Access in 2012

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Access in 2012

The internet stands up, defeats ACTA

This was one of the biggest wins for the Access movement in 2012. On the heels of PIPA and SOPA,  we joined with many organizations and internet users from around the world stood up in opposition to ACTA.

More than 380,000 people signed our petition urging the European Parliament to vote down the dangerous trade agreement. On Feb. 11, the international day of action, we aided hundreds of protests in countries like Poland, Germany, and France by connecting users to local demonstrations; handed out Access' informational booklet "What Makes ACTA So Controversial"and provided livestreaming services. In our Brussels office, Access policy analysts and partner organizations worked tirelessly, and met with civil society and European lawmakers. We also leaked previously private and censored documents about the trade agreement.

On the day of the vote, Access delivered all the signatures to MEPs and blanketed Parliament with signs and placards urging them to vote No. A few hours later, the European Parliament voted to reject the agreement. 

via accessnow

Mobilizing to protect digital rights
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Tell the ITU: The internet belongs to us!

Access in a global coalition helped lead the charge to protect the future of the internet and mobilized thousands around the world to oppose governments from expanding the International Telecommunication Union's mandate to include internet governance.

Earlier this year, in the run up to the WCIT, many of the proposals were being debated behind closed doors. Access members called for an open process, with over 35,000 users around the world telling the ITU to open up the process. While the ITU agreed to open up a part of the process, much remained away from the public eye and without multistakeholder input.

Access then turned it's attention to arming citizens and civil society with talking points, letters, and informational guides. And together with Fight for the Future, we launched WhatistheITU.org, where users could learn more about the WCIT through a shareable video and call on their governments to hand over decisions about the internet to the ITU. Access also joined international civil society in a joint statement to protect global internet freedom.

Some of the most dangerous proposals did not make it into the final treaty, but concerns remain. While the outcomes of the WCIT remain unsettled, one thing is clear -- without the hard work by you, global civil society, and rights-respecting governments, things would have been a whole lot worse and the open internet would have looked very different.

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PIPA and SOPA go down!

What a way to begin 2012! After a totally unprecedented revolt from the internet community, Access and dozens of sites 'blacked out' in protest of PIPA and SOPA, which threatened free speech everywhere and the very integrity of the internet.

We were in the thick of the fight in Washington D.C., advocating for users worldwide. Thousands of Access members mobilized online to get Congress to abandon the bill, and we took to the streets with other members of the internet community in opposition.

Under pressure, lawmakers in Congress backed away from PIPA and SOPA -- once thought of as a slam-dunk for the entertainment industry.

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Pakistan backs away from building national firewall

Could you believe the gall of the Pakistani government, when they advertised in newspapers their intention to build a national firewall to silence 20 million internet users in Pakistan?

Joining civil society in Pakistan, Access challenged the Pakistani government to abandon the project and tech corporations to not bid on the contract to build the censorship and surveillance system. Tens of thousands of Access members, through social media, urged corporations to publicly condemn the project.

With pressure mounting from civil society and international media, the Pakistani government finally backed away from building the firewall.

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Philippines puts brakes on cybercrime law

Working closely with the Philippines Internet Freedom Alliance, Access joined in the protests against a recently passed cybercime law that was so vague and overreaching that someone who 'Liked' or retweeted 'libelous' content could have been thrown in jail.

Nearly 15,000 Access members called for the law's repeal, and our policy team provided analysis of the bill for activists on the ground. In the wake of huge demonstrations, the Supreme Court of the Philippines issued a stay on the bill.

But there is still more to come, as the court will decide the law's constitutionality in January.

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The Declaration of Internet Freedom

After facing the many threats facing the open internet, Access joined Free Press and other civil society organizations around the world to craft the Declaration of Internet Freedom.

The document, translated into over 50 languages, outlines support for a transparent and participatory process for making internet policy, establishing five principles -- Expression, Access, Openness, Innovation, and Privacy.

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C-30? See you later.

Canada's Harper government tried to pass a law giving law enforcement unlimited and warrantless access to our personal online data.

Over 25,000 people from the Access global movement for digital freedom joined Canadian civil society calling for the bill to be stopped. Facing a fiery storm of criticism, including intense pressure from Canadian media, C-30 was eventually pulled but could be revisited sometime in 2013.

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Advocating for users at risk
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The Rio de Janeiro Human Rights & Technology Conference

Building off the success of the Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference, over 400 people from over 30 countries gathered for the Rio de Janeiro Human Rights and Technology Conference (RightsCon: Rio), held by Access in partnership with the Fundação Getulio Vargas’ Center for Technology & Society.

This first of its kind event in Latin America brought together activists, government officials, corporate executives, and technologists to discuss some of the most important issues today at the intersection of human rights and new technologies.

From the panels and keynotes; to side events by the Guardian Project, the SecDev Foundation, and the New America Foundation’s Open Internet Tools Project; to the conversations in the hallway, RightsCon: Rio significantly advanced the debate on human rights online in Latin America and beyond. 

