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Paul Merrell

Big Tech companies appeal to Supreme Court to strike down Texas law banning political censorship - LifeSite - 0 views

  • Facebook and Google are among multiple Big Tech companies seeking to have Texas’ new law banning political censorship on social media axed by the Supreme Court. According to The Washington Post, advocacy groups NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) filed an emergency application with the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday on behalf of Facebook, Google and other Big Tech companies, with the intention of striking down the new Texas law that prohibits censorship based on political ideology on social media. In a statement about the emergency filing, NetChoice counsel Chris Marchese argues that the Texas law, which went into effect last Wednesday, “strips private online businesses of their speech rights, forbids them from making constitutionally protected editorial decisions, and forces them to publish and promote objectionable content.”
  • “Left standing, [the Texas law] will turn the First Amendment on its head — to violate free speech, the government need only claim to be ‘protecting’ it,” Marchese added. Under the law, Texas residents and the state’s attorney general would be permitted to sue social media companies based in the United States if they believe their social media accounts were censored based on their political views. While the law was initially blocked by a federal district judge after it was signed last September by Texas Gov. Greg Abbot, the injunction was ultimately lifted by an appeals court last Wednesday. Big Tech companies have been consistently charged with weaponizing their “Terms of Service” agreements with users in an effort to ban or censor those expressing traditionally conservative or right-wing views on their extremely large and influential platforms.
Paul Merrell

Russian court slaps Google, Meta with massive fines - Taipei Times - 1 views

  • A Moscow court on Friday slapped Google with a nearly US$100 million fine and also fined Facebook Inc’s parent company Meta Platforms Inc US$27 million over their failure to delete content banned by local law, as Russia seeks to step up pressure on technology giants. The Tagansky District Court ruled that Google repeatedly neglected to remove the banned content, and ordered the company to pay an administrative fine of 7.2 billion rubles (US$97.7 million).
  • Later on Friday, the court also slapped a fine of nearly 2 billion rubles on Meta for failure to remove banned content. Russian courts had this year imposed smaller fines on Google, Facebook and Twitter Inc, and Friday’s rulings were the first time that the size of the fines were calculated based on revenue. Russian state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said that Google and Meta were specifically accused of contravening a ban on distributing content that promotes extremist ideology, insults religious beliefs and encourages dangerous behavior by minors, among other things.
Paul Merrell

Facebook's Zuckerberg Called Out by The BMJ for 'Incompetent' Fact Check on Pfizer Story * Children's Health Defense - 1 views

  • The BMJ asked Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg to remove a warning that discourages Facebook users from sharing an article about flaws in Pfizer’s COVID vaccine trial, saying the platform’s “incompetent” fact checkers are unfaily labeling stories as false. In an open letter Friday, The BMJ editors explained how some readers are unable to post its Nov. 2 article on Facebook. Other readers have received pop-up warnings that if they choose to share “false information,” their posts may rank lower in Facebook’s news feed.
  • “We find the ‘fact check’ performed by Lead Stories to be inaccurate, incompetent and irresponsible,” wrote The BMJ editors Fiona Godlee and Kamran Abbasi. “It fails to provide any assertions of fact that The BMJ article got wrong.” The BMJ article last month documented a host of poor practices that may have hurt data integrity and patient safety in the Phase 3 trial for Pfizer’s COVID vaccine. A whistleblower had supplied The BMJ with internal company documents, photos, audio recordings and e-mails from a contract research company overseeing some trial sites. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration declined to inspect the affected sites despite receiving a direct complaint in 2020, The BMJ said. Pfizer’s vaccine, called Comirnaty, received approval in August 2021. “There is also a wider concern that we wish to raise,” The BMJ wrote in its letter to Zuckerberg. “We are aware that The BMJ is not the only high quality information provider to have been affected by the incompetence of Meta’s fact checking regime.”
  • Facebook isn’t Lead Stories’ only client. The company also works for Google, ByteDance (TikTok’s owner) and the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. The fact checker’s stated mission is to “hunt for trending stories, images, videos and posts that contain false information in order to fact check them as quickly as possible.” The BMJ urged Zuckerberg to act swiftly, “specifically to correct the error relating to The BMJ’s article and to review the processes that led to the error; and generally to reconsider your investment in and approach to fact checking overall.”
Paul Merrell

How Silicon Valley, in a Show of Monopolistic Force, Destroyed Parler - Glenn Greenwald - 1 views

