What’s New in Internet Freedom in Ukraine? Overview for April 25 – May 25, 2019

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. Please, note, most of the links refer to content published in Ukrainian.

Ukraine

New language law: what will change for the Internet and the media. On May 15, 2019, the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko signed the law about the functioning of Ukrainian language as the state language. The law will come into force in two months after it is published. According to the language law, the state language becomes the main language not only in education, healthcare, services or public sector, but also on the Internet and in the media. Read more details about what changes in the Internet and the media in accordance to the law on our website.

Ukraine plans to launch 5G in 2020. On May 17, 2019, the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko signed a decree on launching 5G mobile communication standard in Ukraine. Oleksandr Zhyvotovskyi, the reappointed Head of the National Commission the State Regulation of Communications and Informatization also called launching 5G his priority while in office. He said that the National Commission analyzes which frequencies could be used for 5G and will prepare a list by autumn this year.

Photo: оfficial website of the President of Ukraine

Here’s what newly elected President Zelenskyi said at IForum 2019. On May 23, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi made a speech at an IT conference iForum-2019. President spoke about “the country in a smartphone”, which was one of the promises during his election campaign. According to the newly elected president, to have “the country in a smartphone”, there is the need to implement the four following levels: information about the state, communication with the state, transactions with the state, and involvement in governing the state.

Violation of user rights on the Internet indicates flawed legislation: work meetings for Green Book advocacy project. Meetings with government officials and representatives of civil society took place as part of the project of NGO “Internews Ukraine” and the Ukrainian Foundation for Security Studies (UFSS), Green book on Internet governance and information policy  in Ukraine as advocacy tool for policy making. Among the key problems mentioned by representatives of state bodies is the low level of trust to state institutions, and violation of user rights on the Internet directly indicates flawed legislation.

During the working meeting with the representatives of civil society, the participants highlighted the need to work with the society to increase awareness on cyber hygiene and what self-regulation on the Internet should be like. The experts voiced an opinion that the next Verkhovna Rada will try to control the Internet even more.

VKontakte dropped out of top five most popular websites for Ukrainian users. In April 2019, the blocked website Vkontakte lost its position in the top five most popular websites for Ukrainian users. And Russian social network Odnoklassniki is not in top 10 any longer. These results of the study carried out by Factum Group were published by the Ukrainian Internet Association. The most popular websites of April are traditionally the trio of Google, YouTube, and Facebook.

Two years since the ‘sanction decree’ in Ukraine. Was blocking Russian websites and social networks effective? On May 15, 2017, President Petro Poroshenko signed #133/2017 decree on enacting the resolution of the National Security and Defense Council on sanctions against a number of Russian companies. According to the decree, providers were prohibited to provide services to Internet users on access to websites of Mail.ru and Yandex group, social networks Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki. Whether the sanctions were effective, read here.

Facebook and the World

Photo: The New York Times

“It’s time to say goodbye to Facebook”: co-founder of the company about the treat the technological giant poses to democracy. Chris Hughes, one of the co-founders of Facebook, said that the government should take Facebook under control and weaken the company. Hughes offers to divide Facebook into several companies to ensure the compliance to antimonopoly legislation and cancel the acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp, as well as create a new body empowered by Congress to regulate technological companies.

In response, Zuckerberg said: dividing Facebook is not an answer, because it will not solve the mentioned problems, but will hinder the attempts to protect user data.

Council of the EU approved new sanctions for cyber crimes. On May, 17 the Council of the EU approved new sanctions for cyber crimes that will be applied to those who perform cyber attacks regardless of nationality or location. New sanctions include ban on trips to the EU, freezing accounts of persons and organizations, and it is also prohibited to provide funds to those who are under sanctions.

European Commission statement: measures that Facebook, Google, and Twitter took against fake news had results. The European Commission claims that measures that Facebook, Google, and Twitter took against fake news had results. The European Commission also asked Facebook, Google, and Twitter to strengthen measures regarding Internet advertising and increase the number of factors of fact-checking and involve the media in development of indicators of transparency and reliability of information sources.

Facebook deleted almost 100 groups and pages with Russian propaganda. On May 6, 2019, Facebook announced they deleted 97 Russian pages and groups that spread propaganda and untrue, manipulative information about Ukraine. According to the company, people who were undertaking these activities had fake profiles to spread the news about the military conflict in the eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian politics, and the war in Syria.

Changes on Facebook: new design, functions, and privacy policy. On April 30, on the annual conference of Facebook developers, Mark Zuckerberg announced the update of the design of the social network and the improvement of privacy of the platform. The new design will first be launched in the US, and by the end of the year – in the rest of the world. Zuckerberg also said that privacy is the future, and the company is building a more social platform that is confidentiality-oriented. Read more about main changes and updates on Facebook on our website.

Google for everyone: the company presented new functions and possibilities. On May 7, 2019, during the annual conference for I/O developers 2019, Google presented the users new possibilities: upgraded Google Assistant, renewed smartphones, new features of the search engine and a different approach to data confidentiality. During the conference, it was announced that the company changes its approach to data privacy. Read more about the changes that are awaiting Google users on our website.

Russia

Photo from open sources

Putin signed the law on sovereign Runet. On May 1, 2019, the President of Russia signed the law on isolation of Runet, which will come into force in half a year, and some of its provisions – since 2021. The main idea of the law that was adopted is the creation of infrastructure that would allow the Russian segment of the Internet to work in isolated conditions. During the entire time that the draft law was being discussed, the initiators of isolation of Runet have actively pushed in Russian media the idea that the law is necessary as protections against “deliberate large-scale outside influence.” In their turn, human rights activists have actively criticized the document citing the considerable limitation of freedom of speech and digital rights of users. Read more about the main changes stipulated by the law and the reactions it provoked on our website.

The overview has been written by NGO “Internews Ukraine”.

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