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Apple's mobile devices have a secret list of "sensitive" words that don't autocomplete


The Daily Beast investigated the autocomplete on Apple Ios devices (Iphones, Ipads, etc), and discovered that there was a long list of "sensitive" words that the devices have in their dictionary but would not autocomplete -- you would have to type them out in full to get them into your device. This list includes words such as "abortion," "rape," "ammo," and "bullet." They documented their methodology in detail.

Read the rest

UN makes the connection between surveillance and free speech

Frank La Rue, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion, has tabled a report (PDF) to the UN Human Rights Council that makes a connection between surveillance and free expression. This is a first in the UN, and the meat of it is that it establishes the principle that countries that engage in bulk, warrantless Internet surveillance are violating their human rights obligations to ensure freedom of expression:

La Rue reminds States that in order to meet their human rights obligations, they must ensure that the rights to free expression and privacy—and metadata protection in particular—are at the heart of their communications surveillance frameworks. To this end, the Special Rapporteur urges states to review national laws regulating surveillance and update and strengthen laws and legal standards:

Communications surveillance should be regarded as a highly intrusive act that potentially interferes with the rights to freedom of expression and privacy and threatens the foundations of a democratic society.

Legislation must stipulate that State surveillance of communications must only occur under the most exceptional circumstances and exclusively under the supervision of an independent judicial authority.

At present, access to communications data has been conducted by a variety of public bodies for a broad range of purposes, often without judicial authorization and independent oversight. Such overbroad access threatens basic democratic values.

Internet Surveillance and Free Speech: the United Nations Makes the Connection (via /.)

Why lie?

Here's an excerpt from Judge Alex Kozinski's opinion in US v Xavier Alvarez (PDF), in which the judge describes some of the reasons that people lie:

Saints may always tell the truth, but for mortals living means lying. We lie to protect our privacy ("No, I don't live around here"); to avoid hurt feelings ("Friday is my study night"); to make others feel better ("Gee you've gotten skinny"); to avoid recriminations ("I only lost $10 at poker"); to prevent grief ("The doc says you're getting better"); to maintain domestic tranquility ("She’s just a friend"); to avoid social stigma ("I just haven't met the right woman"); for career advancement ("I'm sooo lucky to have a smart boss like you"); to avoid being lonely ("I love opera"); to eliminate a rival ("He has a boyfriend"); to achieve an objective ("But I love you so much"); to defeat an objective ("I'm allergic to latex"); to make an exit ("It's not you, it's me"); to delay the inevitable ("The check is in the mail"); to communicate displeasure ("There's nothing wrong"); to get someone off your back ("I'll call you about lunch"); to escape a nudnik ("My mother's on the other line"); to namedrop ("We go way back"); to set up a surprise party ("I need help moving the piano"); to buy time ("I'm on my way"); to keep up appearances ("We're not talking divorce"); to avoid taking out the trash ("My back hurts"); to duck an obligation ("I've got a headache"); to maintain a public image ("I go to church every Sunday"); to make a point ("Ich bin ein Berliner"); to save face ("I had too much to drink"); to humor ("Correct as usual, King Friday"); to avoid embarrassment ("That wasn't me"); to curry favor ("I've read all your books"); to get a clerkship ("You're the greatest living jurist"); to save a dollar ("I gave at the office"); or to maintain innocence ("There are eight tiny reindeer on the rooftop")….

An important aspect of personal autonomy is the right to shape one’s public and private persona by choosing when to tell the truth about oneself, when to conceal, and when to deceive. Of course, lies are often disbelieved or discovered, and that, too, is part of the push and pull of social intercourse. But it’s critical to leave such interactions in private hands, so that we can make choices about who we are. How can you develop a reputation as a straight shooter if lying is not an option?

