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  Virtually 18 rated...

Virtual reality headset producers require developers to obtain an IARC rating for games

Link Here 21st January
Melon Farmers
oculous logoVirtual reality headset manufacturer Oculus have announced that all games made available on its Oculus Store must have an age classification determined using tools from the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC). The company writes in a blog post:

We're committed to helping everyone on the Oculus platform make well-informed purchasing decisions. That's why we are now utilizing the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) to give people trusted and familiar ratings for all Oculus experiences.

Moving forward, all titles in the Oculus Store will need to show age and content ratings assigned through the IARC rating process. This change will make it easier for developers to get age and content ratings for your app from multiple territories simultaneously. It also provides consumers a consistent set of familiar and trusted ratings that reflect their own cultural norms regarding content and age-appropriateness.

In order to give people consistent ratings no matter where they live, all titles in the Oculus Store must have IARC assigned ratings. New titles submitted to the store will receive an automatic prompt to obtain their rating through IARC by answering a simple set of questions. IARC will provide a rating for each applicable region and rating authority at the conclusion of the questionnaire. The ratings will then be automatically applied to the title. Existing titles will need to complete the IARC rating process no later than March 1, 2017 to avoid removal from the Oculus Store. 

 

 Offsite Article: Geo-lock Picking...

Link Here 21st January
Melon farming Fresh
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netflix logo A year on since Netflix took action against subscribers using VPNs, TorrentFreak takes a look at the current possibilities of subscribing to better catalogues in other territories

See article from torrentfreak.com

 

 Offsite Article: The Internet Health Report...

Link Here 20th January
mozilla logo What's helping (and what's hurting) our largest global resource. By Mozilla

See article from internethealthreport.org

 

  Everybody demands Facebook be their best friend...

Political campaigners call on Facebook to censor their own activists less and to censor their opponents more

Link Here 19th January
center for media justice logoLast year, a coalition of over 70 social justice groups and individuals released a list of demands to Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, asking him to address their concerns over Facebook's use of censorship in compliance with law enforcement.

Several organizations reported on activists whose facebook accounts were censored while covering the civilian uprisings in Charlotte, NC. Other incidents include the removal of live footage from anti Dakota Access Pipeline protests, the temporary disabling of Palestinian journalists' accounts, and reports that Facebook sent data to help police track and surveil protesters in Ferguson, MO and Baltimore, MD. , Reem Suleiman, campaigner at SumOfUs said:

We're still in the dark about how Facebook censors users and collaborates voluntarily with law enforcement. Facebook needs to come clean with the hundreds of thousands of people asking for transparency and public accountability.

Brandi Collins, Campaign Director for Color Of Change said:

Social media platforms like Facebook are a powerful tool for Black people to draw attention to injustices our community faces That's why we're so concerned that a powerful company like Facebook has been quick to silence Black voices by censoring individual Facebook users at the request of law enforcement. We recognize Facebook is under pressure from law enforcement and the company has a responsibility to protect its users' freedom of expression. Unfortunately, each time we've tried to engage Facebook around these issues, our suggestions have been dismissed or ignored. We will continue to publicly call for an overhaul of Facebook's current policies and practices until the company refuses to enable the censorship of Black communities.

Although the group is calling on Facebook to censor its own activists less, the coalition wrote to Facebook to ask for its opponents to be censored more:

At the same time, harassment and threats directed at activists based ont heir race, religion, and sexual orientation is thriving on Facebook. Many of thesea ctivists have reported such harassment and threats by users and pages on Facebook only to be told that they don't violate Facebook's Community Standards. Similar experiences have been reported by Facebook users from a variety of communities, yet your recent response indicates you are adequately addressing the problem. We disagree.

 

 Update: The People vs the Snoopers' Charter...

Liberty launches crowdfunded legal challenge to indiscriminate state spying powers in Investigatory Powers Act

Link Here 10th January  full story: Snooper's Charter Plus...2015 Cameron government expands the Snooper's Charter

Liberty logoLiberty is launching a landmark legal challenge to the extreme mass surveillance powers in the Government's new Investigatory Powers Act -- which lets the state monitor everybody's web history and email, text and phone records, and hack computers, phones and tablets on an industrial scale.