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The Telco Action Plan

One of the major initiatives for Access in 2012 was challenging telecommunication companies to respect human rights. Access developed the "Telco Action Plan," to help telecoms better manage and remedy their human rights impacts. 

As a result, we held discussions with officials from huge companies, like BT, MTN, Vodafone, TeliaSonera, and pushed them to adopt a strong human rights framework in their corporate policies. We continue to be actively engaged in conversations with these corporations, advocating for telecom user rights.

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Access hosts human rights, spectrum, and telecoms talks at IGF 2012

Access had a huge presence this year in Baku at the annual Internet Governance Forum, which brings public and private stakeholders, from developed and developing nations, together to discuss public policy issues relating to the internet.

Access hosted and appeared on several panels and discussions, such as "How to engage users on Internet Policies?", "Is access to the Internet a human right?", "A plan for rights-respecting telecoms", and "Spectrum for Democracy and Development."

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When “don’t be evil” becomes exceptionally difficult

In September, Google removed the controversial “The Innocence of Muslims” from YouTube, after protests over the content of the video.

The decision demonstrated the challenging position companies face, especially in the midst of violence, having to balance universal human rights and the demands, local laws, and customs of individual nations.

Access' policy team not only offered analysis of the decision, but also a path forward for Google and other content hosts who are faced with these difficult decisions on a regular basis.

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UN Human Rights Council adopts resolution affirming human rights on internet

In July, the UN Human Rights Council unanimously adopted a resolution affirming human rights on the internet.

While the resolution, as a non-binding declaration, does not force countries to change their policies and varied approaches to the protection of free expression and other human rights online, it's still an important step in the (increasing) global recognition that access to the internet is a critical enabler of a range of human rights.

During this process, Access submitted a recommendation to set up a process for holding countries accountable on their obligation to improve the human rights situations in their countries.

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MTN must stand up for its users, meet international obligations

Access challenged the international telco MTN about their human rights record at several points throughout the year. We even received a phone call from a PR firm on what MTN can do better to improve its public image!

However, MTN's record in Iran is worth highlighting, and not in a good way.  To date, they have operated there without regard to international norms on accountability and transparency and respect for human rights, exposing the company to the imminent threat of international sanctions that would likely limit their operations.

Access put together this brief, which calls on MTN to respond to this crisis through presenting a principled and comprehensive set of commitments to rule of law, accountability and transparency.

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Iraq’s internet on the brink

A year since the Arab Spring, the internet in the region faces significant threats from governments trying to gain more control over it. Iraq’s Parliament rushed to pass a bill that would have put online actors from nearly every sector, including IT, finance, civil society, and the press, at risk for severe punishments.

Access' analysis, "Iraq’s Information Technology Crimes Act of 2011: Vague, Overbroad, and Overly Harsh," found a pattern of problems with the law, including vagueness and overbreadth in definitions of crimes, harsh punishments without proportionality, a lack of protection for the press and whistleblowers, and uncertainty and lack of privacy for website operators, ISPs, and citizen users.

via accessnow
 


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Access hosts 'Spectrum for Democracy: Securing the Gains from the Arab Spring'

Access, along with Free Press and the New America Foundation, gathered leaders from around the world to explain how spectrum can be used to better support democracy in the MENA region, and to discuss specific strategies for reforming spectrum policy.

Attendees spoke of the democratizing goals of opening access to spectrum and addressed the practical challenge of reforming spectrum policies in the MENA region. 

Several participants from Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, and Morocco worked with US spectrum experts on country-specific papers, which have been submitted to the Journal of Information Policy for publication in a special issue.

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Securing activists' technologies
 
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The Access Tech Innovation Awards

Access held the first Tech Innovation Awards, granting $100,000 to the most actionable ideas that use information technology to promote and enable human rights or deliver a social good outcome.

We received over 300 applications from 66 countries, and the 22 finalist projects stood out for their impact, likelihood, innovation, and measurability.

Awards were given across five categories: the Blackout Resilience Award, the Making Crypto Easy Award, the Freedom of Expression Award, the Grassroots Technology Award, and the Facebook Award, which went to four projects that developed ideas on how to use the Facebook platform for human rights.

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Defending against Denial of Service

One of the top cyber threats facing civil society today is a Denial of Service (DoS) attack. The websites of many partner organizations and individuals have already come under such attacks, and the frequency of those attacks are on the rise.

In response, Access developed a guide outlining the steps that civil society organizations can take to improve their website’s resilience, should it come under attack, and provided a step-by-step process to efficiently deal with that stressful situation.

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Global Civil Society Under Attack

From the Arab Spring to the Occupy Wall Street movements and the PIPA/SOPA protests, civil society over the past couple years has witnessed an incredible expansion of the use of the internet for social activism and change.

But less frequently reported are the increasing cyber-attacks on human rights activists. From communications blackouts, to Denial of Service attacks, to the use of Western technology to track down political dissidents, activists of all stripes are at incredible risk.

By detailing these threats in this report, Access sought to equip civil society with the capability to improve security to better defend  themselves against these attacks.

via accessnow