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Censorship

Tanzania Orders All Unregistered Bloggers To Take Down Their Sites (reuters.com) 52

The state-run Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) ordered all unregistered bloggers and online forums on Monday to suspend their websites immediately or face criminal prosecution. Several sites, including popular online discussion platform Jamiiforums, have reportedly shut down to avoid prosecution. Reuters reports: Regulations passed in March made it compulsory for bloggers and owners of other online forums such as YouTube channels to register with the government and pay up to $900 for a license. Per capita income in Tanzania is slightly below $900 a year. Digital activists say the law is part of a crackdown on dissent and free speech by the government of President John Magufuli, who was elected in 2015. Government officials argue the new rules are aimed at tackling hate speech and other online crimes, including cyberbullying and pornography.

"All unregistered online content providers must be licensed before June 15. Starting from today June 11 until June 15, they are prohibited from posting any new content on their blogs, forums or online radios and televisions," the regulator said in a statement on Monday. The statement said legal action would be taken against any unregistered websites posting new content. Anyone convicted of defying the new regulations faces a fine of at least 5 million shillings ($2,200), imprisonment for a minimum 12 months, or both.

Businesses

Copyright Law Could Put End To Net Memes (bbc.com) 176

An anonymous reader shares a report: Memes, remixes and other user-generated content could disappear online if the EU's proposed rules on copyright become law, warn experts. Digital rights groups are campaigning against the Copyright Directive, which the European Parliament will vote on later this month. The legislation aims to protect rights-holders in the internet age. But critics say it misunderstands the way people engage with web content and risks excessive censorship. The Copyright Directive is an attempt to reshape copyright for the internet, in particular rebalancing the relationship between copyright holders and online platforms. Article 13 states that platform providers should "take measures to ensure the functioning of agreements concluded with rights-holders for the use of their works." Critics say this will, in effect, require all internet platforms to filter all content put online by users, which many believe would be an excessive restriction on free speech. There is also concern that the proposals will rely on algorithms that will be programmed to "play safe" and delete anything that creates a risk for the platform.
Desktops (Apple)

ProtonMail Launches Free ProtonVPN Service For Macs (bleepingcomputer.com) 30

The creators of popular encrypted email service ProtonMail have released a free version of their ProtonVPN software for macOS. From a report: Even though the free version does not contain the full features that you would come to expect from a paid VPN service it is more than capable of obfuscating IP addresses and your location. While ProtonVPN has already released Windows and Android versions, according to Dr. Andy Yen, CEO of ProtonMail, their reason for releasing the free macOS version "is to make the world a safer place by ensuring that citizens around the world have access to an Internet free of spying and censorship. Releasing a free VPN service for macOS is another important step in that direction."
United Kingdom

London Plans To Ban Junk Food Advertising On Public Transport (bloomberg.com) 175

Junk food advertising could be banned from the entire Transport for London network under proposals announced by Mayor Sadiq Khan, as he tries to tackle rising levels of childhood obesity in the city. From a report: "I want to reduce the influence and pressure that can be put on children and families to make unhealthy choices," Khan said in a statement announcing the proposals to ban advertisements for unhealthy food and drink on London's trains, buses and bus shelters. The mayor also proposed a ban on new hot food takeaway stores opening within 400 meters of schools.

London has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in Europe -- nearly 40 percent of 10-11 year-olds in the capital are overweight or obese, according to the statement. Children from poorer areas are disproportionately affected by the "obesity epidemic," Khan said, adding that young people from Barking and Dagenham in East London are almost twice as likely to be overweight as children from the upmarket Richmond neighborhood.

GNU is Not Unix

Richard Stallman Demands Return Of Abortion Joke To libc Documentation (theregister.co.uk) 522

An anonymous reader quotes The Register: Late last month, open-source contributor Raymond Nicholson proposed a change to the manual for glibc, the GNU implementation of the C programming language's standard library, to remove "the abortion joke," which accompanied the explanation of libc's abort() function... The joke, which has been around since the 1990s and is referred to as a censorship joke by those supporting its inclusion, reads as follows:

25.7.4 Aborting a Program... Future Change Warning: Proposed Federal censorship regulations may prohibit us from giving you information about the possibility of calling this function. We would be required to say that this is not an acceptable way of terminating a program.

