UNITED STATES OF AMERICA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net any such charges would be appropriate.32 Many analysts argue that given the applicable laws and legal precedents, the government is unlikely to prosecute Assange or WikiLeaks for merely publishing leaked information. But some reports have suggested that federal officials are attempting to build a case that WikiLeaks played a conspiratorial role in the Army analyst’s unauthorized downloading of classified documents from U.S. military computers, or in his subsequent transmission of the material to WikiLeaks.There are no legal restrictions on user anonymity on the internet, and constitutional precedents protect the right to anonymous speech in many contexts. There are also state laws that stipulate journalists’ right to withhold the identities of anonymous sources, and at least one such law has been found to apply to bloggers.34 In June 2010, the Obama administration released plans for a National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC). The stated goal of the effort is to ensure the creation of an “identity ecosystem” in which internet users and organizations can more completely trust one another’s identities and systems when carrying out online transactions.35 While the plan does not include mandatory registration, some commentators have expressed their concerns about its potential effects on anonymous speech.The contents of internet communications are generally protected from government intrusion by constitutional rules against unreasonable searches and seizures,37 but law enforcement and intelligence agencies can access such information with varying degrees of judicial oversight as part of criminal or national security investigations. In criminal probes, law enforcement authorities can obtain court orders to monitor specified internet communications if they persuade a judge that there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been or will be committed. The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) requires telephone companies, broadband carriers, and interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers to design their systems so that communications can be easily intercepted when government agencies have the legal authority to do so,38 and some in the Obama administration suggested in late 2010 that the law could be expanded to “Holder: Wikileaks Probe ‘Serious Investigation,’” KTVU San Francisco, December 10, 2010, http://www.ktvu.com/news/26092558/detail.html.
Charlie Savage, “U.S. Weighs Prosecution of Wikileaks Founder, but Legal Scholar Warns of Steep Hurdles,” New York Times, December 1, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/02/world/02legal.html.
“Apple v. Does,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, http://www.eff.org/cases/apple-v-does, accessed March 4, 2011.
A site created to foster discussion on the proposed strategy can be found at http://www.nstic.us/.
Jay Stanley, “Don’t Put Your Trust in ‘Trusted Identities,’” Blog of Rights, American Civil Liberties Union, January 7, 2011, http://www.aclu.org/blog/technology-and-liberty/dont-put-your-trust-trusted-identities; Jim Dempsey, “New Urban Myth:
The Internet ID Scare,” Policy Beta (blog), Center for Democracy and Technology, January 11, 2011, http://www.cdt.org/blogs/jim-dempsey/new-urban-myth-internet-id-scare.
Paul Ohm, “Court Rules Email Protected by Fourth Amendment,” Paul Ohm’s Blog, Freedom to Tinker, December 14, 2010, http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/blog/paul/court-rules-email-protected-fourth-amendment.
The FCC does not classify Skype as an “interconnected VoIP.” UNITED STATES OF AMERICA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net permit increased access to online communications tools such as Gmail, Skype, and Facebook.Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act, which broadly expanded the government’s surveillance and investigative powers in cases involving terrorism. Among other things, the law requires ISPs to provide more detailed information about the internet activities of terrorism suspects—including their browsing history—with less judicial oversight and, in some cases, without probable cause. In February 2010, three expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act were renewed for an additional year, including the government’s broad authority to conduct roving wiretaps of unidentified or “John Doe” targets, to wiretap “lone wolf” suspects who have no known connections to terrorist networks, and to secretly access a wide range of private business records without warrants under Section 215. Charlie Savage, “U.S. Tries to Make it Easier to Wiretap the Internet,” New York Times, September 27, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/27/us/27wiretap.html_r=1.
