Category Archives: The Web

Mass protests force Hungary to retreat from internet tax plans

Roland Moore-Colyer reports for V3:

‘Hungary has cancelled plans to introduce a tax on internet data traffic after large-scale protests in Budapest.

Demonstrators opposed to the proposed levy of 150 forints (40p) per gigabyte of data traffic passing through data centres in the country threw old computer parts at the offices of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban told Kossuth Radio: “This tax in its current form cannot be introduced. If the people not only dislike something but also consider it unreasonable then it should not be done.”‘

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Stanford Libraries unearths the earliest U.S. website

Gabrielle Karampelas writes for Standford University:

Some of the earliest pages from the World Wide Web have been restored and are once again browsable, providing a glimpse of how the web once operated.  Stanford Libraries has made these pages available with Stanford Wayback, a customized version of an open source platform that enables long-term access to archived web assets.

[...] The release of Stanford Wayback is part of the Libraries’ web archiving initiative, which aims to collect, preserve and provide access to web content that is at risk of being updated, replaced or lost.  Subject specialists have been actively capturing websites, as well as social media pages, that have significant research and teaching value, including topical collections in government documents, African politics, Middle East politics, digital games and virtual worlds.’

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White House Aims to Replace Website Passwords With Federal Authentication Scheme

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

‘The White House has announced today that a long-standing plan to roll out a federal “Internet ID” authentication scheme that would be used to log in to all websites across the Internet will move forward, and the service will launch in six to twelve months.

“We simply have to kill off the password,” insisted White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel. The initiative began in 2011, with an eye toward public-private plans, but seems now to be centering on wearable authentication bracelets that Americans would apparently get instead of passwords.’

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Amazon-CIA $600 Million Deal Facing Scrutiny: “What’s the CIA Doing on Amazon’s Cloud?”

The Institute for Public Accuracy reports:

‘The billboard’s launch — asking “the $600 million question: What’s the CIA Doing on Amazon’s Cloud?” — marks the escalation of a campaign by the online activist organizations RootsAction.org and ExposeFacts.org. The groups are calling for accountability from Amazon in an effort to inform the public of serious privacy implications of the Amazon-CIA collaboration. (ExposeFacts.org is a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy.)

The positioning of the 48-foot-wide billboard on Amazon’s doorstep at Fairview Avenue and Valley Street in Seattle follows a RootsAction petition calling for Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos to make a legally binding commitment to Amazon’s commercial customers that it will not provide customer data to the CIA.

Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer. “The same company that stores vast quantities of customer records and even provides cloud storage services also stores the CIA’s surveillance data — yet the actual terms of the Amazon-CIA agreement are secret,” said Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and a co-founder of RootsAction.org.’

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Hungarians take to the streets to protest “internet tax”

Zoltan Sipos reports for Index on Censorship:

Hungarians gathered in Budapest on Sunday to protest plans to introduce a tax on internet bandwidth. (Photo: 100,000 Against the Internet Tax /Facebook)‘The draft law proposed by Orban’s government would levy a fee of 150 forints (£0.40; €0.50; $0.60) per gigabyte of data traffic. In the face of public outrage, ruling party Fidesz promised that the tax will be capped at 700 forints for consumers and 5,000 forints for businesses. However, this did not calm the angry protesters.

Sunday’s rally that drew thousands of people to the Hungarian captial’s city center. The peaceful protest became heated when some demonstrators marched to the Fidesz headquarters, and broke the windows of the building with old computers and peripherals.

This protest was arguably the largest anti-government demonstration since 2010, when Viktor Orban came to power. In contrast with other protests, the gatherings denouncing the internet tax were not organized by the weak, discredited and fragmented opposition.’

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Verizon’s ‘Perma-Cookie’ Is a Privacy-Killing Machine

Robert McMillan reports for Wired:

‘Verizon Wireless has been subtly altering the web traffic of its wireless customers for the past two years, inserting a string of about 50 letters, numbers, and characters into data flowing between these customers and the websites they visit.

The company—one the country’s largest wireless carriers, providing cell phone service for about 123 million subscribers—calls this a Unique Identifier Header, or UIDH. It’s a kind of short-term serial number that advertisers can use to identify you on the web, and it’s the lynchpin of the company’s internet advertising program. But critics say that it’s also a reckless misuse of Verizon’s power as an internet service provider—something that could be used as a trump card to obviate established privacy tools such as private browsing sessions or “do not track” features.’