Why We Lie

Danish "Gangnam Style" mayors threatened with copyright lawsuit by Universal

Four mayors of Danish towns have been targeted by Universal Music and threatened with lawsuits unless they pay the media giant $42,000 within 24 hours -- because they made a Gangnam Style parody and posted it to YouTube. The video features the mayors dancing and illustrating the difficulties faced by entrepreneurs in their cities. Universal says that the mayors' use of the actual soundtrack in the video was a step too far.

The argument appears to stem from the use of the track. While the mayors believe their contribution to the Psy phenomenon was entirely for parody purposes and therefore fair use, Universal sees things very differently. They insist that the mayors were actually attempting to increase their own profiles and used the video – and Universals copyrights – in order to boost their political careers.

“It is clear that we have in mind that there are local elections in a minute,” said Universal’s Dennis Ploug in a statement.

As a result, Universal say that the mayors will have to pay a bill of almost $42,000 ($10,500 each) to obtain a license to use the music in the video – and they have just 24 hours to stump up the cash.

“We have given them a payment deadline of Friday, but if they do not pay before then it becomes a real action for infringement, and so the amount will be completely different,” Ploug concludes.

Universal Music Tells Gangnam Parody Mayors: Pay $42,000 By Tomorrow, Or Else [Andy/TorrentFreak]

NZ Press Council finds against statement saying "Homeopathic remedies have failed every randomised, evidence-based scientific study seeking to verify their claims of healing powers"

Juha sez, "Amazingly enough, New Zealand's North and South magazine has lost in the NZ Press Council, after a homeopath filed a complaint against an article that stated: 'Homeopathic remedies have failed every randomised, evidence-based scientific study seeking to verify their claims of healing powers.'"

"Mr Stuart [a homeopath] supplied the Press Council with a letter from Dr David St George, Chief Advisor on Integrative Care for the Ministry of Health, who advises the ministry on the development of complementary medicine in New Zealand and its potential integration into the public health system. He was not speaking for the ministry in this case but offering a personal view.

Dr St George believed the statement in North & South's article arose from a misunderstanding of the Lancet study, which had compared 110 published placebo-controlled trials of homeopathy with the same number of published placebo-controlled trials of conventional medical drug treatments. He said most of the 110 homeopathy trials in that study were "randomised, evidence-based scientific studies" which demonstrated an effect beyond a placebo effect. "

Dr St George said there was no debate about whether there were scientific studies demonstrating homeopathy's therapeutic benefit but rather, whether those studies were of an acceptable methodological quality.

Case Number: 2320 CLIVE STUART AGAINST NORTH & SOUTH (Thanks, Juha)

Canadian government muzzles librarians and archivists, creates snitch line to report those who speak online or in public without permission

Canada's Conservative government has issued new regulations to librarians and archvists governing their free speech in public forums and online media. According to the Harper government, public servants owe a "duty of loyalty" to the "duly elected government" and must get permission from their political officers managers before making any public utterance -- or even a private utterance in an online forum that may eventually leak to the public, to prevent "conflicts" or "risks" their departments.

The Tories have also rolled out a snitch-line where those loyal to the party line can report on their co-workers for failing to maintain ideological purity.

“Once you start picking on librarians and archivists, it’s pretty sad,” says Toni Samek, a professor of library and information studies at the University of Alberta. She specializes in intellectual freedom and describes several clauses in the code as “severe” and “outrageous.”

The code is already having a “chilling” effect on federal archivists and librarians, who used to be encouraged to actively engage and interact with groups interested in everything from genealogy to preserving historical documents, says archivist Loryl MacDonald at the University of Toronto.

“It is very disturbing and disconcerting to have included speaking at conferences and teaching as so-called ‘high risk’ activities,” says MacDonald, who is president of the Association of Canadian Archivists, a non-profit group representing some 600 archivists across the country.

Regular readers will remember that Canada's librarians and archivists led a charge to save Canada's National Archives when the Harper Tories broke up the irreplaceable collections and flogged them off to private collectors at fire-sale prices.

