Category Archives: The Web

Chinese official urges Russia and Central Asian allies to control internet in order to prevent ‘external forces’ from provoking ‘a new wave of color revolutions’

Edward Wong reports for The New York Times:

Guo Shengkun, China’s minister of public security, said at a six-nation security conference in Tajikistan that Russia and Central Asian countries must strictly control the Internet and prevent “external forces” from trying to overthrow governments and “provoke a new wave of color revolutions,” according to news agency reports on Friday. Mr. Guo, who was apparently referring to Western nations, made the remarks at a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the security alliance that is composed of China, Russia and four Central Asian nations that were once part of the Soviet Union.

“This is a serious threat to the sovereignty and security of countries in the region and is a shared concern of the S.C.O. member states,” Mr. Guo said, according to Reuters. The news agency quoted Mr. Guo as saying that “external forces are using the social-economic contradictions and problems” to try “to overthrow the authorities.” Ta Kung Pao, a Hong Kong newspaper that has at times supported the Chinese Communist Party, also reported the remarks.

Facebank? Facebook targets financial services

Sally Davies, Duncan Robinson and Hannah Kuchler reports for the Financial Times:

Facebook headquartersNot content with being just a platform to host cat photos and status updates, Facebook is readying itself to provide financial services in the form of remittances and electronic money. The social network is only weeks away from obtaining regulatory approval in Ireland for a service that would allow its users to store money on Facebook and use it to pay and exchange money with others, according to several people involved in the process.

The authorisation from Ireland’s central bank to become an “e-money” institution would allow Facebook to issue units of stored monetary value that represent a claim against the company. This e-money would be valid throughout Europe via a process known as “passporting”. Facebook has also discussed potential partnerships with at least three London start-ups that offer international money transfer services online and via smartphones: TransferWise, Moni Technologies and Azimo, according to three people involved in the discussions.


Illinois Police Launch Anti-Terror Style Manhunt For Owner of Parody Twitter Account That Mocked Mayor

From I Acknowledge:


[...] Peoria Police Chief Steve Settingsgaard said officers were investigating the creator of the Twitter account for false personation of a public official. It’s hard to believe but true that the offense is punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and up to a year in jail.

The @Peoriamayor account has only been around since late February or early March, had just 50 followers and had issued around the same number of tweets.  The account bore a photo of Ardis and a bio that stated he enjoyed serving the city and included his city email address.

The content of tweets, or entries on the account, mocked the Mayor over sex and drugs — comparing Ardis to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (Ford’s drug use while in office became public).   By March 10, the bio of the Twitter account was changed to indicate it was a parody account.

The account was even suspended by twitter by the end of March so there was no risk of further tweets. But this didn’t stop local police launching anti-terror style raids on homes and workplaces, seizing personal property, for the sake of the Mayor’s fragile ego.


Jim Hightower: NSA Spying Is Here to Stay

Jim Hightower writes for

[...] The three billion phone calls made in the U.S. each day are snatched up by the agency, which stores each call’s metadata (phone numbers of the parties, date and time, length of call, etc.) for five years. Each day telecom giants turn over metadata on every call they have processed. Every out-of-country call and email from (or to) a U.S. citizen is grabbed by NSA computers, and agents are authorized to listen to or read any of them.

The agency searches for and seizes nearly everything we do on the Internet. Without bothering with the constitutional nicety of obtaining a warrant, its XKeyscore program scoops up some 40 billion Internet records every month and adds them to its digital storehouse, including our emails, Google searches, websites visited, Microsoft Word documents sent, etc. NSA’s annual budget includes a quarter-billion dollars for “corporate-partner access” – i.e., payments to obtain this mass of material from corporate computers.

Snowden says that in his days as an analyst, he could sit at his computer and tap into any American’s Internet activity – even the President’s. The sheer volume of information sucked up by the agency is so large that as of 2008, it maintained 150 data processing sites around the world. NSA’s budget is an official secret, but a Snowden document shows that it gets about $11 billion a year in direct appropriations, with more support funneled through the Pentagon and other agencies.

