Since 2010, the lucky people of West Virginia have gotten their local phone/Internet service from Frontier Communications, who bought the business from noted shit-shovelers Verizon. In a mere four years, complaints about phone service have plummeted by 68 percent
, and 88 percent
of their customers now have access to broadband. The company has also installed a 2,600-mile-long fiber loop. There is nothing intrinsic about operating a phone network that makes your company into a horror-show, but once the telcos get big, they turn into some of the worst companies in the world.
In Censorship in the Wild: Analyzing Web Filtering in Syria [PDF], researchers from INRIA, NICTA and University College London parse through 600GB worth of leaked logfiles from seven Blue Coat SG-9000 proxies used by the Syrian government to censor and surveil its national Internet connections. They find that the Assad regime's censorship is more subtle and targeted than that of China and Iran, with heavy censorship of instant messaging, but lighter blocking of social media. They also report on Syrians' use of proxies, Tor, and Bittorrent to evade national censorship. It's the first comprehensive public look at the network censorship practiced in Syria.
Censorship in the Wild: Analyzing Web Filtering in Syria [PDF]
Freeweibo, an anti-censorship organization that works on free speech issues in China, has discovered that the Chinese version of Microsoft's Bing search-engine censors its US version to match the censored results that would be shown within China. Search terms such as "Dalai Lama, June 4 incident (how the Chinese refer to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989), Falun Gong and FreeGate" return results dominated by censored Chinese news outlets like Baidu Baike and Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. The same searches run on the English version of Bing return pages from Wikipedia, BBC, the New York Times, etc.
Google's Chinese-language competitor displays much more parity between the Chinese and English editions -- the Chinese Google results for controversial subjects include Chinese articles from the BBC and Wikipedia.
Microsoft will not comment on the matter.
Update: Microsoft has commented:
"Bing does not apply China's legal requirements to searches conducted outside of China," Bing Senior Director Stefan Weitz notes in a prepared statement. "Due to an error in our system, we triggered an incorrect results-removal notification for some searches noted in the report, but the results themselves are and were unaltered outside of China.
As of 10PM Pacific on 12 Feb, many of the "controversial" search terms still generate results pages dominated by Chinese state media.
Read the rest
Nathan sez, "This is Episode 9 of Embracing Disruption Podcast (EDP). In this episode I interview April Glaser from the EFF. We talk about internet activism, the EFF, TrustyCon, and The Day We Fight Back."
009 EFF, TrustyCon, and The Day We Fight Back
Researchers at Kaspersky Labs have uncovered a new, long-lived piece of espionage malware called Careto (Spanish for "Mask"). The software, which attacks Windows, Mac OS and GNU/Linux, has been running since at least 2007 and has successfully targeted at least 380 victims in 31 countries, gaining access via directed spear-phishing attacks, which included setting up fake sites to impersonate The Guardian. The Mask was thought to be the work of a government, and its targets were "government institutions, diplomatic offices and embassies, energy, oil and gas companies, research organizations and activists." It is possible that the Mask also targeted Android and Ios devices.
Read the rest
is a new news-site created by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill, through their Omidyar-funded startup First Look Media. Its mission is "fearless, adversarial journalism across a wide range of issues." (Thanks, John!
At least 16 fraudulent sites attributed to the National Republican Congressional Committee have been discovered. These sites, whose domains are the names of Democratic candidates, use large type and photos that make them appear to be fundraisers for those candidates, though the small-print text makes it clear that these are actually sites set up opposing their apparent candidates. The NRCC claims these are all fair game and blame Democrats for not registered their candidates' names as for campaign sites. But when there's a site at AnnKirkpatrick.com, with the words ANN KIRKPATRICK FOR CONGRESS and a DONATE button beneath it, and when that DONATE button sends money to Ann Kirkpatrick's GOP rival, the intent to deceive is pretty clear.
Read the rest
Robbo sez, "Dave Raphael of Dave's Blog has an interesting post
about a conversation he recently had with Verizon support and discovered some uncomfortable - yet wholly unsurprising - truths about how Verizon is selectively limiting bandwidth to AWS services and adversely affecting the quality of Netflix. The open admission of this by Verizon support was unexpected - but the fact it is happening should be of no surprise to anyone but the ignorant and naive."
Read the rest
The Medieval Unicode Font Initiative has a collection of glyphs and type elements that they'd like to see added to Unicode to make it simpler to represent medieval writing on the Web. (via O'Reilly Radar)
Lloyd Kaufman, cofounder of Troma Entertainment (the people who brought us such films as the Toxic Avenger) has a brilliant, profane, and stirring editorial in support of Net Neutrality on Techdirt. Kaufman explains how an open Internet is the only competitve hedge against the communications giants that own "cinemas, newspapers, T.V. stations, radio and even Broadway 'legitimate' theaters." Thanks to the failure of the FCC to give Net Neutrality their full protection, and the court ruling that gutted the FCC's weak protections, Net Neutrality is in real trouble. Kaufman's editorial a great arguments for its preservation.