Liberty is seeking a High Court judicial review of the core bulk powers in the so-called Snoopers' Charter -- and calling on the public to help it take on the challenge by donating v ia crowdfunding platform CrowdJustice .

Martha Spurrier, Director of Liberty, said:

Last year, this Government exploited fear and distraction to quietly create the most extreme surveillance regime of any democracy in history. Hundreds of thousands of people have since called for this Act's repeal because they see it for what it is -- an unprecedented, unjustified assault on our freedom.

We hope anybody with an interest in defending our democracy, privacy, press freedom, fair trials, protest rights, free speech and the safety and cybersecurity of everyone in the UK will support this crowdfunded challenge, and make 2017 the year we reclaim our rights.

The Investigatory Powers Act passed in an atmosphere of shambolic political opposition last year, despite the Government failing to provide any evidence that such indiscriminate powers were lawful or necessary to prevent or detect crime.

A petition calling for its repeal has since attracted more than 200,000 signatures.

Liberty's challenge

Liberty will seek to challenge the lawfulness of the following powers, which it believes breach the public's rights:

  •   Bulk hacking -- the Act lets police and agencies access, control and alter electronic devices like computers, phones and tablets on an industrial scale, regardless of whether their owners are suspected of involvement in crime -- leaving them vulnerable to further attack by hackers.
  • Bulk interception -- the Act allows the state to read texts, online messages and emails and listen in on calls en masse, without requiring suspicion of criminal activity.
  • Bulk acquisition of everybody's communications data and internet history -- the Act forces communications companies and service providers to hand over records of everybody's emails, phone calls and texts and entire web browsing history to state agencies to store, data-mine and profile at its will. This provides a goldmine of valuable personal information for criminal hackers and foreign spies.
  • Bulk personal datasets -- the Act lets agencies acquire and link vast databases held by the public or private sector. These contain details on religion, ethnic origin, sexuality, political leanings and health problems, potentially on the entire population -- and are ripe for abuse and discrimination.

A major victory

Liberty is launching this challenge just weeks after a landmark ruling from the EU Court of Justice (CJEU) rendered core parts of the Investigatory Powers Act effectively unlawful.

 In a challenge to the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) by MP Tom Watson, represented by Liberty, the CJEU ruled the UK Government was breaking the law by indiscriminately collecting and accessing the nation's internet activity and phone records.

DRIPA forced communications companies to store records of everybody's emails, texts, phone calls and internet communications and let hundreds of public bodies grant themselves access with no suspicion of serious crime or independent sign-off.

Judges ruled the regime breached British people's rights because it:

  • Allowed indiscriminate retention of all communications data.
  • Did not restrict access to the purpose of preventing and detecting precisely defined serious crime.
  • Let police and public bodies authorise their own access, instead of requiring prior authorisation by a court or independent body.
  • Did not require that people be notified after their data had been accessed.
  • Did not require that the data be kept within the European Union.

DRIPA expired at the end of 2016 -- but its powers are replicated and vastly expanded in the Investigatory Powers Act, with no effort to counter the lack of safeguards found unlawful in the case.

Support Liberty's challenge by donating at www.crowdjustice.org/case/snoopers-charter .

 

 Update: Defence Centre against Misinformation...

German government plans revealed to set up a propaganda and internet censorship office

Link Here 9th January  full story: Internet Censorship in Germany...Germany considers state internet filtering
government germany press office logoFor weeks, the German and international public sphere has been bombarded with a campaign against so-called fake news. Now Der Spiegel is reporting that the government now wants to establish a Defence Centre against Misinformation , a type of censorship and propaganda agency.

The Defence Centre will be set up in the Federal Press Office under Steffen Seibert. The new centre is supposed to strengthen the political power of defence of the population and force social networks such as Facebook, Google and Twitter to censor content posted by users.

The acceptance of a post-factual age would amount to political capitulation, an internal paper quoted by Der Spiegel said. The paper insisted that authentic political communication remains crucial for the 21 century as well. Accordingly, wide-reaching measures would have to be formulated to deal with the disinformation campaign, fake news and the manipulation of public opinion.