Federal librarians fear being ‘muzzled’ under new code of conduct that stresses ‘duty of loyalty’ to the government [Margaret Munro/National Post]

(Thanks, Dad!)

More on the impact of UK press regulation on blogs, websites, tweeters, and social media

Further to yesterday's post about the way that the UK's new press regulation will affect bloggers, tweeters, tumblrers, facebookers, et al., Lisa O'Carroll at the Guardian points out that anyone who doesn't sign up for the "voluntary" system of press regulation will be liable to punitive "exemplary" damages for libel, as well as being on the hook for their accusers' legal fees, even if no fault is found.

The exemplary damages clause was recommended in the Leveson report but has been opposed by newspapers, including the Guardian, which have been given legal advice that it could be contrary to the European convention on human rights, which enshrines the principle of free speech.

Lord Lester, the campaigner for libel reform, warned during the Leveson debate in the House of Lords earlier this year that publications such as Private Eye and local newspapers could face closure as a result of the imposition of exemplary damages.

On Monday night, the editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger said he welcomed cross-party agreement on press regulation, but said: "We retain grave reservations about the proposed legislation on exemplary damages."

Under sustained questioning on Monday night during the Commons debate about the courts bill, which includes the Leveson regulations, the culture secretary, Maria Miller, said the "publisher would have to meet the three tests of whether the publication is publishing news-related material in the course of a business, whether their material is written by a range of authors – this would exclude a one-man band or a single blogger – and whether that material is subject to editorial control".

But if you and three friends edit a joint Twitter account or blog or Facebook group, you fit the bill. To those who say that a Twitter account isn't a website, I think they're erroneously assuming consensus about what is and isn't a webpage. If www.wordpress.com/doctorow is a website, then why isn't www.twitter.com/doctorow?

Bloggers may face libel fines under press regulation deal

Publisher launches $3,000,000 suit against academic librarian who criticized its books

An academic librarian at McMaster University wrote that "The Edwin Mellen Press was a poor publisher with a weak list of low-quality books, scarcely edited, cheaply produced, but at exorbitant prices," a point of view supported by survey data. The Edwin Mellen Press responded with a libel suit, naming both McMaster and the librarian, and seeking $3,000,000 in damages. McMaster has been publicly silent on the matter, but it deserves wider attention.

I've had my share of negative reviews, including some that I thought were materially unfair. Though I earn my living as a writer and a publisher, I can't imagine using the law to silence my critics. But Mellen has a history of suing and threatening people who criticize its products.

No one likes bad reviews; but Mellen’s approach is not to disprove the assessment, pledge to improve its quality, or reconsider its business-model. It is to slam McMaster University and its librarian with a three million dollar lawsuit in the Ontario Superior Court, alleging libel and claiming massive aggravated and exemplary damages. The matter is pending.

The lawsuit is threadbare. With respect to the parts of Mellen’s list with which I am familiar, the librarian’s statements noted above are all true and the quality judgments are correct. (And this survey suggests that would be a common assessment.) Moreover, on the facts in this situation, it is obviously fair comment, and public policy considerations strongly suggest that university librarians enjoy a qualified privilege with respect to their assessments of the quality of the books they consider buying for their universities. It would be a disaster for universities, students, researchers and the taxpayer if aggrieved publishers were permitted to silence discussions of the quality of their publications by threats of lawsuit.

Shocking attack on academic freedom at McMaster by Edwin Mellen Press? (Thanks, Jill!)

ACLU guide to running an online business that respects privacy & free speech

Danielle from the ACLU sez, "The ACLU has just released a new guide for tech companies on why they should and how they can better protect user privacy and free speech. The guide features dozens of real-life case studies from A(mazon) to Z(ynga) and updated recommendations for policies and practices to take the guesswork out of avoiding expensive lawsuits, government investigations, and public relations nightmares. It walks companies through essential questions and lays out steps to spot potential privacy and free speech issues in products and business models and address these issues head-on."

