spy on their romantic partners. Approximately ten cases of this type of abuse of NSA power have emerged over the past decade, and according to NSA officials, in each case, the employee responsible was punished and/or terminated. The LOVEINT discovery comes amidst the NSA’s admission last week that in the past year alone, the agency violated privacy regulations nearly 3000 times.