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Censorship

Facebook Admits Blocking WikiLeaks' DNC Email Links, But Won't Say Why (thenextweb.com) 270

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook has admitted it blocked links to WikiLeaks' DNC email dump, but the company has yet to explain why. WikiLeaks has responded to the censorship via Twitter, writing: "For those facing censorship on Facebook etc when trying to post links directly to WikiLeaks #DNCLeak try using archive.is." When SwiftOnSecurity tweeted, "Facebook has an automated system for detecting spam/malicious links, that sometimes have false positives. /cc," Facebook's Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos replied with, "It's been fixed." As for why there was a problem in the first place, we don't know. Nate Swanner from The Next Web writes, "It's possible its algorithm incorrectly identified them as malicious, but it's another negative mark on the company's record nonetheless. WikiLeaks is a known entity, not some torrent dumping ground. The WikiLeaks link issue has reportedly been fixed, which is great -- but also not really the point. The fact links to the archive was blocked at all suggests there's a very tight reign on what's allowed on Facebook across the board, and that's a problem." A Facebook representative provided a statement to Gizmodo: "Like other services, our anti-spam systems briefly flagged links to these documents as unsafe. We quickly corrected this error on Saturday evening."
China

China Bans Internet News Reporting As Media Crackdown Widens (bloomberg.com) 68

Earlier this month we learned that China had banned the use of social media as a news source. The local government feared that if news outlets were to report using signals coming from social media, there was a chance that fake, non-credible, and rumors would slip through the filter. It was absurd, to say the least, considering the government itself has been reportedly caught of posting a copious amount of misleading information on domestic social media platforms. In the latest wrinkle to the whole situation, the world's largest nation is now banning internet news reporting. Long time reader schwit1 shares a Bloomberg report on the same: China's top internet regulator ordered major online companies including Sina Corp. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. to stop original news reporting, the latest effort by the government to tighten its grip over the country's web and information industries. The Cyberspace Administration of China imposed the ban on several major news portals, including Sohu.com Inc. and NetEase Inc., Chinese media reported in identically worded articles citing an unidentified official from the agency's Beijing office. The companies have "seriously violated" internet regulations by carrying plenty of news content obtained through original reporting, causing "huge negative effects," according to a report that appeared in The Paper on Sunday. The agency instructed the operators of mobile and online news services to dismantle "current-affairs news" operations on Friday, after earlier calling a halt to such activity at Tencent, according to people familiar with the situation. Like its peers, Asia's largest internet company had developed a news operation and grown its team. Henceforth, they and other services can only carry reports provided by government-controlled print or online media, the people said, asking not to be identified because the issue is politically sensitive.
Security

Microsoft Rewrites Wassenaar Arms Control Pact To Protect The Infosec Industry (theregister.co.uk) 20

The Wassenaar Arrangement "is threatening to choke the cyber-security industry, according to a consortium of cyber-security companies...supported by Microsoft among others," reports SC Magazine. "'Because the regulation is so overly broad, it would require cyber responders and security researchers to obtain an export license prior to exchanging essential information to remediate a newly identified network vulnerability, even when that vulnerability is capable of being exploited for purposes of surveillance,' wrote Alan Cohn from the CRC on a Microsoft blog." Reporter Darren Pauli contacted Slashdot with this report: If the Wassenaar Arrangement carries through under its current state, it will force Microsoft to submit some 3800 applications for arms export every year, company assistant general counsel Cristin Goodwin says... The Wassenaar Arrangement caught all corners of the security industry off guard, but its full potentially-devastating effects will only be realised in coming months and years... Goodwin and [Symantec director of government affairs] Fletcher are calling on the industry to lobby their agencies to overhaul the dual-use software definition of the Arrangement ahead of a closed-door meeting in September where changes can be proposed.
Google

Google and Bing Have No Obligation To Censor Searches For Torrents (betanews.com) 62

Microsoft and Google are under no obligation to weed out 'torrent' results from their respective search engines, the High Court of Paris has ruled. BetaNews adds: French music industry group SNEP went to court on behalf of a trio of artists, requesting that Microsoft and Google automatically filter out links to pirated material. The group had called for a complete block on searches that include the word 'torrent' as well as blocking sites whose name includes the word. The court found that SNEP's request was far too broad, saying: "SNEP's requests are general, and pertain not to a specific site but to all websites accessible through the stated methods, without consideration for identifying or even determining the site's content, on the premise that the term 'Torrent' is necessarily associated with infringing content".The court added that 'torrent' is a common noun, which has a range of different meanings.
Censorship

Brazil Judge Orders Phone Carriers To Block WhatsApp Message App (reuters.com) 109

A Brazilian judge has ordered wireless phone carriers to block access to Facebook's WhatsApp indefinitely, starting on Tuesday, the third such incident against the popular phone messaging app in eight months. Reuters report: The decision by Judge Daniela Barbosa Assuncao de Souza in the southeastern state of Rio de Janeiro applies to Brazil's five wireless carriers. The reason for the order was not known due to legal secrecy in an ongoing case, and will only be lifted once Facebook surrenders data, Souza's office said. Sao Paulo-based representatives at WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook Inc, as well as the Brazilian five carriers -- Telefonica Brasil SA, America Movil SAB's Claro, TIM Participacoes SA, Oi SA and Nextel Participacoes SA.
Facebook

Did Armenia Censor Facebook? (mashable.com) 25

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: "Only one day after Twitter was throttled in Turkey during an ill-fated coup attempt, social media again seemed to become a target during unrest in Armenia's capital, Yerevan," reports Mashable. A day after Turkey's president declared that Friday's coup has failed, armed men had taken hostages in nearby Armenia, and "The National Security Service accused the hostage takers' supporters of spreading false rumors on the internet about an uprising and the seizure of other buildings," according to Reuters. "Early Sunday, journalists and others in Armenia used Twitter to suggest Facebook had been blocked for a period as the incident unfolded," Mashable reports, noting that later Facebook access appeared to be restored. Facebook was unavailable for comment.
Censorship

Starbucks and McDonald's Announce Porn Blocks On Their Wi-Fi Networks (cnn.com) 284

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN Money: Anti-pornography groups have succeeded in their efforts to get Starbucks and McDonald's to block porn on the chains' Wi-Fi networks..."We had not heard from our customers that this was an issue, but we saw an opportunity that is consistent with our goal of providing an enjoyable experience for families," McDonald's said in a statement... Starbucks said Friday it's will do so the same thing at its company-owned stores around the globe as well. "Once we determine that our customers can access our free Wi-Fi in a way that also doesn't involuntarily block unintended content, we will implement this in our stores," said a Starbucks spokesperson. "In the meantime, we reserve the right to stop any behavior that interferes with our customer experience, including what is accessed on our free Wi-Fi..."
Meanwhile, this week, the Republican Party officially added the "public health crisis" of porn to its platform.
Censorship

UK Proposes Mandatory Age Verification For Porn Sites (mirror.co.uk) 146

A proposed bill read in the House of Commons, "suggests that by next year websites will require visitors to prove they are of legal age before entering..." reports the Mirror. Britain's prime minister "says none of Britain's top 10 porn sites -- which account for 52% of all views -- have a 'robust' process to verify users' age," citing figures that 10% of the site's viewers are below the age of 18. The Independent adds that "the issue has alarmed privacy campaigners, since it could mean having to register a credit card with a porn website." U.K. lawyer Neil Brown contacted Slashdot with more on the age-verification requirement: Sites which failed to do so could face fines of up to 250,000 pounds or 5% of annual turnover. Their URLs could also be given to ISPs and payment processing providers, to consider voluntary blocking/service suspension, although no mandatory blocking regime is planned currently.
This is the same bill that proposes jail terms up to 10 years for those found guilty of copyright infringement. According to the article, one 2013 study found that 7% of the world's porn was hosted in the UK, with 60% in America and 26% in the Netherlands.
Movies

Wannabe Prime Minister Andrea Leadsom Thinks Websites Should Be Rated Like Films (theregister.co.uk) 208

An anonymous reader quotes a report fro The Register: The UK's possible future prime minister thinks all websites should be classified with minimum age ratings, just like films. Andrea Leadsom is one of two candidates left in the race for the leadership of the Conservative Party; the winner of which will become the country's Prime Minister. Although many are concerned with the authoritarian stance taken by her rival, Theresa May, Leadsom's views on many topics -- including the internet -- have come under scrutiny following her unexpected success in the leadership election. Key among those is Leadsom's apparent belief that the best solution to troublesome content on the internet is to have film-rating organization the British Board of Film Classification rate all websites, and have any unrated websites blocked by ISPs. [Writing in the New Statesman back in 2012, she focused, initially, on the need to protect children. "There are two sound ways to ensure that children are not exposed to dangerous or disturbing content," she argued. "At the level of Internet Service Provider, individual sites can be blocked 'at source' by ISPs [...] The other way is with a move away from the standard '.co.uk' and '.com' top level domains (TLDs) for more explicit content, to separate entirely inappropriate sections of the web."] She argues: "Outside of cyberspace, we have bodies such as Ofcom and the British Board of Film Classification that continually work to ensure our children are not exposed to the wrong things. This could be implemented in some way online, whereby a website would have to have its content 'rated' before being accessible online. While it sounds like a massive leap, the majority of new websites already go through testing when they are hosted to make sure that a site is intact and that files and content are free of viruses. This would simply be adding another check to the list, and in reality it is a burden already carried by film-makers."
United Kingdom

UK ISP Sky Is About To Start Censoring the Web For All of Its Customers (betanews.com) 167

Mark Wilson, writing for BetaNews: The UK government is on a mission to protect the young of the country from the dark recesses of the web. And by the darker recesses, what is really meant is porn. The main ISPs have long been required to block access to known piracy sites, but porn is also a concern -- for politicians, at least. As part of its bid to sanitize and censor the web, Sky -- from the Murdoch stables -- is, as of today, enabling adult content filtering by default for all new customers: Sky Broadband Shield. The company wants to "help families protect their children from inappropriate content", and in a previous experiment discovered -- unsurprisingly -- that content filtering was used by more people if it was automatically enabled.
Censorship

UN Council: Seriously, Nations, Stop Switching Off the Internet! (article19.org) 59

An anonymous reader writes: "The United Nations officially condemned the practice of countries shutting down access to the internet at a meeting of the Human Rights Council on Friday," reports the Register newspaper, saying Friday's resolution "effectively extends human rights held offline to the internet," including freedom of expression. "The resolution is a much-needed response to increased pressure on freedom of expression online in all parts of the world," said Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of Article 19, a long-standing British human rights group which had pushed for the resolution. "From impunity for the killings of bloggers to laws criminalizing legitimate dissent on social media, basic human rights principles are being disregarded to impose greater controls over the information we see and share online."

Thirteen countries, including Russia and China, had unsuccessfully urged the deletion of the text guaranteeing internet access, and Article 19 says the new resolution even commits states to address "security concerns on the Internet in accordance with their obligations to protect freedom of expression, privacy and other human rights online." But they also called the resolution a missed opportunity to urge states to strengthen protections on anonymity and encryption, and to clarify the boundaries between state and private ICT actors.

Security

Religious Hacker Defaces 111 Escort Sites (softpedia.com) 161

An anonymous reader shares this article from Softpedia: A religiously-motivated Moroccan hacker has defaced 111 different web sites promoting escort services since last summer as part of an ongoing protest against the industry. "In January, the hacker defaced 79 escort websites," writes Softpedia. "His actions didn't go unnoticed, and on some online forums where escorts and webmasters of these websites met, his name was brought up in discussions and used to drive each other in implementing better Web security. While some webmasters did their job, some didn't. During the past days, the hacker has been busy defacing a new set of escort websites... Most of these websites bare ElSurveillance's defacement message even today... Most of the websites are from the UK."
His newest round of attacks replace the sites with a pro-Palestine message and a quote from the quran, though in January Softpedia reported the attacker was also stealing data from some of the sites about their users' accounts.
Censorship

Google and Facebook May Be Suppressing 'Extremist' Speech With Copyright Scanners (theverge.com) 156

An anonymous reader quotes this article from The Verge: The systems that automatically enforce copyright laws on the internet may be expanding to block unfavorable speech. Reuters reports that Facebook, Google, and other companies are exploring automated removal of extremist content, and could be repurposing copyright takedown methods to identify and suppress it. It's unclear where the lines have been drawn, but the systems are likely targeted at radical messages on social networks from enemies of European powers and the United States. Leaders in the US and Europe have increasingly decried radical extremism on the internet and have attempted to enlist internet companies in a fight to suppress it.

Many of those companies have been receptive to the idea and already have procedures to block violent and hateful content. Neither Facebook and Google would confirm automation of these efforts to Reuters, which relied on two anonymous sources who are "familiar with the process"... The secret identification and automated blocking of extremist speech would raise new, serious questions about the cooperation of private corporations with censorious governmental interests.

Reuters calls it "a major step forward for internet companies that are eager to eradicate violent propaganda from their sites and are under pressure to do so from governments around the world as attacks by extremists proliferate, from Syria to Belgium and the United States." They also report that the move follows pressure from an anti-extremism group "founded by, among others, Frances Townsend, who advised former president George W. Bush on homeland security, and Mark Wallace, who was deputy campaign manager for the Bush 2004 re-election campaign."
Censorship

The New Censorship: 'How Did Google Become The Internet's Censor and Master Manipulator?' (usnews.com) 246

An anonymous reader writes: Robert Epstein from U.S. News and World Report writes an article describing how Google has become the internet's censor and master manipulator. He writes about the company's nine different blacklists that impact our lives: autocomplete blacklist, Google Maps blacklist, YouTube blacklist, Google account blacklist, Google News blacklist, Google AdWords blacklist, Google AdSense blacklist, search engine blacklist, and quarantine list. The autocomplete blacklist filters out select phrases like profanities and other controversial terms like "torrent," "bisexual" and "penis." It can also be used to protect or discredit political candidates. For example, at the moment autocomplete shows you "Ted" (for former GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz) when you type "lying," but it will not show you "Hillary" when you type "crooked." While Google Maps photographs your home for everyone to see, Google maintains a list of properties it either blacks out or blurs out in its images depending on the property, e.g. military installations or wealthy residences. Epstein makes the case that while YouTube allows users to flag videos, Google employees seem far more apt to ban politically conservative videos than liberal ones. As for the Google account blacklist, you may lose access to a number of Google's products, which are all bundled into one account as of a couple of years ago, if you violate Google's terms of service agreement because Google reserves the right to "stop providing Services to you ... at any time." Google is the largest news aggregator in the world via Google News. Epstein writes, "Selective blacklisting of news sources is a powerful way of promoting a political, religious or moral agenda, with no one the wiser." Google can easily put a business out of business if a Google executive decides your business or industry doesn't meet its moral standards and revokes a business' access to Google AdWords, which makes up 70 percent of Google's $80 billion in annual revenue. Recently, Google blacklisted an entire industry -- companies providing high-interest "payday" loans. If your website has been approved by AdWords, Google's search engine is what ultimately determines the success of your business as its algorithms can be tweaked and search rankings can be manipulated, which may ruin businesses. Epstein makes an interesting case for how Google has become the internet's censor and master manipulator. Given Google's online dominance, do you think Google should be regulated like a public utility?
Censorship

Peter Thiel's Lawyer Wants To Silence Reporting On Trump's Hair (gawker.com) 301

An anonymous reader writes: Follow the report that Gawker has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after facing multiple lawsuits funded by tech billionaire Peter Thiel, it's being reported that Thiel's lawyer, Charles J. Harder, is threatening to sue Gawker for reporting on the company that made Donald Trump's hair, claiming copyright prohibits Gawker from republishing his threat. He sent the company a letter on behalf of Edward Ivari, the owner of the company Gawker suggests may be behind Trump's hair. Gawker said it was sent a six-page letter that claims the story "was 'false and defamatory,' invaded Ivari's privacy, intentionally inflicted emotional distress, and committed 'tortious interference' with Ivari's business relations." Gawker reporter Ashley Feinberg suggested in a lengthy Gawker story that Trump secretly underwent Ivari International's $60,000 "microcylinder intervention" treatment, with the company's offices located on the 25th floor of Trump Tower. Gawker called Ivari's claims "ridiculous," and noted that the statements at issue were pulled from his own publicity materials and from public records of a 2001 lawsuit against the company.
Censorship

World Reacts To The Worst Mass Shooting In U.S. History (cnn.com) 1718

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: Fifty people were killed inside Pulse, a gay nightclub, Orlando Police Chief John Mina and other officials said Sunday morning, just hours after a shooter opened fire in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. At least 53 more people were injured, Mina said. Police have shot and killed the gunman, he told reporters.

