The top AI scientist who quit Google over Chinese censorship plans details the hypocrisy that sent him packing

Jack Poulson is the former Google Research Scientist who quit the company's machine learning division over Project Dragonfly, the company's secret plan to build a censoring Chinese search engine designed to help the country's spies surveil dissident search activity. Read the rest

Google engineer calls for a walkout over China censorship and raises $200K strike fund in hours

Liz Fong-Jones is a Site Reliability Engineer for Google's cloud division; she took to Twitter after reading today's story in The Intercept in which ex-Google security engineer Yonatan Zunger and three current, unnamed Google Security and Privacy staff describe how they were sidelined and deceived in the rush to ship Project Dragonfly, Google's secret, censored, surveilling Chinese search engine. Read the rest

Google's secret project to build a censored Chinese search engine bypassed the company's own security and privacy teams

Google's Project Dragonfly is a formerly secret project to build a surveilling, censored version of its search engine for deployment in China; it was kept secret from the company at large during the 18 months it was in development, until an insider leak led to its existence being revealed in The Intercept. Read the rest

Terror as disappearances follow Chinese student communists' solidarity with striking workers

China's increasing inequality and rocky transition to market capitalism has created a rising tide of wildcat strikes from independent trade unions, who have found powerful allies in national student communist movements whose members were made to study Marxism in an effort to purge the country's intelligentsia of "bourgeois" ideologies of liberalism and democracy. Read the rest

Slaves - including children - make the bricks for Cambodia's housing bubble

Two bedroom apartments in Phnom Penh start at $260,000 -- equivalent to 2,000 years' worth of average annual wages for Cambodia's workers. Read the rest

NYT: Saudi Arabia's Prince Charming was Mister Bone Saw all along

Everybody knows that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the brutal killing and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi (everybody, that is, except the Trumps, who coincidentally do a lot of business with the House of Saud) and the lurid brutality of that murder has prompted calls for western businesses to reconsider their increasingly cozy relationship with Mohammed bin Salman. Read the rest

Meet Helen, 5, detained by Trump, forced to sign away her rights in court.

“On Helen’s form, which was filled out with assistance from officials, there is a checked box next to a line that says, “I withdraw my previous request for a Flores bond hearing.” Beneath that line, the five-year-old signed her name in wobbly letters.”

What the Trump administration is doing to these thousands of children is morally repulsive. We have to stop it. Read the rest

We've got a front-row seat for Europe's internet censorship plan

The EU's wide-ranging plan for indiscriminate internet censorship has progressed from a vote in the European Parliament and now reps from the EU will meet with reps from the 28 countries that make up the EU to hammer out the final text that will be put to the Parliament for what might be the final vote before it becomes law. Read the rest

What we know about the 1,600 migrant kids Trump is relocating to Texas concentration camp

The Trump administration is currently detaining over 13,000 migrant children in facilities throughout the United States Approximately 1,600 of these children are being moved to a tent concentration camp in West Texas. The conditions are grim. Read the rest

X-Men star's disappearance blamed on China's new "anti-corruption" snatch squad

Fan Bingbing is a Chinese megastar who has also appeared in western movies like "X-Men: Days of Future Past"; she has not been seen since June and the smart money has it that she was kidnapped by China's National Supervision Commission (NSC), an "anti-corruption" task force established in 2018, with a reputation for practicing "liuzhi" or "enforced disappearances." Read the rest

Evidence of NSO Group surveillance products found in 45 countries, including notorious human-rights abusers

Researchers from the University of Toronto's outstanding Citizen Lab (previously) have published their latest research on the notorious and prolific Israeli cyber-arms-dealer The NSO Group (previously), one of the world's go-to suppliers for tools used by despots to spy on dissidents and opposition figures, often as a prelude to their imprisonment, torture and murder. Read the rest

EU's top court rules against the UK mass surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the UK spy agency GCHQ acted illegally when it engaged in mass-scale domestic surveillance of every Briton's electronic communications, a programme that was revealed by documents supplied to journalists by the whistleblower Edward Snowden. