China

YouTube Suspends Account of Popular Chinese Dissident (freebeacon.com) 140

schwit1 brings news about an exiled Chinese billionaire with 500,000 followers on YouTube. The Washington Free Beacon reports:YouTube has suspended the video account of popular Chinese dissident Guo Wengui amid a mounting pressure from the Beijing government to silence one of its critics. According to a person familiar with the action, YouTube issued what the company calls a 'strike' against Guo, who since the beginning of the year has created an online sensation by posting lengthy videos in which he reveals details of corruption by senior Chinese officials. The suspension involves a 90-day block on any new live-stream postings of videos and was the result of a complaint made against a recent Guo video for alleged harassment. The identity of the person or institution who issued the complaint could not be learned... Other videos by Guo posted prior to the suspension remain accessible.
The suspension coincides with this week's once-every-five-years congress of the Chinese Communist party to reveal which top officials will serve President Xi Jinping, according to Financial Times, adding that "China's choreographed politics is not designed for public participation or questioning."
Advertising

Ask Slashdot: Is Deliberately Misleading People On the Internet Free Speech? 503

Slashdot reader dryriver writes: Before anyone cries "free speech must always be free," let me qualify the question. Under a myriad of different internet sites and blogs are these click-through adverts that promise quick "miracle cures" for everything from toenail fungus to hair loss to tinnitus to age-related skin wrinkles to cancer. A lot of the ads begin with copy that reads "This one weird trick cures....." Most of the "cures" on offer are complete and utter crap designed to lift a few dollars from the credit cards of hundreds of thousands of gullible internet users. The IQ boosting pills that supposedly give you "amazing mental focus after just 2 weeks" don't work at all. Neither do any of the anti-ageing or anti-wrinkle creams, regardless of which "miracle berry" extract they put in them this year. And if you try to cure your cancer with an Internet remedy rather than seeing a doctor, you may actually wind up dead.

So the question -- is peddling this stuff online really "free speech"? You are promising something grandiose in exchange for hard cash that you know doesn't deliver any benefits at all.

Long-time Slashdot reader apraetor counters, "But how do you determine what is 'true'?" And Slashdot reader ToTheStars argues "It's already established that making claims about medicine is subject to scrutiny by the FDA (or the relevant authority in your jurisdiction)." But are other things the equivalent of yelling "fire" in a crowded movie theatre? Leave your best thoughts in the comments. Is deliberately misleading people on the internet free speech?
Youtube

YouTube Alters Algorithm To Promote News, Penalize Vegas Shooting Conspiracy Theories (usatoday.com) 373

An anonymous reader quotes USA Today: YouTube has changed its powerful search algorithm to promote videos from more mainstream news outlets in search results after people looking for details on the Las Vegas shooting were served up conspiracy theories and misinformation. YouTube confirmed the changes Thursday... In the days after the mass shooting, videos abounded on YouTube, some questioning whether the shooting occurred and others claiming law enforcement officials had deceived the public about what really happened...

Public outcry over YouTube videos promoting conspiracy theories is just the latest online flap for the major U.S. Internet companies. Within hours of the attack, Facebook and Google were called out for promoting conspiracy theories... Helping drive YouTube's popularity is the "Up next" column which suggests additional videos to viewers. The Wall Street Journal found incidents this week in which YouTube suggested videos promoting conspiracy theories next to videos from mainstream news sources. YouTube acknowledged issues with the "Up next" algorithm and said it was looking to promote more authoritative results there, too.

At least one video was viewed over a million times, and Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein writes that "I've received emails from Google users who report YouTube pushing links to some of those trending fake videos directly to their phones as notifications." He's suggesting that from now on, YouTube's top trending videos should be reviewed by actual humans.
Government

Steve Wozniak: Net Neutrality Rollback 'Will End the Internet As We Know It' (siliconbeat.com) 215

An anonymous reader quotes Silicon Beat: Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak penned an op-ed on Friday with a former Federal Communications Commission chairman, urging the current FCC to stop its proposed rollback of Obama-era net neutrality regulations. In the op-ed published by USA Today, Wozniak and Michael Copps, who led the FCC from 2001 to 2011, argued the rollback will threaten freedom for internet users and may corrode democracy... "Sometimes there's a nugget of truth to the adage that Washington policymakers are disconnected from the people they purport to represent," they wrote. "It is a stirring example of democracy in action. With the Internet's future as a platform for innovation and democratic discourse on the line, a coalition of grassroots and diverse groups joined with technology firms to insist that the FCC maintain its 2015 open internet (or 'net neutrality') rules."
In the joint letter, Wozniak and Copps write that "We come from different walks of life, but each of us recognizes that the FCC is considering action that could end the internet as we know it -- a dynamic platform for entrepreneurship, jobs, education, and free expression."