The shooter is not from the Orlando area, Mina said. He has been identified as Omar Saddiqui Mateen, 29, of Fort Pierce, about 120 miles southeast of Orlando, two law enforcement officials tell CNN.

Orlando authorities said they consider the violence an act of domestic terror. The FBI is involved. While investigators are exploring all angles, they "have suggestions the individual has leanings towards (Islamic terrorism), but right now we can't say definitely..."

In the discussion on this submission, Slashdot readers reported that Reddit is among the sites that have removed some discussions about the shooter's identity, with one reader even reporting "Posts directing people where and how to give blood have been removed."
Censorship

KickassTorrents Enters The Dark Web, Adds Official Tor Address 44

An anonymous reader writes: KickassTorrents has now added a dark web address to make it easier for users to bypass blockades installed by Internet Service Providers (ISPs). It has announced a new .onion domain through which KickassTorrents users can access their favourite sites on a Tor (The Onion Router) network. "Good news for those who have difficulties accessing KAT due to the site block in their country, now you can always access KAT via this address lsuzvpko6w6hzpnn.onion on a Tor network," announced a member of the KickassTorrents team.
Censorship

UK Risks Over-Blocking Content Online, Warns Human Rights Watchdog (arstechnica.co.uk) 68

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The UK is at serious risk of over-blocking web content, the Council of Europe has warned in a scathing report. "Governments have an obligation to combat the promotion of terrorism, child abuse material, hate speech and other illegal content online. However, I am concerned that some states are not clearly defining what constitutes illegal content. Decisions are often delegated to authorities who are given a wide margin for interpreting content, potentially to the detriment of freedom of expression," said CoE secretary general, Thorbjorn Jagland. The 32-page report also concluded that some British practices may be in breach of the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, and that the current framework seems more concerned with protecting ISPs from liability, than the general public's freedom of expression. The study singled out the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) whose job it is to police online child abuse material. The IWF has existed in some form since 1996, but is not a government body or law enforcement agency, but instead, a registered charity, funded by the European Union and the wider online industry, including big players such as Google and Microsoft. Although the report noted that "the IWF has taken a number of steps to better ensure that its operations are transparent and proportionate, in the absence of legal safeguards against over-blocking, the threshold for the kind of material which may be subjected to removal is therefore much lower than that which might otherwise be set out in law."
Censorship

Twitter Ignites Censorship Debate After Removal Of Parody Putin Account (thenextweb.com) 147

Twitter has suspended at least five popular anti-Kremlin Twitter accounts on its microblogging social network. The move has angered fans of the accounts and reignited the speculation on censorship on the platform. One such account parodied Russia President Vladimir Putin. The Next Web reports that some of the accounts have been brought back to function amid criticism from their respective fans. Parody accounts have resided in the gray area ever since the early days of Twitter. The social network's official ToS permits users to run a parody account of a celebrity provided they explicitly mention on their profile that it's a fake account. From the report: After their removal, social media users took two Twitter to voice their displeasure with the hashtag #NoGulagForDarthPutinKGB -- a reference to the repressive Soviet state -- and it's seemingly worked, as both accounts are back today. Of course, for how long, and why they were removed in the first place are questions that remain unanswered.
AI

Facebook Spares Humans By Fighting Offensive Photos With AI (techcrunch.com) 127

An anonymous reader writes from a report via TechCrunch: Facebook tells TechCrunch that its artificial intelligence systems now report more offensive photos than humans do. Typically when users upload content that is deemed offensive, it has to be seen and flagged by at least one human worker or user. Such posts that violate terms of service can include content that is hate speech, threatening or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence. The content that workers have to dig through is obviously not great, and may lead to various psychological illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder. AI is helping to eliminate such a terrible job as it can scan images that are uploaded before anyone ever sees them. Facebook's AI already "helps rank News Feed stories, read aloud the content of photos to the vision impaired and automatically write closed captions for video ads that increase view time by 12 percent," writes TechCrunch. Facebook's Director of Engineering for Applied Machine Learning Joaquin Candela tells TechCrunch, "One thing that is interesting is that today we have more offensive photos being reported by AI algorithms than by people. The higher we push that to 100 percent, the fewer offensive photos have actually been seen by a human." One risk of such an automated system is that it could censor art and free expression that may be productive or beautiful, yet controversial. The other more obvious risk is that such a system could take jobs away from those in need.

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