CPJ Blog

Press Freedom News and Views

Danny O'Brien

San Francisco-based CPJ Internet Advocacy Coordinator Danny O’Brien has worked globally as a journalist and activist covering technology and digital rights. Follow him on Twitter @danny_at_cpj.

Blog   |   China, Internet, USA

Drawing lessons from Chinese attacks on US media

The Times reported in January that it had succeeded in expelling hackers from its computer systems. (AFP/Emmanuel Dunand)

Not every media company is as tempting a target for hackers as The New York Times, The Washington Post, or The Wall Street Journal. Not every company can afford high-priced computer security consultants, either. Is there anything that everyday reporters and their editors can learn about protecting themselves, based on the revelatory details the Times and other targets made public last week?

Blog   |   Internet, USA

Yahoo HTTPS mail not a moment too soon, nor too late

I remember sitting with a Yahoo employee in 2009, talking about the lack of protective encryption on Yahoo's Web mail accounts. Like many, the employee had been caught up in the news of how Iranians were using the Internet to document and protest the presidential elections in that country, and had grown worried about the possibility of governments intercepting Yahoo customer's emails without due process. As an immigrant from a repressive regime, he told me, he was aware of how much danger this posed. He said he was going to raise the topic internally.

January 9, 2013 5:50 PM ET


Blog   |   China, Internet

China's name registration will only aid cybercriminals

China's new Communist Party leaders are increasing already tight controls on Internet use. (AP/Alexander F. Yuan)

China's mounting crackdown on online news dissemination took an extra step today, when the country's Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, its de facto legislative body, announced new requirements on Internet service providers and mobile phone companies to identify their users. The new rules would potentially allow ISPs and the authorities to more closely tie real identities to posts and commentary on micro-blogging sites like Weibo, as well as connect text messaging and mobile phone conversations to individuals.

December 28, 2012 5:24 PM ET


Blog   |   Internet, USA

In Internet freedom fight, why the ITU matters (for now)

Hamdoun Toure, ITU secretary general, speaks at the group's conference in Dubai. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)

For most of its almost-150-year history, the meetings of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations' communications standards body, have been rather predictable affairs.

December 14, 2012 12:39 PM ET


Blog   |   Internet, Syria

Syria's desperate move to cut links won't succeed

This image provided by Edlib News Network shows an anti-Syrian regime protester holding up a placard reading: 'the victory fingers over the Place (the presidential palace),' during a demonstration at Binnish village, Idlib province, on Friday. (AP/Edlib News Network ENN)

The Syrian Internet, like the country, appears to have been collapsing into a patchwork of unconnected systems for some time. I spent time talking to Syrians tech activists this week in Tunisia before Thursday's shutdown, and their reports from the front painted a picture of two different networks.

November 30, 2012 1:52 PM ET


Blog   |   Internet

Dear CPJ: Some malware from your 'friend'

An analyst looks at malware code in a lab. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart)

We talk a lot about hacking attacks against individual journalists here, but what typifies an attempt to access a reporter's computer? Joel Simon, CPJ's executive director, received an email last week that reflects some characteristics of a malware attack against a journalist or activist. There was nothing particularly notable about the targeting. (Like many reporters, CPJ receives such attempts occasionally). The attack failed at the first fence, and my casual investigation into the source was inconclusive. There are no shocking answers or big headlines to draw from this attack. But it does illustrate a contemporary reality: Opportunistic assailants regularly shower journalists with software attacks.

Blog   |   Internet, Syria, USA

Weak cyber protections lead to personal, institutional risk

The Syrian civil war is also a propaganda war. With the Assad regime and the rebels both attempting to assure their supporters and the world that they are on the brink of victory, how the facts are reported has become central to the struggle. Hackers working in support of Assad loyalists this week decided to take a shortcut, attacking the Reuters news agency's blogging platform and one of its Twitter accounts, and planting false stories about the vanquishing of rebel leaders and wavering support for them from abroad.

August 6, 2012 6:14 PM ET


Blog   |   Bahrain, China, Internet, UK

For journalists, danger lurking in your email

A protester in Jidhafs, Bahrain. (AP/Hasan Jamali)

This week, Morgan Marquis-Boire and Bill Marczak of the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab provided a disturbing look into the likely use of a commercial surveillance program, FinFisher, to remotely invade and control the computers of Bahraini activists. After the software installs itself onto unsuspecting users' computer, it can record and relay emails, screenshots, and Skype audio conversations. It was deployed against Bahraini users after being concealed in seemingly innocent emails.

Blog   |   Internet, USA

Face-blurring comes into focus for journalists

From YouTube's demonstration page

This week, YouTube announced a feature that should catch the eye of video journalists and bloggers working in dangerous conditions. After uploading a video to YouTube, you can now deploy a "blur faces" post-production tool that, in theory, should disguise the visual identity of everyone on the screen. The Hindu newspaper has an excellent how-to guide for their readers.

July 20, 2012 5:24 PM ET


Blog   |   Internet, Russia

Internet law: a good bad example of Russia's backsliding

Russia's State Duma has passed a number of new laws in the past week, all seemingly aimed at reining in civil society and criticism of public figures. The bills would re-criminalize defamation and impose limits and labels on NGOs. They follow the introduction last month of excessive fines for unauthorized protests.

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