New Precedents in Internet Freedom: Blocking Websites, Messages from the SSU, and Legal Initiatives. Overview of March 16 — April 16, 2018

We regularly monitor incidents and violations of Internet freedom in Ukraine. The results of the monitoring with description are available on our website: netfreedom.org.ua

Positive and Negative Trends

“We’ll take your comments into account.” This was the reply of the SSU to the activists’ statement against installation of technicals means of tracking for Internet providers. This is one of the few cases of communication from law enforcement regarding Internet freedom in Ukraine.

To remind, on February 27 this year, NGOs, including NGO “Internews Ukraine”, asked to withdraw the idea of installation of any technical means of tracking at the Internet providers’ by the secret services, as they are convinced this will lead to excessive monitoring of the Internet providers and intervening into the way the Internet works from law enforcement and supervising bodies. DETAILS

New precedent of website blocking. On April 4, the National Commission for the State Regulation of Communications and Informatization published a court decision that obliges Internet providers to block access to websites shopmiele.com.ua and premiumshop.com.ua due to unlawful use of one of the trademarks.

The incident has already been called a ‘gateway to Ukrkomnahliad’ (similar to Roskomnadzor in Russia) and another step to introduce censorship in Ukrainian segment of the Internet. Some operators have already prepared responses to the court decision. READ MORE

“Operators are people with a sense of humor. So we are preparing corresponding actions,” Oleksandr Fediyenko, chairman of the board of the Ukrainian Internet Association wrote on Facebook regarding the court decision to block websites shopmiele.com.ua and premiumshop.com.ua. Photo — BRDO Better Regulation Delivery Office

Counter spam with fines. MP Boryslav Bereza offered to punish those who are spamming messages to users without their permission, and also allow users to block such emails. If the draft law is passed, the fines for spam will go up to over 3 mln UAH. DETAILS

Pressure on Youcontrol continues. In March, the case of online service Youcontrol was heard in the Committee for Freedom of Speech and Information Policy. In late February this year, the criminal case against it was half-closed. Prosecutor General’s Office made a resolution to stop criminal proceedings against the founder of the company, Serhiy Milman, however, it still has claims about unlawful activities of YouControl company and its employees, whose actions are still being investigated. READ MORE

“The criminal case against me was closed, but the pressure on employees continues, because the case against the company has not been closed. It is clear that we haven’t committed any crimes, as we are acting under the law On Access to Public Information. We have full right to share this information,” Serhiy Milman. Photo: screenshot of a video of hearing of the case of Youcontrol in the Committee for Freedom of Speech and Information Policy

Journalist sues military prosecutor because of a Facebook post. BIHUS.info journalist sued military prosecutor Anatolii Matios because of a Facebook post. The journalist demands to refute information provided in the post and compensate for non-economic damages. MORE

Searches in Vinnytsia IT companies. The SSU officers came to three Vinnytsia IT companies at the same time — Pillar, iPan, and Vinconet. According to the companies’ lawyers, the searches were carried out with numerous violations. However, according to Vinnytsia IT cluster, none of the companies made an official statement about the searches. On March 20, it was reported that all the equipment that had been seized from the companies was returned. DETAILS

Freedom House: Ukraine’s Democracy Score declined for the first time since 2014. Nate Schenkkan, Project Director for Nations in Transit, said that despite ongoing decentralization reforms, other key priorities, such as countering corruption, have hit a dead end in Ukraine. READ MORE

Actions of Law Enforcement Regarding Internet Freedom in the Period of March 16 — April 16, 2018:

According to the information provided by law enforcement:

  • Kyiv — cyber police stopped a hacker who was stealing personal information of users of social networks (LINK)
  • Zaporizhzhia — company selling personal data uncovered (LINK)
  • Kyiv — office of pro-Russian hackers eliminated (LINK)
  • Dnipropetrovsk region — network of anti-Ukrainian Internet propagandists uncovered (LINK)
  • Kyiv — administrator of propagandist websited who was paid by the DNR terrorists uncovered (LINK)
  • Zhytomyr region — attemps to popularize ‘Zhytomyr People’s Republic’ on the Internet  blocked (LINK)

Crimea

Free Nariman Memedeminov. Crimean Tatar activist Nariman Memedeminov was arrested in the annexeed Crimea. In 2014, he published videos on his YouYube blog. Media and human rights activists demand to free him. STATEMENT

“We are asking the international mass media to support civil journalists as colleagues in situations when they are repressed and prosecuted,” the statement in support of Nariman Memedeminov. Photo source: Crimean Solidarity

Video statements in support of the blogger. In addition to the written statement, activists started information campaign to support activist Nariman Memedeminov arrested in Crimea and recorded a video statement. Participants speak about pressure on all civil journalists on the peninsula. WATCH VIDEO

Ukrainian as an enemy. In March, human rights activists presented the results of the study Hate Speech in the Information Space of Crimea. According to the researchers, phrases and terms that are used about Ukrainians on the peninsula on mass scale are called to create a general association of hate and fear. READ THE STUDY

Facebook and the World

Following Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony in US Congress. Facebook founder admitted that the social network is in the arms race because Russia is using it to manipulate elections and public opinion and is responsible for the content that is published on the platform. READ MORE

“One of my greatest regrets is we were slow in identifying the Russian operations in 2016,” Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Facebook admitted Russia’s manipulations against Ukraine. Facebook Inc. deleted hundreds of accounts affiliated with the Russian Internet Research Agency, also known as a ‘troll factory.’ In his post on Facebook, the company’s founder Mark Zuckerberg also mentioned Ukraine. READ

Russia

Sentenced for a poem about Ukraine. In Russia, a poet and a former teacher Alexander Byvshev was sentenced to 330 hours of forced labor, for publishing a poem titled On Ukrainian Independence on Vkontakte. DETAILS

“Machine of repressions, court and investigation, is working seamlessly here in Russia. The role of the court is, in fact, a mere fiction. Such thing as getting acquitted can’t happen,’ Alexander Byvshev. Photo: Maxim Klyagin (RFE/RL)

Allow to block websites with information that was ruled by the court to be slander. A draft bill offering Bailiffs’ Service to submit information to Roskomnadzor regarding blocking of websites was introduced to the State Duma. They will be obliged to do it when the court-approved deadline for deleting information expires. MORE

Create UN Convention on Internet Regulation. Russian delegation offered to do this during the World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva. READ

Blogger forced to go to Moscow. Russian blogger Mikhail Svetov claims that he was attacked in Kemerovo airport and forced to go to Moscow. He was planning to hold a lecture titled Why You Can’t Trust the State in Kemerovo on April 1. MORE

Belarus

Register online editions, identify people who write comments, block social networks. A new draft law in Belarus may change the information space of the country entirely. READ WHY

 

In the previous overview, we were considering various scenarios for Internet development in Ukraine.It is available here.

The overview has been written by NGO “Internews Ukraine” as part of implementing the project Internet Freedom in Ukraine: Supporting the Principles of Freedom of Speech and Security in the Time of Conflict.”

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