Category Archives: The Web

Spain Wants to Tax the Hyperlink

Jason Koebler writes for Motherboard:

‘The hyperlink is a crazy thing if you think about it. One of HTML’s most basic building blocks has completely changed the news industry, turning black text into blue (or in Motherboard’s case, purple), and taking a practice that was one completely verboten in journalism—snagging a competitor’s work—and making it commonplace. But soon, if you want to use them in Spain, it’s gonna cost you.

The law, called canon AEDE, would put a tax on aggregation, and would make it illegal for blogs, news sites, and perhaps even Google News to link out to original sources without paying a fee. Make no mistake, this would fundamentally change how the media industry’s link economy currently works (at least in Spain—we’ll see if others follow suit).’


Mass U.S. Surveillance Targeting Journalists and Lawyers Seen As Threat to American Democracy

‘In a new report, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union warn that “large-scale surveillance is seriously hampering U.S.-based journalists and lawyers in their work.” The report is based on interviews with dozens of reporters and lawyers. They describe a media climate where journalists take cumbersome security steps that slows down their reporting. Sources are afraid of talking, as aggressive prosecutions scare government officials into staying silent, even about issues that are unclassified. For lawyers, the threat of surveillance is stoking fears they will be unable to protect a client’s right to privacy. Some defendants are afraid of speaking openly to their own counsel, undermining a lawyer’s ability provide the best possible defense. We speak to Alex Sinha, author of the report, “With Liberty to Monitor All: How Large-Scale U.S. Surveillance is Harming Journalism, Law, and American Democracy,” and to national security reporter Jeremy Scahill.’ (Democracy Now!)

Software Bot Produces Up To 10,000 Wikipedia Entries Per Day

Arlington Hewes reports for Singularity Hub:

wikipedia_bots‘While Internet trolls and members of Congress wage war over edits on Wikipedia, Swedish university administrator Sverker Johansson has spent the last seven years becoming the most prolific author…by a long shot. In fact, he’s responsible for over 2.7 million articles or 8.5% of all the articles in the collection, according to The Wall Street Journal. And it’s all thanks to a program called Lsjbot.

Johansson’s software collects info from databases on a particular topic then packages it into articles in Swedish and two dialects of Filipino (his wife’s native tongue). Many of the posts focus on innocuous subjects — animal species or town profiles. Yet, the sheer volume of up to 10,000 entries a day has vaulted Johansson and his bot into the top leaderboard position and hence, the spotlight.’


Russia offers 3.9m roubles for ‘research to identify users of Tor’

Alec Luhn reports for The Guardian:

Russia‘s interior ministry has offered up to 3.9m roubles (£65,000) for research on identifying the users of the anonymous browsing network Tor, raising questions of online freedom amid a broader crackdown on the Russian internet.

The interior ministry’s special technology and communications group published a tender earlier this month on the government procurement website offering the sum for “research work, Tor cipher”.

Before changes to the tender were published on Friday, numerous news outlets reported that it originally sought “research work on the possibility to obtain technical information about users (user equipment) of the anonymous network Tor”.’


Wikipedia blocks ‘disruptive’ page edits from US Congress

Joe Miller reports for BBC News:

Capitol Hill‘Wikipedia administrators have imposed a ban on page edits from computers at the US House of Representatives, following “persistent disruptive editing”. The 10-day block comes after anonymous changes were made to entries on politicians and businesses, as well as events like the Kennedy assassination.

The biography of former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld was edited to say that he was an “alien lizard”. One staffer said they were being banned for the “actions of two or three”.

Edits from computers using the IP address belonging to the House of Representatives have been banned before, following similar acts of vandalism. The latest block comes after rogue edits were brought to light by a Twitter feed, @congressedits, which posts every change made from the government-owned address.’


New broadband users shun UK porn filters, Ofcom finds

From BBC News:

‘The vast majority of new broadband customers in the UK are opting out of “child friendly” filters when prompted to install them by service providers.