“Patriot Act Excesses,” New York Times, October 7, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/08/opinion/08thu1.html.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net VENEZUELA 2009 POPULATION: 28.8 million INTERNET FREEDOM n/a Partly INTERNET PENETRATION: 35 percent STATUS Free WEB 2.0 APPLICATIONS BLOCKED: Yes Obstacles to Access n/a SUBSTANTIAL POLITICAL CENSORSHIP: No Limits on Content n/a BLOGGERS/ONLINE USERS ARRESTED: Yes Violations of User Rights n/a PRESS FREEDOM STATUS: Not Free Total n/a INTRODUCTION The Venezuelan constitution guarantees freedom of expression, and the government regards access to the internet as a priority for the country’s economic and social development.Internet access has increased dramatically over the past decade, and the country has emerged as a leader in the use of social media platforms. In the context of growing restrictions on broadcast outlets and severe political polarization in the traditional media overall,2 new media—especially blogs, the social-networking site Facebook, and the microblogging platform Twitter—have become important spaces for the diffusion of information and opinions on political and social topics. As government opponents have mobilized via these platforms, the authorities have taken measures in recent years to restrict online content and have hinted at future efforts to contain the influence of new media.
In March 2010, President Hugo Chavez declared that the internet could not be “a free thing where you do and say whatever you want.”3 Despite such warnings, the Venezuelan authorities do not engage in systematic filtering or large-scale arrests of bloggers. Nevertheless, there have been periodic interruptions of access to opposition or independent websites, efforts to intimidate websites to censor the comments of their users, Presidential Decree No. 825 (May 2000) designates access to and use of the internet as political priorities for the development of the country. See Gaceta Oficial no. 36.955, May 22, 2000, http://www.tsj.gov.ve/gaceta/mayo/220500/220500-3695501.html (in Spanish).
M. Bisbal, ed., Hegemona y control comunicacional [Hegemony and Communications Control] (Caracas: Editorial Alfa, 2009), (in Spanish).
Hugo Chvez: “Internet No Puede Ser Libre” [Hugo Chvez: “Internet Cannot Be Free”] (YouTube, March 20, 2010), 1 min., sec., http://www.youtube.com/watchv=s37YZ0bbblk&feature=related (in Spanish).
VENEZUELA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net and several prosecutions launched against users for information posted on Twitter. Perhaps the most worrying recent development for online freedoms in Venezuela was the passage in December 2010 of laws increasing state control over telecommunications networks and laying the foundation for website managers and service providers to be required to censor users commenting on the platforms they host.
The internet arrived in Venezuela in 1992, but its popularization began in 1996, when the first commercial internet-service providers (ISPs) were granted licenses by the National Telecommunications Committee (Conatel).4 The 1999 constitution obliges the state to provide the public with access to new information and communication technologies (ICTs),5 and the 2000 Organic Law of Telecommunications enables private companies to enter the market.OBSTACLES TO ACCESS Over the past 10 years, partly due to government investment, internet penetration has grown rapidly, increasing from under 4 percent in 2000 to 34.67 percent—or almost million users—by late 2010, according to statistics provided by Conatel. Recent years have seen a significant shift from dial-up to broadband, and by 2010, over 90 percent of the nearly 2.5 million internet subscriptions were broadband.7 Despite the prevalence of broadband connections, such services are slower and more expensive than in other countries in Latin America.8 The state-owned telecommunications firm National Telephone Company of Venezuela (CANTV) offers relatively low prices, but its connections are slow, and the company’s dominant position stifles competition. Nationally, the average connection speed is less than 1 Mbps,9 with a cost of approximately US$30-45 per month.10 According to a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Las Tecnologas de Informacin y Comunicacin al Servicio del Desarrollo [Information and Communication Technologies for Development] (Caracas: UNDP, 2002), 249 (in Spanish).
See Articles 108 and 110 of the constitution, available at http://www.tsj.gov.ve/legislacion/constitucion1999.htm (in Spanish).
In July 2008, a plan to reform the law was leaked to the press. Due to the opposition it garnered, the measure was not introduced in the National Assembly. The proposed modifications included the establishment of a single node for internet service, provided by Conatel, which would have constituted a risk to the neutrality of internet service and management.
Conatel, Estadsticas preliminares del sector Telecomunicaciones al cierre del III trimestre de 2010 [Statistics from the Telecommunications Sector at the end of the Third Trimester of 2010] (Caracas: Conatel, 2010), http://www.conatel.gob.ve/files/Indicadores/indicadores2010/presentacion_a_publicar_III_trim_20102.pdf (in Spanish).
