Britain’s ISPs already censor political opinions they just randomly happen to disagree with

Britain’s ISPs already censor political opinions they just randomly happen to disagree with
By Rick Falkvinge

British Internet providers already censor political opinions they don’t like. Specifically, they censor this blog by default, which is trivial to verify, thanks to Open Rights Group. This blog isn’t a random corporate blog; it builds political opinion in favor of net liberty and net neutrality, and frequently against the old telco dinosaurs. Therefore, it’s a huge red flag when those same dinosaurs prevent people from accessing it at all.

As Caleb Chen has written here before, some of Britain’s ISPs have decided to censor this entire VPN service off the visible Internet for their customers: people who try to access Private Internet Access are essentially told that the page doesn’t exist, is censored, is illegal, or is otherwise shady. That’s outrageous in itself – the notion that an ISP can take itself the right to determine which other businesses, well, exist. It’s especially concerning when the blocked services are absolutely vital for whistleblowing and other core democratic safeguards.

Sky and O2 in Britain don’t let people read political opinion pieces, such as pieces in favor of net neutrality, on this blog. Above the result of a political piece, courtesy of a block check service made by our friends at Open Rights Group.

But there’s more to it. Private Internet Access is also running this very blog, which promotes various liberty aspects. We’re not just a random VPN company, we happen to be passionate activists who run a VPN company as a way to create sustainable liberty. This is not about the money. This is about liberty, anonymity, privacy, and human rights to us. Therefore, you could argue that the entire company is political – in the good sense – but at the very least, no matter how you turn it, this blog certainly is. This is where we argue for anonymity, where we report on political events, and where we talk to our brothers and sisters on the barricades.

Therefore, it is undeniably the case that the UK now has default-on censorship for political opinions. That’s not particularly flattering.

But there’s more to this. There are two important twists to this story.

The first twist to this story is that this is a site and a blog heavily in favor of net neutrality, something that telco-luggage ISPs are vehemently against in order to protect their obsolete copperline luggage. Therefore, it’s in their business interest to censor this particular site.

So while it can absolutely be argued that it just “happens” to be opinions these telcos disagree with that get “accidentally” censored as an unfortunate side effect of censoring an entire VPN company, it’s undeniably the case that a VPN company will, one way or another, always push these political values, and so it should be foreseeable. It’s also a very convenient coincidence that the default censorship just happens to censor out opinions that go against the business interest of those actually doing the censoring. To be frank, even if it’s accidental and unintended, it leaves a very bad taste.

The second twist is that if the net neutrality we argue in favor of were abolished, we would see more of this behavior openly – your telco-luggage ISP selecting your opinions for you, without even trying to say it’s accidental. It would be portrayed as “family friendly”, “ethical”, or some other whitewashing.

If net neutrality were abolished, we’d see exactly this, and much more of this – your ISP essentially being free to serve you only that part of reality that they agreed with, and let you think opposing viewpoints did not exist. The notion that it already exists at all is sickening. The notion that a legalization of this is one political decision away is frightening.

Privacy remains your own responsibility.

The post Britain’s ISPs already censor political opinions they just randomly happen to disagree with appeared first on Privacy Online News.

June 16, 2017 at 09:52PM
via Privacy Online News

The Internet needs paid fast lanes, US anti-net neutrality senator says

The Internet needs paid fast lanes, US anti-net neutrality senator says
By Jon Brodkin

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Bill Clark)

This week, the head of the Federal Communications Commission and a Republican US senator each called net neutrality a “slogan” that solves no real problems, with the senator also arguing that the Internet should have paid fast lanes.

“It’s a great slogan,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said, when asked by a radio host what net neutrality is. “But in reality what it involves is Internet regulation, and the basic question is, ‘Do you want the government deciding how the Internet is run?'”

Pai, who is touring midwestern states to meet with rural ISPs about broadband deployment, appeared with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee on Monday. You can listen to the interview here (hat tip to Stop the Cap).

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June 9, 2017 at 04:45PM
via Ars Technica UK

According to UK Prime Minister May, the fight against terrorism requires porn censorship on the Internet

According to UK Prime Minister May, the fight against terrorism requires porn censorship on the Internet
By Rick Falkvinge

A few people have commented on UK Prime Minister Theresa May jumping on the opportunity to argue for “regulating the Internet” after the most recent terror attacks. Fewer have highlighted just what she demands, and how absolutely ridiculous this is on the surface and on every level of analysis depth: In order to fight terrorism properly, she states, Britain must censor pornography on the Internet.

A lot of people have trashed through the sheer incompetence and audacity of trying to “regulate” the Internet by “eliminating safe spaces”, as PM May advocates. On this blog, Glyn Moody has highlighted how it will destroy the British software industry. Caleb Chen writes about a new government-controlled Internet in the UK.

Perhaps most succinctly and thoroughly, the excellent Cory Doctorow has completely torn apart the nonsense of “regulating the internet” over at Boing Boing; he notes that not only wouldn’t it work, but the cost of trying is prohibitive, essentially requiring sending Britain back to steam power days (for today, the electricity grid too is controlled over the Internet).

But there’s one detail which has escaped most scrutiny, and which really shows how obscenely nonsensical this audacity from the UK Prime Minister is. In pushing her “regulation of the Internet” package, and justifying it with “because terrorism”, it becomes important just to see what’s actually in this “regulation of the internet” package.

The Independent had a short note about it, which is very telling:

"The Conservative manifest pledges regulation of the Internet... making it more difficult to obtain pornography."

Yes, you read that right. Take a moment to read it again. In order to fight terrorism, it must be hard to access pornography.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May is standing straight and pushing a package that introduces censorship of pornography on the Internet, and is justifying it as absolutely necessary to fight terrorism. She is even doing this with a straight face, apparently serious.

Of course, this doesn’t even go into the fact that the last attack didn’t need the Internet in the first place, or indeed even electricity, as observed on Reddit:

The full Conservative manifesto, which May is referring to and where the “regulation of the Internet” part indeed is summarized by the Independent quote above, can be found over at the Spectator (curiously, no search hits show up on the party’s website).

Privacy remains your own responsibility. As does your sanity, when listening to some of the worst and most ignorant offline-born politicians.

The post According to UK Prime Minister May, the fight against terrorism requires porn censorship on the Internet appeared first on Privacy Online News.

June 6, 2017 at 09:36AM
via Privacy Online News

Be Careful Celebrating Google’s New Ad Blocker. Here’s What’s Really Going On.

Be Careful Celebrating Google’s New Ad Blocker. Here’s What’s Really Going On.
By David Dayen

Google, a data mining and extraction company that sells personal information to advertisers, has hit upon a neat idea to consolidate its already-dominant business: block competitors from appearing on its platforms.

The companyannounced that it  they would establish an ad blocker for the Chrome web browser, which has become the most popular in America, employed by nearly half of the nation’s web Web users. The ad blocker — which Google is calling a “filter” — would roll out next year, and would be the default setting for Chrome when fully functional. In other words, the normal user sparking up their Chrome browser simply wouldn’t see the ads blocked by the system.

What ads would get blocked? The ones not sold by Google, for the most part.

The Chrome ad blocker would stop ads that provide a “frustrating experience,” according to Google’s blog post announcing the change. The ads blocked would match the standards produced by the Coalition for Better Ads, an ostensibly third-party group. For sure, the ads that would get blocked are intrusive: auto-players with sound, countdown ads that make you wait 10 seconds to get to the site, large “sticky” ads that remain constant even when you scroll down the page.

But who’s part of the Coalition for Better Ads? Google, for one, as well as Facebook. Those two companies accounted for 99 percent of all digital ad revenue growth in the United States last year, and 77 percent of gross ad spending. As Mark Patterson of Fordham University explained, the Coalition for Better Ads is “a cartel orchestrated by Google.”

So this is a way for Google to crush its few remaining competitors by pre-installing an ad zapper that it controls they control to the most common web browser. That’s a great way for a monopoly to remain a monopoly.