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Couch potatoes have killed the internet dream

John Naughton writes for The Guardian:

‘[...] To those of us who were accustomed to thinking of the internet as a glorious, distributed, anarchic, many-to-many communication network in which anyone could become a global publisher, corporate gatekeepers had lost their power and peer-to-peer sharing was becoming the liberating norm, Labovitz’s brusque summary comes as a rude shock. Why? Because what he was really saying is that the internet is well on its way to being captured by giant corporations – just as the Columbia law professor Tim Wu speculated it might be in The Master Switch, his magisterial history of 20th-century communications technologies.

In that book, Wu recounted the history of telephone, movie, radio and TV technologies in the US. All of them had started out as creative, anarchic, open and innovative technologies but over time each had been captured by corporate interests. In some cases (eg the telephone) this happened with the co-operation of the state, but in most cases it happened because visionary entrepreneurs offered consumers propositions that they found irresistible. But the result was always the same: corporate capture of the technology and the medium. And the most insidious thing, Wu wrote, was that this process of closure doesn’t involve any kind of authoritarian takeover. It comes, not as a bitter pill, but as a “sweet pill, as a tabloid, easy to swallow”. Most of the corporate masters of 20th-century media delivered a consumer product that was better than what went before – which is what consumers went for and what led these industries towards closure.’

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“Women Are Being Driven Offline”: Feminist Anita Sarkeesian Terrorized for Critique of Video Games

‘Anita Sarkeesian, a prominent feminist critic of video games, was forced to cancel a speech at Utah State University last week after the school received an email threatening to carry out “the deadliest shooting in American history” at the event. The email sender wrote: “feminists have ruined my life and I will have my revenge.” The sender used the moniker Marc Lepine, the name of a man who killed 14 women, most of them female engineering students, in a mass shooting in Montreal in 1989. Sarkeesian canceled the talk after being told that under Utah law, campus police could not prevent people from bringing guns. We speak to Sarkeesian about the incident, the “Gamergate” controversy, and her campaign to expose misogyny, sexism and violence against female characters in video games despite repeated physical threats. “Online harassment, especially gendered online harassment, is an epidemic,” Sarkeesian says. “Women are being driven out, they’re being driven offline; this isn’t just in gaming, this is happening across the board online, especially with women who participate in or work in male-dominated industries.”‘ (Democracy Now!)

UK police use loophole to hack phones and email

Dominic Kennedy reports for The Times:

‘Police are hacking into hundreds of people’s voicemails, text messages and emails without their knowledge, The Times has discovered.

Forces are using a loophole in surveillance laws that allows them to see stored messages without obtaining a warrant from the home secretary.

Civil liberties campaigners reacted with concern to the disclosure that police were snooping on personal messages so often, without any external monitoring and with few safeguards.

Surveillance laws protect the public from having live phone messages, texts and emails accessed by police unless a warrant is granted by the home secretary.’

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Citizenfour: Laura Poitras on the Crypto Tools That Made Her Snowden Film Possible

Andy Greenberg writes for Wired:

‘As a journalist, Laura Poitras was the quiet mastermind behind the publication of Edward Snowden’s unprecedented NSA leak. As a filmmaker, her new movieCitizenfour makes clear she’s one of the most important directors working in documentary today. And when it comes to security technology, she’s a serious geek.

In the closing credits of Citizenfour, Poitras took the unusual step of adding an acknowledgment of the free software projects that made the film possible: The roll call includes the anonymity software Tor, the Tor-based operating system Tails, GPG encryption, Off-The-Record (OTR) encrypted instant messaging, hard disk encryption software Truecrypt, and Linux. All of that describes a technical setup that goes well beyond the precautions taken by most national security reporters, not to mention documentary filmmakers.

Poitras argues that without those technologies, neither her reporting on the Snowden leaks nor her film itself would have been possible. In an interview ahead of the October 24th opening of Citizenfour in theaters, she talked about the importance of those crypto tools, how to make a film in the shadow of the NSA, and a new era of high-level whistleblowing.’

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National Crime Agency director general: UK snooping powers are too weak

Vikram Dodd reports for The Guardian:

Keith Bristow‘Britons must accept a greater loss of digital freedoms in return for greater safety from serious criminals and terrorists in the internet age, according to the country’s top law enforcement officer.

Keith Bristow, director general of the National Crime Agency, said in an interview with the Guardian that it would be necessary to win public consent for new powers to monitor data about emails and phone calls.

