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Paul Merrell

White House, Intel Chiefs Want To Make Digital Spying Law Permanent | HuffPost - 0 views

  • The White House and U.S. intelligence chiefs Wednesday backed making permanent a law that allows for the collection of digital communications of foreigners overseas, escalating a fight in Congress over privacy and security. The law, enshrined in Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, is due to expire on December 31 unless Congress votes to reauthorize it, but is considered vital by U.S. intelligence agencies. Privacy advocates have criticized the law though for allowing the incidental collection of data belonging to millions of Americans without a search warrant. The push to make the law permanent may lead to a contentious debate over renewal of Section 702 in Congress, where lawmakers in both parties are deeply divided over whether to adopt transparency and oversight reforms
  • Reuters reported in March that the Trump administration supported renewal of Section 702 without any changes, citing an unnamed White House official, but it was not clear at the time whether it wanted the law made permanent.
Paul Merrell

Anti link-rot SaaS for web publishers -- WebCite - 0 views

  • The Problem Authors increasingly cite webpages and other digital objects on the Internet, which can "disappear" overnight. In one study published in the journal Science, 13% of Internet references in scholarly articles were inactive after only 27 months. Another problem is that cited webpages may change, so that readers see something different than what the citing author saw. The problem of unstable webcitations and the lack of routine digital preservation of cited digital objects has been referred to as an issue "calling for an immediate response" by publishers and authors [1]. An increasing number of editors and publishers ask that authors, when they cite a webpage, make a local copy of the cited webpage/webmaterial, and archive the cited URL in a system like WebCite®, to enable readers permanent access to the cited material.
  • What is WebCite®? WebCite®, a member of the International Internet Preservation Consortium, is an on-demand archiving system for webreferences (cited webpages and websites, or other kinds of Internet-accessible digital objects), which can be used by authors, editors, and publishers of scholarly papers and books, to ensure that cited webmaterial will remain available to readers in the future. If cited webreferences in journal articles, books etc. are not archived, future readers may encounter a "404 File Not Found" error when clicking on a cited URL. Try it! Archive a URL here. It's free and takes only 30 seconds. A WebCite®-enhanced reference is a reference which contains - in addition to the original live URL (which can and probably will disappear in the future, or its content may change) - a link to an archived copy of the material, exactly as the citing author saw it when he accessed the cited material.
    Free service spun off from the University of Toronto's University Health Network. Automagic archiving of cited internet content, generation of citations that include the url for the archived copy. Now if Google would just make it easier to use its search cache copies for the same purpose ...
Paul Merrell

German Parliament Says No More Software Patents | Electronic Frontier Foundation - 0 views

  • The German Parliament recently took a huge step that would eliminate software patents (PDF) when it issued a joint motion requiring the German government to ensure that computer programs are only covered by copyright. Put differently, in Germany, software cannot be patented. The Parliament's motion follows a similar announcement made by New Zealand's government last month (PDF), in which it determined that computer programs were not inventions or a manner of manufacture and, thus, cannot be patented.
  • The crux of the German Parliament's motion rests on the fact that software is already protected by copyright, and developers are afforded "exploitation rights." These rights, however, become confused when broad, abstract patents also cover general aspects of computer programs. These two intellectual property systems are at odds. The clearest example of this clash is with free software. The motion recognizes this issue and therefore calls upon the government "to preserve the precedence of copyright law so that software developers can also publish their work under open source license terms and conditions with legal security." The free software movement relies upon the fact that software can be released under a copyright license that allows users to share it and build upon others' works. Patents, as Parliament finds, inhibit this fundamental spread.
  • Just like in the New Zealand order, the German Parliament carved out one type of software that could be patented, when: the computer program serves merely as a replaceable equivalent for a mechanical or electro-mechanical component, as is the case, for instance, when software-based washing machine controls can replace an electromechanical program control unit consisting of revolving cylinders which activate the control circuits for the specific steps of the wash cycle This allows for software that is tied to (and controls part of) another invention to be patented. In other words, if a claimed process is purely a computer program, then it is not patentable. (New Zealand's order uses a similar washing machine example.) The motion ends by calling upon the German government to push for this approach to be standard across all of Europe. We hope policymakers in the United States will also consider fundamental reform that deals with the problems caused by low-quality software patents. Ultimately, any real reform must address this issue.
    Note that an unofficial translation of the parliamentary motion is linked from the article. This adds substantially to the pressure internationally to end software patents because Germany has been the strongest defender of software patents in Europe. The same legal grounds would not apply in the U.S. The strongest argument for the non-patentability in the U.S., in my opinion, is that software patents embody embody both prior art and obviousness. A general purpose computer can accomplish nothing unforeseen by the prior art of the computing device. And it is impossible for software to do more than cause different sequences of bit register states to be executed. This is the province of "skilled artisans" using known methods to produce predictable results. There is a long line of Supreme Court decisions holding that an "invention" with such traits is non-patentable. I have summarized that argument with citations at . 
Paul Merrell

