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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

Paul Merrell

Censorship in the Age of Large Cloud Providers - Lawfare - 0 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, sta

Paul Merrell

"Alarming": Facebook Teams Up With Think-Tank Funded by Saudi Arabia and Military Contr... - 0 views

  • n a new project Facebook insists is a completely objective and nonpartisan effort to root out what it deems "disinformation," the social media giant announced on Thursday that it is partnering with the Atlantic Council—a prominent Washington-based think-tank funded by Saudi Arabia, major oil companies, defense contractors, and Charles Koch—to prevent its platform from "being abused during elections."

    "This is alarming," independent journalist Rania Khalek concluded in a tweet on Thursday. "The Atlantic Council—which is funded by gulf monarchies, western governments, NATO, oil and weapons companies, etc.—will now assist Facebook in suppressing what they decide is disinformation."

    According to its statement announcing the initiative, Facebook will "use the Atlantic Council's Digital Research Unit Monitoring Missions during elections and other highly sensitive moments."

  • While Facebook's statement fawned over the Atlantic Council's "stellar reputation," critics argued that the organization's reliance on donations from foreign oil monarchies and American plutocrats puts the lie to the project's stated mission of shielding the democratic process from manipulation and abuse.

    "Monopoly social media corporations teaming up with [the] pro-U.S. NatSec blob to determine truth was always the logical end of 'fake news' panic," Adam Johnson, a contributor at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), argued on Twitter in response to Facebook's announcement.

  • According to a New York Times report from 2014, the Atlantic Council has received donations from at least 25 foreign nations since 2008, including the United Kingdom, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.

Paul Merrell

Theresa May to create new internet that would be controlled and regulated by government... - 0 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

Google will 'de-rank' RT articles to make them harder to find - Eric Schmidt - RT World... - 0 views

  • Eric Schmidt, the Executive Chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, says the company will “engineer” specific algorithms for RT and Sputnik to make their articles less prominent on the search engine’s news delivery services.

    “We are working on detecting and de-ranking those kinds of sites – it’s basically RT and Sputnik,” Schmidt said during a Q & A session at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada on Saturday, when asked about whether Google facilitates “Russian propaganda.”

  • “We are well of aware of it, and we are trying to engineer the systems to prevent that [the content being delivered to wide audiences]. But we don’t want to ban the sites – that’s not how we operate.”

    The discussion focused on the company’s popular Google News service, which clusters the news by stories, then ranks the various media outlets depending on their reach, article length and veracity, and Google Alerts, which proactively informs subscribers of new publications.

  • The Alphabet chief, who has been referred to by Hillary Clinton as a “longtime friend,” added that the experience of “the last year” showed that audiences could not be trusted to distinguish fake and real news for themselves.

    “We started with the default American view that ‘bad’ speech would be replaced with ‘good’ speech, but the problem found in the last year is that this may not be true in certain situations, especially when you have a well-funded opponent who is trying to actively spread this information,” he told the audience.

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  • RT America registered under FARA earlier this month, after being threatened by the US Department of Justice with arrests and confiscations of property if it failed to comply. The broadcaster is fighting the order in court.

Paul Merrell

YouTube To Censor "Controversial" Content, ADL On Board As Flagger - 0 views

  • Chief among the groups seeking to clamp down on independent media has been Google, the massive technology company with deep connections to the U.S. intelligence community, as well as to U.S. government and business elites.
  • Since 2015, Google has worked to become the Internet’s “Ministry of Truth,” first through its creation of the First Draft Coalition and more recently via major changes made to its search engine that curtail public access to new sites independent of the corporate media.
  • Google has now stepped up its war on free speech and the freedom of the press through its popular subsidiary, YouTube. On Tuesday, YouTube announced online that it is set to begin censoring content deemed “controversial,” even if that content does not break any laws or violate YouTube’s user agreement.

    Misleadingly dubbed as an effort “to fight terror content online,” the new program will flag content for review through a mix of machine algorithms and “human review,” guided by standards set up by “expert NGOs and institutions” that are part of YouTube’s “Trusted Flagger” program. YouTube stated that such organizations “bring expert knowledge of complex issues like hate speech, radicalization, and terrorism.”

    One of the leading institutions directing the course of the Trusted Flagger program is the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The ADL was initially founded to “stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all” but has gained a reputation over the years for labeling any critic of Israel’s government as an “anti-Semite.”

    For instance, characterizing Israeli policies towards the Palestinians as “racist” or “apartheid-like” is considered “hate speech” by the ADL, as is accusing Israel of war crimes or attempted ethnic cleansing. The ADL has even described explicitly Jewish organizations who are critical of Israel’s government as being “anti-Semitic.”

Paul Merrell

Evidence of Google blacklisting of left and progressive sites continues to mount - Worl... - 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

Google Censors Block Access to CounterPunch and Other Progressive Sites - 0 views

  • Now Google, at the behest of its friends in Washington, is actively censoring – essentially blocking access to – any websites which seek to warn American workers of the ongoing effort to further attack their incomes, social services, and life conditions by the U.S. central government, and which seek to warn against the impending warfare between U.S.-led Nato and other forces against countries like Iran, Russia, and China, which have in no way threatened the U.S. state or its people
  • Under its new so-called anti-fake-news program, Google algorithms have in the past few months moved socialist, anti-war, and progressive websites from previously prominent positions in Google searches to positions up to 50 search result pages from the first page, essentially removing them from the search results any searcher will see.    CounterPunch, World Socialist Website, Democracy Now, American Civil liberties Union, Wikileaks are just a few of the websites which have experienced severe reductions in their returns from Google searches.  World Socialist Website, to cite just one example, has experienced a 67% drop in its returns from Google since the new policy was announced.

