REEDOM ON THE
“administration, regulation, control and management” of such technologies, while also being
responsible for ensuring that the public has access to ICTs. Article 14 further establishes a state
guarantee of privacy and security for users, prohibiting third party interception of
Despite such positive provisions, however, Article 29.9 of the same act
authorizes CONATEL to track IP addresses from ISP customers without judicial order.
There are no specific laws criminalizing online content, however, standard defamation laws apply
to content posted online, and are sometimes invoked by the government.
While lawsuits have
been filed against digital news sites for comments critical of the current administration, detentions
of regular ICT users are not as common. Calls for investigations into Twitter users who post
content critical of the government, have, however, been levied by governmental authorities,
including President Correa, a form of legal intimidation that stands to result in greater self-
The only recent arrest related to internet activity concerned an activist who
created a fake identity on the government site “Dato Seguro” and posed as the president, allegedly
with the aim of revealing to the public that state information and systems are not sufficiently
secure. Paul Moreno, the man responsible for illustrating the ease of breaching state digital
security, was arrested in Riobamba in November 2012 under accusations of identity theft.
details are available regarding the investigation of Moreno, however, his supporters were very
active on social networks after he was detained (see, for example, tweets under the hashtag
#LiberenAPaulCoyote), a factor that appears to have influenced the judiciary. Moreno was released
four days after his arrest following his publication of a public letter of apology.
Although he was
never brought to trial Moreno commented that during his detention, there were no acts of
intimidation and due legal process was followed.
Anonymous communication is not prohibited in Ecuador, nor are there restrictions against citizens
who choose to maintain encrypted communications or use security tools. While the state
guarantees privacy of communications, identification and registration are required to purchase a
new cell phone, a regulation which has come into the spotlight following allegations of widespread
secret state surveillance.
See Article 14 of CONATEL’s Telecommunication Service Subscribers and Added Value Regulation Act:
Carlos Correa Loyola, “Carta Impresa a Domingo Paredes, Presidente del CNE, sobre Intención de Regular las Redes Sociales”
[Printed Letter to Domingo Paredes, President of CNE, about the Intention to Regulate Social Networks], Bitácora de Calú
(blog), October 18, 2012, http://bit.ly/18l0dBH.
Asamblea Nacional de Ecuador, “Constitución del Ecuador” [Constitution of Ecuador], Asamblea Nacional de Ecuador,
October 20, 2008, http://www.asambleanacional.gob.ec/documentos/constitucion_de_bolsillo.pdf.
Ecuador Times, “Rafael Correa Asked the SENAIN to Investigate Twitter Accounts,” Ecuador Times, January 25, 2013,
Paul Moreno, Viajes [Travel] (Blog), http://paulcoyote.tumblr.com/; Paul Moreno, Twitter page, @paulcoyote; See also: Paul
Moreno, “www.DatoSeguro.gob.ec No es Seguro” [www.DatoSeguro.gob.ec is Not Safe], Ecualug, November 26, 2012,
DINARDAP , “Boletín de Prensa de DINARDAP” [DINDARP Press Bulletin], El Comercio, November 30, 2012,
http://www.elcomercio.com/%20politica/Boletin‐prensa‐DINARDAP_ECMFIL20121130_0003.pdf; El Universo, “Bloguero
Detenido por Usar Datos del Presidente Correa en Sistema Dato Seguro” [Blogger Detained for Using Data of Presiden in System
Data Insurance], El Universo, November 30, 2012, http://m.eluniverso.com/2012/11/30/1/1355/detiene‐tuitero‐advirtio‐
Paul Moreno, Letter Detailing Arrest and Detention, Calu (blog), December 1, 2012, http://calu.me/sandbox/cartapaul.jpg.
REEDOM ON THE
In December 2012, Russian tech company Speech Technology Center revealed that it had been
contracted to provide Ecuador with a nationwide “biometric identification platform” capable of
facial and voice recognition. The controversial database of “voiceprints” and facial features created
by the country allegedly stores information only on known or suspected criminals or “persons of
Although the government claims not to listen to phone calls for “political purposes,”
human rights advocates have cautioned that the technology holds the potential for abuse and could
be used to track down political dissidents, advocates, or investigative journalists.
Instances of verbal and physical harassment against journalists appear to be on the raise. In fact,
verbal threats often come from the president, who uses his weekly sabatina (report) to insult
journalists and others who have displeased him. The president, who has referred to journalists as
“assassins with ink
” has also filed—and won—court proceedings against print journalists who have
made critical comments about him or about presidential orders that resulted in the harming of
civilians. In one landmark case from 2011, newspaper El Universal was charged $40 million in
damages for publishing a critical article. Emilio Palacio, author of the column, and the directors of
the newspaper were all sentenced to three years in prison. Palacio’s sentence was overturned in
August 2012, but he and his family were already in the process of applying for political asylum in
the United States which was granted the following month.
Recent years have also been witness to two murders—one of a photojournalist, and one of an
online reporter. In August 2012, Orlando Gomez Leon, a Quito based journalist from Colombia
who writes for a Colombian weekly newspaper and also serves as an internal editor at print and
digital newspaper La Hora, was the target of intimidation and violence. After contributing to an
article discussing Ecuador’s free speech issues and its contradictory extension of asylum to
WikiLeaks creator Julian Assange, Gomez began receiving threats. Later in the day, he was attacked
by two assailants with a steel bar but managed to drive away unharmed. Given the nature of the
threats he received, which included a warning to “stop saying bad things about Ecuador,” the attack
appears to be connected directly to Gomez’s journalism.
In April 2013, Fausto Valdivieso, a public relations consultant and journalist of nearly 30 years who
wrote widely on social networks and reported for a small online TV station, was murdered after
numerous threats and a previous attempt on his life a day earlier. Although a link to his journalistic
work has not been proven, his murder occurred while he was investigating issues related to the
Ryan Gallagher, “Ecuador Implements ‘World’s First’ Countrywide Facial‐ and Voice‐Recognition System,” Slate, December
12, 2012, http://slate.me/T9E6WV.
Rosie Gray and Adrian Carrasquillo, “Ecuador Defends Domestic Surveillance,” Buzzfeed, June 27, 2013,
Summer Harlow, “Ecuador President Blasts New Media during Speech at Columba University in New York,” Knight Center for
Journalism in the Americas, Septemeber 28, 2011, https://knightcenter.utexas.edu/blog/ecuador‐president‐blasts‐news‐media‐
Human Rights Ecuador, “Caso El Universal,” accessed August 7, 2013, http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/casos‐
destacados/caso‐el‐universo/?lang=es See also: Emilio Palacio, “Mi Vida en 830 Palabras,” Emilio Palacio en Internet (blog),
September 2011‐August 2012, https://sites.google.com/site/emiliopalacioeninternet2/home/trayectoria‐de‐Emilio‐Palacio.
Reporters Without Borders, “Colombian Journalist Threatened, Attacked with Steel Bar,” Reporters Without Borders, August
22, 2012, http://en.rsf.org/ecuador‐colombian‐journalist‐threatened‐22‐08‐2012,43257.html.
REEDOM ON THE
government. Accordingly, his work has been suspected as one possible motive in the killing.
suspects, currently in custody, are reputed to be members of a criminal drug-trafficking ring.
Cyberattacks in Ecuador are generally sporadic rather than systematic, although they appear to be
on the rise. These assaults include modifications to webpages (defacements), phishing, the spread of
malware, and DDoS attacks. The websites of independent human rights organizations have
occasionally been subject to disabling attacks and unexplained disruptions, and although their
administrators suspect government involvement, no party has yet taken responsibility. In February
2013, the Twitter accounts of human rights organization Fundamedios (Andean Foundation for
Media Observation and Study) and the online activism site Polificcion were suspended without
Following a press conference held by Fundamedios which detailed the dangers of
arbitrary suspension, the organization’s Twitter account was reinstated in March, 2013.
In January 2013, immediately following the publication of an article alleging that President Correa
had two offshore bank accounts in Switzerland, website BananaLeaks.co was the target of disabling
cyberattacks. Although administrators were able to get the site back up and running one day later,
BananaLeaks says its site was “immediately sabotaged by the Ecuadorian government with DDoS
Independent media outlets have not been the only targets of such attacks, however. In
August 2012, “hacktivist” group Anonymous hacked into 45 websites belonging to the Ecuadorian
government in protest of Article 29 of CONATEL’s July 2012 resolution allowing government
agencies to request users’ IP addresses.
Operation #OpInternetSurkishka wreaked utter and
widespread havoc on governmental websites for two days.
For more on Valdivieso’s writings, see: YouTube, Patuchobalcon, last updated August 2011,
Diario Extra, “Fausto Valdiviezo ‘Conocia’ a Sus Presuntos Asesinos” [Fausto Valdiviezo ‘Knew’ his Alleged Murderers], Diario
Extra, June 3, 2013, http://www.diario‐extra.com/ediciones/2013/06/03/cronica/fausto‐valdiviezo‐conocia‐a‐sus‐presuntos‐
asesinos/; See also: Reporters Without Borders, “Journalist Slain in Guayaquil, a Day after Escaping Earlier Murder Attempt,”
Reporters Without Borders, April 12, 2013, http://en.rsf.org/ecuador‐journalist‐slain‐in‐guayaquil‐a‐12‐04‐2013,44372.html.
La República, “Correa Pide a Inteligencia que Investigue a Dos Tuiteros” [Correa Calls on Intelligence to Investigate Two
Tweeters], La República, January 24, 2012, www.larepublica.ec/blog/politica/2013/01/24/correa‐pide‐a‐la‐senain‐que‐
investigue‐a‐dos‐tuiteros/; See also: Carlos Andres Vera, “Sobre la Suspensión de mi Cuenta Twitter”, [About the Suspension of
my Twitter Account], PoliFiccion (blog), March 4, 2013, http://polificcion.wordpress.com/2013/03/04/sobre‐la‐suspension‐de‐
Fundamedios, “Twitter Suspende Cuenta de Organización Ecuatoriana” [Twitter Suspends Account of Ecuadorian
Organization], IFEX, February 26, 2012, http://www.ifex.org/ecuador/2013/02/26/fundamedios_cuenta_twitter/es/.
Fundamedios, “Website Hacked by Ecuadorian Government After Story on President,” Fundamedios/IFEX, February 14, 2013,
Europa Press, “Anonymous Hackea 45 ‘Webs’ de Gobierno Ecuatoriano” [Anonymous Hack ‘45’ Webs of the Ecuadorian
Government] Europa Press, August 11, 2012, http://www.europapress.es/latam/ecuador/noticia‐ecuador‐anonymous‐hackea‐
Storify, “#OpInternetSurkishka en Ecuador” [#OpInternetSurkishka in Ecuador], Digital Users of Storify EC, August 2012,
REEDOM ON THE
Authorities repeatedly throttled mobile internet service in the areas around political
protests, preventing activists from communicating through social networks and VoIP
services (see O
Courts ordered the temporary blocking of YouTube and permanent blocking of
pornography sites, though the decisions have not been implemented (see L
An unprecedented number of liberal bloggers and online activists have been prosecuted
by special courts for insulting the president. Several users were also charged for
insulting religion over social networks (see V
Administrators of antigovernment and anti-Muslim Brotherhood Facebook groups
were targeted in cases of extralegal abductions and killings (see V
Senior Muslim Brotherhood officials working in the office of President Morsi
reportedly met with an Iranian spy chief in December 2012 to seek assistance in the
development of new surveillance capabilities outside of the traditional military-
controlled structure (see V
Obstacles to Access (0-25)
Limits on Content (0-35)
Violations of User Rights (0-40)
* 0=most free, 100=least free
REEDOM ON THE
This report covers events between May 1, 2012 and April 30, 2013. On July 3, 2013, President
Mohamed Morsi was removed from power by General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, the Defense Minister and
head of the armed forces. Millions of Egyptians had taken to the streets since June 30 in a protest
coordinated by a grassroots campaign known as Tamarod, the Arabic word for “rebel.” Tamarod, which
is supported by the Egyptian Movement for Change, threatened widespread civil disobedience if Morsi
did not resign by July 2. More significantly, the army issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the country’s
political groups to “meet the demands of the people” and threatened to intervene if the political crisis
was not solved. When Morsi refused to back down, the army took him under detention and appointed
the head of Egypt’s highest court, Adly Mansour, as interim president. Together with religious and
secular opposition leaders, General al-Sisi set out a roadmap for the drafting of a new constitution as
well as the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections. Supporters of Morsi remained camped
out in two large protest sites until August 14, when security forces raided the camps, killing hundreds
in the process. Senior Muslim Brotherhood figures were taken under arrest and a temporary state of
emergency was declared.