President Obama recently announced an “overhaul” of the NSA’s collection of bulk phone records. The reform may require phone companies to store metadata it collects for 18 months for the NSA’s use with the approval from a special court. This might sound reasonable, but it is still gathering bulk data on millions of innocent Americans – by corporations for the government. And what about Internet, email and other surveillance? NSA is too heavily vested in its programs; it is not going to give up spying on us.


Yes, Net Neutrality Is A Solution To An Existing Problem

MarvinAmm writes for TechDirt:

While AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon have argued — with incredible message discipline — that network neutrality is “a solution in search of a problem,” that’s simply not true.

There are many concrete examples of network neutrality violations around the world. These network neutrality violations include ISPs blocking websites and applications, ISPs discriminating in favor of some applications and against others, and ISPs charging arbitrary tolls on technology companies.

We have seen network neutrality violations all over the world.


The Comcast Merger Isn’t About Lines On A Map; It’s About Controlling The Delivery Of Information

Kate Cox writes for Consumerist:

(knight725)Comcast and proposed merger partner Time Warner Cable claim they don’t compete because their service areas don’t overlap, and that a combined company would happily divest itself of a few million customers to keeps its pay-TV market share below 30%, allowing other companies that don’t currently compete with Comcast to keep not competing with Comcast. This narrow, shortsighted view fails to take into account the full breadth of what’s involved in this merger — broadcast TV, cable TV, network technology, in-home technology, access to the Internet, and much more. In addition to asking whether or not regulators should permit Comcast to add 10-12 million customers, there is a more important question at the core of this deal: Should Comcast be allowed to control both what content you consume and how you get to consume it?


Google, once disdainful of lobbying, now a master of Washington influence

Tom Hamburger and Matea Gold write for The Washington Post:

Virginia Mayo, AP[...] The behind-the-scenes machinations demonstrate how Google — once a lobbying weakling — has come to master a new method of operating in modern-day Washington, where spending on traditional lobbying is rivaled by other, less visible forms of influence. That system includes financing sympathetic research at universities and think tanks, investing in nonprofit advocacy groups across the political spectrum and funding pro-business coalitions cast as public-interest projects. The rise of Google as a top-tier Washington player fully captures the arc of change in the influence business.

Nine years ago, the company opened a one-man lobbying shop, disdainful of the capital’s pay-to-play culture. Since then, Google has soared to near the top of the city’s lobbying ranks, placing second only to General Electric in corporate lobbying expenditures in 2012 and fifth place in 2013. The company gives money to nearly 140 business trade groups, advocacy organizations and think tanks, according to a Post analysis of voluntary disclosures by the company, which, like many corporations, does not reveal the size of its donations. That’s double the number of groups Google funded four years ago.

This summer, Google will move to a new Capitol Hill office, doubling its Washington space to 55,000 square feet — roughly the size of the White House. Google’s increasingly muscular Washington presence matches its expanded needs and ambitions as it has fended off a series of executive- and legislative-branch threats to regulate its activities and well-funded challenges by its corporate rivals. Today, Google is working to preserve its rights to collect consumer data — and shield it from the government — amid a backlash over revelations that the National Security Agency tapped Internet companies as part of its surveillance programs. And it markets cloud storage and other services to federal departments, including intelligence agencies and the Pentagon.


Most Senators Overseeing the Comcast-Time Warner Deal Have Taken Money From Both

Alex Park writes for Mother Jones:

Out of the committee’s 18 members, 15 have accepted donations from at least one of the two media giants since the 2010 election cycle; 12 have received money from both. The average contribution over that time: $16,285. Democrats were the biggest recipients, taking an average of $18,531 from the two cable and internet giants, nearly twice as much as their Republican counterparts.