On April 30, the proposed change was made, removing the passage from the documentation. That didn't sit well with a number of people involved in the glibc project, including the joke's author, none other than Free Software Foundation president and firebrand Richard Stallman, who argued that the removal of the joke qualified as censorship... Carlos O'Donnell, a senior software engineer at Red Hat, recommended avoiding jokes altogether, a position supported by many of those weighing in on the issue. Among those voicing opinions, a majority appears to favor removal.

But in a post to the project mailing list, Stallman wrote "Please do not remove it. GNU is not a purely technical project, so the fact that this is not strictly and grimly technical is not a reason to remove this." He added later that "I exercise my authority over glibc very rarely -- and when I have done so, I have talked with the official maintainers. So rarely that some of you thought that you are entirely autonomous. But that is not the case. On this particular question, I made a decision long ago and stated it where all of you could see it."

The Register reports that "On Monday, the joke was restored by project contributor Alexandre Oliva, having taken Stallman's demand as approval to do so."
Bitcoin

Telegram's Billion-Dollar ICO Has Become a Mess (amazon.com) 34

Jon Russell and Mike Butcher from TechCrunch report of the mess that is Telegram's billion-dollar initial coin offering (ICO): Telegram's ICO was supposed to be a record-breaker to develop a platform that brings the decentralized internet to life. Instead, it has become a mess with the tightly controlled fundraising process in disarray as early backers sell their tokens for handsome returns. The company recently canceled the public sale piece of its ICO, the Wall Street Journal reported this week, after it raised $1.7 billion from private sale investors, according to SEC filings. But the issues date back further.

Telegram's grand vision is to build the TON (Telegram Open Network), a blockchain-based platform that extends its messaging app, which counts 200 million active users, into a range of services that include payments, file storage, censorship-proof browsing and decentralized apps hosted on the platform. According to the original whitepaper, the plan was to raise $1.2 billion using both invite-only private investors and an open sale to the public. Telegram later extended the raise to $1.7 billion before it canceled the public sale altogether. That's almost certainly because it had already raised enough money to develop TON without the risk of running into the SEC's ongoing ICO probe by soliciting money from the public. The result is that the ordinary people can't buy Telegram's Gram crypto token until it is released on exchanges. There's currently no timeline for that. But, with massive demand for the messaging app and deep discounts for early backers, a secondary market for buying and selling tokens early has emerged -- with huge returns already realized by some.

Censorship

Amazon Tells Signal's Creators To Stop Using Anti-Censorship Tool (theverge.com) 99

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The team behind secure messaging app Signal says Amazon has threatened to kick the app off its CloudFront web service unless Signal drops the anti-censorship practice known as domain-fronting. Google recently banned the practice, which lets developers disguise web traffic to look like it's coming from a different source, allowing apps like Signal to evade country-level bans. As a result, Signal moved from Google to the Amazon-owned Souq content delivery network. But Amazon implemented its own ban on Friday. In an email that Moxie Marlinspike -- founder of Signal developer Open Whisper Systems -- posted today, Amazon orders the organization to immediately stop using domain-fronting or find another web services provider. Signal used the system to provide service in Egypt, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where it's officially banned. It got around filters by making traffic appear to come from a huge platform, since countries weren't willing to ban the entirety of a site like Google to shut down Signal. "The idea behind domain fronting was that to block a single site, you'd have to block the rest of the internet as well. In the end, the rest of the internet didn't like that plan," Marlinspike writes. "We are considering ideas for a more robust system, but these ecosystem changes have happened very suddenly. [...] In the meantime, the censors in these countries will have (at least temporarily) achieved their goals. Sadly, they didn't have to do anything but wait."
Youtube

