Australia just voted to ban working cryptography. No, really.

Remember when Malcolm Turnbull, the goddamned idiot who was briefly Prime Minister of Australia, was told that the laws of mathematics mean that there was no way to make a cryptography system that was weak enough that the cops could use to spy on bad guys, but strong enough that the bad guys couldn't use it to spy on cops, and he said: "Well the laws of Australia prevail in Australia, I can assure you of that. The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia." Read the rest

We don't know how much Village Roadshow paid to buy Australia's new censoring copyright law

Australia just passed into law one of the world's most censoring copyright law, which allows the country's media giants like Village Roadshow to use one-sided administrative process to get court orders to censor any website whose "primary effect" is infringement, then use those orders to force search engines to delist any site so blocked, and then recycle those orders to block for any site or service that "provides access" to a blocked site or service. Read the rest

Thousands of sleep apnea sufferers rely on a lone Australian CPAP hacker to stay healthy

An Australian developer named Mark Watkins painstakingly reverse-engineered the proprietary data generated by Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines and created Sleepyhead, a free/open piece of software that has become the go-to tool for thousands of sleep apnea sufferers around the world who want to tune their machines to stay healthy. Read the rest

Sense About Science awards go to research on coral bleaching and naturopathy

Sense About Science (previously) is a UK group that advocates for evidence-based policy; as part of that mission they give out the annual Maddox Prizes for people who brave political and social retaliation to infuse difficult public policy debates with factual evidence. Read the rest

Australia's 2015 copyright censorship system has failed, so they're adding (lots) more censorship

In 2015, Australia created the most aggressive copyright censorship system in the world, which allowed the country's two major movie studios (Village Roadshow and Fox) along with an assortment of smaller companies and trolls to get court orders forcing the country's ISPs to censor sites that had the "primary purpose" of infringing copyright. Read the rest

"Free is not fair" won't make authors richer, but fixing publishers' contracts will

Australia is about to radically expand its copyright and the publishing industry has forged an unholy alliance with authors' groups to rail against fair use being formalised in Australia, rallying under the banner of "Free is not fair." Read the rest

Residents of Sydney's gayborhood are getting hate-mail signed by "Jesus"

People who live in the LGBT-identified Sydney neighborhood of Darlinghurst are getting letters through their door signed by "Jesus" that blame queer people for extreme weather (drought, hail); "Jesus" also takes credit for felling the (admittedly horrible) former PM Malcolm Turnbull. Read the rest

Amazon bars Australians from shopping on its non-Aussie sites to put pressure on the government to rescind tax rule

Australian retailers are required to collect 10% Value Added Tax on every sale; Amazon's Australia store collects this tax, but the company has rejected any suggestion that its non-Australian stores should collect the tax on shipments bound for Australia. Read the rest

Australia put an algorithm in charge of its benefits fraud detection and plunged the nation into chaos

In a textbook example of the use of big data to create a digital poorhouse, as described in Virginia Eubanks's excellent new book Automating Inequality, the Australian government created an algorithmic, semi-privatised system to mine the financial records of people receiving means-tested benefits and accuse them of fraud on the basis of its findings, bringing in private contractors to build and maintain the system and collect the penalties it ascribed, paying them a commission on the basis of how much money they extracted from poor Australians. Read the rest

Australian government's worst-ever state-secrets leak: accidentally selling filing cabinets full of classified docs in a surplus store

Australian national broadcaster ABC has gotten hold of a massive trove of state secrets that were inadvertently sold off in a pair of cheap, locked filing cabinets purchased from a Canberra junk-shop that specialises in government surplus furniture. Read the rest

The Australian health authority believed it had "anonymised" a data-set of patient histories, but academics were easily able to unscramble it

The Australian government's open data initiative is in the laudable business of publishing publicly accessible data about the government's actions and spending, in order to help scholars, businesses and officials understand and improve its processes. Read the rest

After priest/child rape scandal, Australian Archbishop says he'll ask the Pope to allow priests to have sex

As a Royal Commission in Australia wraps up its investigation into decades of rape by priests (especially rape of children), and decades of Church officials obstructing investigation into the rape, Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart says he'll ask the Pope to change the rules so that celibacy for priests is voluntary, not mandatory. Read the rest

A proposed Australian leaker law will put journalists and whistleblowers in jail for 20 years

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced a plan to bring down anti-leaker legislation that provides for 20 year prison sentences for whistelblowers who leak in order to prove government wrongdoing, and for the journalists who publish those leaks. Read the rest

Bigots who swore their religious beliefs would force them to divorce if Australia passed marriage equality renege on promise

In 2015, Nick and Sarah Jensen publicly swore that their religious beliefs would force them to divorce in protest if Australia enacted marriage equality laws that allowed for same-sex marriage. This week, Australia passed such legislation, but the Jensens were evidently lying, and now Nick Jensen told the press (by text-message!) that they meant their "public comments regarding civil divorce never envisaged me separating from my wife, but rather our marriage from the state." Read the rest

Australia is a world leader in internet usage and bad internet policies, so Australians want better policies

Australia is one of the world leaders in internet adoption and usage, and it's also been one of the worst offenders in bad internet policy, with a track record to rival even America's reckless indifference to the internet's overall importance. Read the rest

Australian government proposes jail terms for satire

Juice Media is a company whose "Honest Government Adverts" Youtube series lampoon both the Australian government's decisions and the way it promotes them. Juice's videos are very funny, and very, very obviously parodies (they spell "Australian" wrong!). Read the rest

Australia's housing bubble is built on a deadly, about-to-burst credit bubble

If you buy a house in Australia -- where housing prices are out of control, even by global standards -- you can wait a couple months for the house's book value to go up, and then borrow against that "unrealised capital gain" to buy another house...and then you can do it again. Read the rest

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