  • As Silicon Valley censorship radically escalated over the past several months — banning pre-election reporting by The New York Post about the Biden family, denouncing and deleting multiple posts from the U.S. President and then terminating his access altogether, mass-removal of right-wing accounts — so many people migrated to Parler that it was catapulted to the number one spot on the list of most-downloaded apps on the Apple Play Store, the sole and exclusive means which iPhone users have to download apps. “Overall, the app was the 10th most downloaded social media app in 2020 with 8.1 million new installs,” reported TechCrunch.It looked as if Parler had proven critics of Silicon Valley monopolistic power wrong. Their success showed that it was possible after all to create a new social media platform to compete with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And they did so by doing exactly what Silicon Valley defenders long insisted should be done: if you don’t like the rules imposed by tech giants, go create your own platform with different rules.
  • But today, if you want to download, sign up for, or use Parler, you will be unable to do so. That is because three Silicon Valley monopolies — Amazon, Google and Apple — abruptly united to remove Parler from the internet, exactly at the moment when it became the most-downloaded app in the country. If one were looking for evidence to demonstrate that these tech behemoths are, in fact, monopolies that engage in anti-competitive behavior in violation of antitrust laws, and will obliterate any attempt to compete with them in the marketplace, it would be difficult to imagine anything more compelling than how they just used their unconstrained power to utterly destroy a rising competitor.
Paul Merrell

Several U.S. tech firms launch coalition to promote key internet law | Reuters - 0 views

  • everal technology companies including Snap Inc, Pinterest, Dropbox and eBay announced a coalition on Tuesday that would advocate the benefits of Section 230, a decades-old law protecting internet firms.Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects tech companies from liability over content posted by users, and has been under attack from U.S. President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers. They have criticized internet platforms’ content moderation decisions and accused them of stifling conservative voices.
  • Trump said earlier this month that he would veto the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act unless it includes a measure eliminating the law.
  • The coalition, Internet Works, said on Tuesday it aims to ensure that policymakers understand “the potential unintended consequences of blunt changes to the law”, including limiting effective content moderation efforts."This coalition brings new voices and diverse perspectives to Washington's current Section 230 debate, which too often focuses on the largest internet platforms," it said here.
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  • The coalition also includes GoDaddy Inc, Tripadvisor and the Wikimedia Foundation.
Paul Merrell

UK Government Approves Net Censorship - British Free Speech Dies | Zero Hedge - 0 views

  • The United Kingdom has become the first Western nation to move ahead with large-scale censorship of the internet, effectively creating regulation that will limit freedom on the last frontier of digital liberty. In a move that has the nation reeling, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has unveiled rules that will punish internet companies with fines, and even imprisonment, if they fail to protect users from “harmful and illegal content.”
  • Couched in language that suggests this is being done to protect children from pedophiles and vulnerable people from cyberbullying, the proposals will place a massive burden on small companies. Further, they will ultimately make it impossible for those not of the pervasive politically correct ideology to produce and share content.
Paul Merrell

Sick Of Facebook? Read This. - 2 views

  • In 2012, The Guardian reported on Facebook’s arbitrary and ridiculous nudity and violence guidelines which allow images of crushed limbs but – dear god spare us the image of a woman breastfeeding. Still, people stayed – and Facebook grew. In 2014, Facebook admitted to mind control games via positive or negative emotional content tests on unknowing and unwilling platform users. Still, people stayed – and Facebook grew. Following the 2016 election, Facebook responded to the Harpie shrieks from the corporate Democrats bysetting up a so-called “fake news” task force to weed out those dastardly commies (or socialists or anarchists or leftists or libertarians or dissidents or…). And since then, I’ve watched my reach on Facebook drain like water in a bathtub – hard to notice at first and then a spastic swirl while people bicker about how to plug the drain. And still, we stayed – and the censorship tightened. Roughly a year ago, my show Act Out! reported on both the censorship we were experiencing but also the cramped filter bubbling that Facebook employs in order to keep the undesirables out of everyone’s news feed. Still, I stayed – and the censorship tightened. 2017 into 2018 saw more and more activist organizers, particularly black and brown, thrown into Facebook jail for questioning systemic violence and demanding better. In August, puss bag ass hat in a human suit Alex Jones was banned from Facebook – YouTube, Apple and Twitter followed suit shortly thereafter. Some folks celebrated. Some others of us skipped the party because we could feel what was coming.
  • On Thursday, October 11th of this year, Facebook purged more than 800 pages including The Anti-Media, Police the Police, Free Thought Project and many other social justice and alternative media pages. Their explanation rested on the painfully flimsy foundation of “inauthentic behavior.” Meanwhile, their fake-news checking team is stacked with the likes of the Atlantic Council and the Weekly Standard, neocon junk organizations that peddle such drivel as “The Character Assassination of Brett Kavanaugh.” Soon after, on the Monday before the Midterm elections, Facebook blocked another 115 accounts citing once again, “inauthentic behavior.” Then, in mid November, a massive New York Times piece chronicled Facebook’s long road to not only save its image amid rising authoritarian behavior, but “to discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros.” (I consistently find myself waiting for those Soros and Putin checks in the mail that just never appear.)
  • What we need is an open source, non-surveillance platform. And right now, that platform is Minds. Before you ask, I’m not being paid to write that.
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  • Fashioned as an alternative to the closed and creepy Facebook behemoth, Minds advertises itself as “an open source and decentralized social network for Internet freedom.” Minds prides itself on being hands-off with regards to any content that falls in line with what’s permitted by law, which has elicited critiques from some on the left who say Minds is a safe haven for fascists and right-wing extremists. Yet, Ottman has himself stated openly that he wants ideas on content moderation and ways to make Minds a better place for social network users as well as radical content creators. What a few fellow journos and I are calling #MindsShift is an important step in not only moving away from our gagged existence on Facebook but in building a social network that can serve up the real news folks are now aching for.
  • To be clear, we aren’t advocating that you delete your Facebook account – unless you want to. For many, Facebook is still an important tool and our goal is to add to the outreach toolkit, not suppress it. We have set January 1st, 2019 as the ultimate date for this #MindsShift. Several outlets with a combined reach of millions of users will be making the move – and asking their readerships/viewerships to move with them. Along with fellow journalists, I am working with Minds to brainstorm new user-friendly functions and ways to make this #MindsShift a loud and powerful move. We ask that you, the reader, add to the conversation by joining the #MindsShift and spreading the word to your friends and family. (Join Minds via this link) We have created the #MindsShift open group on Minds.com so that you can join and offer up suggestions and ideas to make this platform a new home for radical and progressive media.
Paul Merrell

