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Social Platforms Amid Regional Laws

A third of the world is now on social media, with users from many various regions. Internet censorship in certain regions is nothing new, especially for places like China. While the internet is often seen as globally accessible, regional politics still have a strong effect on the participation rates.

A female student in Sierra Leone, Theresa Mbomaya, was arrested on November 16th for forwarding a WhatsApp message she hadn’t created. The message was promoting an impending demonstration and implied vehicles attempting to disrupt it could be set on fire.

Saudi Arabia has some of the strictest laws for women in the world, such as women not being allowed to drive. Two female citizens were sentenced to 20 lashes after being found guilty of using bad language while arguing with each other on WhatsApp. The two were also jailed for for 10 days. Social media censorship laws exist as well. ‘Pokémon Go’, the popular game of the summer, was banned in Saudi Arabia for allegedly being ‘pro-evolution’ and promoting gambling.

After an attempt at negotiations, Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnxdzor, prepares to block LinkedIn after a court ruling that stated that LinkedIn breached Russia’s data protection rules. “LinkedIn’s vision is to create economic opportunity for the entire global workforce. We are starting to hear from members in Russia that they can no longer access LinkedIn,” said a spokesperson to TechCrunch on November 17th.

According to Turkey Blocks, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and WhatsApp were shut down in Turkey on November 4th. It’s believed to be caused by the detention of multiple leaders of the Turkish Peoples Democratic Party (AKA HDP), a leftist, pro-Kurdish political party. The way the site ban works is by slowing down websites to the extent that they are essentially unusable.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, has been trying to get China into his vision of a global social network. Zuckerberg has even tried speaking Mandarin. Facebook has developed software to suppress posts from specific geographic areas to help Facebook into China. Facebook has restricted content in the past from certain counties once they were posted, but the new feature would prevent content from appearing in China’s feeds in the first place.

YouTube has also had to deal with region laws, with many videos being blocked in certain countries. After years of YouTube users in Germany being blocked from certain music videos, the extended dispute regarding royalties between YouTube and Germany’s music organization, GEMA, came to an end. YouTube signed a licensing agreement with GEMA that covered the contractual gap since 2009. We’ll see if more bridges can be crossed as companies continue to negotiate with countries.

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