Five things companies can do to protect user privacy and free speech:

Respect your data.
Companies should carefully evaluate the costs of collecting and retaining data to avoid the fallout, lawsuits, and government fines that Path suffered for silently uploading users’ contacts.

Stand up for your users’ rights.
Companies can earn public praise and user trust for protecting user privacy rights like Amazon or for supporting free speech like Facebook.

Plan ahead.
Incorporate privacy and security from start to finish, and evaluate these practices as the company grows.

Be Transparent.
Give users the ability to make informed choices by letting them know what data you collect, and how it can be used, shared, or demanded by the government. Transparency reports like Google’s are important tools.

Encourage users to speak freely.
Give users control over the content they access and the tools they use rather than censoring content like PayPal.

ACLU Guide: Tips for Companies on Protecting User Privacy and Free Speech in 2013 (Thanks, Danielle!)

Anti-Westboro Baptist Church petition smashes White House records

The Huffington Post claims that this petitions.whitehouse.gov petition, calling for the classification of the Westboro Baptist Church as a "hate group," is now the most popular White House petition of all time. To be honest, I'm less interested in this petition than I am in a pair (1, 2) of similar petitions calling for the revocation of tax-exempt status for the Westboro kooks. Being classed as a hate group will make life a little less convenient for them, but losing tax-exempt status would be a serious blow in the nads and the wallet for 'em. (via Reddit) Cory

Britain's free press cringes in anticipation of coming regulation; plutocrats and oligarchs celebrate

Writing in The Spectator, Kirsty Walker describes the chilling effect the UK's Leveson Inquiry (which is investigating illegal phone/email interception and systematic harassment by UK papers, especially tabloids) is having on legitimate reporting. The UK is already the best place in the world for rich and powerful people who want to use libel law to silence unflattering accounts of their actions. But with Leveson heading for its conclusion and the spectre of official press regulation (through which the government would license reporters and news outlets, and could remove those licenses at will), reporters and their editors are under increasing pressure from the world's dictators and local plutocrats.

Before the Leveson inquiry, I had received less than a dozen PCC complaints in my career and never had one upheld. But when I left, complaints were coming in at a rate of at least one a month. All required mini-investigations. Even foreign dictatorships know how to frighten Fleet Street. The last complaint I was asked to deal with was from a dictator, the King of Bahrain, who didn’t like the way I referred to criticism of his regime following the deaths of 40 people in anti-government protests.

Like 99.99 per cent of British journalists, I never hacked a phone or bribed a public official. During my long career in the House of Commons, I tried my utmost to be fair. If a story didn’t quite stack up, I would abandon it. A small handful of journalists did hire private investigators to do some horrific things, but there are laws in this country to deal with them.

How do we know that Lord Leveson’s report will encourage the rich, the powerful, the venal and the pompous to intimidate journalists and frighten papers into not covering stories? Because the prospect of it has done so already. How do we know that an elite will attempt to decide what it is appropriate for the rest of us to read about over our cornflakes? Because Leveson is already doing exactly that. This is the judge who read a 200-word article in the Times about how The Thick of It was planning to satirise him in one episode — and promptly asked the editor of that paper whether it was ‘appropriate’ for him to run the piece. It is all too easy to guess what a judge with such an attitude to newspapers will do for press freedom.

What the papers won’t say (Thanks, Marilyn!)

Village Voice sues Yelp over "Best of $CITY" trademark

The Village Voice received an improbable trademark over the use of "BEST OF" in connection with lists of the best things on offer in various cities, and now they're suing Yelp for creating their own "Best of" lists. This ridiculous suit is only possible because of the US Patent and Trademark Office's bungling, terrible methods, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Corynne McSherry writes, and will only be resolved when the USPTO cleans up its act:

What is going on at the Patent and Trademark Office? For decades, folks have been complaining (with good reason) that the patent examiners need to do a better job of screening out bogus patent applications. It’s clear that the problem extends to the trademark side as well. The PTO has allowed companies and individuals to register marks in any number of obviously generic and/or descriptive terms, such as “urban homestead” (to refer to urban farms), “gaymer” (to refer to gay gamers), and “B-24” (to refer to model B-24 bombers).