NSA Said to Have Used Heartbleed Bug, Exposing Consumers

Michael Riley reports for Bloomberg:

Credit: Reuters/Kai PfaffenbachThe U.S. National Security Agency knew for at least two years about a flaw in the way that many websites send sensitive information, now dubbed the Heartbleed bug, and regularly used it to gather critical intelligence, two people familiar with the matter said. The NSA’s decision to keep the bug secret in pursuit of national security interests threatens to renew the rancorous debate over the role of the government’s top computer experts.

Heartbleed appears to be one of the biggest glitches in the Internet’s history, a flaw in the basic security of as many as two-thirds of the world’s websites. Its discovery and the creation of a fix by researchers five days ago prompted consumers to change their passwords, the Canadian government to suspend electronic tax filing and computer companies including Cisco Systems Inc. to Juniper Networks Inc. to provide patches for their systems.

Putting the Heartbleed bug in its arsenal, the NSA was able to obtain passwords and other basic data that are the building blocks of the sophisticated hacking operations at the core of its mission, but at a cost. Millions of ordinary users were left vulnerable to attack from other nations’ intelligence arms and criminal hackers.


Leaked YouTube calls: the newest way for Russia and the west to trade barbs?

Paul Lewis writes for The Guardian:

The recent spate of diplomatic phone calls intercepted and then uploaded on the internet could be viewed as a benign, even amusing, form of cyber warfare. What began as an act of apparent Russian chutzpah, in the leaking of US diplomat Victoria Nuland’s “fuck the EU” comments in February, has quickly escalated into something resembling a trend. In the months since, recordings posted on YouTube have made public the private calls of top diplomats, politicians and even heads of state from the USEU, Estonia,UkraineRussia and Turkey.

In every case, the calls have been dismissed by the victims as a hoax, or simply left unverified, although most analysts believe they are authentic. Whoever is responsible for the respective leaks has not yet confessed. The latest call to appear on YouTube is a leak with a twist. For the first time, Russia was not the suspected culprit behind the hacking and release of a call, but the target. Immediately it led to speculation that Washington might be entering what might be termed a “calls race”, reaping retaliation on Russia for its suspected role in the other leaks.


Heartbleed: Moving Toward Government Control of the Internet

Kurt Nimmo writes for Infowars:

Dire warnings about Heartbleed, a serious internet security risk affecting millions of websites, is echoing across the internet today. Described as a flaw in OpenSSL, the open source encryption technology used by the vast majority of web servers, Heartbleed is said to put HTTPS e-commerce websites at risk.

The bug “can give hackers access to personal data like credit card numbers, usernames, passwords, and, perhaps most importantly, cryptographic keys—which can allow hackers to impersonate or monitor a server,” writes Lily Hay Newman.

The risk was discovered by a Google researcher at Codenomicon, a Finnish company specializing in the development of “fuzzing tools” to ensure computer network security. The Codenomicon client base includes government and the defense industry and, as noted below, has suspicious connections to Obama, DHS, and the FBI.

The current buzz about Heartbleed plays into an ongoing government propaganda campaign to forge a public-private cybersecurity infrastructure.


Wiretap Proponent (and War Criminal) Condoleezza Rice Joins Dropbox’s Board

Brian Feldman writes for The Wire:

The big story out of Silicon Valley on Wednesday was that Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, was joining the board of popular cloud storage company Dropbox.

Tucked away near the end of a Businessweek article on the startup is news of Rice taking a fourth seat on the board:

The former secretary of state’s consulting firm, RiceHadleyGates, has been advising the startup on management issues for the last year. Now she’ll help the company think about such matters as international expansion and privacy, an issue that dogs every cloud company in the age of Edward Snowden and the NSA.

You know, privacy and the NSA. The same NSA that, as Ars Technica points out,Rice herself authorized to wiretap UN officials and other domestic targets without warrants. She definitely seems like the right person to help craft Dropbox’s privacy policies.