The industry watchdog Ofcom found fewer than one in seven households installed the feature, which is offered by BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media.

The filters block pornographic websites, as well as pages promoting self-harm or drug taking.’


Man tweets about bad service, gets kicked off plane, told to delete tweet before re-boarding

The Independent reports:

‘Twitter has long been the go-to platform for customers to vent their fury at bad customer service, and usually a complaint on social media will lead to a swift apology if nothing else. But not for Minneapolis man Duff Watson, who says he and his two children were ejected from their flight for a tweet criticising Southwest Airlines’ service.’


UK definition of terrorism ‘could catch political journalists and bloggers’

Alan Travis reports for the Guardian:

‘The current British definition of terrorism is so broadly drawn that it could even catch political journalists and bloggers who publish material that the authorities consider dangerous to public safety, said the official counter-terrorism watchdog. David Anderson QC, the official reviewer of counter-terrorism laws, said Britain had some of the most extensive anti-terrorism laws in the western world, which gave police and prosecutors the powers they needed to tackle al-Qaida-inspired terrorists, rightwing extremists and dissident Northern Irish groups.

“But if these exceptional powers are to command public consent, it is important they need to be confined to their proper purpose, and recent years have seen a degree of ‘creep’ in parliament that could be reversed without diminishing their impact” In his annual report to be published on Tuesday [July 22nd], Anderson is expected to give three examples of how the terror laws were too widely drawn. They included “actions aimed at influencing governments”, hate crime and what he called the “penumbra of terrorism”.’


Blackmail Insurance Sale & The Germ Code

‘In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert discuss reputational apartheid and delusion insurance as we all become blackmailable. In the second half, Max interviews microbiologist, Jason Tetro, author of The Germ Code, about what germs can teach us about the modern economy and about the similarities between Las Vegas and C.Dificile.’ (Keiser Report)

Occupy Silicon Valley & the Facebook Cop: Interview with Robbie Martin

Abby Martin speaks with journalist and host of Media Roots Radio, Robbie Martin, going over why Facebook is hiring police officers to aid in surveillance, as well as why more people aren’t outraged about private sector surveillance.’ (Breaking the Set)

Ethical Journalism Network Director Speaks to Russia Today About Ethics in Journalism

Porn Sniffing Police Dogs

Why Audiences Hate Hard News—and Love Pretending Otherwise

Derek Thompson writes for The Atlantic:

‘You may not realize this, but we can see you. Yes, you. The human reading this article. We have analytics that tells us roughly where you are, what site you’ve just arrived from, how long you stay, how far you read, where you hop to next. We’ve got eyeballs on your eyeballs.

Why is it so important that digital news organizations track which articles you’re reading on our websites? The obvious answer is that it teaches us what you’re interested in. The less-obvious, but equally true, answer is that it teaches youwhat you’re interested in.

If we merely asked what you wanted, without measuring what you wanted, you’d just keep lying to us—and to yourself.’


Why Opposing the Israel Lobby Is No Longer Political Suicide

Phyllis Bennis writes for The Nation:

Palestinian woman‘[...] Something is different this time. And not only that the assault is different, and worse. The difference is the political environment in which this attack is happening, especially the political environment here in the United States. For those of us who’ve been working on changing US policy in the Middle East for decades, the bad news is in front of us every day: that policy hasn’t changed, and billions of dollars in aid money and uncritical political, diplomatic and military support for Israel remains constant.

But there is some good news. It’s only obvious when you can back up for a moment to look past the daily bad-news reality. The good news is that the discourse has shifted dramatically—in mainstream news coverage, punditry, pop culture and more. It’s much better than ever. They don’t get it right, still, but things are changing. Twelve years ago, during the siege of Yasir Arafat’s compound in Ramallah and the surrounding of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, we didn’t hear many Palestinian voices in the mainstream press. In 2006, during Israel’s attack on Gaza,The New York Times and NPR didn’t send their reporters to the Khan Younis refugee camp or to Gaza City.

