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Turkey blocks Twitter in run-up to election

Juha sez, "Looks like Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan was serious about blocking Twitter (and possibly other social networks) in Turkey in the run-up to the election. Twitter users in Turkey are able to bypass the block though through SMS, and the whole thing could backfire badly on the government there. That Streisand Effect again."

Erdogan is the thug who ordered the vicious crackdown on the Gezi protests, whose government was subsequently rocked by a high-level, multi-billion-dollar money-laundering and corruption scandal that has played out largely in social media. He told reporters: "We will wipe out all of these [social networks]."

Paging Mr Canute, your tide is coming in.

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How Medium designed its underlines


Marcin Wichary is a designer at Medium who took on the challenge of creating a considered, fine-tuned underline for the links on the site. In contrast to the normal "data-driven" design story, which is often a series of A/B tests that nudge things around by a pixel or two for weeks until they attain some counterintuitive optimum, this is a story about someone who had an intuitive, artistic, aesthetic goal and spent a bunch of time getting HTML to behave in a way that was consistent across different browsers, screen resolutions, and so forth.

I have to say that the actual underlines that Medium came up with don't seem to me to be more or less appealing than the default (the GIF above is displaying a before-and-after and I still can't tell which is which without referring to the article), but I really enjoy stories about people who know what aesthetic effect they want to achieve and are willing to move heaven and earth to achieve it.

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Knight Foundation challenge: How can we strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation?

The Knight News Foundation is running a challenge called How can we strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation? Over 665 proposals are in current round, where you can offer feedback and votes. The winners will be funded by the Foundation. Here's Dan Gillmor's Open Internet Mooc, which looks fascinating!

How can we strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation? (Thanks, Dan!)

"Fiber to the press release"

Techdirt's Mike Masnick has a gift for catchy, acerbic shorthand terms to describe shenanigans. He coined the term "Streisand Effect" to describe any situation in which a relatively obscure piece of information becomes widely known through a ham-fisted attempt to censor it. He's done it again: "Fiber to the press-release" is the phenomenon of incumbent carriers like AT&T making showy announcements about their intention to build super-fast broadband networks to replace their creaky, under-invested monopoly infrastructure, without ever mentioning scale, timelines, pricing, or any other specifics, only to have the announcement lapped up and repeated by a credulous press. Cory 5

Sky censoring Ukrainian site, says it has "a white list of international media websites which are currently blocked"

Taras sez:

I noticed last week that access to the Ukrainian media website tsn.ua was impossible from the UK but there was no issue with me connecting to it via a US VPN connection. I asked Sky (my ISP) why that was the case. This was the response I received:

Sky Help Centre 16:00 (29 minutes ago)

to me

Dear Mr Ciuriak

Thank you for contacting Sky Help Centre.
Thank you for your enquiry, unfortunately there has been a white list of international media websites which are currently blocked and this site is affected by this. This means we are unable to assist in getting you access to this website.

I've left a message for Sky PR to find out what this is about.

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Bruce Sterling's closing remarks from SXSW Interactive: who isn't in the room?

As ever, Bruce Sterling's closing remarks to the SXSW Interactive festival were a barn-burner; in them, Sterling rattles off a list of people who should be in the room, either because they know something that is lost on mainstream geekdom, or because they serve as examples for what not to become -- from GCHQ spies to Italian net-politics ninjas, from the Dread Pirate Roberts to Barrett Brown. Sterling dips into the future ("the future is full of cities full of old people who are scared of the sky") and wonders where Silicon Valley will decamp to once California is destroyed by climate change.

It's 45 minutes of funny, uncomfortable, storming invective, and a bracing way to pass the Ides of March. Here's an unauthorized MP3 rip in case you want to listen on the go (warning, may not work very well!).

Bruce Sterling Closing Remarks - SXSW Interactive 2014

Peak Facebook


Jeswin proposes that Facebook has failed, explaining that the more you use Facebook, the worse it gets. He describes a login screen with 30 stories on it, four of which are interesting, and blames Facebook for encouraging its users -- especially commercial users -- to share in ways that make the experience worse for everyone.

I don't have a Facebook account and tend not to pay much attention to stories about the service, but I was struck by this: "their product looks like one of those spam filled mailboxes from the nineties." One of the claims for walled gardens is that they're able to use a combination of data-mining and the ability to kick out bad actors to make your inbox spam-free. I've always felt that this was wildly oversold: the hardest-to-deal-with "spam" in my inbox is stuff from people I know, or who know me, and who want attention from me for something that is worthy but that I lack time for (if I pay attention to their stuff, I'll have to neglect something else I've already committed to). Facebook makes it easier for more people to do this, which always sounded like a recipe for disaster to me. Likewise the ability to exclude bad actors: once you get to Facebook's size, you can't police spammers and crazies in realtime -- they pop up faster than you can get rid of them. Every walled garden I ever used, all the way back to Compuserve, had problems with bad actors who'd fill up your screen with commercial pitches, hatemail, and other undesirable junk.

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English mispronunciations that became common usage


Here's a great history of English mispronunciations that became the received pronunciations. The piece makes the important point that English has no canon, no unequivocal right way or wrong way of speaking -- a point that is often lost in Internet linguistic pedantry and literacy privilege.

I'm as guilty as anyone of thinking that my English is the best English, but the next time I wince at "nukular," I'll remind myself that "bird" started out as "brid" and "wasp" started out as "waps," but were mispronounced into common usage.

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Tim Berners-Lee calls for Web "Magna Carta" - does the "Web we want" have DRM in it?


The Web is 25 today, and its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, has called for a "Magna Carta" for the Web, through which the people of the world will articulate how they want to curtail their governments' adversarial attacks on Internet freedom. Berners-Lee is particularly concerned with the Edward Snowden revelations about mass surveillance and systematic government sabotage of Internet security.

