Twitter has bowed to pressure from Russian president Vladimir Putin to block all content blacklisted by Russia's internet censors at the Federal Service for Supervision in Telecommunications, Information Technology and Mass Communications.
Putin's government reports that since early March, Twitter has actively been engaged in cooperation with Russian authorities already. Twitter has already deleted accounts as requested by the internet censor and is restricting access to
others on the request of Russian authorities.
In a statement from the Kremlin, Twitter's cooperation with Russia's censorship policy was praised:
Negotiations on cooperation with the largest international Internet social platform as part of maintaining the register of information whose dissemination is banned in Russia had been held since the moment the first entries appeared in the
register with references to those tweets. The administration of Twitter had had no practice of interaction with foreign governmental bodies on the removal or restriction of illegal content, and this made the negotiations difficult. The
constructive position of the administration of the resource made it possible to formulate a mutually acceptable interaction algorithm that makes it possible to have information from the register processed within periods acceptable to the Russian
Bangladesh has extended the censorship of supposedly blasphemous blogs after a threat by extremist muslims to march to the capital to demand the prosecution of atheist blogger.
The internet censor has ordered two leading Internet sites to remove hundreds of posts by seven bloggers whose writings are claimed to have 'offended' Muslims, according to its assistant director Rahman Khan:
These writings have defamed Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. The two sites, Somewhereinblog.net and Amarblog.com, have removed most of the posts.
Khan said the regulator was scrutinising other sites to identify and erase blasphemous blogs in an attempt to appease the extremists.
Update: Mass protest in Dahka calls for blasphemy laws against bloggers
Two of the leading British blogs taking issue with religious extremism have been taken offline for an entire week by a large-scale cyber attack. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, but by the very nature of their targeting,
the sources are thought to be religious extremists.
Harry's Place and
Student Rights suffered massive denial of service (DDOS) attacks over the past week - a cyber attack which blasts servers with traffic in order to overload them and effectively knock the websites out.
A statement posted on the Harry's Place website said:
We were taken down by another very nasty DDOS attack. The ferocity of this one was actually quite staggering, so clearly we're doing something that is getting under someone's skin, someone with a very a fair amount of resources behind them. That
a humble blog like ours -- written by a few amateur pundits in their spare time, and relying entirely on donations from readers for its expenses -- seems to threaten forces with this sort of virtual fire-power at their disposal is as flattering
as it is baffling.
Student Rights, the leading pressure group in the UK for tackling extremism on university campuses said in a statement:
Our website has been the target of a malicious and illegal attack for a prolonged period of time. Our work, as many know, is to challenge extremism including Islamist activity and the far-right. We can only imagine that the attack must have
emanated from one of these two groups.
Authorities are currently investigating the attacks.
Russia's internet censor has blacklisted a Facebook group on suicide. The social network now has three days to block the offending pages, else the entire Facebook website could be blocked.
Russian media and communications censor, Roskomnadzor, has for the first time added one of Facebook pages to its blacklist of web sources with supposed offensive content. This Russian language group called Suicide school published
placards, cartoons and mainly humorous advice on suicide, reported Izvestia daily.
Roskomnadzor confirmed to RT that it ruled that the social network should ban access to a page on suicide. Asked whether access to Facebook may be banned if it fails to fulfil the requirement, a spokesman said that Roskomnadzor will bend every effort
to make sure that interests of decent web users in Russia are not damaged.
Under the law, the censor has to notify the internet service provider, which in turn informs the content provider of the problem. The content provider has three days to delete the illegal information. Otherwise, the entire web source will be
banned and all Russian providers will be obliged to block access to it.
An Indian Parliamentary Standing Committee has come out with a report in which it has lambasted the government and asked it to make changes to IT rules that govern internet-related cases in India.
It said in the report that multiple clauses in the laws had inherent ambiguity and that discrepancies exist in the government's stand on whether some rules are mandatory or only of advisory nature.
The committee said that inherent ambiguity of words like blasphemy and disparaging , among others, has led to the harassment of people. Incidents include the arrest of two girls over liking a Facebook post and a defamation
case against an individual for an offensive tweet. It has also been used by multiple politicians to suppress voices of dissent by branding them as defamatory .
Pranesh Prakash, policy director at the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) said:
The government has told the Committee that the rules are for self-regulation, but they in fact aren't. The rules dictate what content cannot be hosted. And our research found that intermediaries react to fake takedown requests too, just to avoid
being liable for their users' content. This is not self-regulation, but government-mandated private censorship.