Social Media Giants Choking Independent News Site Traffic to a Trickle - 0 views

  • Several prominent figures, including Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, warned the EU Parliament that its proposed censorship measure would begin transforming the Internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users.
  • For much of the year, independent media has felt the sting of increased social media censorship, as the “revolving door” between U.S. intelligence agencies and social-media companies has manifested in a crackdown on news that challenges official government narratives. With many notable independent news websites having shut down since then as a result, those that remain afloat are being censored like never before, with social media traffic from Facebook and Twitter completely cut off in some cases. Among such websites, social media censorship by the most popular social networks is now widely regarded to be the worst it has ever been – a chilling reality for any who seek fact-based perspectives on major world events that differ from those to be found on well-known corporate-media outlets that consistently toe the government line. Last August, MintPress reported that a new Google algorithm targeting “fake news” had quashed traffic to many independent news and advocacy sites, with sites such as the American Civil Liberties Union, Democracy Now, and WikiLeaks, seeing their returns from Google searches experience massive drops. The World Socialist Website, one of the affected pages, reported a 67 percent decrease in Google returns while MintPress experienced an even larger decrease of 76 percent in Google search returns. The new algorithm targeted online publications on both sides of the political spectrum critical of U.S. imperialism, foreign wars, and other long-standing government policies. Now, less than a year later, the situation has become even more dire. Several independent media pages have reported that their social media traffic has sharply declined since March and – in some cases – stopped almost entirely since June began. For instance, independent media website Antimedia – a page with over 2 million likes and follows – saw its traffic drop from around 150,000 page views per day earlier this month to around 12,000 as of this week. As a reference, this time last year Antimedia’s traffic stood at nearly 300,000 a day.
Paul Merrell

Censorship in the Age of Large Cloud Providers - Lawfare - 2 views

  • Internet censors have a new strategy in their bid to block applications and websites: pressuring the large cloud providers that host them. These providers have concerns that are much broader than the targets of censorship efforts, so they have the choice of either standing up to the censors or capitulating in order to maximize their business. Today’s internet largely reflects the dominance of a handful of companies behind the cloud services, search engines and mobile platforms that underpin the technology landscape. This new centralization radically tips the balance between those who want to censor parts of the internet and those trying to evade censorship. When the profitable answer is for a software giant to acquiesce to censors' demands, how long can internet freedom last? The recent battle between the Russian government and the Telegram messaging app illustrates one way this might play out. Russia has been trying to block Telegram since April, when a Moscow court banned it after the company refused to give Russian authorities access to user messages. Telegram, which is widely used in Russia, works on both iPhone and Android, and there are Windows and Mac desktop versions available. The app offers optional end-to-end encryption, meaning that all messages are encrypted on the sender's phone and decrypted on the receiver's phone; no part of the network can eavesdrop on the messages. Since then, Telegram has been playing cat-and-mouse with the Russian telecom regulator Roskomnadzor by varying the IP address the app uses to communicate. Because Telegram isn't a fixed website, it doesn't need a fixed IP address. Telegram bought tens of thousands of IP addresses and has been quickly rotating through them, staying a step ahead of censors. Cleverly, this tactic is invisible to users. The app never sees the change, or the entire list of IP addresses, and the censor has no clear way to block them all. A week after the court ban, Roskomnadzor countered with an unprecedented move of its own: blocking 19 million IP addresses, many on Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud. The collateral damage was widespread: The action inadvertently broke many other web services that use those platforms, and Roskomnadzor scaled back after it became clear that its action had affected services critical for Russian business. Even so, the censor is still blocking millions of IP addresses.
Paul Merrell

Theresa May to create new internet that would be controlled and regulated by government | The Independent - 1 views