Is The Internet Addictive?

European Court Strikes Down ‘Invasive’ Law Allowing Governments To Collect Private Metadata

From AFP:

barrosoThe European Court of Justice on Tuesday struck down an EU-wide law on how private data can be collected and stored, judging it too invasive — despite its usefulness in combating organized crime and terrorism. By allowing EU governments to access the data, “the directive interferes in a particularly serious manner with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data,” the court said.

The decision to scupper the Data Retention Directive, which was issued in 2006, comes as Europe weighs concerns over electronic snooping in the wake of revelations about systematic US snooping of email and telephone communications. The directive called for the European Union’s 28 member states to store individuals’ Internet, mobile telephone and text metadata — the time, date, duration and destination, but not the content of the communications themselves — for six months to two years, with national intelligence and police agencies having access.



Advertising exec: If you block ads, then websites may block you

Ms. Smith writes for Network World:

…An interesting, yet infuriating, CNET interview in which Mike Zaneis, general counsel for Interactive Advertising Bureau, described a “counterattack” plan to start “blocking the blockers.”

Although Zaneis makes the threat of ad-blockers sound dire, some sites experience “less than 5%” of users blocking ads. Yet he more-or-less said ad blockers are the devil and will be the reason why more websites will wall-off their content behind a paywall or choose to block content from surfers who block ads. In the block the ad-blockers scenario, instead accessing the content, there could be an error message saying you can’t see it because you have enabled an ad-blocker.

IAB’s “counterattack” plan has far-reaching potential since IAB is not some little group; it “is comprised of more than 600 leading media and technology companies that are responsible for selling 86% of online advertising in the United States.”

Although it seems like the acceptable ads manifesto could be the best compromise as non-annoying ads would not be blocked, Zaneis called the manifesto “a ransom note. These people are no better than Internet pirates facilitating the theft of content. To do it under the guise of ‘these ads aren’t acceptable’ is a complete facade. It’s a sham. They block all ads by default.”


Inside the deep, ugly world of anti-Semitic YouTube

Gaby Dunn writes for The Daily Dot:

undefined[...] Anti-Semitic communities represent the worst of YouTube. Just like Reddit, if not worse, YouTube mostly turns a blind eye to racism in the name of free speech, allowing vigorously uninformed and hateful comments to flourish.

Of course, YouTube’s Community Guidelines prohibit hate speech, defined as “speech which attacks or demeans a group based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, and sexual orientation/gender identity.” But one stroll through pretty much any popular video inevitably validates Godwin’s Law: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”

But it’s not just YouTube’s comment section—long considered one of the filthiest places on the Web—that’s inundated with accusations that the Jews own the banks and control the media. There are popular anti-Semitic vloggers, conspiracy videos, documentarians, “comedy” videos, and more.

Delve into one of the darker parts of a community mostly known for cat videos and there’s a thriving, terrifying world we’ve lulled ourselves into thinking doesn’t exist.


Big Data is Big Money

“Those seeking profits, were they given total freedom, would not be the ones to trust to keep government pure and our rights secure. Indeed, it has always been those seeking wealth who were the source of corruption in government. No other depositories of power have ever yet been found, which did not end in converting to their own profit the earnings of those committed to their charge.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

Wearable Tech: The Surveillance Grid Of The Future?

Daniel Taylor writes for Old-Thinker News:

Smartphones are fading. Wearables are next” – CNN Money

Edward Snowden’s now infamous NSA leaks have sparked intense debate across the world. The leaks confirmed what many already knew; The NSA is listening to our phone calls, monitoring social networks and more.

This is only the beginning of an Orwellian, Minority Report future.

