Catalan independence movement declares a general strike in Barcelona

The cause of Catalan independence surged in October 2017, when voters defied Madrid and voted in a banned independence referendum despite indiscriminate violence and rubber-bullet fire from police, who had earlier seized the ballot boxes (the independence movement had wisely procured a backup set of boxes just in case. The referendum led to a declaration of independence, and the central government responded by imposing direct rule and arresting the movement's leaders (the ruling coalition was trounced at the polls a few months later). Read the rest

Relatives and cronies of Cambodia's dictator have bought "golden passports" from Cyprus and exfiltrated millions

Cambodia's long-serving dictator Hun Sen nearly lost power in 2013 when an opposition party mobilized over Facebook (Hun Sen recovered by mastering Facebook and using it to crush the opposition, whose leaders are now exiled. Read the rest

Podcast: False Flag

In my latest podcast (MP3), I read my Green European Journal short story about the terrible European Copyright Directive which passed last March, False Flag. Published in December 2018, the story highlights the ways in which this badly considered law creates unlimited opportunities for abuse, especially censorship by corporations who've been embarassed by whistleblowers and activists.

The crew couldn’t even supply their videos to friendly journalists to rebut the claims from the big corporate papers. Just *linking* to a major newspaper required a paid license, and while the newspapers licensed to one another so they could reference articles in rival publications, the kinds of dissident, independent news outlets that had once provided commentary and analysis of what went into the news and what didn’t had all disappeared once the news corporations had refused to license the right to link to them.

Agata spoke with a lawyer she knew, obliquely, in guarded hypotheticals, and the lawyer confirmed what she’d already intuited.

“Your imaginary friend has no hope. They’d have to out themselves in order to file a counterclaim, tell everyone their true identity and reveal that they were behind the video. Even so, it would take six months to get the platforms to hear their case, and by then the whole story would have faded from the public eye. And if they *did* miraculously get people to pay attention again? Well, the fakers would just get the video taken offline again. It takes an instant for a bot to file a fake copyright claim.

Read the rest

Europe's Right to Repair rules have passed, and will take effect in 2021

Last year in the USA, a corporate coalition led by Apple killed 20 state Right to Repair bills (Massachusetts subsequently passed a ballot initiative that accomplished the same rules without having to pass the corruptible legislature), but in the EU, Right to Repair advocates have made enormous strides, and now the European Commission has adopted rules (coming into effect in 2021) that require manufacturers of lighting, washing machines, dishwashers and fridges to make parts available for a minimum of 10 years after the item is manufactured, and to design appliances so that parts can be easily replaced with standard tools. Read the rest

After the passage of the EU Copyright Directive, Google nukes Google News France

The passage of the EU's Copyright Directive last March marked the most controversial rulemaking process in EU history, with lawmakers squeaking a narrow victory that relied on confused MEPs pushing the wrong button. Read the rest

The EU's top trustbuster gets a surprise re-appointment

Margrethe Vestager (previously) is the EU competition commissioner who handed out a bouquet of multibillion-dollar fines to US-based Big Tech companies; she had resigned herself to being ousted after her previous term but in a last-minute surprise she has been granted another turn in office, with a new mandate to create a "Europe fit for the digital age." Vestager's heart is definitely in the right place, even if she has effectively taken forced breakups off the table, judging that the ensuing legal wrangle will do more harm than good, even if it might put Big Tech's execs on notice that bad behaviour has real consequences. Read the rest

First detailed look at Poland's challenge to the EU Copyright Directive

After the EU Copyright Directive passed with a slim majority that only carried because some MEPs got confused and pressed the wrong button, the government of Poland filed a legal challenge with the European Court of Justice, arguing that the Directive -- and its rule requiring that all online discourse be filtered by black-box algorithms that will block anything that might be infringing -- violated both Polish and European law. Read the rest

46% of Scots want to separate from the UK; 43% want to remain

An Lord Ashcroft Poll for Holyrood found that the largest group of Scots with a preference favour independence from the UK: 46% leave vs 43% remain; after removing undecided voters, the figures are 52%-48%. Read the rest

Podcast: Steering with the Windshield Wipers

In my latest podcast (MP3), I read my May Locus column: Steering with the Windshield Wipers. It makes the argument that much of the dysfunction of tech regulation -- from botched anti-sex-trafficking laws to the EU's plan to impose mass surveillance and censorship to root out copyright infringement -- are the result of trying to jury-rig tools to fix the problems of monopolies, without using anti-monopoly laws, because they have been systematically gutted for 40 years.