    This conversion of Google into a Censorship engine is not a trivial development.   Google searches are currently a primary means by which workers and other members of the public seek information about their lives and their world.  Every effort must be made to combat this serious infringement on the basic rights of freedom of speech and freedom of press.

Paul Merrell

Race to Introduce Fascist Internet Regulations in Russia Continues - Now under the Bann... - 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

M of A - Assad Says The "Boy In The Ambulance" Is Fake - This Proves It - 0 views

  • Re: Major net hack - its not necessarily off topic. .gov is herding web sites into it's own little DNS animal farms so it can properly protect the public from that dangerous 'information' stuff in time of emergency. CloudFlare is the biggest abattoir... er, animal farm.

    CloudFlare is kind of like a protection racket. If you pay their outrageous fees, you will be 'protected' from DDoS attacks. Since CloudFlare is the preferred covert .gov tool of censorship and content control (when things go south), they are trying to drive as many sites as possible into their digital panopticons.

    Who the hell is Cloudflare?

    ISUCKER: BIG BROTHER INTERNET CULTURE

    On top of that, CloudFlare’s CEO Matthew Prince made a weird, glib admission that he decided to start the company only after the Department of Homeland Security gave him a call in 2007 and suggested he take the technology behind Project Honey Pot one step further…

    And that makes CloudFlare a whole different story: People who sign up for the service are allowing CloudFlare to monitor, observe and scrutinize all of their site’s traffic, which makes it much easier for intel or law enforcement agencies to collect info on websites and without having to hack or request the logs from each hosting company separately. But there’s more. Because CloudFlare doesn’t just passively monitor internet traffic but works like a dynamic firewall to selectively block traffic from sources it deems to be “hostile,” website operators are giving it a whole lotta power over who gets to see their content. The whole point of CloudFlare is to restrict access to websites from specific locations/IP addresses on the fly, without notifying or bothering the website owner with the details. It’s all boils down to a question of trust, as in: do you trust a shady company with known intel/law enforcement connections to make that decision?

  • And here is an added bonus for the paranoid: Because CloudFlare partially caches websites and delivers them to web surfers via its own servers, the company also has the power to serve up redacted versions of the content to specific users. CloudFlare is perfect: it can implement censorship on the fly, without anyone getting wise to it!

    Right now CloudFlare says it monitors nearly 1/5 of all Internet visits. [<-- this] An astounding claim for a company most people haven’t even heard of. And techie bloggers seem very excited about getting as much Internet traffic routed through them as possible!

    See? Plausable deniability. A couple of degrees of separation. Yet when the Borg Queen wants to start WWIII next year, she can order the DHS Stazi to order outfits like CloudFlare to do the proper 'shaping' of internet traffic to filter out unwanted information.

    How far is any expose of propaganda like Dusty Boy going to happen if nobody can get to sites like MoA? You'll be able to get to all kinds of tweets and NGO sites crying about Dusty Boy 2.0, but you won't see a tweet or a web site calling them out on their lies. Will you even know they interviewed Assad? Will you know the activist 'photographer' is a paid NGO shill or that he's pals with al Zenki? Nope, not if .gov can help it.

Paul Merrell

UK ISPs to introduce jihadi and terror content reporting button | Technology | The Guar... - 0 views

  • Internet companies have agreed to do more to tackle extremist material online following negotiations led by Downing Street.

    The UK’s major Internet service providers – BT, Virgin, Sky and Talk Talk – have this week committed to host a public reporting button for terrorist material online, similar to the reporting button which allows the public to report child sexual exploitation.

    They have also agreed to ensure that terrorist and extremist material is captured by their filters to prevent children and young people coming across radicalising material.

    The UK is the only country in the world with a Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CITRU) - a 24/7 law enforcement unit, based in the Met, dedicated to identifying and taking down extreme graphic material as well as material that glorifies, incites and radicalises.

  •  
    Bookburning in the digital era.
Paul Merrell

Australia bans reporting of multi-nation corruption case involving Malaysia, Indonesia ... - 0 views

  • Today, 29 July 2014, WikiLeaks releases an unprecedented Australian censorship order concerning a multi-million dollar corruption case explicitly naming the current and past heads of state of Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, their relatives and other senior officials. The super-injunction invokes “national security” grounds to prevent reporting about the case, by anyone, in order to “prevent damage to Australia's international relations”. The court-issued gag order follows the secret 19 June 2014 indictment of seven senior executives from subsidiaries of Australia's central bank, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA). The case concerns allegations of multi-million dollar inducements made by agents of the RBA subsidiaries Securency and Note Printing Australia in order to secure contracts for the supply of Australian-style polymer bank notes to the governments of Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries.

    Read the full press release here.


    Download the full Australia-wide censorship order for corruption case involving Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Paul Merrell

Firefox Add-On Bypasses SOPA DNS Blocking | TorrentFreak - 1 views

  • The pending Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) continues to inspire opponents to come up with creative solutions to circumvent it.

    A new anti-SOPA add-on for Firefox, titled “DeSopa,” is such a counter measure.

    When installed, users can click a single button to resolve a blocked domain via foreign DNS servers, bypassing all domestic DNS blockades and allowing the user to browse the site though the bare IP-address (if supported).

  • “It could be that a few members of congress are just not tech savvy and don’t understand that it is technically not going to work, at all. So here’s some proof that I hope will help them err on the side of reason and vote SOPA down,” he adds.
  • If browsing a site through a single IP address is not supported, this other anti-SOPA plugin provides an alternative.
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