  • Theresa May is planning to introduce huge regulations on the way the internet works, allowing the government to decide what is said online. Particular focus has been drawn to the end of the manifesto, which makes clear that the Tories want to introduce huge changes to the way the internet works. "Some people say that it is not for government to regulate when it comes to technology and the internet," it states. "We disagree." Senior Tories confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the phrasing indicates that the government intends to introduce huge restrictions on what people can post, share and publish online. The plans will allow Britain to become "the global leader in the regulation of the use of personal data and the internet", the manifesto claims. It comes just soon after the Investigatory Powers Act came into law. That legislation allowed the government to force internet companies to keep records on their customers' browsing histories, as well as giving ministers the power to break apps like WhatsApp so that messages can be read. The manifesto makes reference to those increased powers, saying that the government will work even harder to ensure there is no "safe space for terrorists to be able to communicate online". That is apparently a reference in part to its work to encourage technology companies to build backdoors into their encrypted messaging services – which gives the government the ability to read terrorists' messages, but also weakens the security of everyone else's messages, technology companies have warned.
  • The government now appears to be launching a similarly radical change in the way that social networks and internet companies work. While much of the internet is currently controlled by private businesses like Google and Facebook, Theresa May intends to allow government to decide what is and isn't published, the manifesto suggests. The new rules would include laws that make it harder than ever to access pornographic and other websites. The government will be able to place restrictions on seeing adult content and any exceptions would have to be justified to ministers, the manifesto suggests. The manifesto even suggests that the government might stop search engines like Google from directing people to pornographic websites. "We will put a responsibility on industry not to direct users – even unintentionally – to hate speech, pornography, or other sources of harm," the Conservatives write.
  • The laws would also force technology companies to delete anything that a person posted when they were under 18. But perhaps most unusually they would be forced to help controversial government schemes like its Prevent strategy, by promoting counter-extremist narratives. "In harnessing the digital revolution, we must take steps to protect the vulnerable and give people confidence to use the internet without fear of abuse, criminality or exposure to horrific content", the manifesto claims in a section called 'the safest place to be online'. The plans are in keeping with the Tories' commitment that the online world must be regulated as strongly as the offline one, and that the same rules should apply in both. "Our starting point is that online rules should reflect those that govern our lives offline," the Conservatives' manifesto says, explaining this justification for a new level of regulation. "It should be as unacceptable to bully online as it is in the playground, as difficult to groom a young child on the internet as it is in a community, as hard for children to access violent and degrading pornography online as it is in the high street, and as difficult to commit a crime digitally as it is physically."
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  • The manifesto also proposes that internet companies will have to pay a levy, like the one currently paid by gambling firms. Just like with gambling, that money will be used to pay for advertising schemes to tell people about the dangers of the internet, in particular being used to "support awareness and preventative activity to counter internet harms", according to the manifesto. The Conservatives will also seek to regulate the kind of news that is posted online and how companies are paid for it. If elected, Theresa May will "take steps to protect the reliability and objectivity of information that is essential to our democracy" – and crack down on Facebook and Google to ensure that news companies get enough advertising money. If internet companies refuse to comply with the rulings – a suggestion that some have already made about the powers in the Investigatory Powers Act – then there will be a strict and strong set of ways to punish them. "We will introduce a sanctions regime to ensure compliance, giving regulators the ability to fine or prosecute those companies that fail in their legal duties, and to order the removal of content where it clearly breaches UK law," the manifesto reads. In laying out its plan for increased regulation, the Tories anticipate and reject potential criticism that such rules could put people at risk.
  • "While we cannot create this framework alone, it is for government, not private companies, to protect the security of people and ensure the fairness of the rules by which people and businesses abide," the document reads. "Nor do we agree that the risks of such an approach outweigh the potential benefits."
Paul Merrell

Facebook Says It Is Deleting Accounts at the Direction of the U.S. and Israeli Governments - 0 views

  • In September of last year, we noted that Facebook representatives were meeting with the Israeli government to determine which Facebook accounts of Palestinians should be deleted on the ground that they constituted “incitement.” The meetings — called for and presided over by one of the most extremist and authoritarian Israeli officials, pro-settlement Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked — came after Israel threatened Facebook that its failure to voluntarily comply with Israeli deletion orders would result in the enactment of laws requiring Facebook to do so, upon pain of being severely fined or even blocked in the country. The predictable results of those meetings are now clear and well-documented. Ever since, Facebook has been on a censorship rampage against Palestinian activists who protest the decades-long, illegal Israeli occupation, all directed and determined by Israeli officials. Indeed, Israeli officials have been publicly boasting about how obedient Facebook is when it comes to Israeli censorship orders
  • Facebook now seems to be explicitly admitting that it also intends to follow the censorship orders of the U.S. government.
  • What this means is obvious: that the U.S. government — meaning, at the moment, the Trump administration — has the unilateral and unchecked power to force the removal of anyone it wants from Facebook and Instagram by simply including them on a sanctions list. Does anyone think this is a good outcome? Does anyone trust the Trump administration — or any other government — to compel social media platforms to delete and block anyone it wants to be silenced? As the ACLU’s Jennifer Granick told the Times: It’s not a law that appears to be written or designed to deal with the special situations where it’s lawful or appropriate to repress speech. … This sanctions law is being used to suppress speech with little consideration of the free expression values and the special risks of blocking speech, as opposed to blocking commerce or funds as the sanctions was designed to do. That’s really problematic.
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  • As is always true of censorship, there is one, and only one, principle driving all of this: power. Facebook will submit to and obey the censorship demands of governments and officials who actually wield power over it, while ignoring those who do not. That’s why declared enemies of the U.S. and Israeli governments are vulnerable to censorship measures by Facebook, whereas U.S and Israeli officials (and their most tyrannical and repressive allies) are not
  • All of this illustrates that the same severe dangers from state censorship are raised at least as much by the pleas for Silicon Valley giants to more actively censor “bad speech.” Calls for state censorship may often be well-intentioned — a desire to protect marginalized groups from damaging “hate speech” — yet, predictably, they are far more often used against marginalized groups: to censor them rather than protect them. One need merely look at how hate speech laws are used in Europe, or on U.S. college campuses, to see that the censorship victims are often critics of European wars, or activists against Israeli occupation, or advocates for minority rights.
  • It’s hard to believe that anyone’s ideal view of the internet entails vesting power in the U.S. government, the Israeli government, and other world powers to decide who may be heard on it and who must be suppressed. But increasingly, in the name of pleading with internet companies to protect us, that’s exactly what is happening.
Paul Merrell