The best way to read Glenn Greenwald's 'No Place to Hide' - 0 views

  • Journalist Glenn Greenwald just dropped a pile of new secret National Security Agency documents onto the Internet. But this isn’t just some haphazard WikiLeaks-style dump. These documents, leaked to Greenwald last year by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, are key supplemental reading material for his new book, No Place to Hide, which went on sale Tuesday. Now, you could just go buy the book in hardcover and read it like you would any other nonfiction tome. Thanks to all the additional source material, however, if any work should be read on an e-reader or computer, this is it. Here are all the links and instructions for getting the most out of No Place to Hide.
  • Greenwald has released two versions of the accompanying NSA docs: a compressed version and an uncompressed version. The only difference between these two is the quality of the PDFs. The uncompressed version clocks in at over 91MB, while the compressed version is just under 13MB. For simple reading purposes, just go with the compressed version and save yourself some storage space. Greenwald also released additional “notes” for the book, which are just citations. Unless you’re doing some scholarly research, you can skip this download.
  • No Place to Hide is, of course, available on a wide variety of ebook formats—all of which are a few dollars cheaper than the hardcover version, I might add. Pick your e-poison: Amazon, Nook, Kobo, iBooks. Flipping back and forth Each page of the documents includes a corresponding page number for the book, to allow readers to easily flip between the book text and the supporting documents. If you use the Amazon Kindle version, you also have the option of reading Greenwald’s book directly on your computer using the Kindle for PC app or directly in your browser. Yes, that may be the worst way to read a book. In this case, however, it may be the easiest way to flip back and forth between the book text and the notes and supporting documents. Of course, you can do the same on your e-reader—though it can be a bit of a pain. Those of you who own a tablet are in luck, as they provide the best way to read both ebooks and PDF files. Simply download the book using the e-reader app of your choice, download the PDFs from Greenwald’s website, and dig in. If you own a Kindle, Nook, or other ereader, you may have to convert the PDFs into a format that works well with your device. The Internet is full of tools and how-to guides for how to do this. Here’s one:
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  • Kindle users also have the option of using Amazon’s Whispernet service, which converts PDFs into a format that functions best on the company’s e-reader. That will cost you a small fee, however—$0.15 per megabyte, which means the compressed Greenwald docs will cost you a whopping $1.95.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

F1000Workspace - 1 views

    "Whenever you come across an interesting article online just click the 'F' button in your browser, and we'll save the web link, full citation data and the PDF. There's no easier way to stay organised."
Paul Merrell

This project aims to make '404 not found' pages a thing of the past - 0 views

  • The Internet is always changing. Sites are rising and falling, content is deleted, and bad URLs can lead to '404 Not Found' errors that are as helpful as a brick wall. A new project proposes an do away with dead 404 errors by implementing new HTML code that will help access prior versions of hyperlinked content. With any luck, that means that you’ll never have to run into a dead link again. The “404-No-More” project is backed by a formidable coalition including members from organizations like the Harvard Library Innovation Lab, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Old Dominion University, and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Part of the Knight News Challenge, which seeks to strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation through a variety of initiatives, 404-No-More recently reached the semifinal stage. The project aims to cure so-called link rot, the process by which hyperlinks become useless overtime because they point to addresses that are no longer available. If implemented, websites such as Wikipedia and other reference documents would be vastly improved. The new feature would also give Web authors a way provide links that contain both archived copies of content and specific dates of reference, the sort of information that diligent readers have to hunt down on a website like
  • While it may sound trivial, link rot can actually have real ramifications. Nearly 50 percent of the hyperlinks in Supreme Court decisions no longer work, a 2013 study revealed. Losing footnotes and citations in landmark legal decisions can mean losing crucial information and context about the laws that govern us. The same study found that 70 percent of URLs within the Harvard Law Review and similar journals didn’t link to the originally cited information, considered a serious loss surrounding the discussion of our laws. The project’s proponents have come up with more potential uses as well. Activists fighting censorship will have an easier time combatting government takedowns, for instance. Journalists will be much more capable of researching dynamic Web pages. “If every hyperlink was annotated with a publication date, you could automatically view an archived version of the content as the author intended for you to see it,” the project’s authors explain. The ephemeral nature of the Web could no longer be used as a weapon. Roger Macdonald, a director at the Internet Archive, called the 404-No-More project “an important contribution to preservation of knowledge.”
  • The new feature would come in the form of introducing the mset attribute to the <a> element in HTML, which would allow users of the code to specify multiple dates and copies of content as an external resource. For instance, if both the date of reference and the location of a copy of targeted content is known by an author, the new code would like like this: The 404-No-More project’s goals are numerous, but the ultimate goal is to have mset become a new HTML standard for hyperlinks. “An HTML standard that incorporates archives for hyperlinks will loop in these efforts and make the Web better for everyone,” project leaders wrote, “activists, journalists, and regular ol’ everyday web users.”
Paul Merrell