Speedtest.net, “World Speedtest.net Results,” http://www.speedtest.net/global.php#0, accessed August 12, 2010.
In Venezuela, foreign-exchange controls have been in place since 2003. In January 2010, a variable rate of 2.60 bolivares per dollar was decreed for preferential imports such as food and pharmaceutical drugs, a rate of 4.30 was decreed for sectors including telecommunications, and another rate of approximately 5.30 bolivares per dollar, which one could obtain through relatively strict auctions, was applied to automobiles. Calculating the minimum wage at 2.60 bolivares per dollar is, according to many economists, somewhat illusory.
VENEZUELA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net recent study, just over half of all users connect to the internet via cybercafes, while an additional third use home connections.11 About 53 percent of users are male, and 43 percent are minors.12 In Caracas, the capital, WiMAX internet service is available, but only as a trial program with about 5,000 users.The most significant obstacles to internet access in Venezuela are lack of service availability, low computer literacy, and the high cost of a connection and necessary equipment. Of the Venezuelans who have difficulty accessing the internet, two thirds are disadvantaged by low income, geographic isolation in rural zones, disabilities, or old age.
Internet penetration in the lowest income bracket, where the largest proportion of the population is concentrated, is below the national average.14 In a study of Venezuelans who do not use the internet, one third cited the lack of sufficient knowledge as the primary reason, while an additional third reported the lack of a connection or a computer in their home; 8.8 percent pointed to high costs.There are about seven million landline telephone subscribers, the equivalent of about 25 percent of the population.16 By contrast, mobile phones are almost ubiquitous, with a penetration rate of 101.50 percent,17 although some areas between towns experience limited coverage. Venezuela is a regional leader in text messaging (short-message service, or SMS) with some 21.4 million text messages sent during the last four months of 2010.There is a growing contingent of people subscribing to mobile internet services, particularly “Venezuela Internet: Sub-sector Update,” Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), November 6, 2009, http://www.eiu.com/index.asplayout=ib3PrintArticle&article_id=1845094769&printer=printer.
Carlos Jimnez, Nmeros y Palabras, Usos y Penetracin de Internet en Venezuela [Numbers and Words, Uses and Internet Penetration in Venezuela] (Caracas: Tendencias Digitales, May 2009), slides, http://www.slideshare.net/Tendencias_Digitales/nmeros-y-palabras-presentacin-sobre-usos-y-penetracin-de-internet-envenezuelatype=presentation (in Spanish).
“Movilmax lanzar servicio de VoIP sobre WiMAX para aumentar nmero de usuarios” [Movilmax Launches VoIP over MiMAX Service to Increase the Number of Users], TeleSemana.com, October 9, 2008, http://www.telesemana.com/entrevistas/detalle.phpid=60 (in Spanish).
Bevilacqua, “Carlos Jimnez: ‘En 2012 ms de la mitad de los venezolanos estarn conectados a la red.’” Carlos Jimnez, Estadsticas y Tendencias de Internet en Venezuela [Statistics and Trends of the Internet in Venezuela] (Caracas:
Tendencias Digitales, 2010), slides, http://www.slideshare.net/Tendencias_Digitales/estadsticas-y-tendencias-de-internet-envenezuela-vp (in Spanish).
Conatel, Estadsticas preliminares del sector Telecomunicaciones al cierre del III trimestre de 2010 [Statistics from the Telecommunications Sector at the end of the Third Trimester of 2010] Ibid. The elevated proportion of prepaid service users in Latin America and the Caribbean has resulted in some double counting, due to multiple payments and inactive accounts. See International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Perfiles Estadsticos de la Sociedad de la Informacin: Regin de Amrica [Statistical Profiles of the Information Society: Americas Region] (Geneva: ITU, 2009), http://www.itu.int/dms_pub/itu-d/opb/ind/D-IND-RPM.AM-2009-E09-R1-PDF-S.pdf (in Spanish).