I'm delighted to see Berners-Lee tackling this. Everything we do today involves the Web and everything we do tomorrow will require it; getting Web policy right is the first step to getting everything else right.

I hope that this also signals a re-think of Berners-Lee's endorsement of the idea of standardizing "digital rights management" technology for Web browsers through the W3C. The majority of the Web's users live in a country in which it is illegal to report on vulnerabilities in DRM, because doing so might help to defeat the DRM's locks. The standardization of DRM in the deep structures of the Web means that our browsers will become reservoirs of long-lived, critical bugs that can be used to attack Web users -- just as Web users are massively expanding the activities that are mediated through their browsers.

If we are to have a Web that is fit for a free and fair world, it must be a Web where researchers are free to warn users about defects in their tools. We wouldn't countenance a rule that banned engineers from telling you if your house was structurally unsound. By standardizing DRM in browsers, the W3C is setting in place rules that will make it virtually impossible to know if your digital infrastructure is stable and secure.

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Tim Bray on the early Web's milestones

It's the Web's 25th birthday and Tim Bray, inventor of XML and Web pioneer, has a great remembrance of the milestones of the early Web:

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Public Prosecutor of Rome unilaterally orders ISPs to censor 46 sites


The Public Prosecutor of Rome has unilaterally ordered Italy's ISPs to censor 46 sites, and it appears the ISPs are complying, even though no complaint had been lodged against the sites, nor had any judge issued any order related to them. This doesn't bode well for the governance style of the new Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, a young politician who is trying to set himself apart from the autocratic Berlusconi regime, which used tight media control as part of its corrupt governance strategy.

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Netflix disables Chrome's developer console

When you watch Netflix videos in the Chrome browser, the service disables Chrome's developer console, a debugging and programming tool that gives you transparency and control over what your browser is doing. The Hacker News thread explains that this is sometimes done in order to stop an attack called "Self-XSS" that primarily arises on social media sites, where it can cause a browser to leak nominally private information to third parties. But in this case, the "Self-XSS" attack Netflix is worried about is very different: they want to prevent browser owners from consciously choosing to run scripts in the Netflix window that subvert Netflix's restrictions on video.

This is the natural outflow of the pretense that "streaming" exists as a thing that is distinct from "downloading" -- the idea that you can send a stream of bytes to someone else's computer without the computer being able to store those bytes. "Streaming" is at the heart of "rental" business models like Netflix's, and there's nothing wrong with the idea of rental per se. But the only way to attain "rental" with computers is to design computers so that their owners can't give them orders that the landlords disagree with. You have to change the computer and its software so that you can't see what it's doing and can't change what it's doing.

Your browser is a portal to your whole social life, your financial life and your work life, entrusted with the most potentially compromising secrets of your life. Anything that allows third parties to make it harder for you to figure out what the browser is doing, or to prevent it from doing something you don't want, should be a non-starter. As soon as a powerful entity like Netflix comes to depend on -- and insist on -- computers that owners can't control, that company is doing something wrong. Not because rentals are bad, but because taking away owner control from computers is bad.

This is why it's such a big deal that Netflix has convinced Microsoft, Apple, and Google to build user-controlling technology into their browsers, and why it's such a big deal that Microsoft, Apple, and Google have convinced the W3C to standardize this for all devices with HTML5 interfaces. Any time we allow the discussion to be sidetracked into "How can Netflix maximize its revenue by enforcing rental terms?" we're missing the real point, which is, "How can people be sure that their browsers aren't betraying them?"

Netflix disables use of the Chrome developer console (pastebin.com)

US Embassy and Godaddy conspire to censor dissenting Mexican political site


Godaddy has censored a prominent Mexican political site that was critical of the government and a proposed law to suppress public protests. Godaddy says that it suspended 1dmx.org after a request from a "Special Agent Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Embassy, Mexico City." A lawyer for the site believes that the someone in the Mexican government asked the US embassy to arrange for the censorship, and is suing the Mexican government to discover the identity of the official who made the request.

Leaving aside the Mexican government corruption implied by this action, Americans should be outraged about the participation of the US Embassy in the suppression of political dissent. And, as always, Godaddy customers should be on notice that Godaddy is pretty much the worst domain registrar/hosting company in the world, with a long history of meekly knuckling under to absurd, legally dubious censorship claims from random law-enforcement and government agencies, and never, ever going to bat for its customers (I prefer Hover, one of Godaddy's major competitors).

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Video explainer: why open spectrum matters, and why you're about to lose it

Harold Feld from Public Knowledge writes, "One of the hardest problems I face advocating for more open, shared 'unlicensed' spectrum is trying to explain exactly what 'spectrum' is and why decisions about it made by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) matter. My organization, Public Knowledge, now has a two minute video animation 'Wireless Spectrum: How To Use It And Why You Might Lose It' that explains for those new to these issues. The video ties in to our effort to save the newest unlicensed spectrum, 'TV white spaces,' from being auctioned away to the biggest wireless companies. If you agree after watching the video that we need to protect and promote open spectrum as well as get more licensed spectrum to AT&T and Verizon, please click through to our petition."

Wireless Spectrum: How To Use It And Why You Might Lose It (Thanks, Harold!)

Comment-spammers threaten to sabotage their victims through Google Disavow if the evidence of their vandalism isn't removed

Tim got an email from someone trying to get rid of comment spams -- ever since Google started punishing sites that left comment spam on blogs, this has been going on a lot. When Tim told the guy to buzz off, he threatened Tim with sabotage by means of Google's "Disavow" tool, growing progressively more abusive as Tim stood his ground.

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