Warning that the biggest threats to public safety are migrating to the internet and that crime fighters are scrambling to keep up, the NCA boss said he accepted he had not done a good enough job explaining to the public why the greater powers were necessary.’

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Turkish President Erdogan: ‘I am increasingly against the internet every day’

Heather Saul reports for The Independent:

‘The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has defended his government’s efforts to control online speech, telling a press freedom conference: “I am increasingly against the Internet every day.” Mr Erdoğan’s comments came during an “unprecedented” meeting with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Press Institute (IPI).

The meeting, which also included Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ, took place as the Turkish parliament voted on military action in Syria. Turkey’s leaders “aggressively” defended its record on press freedom during the 90-minute conference, and criticised various media outlets for “polarising and distorting coverage of recent events” such as the Gezi Park anti-government rallies.’

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The US government vs The Internet

Anne Flaherty reports for The Associated Press:

‘Should the company that supplies your Internet access be allowed to cut deals with online services such as Netflix, Amazon or YouTube to move their content faster?

The United States Federal Communications Commission is tackling that question right now after the public submitted a record 3.7 million comments on the subject – more than double the number filed with the regulatory agency after Janet Jackson’s infamous wardrobe malfunction at the 2004 Super Bowl.

The FCC’s chairman, former industry lobbyist and venture capitalist Tom Wheeler, says financial arrangements between broadband providers and content sites might be OK so long as the agreement is “commercially reasonable” and companies disclose publicly how they prioritise internet traffic.

But not everyone agrees, with Netflix and much of the public accusing the FCC of handing the internet over to the highest bidders.’

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What are Theresa May’s new ‘extremism disruption orders’?

Alan Travis writes for The Guardian:

‘“Theresa May will also announce that the Conservative manifesto will contain pledges to introduce banning orders for extremist groups and extremism disruption orders for extremists who spread hate but do not break existing laws.” Conservative briefing note.

The home secretary’s manifesto plan to silence extremists by banning their access to the web and television is cast far wider than the Islamist “preachers of hate” of tabloid headlines. As David Cameron pointed out, the Conservatives now want to look at the “full spectrum of extremism” and not just the “hard end” of that spectrum that counter-terrorism policy has focused on up to now.

The difference is spelled out in the detail of the policy, where it says that it is intended to catch not just those who “spread or incite hatred” on grounds of gender, race or religion but also those who undertake “harmful activities” for the “purpose of overthrowing democracy”.’

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Thought Crime: UK Leadership Wants To Ban Predicted ‘Extremists’ From Social Media, TV, Events

Mike Masnick writes for Techdirt:

Theresa May, the current UK Home Secretary, has announced that, if re-elected, her party (the Conservatives) will push for “extremist disruption orders” which would effectively ban people declared “extremist” (using a very broad definition) from using social media or appearing on TV.

Extremists will have to get posts on Facebook and Twitter approved in advance by the police under sweeping rules planned by the Conservatives.

They will also be barred from speaking at public events if they represent a threat to “the functioning of democracy”, under the new Extremist Disruption Orders.

The broad definitions here matter. Part of the plan is to make such rules cover a wide variety of groups and individuals, based on what the government “reasonably believes” they may be up to.’

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Apple Still Has Plenty of Your Data for the Feds

Micah Lee writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Apple Still Has Plenty of Your Data for the Feds‘In a much-publicized open letter last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook pledged to protect user privacy with improved encryption on iPhones and iPads and a hard line toward government agents. It was a huge and welcome step toward thwarting the surveillance state, but it also seriously oversold Apple’s commitment to privacy.

Yes, Apple launched a tough-talking new privacy site and detailed a big improvement to encryption in its mobile operating system iOS 8: Text messages, photos, contacts, and call history are now encrypted with the user’s passcode, whereas previously they were not. This follows encryption improvements by Apple’s competitors Google and Yahoo.’

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Inventor of World Wide Web warns of threat to internet

AFP reports:

‘The British inventor of the World Wide Web warned on Saturday that the freedom of the internet is under threat by governments and corporations interested in controlling the web.

Tim Berners-Lee, a computer scientist who invented the web 25 years ago, called for a bill of rights that would guarantee the independence of the internet and ensure users’ privacy.’

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Tired of Being Demonized, Muslims on Twitter Apologize for Algebra, Coffee, and Soap

Kristina Bravo reports for Takepart:

‘To counter prejudice, some followers of Islam have taken to Twitter with a new hashtag: #MuslimApologies.