There’s more to the story, however. The real goal for Google appears to be not just blocking ads sold by other digital suppliers besides Google, but to undermine third-party ad blockers, which stop Google ads along with everyone else’s.

According to the Financial Times, Google will allow publishers what it’s  they’re calling “Funding Choices.” The publisher could charge the consumer a set price per page view to use their third-party sites that block all advertising. Google would do the tracking of how many pages users view, and then charge them. Users could then “white list” particular sites, allowing ads to be shown on them and removing the charge. If users decided to pay to block ads, Google would receive a portion of that payment, sharing it with the publisher.

Web users will quickly recognize their only options: pay to use the internet, Internet, or uninstall the ad blockers and surf the web Web for free. At least 11 percent of all web Web users, and perhaps as many as 26 percent of all desktop users, have third-party ad blockers on their devices, a number that will likely grow in the next few years. But it’s easy to see how Google’s policy would depress ad blocker usage except for the case of Google’s ad blocker, which creates preferences for Google’s own ads.

Google has already been found to have paid off ad blockers to keep its own ads intact. But this new policy creates an internet Internet landscape where Google ensures viewing of its own ads, to the relative disadvantage of competitors.

Senior Vice President of Google Sridhar Ramaswamy describes the concept as a way to support internet Internet websites and users alike, by making online ads less annoying and helping to “maintain a sustainable web Web for everyone.” It’s hard to build a coalition in favor of annoying ads. And publishers would be guaranteed a revenue stream, either through charging consumers for an ad-free experience, or from the ads themselves. So the policy aligns the interests of virtually everyone on the web Web content side.

Improving Google’s bottom line and crushing anyone who tries to compete is just a nice side benefit.

With the Federal Trade Commission still at just two members for the foreseeable future, and the acting chairman favoring a laissez-faire approach to internet Internet oligopolies, it’s unlikely any action will be taken in the near term to stop Google from operating as what former FTC official Jonathan Kantercalls “prosecutor, judge, and jury for ad quality.”

Other experts believe that the Department of Justice might take the lead in antitrust enforcement against Google, especially in light of such a forcing event. That’s especially true if the department’s antitrust Antitrust division sees the Coalition for Better Ads as a cartel, which the FTC does not typically enforce.

In a New York Times op-ed in April, author Jonathan Taplin laid out the path forward for regulators: It’s it’s time to break up the Alphabet.

Top photo: Two people visit the Google stand at the Mobile World Congress on Feb. 28, 2017, 2017 in Barcelona.

The post Be Careful Celebrating Google’s New Ad Blocker. Here’s What’s Really Going On. appeared first on The Intercept.

June 5, 2017 at 08:28PM
via The Intercept

Bad law, not bad luck: Article 13 of new EU Copyright Directive requires general upload filters

Bad law, not bad luck: Article 13 of new EU Copyright Directive requires general upload filters
By Glyn Moody

Back in September last year, Rick Falkvinge wrote about the launch of an important revision of the European Union’s main copyright law, which will have a massive impact on Internet users in the region and beyond. Although the stated aim of the update is to make “modern copyright rules fit for the digital age“, several proposals in the EU copyright directive are direct attacks on key elements of the Internet. Rick wrote about one of them, the so-called “Google tax”, or snippet tax, which would require search engines and possibly others to pay for using short extracts to link to articles on other sites.

That’s Article 11 of the proposed directive, but there’s another section – Article 13 – which would harm the Internet just as much. Here’s the original text, as proposed by the European Commission:

“Information society service providers that store and provide to the public access to large amounts of works or other subject-matter uploaded by their users shall, in cooperation with rightholders, take measures to ensure the functioning of agreements concluded with rightholders for the use of their works or other subject-matter or to prevent the availability on their services of works or other subject-matter identified by rightholders through the cooperation with the service providers.

Article 13 seeks to impose an obligation on all larger Internet sites that allow users to upload files – such as YouTube – to filter everything for possible copyright infringements before making them available. This is a terrible idea for several reasons.