"Will consumers and citizens control their online experiences, or will a few gigantic gatekeepers take this dynamic technology down the road of centralized control, toll booths and constantly rising prices for consumers? At stake is the nature of the internet and its capacity to transform our lives even more than it already has."
Canada

Bell Canada Wants Pirate Websites Blocked For Canadians (www.cbc.ca) 136

New submitter wierzpio writes: According to Rob Malcolmson, Bell Canada's VP of regulatory affairs, Canada is a safe haven to internet pirates and the only solution is to create a federally mandated blacklist of pirate websites. Unlike the existing blacklist in the U.K., Bell's plan appears to involve no judicial oversight. "Engaging in extrajudicial attempts to block access to sites, I think, raises all kinds of Charter of Rights and Freedoms issues," argues Michael Geist, a University of Ottawa professor and internet law expert. Quebec also wants to block sites. The province recently introduced a provincial law that would force internet providers to block users' access to online gambling sites not approved by the government. It argues the legislation is necessary to ensure internet gambling companies maintain responsible gaming rules.
Censorship

China Blocks WhatsApp (theverge.com) 104

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: China has blocked WhatsApp, security experts confirmed today to The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled). Over the past few months, WhatsApp has experienced brief disruptions to service, with users unable to send video chats or photos. Now, even text messages are completely blocked, according to Nadim Kobeissi, an applied cryptographer at Symbolic Software, a Paris-based research firm that also monitors digital censorship in China. Kobeissi found that China may have recently upgraded its firewall to detect and block the NoiseSocket protocol that WhatsApp uses to send texts, in addition to already blocking the HTTPS/TLS that WhatsApp uses to send photos and videos. He said, "I think it took time for the Chinese firewall to adapt to this new protocol so that it could also target text messages." His company noticed the app disruptions beginning last Wednesday.
Books

'Banned Books Week' Recognizes 2016's Most-Censored Books (and Comic Books) (newsweek.com) 166

An anonymous reader quotes Newsweek: The American Library Association's yearly Banned Books Week, held this year between Sunday September 24 and Saturday September 30, is both a celebration of freedom and a warning against censorship. Launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries, the event spotlights the risk of censorship still present... "While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read," the ALA stated.
"This Banned Books Week, we're asking people of all political persuasions to come together and celebrate Our Right to Read," says a coalition supporting the event. The ALA reports that half of the most frequently challenged books were in fact actually banned last year, according to the library group's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), which calculates there were 17% more attempts to censor books in America in 2016. The five most-challenged books all contained LGBT characters, and the most common phrase used to complain about books is "sexually explicit," the OIF told Publisher's Weekly -- perhaps reflecting a change in targets. He believes one reason is that most challenges now are reported not for books in the library but against books in the advanced English curricula of some schools. This change also represents a shift upward in the age of the readers of the most challenged books. "We've moved from helicopter parenting, where people were hovering over their kids, to Velcro parenting," LaRue says. "There's no space at all between the hand of the parent and the head of the child. These are kids who are 16, 17; in one year they're going to be old enough to sign up for the military, get married, or vote, and their parents are still trying to protect them from content that is sexually explicit. I think that's a shift from overprotectiveness to almost suffocating."
Three of the 10 most-challenged books were graphic novels, so the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is sharing their own list of banned and challenged comics.