Read the rest
Peter from the Electronic Frontier Foundation writes, "Over at EFF, we just released a version of our HTTPS Everywhere extension for Firefox for Android
. HTTPS Everywhere upgrades your insecure web requests to HTTPS on many thousands of sites, and this means that Firefox on Android with HTTPS Everywhere is now by far the most secure browser against dragnet surveillance attacks like those performed by the NSA, GCHQ, and other intelligence agencies."
I installed it today.
Read the rest
In my latest Guardian column, What happens with digital rights management in the real world?, I explain why the most important fact about DRM is how it relates to security and disclosure, and not how it relates to fair use and copyright. Most importantly, I propose a shortcut through DRM reform, through a carefully designed legal test-case.
Read the rest
In this interview with Boom Magazine, Kim Stanley Robinson discusses the relationship of California to the future. Robinson is a profound ecological thinker, and two of his books in particular, Pacific Edge (the best utopian/optimistic novel I've ever read) and 2312 (a dazzling work of environmentally conscious, wildly imaginative eco-futurism) are both important works for thinking about a way out of our current dire situation.
In this interview, Robinson's analysis is particularly cogent, making a microcosm out of California for the whole world, and making important points about the way that good technology is key to any answer to questions about humanity's future on and off Earth. Especially worth reading are his views on the relationship of science to capitalism:
"Capitalism’s effect on humanity is not at all what science’s effect is on humanity. If you say science is nothing but instrumentality and capitalism’s technical wing, then you’re saying we’re doomed. Those are the two most powerful social forces on the planet, and now it’s come to a situation of science versus capitalism. It’s a titanic battle. One is positive and the other negative. We need to do everything we can to create democratic, environmental, utopian science, because meanwhile there is this economic power structure that benefits the few, not very different from feudalism, while wrecking the biosphere. This is just a folk tale, of course, like a play with sock puppets, like Punch and Judy. But I think it describes the situation fairly well."
Read the rest
Bruce Sterling's keynote at the Transmediale conference in Berlin is one of his best-ever outings (and I say that as a person who dropped out of university and totally upended his life after reading a transcript of one of Bruce's speeches). Sterling addresses the bankruptcy of tech giants, who have morphed themselves into intrusive presences that carry water for the surveillance industry, and lays out a credible case for a future where they are forgotten footnotes in our history.
In particular, I was impressed by this speech because it corrected some serious errors from Sterling's essay "The Ecuadorian Library," which, as Danny O'Brien pointed out completely misattributed a kind of optimistic naivete to technology activists past and present.
In this speech, Sterling revisits the origins and ongoing reality of the project to remake technology as a force for freedom, and corrects the record. As Sterling says, John Perry Barlow didn't write the Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace because he thought the cops couldn't or wouldn't try to take over the Internet: he wrote it because the cops were trying to take it over, and he was "shouting through a megaphone" at them.
There's a species of bottom-feeding contrarian that has sprung up in this century to decry the Internet as a system of oppression. Most of these men are people with some passing connection to the entertainment industry, which has spent the past 20 years demanding systems of Internet censorship and surveillance to help with copyright enforcement. These critics -- who get a lot of press from the news-media, who love mud-slinging as much as they fear disruptive technology -- have somehow hit upon groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Free Software Foundation as villains in their narratives. Nevermind the fact that the cause of Internet freedom (which includes a fair deal in copyright, because the Internet is a machine for copying) has always been central to these groups' missions, and that they've championed Internet freedom because they were frightened of how the net could be used to surveil and control us, not because they were blind to that possibility.
This talk demolishes that streak of revisionism, and furthermore advances an agenda for a technologically adept arts-practice. It is a marvel of rhetoric and a tonic for those of us who are heartily sick of the trolls.
Bruce Sterling / transmediale 2014 afterglow Opening Ceremony
A mysterious plague has manifested in the world's starfish population, quickly spreading to several regions in which starfish (also called "sea stars") are found. Starfish afflicted with the disease tear themselves to pieces, the arms crawling in opposite directions until the animals are literally torn to pieces. Unlike healthy starfish, the affected animals are not able to regenerate after they are torn apart.
The disease is largely a mystery. Researchers who are studying it are asking beach-walkers to photograph any starfish they see to tweet photos of it with the #sickstarfish tag. Starfish are important marine predators; a serious depletion of their numbers will have far-reaching consequences for marine ecosystems.
Read the rest