Digital Rights Weekly Update 17 - 23 May


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Silly Protesters! Free Speech is for Tech Companies, Not Palestinian Human Rights Activists (English)

Tech Policy Press

What is truly ironic about this moment in the US is that there seems to be much more hostility to the idea that individuals have a right to speak about Palestine than the idea that tech companies have a First Amendment right to be free from regulation. The Founding Fathers probably would have looked confused at the suggestion that free speech means tech companies have a right to build private surveillance empires and manipulate and harm users without recourse, but this is a constitutional theory that has gained much traction and support in recent years.




Are you chatting with a pro-Israeli AI-powered superbot? (English)


As Israel's assault on Gaza continues on the ground, a parallel battle rages on social media between people and bots. Lebanese researchers Ralph Baydoun and Michel Semaan, from research and strategic communications consulting firm InflueAnswers, decided to monitor how what seemed like “Israeli” bots have behaved on social media since October 7. Early on, Baydoun and Semaan said, pro-Palestinian accounts dominated the social media space. Soon, they noticed, pro-Israeli comments increased vastly. 




This Undisclosed WhatsApp Vulnerability lets governments see who you message (English)

The Intercept

In March, WhatsApp’s security team issued an internal warning to their colleagues: Despite the software’s powerful encryption, users remained vulnerable to a dangerous form of government surveillance. According to the previously unreported threat assessment obtained by The Intercept, the contents of conversations among the app’s 2 billion users remain secure. But government agencies, the engineers wrote, were “bypassing our encryption” to figure out which users communicate with each other, the membership of private groups, and perhaps even their locations.




Social media 'blockout' targets celebrities for not speaking out on Gaza war (English)


Critics of Israel's military operations in Gaza are taking aim at celebrity culture. Some social media users are calling out celebrities who have not spoken out about the ongoing war in Gaza, and are blocking the stars in an attempt to undermine their revenue from brand partnerships. The "blockout" trend was triggered by the May 6 Met Gala in New York City, a glamorous event that is held annually as a fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute. It struck some as a stark, dystopian contrast to the situation in Gaza. While images from the gala flooded social media, Israel began an attack on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, which is crowded with Palestinians who were forced to flee there under Israeli orders.



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