Muslims this week began apologizing on social media for algebra (named after a book by mathematician Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Musa Al-Khwarizmi), shampoo (first brought to England by a Muslim merchant), “amazing architecture,” and other innovations made possible by members of the Islamic faith throughout history. The point? That Muslims, of whom there are about 1.6 billion, shouldn’t be blamed for the heinous crimes of a few.’

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Alabama high schools secretly monitoring students’ social media accounts ‘after tip-off from the NSA?

Annabel Grossman reports for The Daily Mail:

student1.jpg‘A secret surveillance program has been running in an Alabama high schools after a phone call from the National Security Agency alerted the district to a ‘violent threat’. School officials claim the system began monitoring students’ social media accounts in Huntsville City Schools 18 months ago, when the NSA tipped them off that a student was making violent threats on Facebook

The schools began scanning Facebook and other sites for signs of gang activity, watching for photos of guns, photos of gang signs and threats of violence, as part of a program called SAFe, or Students Against Fear. Internal documents explaining the program were obtained by AL.com, showing four different students – three males and one female – posing on Facebook with handguns.’

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U.S. Navy Routinely Spies on Citizens Then Helps the Police Prosecute Them

Jason Koebler reports for VICE Motherboard:

It’s not just the NSA: A Federal Appeals Court has just noted a disturbing and “extraordinary” trend of the Navy conducting mass surveillance on American civilians, and then using what they find to help local law enforcement prosecute criminals.

In this specific case, a Navy Criminal Investigative Service agent in George scanned the computers of every civilian in Washington state who happened to be using the decentralized Gnutella peer-to-peer network, looking for child pornography. The agent, Steve Logan, found child porn on a computer owned by a man named Michael Dreyer.’

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FBI: New Apple, Google phones too secure, could put users ‘beyond the law’

Jacob Axelrad reports for Christian Science Monitor:

‘The FBI director James Comey has expressed concern that Apple and Google are making phones that cannot be searched by the government.

Speaking to reporters in a briefing Thursday, Mr. Comey said he is worried that such phones could place users “beyond the law,” The Wall Street Journal reported. He added that he’s been in talks with the companies “to understand what they’re thinking and why they think it makes sense.”

Major tech companies recognize the marketing potential of selling products that make consumers feel their data is as secure as can be. Both Apple and Google have made recent announcements emphasizing their new products will make it more difficult for law enforcement to extract customers’ valued data.

But Comey’s remarks raise questions of what, exactly, the government wants.’

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The Left and the New Media

Jeffrey St. Clair writes for CounterPunch:

‘Chomsky taught two generations how to read the paper of record, how to detect the warps in its stories, the subtle biases and false constructions, the decisive elisions of context, and servility toward elite power. What Chomsky could do not was toteach us how to stop reading the New York Times. As a result, thousands of activists around the globe reach for the Times (or the Guardian or the Washington Post) each morning, with red pens in hand, begin marking it up and grinding the enamel off their teeth.

Being Luddites, Cockburn and I were late-comers to the web. Our journal CounterPunch didn’t go online until the late 1990s, as the sun was going down on the Clinton administration. But it wasn’t long before we realized the web offered an exit from what we called the Chomsky Paradox, an existential dilemma that often keeps the Left mired in a hostile environment fight phantoms—namely, political reality as constructed by the editors of the elite media.’

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Australia’s anti-terror laws propose data retention and ‘no-knock warrant’ powers

Claire Reilly reports for CNET:

‘[...] The Bill introduces the concept of a “delayed notification search warrant” — often referred to in the United States as a ‘no-knock warrant’ — which would allow Australian Federal Police to search premises without prior warning and “without having to produce the warrant at the time of entry and search”.

In addition to defining these new search powers, the Counter-Terrorism Bill sets out measures for accessing digital data held by potential terror suspects. Specifically, it stipulates that this may include “data not held at the premises” which can be accessed by police executing a warrant.’

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Laos becomes latest Southeast Asian country to enact strict internet controls

Reuters reports:

‘Communist Laos has issued a decree outlawing online criticism of policies of the ruling party or government, state media reported, the latest Southeast Asian country to enact strict internet controls. According to legislation approved by Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong last week, web users will face criminal action for spreading “false” information aimed at discrediting the government, the official KPL news agency said.