Their list includes two Neil Gaiman titles, Sandman and The Graveyard Book , as well two popular Batman titles -- Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Strikes Again and Alan Moore's The Killing Joke -- plus Moore's graphic novel Watchmen, Maus by Art Spiegelman, and even Amazing Spider-Man: Revelations by J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita, Jr.
Government

Spain's Crackdown on Catalonia Includes Internet Censorship (internetsociety.org) 363

Spain's autonomous Catalonia region wants to hold a referendum on independence next weekend. Spain's Constitutional Court insists that that vote is illegal, and has taken control of Catalonia's police force to try to stop the vote. They're deploying thousands of additional police officers and have seized nearly 10 million ballots. And now the Internet Society has gotten involved, according to an announcement shared by Slashdot reader valinor89: Measures restricting free and open access to the Internet related to the independence referendum have been reported in Catalonia. There have been reports that major telecom operators have been asked to monitor and block traffic to political websites, and following a court order, law enforcement has raided the offices of the .cat registry in Barcelona, examining a computer and arresting staff.

We are concerned by reports that this court order would require a top-level domain (TLD) operator such as .cat to begin to block "all domains that may contain any kind of information about the referendum."

EU

EU Presidency Calls For Massive Internet Filtering, Leaked Document Shows (edri.org) 236

An anonymous reader shares a report: A Council of the European Union document leaked by Statewatch on 30 August reveals that during the summer months, that Estonia (current EU Presidency) has been pushing the other Member States to strengthen indiscriminate internet surveillance, and to follow in the footsteps of China regarding online censorship. Standing firmly behind its belief that filtering the uploads is the way to go, the Presidency has worked hard in order to make the proposal for the new copyright Directive even more harmful than the Commission's original proposal, and pushing it further into the realms of illegality. According to the leaked document, the text suggests two options for each of the two most controversial proposals: the so-called "link tax" or ancillary copyright and the upload filter.
Facebook

Facebook To Open New Office in Kendall Square, Adding Hundreds of Jobs (bostonglobe.com) 37

Facebook has a status update: The social network will open a new office in Cambridge next year and plans to hire more than 500 employees, bringing the Boston-based staff to 650. From a report: The company, which founder Mark Zuckerberg launched at Harvard before decamping for the West Coast, established its first Boston-based team nearly four years ago with a small group of employees sharing a workspace. Today, that team has grown to more than 100 people in a Kendall Square office, and space is getting tight, said Ryan Mack, who leads the Facebook Boston office. "We serve 2 billion people on Facebook," he said, "and we need to continue to scale." The new offices will occupy the top three floors of 100 Binney St., a new building designed by Elkus Manfredi that is scheduled to open early next year. Facebook will share the space with 300 Bristol-Myers Squibb employees.
Advertising

Facebook Pages Spreading Fake News Won't Be Able To Buy Ads (techcrunch.com) 474

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Facebook says it's taking another step against Pages that share fabricated news stories. The company has already been working with outside fact-checkers like Snopes and the AP to flag inaccurate news stories. (These aren't supposed to be stories that are disputed for reasons of opinion or partisanship, but rather outright hoaxes and lies.) It also says that when a story is marked as disputed, the link can can no longer be promoted through Facebook ads. The next step, which the company is announcing today, involves stopping Pages that regularly share these stories from buying any Facebook ads at all, regardless of whether or not the ad includes a disputed link. In this case, Leathern said blocking ad-buying is meant to change the economic incentives. Facebook is concerned that "there are Pages posting this information that are using Facebook Ads to build audiences" to spread false news. By changing the ad policy, Facebook makes it harder for companies to attract that audience.
China

China Orders Internet Comments Linked To Real Identities (engadget.com) 251

A (truly) anonymous Slashdot reader quotes Engadget: China isn't slowing down in its bid to silence online political opposition. As of October 1st, the country will require that tech firms hold on to records of the real identities of everyone posting comments on internet message boards. This is to discourage "false rumors, filthy language and illegal messages," according to the government. Of course, it's that last part that Chinese officials are really interested in -- they know you're less likely to challenge the political order if investigators can easily track you down.

The timing of this identity requirement, the VPN restriction and other crackdowns (such as an investigation into internet giants for allowing material that "harms the social order") isn't coincidental. China's ruling party has its next national congress later in 2017, and it has a habit of ramping up censorship around these gatherings to discourage criticism of party policies.

Censorship

50,000 Users Test New Anti-Censorship Tool TapDance (www.cbc.ca) 198

The CBC reports: What if circumventing censorship didn't rely on some app or service provider that would eventually get blocked but was built into the very core of the internet itself? What if the routers and servers that underpin the internet -- infrastructure so important that it would be impractical to block -- could also double as one big anti-censorship tool...? After six years in development, three research groups have joined forces to conduct real-world tests.
An anonymous reader writes: Earlier this week, Professor Eric Wustrow, from the University of Colorado at Boulder, presented An ISP-Scale Deployment of TapDance at the USENIX Workshop on Free and Open Communications on the Internet. TapDance is an anti-censorship, circumvention application based on "refraction networking" (formerly known as "decoy routing") that has been the subject of academic research for several years. Now, with integration with Psiphon, 50,000 users, a deployment that spans two ISPs, and an open source release, it seems to have graduated to the real world.
"In the long run, we absolutely do want to see refraction networking deployed at as many ISPs that are as deep in the network as possible," one of the paper's authors told the CBC. "We would love to be so deeply embedded in the core of the network that to block this tool of free communication would be cost-prohibitive for censors."
China

China Cracks Down on VPN Vendors (bbc.com) 40

An anonymous reader shares a BBC report: China's latest crackdown on those attempting to skirt state censorship controls has seen it warn e-commerce platforms over the sale of illegal virtual private networks (VPNs). Five websites, including shopping giant Alibaba, have been asked to remove vendors that sell VPNs. It is the latest in a series of measures from the Chinese government to maintain strict control over content. Apple has previously been asked to remove VPN apps. China's cyber-regulator the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has ordered the websites to carry out immediate "self-examination and correction." "The CAC has ordered these five sites to immediately carry out a comprehensive clean-up of harmful information, close corresponding illegal account.. and submit a rectification report by a deadline," the regulator said in a statement.
Google

James Damore Explains Why He Was Fired By Google (wsj.com) 1256

In an exclusive Wall Street Journal post, the engineer responsible for the anti-diversity "Google manifesto," James Damore, explains why he was fired by the company: I was fired by Google this past Monday for a document that I wrote and circulated internally raising questions about cultural taboos and how they cloud our thinking about gender diversity at the company and in the wider tech sector. I suggested that at least some of the male-female disparity in tech could be attributed to biological differences (and, yes, I said that bias against women was a factor too). Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai declared that portions of my statement violated the company's code of conduct and "cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace." My 10-page document set out what I considered a reasoned, well-researched, good-faith argument, but as I wrote, the viewpoint I was putting forward is generally suppressed at Google because of the company's "ideological echo chamber." My firing neatly confirms that point. How did Google, the company that hires the smartest people in the world, become so ideologically driven and intolerant of scientific debate and reasoned argument? [...]

In my document, I committed heresy against the Google creed by stating that not all disparities between men and women that we see in the world are the result of discriminatory treatment. When I first circulated the document about a month ago to our diversity groups and individuals at Google, there was no outcry or charge of misogyny. I engaged in reasoned discussion with some of my peers on these issues, but mostly I was ignored. Everything changed when the document went viral within the company and the wider tech world. Those most zealously committed to the diversity creed -- that all differences in outcome are due to differential treatment and all people are inherently the same -- could not let this public offense go unpunished. They sent angry emails to Google's human-resources department and everyone up my management chain, demanding censorship, retaliation and atonement. Upper management tried to placate this surge of outrage by shaming me and misrepresenting my document, but they couldn't really do otherwise: The mob would have set upon anyone who openly agreed with me or even tolerated my views. When the whole episode finally became a giant media controversy, thanks to external leaks, Google had to solve the problem caused by my supposedly sexist, anti-diversity manifesto, and the whole company came under heated and sometimes threatening scrutiny.

China

China's VPN Developers Face Crackdown (bbc.com) 55

China recently launched a crackdown on the use of software which allows users to get around its heavy internet censorship. Now as the BBC reports, developers are facing growing pressure. From the report: The three plain-clothes policemen tracked him down using a web address. They came to his house and demanded to see his computer. They told him to take down the app he was selling on Apple's App Store, and filmed it as it was happening. His crime was to develop and sell a piece of software that allows people to get round the tough restrictions that limit access to the internet in China. A virtual private network (VPN) uses servers abroad to provide a secure link to the internet. It's essential in China if you want to access parts of the outside world like Facebook, Gmail or YouTube, all of which are blocked on the mainland. "They insisted they needed to see my computer," the software developer, who didn't want us to use his name, told us during a phone interview. "I said this is my private stuff. How can you search as you please?" No warrant was produced and when he asked them what law he had violated they didn't say. Initially he refused to co-operate but, fearing detention, he relented. Then they told him what they wanted: "If you take the app off the shelf from Apple's App Store then this will be all over." 'Sorry, I can't help you with that'. Up until a few months ago his was a legal business. Then the government changed the regulations. VPN sellers need a licence now.
Software