But the coverage had already begun to shift during Cast Lead, the three-week Israeli war against Gaza in 2008–09, and we realized then how much the media changes reflected the overall discourse shift. Despite Israeli efforts to exclude the international press, Al Jazeera and other Arabic channels were broadcasting live out of Gaza. The Times had a terrific young stringer, Taghreed el-Khodary, filing hour by hour. Israel probably wouldn’t have allowed her into the Strip, but they couldn’t stop her, she was already there—born and raised in Gaza and living with her family.’


Charlie Brooker: What is Drip and how, precisely, will it help the government ruin your life?

Charlie Brooker writes for the Guardian:

Dripping tap‘[...] Drip is the most tedious outrage ever, right down to the dreary acronym, which is why they’ll get away with shoving it through the Commons. Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband are in cahoots with Cameron on this. All three men are, I assume, pretending to have read and understood the bill, which seems unlikely given its dry impenetrability. Siri would fall asleep halfway through. You could swap it with the technical specifications documentation for a Netgear AV 500 Powerline Adapter and no one would notice.

Whenever there’s a state-sanctioned-invasion-of-privacy issue knocking around, a few chirpy types pop up to say: “Hey, I don’t mind if the government wants to spy on me – I’ve got nothing to hide and I’m quite boring really.” That’s your prerogative, but Jesus Christ, how did you get so beaten down, Mr Cog-in-the-Wheel? Mr Pebble-on-the-Beach. Is that really how you see yourself? As a worthless microbe content to be plucked from the stream, examined for a moment and tossed back like an unremarkable, unwanted sprat? An insignificant fluffspeck wafting through the vast aircraft hangar of life, buffeted hither and thither by the nonchalant farts of the powerful?

Yeah, me too. But nonetheless, a close, careful examination of the Drip bill’s various clauses and sub-clauses reveals alarming consequences for the average Joe.’


Latest NSA leaks show extent to which ordinary Web users are caught in the surveillance net

Barton Gellman, Julie Tate and Ashkan Soltani report for The Washington Post:

‘Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks, according to a four-month investigation by The Washington Post. Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.

Many of them were Americans. Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents. NSA analysts masked, or “minimized,” more than 65,000 such references to protect Americans’ privacy, but The Post found nearly 900 additional e-mail addresses, unmasked in the files, that could be strongly linked to U.S. citizens or U.S.residents. The surveillance files highlight a policy dilemma that has been aired only abstractly in public. There are discoveries of considerable intelligence value in the intercepted messages — and collateral harm to privacy on a scale that the Obama administration has not been willing to address.’


On the Internet of Things, your body is the next thing to be networked

Ivor Tossell writes for Canadian Business:

Woman with wireless signals and devices superimposed‘At a recent demonstration in Toronto, a biomedical researcher slipped on a wristband and waved it at a laptop, watching as the computer recognized him and unlocked itself. Then he handed the same wristband to his research partner, who put it on and tried the same thing—but this time, the laptop didn’t respond. Their product, the Nymi, knows who you are—and it can prove it. The wrist-worn device works like an electrocardiogram, measuring the electric signals that come from its wearer’s heartbeat and are as unique a signature as fingerprints. The bracelet can then wirelessly vouch for its owner’s identity for any nearby device that might ask.

The obvious application for a device like this is access: opening physical doors and getting beyond digital passwords. But Karl Martin, co-founder of Bionym, the company that makes the Nymi, has his sights on a bigger goal: “persistent identity”—the idea that the Nymi, or something like it, could make the wearer instantly recognizable to wireless devices everywhere, whether at home or at a coffee shop in London. There are plenty of networks and sensors in the world, says Martin, but while they detect the presence of humans, they don’t recognize individual identities. “Our thesis is that it’s missing that personal human element: the user.” That’s a gentle way of saying it’s not just your smart fridge that’s going to become a node on the Internet of Things—it’s you. Your identity and, eventually, the very mechanics of your body, are becoming extensions of the Internet that can be tracked, analyzed and, inevitably, marketed to.’