Facebook is done with quality journalism. Deal with it. - 1 views

  • For Facebook, journalism has been a pain in the neck from day one. Now, bogged down with the insoluble problems of fake news and bad PR, it’s clear that Facebook will gradually pull the plug on news. Publishers should stop whining and move on.Let’s admit that publishers have been screwed by Facebook. Not because Mark Zuckerberg is evil, but because he’s a pragmatist. His latest move should not come as a surprise. On Thursday, for the second time in six months, Facebook stated publicly that news (i.e., journalism) will appear further down in everyone’s newsfeed, in order to favor posts from friends, family and “groups.” Here is how Zuck defended the move:“The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos — even if they’re entertaining or informative — may not be as good. Based on this, we’re making a major change to how we build Facebook. I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions”.Consider us notified. Facebook is done with journalism. It will happen, slowly, gradually, but the trend is here. In this context, the email sent yesterday by Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of news partnerships, who states “news remains a top priority for us,” rings hollow.
Paul Merrell

Assange Keeps Warning Of AI Censorship, And It's Time We Started Listening - 0 views

  • Where power is not overtly totalitarian, wealthy elites have bought up all media, first in print, then radio, then television, and used it to advance narratives that are favorable to their interests. Not until humanity gained widespread access to the internet has our species had the ability to freely and easily share ideas and information on a large scale without regulation by the iron-fisted grip of power. This newfound ability arguably had a direct impact on the election for the most powerful elected office in the most powerful government in the world in 2016, as a leak publishing outlet combined with alternative and social media enabled ordinary Americans to tell one another their own stories about what they thought was going on in their country.This newly democratized narrative-generating power of the masses gave those in power an immense fright, and they’ve been working to restore the old order of power controlling information ever since. And the editor-in-chief of the aforementioned leak publishing outlet, WikiLeaks, has been repeatedly trying to warn us about this coming development.
  • In a statement that was recently read during the “Organising Resistance to Internet Censorship” webinar, sponsored by the World Socialist Web Site, Assange warned of how “digital super states” like Facebook and Google have been working to “re-establish discourse control”, giving authority over how ideas and information are shared back to those in power.Assange went on to say that the manipulative attempts of world power structures to regain control of discourse in the information age has been “operating at a scale, speed, and increasingly at a subtlety, that appears likely to eclipse human counter-measures.”What this means is that using increasingly more advanced forms of artificial intelligence, power structures are becoming more and more capable of controlling the ideas and information that people are able to access and share with one another, hide information which goes against the interests of those power structures and elevate narratives which support those interests, all of course while maintaining the illusion of freedom and lively debate.
  • To be clear, this is already happening. Due to a recent shift in Google’s “evaluation methods”, traffic to left-leaning and anti-establishment websites has plummeted, with sites like WikiLeaks, Alternet, Counterpunch, Global Research, Consortium News, Truthout, and WSWS losing up to 70 percent of the views they were getting prior to the changes. Powerful billionaire oligarchs Pierre Omidyar and George Soros are openly financing the development of “an automated fact-checking system” (AI) to hide “fake news” from the public.
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  • To make matters even worse, there’s no way to know the exact extent to which this is going on, because we know that we can absolutely count on the digital super states in question to lie about it. In the lead-up to the 2016 election, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was asked point-blank if Twitter was obstructing the #DNCLeaks from trending, a hashtag people were using to build awareness of the DNC emails which had just been published by WikiLeaks, and Dorsey flatly denied it. More than a year later, we learned from a prepared testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism by Twitter’s acting general counsel Sean J. Edgett that this was completely false and Twitter had indeed been doing exactly that to protect the interests of US political structures by sheltering the public from information allegedly gathered by Russian hackers.
  • Imagine going back to a world like the Middle Ages where you only knew the things your king wanted you to know, except you could still watch innocuous kitten videos on Youtube. That appears to be where we may be headed, and if that happens the possibility of any populist movement arising to hold power to account may be effectively locked out from the realm of possibility forever.To claim that these powerful new media corporations are just private companies practicing their freedom to determine what happens on their property is to bury your head in the sand and ignore the extent to which these digital super states are already inextricably interwoven with existing power structures. In a corporatist system of government, which America unquestionably has, corporate censorship is government censorship, of an even more pernicious strain than if Jeff Sessions were touring the country burning books. The more advanced artificial intelligence becomes, the more adept these power structures will become at manipulating us. Time to start paying very close attention to this.
Paul Merrell