The World Socialist Web Site notes:

In reality the plans for an Orwellian Truth Ministry have nothing to do with concerns about false news reports. Instead, the established parties, the state media and private media corporations fear that they are losing their monopoly on public opinion. The Internet has provided millions of people with the possibility, for the first time, of obtaining access to information that has not been selected and filtered by the official media. This has been behind the fear in the media and political parties.

The ruling class is reacting to growing social tensions and political discontent in the same way it has in the past: with police, prosecution and the suppression of free speech.

Maybe German politicians are just panicking about the unpopularity of their free-for-all immigration and refugee policy.

 

  The Age of PC Censorship...

IMDb challenges Californian ban on websites revealing ages in bios

Link Here 9th January
imdb logoLast year the state of California passed a new law that banned sites that offer paid subscriptions, and allow people to post CVs and bios, from publishing individuals' ages. The law came into effect on 1st January 2017, and it is now being challenged by IMDb who have not taken down celebrity birthdays.

The state of California introduced the new law as a politically correct move against age-discrimination. Perhaps they would have done better to frame the birthday ban more in terms of privacy protections, date of birth is quite a key piece of information enabling identity fraud.

MDb believes that the law is a violation of the First Amendment and it says the state has chosen instead to chill free speech and to undermine access to factual information of public interest rather than trying to tackle age-discrimination in a more meaningful way. IMDb has now filed a lawsuit against the Californian law.

 

 Update: Suicide Watch...

Russia's internet censors casts its nets wide when banning websites referencing suicide

Link Here 9th January  full story: Internet Censorship in Russia...Russia restoring repressive state control of media
roskomnadzor logo

 

 Update: State censors claim more ground...

Israel's parliament passes first reading for a bill to censor Facebook and social media

Link Here 4th January  full story: Internet Censorship in Israel...Legislation proposed to let police block websites
Facebook logoA bill allowing Israeli courts to force social media companies to remove content defined as incitement has passed its first reading in parliament.

The Facebook bill sponsored by ministers Gilad Erdan and Ayelet Shaked would allow Israeli courts to immediately order content taken down if it is deemed to pose a public, personal or state security risk and constitutes a criminal offense.

Facebook adheres to its own removal policy when it comes to online content and freedom of speech issues and has generally not removed as much as state censors would like.

Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler of the Israel Democracy Institute has criticized the Facebook bill as too broad. She commented that the bill will not solve the problem and will hurt freedom of expression for all.

 

 Update: Facebook all at sea about censorship...

Facebook again embarrasses itself by censoring an image of classic nude art.

Link Here 4th January  full story: Facebook Censorship...Facebook quick to censor
neptune statueFacebook has once again drawn sharp criticism over its censorship policies after the social media giant reportedly blocked a photo of the historic naked statue of the sea god Neptune that stands in the Piazza del Nuttuno in Bologna, Italy.

Local writer Elisa Barbari said she chose a photograph of the 16th century 3.2-metre high bronze Renaissance statue of the sea god holding a trident to illustrate her Facebook page titled, Stories, curiosities and views of Bologna.

However, Facebook reportedly objected to the nude image of the iconic statue. In a statement, the social media company told Barbari:

The use of the image was not approved because it violates Facebook's guidelines on advertising. It presents an image with content that is explicitly sexual and which shows to an excessive degree the body, concentrating unnecessarily on body parts.

Inevitably when sufficient bad press is generated by Facebook's ludicrous aversion to trivial nudity, the company admitted that it had again made a ghastly mistake and grovelled:

Our team processes millions of advertising images each week, and in some instances we incorrectly prohibit ads. This image does not violate our ad policies. We apologise for the error and have let the advertiser know we are approving their ad.

 

 Offsite Article: Algorithms: AI's creepy control must be open to inspection...

Link Here 2nd January
rise of the machines By Luke Dormehl. But AI is not characterised by 'algorithms', AI learns, evolves and so makes it up as it goes along

See article from theguardian.com

 

 Commented Fake news...

Facebook outlines how its 'fake news' detection will work.