Once a mark is registered, it is all too easy for the owner to become a trademark bully. And while companies like Yelp have the resources to fight back (as we expect it will), small companies and individuals may not. Just as dangerous, the trademark owner may go upstream, to intermediaries like Facebook who have little incentive to do anything other than take down an account or site that’s accused of infringement.

"Good enough for government work" isn't good enough for free speech. It’s time the PTO did its part to stop trademark bullies and tightened up the trademark application process. Fewer bogus registrations means fewer bogus threats, and more online creativity and competition. That's a win for everyone.

Stupid Lawyer Tricks (And How the PTO Could Help Stop Them)

Ai Weiwei guest-edits the New Statesman, which pirates itself to evade the Great Firewall of China


Helen from the UK newspaper the New Statesman writes,

Today, the New Statesman is publishing an issue of the magazine guest-edited by the Chinese rebel artist Ai Weiwei. In the issue, Ai interviews the "blind dissident" Chen Guangcheng about the forced abortions and sterilisations required to enforce the one-child policy. He also speaks to a member of the "50 Cent party" - China's "paid trolls", given half a dollar every time they derail an online conversation. There are also pieces by human rights lawyers, activists, film makers and artists - as well as Ai's 170,000 Twitter followers giving their thoughts on the future of China.

We're expecting the NS website to be banned in China - and deleted from search results - after doing this, so it's vital to get the issue out by other means. We've created a PDF version in Mandarin, and uploaded it to PirateBay, and other torrent sites. That way, people on VPNs in China, can get it, and pass it around. The page I'm sending has information on how to do that. China wants to restrict its people from telling the truth about their lives. We hope the internet can set them free.

Taking on the "Great Firewall of China" (Thanks, Helen!)

Greek Pastafarian arrested for "Cyber Crimes"


A reader writes, "On September 24, Greece's Cyber Crimes division arrested a 27 year old man on charges of blasphemy, for his website that mocks a well-known Greek monk Elder Paisios, using the name Elder Pastitsios (the even better-known Greek pasta dish). The link is to a Greek blog, which shows a religious procession through the streets of Athens last Friday led by local Pastafarians in protest of the arrest, during which pastitso was distributed to the crowds as a holy blessing. It's being widely reported that the arrest was instigated not by the Greek Orthodox church, but by the neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn, who currently hold seats in Parliament. The Twitter hashtag for the story is #FreeGeronPastitsios."

Αναλυτικό ρεπορτάζ από τη λιτανεία και περιφορά του παστιτσίου στα Εξάρχεια

Thin-skinned, plagiarizing Philippines Senator criminalizes "libel" with last minute stealth-attack on cybercrime bill

Philippines Senator Vicente Sotto III has been embroiled in a series of plagiarism scandals -- most recently, he gave a speech including phrases from a Robert Kennedy, Jr address, without credit or acknowledgment -- and has attracted a lot of vocal online criticisms. He was also instrumental in the passage of a broad, censorious "cybercrime" bill, and he warned his critics (whom he derides as "professional fault-finders") that "Once the cybercrime bill is enacted into law, they will be accountable for what they say or write."

Now it seems he has made good on this threat. The signed version of the Philippines Cybercrime Bill classes "libel" with spam, child pornography, and other crimes, thanks to an amendment he introduced -- though this amendment was never debated.

Who inserted that libel clause in the Cybercrime Law at the last minute?

Republic Act No. 10175: AN ACT DEFINING CYBERCRIME, PROVIDING FOR THE PREVENTION, INVESTIGATION, SUPPRESSION AND THE IMPOSITION OF PENALTIES THEREFOR AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES (Thanks, Charles!)