» Israel To Coordinate With Google, YouTube, To Censor Palestinian Videos Of Conflict- IMEMC News - 0 views

  • The Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister, Member of Knesset Tzipi Hotovely, held meetings this week with representatives of YouTube and Google, to find ways of cooperating to censor Palestinian videos from occupied Palestine, videos she dubbed as “inciting violence and terrorism.”Israeli daily Maariv said Hotovely will be working with Google and YouTube officials in a joint mechanism that will be in charge of “monitoring and preventing” any publication of materials deemed by Tel Aviv to be “inflammatory.” Hotovely announced in a Hebrew-only press release that she met with YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, and Google’s Director of Public Policy, Jennifer Oztzistzki, at Google’s Silicon Valley Offices. Hotovely said that she received a comprehensive review mechanism for companies to monitor the films that allegedly incite violence, claiming that the supposed ‘incitement videos’ drive young children to go out and stab: ‘The attacks daily in Israel are the result of youths and children incited by the education system and the social networks, this is a daily war of incitement.’ She said that Google agreed to strengthen the bilateral relations with Israel’s Foreign Ministry, and build a mechanism of “collaborative work” that would make both parties partners in monitoring the published materials and censoring them. The Israeli move comes amidst escalating tension in occupied Palestine, and a large number of videos, including those showing Israeli soldiers and officers killing Palestinians execution-style after injuring them, and many videos that in general highlight the suffering of the Palestinian people, living under the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine. The Israeli coordination with Google and YouTube has very serious implications, and many journalists have spoken out in opposition, saying it is a direct assault on the Freedom of the Press.
  • All foreign journalists who report in the Occupied Territories are required to register with the Israeli military, and any footage that they film is required to go through the Israeli Military Censor’s office before it can be released. With the recent advances in technology, many Palestinians and other civilians have been able to post videos uncensored online. The Israeli government has frequently voiced its discontent with this development, and have worked to find ways to continue to censor videos coming out of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Paul Merrell

Evidence of Google blacklisting of left and progressive sites continues to mount - World Socialist Web Site - 0 views

  • A growing number of leading left-wing websites have confirmed that their search traffic from Google has plunged in recent months, adding to evidence that Google, under the cover of a fraudulent campaign against fake news, is implementing a program of systematic and widespread censorship. Truthout, a not-for-profit news website that focuses on political, social, and ecological developments from a left progressive standpoint, had its readership plunge by 35 percent since April. The Real News , a nonprofit video news and documentary service, has had its search traffic fall by 37 percent. Another site, Common Dreams , last week told the WSWS that its search traffic had fallen by up to 50 percent. As extreme as these sudden drops in search traffic are, they do not equal the nearly 70 percent drop in traffic from Google seen by the WSWS. “This is political censorship of the worst sort; it’s just an excuse to suppress political viewpoints,” said Robert Epstein, a former editor in chief of Psychology Today and noted expert on Google. Epstein said that at this point, the question was whether the WSWS had been flagged specifically by human evaluators employed by the search giant, or whether those evaluators had influenced the Google Search engine to demote left-wing sites. “What you don’t know is whether this was the human evaluators who are demoting you, or whether it was the new algorithm they are training,” Epstein said.
  • Richard Stallman, the world-renowned technology pioneer and a leader of the free software movement, said he had read the WSWS’s coverage on Google’s censorship of left-wing sites. He warned about the immense control exercised by Google over the Internet, saying, “For people’s main way of finding articles about a topic to be run by a giant corporation creates an obvious potential for abuse.” According to data from the search optimization tool SEMRush, search traffic to Mr. Stallman’s personal website, Stallman.org, fell by 24 percent, while traffic to gnu.org, operated by the Free Software Foundation, fell 19 percent. Eric Maas, a search engine optimization consultant working in the San Francisco Bay area, said his team has surveyed a wide range of alternative news sites affected by changes in Google’s algorithms since April.  “While the update may be targeting specific site functions, there is evidence that this update is promoting only large mainstream news organizations. What I find problematic with this is that it appears that some sites have been targeted and others have not.” The massive drop in search traffic to the WSWS and other left-wing sites followed the implementation of changes in Google’s search evaluation protocols. In a statement issued on April 25, Ben Gomes, the company’s vice president for engineering, stated that Google’s update of its search engine would block access to “offensive” sites, while working to surface more “authoritative content.” In a set of guidelines issued to Google evaluators in March, the company instructed its search evaluators to flag pages returning “conspiracy theories” or “upsetting” content unless “the query clearly indicates the user is seeking an alternative viewpoint.”
Paul Merrell