Cable Giants Step Up Piracy Battle By Interrogating Montreal Software Developer (www.cbc.ca) 185

New submitter wierzpio writes: In more news about TVAddons, Canadian cable companies used a civil search warrant to visit the owner and developer of TVAddons, a library of hundreds of apps known as add-ons that allow people easy access to pirated movies, TV shows, and live TV. According to Adam Lackman, founder of TVAddons and defendant in the copyright lawsuit launched by the television giants, "The whole experience was horrifying. It felt like the kind of thing you would have expected to have happened in the Soviet Union." During the 16 hour-long visit, he was interrogated, denied the right not to answer the questions, and denied the right to consult his answers with his lawyer, who was present. His personal possessions were seized. Adam is fighting back (link to Indiegogo fundraising page) and already the judge declared the search warrant "null and void." "I am of the view that its true purpose was to destroy the livelihood of the defendant, deny him the financial resources to finance a defense to the claim made against him," the judge wrote. "The defendant has demonstrated that he has an arguable case that he is not violating the [Copyright] Act," the judge continued, adding that by the plaintiffs' own estimate, only about one per cent of Lackman's add-ons were allegedly used to pirate content. Lackman's belongings still haven't been returned, and he can't acess the TVAddons website or its social media accounts, which were also seized. "Bell, Rogers and Videotron has appealed the court decision and a Federal Court of Appeal judge has ruled that until the appeal can be hard, Lackman will get nothing back," reports cbc.ca.
Censorship

Joining Apple, Amazon's China Cloud Service Bows To Censors (nytimes.com) 51

Days after Apple yanked anti-censorship tools off its app store in China, another major American technology company is moving to implement the country's tough restrictions on online content. From a report: A Chinese company that operates Amazon's cloud-computing and online services business there said on Tuesday that it told local customers to cease using any software that would allow Chinese to circumvent the country's extensive system of internet blocks (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). The company, called Beijing Sinnet Technology and operator of the American company's Amazon Web Services operations in China, sent one round of emails to customers on Friday and another on Monday. "If users don't comply with the guidance, the offered services and their websites can be shut down," said a woman surnamed Wang who answered a Sinnet service hotline. "We the operators also check routinely if any of our users use these softwares or store illegal content." Ms. Wang said the letter was sent according to recent guidance from China's Ministry of Public Security and the country's telecom regulator. Amazon did not respond to emails and phone calls requesting comment. The emails are the latest sign of a widening push by China's government to block access to software that gets over the Great Firewall -- the nickname for the sophisticated internet filters that China uses to stop its people from gaining access to Facebook, Google and Twitter, as well as foreign news media outlets.
Privacy

Russia Bans VPNs To Stop Users From Looking at Censored Sites (cnn.com) 119

Russia is cracking down on software that allows users to view internet sites banned by the government. From a report: President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill that prohibits services, including virtual private networks (VPNs), that enable users to skirt government censorship efforts. The law will take effect on November 1. Russian internet regulator Roskomnadzor maintains a blacklist of thousands of websites. Leonid Levin, chairman of a parliamentary committee on information policy and communications, said the law signed by Putin does not "introduce any new restrictions and especially no censorship." "My colleagues only included the restriction of access to information that is already forbidden by law or a court decision," he told state news agency RIA Novosti earlier this month.
China

Apple Pulls Anti-Censorship Apps from China's App Store (fortune.com) 108

An anonymous reader quotes Fortune:Services helping Chinese users circumvent the "Great Firewall of China" have been pulled from Apple's Chinese App Store en masse. On Saturday morning, at least some software makers affected by the sweep received notification from Apple that their tools were removed for violating Chinese law. Internet censorship in China restricts communications about topics including democracy, Tibetan freedom, and the 1989 Tienanmen Square protests. The culling primarily seems to have affected virtual private networks, or VPNs, which mask users' Internet activity and data from outside monitoring. According to a report by the New York Times, many of the most popular such apps are now missing from the Chinese App Store.

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