YouTube Is Removing Some Nootropics Channels (vice.com) 243

According to Wikipedia, nootropics are drugs, supplements, and other substances that improve cognitive function, particularly executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation, in healthy individuals. Many of them are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and some have reported addiction and harm, as well as uncomfortable side effects. These concerns may be behind YouTube's recent decision to delete at least three nootropics channels over the past three days. Motherboard reports: The nootropics YouTubers don't know why YouTube penalized them. YouTube's community guidelines prohibit harmful or dangerous content, including "hard drug use," which seems like the most likely reason. [Ryan Michael Ballow, a YouTuber whose channel "Cortex Labs Nootropics" was deleted] believes it's either "pharmaceutical industry influence" or some other elements within YouTube's leadership decided to target nootropics specifically. "It's all extremely fishy, and demonstrates a continued censorship trend with YouTube," he said in an email. [Jonathan Roseland, another YouTube that recently had their channel "Limitless Mindset" deleted] guessed his channel got flagged because he made videos about kratom, an opioid-like substance that has been linked to deaths and is coming under increased government regulation. Other kratom videos have apparently been removed. But Ballow said he's never posted a video about kratom, and a search for "kratom" on YouTube pulls up countless results, including reviews. Similarly, searching for nootropics, magnesium, aniracetam, oxiracetam, and Modafinil showed no shortage of videos, including reviews.

It's hard to know why the channels were removed since YouTube declined to clarify specifics with the creators and did not respond to a request for comment. YouTube allows creators to appeal enforcement decisions, but Ballow's appeal was rejected. The rejection notice did not clearly state which guidelines were violated, but it pointed to another potential violation. YouTube "included a paragraph that states that if the sole purpose of your YouTube videos is to drive people off of the platform, said videos break the rules," Ballow said. He interpreted this to mean the fact that his videos directed viewers to other websites to buy products.

Google

Amazon Web Services Starts Blocking Domain-Fronting (theverge.com) 27

Earlier this month, Google announced it is discontinuing domain fronting, a practice that lets developers disguise their traffic to evade network blocks. Now, Amazon Web Services has announced a similar move to implement a new set of enhanced domain protections specifically designed to stop domain fronting. The Verge reports: In the post, Amazon characterized the change as an effort to stamp out malware. "Tools including malware can use this technique between completely unrelated domains to evade restrictions and blocks that can be imposed at the TLS/SSL layer," the post explained. "No customer ever wants to find that someone else is masquerading as their innocent, ordinary domain." Domain-fronting works by using major cloud providers as a kind of proxy, making a data request seem like it's heading to a major service like Google or Amazon only to be forwarded along to a third party once it reaches the broader internet. Unfortunately for circumvention tools, neither Amazon nor Google will let them pull that trick anymore. Amazon will still allow domain fronting within domains owned by the same customer (or more specifically, listed under the same SSL certificate), but customers can no longer use the technique to disguise where data is going, making it far less useful for blocked apps.
Censorship

North Korea Linked To Global Hacking Operation Against Critical Infrastructure, Telecoms (thehill.com) 51

A suspected North Korean hacking campaign has expanded to targets in 17 different countries, including the U.S., pilfering information on critical infrastructure, telecommunications and entertainment organizations, researchers say. From a report: Cybersecurity firm McAfee released new research on the hacking campaign this week, calling it Operation GhostSecret and describing the attackers as having "significant capabilities" to develop and use multiple cyber tools and rapidly expand operations across the globe. The findings demonstrate the growing sophistication of North Korea's army of hackers, which has been blamed for high-profile hacking operations such as the WannaCry malware outbreak last year.
Facebook

NYT: Lynchings Around the World are Linked To Facebook Posts (bostonglobe.com) 171

An anonymous reader quotes the New York Times: Riots and lynchings around the world have been linked to misinformation and hate speech on Facebook, which pushes whatever content keeps users on the site longest -- a potentially damaging practice in countries with weak institutions and histories of social instability. Time and again, communal hatreds overrun the newsfeed unchecked as local media are displaced by Facebook and governments find themselves with little leverage over the company. Some users, energized by hate speech and misinformation, plot real-world attacks.

A reconstruction of Sri Lanka's descent into violence, based on interviews with officials, victims and ordinary users caught up in online anger, found that Facebook's newsfeed played a central role in nearly every step from rumor to killing. Facebook officials, they say, ignored repeated warnings of the potential for violence, resisting pressure to hire moderators or establish emergency points of contact... Sri Lankans say they see little evidence of change. And in other countries, as Facebook expands, analysts and activists worry they, too, may see violence.