In the near future, consumers will be adorning themselves with wearable technology that will weave an incredibly detailed picture of their lives. A cloud of information will float around you with details on sleep habits, what you ate for breakfast, who you are meeting for dinner, your heart rate, and much more. Insurance companies will likely harvest this data to adjust your rates. Governments will undoubtedly hack into this cloud of personal data to track down dissidents. Marketers will have access to a goldmine of personalized information that will be used to market products.

These wearables are sold to the public as a means of making life easier, which they undoubtedly will. With that convenience there will be a price to pay in privacy.


UK Gang Members Love Social Media Too

Joseph Cox writes for Vice:

The criminal underworld isn’t shy when it comes to using social media. Mexican drug cartels intimidate citizens over Twitter, British extremists document jihad holidays on Instagram, and Brazilian drug dealers flaunt their assault rifles and earnings on Facebook.

Those involved in the UK underworld are no different, flaunting pictures of gang tattoos, wads of cash, and sports cars publicly and on pretty much every online platform their phone’s coverage can reach.


Loomio: an Occupy inspired democratic decision-making app

Cyber-bullies could face two years in jail under new internet troll rules

Samuel Gibbs reports for the Guardian:

People convicted of cyber-bullying and text message abuse could face up to two years in prison, under plans backed by the government. The justice secretary, Chris Grayling, has backed an amendment to the criminal justice bill that would target new rules at combating trolls that sexually harass and verbally abuse people on the internet or via mobile phones in England and Wales.

The amendment, due to be discussed in parliament on Thursday, was proposed by the Conservative MP for Ealing Central and Acton Angie Bray, after one of her constituents said her 14-year-old daughter had been “verbally raped” by 2,000 obscene texts sent by an older man, who escaped conviction. “Just tabled amendment to criminal justice bill to make life just a bit harder for cyber-bullies and sex pests using texts to harass victims,” said Bray on Twitter.


BBC poll considers web freedoms and surveillance in 17 countries around the world

‘Web Users Treat Conspiracy Theories As Seriously As News’, Say Scientists

Tom Porter reports of the International Business Times:

People are as likely to spend as much time online discussing bogus rumours and conspiracy theories as genuine news, as social media is awash with misinformation, scientists claim.

A team of computational social scientists from Northeastern University in Boston launched the study to establish how conspiracy theories and rumours spread online, and which people are most likely to believe them.

The study follows comments last year by the World Economic Forum that “massive digital misinformation” constituted one of the biggest global threats to security.

The team identified three main sources of information online: mainstream news media, partisan political commentary sites and alternative information sites, including spoof news sites that spread fake stories.


Psychiatrist links selfie addiction to narcissism and mental illness

Fiona Keating reports for the International Business Times:

Miley Cyrus is no stranger to the selfieThe growing trend of taking smartphone selfies is linked to mental health conditions that focus on a person’s obsession with looks.

According to psychiatrist Dr David Veal: “Two out of three of all the patients who come to see me with Body Dysmorphic Disorder since the rise of camera phones have a compulsion to repeatedly take selfies.

“Cognitive behavioural therapy is used to help a patient to recognise the reasons for his or her compulsive behaviour and then to learn how to moderate it,” he told the Sunday Mirror.

19-year-old Danny Bowman’s selfie addiction spiralled out of control, spending ten hours a day taking up to 200 snaps of himself on his iPhone.


NSA chief General Keith Alexander officially retires

Spencer Ackerman writes for the Guardian:

Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images[...] Alexander came to the NSA in 2005, as one of the service’s first digitally proficient general officers. For most of his tenure he expanded the agency’s powers and influence tremendously, and in 2010 he added to his duties as the first leader of Cyber Command, a new organization devoted to defending military networks and nearly inextricable from NSA.

But Alexander’s run at the NSA will be forever linked to the revelations of its global surveillance dragnets. Snowden’s leaks to the Guardian, the Washington Post, First Look and other news outlets made the NSA infamous worldwide and yielded a consensus domestically against the bulk collection of US phone data. Defense secretary Chuck Hagel said the Snowden leaks had created “one of the most challenging periods” in the NSA’s history.


