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Electronic Frontier Foundation

US Customs and Border Protection Wants To Know Who You Are On Twitter (eff.org) 347

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Electronic Frontier Foundation: U.S. border control agents want to gather Facebook and Twitter identities from visitors from around the world. But this flawed plan would violate travelers' privacy, and would have a wide-ranging impact on freedom of expression -- all while doing little or nothing to protect Americans from terrorism. A proposal has been issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to collect social media handles from visitors to the United States from visa waiver countries. The Electronic Frontier Foundation opposes the proposal and has commented on it individually and as part of a larger coalition. "CBP specifically seeks 'information associated with your online presence -- Provider/Platform -- Social media identifier' in order to provider DHS 'greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections' for 'vetting purposes,'" reports EFF. "In our comments, we argue that would-be terrorists are unlikely to disclose social media identifiers that reveal publicly available posts expressing support for terrorism." They say this plan "would unfairly violate the privacy of innocent travelers," would cause "innocent travelers" to "engage in self-censorship, cutting back on their online activity out of fear of being wrongly judged by the U.S. government," and would lead to a "slippery slope, where CBP would require U.S. citizens and residents returning home to disclose their social media handles, or subject both foreign visitors and U.S. persons to invasive device searches at ports of entry with the intent of easily accessing any and all cloud data."
Twitter

Twitter Announces New Blocking and Filtering Features (wired.co.uk) 117

Twitter just began rolling out "new ways to control your experience," promising the two new features "will give you more control over what you see and who you interact with on Twitter." An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes a report from Wired UK: First up, notification settings will allow those using Twitter on the web or on desktop to limit the notifications they receive for @ mentions, RTs, and other interactions to just be from people they follow. The feature can be turned on through the notifications tab. Twitter is also expanding its quality filter -- also accessible through notifications. "When turned on, the filter can improve the quality of Tweets you see by using a variety of signals, such as account origin and behavior," the company's product manager Emil Leong said in a blog post.

In December 2015, the company changed its rules to explicitly ban "hateful conduct" for the first time, while back in February last year, Twitter's then-CEO Dick Costolo admitted the network needed to improve how it handled trolls and abuse. In a leaked memo he said: "I'm frankly ashamed of how poorly we've dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO. It's absurd. There's no excuse for it. I take full responsibility for not being more aggressive on this front. It's nobody else's fault but mine, and it's embarrassing."

Meanwhile, the Twitter account of Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales was hacked on Saturday.
Piracy

India Threatens 3-Year Jail Sentences For Viewing Blocked Torrents (intoday.in) 95

"It is official now. The punishment for rape is actually less..." writes an anonymous Slashdot reader, who adds that "Some users think that this is all the fault of Bollywood/Hollywood movie studios. They are abusing power, court and money..." India Today reports: The Indian government, with the help of internet service providers, and presumably under directives of court, has banned thousands of websites and URLs in the last five odd years. But until now if you somehow visited these "blocked URLs" all was fine. However, now if you try to visit such URLs and view the information, you may get a three-year jail sentence as well as invite a fine...

This is just for viewing a torrent file, or downloading a file from a host that may have been banned in India, or even for viewing an image on a file host like Imagebam. You don't have to download a torrent file, and then the actual videos or other files, which might have copyright. Just accessing information under a blocked URL will land you in jail and leave your bank account poorer.

While it's not clear how this will be enforced, visiting a blocked URL in India now leads to a warning that "Viewing, downloading, exhibiting or duplicating an illicit copy of the contents under this URL is punishable as an offence under the laws of India, including but not limited to under Sections 63, 63-A, 65 and 65-A of the Copyright Act, 1957 which prescribe imprisonment for 3 years and also fine of up to Rs. 3,00,000..."
Twitter

Twitter Has Suspended 235,000 Accounts Since February For Promoting Terrorism (theverge.com) 132

An anonymous reader writes: Twitter has suspended 235,000 accounts since February for promoting terrorism, the company said in a blog post today. "Daily suspensions are up over 80 percent since last year, with spikes in suspensions immediately following terrorist attacks," the company wrote. "Our response time for suspending reported accounts, the amount of time these accounts are on Twitter, and the number of followers they accumulate have all decreased dramatically." The company said it's also expanded the team that works on flagging such content, and claims to have made progress on stopping accounts from starting again under a new handle. In a previous post from February, Twitter said it had suspended 125,000 accounts since mid-2015.
Twitter

Former Twitter Employees: 'Abuse Problem' Comes From Their Culture Of Free Speech (buzzfeed.com) 465

Twitter complained of "inaccuracies in the details and unfair portrayals" in an article which described their service as "a honeypot for assholes." Buzzfeed interviewed 10 "high-level" former employees who detailed a company "Fenced in by an abiding commitment to free speech above all else and a unique product that makes moderation difficult and trolling almost effortless". An anonymous Slashdot reader summarizes their report: Twitter's commitment to free speech can be traced to employees at Google's Blogger platform who all went on to work at Twitter. They'd successfully fought for a company policy that "We don't get involved in adjudicating whether something is libel or slander... We'll do it if we believe we are required to by law." One former Twitter employee says "The Blogger brain trust's thinking was set in stone by the time they became Twitter Inc."

Twitter was praised for providing an uncensored voice during 2009 elections in Iran and the Arab Spring, and fought the secrecy of a government subpoena for information on their WikiLeaks account. The former of head of news at Twitter says "The whole 'free speech wing of the free speech party' thing -- that's not a slogan. That's deeply, deeply embedded in the DNA of the company... [Twitter executives] understand that this toxicity can kill them, but how do you draw the line? Where do you draw the line? I would actually challenge anyone to identify a perfect solution. But it feels to a certain extent that it's led to paralysis.

