The battle for internet ownership is on.
Corporations big and small, controversial businessmen, politicians and secret offshore companies are all fighting to control our daily communications, information and, sometimes, our private data.
The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, Euractiv and RISE Project spent months investigating who owns the Internet across Eastern Europe. In the coming weeks and months, we will release stories and data about the individuals and companies that control the technology that brings the internet to you.
Reporters across the region, assisted by our researchers at the Investigative Dashboard, combed through thousands of records in a quest to find out who owns the internet. What we found, in some instances, are shadowy figures hiding their identities behind offshore corporations; politicians; and even criminals.
Who are the Gatekeepers of the Internet?
”Who are the Gatekeepers of the Internet?” is one of the nine winners of the 2014 Knight News Challenge. The project aims to improve public knowledge of Internet Service Providers and Telecom companies in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe by increasing the transparency of digital infrastructures in the region.
The initiative endeavors to create a visual online tree diagram/map of digital infrastructures in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. The work will focus on gathering data concerning the primary owners of regional digital infrastructure and improving knowledge concerning their activities and connections.
The initiative targets 12 countries: Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Serbia, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Georgia and Slovenia.
All forms of digital information must pass through infrastructure gatekeepers, i.e., through internet service providers. Consequently, there exists an industry-wide capacity to restrict access to information and freedom of speech via internet service providers. The potential for using this capacity depends on the nature and connections of those who actually own ISP companies. The project will answer the following questions:
- Who are the owners of internet infrastructure? How transparent are they?
- Are they connected to political parties or to public officials?
- Do they have links to organized crime and/or corruption?
- The development of an online dissemination platform. The platform will make use of smart animations, infographics and tree diagrams/maps. It will also host the project’s reports and fuel further analyses and articles in the field.
- Data gathering and analysis activities. This portion will improve the availability of public data on digital infrastructure in the region and create comprehensive reports to be disseminated through the online platform.
- Dissemination and advocacy activities. This action will consist of:
- Organizing a conference in Bucharest on the preliminary results of the project.
- Organizing a conference in Brussels upon the completion the project.
- Organizing a webinar on the methodology and means of replicating the project, with media and civil society representatives from the targeted countries.
- Developing a communications campaign for the dissemination of the project’s results.
The project is implemented by a consortium composed of the Journalism Development Network (OCCRP), Rise Project and the European Actors Association (EAA).
The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) is a non-profit joint program of a number of regional non-profit investigative centers and for-profit independent media organizations stretching from Eastern Europe to Central Asia. OCCRP seeks to provide in-depth investigative stories as well as the latest news pertaining to organized crime and corruption activities in the region. In addition to the stories, OCCRP is building an online resource center of documents related to organized crime including court records, laws, reports, studies, company records and other public documents that will be an invaluable resource center for journalists and the public alike.
Rise Project is a community of investigative journalists, programmers and activists who work together in investigating organized crime and corruption in Romania and its neighboring countries. They specialize in revealing hidden connections between crime organizations, politicians and business men. They use advanced investigative techniques and technologies to gather and analyze data and then provide the general public visual and comprehensive depictions of their findings.
EurActiv.ro was set up in Romania in 2004 under the franchise of EurActiv.com (pan-European network of independent online communication portals based in Brussels) through the legal entity European Actors Association (EAA). EAA monitors Telecom and good governance, good practices, telecom directives, justice, public procurement and European funds.
The project is financed by the Knight Foundation and the German Marshall Fund/the Black Sea Trust. The materials created in the project reflect the work of their authors and do not represent the opinion of the financing bodies.
Ownership data is accurate as of the date we received it. If changes in ownership occurred after we received company records, please provide us with that documentation so we can keep the information accurate and up to date.