[...] The decree comes as cellphone and internet usage climbs in tandem with economic growth, a reduced poverty rate and greater electricity access in the country of 6.4 million people. The new laws bear similarities to those of its Communist neighbor Vietnam, which commands strong influence over Laos and has a near identical political system… Thailand has [also] closed hundreds of thousands of websites and jailed people who have used the internet to post critical comments about its monarchy under its 2007 Computer Crimes Act.’

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Study: Internet Trolls Are Narcissists, Psychopaths, and Sadists

Jennifer Golbeck, Ph.D. reports for Psychology Today:

‘In this month’s issue of Personality and Individual Differencesa study was published that confirms what we all suspected: internet trolls are horrible people.

Let’s start by getting our definitions straight. An internet troll is someone who comes into a discussion and posts comments designed to upset or disrupt the conversation. Often, it seems like there is no real purpose behind their comments except to upset everyone else involved. Trolls will lie, exaggerate, and offend to get a response.

What kind of person would do this? Canadian researchers decided to find out.’

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‘Dotcom brand is poisoned’: Internet Party crashes in NZ elections

RT reports:

Kim Dotcom (Reuters/Nigel Marple)‘A coalition of anti-establishment politicians and internet freedom advocates led by entrepreneur Kim Dotcom – who promised to shake up New Zealand politics – suffered a humiliating defeat at the country’s parliamentary elections.

The Internet-Mana party gained just 26,500 votes – 1.3 percent of the total, and short of the five percent needed to cross the parliament threshold. With half the parliament seats contested through proportional representation, and half in a first-past-the-post local election, the party also lost its only previous locally elected MP, Hone Harawira, who couldn’t hold onto his seat.’

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Kremlin to consider plans which could remove Russia from global Internet ‘in an emergency’

Kashmira Gander reports for The Independent:

‘Russia may remove itself from the global Internet to protect itself against perceived threats from the West, a Kremlin spokesman suggested on Friday. The Kremlin dismissed accusations it aims to isolate the Russian Internet, and insists it is merely concerned with protecting its national security – particularly as relations with the West have reached their lowest since the Cold War.

However, the country has recently passed several laws targeting Internet use, which include making popular bloggers register as media outlets, and forcing websites to store the personal data of Russian users… The moves come as Russia attempts to reduce its use of American technology, fearing that its communications are vulnerable to US spying. Earlier this year, President Vladimir Putin called the web a “CIA special project”.’

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New ‘Facebook for Rich People’ Costs Just $9,000 to Join

Chloe Albanesius reports for PC Mag:

‘Don’t you just hate it when you want to talk about is your latest all-nighter in Ibiza or how Jeeves packed the wrong Rolex for last weekend’s Hamptons excursion, but your Facebook friends are all “Help me, I’m poor!”

Not to worry, Netropolitan is here to save you from having to hob-knob with undesirable 99 percenters. And it will only cost you $9,000 a year. Netropolitan is a new social network that bills itself as “the online country club for people with more money than time.” It launched today and organizers insist that it’s not a joke.’

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Snowden Leaks Didn’t Make Al Qaeda Change Tactics, Says Report

Mike Brunker reports for NBC News:

‘There is no evidence that Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA spying inspired Islamic terror groups to hide their electronic communications behind more sophisticated encryption software, according to a new analysis that challenges other recent research and assertions by U.S. officials about the impact of the leaks.

The analysis by Flashpoint Global Partners, a private security firm, examined the frequency of releases and updates of encryption software by jihadi groups and mentions of encryption in jihadi social media forums to assess the impact of Snowden’s information. It found no correlation in either measure to Snowden’s leaks about the NSA’s surveillance techniques, which became public beginning June 5, 2013.’

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The NSA and GCHQ Campaign Against German Satellite Companies

Andy Müller-Maguhn, Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach, Michael Sontheimer and Christian Grothoff report for The Intercept:

‘Treasure Map is a vast NSA campaign to map the global internet. The program doesn’t just seek to chart data flows in large traffic channels, such as telecommunications cables. Rather, it seeks to identify and locate every single device that is connected to the internet somewhere in the world—every smartphone, tablet, and computer—”anywhere, all the time,” according to NSA documents. Its internal logo depicts a skull superimposed onto a compass, the eyeholes glowing demonic red.

The breathtaking mission is described in a document from the archive of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden provided to The Intercept and Der Spiegel. Treasure Map’s goal is to create an “interactive map of the global internet” in “almost real time.” Employees of the so-called “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance—England, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—can install and use the program on their own computers. It evokes a kind of Google Earth for global data traffic, a bird’s eye view of the planet’s digital arteries.’

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