Internet users across the globe prosecuted for their use of free speech on the internet
While hosting the Internet Governance Forum, Turkey is simultaneously prosecuting 29 Twitter users for allegedly inciting violence during last year's protests. The tweets, however, did not actually contain any incitement for violence. Amnesty International has expressed concern and surprise at the the example Turkey is setting for other nations. The event taking place in Istanbul invites governments and concerned entities to explore the topics of internet regulation, security and human rights.
Deputy Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International Sherif Elsayed-Ali said that the stance taken by Turkish leaders is contradictory.
"It's astounding to see Turkish authorities plough on with the prosecution of Twitter critics, even as they host a discussion on Internet governance where human rights are a key theme," commented Elsayed-Ali.
Amnesty International also pointed out other countries that are aggressively policing the internet. Seven bloggers received the death penalty in Ethiopia for posting about online security. A Saudi Arabian blogger was handed a 10 year sentence and given 1,000 lashes for "insulting Islam." In Vietnam, 32 are detained and two are serving over 10-year sentences for writing about human rights violations.
Crackdown on free speech
The internet has undeniably propelled free speech forward through the facilitation of shared ideas and increased access to information. However, many governments have been quick to come down hard on users who question, oppose or contradict mainstream state ideologies. Additionally, those who criticize the heavy hand of the government in policing the internet are targeted as well. One such example is Edward Snowden who is currently in exile in Russia for revealing how the US government conducts unchecked global surveillance.
"Instead of hunting down Edward Snowden, the US government should focus on reforming its surveillance programs to end the unjustified violation of Internet users' privacy he brought to light," Sherif Elsayed-Ali said.
In stark contrast to events mentioned at the Internet Governance Forum in Turkey, in New York, police officers are being trained to use social media or as the New York Post dubbed it, "Twitter School." Police men are learning not to post unthoughtful comments. Instead they are learning to support their communities and use Twitter as a resource for circulating criminal justice information. New York cops had their biggest Twitter fail recently when in response to a public relations campaign to increase police acceptance through photos, Twitter users instead took the opportunity to post about police brutality. However, the NYPD is insistent on teaching their commanding officers to use Twitter in order to connect with their communities and also avoid future embarrassment. Perhaps through online communication between authority figures and concerned citizens, over-policing and its criticism will be lessened.