Race to Introduce Fascist Internet Regulations in Russia Continues - Now under the Banner of Child Protection - nsnbc international | nsnbc international - 0 views

  • Russian lawmaker Vitaly Milonov, on Monday, proposed a bill aimed to ban children under the age of 14 from social media. Although the bill is touted under the banner of child protection, it also aims to introduce the mandatory submission of passport data. In January Russia introduced semi-fascist regulations to severely curb the rights of bloggers and independent media.
  • Vitaly Milnov, generally known for being ultra-conservative, introduced the controversial bill on Monday. Touting the bill under the banner of wanting to protect children and limit their access to social media the bill has far deeper implications. Parents could very well self-regulate their children’s access to social media. The bill, however, implies that it would become mandatory for social media users to submit their passport data. Moreover, the bill also proposes that the use of pseudonyms will be banned. The proposed legislation also aims to introducing strict rules, requiring two-party consent before the publication of screenshots of online correspondence. The bill reads, among others: “Social networks create a special virtual world where a person spends significant part of their life, contacting other people and essentially doing everything that they would do in real world. This world can’t be left unregulated by law. Especially now, when growing number of users are falling victim to different types of fraud.” Even though Milonov is generally viewed as ultra-conservative, there are about 62 percent of Russians who according to polls support the ban of social networks for children while 39 percent supported using passport data to create an online account, a poll by the state-funded pollster VTsIOM revealed Monday.
  • Social media has come under intense scrutiny in Russia in recent months. Disturbingly, there are very few Russians who have received independent information about the not so overtly advertised implications of this scrutiny, of the proposed bill, and of plans to create a “Russian internet” to filter “unwanted foreign content. Russia also cracks down on independent bloggers and journalists. On January 1, 2016 the Russian Federation implemented amendments to laws that further censor the internet and potentially independent media. These laws are being sold under the guise of empowering internet users and the right to protect personal information. The amendments follow legislation from 2014 that infringed on the rights of bloggers.
Paul Merrell

We're Halfway to Encrypting the Entire Web | Electronic Frontier Foundation - 0 views

  • The movement to encrypt the web has reached a milestone. As of earlier this month, approximately half of Internet traffic is now protected by HTTPS. In other words, we are halfway to a web safer from the eavesdropping, content hijacking, cookie stealing, and censorship that HTTPS can protect against. Mozilla recently reported that the average volume of encrypted web traffic on Firefox now surpasses the average unencrypted volume
  • Google Chrome’s figures on HTTPS usage are consistent with that finding, showing that over 50% of of all pages loaded are protected by HTTPS across different operating systems.
  • This milestone is a combination of HTTPS implementation victories: from tech giants and large content providers, from small websites, and from users themselves.
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  • Starting in 2010, EFF members have pushed tech companies to follow crypto best practices. We applauded when Facebook and Twitter implemented HTTPS by default, and when Wikipedia and several other popular sites later followed suit. Google has also put pressure on the tech community by using HTTPS as a signal in search ranking algorithms and, starting this year, showing security warnings in Chrome when users load HTTP sites that request passwords or credit card numbers. EFF’s Encrypt the Web Report also played a big role in tracking and encouraging specific practices. Recently other organizations have followed suit with more sophisticated tracking projects. For example, Secure the News and Pulse track HTTPS progress among news media sites and U.S. government sites, respectively.
  • But securing large, popular websites is only one part of a much bigger battle. Encrypting the entire web requires HTTPS implementation to be accessible to independent, smaller websites. Let’s Encrypt and Certbot have changed the game here, making what was once an expensive, technically demanding process into an easy and affordable task for webmasters across a range of resource and skill levels. Let’s Encrypt is a Certificate Authority (CA) run by the Internet Security Research Group (ISRG) and founded by EFF, Mozilla, and the University of Michigan, with Cisco and Akamai as founding sponsors. As a CA, Let’s Encrypt issues and maintains digital certificates that help web users and their browsers know they’re actually talking to the site they intended to. CAs are crucial to secure, HTTPS-encrypted communication, as these certificates verify the association between an HTTPS site and a cryptographic public key. Through EFF’s Certbot tool, webmasters can get a free certificate from Let’s Encrypt and automatically configure their server to use it. Since we announced that Let’s Encrypt was the web’s largest certificate authority last October, it has exploded from 12 million certs to over 28 million. Most of Let’s Encrypt’s growth has come from giving previously unencrypted sites their first-ever certificates. A large share of these leaps in HTTPS adoption are also thanks to major hosting companies and platforms--like WordPress.com, Squarespace, and dozens of others--integrating Let’s Encrypt and providing HTTPS to their users and customers.
  • Unfortunately, you can only use HTTPS on websites that support it--and about half of all web traffic is still with sites that don’t. However, when sites partially support HTTPS, users can step in with the HTTPS Everywhere browser extension. A collaboration between EFF and the Tor Project, HTTPS Everywhere makes your browser use HTTPS wherever possible. Some websites offer inconsistent support for HTTPS, use unencrypted HTTP as a default, or link from secure HTTPS pages to unencrypted HTTP pages. HTTPS Everywhere fixes these problems by rewriting requests to these sites to HTTPS, automatically activating encryption and HTTPS protection that might otherwise slip through the cracks.
  • Our goal is a universally encrypted web that makes a tool like HTTPS Everywhere redundant. Until then, we have more work to do. Protect your own browsing and websites with HTTPS Everywhere and Certbot, and spread the word to your friends, family, and colleagues to do the same. Together, we can encrypt the entire web.
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    HTTPS connections don't work for you if you don't use them. If you're not using HTTPS Everywhere in your browser, you should be; it's your privacy that is at stake. And every encrypted communication you make adds to the backlog of encrypted data that NSA and other internet voyeurs must process as encrypted traffic; because cracking encrypted messages is computer resource intensive, the voyeurs do not have the resources to crack more than a tiny fraction. HTTPS is a free extension for Firefox, Chrome, and Opera. You can get it here. https://www.eff.org/HTTPS-everywhere
Paul Merrell