It forces online services and sites to act as copyright police for the music, film and publishing industries, which are the sole arbiters of what should be blocked. There is no legal process involved – this all happens behind closed doors, on very unequal terms.

Article 13 effectively makes online services responsible for what users post to them, imposing a new intermediary liability on Internet companies. That’s not just bad news, it contradicts an earlier EU directive on e-commerce, passed in 2000, which laid down that companies acting as a “mere conduit” – that is, simply providing a platform – should not be held responsible for material posted to their sites. The new copyright directive would overturn nearly two decades of law and practice.

The measures proposed in Article 13 are also incompatible with a key ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the highest court in the region, made in 2011, which stated:

“EU law precludes an injunction made against an internet service provider requiring it to install a system for filtering all electronic communications passing via its services which applies indiscriminately to all its customers, as a preventive measure, exclusively at its expense, and for an unlimited period.”

The next year, the same court went on to rule that filtering systems are illegal for another reason – because they harm users too:

“the filtering system may also infringe the fundamental rights of its service users – namely their right to protection of their personal data and their freedom to receive or impart information – which are rights safeguarded by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.”

The CJEU judgment pointed out a further serious problem with filtering: that the system would be unable to distinguish properly between legal and illegal content, leading to the blocking of lawful material. Filtering systems tend to overblock, just to be on the safe side, which means that things like remixes and parodies are likely to be rejected, even though perfectly legal.

The good news is that the “rapporteur” – the Member of the European Parliament (MEP) who is tasked with shepherding the copyright directive through the legislative process – Therese Comodini Cachia, recognizes the problems with Article 13, and has offered her own amendments that largely address them. The bad news is that another MEP, Pascal Arimont, has presented what he calls “alternative compromise amendments” that take the European Commission’s original proposals and make them significantly worse. Here’s a summary of his “compromise amendments” for Article 13 from the Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda:

“[Pascal Arimont] wants to double down on the obligation for content filtering, which he doesn’t want to just apply to services hosting “large amounts” of copyrighted content, as proposed by the Commission, but to any service facilitating the availability of such content, even if the service is not actually hosting anything at all. This could require content filters even for services that are linking to content on other websites, because hyperlinks, according to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), can be considered a copyright infringement under certain circumstances.”

As Reda explains, Arimont also wants to make Article 11 – the “Google tax” – even worse by extending the extra copyright monopoly for news publishers from 20 years to 50 years, for both online and offline uses.

To get these harmful “compromise amendments” thrown out, Reda urges EU citizens to contact the MEPs from their country who are sitting on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee that will vote on Arimont’s proposals this Thursday. A short email is all that is required: as a guide, here’s what I’ve sent to the British MEPs on IMCO.

Featured image by Tfausloos.

The post Bad law, not bad luck: Article 13 of new EU Copyright Directive requires general upload filters appeared first on Privacy Online News.

June 5, 2017 at 02:33PM
via Privacy Online News

Amber Rudd Prevents Independent Candidate Questioning Arms Sales to Saudi Sponsors of Terrorism

Amber Rudd Prevents Independent Candidate Questioning Arms Sales to Saudi Sponsors of Terrorism
By craig

In this hustings clip, independent candidate for Hastings and Rye Nicholas Wilson is linking the Manchester bombing to Tory support for arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Home Secretary Amber Rudd can be clearly seen writing a note, passing it to the chairman and speaking to him. He then immediately intervenes to stop Wilson speaking and takes the microphone from him.

I don’t have the name of the chairman who looks like a corrupt, overfed, complacent, Tory, Church of England vicar straight out of Trollope. But as soon as I get his name, I will publish it.


What is happening to the understanding of democracy in this country? I just got a call saying the Residents’ Committee of the apartment block where I live were instructing me to remove the SNP poster from my balcony (It is a small A3 poster). My reply was extremely rude, I am afraid, and I have now put up a second poster.

The post Amber Rudd Prevents Independent Candidate Questioning Arms Sales to Saudi Sponsors of Terrorism appeared first on Craig Murray.

June 4, 2017 at 12:59PM
via Craig Murray