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Scribd removes BuzzFeed files on Ecuador spying

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A document obtained by BuzzFeed that sheds light on Ecuador’s citizen spying practices. (Photo: BuzzFeed)

Someone in Ecuador has something to hide.

Several documents obtained by the social news website BuzzFeed were yanked at the request of a copyright agency on Thursday. Those confidential government documents revealed Ecuador’s desire to purchase spy equipment for an alleged domestic surveillance program that would “(rival) the practices by the United States’ National Security Agency,” according to BuzzFeed.

That spy equipment was to be purchased from an Israeli company by way of a broker in New York City, according to the documents.

The documents also revealed that SENAIN — the Ecuadorian equivalent of the NSA — closely monitors the Twitter and Facebook profiles of journalists, pundits, politicians and others.

Thirteen files in total were uploaded to the cloud service Scribd and posted at the bottom of BuzzFeed’s original article as supplemental material. Those documents were removed without warning on Thursday after Scribd received a complaint of copyright infringement.

In place of the original files was a message by Scribd saying the documents were removed after a complaint by “Ares Rights,” a Spanish anti-piracy organization. On Friday, BuzzFeed identified the complainant as Jonathan Palma of Ares Rights, who issued the takedown notice on behalf of at least two officials with SENAIN. Scribd later confirmed to The Desk that Palma filed the copyright infringement notice against BuzzFeed.

On Thursday, BuzzFeed re-uploaded the files to Dropbox and then later to DocumentCloud. BuzzFeed journalist Rosie Gray wrote that both Dropbox and DocuementCloud had received copyright infringement claims regarding the files. As of Friday afternoon, the documents had been removed from Dropbox, but were still available on DocumentCloud.

News of Ecuador’s interest in citizen surveillance comes at a time when the United States faces harsh criticism for recently-revealed domestic spying programs. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who provided with The Guardian newspaper with a trove of documents shedding light on once-secret U.S. spying programs, was reportedly en route to Ecuador from Hong Kong with aspirations of seeking political asylum.

BuzzFeed: Documents illuminate Ecuador spying practices
MatthewKeysLive: Download the 13 Ecuador spying files (ZIP)

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).