Information Warfare: Automated Propaganda and Social Media Bots | Global Research - 0 views

  • NATO has announced that it is launching an “information war” against Russia. The UK publicly announced a battalion of keyboard warriors to spread disinformation. It’s well-documented that the West has long used false propaganda to sway public opinion. Western military and intelligence services manipulate social media to counter criticism of Western policies. Such manipulation includes flooding social media with comments supporting the government and large corporations, using armies of sock puppets, i.e. fake social media identities. See this, this, this, this and this. In 2013, the American Congress repealed the formal ban against the deployment of propaganda against U.S. citizens living on American soil. So there’s even less to constrain propaganda than before.
  • Information warfare for propaganda purposes also includes: The Pentagon, Federal Reserve and other government entities using software to track discussion of political issues … to try to nip dissent in the bud before it goes viral “Controlling, infiltrating, manipulating and warping” online discourse Use of artificial intelligence programs to try to predict how people will react to propaganda
  • Some of the propaganda is spread by software programs. We pointed out 6 years ago that people were writing scripts to censor hard-hitting information from social media. One of America’s top cyber-propagandists – former high-level military information officer Joel Harding – wrote in December: I was in a discussion today about information being used in social media as a possible weapon.  The people I was talking with have a tool which scrapes social media sites, gauges their sentiment and gives the user the opportunity to automatically generate a persuasive response. Their tool is called a “Social Networking Influence Engine”. *** The implications seem to be profound for the information environment. *** The people who own this tool are in the civilian world and don’t even remotely touch the defense sector, so getting approval from the US Department of State might not even occur to them.
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  • How Can This Real? Gizmodo reported in 2010: Software developer Nigel Leck got tired rehashing the same 140-character arguments against climate change deniers, so he programmed a bot that does the work for him. With citations! Leck’s bot, @AI_AGW, doesn’t just respond to arguments directed at Leck himself, it goes out and picks fights. Every five minutes it trawls Twitter for terms and phrases that commonly crop up in Tweets that refute human-caused climate change. It then searches its database of hundreds to find a counter-argument best suited for that tweet—usually a quick statement and a link to a scientific source. As can be the case with these sorts of things, many of the deniers don’t know they’ve been targeted by a robot and engage AI_AGW in debate. The bot will continue to fire back canned responses that best fit the interlocutor’s line of debate—Leck says this goes on for days, in some cases—and the bot’s been outfitted with a number of responses on the topic of religion, where the arguments unsurprisingly often end up. Technology has come a long way in the past 5 years. So if a lone programmer could do this 5 years ago, imagine what he could do now. And the big players have a lot more resources at their disposal than a lone climate activist/software developer does.  For example, a government expert told the Washington Post that the government “quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type” (and see this).  So if the lone programmer is doing it, it’s not unreasonable to assume that the big boys are widely doing it.
  • How Effective Are Automated Comments? Unfortunately, this is more effective than you might assume … Specifically, scientists have shown that name-calling and swearing breaks down people’s ability to think rationally … and intentionally sowing discord and posting junk comments to push down insightful comments  are common propaganda techniques. Indeed, an automated program need not even be that sophisticated … it can copy a couple of words from the main post or a comment, and then spew back one or more radioactive labels such as “terrorist”, “commie”, “Russia-lover”, “wimp”, “fascist”, “loser”, “traitor”, “conspiratard”, etc. Given that Harding and his compadres consider anyone who questions any U.S. policies as an enemy of the state  – as does the Obama administration (and see this) – many honest, patriotic writers and commenters may be targeted for automated propaganda comments.
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