The committee also suggested that all evidence relating to foreign websites refusing to honour Indian laws should be made public and a public debate should be encouraged as the internet is a global phenomena. Recently there have been instances of
issues between the Indian government and tech giants like Facebook and Google related to censorship and taking down of offensive and defamatory content.
While the govt's stand is that Intermediary Guidelines are only of advisory nature and self-regulation and that it is not mandatory for the Intermediary to disable the information , the wording of the laws suggest otherwise.
Encrypted messaging services such as Skype, Viber and WhatsApp could be blocked in Saudi Arabia. The telecommunications censor is demanding a means to snoop on such applications.
Saudi newspapers are reporting that the companies behind the applications have been given a week to respond. No explanation has been given of why the demand has been made.
Internet communications has had a big impact in Saudi Arabia, which has the highest take-up of Twitter in the world, reports the BBC's Arab affairs editor Sebastian Usher. He adds that this latest threat would potentially deprive people of
what has become an essential means of simply communicating with friends and family.
One Saudi user told the local media that she would feel uncomfortable talking to her relative on Skype without her hijab (headscarf) if she believed someone might be listening in on her.
Expatriate workers have messaged newspapers pleading with the Saudis not to stop their only affordable means of communication to their families back home.
Objections from Google have forced the removal of the word 'ungoogleable' [ogooglebar in Swedish] from a list of new Swedish words, the Language Council of Sweden says. The word means something that cannot be found with a search engine.
But Google wanted the meaning to relate only to Google searches, according to the council, saying it was protecting its trademark.
Every year, the Language Council publishes its top 10 new words which have become popular in Sweden to show how society and language are changing.
Council head Ann Cederberg told the BBC she received an email from Google soon after publication of the list in December 2012, citing brand protection. It called for changes to the Language Council of Sweden's definition and asked for a disclaimer
stressing that Google is a trademark.
The council, worried at the prospect of a lengthy legal battle and balking at the idea of changing the word's definition, removed it from the list. A statement on the Language Council of Sweden's website, asks:
Who decides language? We do, language users. We decide together which words should be and how they are defined, used and spelled.
Brad Smith , Microsoft's General Counsel and Executive Vice President of Legal & Corporate Affairs at Microsoft writes in a blog post:
Today, we are releasing our
2012 Law Enforcement Requests Report. This is our first Law Enforcement Requests Report. It provides data on the number of requests we received from law enforcement agencies around the world relating to Microsoft online and cloud services
and how we responded to those requests. All of our major online services are covered in this report, including, for example, Hotmail, Outlook.com; SkyDrive; Xbox LIVE; Microsoft Account; and Office 365. We're also making available similar data
relating to Skype, which Microsoft acquired in October 2011.
We will update this report every six months.
In recent months, there has been broadening public interest in how often law enforcement agencies request customer data from technology companies and how our industry responds to these requests. Google, Twitter and others have made important and
helpful contributions to this discussion by publishing some of their data. We've benefited from the opportunity to learn from them and their experience, and we seek to build further on the industry's commitment to transparency by releasing our
own data today.
Like others in the industry, we are releasing publicly the total number of requests we receive from law enforcement in countries around the world and the number of potentially affected accounts identified in those requests.
We are also publishing additional data that we hope will provide added insights for our customers and the public who are interested in these issues. For example, we are providing more detailed information that shows the number of law enforcement
requests resulting in disclosure to these agencies of "customer content", such as the subject line and body of an email exchanged through Outlook.com; or a picture stored on SkyDrive. We similarly are reporting on the number of law
enforcement requests that result in disclosure only of "non-content" data, which includes account information such as an email address, a person's name, country of residence, or gender, or system-generated data such as IP addresses and
I've tried to summarize what has struck me as some of the principal trends reflected in the data we're releasing today:
First, while we receive a significant number of law enforcement requests from around the world, very few actually result in the disclosure to these agencies of customer content. To be precise, last year Microsoft (including Skype) received
75,378 law enforcement requests for customer information, and these requests potentially affected 137,424 accounts or other identifiers. Only 2.1%, or 1,558 requests, resulted in the disclosure of customer content .
It's insightful, I believe, to look at the governments to whom customer content was disclosed. Of the 1,558 disclosures of customer content, more than 99% were in response to lawful warrants from courts in the United States. In
fact, there were only 14 disclosures of customer content to governments outside the United States. These were to governments in Brazil, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand.