Many Pick Electric Jolt Over Solitude in Study

Michelle Fay Cortez reports for Bloomberg:

‘How far would you go to avoid being alone with your thoughts? People vastly prefer passive activities like reading or listening to music over spending just a few minutes by themselves. Being alone with no distractions was so distasteful to two-thirds of men and a quarter of women that they elected to give themselves mild electric shocks rather than sit quietly in a room with nothing but the thoughts in their heads, according to a study from the University of Virginia.

While the ability to mentally detach is unique to humans, it’s not often done, the researchers said. In a hyper-connected world with constant Internet access and entertainment options, U.S. Department of Labor data show 83 percent of Americans don’t spend any part of their day just thinking. The series of 11 experiments detailed in the journal Science show the extent people will go to avoid the experience.’


Google reinstates ‘forgotten’ links after pressure

Dave Lee reports for BBC News:

Google message in front of screen‘After widespread criticism, Google has begun reinstating some links it had earlier removed under the controversial “right to be forgotten” ruling. Articles posted online by the Guardian newspaper were removed earlier this week, but have now returned fully to the search engine. Google has defended its actions, saying that it was a “difficult” process. “We are learning as we go,” Peter Barron, head of communications for Google in Europe, told the BBC.

Speaking to Radio 4’s Today programme, he dismissed claims made on Thursday that the company was simply letting all requests through in an attempt to show its disapproval at the ruling. “Absolutely not,” he said. “We are aiming to deal with it as responsibly as possible.  “The European Court of Justice [ECJ] ruling was not something that we welcomed, that we wanted – but it is now the law in Europe and we are obliged to comply with that law.” He said Google had to balance the need for transparency with the need to protect people’s identity.’


Google ‘right to be forgotten’ requests under fire from UK news sites

Electronista reports:

GoogleGoogle’s removal of listings from European search results via “right to be forgotten” requests has come under fire, with the search company seemingly not following its own rules. Major publications in the United Kingdom have found links to major news stories on their websites being hidden, including one story about the former head of investment bank Merrill Lynch being forced out of his position following massive losses.

The form for requesting removals states that Google will evaluate requests to see if it includes “outdated information” about the individual, as well as whether or not the link in question is in the public’s interest to search for. It gives examples of “financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions, or public conduct of government officials” as examples of items that should not be removed from view.

The BBC received an e-mail warning about the 2007 blog post about Merrill Lynch’s Stan O’Neal. It is noted that the article in question only mentions Mr O’Neal, though it is unclear who requested the link’s removal from Google as the e-mail sent to the BBC only mentions the removed URL.’


It’s Complicated: Facebook’s History of Tracking You

Julia Angwin wrote for for Pro Publica last month:

‘For years people have noticed a funny thing about Facebook’s ubiquitous Like button. It has been sending data to Facebook tracking the sites you visit. Each time details of the tracking were revealed, Facebook promised that it wasn’t using the data for any commercial purposes.

No longer. Facebook [has] announced it will start using its Like button and similar tools to track people across the Internet for advertising purposes.


Facebook denies emotion contagion study had government and military ties

Samuel Gibbs reports for the Guardian:

Minerva Research Initiative‘Facebook and Cornell researchers have denied that the controversial “emotion contagion” experiment was funded by the US Department of Defence (DoD). The social network told the Guardian that the study was entirely self-funded and that Facebook is categorically not a willing participant in the DoD’s Minerva Research Initiative, which funds research into the modelling of dynamics, risks and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest across the world, under the supervision of various US military agencies.

“While Prof Hancock, like many researchers, has conducted work funded by the federal government during his career, at no time did Professor Hancock or his postdoctoral associate Jamie Guillory request or receive outside funding to support their work on this PNAS paper,” John Carberry, director of media relations at Cornell University where the academic work took place, told the Guardian. “Initial wording in an article and press releases generated by Cornell University that indicated outside funding sources was an unfortunate error missed during the editorial review process.” Several publications alleged that because one of the key academic researchers on the study, Professor Jeffrey Hancock at Cornell, previously had ties with the Minerva Initiative that the Facebook “emotion contagion” work could have been in service of the US military.’


