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“Like” yourself to jail: New Laws to restrict online speech

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The 8th Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was held on October 22-25, 2013, in Bali, Indonesia. Aida Mahmutović, who together with Valentina Pellizzer represented the Foundation OneWorld Platform for Southeast Europe in IGF2013, collected several important conclusions related to the new legislation that limits freedom of expression on the internet all over the world.

8th Meeting of International Governance Forum was held in Bali, Indonesia, Oct 22-25 (Photo Aida Mahmutović/OneWorldSEE)8th Meeting of International Governance Forum was held in Bali, Indonesia, Oct 22-25 (Photo Aida Mahmutović/OneWorldSEE)

Do you think about the consequences before you upload, share, comment or like something on your favorite social media. Do you feel more free to express your opinion online?

You don't go out personally to support peaceful protests because you are afraid you might get into trouble, so you rather stay home feeling free and safe to support by posting online?

MAYBE in our country this is the case, but just some recent cases in the world where freedom to “click” “like” or “comment online” got people in a big trouble made me wonder are we just waiting for the same?!

In 26 of 60 countries there are new laws or directives that negatively impact Internet freedom. In 26 countries a user was arrested for posting on social media:
- woman arrested in India for “liking” friend's comment on Facebook;
- student arrested in Ethiopia for criticizing the “rampant corruption” at local university;
- at least 10 users arrested in Bahrain for “insulting the King on Twitter”;
- a student received 18 month in prison in Morocco for “atacking the nation's sacred values” after making fun of the King on Facebook...

Should we consider ourselves lucky that we are still free to “express” ourselves online? Are we free or are we just enjoying a “false” freedom until we become sharper, louder and more aware of the power of social media?

Go back just a few months when, for the first time in its history, Bosnia and Herzegovina woke up both online and offline over the denied ID number for a little baby-girl who's life was in danger and for all other children who were about to be born.

For the first time activists and everybody's personal online correspondence became an important matter in the country, and we could “hear” our own “Big Brother” watching us. (Read the 13 Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance.)

Still, the power is on our side2 since in 11 countries a negative law was deterred or positive law was passed as a result of civil mobilization and pressure by activists, tech companies, international community, reform-minded politicians and others:
- in the Philippines the Cybercrime Prevention Act was suspended by the Supreme Court;
- in Kyrgyzstan the law on “Protection of children” was shelved;
- in Mexico a new constitutional amendment (article 6) now guarantees “freedom of access to the Internet”.

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