Link Here 31st December  full story: Facebook Censorship...Facebook quick to censor
Facebook logoFacebook has outlined its approach to 'fake news' in a blog post:

A few weeks ago we previewed some of the things we're working on to address the issue of fake news and hoaxes. We're committed to doing our part and today we'd like to share some updates we're testing and starting to roll out.

We believe in giving people a voice and that we cannot become arbiters of truth ourselves, so we're approaching this problem carefully. We've focused our efforts on the worst of the worst, on the clear hoaxes spread by spammers for their own gain, and on engaging both our community and third party organizations.

The work falls into the following four areas. These are just some of the first steps we're taking to improve the experience for people on Facebook. We'll learn from these tests, and iterate and extend them over time.

We're testing several ways to make it easier to report a hoax if you see one on Facebook, which you can do by clicking the upper right hand corner of a post. We've relied heavily on our community for help on this issue, and this can help us detect more fake news.

We believe providing more context can help people decide for themselves what to trust and what to share. We've started a program to work with third-party fact checking organizations that are signatories of Poynter's International Fact Checking Code of Principles. We'll use the reports from our community, along with other signals, to send stories to these organizations. If the fact checking organizations identify a story as fake, it will get flagged as disputed and there will be a link to the corresponding article explaining why. Stories that have been disputed may also appear lower in News Feed.

It will still be possible to share these stories, but you will see a warning that the story has been disputed as you share. Once a story is flagged, it can't be made into an ad and promoted, either.

We're always looking to improve News Feed by listening to what the community is telling us. We've found that if reading an article makes people significantly less likely to share it, that may be a sign that a story has misled people in some way. We're going to test incorporating this signal into ranking, specifically for articles that are outliers, where people who read the article are significantly less likely to share it.

We've found that a lot of fake news is financially motivated. Spammers make money by masquerading as well-known news organizations, and posting hoaxes that get people to visit to their sites, which are often mostly ads. So we're doing several things to reduce the financial incentives. On the buying side we've eliminated the ability to spoof domains, which will reduce the prevalence of sites that pretend to be real publications. On the publisher side, we are analyzing publisher sites to detect where policy enforcement actions might be necessary.

It's important to us that the stories you see on Facebook are authentic and meaningful. We're excited about this progress, but we know there's more to be done. We're going to keep working on this problem for as long as it takes to get it right.

The GuardianOffsite Article: Fake news detection on the cheap

The Guardian investigates how Facebook's trumpeted 'fake news' detection relies on unpaid volunteers.

17th December 2016. See  article from theguardian.com Spiked logo

Offsite Comment: Don't make Facebook the ministry of truth

The fake-news panic is a threat to internet freedom.

31st December 2016. See  article from spiked-online.com by Naomi Firsht

 

  Miserable Bangladesh...

Bangladesh internet censors specify their first 500 porn websites for blocking

Link Here 28th December  full story: Internet Censorship in Bangladesh...Internet censors to track down supposed blasphemy
bangladesh-telecommunication-regulatory-commission logoThe Bangladesh government has started an initiative to block several hundred pornography websites and already sent a list of more than 500 sites, mostly locally hosted, to ISPs.

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) sent the list to all the mobile phone operators, international gateway operators, international internet gateway operators, interconnection exchange operators, internet service providers and other telecom service providers to block the domains from their respective networks.

After receiving the list the operators have started to comply with the directive. However, a few of the websites could not be blocked immediately due to technical challenges, said BTRC officials.

The government actually wants to create massive awareness about the issue and as many hurdles as possible in browsing those sites. Tarana Halim, state minister for post and telecommunications division, said:

Initially we have decided to block around 500 websites that contain pornography, obscene pictures and video contents. In the first phase we will go for blocking the locally hosted sites

The Daily Star has obtained a copy of an email that contained a list of 510 websites branded as pornographic by an 'offensive online content control committee'.

 

  Searching for the wrong question...

Google's algorithms are accused of returning links to pages relevant to the search rather than the 'right' pages.

Link Here 26th December  full story: Google Censorship...Google censors adult material froms its websites
holocaust imageGiven that the holocaust is historical fact with massive amounts of historical evidence, then it hardly seems likely that authoritative websites will feel the need to debate the existence the event. The debate only exists on contrarian websites. You wouldn't really expect wiki to lead with the phrase: yes the holocaust really did exist.

