News Roundup, June 1: Freedom of Expression, Spectrum Policy, Privacy Online

Published:  June 1, 2012
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China's top microblogging site is now penalizing users for anti-government speech. Photo licensed CC by Rebecca MacKinnon: http://bit.ly/KxxhvD

Freedom of Expression: Penalties for Controversial Content

In an effort to curb anti-government speech, China’s top microblogging site, Sina Weibo, implemented a points-based system that penalizes users for posting certain types of content. The site, which boasts over 300 million users, was in the news last month for censoring content on human rights activist Chen Guangcheng and has a record of complying with the Chinese government’s censorship demands.

Under the new system, each user will be given a set number of points. Points will be deducted whenever a user posts content that “opposes the basic principles established by the constitution,” “harms the unity, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of the nation,” and “calls for disruption of social order through illegal gatherings, formation of organizations, protests, demonstrations, mass gatherings and assemblies,” among other activities. Read more here.

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Spectrum Policy: Maximizing Existing Spectrum

A presidential advisory panel featuring Google’s Eric Schmidt, Microsoft’s Craig Mundie, and several other technology experts just completed a report with recommendations for spectrum policy and management. The report, titled "Realizing the Full Potential of Government-Held Spectrum to Spur Economic Growth," highlights the ways in which new technologies can “vastly increase the capacity of existing spectrum.”

Pointing to the potential of agile radio technologies, the authors argue that these new technologies are preferable to the current auction system in several ways: in addition to alleviating spectrum congestion, computerized radio systems would help the federal government generate a great deal more revenue and increase competition. Read more here.

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Privacy and Security: UK Websites Subject To New “Cookie Law”

As part of the EU’s “e-privacy directive,” the UK enforced a law requiring all UK-based websites to alert visitors to any method of tracking they use. This includes cookies, which are a prominent feature in the online ad ecosystem. Many websites have yet to comply, but the British Information Commissioner's Office is actively reaching out to non-compliant websites to help them meet guidelines. Although UK sites have had a year to prepare for these requirements, there has been a large backlash led mainly by digital advertising interests, as well as some confusion due to changes in the wording of the law. Read more here.

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