Russia passes law to force websites onto Russian servers

Alexei Anishchuk reports for Reuters:

‘Russia’s parliament passed a law on Friday to force Internet sites that store the personal data of Russian citizens to do so inside the country, a move the Kremlin says is for data protection but which critics see an attack on social networks. The law will mean that from 2016, all Internet companies will have to move Russian data onto servers based in Russia or face being blocked from the web. That would likely affect U.S.-based social networks such as Facebook, analysts say.

Coming after new rules requiring blogs attracting more than 3,000 daily visits to register with a communications watchdog and a regulation allowing websites to be shut without a court order, critics say the law is part of a wave of censorship. “The aim of this law is to create … (another) quasi-legal pretext to close Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and all other services,” Internet expert and blogger Anton Nossik told Reuters. “The ultimate goal is to shut mouths, enforce censorship in the country and shape a situation where Internet business would not be able to exist and function properly.” Putin, an ex-KGB officer who has called the Internet a “CIA project”, denied he was restricting web freedoms, saying his main concern was protecting children from indecent content.’


Is there a cover up surrounding Pentagon funding of Facebook’s psychological experiment?

Paul Joseph Watson writes for Prison Planet:

‘Was there a cover-up surrounding the Pentagon’s direct funding of Facebook’s notorious mass psychological study in order to conceal the fact that the experiment’s true purpose was part of preparations to manipulate public opinion in times of civil unrest?  It now appears as though information indicating that the Department of Defense bankrolled the experiment was scrubbed from an online press release by Cornell University in order to hide the connection.

Here’s what we know for a fact to be true. Facebook’s mass psychological study, which proved that altering a user’s timeline feed was a successful method of causing emotional “contagion” to spread through the social network, was conducted in part by Cornell University’s Jeffrey T. Hancock, who was listed as one of the study’s authors.  Hancock is also involved with the Pentagon’s Minerva Initiative, which recently hit the headlines for its role in bankrolling a program which provides “funding to universities to model the dynamics, risks and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest across the world.” However, an even more creepy connection between the Facebook experiment and the Pentagon has emerged after it was revealed that the original press release from Cornell highlighting the study included a passage at the bottom which read, “The study was funded in part by the James S. McDonnell Foundation and the Army Research Office.”’


Chinese Parents Are Sending Internet Addicts To Boot Camps

Kyung-Hoon Kim reports for Reuters:

Reuters / Kim Kyung-Hoon‘Baby-faced teenagers in army uniforms practice drills in locked dormitories in China, closely supervised by former soldiers, in a bid to inject discipline into lives disrupted by the Internet. Welcome to the world of military-style boot camps designed to wean young people off their addiction to the Internet. There are as many as 250 camps in China alone.

Their methods are more aggressive than clinics elsewhere, such as some in the United States that offer website blocking and monitoring software, and enforce bans on Internet use for addicts among the 75 percent of U.S. adults who are online. As growing numbers of young Chinese turn to the cyber world, spending hours playing games online to escape the competitive pressures generated in a society of 1.3 billion people, worried parents increasingly turn to the boot camps to crush addiction.’


Facebook manipulated users’ moods in secret experiment

Andrew Griffin reports for The Independent:

‘Facebook manipulated the emotions of hundreds of thousands of its users, and found that they would pass on happy or sad emotions, it has said. The experiment, for which researchers did not gain specific consent, has provoked criticism from users with privacy and ethical concerns. For one week in 2012, Facebook skewed nearly 700,000 users’ news feeds to either be happier or sadder than normal. The experiment found that after the experiment was over users tended to post positive or negative comments according to the skew that was given to their news feed. The research has provoked distress because of the manipulation involved.