'Manhunting Timeline' Further Suggests US Pressured Countries to Prosecute WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief - Shadowproof - 0 views

  • An entry in something the government calls a “Manhunting Timeline” suggests that the United States pressured officials of countries around the world to prosecute WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, Julian Assange, in 2010. The file—marked unclassified, revealed by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden and published by The Intercept—is dated August 2010. Under the headline, “United States, Australia, Great Britain, Germany, Iceland” – it states: The United States on 10 August urged other nations with forces in Afghanistan, including Australia, United Kingdom and Germany, to consider filing criminal charges against Julian Assange, founder of the rogue WikiLeaks Internet website and responsible for the unauthorized publication of over 70,000 classified documents covering the war in Afghanistan. The documents may have been provided to WikiLeaks by Army Private First Class Bradley Manning. The appeal exemplifies the start of an international effort to focus the legal element of national power upon non-state actor Assange and the human network that supports WikiLeaks. Another document—a top-secret page from an internal wiki—indicates there has been discussion in the NSA with the Threat Operations Center Oversight and Compliance (NOC) and Office of General Counsel (OGC) on the legality of designating WikiLeaks a “malicious foreign actor” and whether this would make it permissible to conduct surveillance on Americans accessing the website. “Can we treat a foreign server who stores or potentially disseminates leaked or stolen data on its server as a ‘malicious foreign actor’ for the purpose of targeting with no defeats?” Examples: WikiLeaks, thepiratebay.org). The NOC/OGC answered, “Let me get back to you.” (The page does not indicate if anyone ever got back to the NSA. And “defeats” essentially means protections.)
  • GCHQ, the NSA’s counterpart in the UK, had a program called “ANTICRISIS GIRL,” which could engage in “targeted website monitoring.” This means data of hundreds of users accessing a website, like WikiLeaks, could be collected. The IP addresses of readers and supporters could be monitored. The agency could even target the publisher if it had a public dropbox or submission system. NSA and GCHQ could also target the foreign “branches” of the hacktivist group, Anonymous. An answer to another question from the wiki entry involves the question, “Is it okay to query against a foreign server known to be malicious even if there is a possibility that US persons could be using it as well? Example: thepiratebay.org.” The NOC/OGC responded, “Okay to go after foreign servers which US people use also (with no defeats). But try to minimize to ‘post’ only for example to filter out non-pertinent information.” WikiLeaks is not an example in this question, however, if it was designated as a “malicious foreign actor,” then the NSA would do queries of American users.
  • Michael Ratner, a lawyer from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) who represents WikiLeaks, said on “Democracy Now!”, this shows he has every reason to fear what would happen if he set foot outside of the embassy. The files show some of the extent to which the US and UK have tried to destroy WikiLeaks. CCR added in a statement, “These NSA documents should make people understand why Julian Assange was granted diplomatic asylum, why he must be given safe passage to Ecuador, and why he must keep himself out of the hands of the United States and apparently other countries as well. These revelations only corroborate the expectation that Julian Assange is on a US target list for prosecution under the archaic “Espionage Act,” for what is nothing more than publishing evidence of government misconduct.” “These documents demonstrate that the political persecution of WikiLeaks is very much alive,”Baltasar Garzón, the Spanish former judge who now represents the group, told The Intercept. “The paradox is that Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks organization are being treated as a threat instead of what they are: a journalist and a media organization that are exercising their fundamental right to receive and impart information in its original form, free from omission and censorship, free from partisan interests, free from economic or political pressure.”
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

UK Piracy Blocklist Silently Expands With Hundreds of Domains - TorrentFreak [# ! Note] - 0 views

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    " By Ernesto on November 20, 2016 C: 71 News UK Internet providers have added close to 500 URLs to the national pirate site blocklist. The expansion follows a request from copyright holders who frequently add new proxies for sites that have previously been barred. Despite this mass-update, the ongoing blocking whack-a-mole is far from over."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

More proof shows Hollywood is leaking pre-release movies on torrent sites | Ars Technica UK - 0 views

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    "Talent agency says "sharing of award screeners is commonplace" in Hollywood. David Kravets (US) - Oct 26, 2016 5:35 pm UTC"
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