Facebook Accused of ‘Astroturfing’ Reddit to Silence Criticism of Oculus Purchase

Paul Joseph Watson writes for Infowars:

Facebook has been accused of “astroturfing” Reddit by flooding the website with fake comments praising the company’s move to purchase virtual reality headset maker Oculus in a $2 billion dollar deal.

Last night it was announced that the social networking giant had agreed to acquire Oculus for $400 million in cash and $1.6 billion in shares.

Reddit users responded to the acquisition by expressing fears that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s control of Oculus could ruin the company’s progress.

Such concerns were met with suspicious rebuttals from several different accounts which used identical language and appeared to rely on canned answers.


British firms ‘failing on broadband speeds’

From the Press Association:

Firms failing on broadband speedsBroadband companies are expecting customers to pay for speeds they may never get, with nearly half of people suffering a slow connection, according to Which?

The consumer group is calling on providers to give their customers “the speed and service they pay for” after a study found 63% experience problems with their broadband and 45% suffer slow speeds.

…Which? is campaigning for providers to give consumers written speed estimates at the start of the contract and to allow them to leave a contract without penalty if they do not get that speed and fix any loss of connection as quickly as possible with refunds for loss of service.


More News Is Being Written By Robots Than You Think

Jason Dorrier writes for Singularity Hub:

robot-scribe-pens-gutenberg-bible (1)

Software is writing news stories with increasing frequency. In a recent example, an LA Times writer-bot wrote and posted a snippet about an earthquake three minutes after the event. The LA Times claims they were first to publish anything on the quake, and outside the USGS, they probably were.

The LA Times example isn’t special because it’s the first algorithm to write a story on a major news site. With the help of Chicago startup and robot writing firm, Narrative Science, algorithms have basically been passing the Turing test online for the last few years.

This is possible because some kinds of reporting are formulaic. You take a publicly available source, crunch it down to the highlights, and translate it for readers using a few boiler plate connectors. Hopefully, this makes it more digestible.

Indeed, Kristian Hammond, cofounder and CTO of Narrative Science, thinks some 90% of the news could be written by computers by 2030.


Kim Dotcom launches political party in New Zealand

From BBC News:

Kim Dotcom interviewed by reportersKim Dotcom, whose site MegaUpload was shut down by US authorities in 2012, has formally launched a political party in New Zealand.

The Internet Party was a “movement for the freedom of the internet and technology, for privacy and political reform”, the tycoon said.

New Zealand goes to the polls in September.

Mr Dotcom is fighting extradition to the US over charges of copyright infringement on a “massive scale”.


The YouTube ‘Start A False Flag War With Syria’ Leaked Recording That Erdogan Wanted Banned

Tyler Durden writes for Zero Hedge:

As we noted here, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan had blocked Twitter access to his nation ahead of what was rumored to be a “spectacular” leak before this weekend’s elections. Then this morning, amid a mad scramble, he reportedly (despite the nation’s court ruling the bans illegal) blocked YouTube access. However, by the magic of the interwebs, we have the ‘leaked’ clip and it is clear why he wanted it blocked/banned. As the rough translation explains, it purports to be a conversation between key Turkish military and political leaders discussing what appears to be a false flag attack to launch war with Syria.

Among the most damning sections:

Ahmet Davutolu: “Prime Minister said that in current conjuncture, this attack (on Suleiman Shah Tomb) must be seen as an opportunity for us.”

Hakan Fidan: “I’ll send 4 men from Syria, if that’s what it takes. I’ll make up a cause of war by ordering a missile attack on Turkey; we can also prepare an attack on Suleiman Shah Tomb if necessary.”

Feridun Sinirliolu: “Our national security has become a common, cheap domestic policy outfit.”

Ya?ar Güler: “It’s a direct cause of war. I mean, what’re going to do is a direct cause of war.”