…The research drew criticism from campaigners over the weekend, who said that the research could be used by Facebook to encourage users to post more and by other agencies such as governments to manipulate the feelings of users in certain countries. Even the scientist that edited the study had ethical concerns about its methods, she said. “I think it’s an open question,” Susan Fiske, professor of psychology at Princeton University, told the Atlantic. “It’s ethically okay from the regulations perspective, but ethics are kind of social decisions. There’s not an absolute answer. And so the level of outrage that appears to be happening suggests that maybe it shouldn’t have been done… I’m still thinking about it and I’m a little creeped out too.”‘


Google removing “right to be forgotten” search links in Europe

Charles Arthur reports for the Guardian:

Google search begins removing results under EU ruling

‘Google has begun removing search links to content in Europe under the “right to be forgotten” ruling, which obliges it not to point to web pages with “outdated or irrelevant” information about individuals.Searches made on Google’s services in Europe using peoples’ names includes a section at the bottom with the phrase “Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe”, and a link to a page explaining the ruling by the European court of justice (ECJ) in May 2014. However searches made on, the US-based service, do not include the same warning, because the ECJ ruling only applies within Europe.’


Amazon accused of ‘bullying’ smaller UK publishers

Joe Miller writes for BBC News:

Books‘Amazon is facing a battle with UK publishers as it seeks to secure more advantageous terms in its latest round of contract negotiations. The web giant wants the right to print books itself if publishers fail to provide adequate stock, and wants publishers to match any pricing deals it offers to other distributers. One mid-sized firm accused Amazon of “bullying,” and warned that the company was destroying the industry. Amazon has not commented on the issue. Trade magazine the Bookseller was first to report that Amazon had introduced a number of new clauses in its recent contract proposals to independent UK publishers.’


Ex-CIA spy: The open source revolution is coming and it will conquer the 1%

Nafeez Ahmed writes for The Guardian:

Robert David Steele‘Robert David Steele, former Marine, CIA case officer, and US co-founder of the US Marine Corps intelligence activity, is a man on a mission. But it’s a mission that frightens the US intelligence establishment to its core. With 18 years experience working across the US intelligence community, followed by 20 more years in commercial intelligence and training, Steele’s exemplary career has spanned almost all areas of both the clandestine world.  Steele started off as a Marine Corps infantry and intelligence officer. After four years on active duty, he joined the CIA for about a decade before co-founding the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity, where he was deputy director. Widely recognised as the leader of the Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) paradigm, Steele went on to write the handbooks on OSINT for NATO, the US Defense Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Special Operations Forces. In passing, he personally trained 7,500 officers from over 66 countries.

In 1992, despite opposition from the CIA, he obtained Marine Corps permission to organise a landmark international conference on open source intelligence – the paradigm of deriving information to support policy decisions not through secret activities, but from open public sources available to all. The conference was such a success it brought in over 620 attendees from the intelligence world. But the CIA wasn’t happy, and ensured that Steele was prohibited from running a second conference. The clash prompted him to resign from his position as second-ranking civilian in Marine Corps intelligence, and pursue the open source paradigm elsewhere. He went on to found and head up the Open Source Solutions Network Inc. and later the non-profit Earth Intelligence Network which runs the Public Intelligence Blog.’


Snowden leaks spark unprecedented surge in online encryption

Mark Wilson reported last month for IT Pro Portal:

Snowden leaks spark unprecedented surge in online encryption‘The revelations made by Edward Snowden have irreversibly changed the face of the internet. There are now suspicions at every turn, every site and provider is the subject of questioning, and web users are warier than ever before. The use of encryption to hide the content and nature of online activity is nothing new, but it seems that it is very much on the increase. As reported by TorrentFreak, analysis from Sandvine shows that there has been a global increase in the use of encryption.

The figures have been reached by looking at the levels of SSL traffic over the past year, and these show that in North America, during peak hours, encrypted traffic just about doubled. In Europe the increase is even more marked, jumping fourfold so that it now accounts for over six percent of peak time traffic. Europe appears to have a greater interest in encryption than North America, with the latter’s SSL traffic accounting for 3.8 percent of peak time traffic.’