Since the internet was introduced in the country in 1993, the Egyptian government has invested in
information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure as part of its strategy to boost the
economy and create jobs. Until 2008, authorities showed a relaxed attitude toward internet use
and did not censor websites or use high-end technologies to monitor discussions. However, with
the rise of online campaigns to expose government fraud, document acts of police brutality, and
call for large-scale protests, the government began to change its stance. Between 2008 and 2011,
state police admitted to engaging in surveillance, online censorship, and cyberattacks – especially
against sites related to the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition movements.
The significant role of ICTs in the 2011 protests that toppled the 30-year regime of President Hosni
Mubarak led some to label the event as the Facebook
or Twitter revolution.
After the Supreme
Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) took control of the government, the military administration
maintained many of its predecessor’s tactics by keeping mobile phones, social media, and
opposition activists under vigorous surveillance. Even as several activists and bloggers were
intimidated, beaten, or tried in military courts for “insulting the military power” or “disturbing
social peace,” social networks continued to grow as a democratizing tool. Online, Egyptians
launched debates about the fate of their emerging democracy and exerted pressure on SCAF to end
Galal Amin, Whatever happened to the Egyptian Revolution, Cairo: Al Shorook, 2013.
Abigail Hauslohner, “Is Egypt About to Have a Facebook Revolution,” Time, January 24, 2011,
Helen A.S. Popkin, “Jon Stewart questions Egypt’s ‘Twitter revolution’,” NBC News, January 28, 2011,
REEDOM ON THE
decades under emergency rule. On May 31, 2012, the state of emergency was finally lifted
one month later, power was officially handed over to a civilian government in a controversial
election that pitted a former Mubarak official with an Islamist candidate.
After the election of President Mohammed Morsi, a candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood’s
Freedom and Justice Party, Egypt has failed to make any gains in internet freedom. The passage of a
new constitution did not allay concerns over threats to free speech and a record number of citizens
were prosecuted for insulting the president. The rise of Islamist forces has also contributed to an
increase in online blasphemy cases being tried in Egyptian courts, resulting in several users
receiving jail sentences. Countless other web activists and social media users have been harassed and
detained. Police authorities and Muslim Brotherhood thugs engaged in extralegal violence against
liberal activists and revolutionary youths who voice dissent online. Finally, distrust between the
military and the Muslim Brotherhood led the latter to seek Iranian assistance in the development of
parallel security and intelligence arms outside of the existing military-controlled structure. Despite
these obstacles, online journalists and commentators have continued their dynamic role, pushing
the boundaries of free speech and protesting against the undemocratic actions of the civilian
The development of Egypt’s ICT sector has been a strategic priority since 1999, when former
president Mubarak created the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT)
to lead Egypt’s transition into the information age.
Since then, ICT use has increased rapidly, with
internet penetration growing from 16 percent in 2007 to 44.1 percent in 2012.
either using smartphones or USB modems, accounts for roughly 44 percent of all internet use, with
ADSL use at around 38 percent. Egypt’s mobile phone penetration rate was 113.2 percent in the
first quarter of 2013, amounting to over 94 million mobile subscriptions.
Although these figures are promising, there are a number of obstacles hindering access to ICTs,
including an adult literacy rate of only 72 percent,
poor telecommunications infrastructure in rural
areas and urban slums, and flagging economic conditions. Moreover, ICTs and online culture are
often viewed with suspicion and women’s access to technology has become a growing concern after
“Egypt state of emergency lifted after 31 years,” BBC News, May 31 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world‐middle‐east‐
Osman El Sharnoubi, “Egypt’s President Morsi in power: A timeline (Part I),” AhramOnline, June 28 2013,
“Historical Perspective,” Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies, Accessed April 16, 2013,
“Percentage of Individuals Using the Internet” and “Mobile‐cellular subscriptions,” International Telecommunications Union,
accessed July 23 2013, http://www.itu.int/en/ITU‐D/Statistics/Pages/stat/default.aspx.
Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies, “Information and Communications Technology Indicators” March
2013, available at http://mcit.gov.eg/Indicators/indicators.aspx, accessed July 23 2013.
United Nations Development Program, “Egypt, Country Profile: Human Development Indicators,” accessed July 23, 2013,
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