So searching for the phrase : did the Holocaust happen? is hardly likely to strike many close matches on authoritative websites. And yes it will find many matches on the contrarian websites, after all they are the only websites asking that question.

A Guardian commentator,  Carole Cadwalladr, asked that question and was somehow 'outraged' that  Google didn't return links to an entirely different question that was more in line with what Cadwalladr wanted to see.

It would be a bad day indeed if Google dictated only morally upright answers. Searches for porn would return links to anti-porn activists and a search for local pubs would return links to religious preachers. People would soon seek other solutions to their searching. Even holocaust campaigners would get caught out, eg if they were seeking out websites to challenge.

Surely nobody would gain from Google refusing to comply with search requests as written.

Google has now responded to the Cadwalladr article saying that it is thinking deeply about ways to improve search. A spokesman said:

This is a really challenging problem, and something we're thinking deeply about in terms of how we can do a better job

Search is a reflection of the content that exists on the web.

The fact that hate sites may appear in search results in no way means that Google endorses these views.

Editor of news site Search Engine Land, Danny Sullivan, said Google was keen to come up with a solution that was broadly applicable across all searches, rather than just those that have been noticed by users:

It's very easy to take a search here and there and demand Google change something, and then the next day you find a different search and say, 'why didn't you fix that?' Hate speech

 

 Updated: Free speech upheld even on the backpage...

CEO of Backpage.com website cleared of prostitution offences over adult service adverts posted by website users

Link Here 26th December  full story: Adult Services Ads in the US...US politicians target small ads for sex workers

backpage com logoLast month, a California judge tentatively ruled that he would dismiss charges lodged by California's attorney general against Backpage.com's chief executive and two of its former owners. After an interim scare, the judge has now issued a final judgement confirming the previous ruling and the charges have been dismissed.

The CEO, Carl Ferrer was charged with pimping a minor, pimping, and conspiracy to commit pimping in connection to online advertisements posted on the online ads portal. California's attorney general  Kamala Harris claimed that advertisements amounted to solicitation of prostitution.

However Judge Michael Bowman agreed with the defendants, including former owners Michael Lacey and James Larkin, that they were protected, among other things, by the Communications Decency Act, and hence they were not liable for third-party ads posted by others. The ruling said:

By enacting the CDA, Congress struck a balance in favor of free speech by providing for both a foreclosure from prosecution and an affirmative defense at trial for those who are deemed an internet service provider.

Update: Double Jeopardy

26th December. See  article from theguardian.com

kamala harrisCalifornia attorney general Kamala Harris is pursuing new charges against Backpage.com website

The fresh charges, which attorney general Kamala Harris claims are based on new evidence, come after an earlier case against the website was thrown out of court.

The website advertises escort services and seems t have wound up Harris who claimed that the site operated a hotbed of illicit and exploitative activity .

Harris said she had charged Backpage executives Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey and James Larkin with 13 counts of pimping and conspiracy to commit pimping. They also are charged with 26 counts of money laundering. In the latest case, filed in Sacramento County superior court, Harris claims Backpage illegally funnelled money through multiple companies and created various websites to get around banks that refused to process transactions. (This does not seem a particularly surprising, or necessarily bad thing to do).

She also alleged that the company used photos of women from Backpage on other sites without their permission in order to increase revenue and knowingly profited from the proceeds of prostitution. And from what Harris said in a statement it seems that hers is a morality campaign against sex work. Harris said:

By creating an online brothel -- a hotbed of illicit and exploitative activity -- Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey, and James Larkin preyed on vulnerable victims, including children, and profited from their exploitation.

 

 Offsite Article: Abuse of trust...

Link Here 26th December  full story: Snooper's Charter Plus...2015 Cameron government expands the Snooper's Charter
tom dick and harry No matter how much governments spout bollox about mass snooping being used onlt to detect the likes of terrorism, the authorities end up sharing the data with Tom, Dick and Harry for the most trivial of reasons

See article from theguardian.com