A Facebook spokeswoman countered that "we remove such content as soon as we're made aware of it," and said they're now trying to expand those teams and investing in "technology and local language expertise to help us swiftly remove hate content." But one anti-hate group told the Times that Facebook's reporting tools are too slow and ineffective.

"Though they and government officials had repeatedly asked Facebook to establish direct lines, the company had insisted this tool would be sufficient, they said. But nearly every report got the same response: the content did not violate Facebook's standards."
Censorship

Google Is Shuttering Domain Fronting, Creating a Big Problem For Anti-Censorship Tools (theverge.com) 59

"The Google App Engine is discontinuing a practice called domain fronting, which lets services use Google's network to get around state-level internet blocks," reports The Verge. While the move makes sense from a cybersecurity perspective as domain fronting is widely used by malware to evade network-based detection, it will likely frustrate app developers who use it to get around internet censorship. From the report: First spotted by Tor developers on April 13th, the change has been rolling out across Google services and threatens to disrupt services for a number of anti-censorship tools, including Signal, GreatFire.org and Psiphon's VPN services. Reached by The Verge, Google said the changes were the result of a long-planned network update. "Domain fronting has never been a supported feature at Google," a company representative said, "but until recently it worked because of a quirk of our software stack. We're constantly evolving our network, and as part of a planned software update, domain fronting no longer works. We don't have any plans to offer it as a feature."

Domain-fronting allowed developers to use Google as a proxy, forwarding traffic to their own servers through a Google.com domain. That was particularly important for evading state-level censorship, which might try to block all the traffic sent to a given service. As long as the service was using domain-fronting, all the in-country data requests would appear as if they were headed for Google.com, with encryption preventing censors from digging any deeper.
We do not yet know exactly why and when Google is shutting down the practice, but will update this post once we learn more.
Privacy

Richard Stallman On Facebook's Privacy Scandal: We Need a Law. There's No Reason We Should Let Them Exist if the Price is Knowing Everything About Us (nymag.com) 367

From a wide-ranging interview of Richard Stallman by New York Magazine: New York Magazine: Why do you think these companies feel justified in collecting that data?

Richard Stallman: Oh, well, I think you can trace it to the general plutocratic neoliberal ideology that has controlled the U.S. for more than two decades. A study established that since 1998 or so, the public opinion in general has no influence on political decisions. They're controlled by the desires of the rich and of special interests connected with whatever issue it is. So the companies that wanted to collect data about people could take advantage of this general misguided ideology to get away with whatever they might have wanted to do. Which happened to be collecting data about people. But I think they shouldn't be allowed to collect data about people.

We need a law. Fuck them -- there's no reason we should let them exist if the price is knowing everything about us. Let them disappear. They're not important -- our human rights are important. No company is so important that its existence justifies setting up a police state. And a police state is what we're heading toward. Most non-free software has malicious functionalities. And they include spying on people, restricting people -- that's called digital restrictions management, back doors, censorship.

Empirically, basically, if a program is not free software, it probably has one of these malicious functionalities. So imagine a driverless car, controlled of course by software, and it will probably be proprietary software, meaning not-free software, not controlled by the users but rather by the company that makes the car, or some other company. Well imagine if that has a back door, which enables somebody to send a command saying, "Ignore what the passenger said, and go there." Imagine what that would do. You can be quite sure that China will use that functionality to drive people toward the places they're going to be disappeared or punished. But can you be sure that the U.S. won't?

Youtube

Employees Who Worked at YouTube Say Violent Threats From Volatile 'Creators' Have Been Going on For Years (businessinsider.com) 349

Anonymous readers share a report: YouTube managers had no way to predict Nasim Aghdam would go on a bloody rampage, but they had plenty of reasons to fear that someone like her might one day show up, say former employees. Aghdam was the 38-year-old, disgruntled YouTube video creator who arrived at the company's San Bruno, California, headquarters on April 3 and began blasting away with a 9mm handgun. She wounded three staffers before she killed herself. Police say leading up to the shooting Aghdam, who was from San Diego, believed YouTube sought to censor her and ruin her life.