Of the 56,388 cases where Microsoft (excluding Skype) disclosed some non-content information to law enforcement agencies, more than 66% of these were to agencies in only five countries . These were the U.S., the United Kingdom, Turkey,
Germany and France. For Skype, the top five countries accounted for 81% of all requests. These countries were the U.K., U.S., Germany, France and Taiwan.
Roughly 18% of the law enforcement requests (again, excluding Skype) resulted in the disclosure of no customer information in any form, either because Microsoft rejected the request or because no customer information was found.
Finally, while law enforcement requests for information unquestionably are important (and raise important issues around the world), only a tiny percentage of users are potentially affected by them. We have many hundreds of millions of accounts
across our online and cloud services. To give you a sense of proportion, we estimate that less than two one-hundredths of one % (or 0.02%, to put it another way) were potentially affected by law enforcement requests.
A Jewish student group has announced it was taking further legal action against Twitter over the supposed lack of response to a French court order to hand over data to help identify the authors of insulting tweets.
The association is claiming the extortionate sum of 38.5 million euros ($50 million) in damages, according to the text of the summons for Twitter to appear before the civil court's criminal division.
Twitter said it was in discussions with the Jewish student group but that unfortunately they are more interested in these grand gestures than in finding an adequate international procedure to obtain the requested information. It added that
the French court had only notified it of the earlier ruling a few days ago and that they would appeal the January 24th decision.
Twitter has handed French authorities data which could identify the users behind a spate of tweets accused of being antisemitic after a long court battle begun by anti-racism campaigners.
In a rare move, Twitter announced that in response to a valid legal request it had provided the Paris prosecutor with data that may enable the identification of certain users that the vice-prosecutor believes have violated French law
. Twitter said this gesture put an end to the long legal dispute.
Anti-censorship campiagners have switched on an internet signalling system to help co-ordinate protests about a draft law in the US.
The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (Cispa) looks set to erode privacy in the US by exposing people's browsing habits and surveillance of internet usage.
The bat signal system tells followers to start displaying protest materials such as website banners and petitions.
Plans for the signalling system emerged in early 2012 following protests and website blackouts in opposition to two other draft laws in the US, the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of
Intellectual Property Act. The web action was widely seen as influential in the campaign that saw both those laws shelved.
In a bid to harness the wave of activism those protests started, social news sites such as Reddit and Fark joined up with rights groups and many others to launch the Internet Defense League (IDL). Instead of reacting on an incident-by-incident
basis, the IDL monitors threats to online privacy and let supporters know when to ramp up protests.
The IDL also said it would create protest materials such as website banners, petitions and information about how to contact politicians, so people can voice their opposition in a co-ordinated manner.
The question is, will the bat signal be turned on to help fight against the news and internet censor proposed for the UK.
Mumbai police have set up a group for the surveillance of social networks.
This follows several arrests across the country for political cartoons or comments made online.
Obviously internet users are worried. Sunil Abraham, executive director of the Bangalore-based Centre for Internet and Society research group, said the natural reaction was to worry about the new police lab given the way the law has been
used. He told AFP:
Police in the last four years have acted in an arbitrary and random fashion, often using the IT Act to settle political scores
When there's no crisis for the police, proactively keeping an eye on what people are saying or doing is overkill.
But the police unconvincingly claim that this will not be censorship.
Police commissioner Satyapal Singh claimed the lab was not set up to censor comments. His spin on police censorship was:
By reading the mindset of what people are writing on various modes of communication, we will try to provide better and improved safety and security to the Mumbai citizens.
Bangladesh has announced plans to monitor social media networks such as Facebook in a bid to identify bloggers who have been accused of insulting Islam and the religious character Mohammed.
A special panel is being set up, including leaders of the main intelligence agencies and the telecoms regulator, to exchange information and track down the people behind recent posts that have caused 'outrage' among Islamic groups.
Mainuddin Khandaker, a senior home ministry official who will head the panel, threatened:
We will try our best to dig out what's actually happening and find out the people who're making blasphemous comments against Islam and the Prophet.
There might be differences in opinion, but that does not mean anyone in the country has the rights to mock others' beliefs.
Islamic parties and leading clerics have targeted writings by atheist bloggers, calling nationwide strikes in protest and demanding the execution of those they accuse of blasphemy. Last month an alleged anti-Islam blogger was murdered. At least
eight people have been killed in the anti-blasphemy protests. The government has blocked about a dozen websites and blogs to stem the violence, as well as stepping up security for the bloggers, some of whom claim to have been threatened by the
activists of a leading Islamic party.