While Twitter now says they are working on the problem, Buzzfeed argues this "maximalist approach to free speech was integral to Twitter's rise, but quickly created the conditions for abuse... Twitter has made an ideology out of protecting its most objectionable users. That ethos also made it a beacon for the internet's most vitriolic personalities, who take particular delight in abusing those who use Twitter for their jobs."
Censorship

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo Secretly Censored Abusive Responses To President Obama, Says Report (buzzfeed.com) 308

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BuzzFeed: In 2015, then-Twitter CEO Dick Costolo secretly ordered employees to filter out abusive and hateful replies to President Barack Obama during a question and answer session, sources tell BuzzFeed News. According to a former senior Twitter employee, Costolo ordered employees to deploy an algorithm (which was built in-house by feeding it thousands of examples of abuse and harassing tweets) that would filter out abusive language directed at Obama. Another source said the media partnerships team also manually censored tweets, noting that Twitter's public quality-filtering algorithms were inconsistent. Two sources told BuzzFeed News that this decision was kept from senior company employees for fear they would object to the decision. According to sources, the decision upset some senior employees inside the company who strictly followed Twitter's long-standing commitment to unfettered free speech. A different source alleges that Twitter did the same thing during a question and answer with Caitlyn Jenner.
Twitter

Stopping Trolls Is 'Now Life and Death For Twitter', Argues Backchannel (backchannel.com) 637

"This is the year that Twitter's future will be determined," argues Backchannel's editorial director, noting that Twitter's revenue growth is slowing, and "None of the features that cofounder Jack Dorsey has introduced since he returned to the company as CEO last year have succeeded in attracting new users." But Backchannel suggests it's because the trolls "are winning," discouraging new sign-ups and driving existing customers to leave. "We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform, and we've sucked at it for years," Twitter's CEO wrote in an internal memo in 2015. Backchannel argues bluntly that Twitter "has a hate problem." New submitter mirandakatz writes: It's been exactly three years since Twitter first promised to solve its harassment problem. In those three years, the company has made countless such promises, introducing dozens of new "fixes" and even going so far as to ban notorious troll Milo Yiannopoulos last month. But still, abuse on Twitter continues, and stopping it is now critical to the platform's future success...
"Twitter did an excellent job of inventing a digital platform for realtime idea exchange, but it has yet to create the feature that allows the community itself to ferret out the abusers..." writes Backchannel. "And if it cannot figure out how to eradicate the harassers, Twitter's other challenges will remain intractable."
AI

Yahoo's New Anti-Abuse AI Outperforms Previous AI (wired.co.uk) 119

16.4% of the comments on Yahoo News are "abusive," according to human screeners. Now Yahoo has devised an abuse-detecting algorithm "that can accurately identify whether online comments contain hate speech or not," reports Wired UK: In 90 per cent of test cases Yahoo's algorithm was able to correctly identify that a comment was abusive... The company used a combination of machine learning and crowdsourced abuse detection to create an algorithm that trawled the comment sections of Yahoo News and Finance to sniff out abuse. As part of its project, Yahoo will be releasing the first publicly available curated database of online hate speech.
The machine-learning algorithm was "trained on a million Yahoo article comments," according to the article, and Slashdot reader AmiMoJo writes "The system could help AIs avoid being tricked into making abusive comments themselves, as Microsoft's Tay twitter bot did earlier this year."
Censorship

Chased Off of YouTube, Leaked 'No Man's Sky' Footage Runs to Pornhub (vice.com) 134

An anonymous reader quotes Vice:I always feel a little dirty when I look at leaked footage of any kind, but rarely so much as when I brought up Pornhub yesterday to check out a video featuring the hyped space exploration game No Man's Sky... I had to go to Pornhub, as this corner of the web was the only place I'd been able to find the footage after it'd been yanked off of DailyMotion, YouTube, and almost every other video hosting site...

The PornHub video shows 21 minutes of footage with awful resolution, and none of it's particularly exciting to watch (which may say something about the game)...

On July 7, when the game was ready to ship, No Man's Sky creator Sean Murray posted on Twitter "I'm so incredibly proud of this tiny team. 4 years of emotions," then addressed the leaked footage on Friday, tweeting "We've spent years filling No Man's Sky with surprises. You've spent years waiting. Please don't spoil it for yourself..." A later Twitter post added "Take a break from reading about it, and picking vids apart. You can experience for yourself so soon."
Communications

Snowden Questions WikiLeaks' Methods of Releasing Leaks (pcworld.com) 165

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PCWorld: Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden, has censured WikiLeaks' release of information without proper curation. On Thursday, Snowden, who has embarrassed the U.S. government with revelations of widespread NSA surveillance, said that WikiLeaks was mistaken in not at least modestly curating the information it releases. "Democratizing information has never been more vital, and @Wikileaks has helped. But their hostility to even modest curation is a mistake," Snowden said in a tweet. WikiLeaks shot back at Snowden that "opportunism won't earn you a pardon from Clinton [and] curation is not censorship of ruling party cash flows." The whistleblowing site appeared to defend itself earlier on Thursday while referring to its "accuracy policy." In a Twitter message it said that it does "not tamper with the evidentiary value of important historical archives." WikiLeaks released nearly 20,000 previously unseen DNC emails last week, which suggest that committee officials had favored Clinton over her rival Senator Bernie Sanders. The most recent leak consists of 29 voicemails from DNC officials.
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) 74

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) 110

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.

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