This kind of violence is unprecedented in YouTube's 13-year-history, though Aghdam's anger and paranoia aren't unique among the millions of people who create and post videos to the site, according to five former YouTube employees. In exclusive interviews, they told Business Insider that going back to the service's earliest days, frustrated creators -- seething over one of YouTube's policy changes or the other -- have threatened staffers with violence. Typically the threats were delivered via email. At least once, a video creator confronted a YouTube employee face-to-face and promised he would "destroy" him.

Youtube

YouTube Will Increase Security At All Offices Worldwide Following Shooting (theverge.com) 495

Following the shooting at YouTube's headquarters in San Bruno, California, yesterday, the company has announced plans to increase security at all of its offices worldwide. YouTube says this is intended to "make them more secure not only in the near term, but long-term." The Verge reports: The move reflects a growing concern in Silicon Valley that the effects of increasingly toxic and partisan online behavior may translate into violent offline actions. YouTube's statement was released through Google's Twitter account for communications; it's not clear whether Google itself will be implementing stronger security measures beyond YouTube. The shooter, 39-year-old Nasim Aghdam of San Diego, died yesterday of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after shooting and injuring three employees. From police reports, testimony from Aghdam's family members, and extensive traces of the woman's online behavior on YouTube and other platforms, we now know that Aghdam was disgruntled over the demonetizing of her videos and harm to her financial well-being.
Youtube

YouTube Shooter 'Nasim Aghdam' Reportedly Had Website With Manifesto That Targeted YouTube For Censorship, Demonetization (abc7news.com) 722

The woman who entered the YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, California, this morning and started shooting has been identified as Nasim Aghdam. According to ABC7 News, "the YouTube shooter was a user of the platform" and had "a website with an alleged manifesto that targeted YouTube for censorship and demonetization of her video content. According to her website, a possible motivation for the shooting could have been tied to her many YouTube accounts, which she says have seen a decline in viewership over the past few months."
Youtube

Update: Possible Active Shooter Reported at YouTube HQ (theverge.com) 788

Police have responded to multiple 911 calls at YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, California. From a report: Vadim Lavrusik, a product manager at the company, tweeted that there is an active shooter on campus. The San Bruno Police Department instructed people to stay away from 901 Cherry Avenue, where the company is located. Multiple 911 calls have been received from inside the building, according to a report from local news station KRON. In a Twitter thread, YouTube product manager Todd Sherman said that employees first thought there had been an earthquake. People began running out of their meetings, he said, but before reaching the exit, they got word that someone had a gun. Sherman said he saw blood on the floor and the stairs. He also said the shooter may have committed suicide. Vadim Lavrusik, who works at YouTube's products team, tweeted, "Active shooter at YouTube HQ. Heard shots and saw people running while at my desk. Now barricaded inside a room with coworkers."

Update 20:30 GMT: Google has issued the following statement, "we are coordinating with authorities and will provide official information here from Google and YouTube as it becomes available." San Bruno Police said it was "responding to an active shooter. Please stay away from Cherry Ave & Bay Hill Drive."

Update 20:40 GMT: CBS San Francisco reports: KPIX 5 reporter Andria Borba said at least two Homeland Security units were responding. Police radio transmissions describe casualties being taken to local hospitals. San Francisco General Hospital spokesman Brent Andrew said the hospital received patients from the incident but could not confirm a number. Update 21:20 GMT: ABC News is reporting that the suspected shooter is a white adult female, and that this is "leaning towards a workplace violence situation."

Update 21:30 GMT: Law enforcement has confirmed that the shooter was a white female dressed in a headscarf. The woman reportedly shot her boyfriend then herself. It's unclear exactly how many people have been injured, but early reports estimate at least 9-10 victims. There is no word on their conditions.

Update 03:10 GMT: ABC7 News is reporting that the shooter has been identified as Nasim Aghdam. She reportedly had a website with an alleged manifesto that targeted YouTube for censorship and demonetization of her video content. Contrary to previous reports, she is said to have no relationship with anyone in the YouTube facility.

UPDATE 03:40 GMT: Aghdam's website can be found here.