A lack of competition rewards bullies, and bullies have insatiable appetites. If your kid is starving because they keep getting beaten up for their lunch money, you can’t solve the problem by giving them more lunch money – the bullies will take that money too. Likewise: in the wildly unequal Borkean inferno we all inhabit, giving artists more copyright will just enrich the companies that control the markets we sell our works into – the media companies, who will demand that we sign over those rights as a condition of their patronage. Of course, these companies will be subsequently menaced and expropriated by the internet distribution companies. And while the media companies are reluctant to share their bounties with us artists, they reliably expect us to share their pain – a bad quarter often means canceled projects, late payments, and lower advances.

And yet, when a lack of competition creates inequities, we do not, by and large, reach for pro-competitive answers. We are the fallen descendants of a lost civilization, destroyed by Robert Bork in the 1970s, and we have forgotten that once we had a mighty tool for correcting our problems in the form of pro-competitive, antitrust enforcement: the power to block mergers, to break up conglomerates, to regulate anticompetitive conduct in the marketplace.

Read the rest

EU expert panel calls for a ban on AI-based risk-scoring and limits on mass surveillance

The EU Commission's High-Level Expert Group on AI (AI HLEG) has tabled its Policy and investment recommendations for trustworthy Artificial Intelligence, recommending a ban on the use of machine learning technologies to generate Chinese-style Citizen Scores and limits on the use of the technology in monitoring and analyzing mass surveillance data. Read the rest

Dieselgate 2.0: 42,000 Mercedes diesels recalled for "illegal software"

Germany's auto regulator has ordered Daimler to recall 42,000 Mercedes diesels because the company installed illegal software in their engines that gimmicked the engine's thermostat, which would allow the manufacturer to selectively tune its cars' emissions. Read the rest

European legal official OKs orders that force Facebook to globally remove insults to politicians like "oaf" and "fascist" (as well as synonyms)

Austria has incredibly broad libel laws -- so broad that they prohibit disgruntled voters from calling politicians "oafs" or "fascists." Predictably, this gave rise to a legal dispute between an Austrian politician and Facebook, when the former ordered the latter to remove a comment containing these two insults, and the whole mess ended up before the Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the EU -- a person whose decisions are not binding, but are incredibly legally influential. Read the rest

Analysis of a far-right disinformation campaign aimed at influencing the EU elections

F-Secure Labs used a bot to harvest and analyze high-ranked disinformation tweets aimed at influencing the EU elections; they found that some of the highest-ranked xenophobic/Islamophobic disinformation came from a pair of related accounts: NewsCompact and PartisanDE, both in "the top three most engaged accounts in the EU election conversation space on Twitter two weeks ago." Read the rest

Poland has asked the European Court of Justice to overturn the #CopyrightDirective

The government of Poland has filed a complaint with the European Court of Justice, arguing that the recently passed Copyright Directive amounts of a form of censorship, "forbidden not only in the Polish constitution but also in the EU treaties." Read the rest

Europe's surging, far-right, "anti-establishment" parties: funded by billionaires, voting for billionaire-friendly policies, lining their own pockets

On May 26th, Europeans will vote for the next EU Parliament, and the region's far-right, "nationalist/anti-establishment" parties (AfD Germany, UKIP/Brexit UK, PiS/Poland, etc) are expected make large gains, possibly prompting a realignment of power in the EU; the far-right parties have campaigned as "anti-establishment," tapping into frustration with elites and their corruption. Read the rest

European telcos want the right to perform "deep packet inspection" on our data

[Austria's Epicentre Works is an incredibly effective European digital rights group, most famous for getting the EU's Data Retention Directive struck down; now, they're raising the alarm about a move to relax the EU's Net Neutrality rules to allow ISPs to conduct fine-grained surveillance and discrimination against services that aren't in bed with ISPs. I'm happy to provide Epicenter Works's Thomas Lohninger a space to highlight the group's efforts -Cory]

Today 45 NGOs, Academics and Companies from 15 countries released an open letter outlining the dangers of the wide-spread use of privacy invasive Deep Packet Inspection technology in the European Union. The letter is referencing the ongoing negotiations about Europes new net neutrality rules in which some telecom regulators are pushing for the legalization of DPI technology. Read the rest

British jury ignores judge and frees self-represented climate activists based on the "necessity defense"

In 2017, climate activists Roger Hallam and David Durant painted the words "divest from oil and gas" on a wall at King’s College London in chalk paint; they were facing £7,000 in fines and up to 18 months in prison, and did not qualify for a legal aid lawyer. Read the rest

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