Google Reader users are angry that Google is snuffing out its RSS newsfeed viewer. But as
Quartz's Zach Seward points out , censored folks in Iran used Google Reader quite a bit to get around internet censorship. The news articles from censored websites are accessed by Google servers in the US (or other free countries) and are
packaged by Google for access via google.com.
Theoretically this could be stopped by blocking the whole, or part, of google.com but maybe this is step too far even for a repressive country like Iran.
Iranian users won't be helped by replacement software popping up in the wake of Google Reader, because these can then be easily blocked.
Google is a business, not a public utility, and its decision to kill Reader makes business sense. But was maintaining Reader really so much of a drain on Google's vast resources that it couldn't have let the little remora keep hanging on as long
as possible, as a kind of pro-bono, don't be evil brand-burnishing project? Google didn't design Reader to be used this way, and couldn't have predicted that it would be, but there it is. Why extinguish the benefit?
AN Iranian official Ramezanali Sobhani-Fard has told Reuters:
Within the last few days illegal VPN ports in the country have been blocked. Only legal and registered VPNs can from now on be used.
So, those looking to tap into Facebook, YouTube, various news sites and, yes, even Google's search engine itself (among other banned websites) will have to find different methods for doing so -- which do exist, according to an Iranian interviewed
by Reuters who said he was using an unnamed software tool to bypass Iran's blocks.
Iran's Mehdi Akhavan Behabadi explained further in the Tehran Chronicle:
We have started distributing official VPN services for Iranian users. Those need this service to open safe connections can apply in the program and we will review their cases one by one. If their request was approved, then we will introduce
legal providers and licensed clients can buy their needed services.
By launching this program, Iranian government can prosecute users who are violating state laws and Internet Filtering Committee will be able to take offenders to national courts.
Smart technology and the sort of big data available to social networking sites are helping police target crime before it happens. But is this ethical? Book extract from To Save Everything by Evgeny Morozov
Next week the European parliament will be voting on a resolution to ban all forms of pornography in media . After this information became known to a wider audience, many citizens have decided to contact members of the
European parliament to express their views on this issue.
This is absolutely excellent. Citizens engaging actively in the democratic process is a very positive thing, at least in my opinion. Before noon, some 350 emails had arrived in my office.
But around noon, these mails suddenly stopped arriving. When we started investigating why this happened so suddenly, we soon found out:
The IT department of the European Parliament is blocking the delivery of the emails on this issue, after some members of the parliament complained about getting emails from citizens.
This is an absolute disgrace, in my opinion. A parliament that views input from citizens on a current issue as spam, has very little democratic legitimacy in my opinion.
I will be writing a letter to the President of the European Parliament to complain about this totally undemocratic practice.
In the meantime, please continue to email members of the parliament on both the issue of the porn ban and on any other issue that you feel that you want to bring to the attention your elected representatives. Citizens taking
active part in the political process is a fantastic asset for a democratic system, not a spam problem.
I am very disappointed that some of my colleagues in this house evidently have a different opinion.
A judge has claimed that: Facebook has created something of a monster which it cannot control.
The judge had been asked by a father to prevent his daughter from accessing Facebook after she used it to post sexually suggestive pictures and had sexualised contact with older men.
Facebook explained that it was powerless to stop the girl using an account because she could create new ones under different pseudonyms and access the site from different devices. Although Facebook insists only those aged 13 or above can create a
profile on their site, the social network does not use any age or identity verification systems to enforce this rule.
Mr Justice McCloskey sitting in the High Court in Belfast said Facebook's defence largely rested on the idea that it has created something of a monster which it alleges it cannot control . The requested injunction was denied as unworkable.
Behind the scenes of the most powerful maps in the history of the Earth. And how Google, Microsoft, DigitalGlobe, and the world's governments decide what does --- and doesn't --- belong on its surface.
Website blocking is continuing in the UK, with the High Court adding three major torrent sites to the country's official ban list.
Following complaints from the music industry led by the BPI, the Court ordered the UK's leading Internet service providers to begin censoring subscriber access to Kickass Torrents, H33T and Fenopy.
Last year nine major record labels led by the BPI asked several of the UK's leading ISPs to censor The Pirate Bay. The process concluded at the end of April 2012 when the High Court ordered the site to be blocked.
October 2012 and the labels were back for more, this time asking six ISPs (BT, Sky, Virgin Media, O2, EE and TalkTalk) to begin blocking three more leading BitTorrent sites under Section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act.