Update 04:15 GMT: The shooter is believed to have known at least one of the victims, two law enforcement officials told CNN. Other sources suggest the shooter drove up from San Diego. YouTube says her YouTube channel "has been terminated due to multiple or severe violations of YouTube's policy against spam, deceptive practices, and misleading content or other Terms of Service violations."
Books

Amazon is Burying Sexy Books, Sending Erotic Novel Authors to the 'No-Rank Dungeon' (vice.com) 163

Samantha Cole, reporting for Motherboard: In the last few days, word has spread among independent erotica authors on social media that Amazon was quietly changing its policies for erotic novels. Five authors I spoke to, and several more on social media, have reported that their books were stripped of their best seller rankings -- essentially hiding them from casual browsing on the site, and separating them from more mainstream, safe-for-work titles.

[...] Most people browsing Amazon books might not notice or care about the best seller rank -- a number that's based on how well the title is selling on Amazon.com -- but it's part of an algorithm that influences how the book appears in search, and whether it shows up in advertisements, including suggestions from one product to the next ("If you like this book, you might like this book"). For independent authors and booksellers, this ranking is hugely important for visibility.

Youtube

YouTube Bans Firearms Demo Videos, Entering the Gun Control Debate (bloomberg.com) 667

YouTube has quietly introduced tighter restrictions on videos involving weapons, becoming the latest battleground in the U.S. gun-control debate. "YouTube will ban videos that promote or link to websites selling firearms and accessories, including bump stocks, which allow a semi-automatic rifle to fire faster," reports Bloomberg. "Additionally, YouTube said it will prohibit videos with instructions on how to assemble firearms." From the report: "We routinely make updates and adjustments to our enforcement guidelines across all of our policies," a YouTube spokeswoman said in a statement. "While we've long prohibited the sale of firearms, we recently notified creators of updates we will be making around content promoting the sale or manufacture of firearms and their accessories." The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun industry lobbying group, called YouTube's new policy "worrisome." "We suspect it will be interpreted to block much more content than the stated goal of firearms and certain accessory sales," the foundation said in a statement. "We see the real potential for the blocking of educational content that serves instructional, skill-building and even safety purposes. Much like Facebook, YouTube now acts as a virtual public square. The exercise of what amounts to censorship, then, can legitimately be viewed as the stifling of commercial free speech."

The new YouTube policies will be enforced starting in April, but at least two video bloggers have already been affected. Spike's Tactical, a firearms company, said in a post on Facebook that it was suspended from YouTube due to "repeated or severe violations" of the video platform's guidelines.

Government

Senate Passes Controversial Online Sex Trafficking Bill (thehill.com) 169

The Senate today gave final approval to a bill aimed at cracking down on online sex trafficking, sending the measure to the White House where President Trump is expected to sign it into law. From a report: The legislation, called the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), but also referred to as SESTA, would cut into the broad protections websites have from legal liability for content posted by their users. Those protections are codified in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act from 1996, a law that many internet companies see as vital to protecting their platforms and that SESTA would amend to create an exception for sex trafficking.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the most outspoken critic of SESTA and one of the authors of the 1996 law, said that making exceptions to Section 230 will lead to small internet companies having to face an onslaught of frivolous lawsuits.
EFF expressed its disappointment, saying, "Today is a dark day for the Internet. Congress just passed the Internet censorship bill SESTA/FOSTA. SESTA/FOSTA will silence online speech by forcing Internet platforms to censor their users. As lobbyists and members of Congress applaud themselves for enacting a law ostensibly tackling the problem of trafficking, let's be clear: Congress just made trafficking victims less safe, not more. Sex trafficking experts have tried again and again to explain to Congress how SESTA/FOSTA will put trafficking victims in danger. Sex workers have spoken out too, explaining how online platforms have literally saved their lives. Why didn't Congress consult with the people their bill would most directly affect? [...] When platforms choose to err on the side of censorship, marginalized voices are censored disproportionately. SESTA/FOSTA will make the Internet a less inclusive place, something that hurts all of us. This might just be the beginning. Some of these groups behind SESTA / FOSTA seem to see the bill as a mere stepping stone to banning pornography from the Internet."

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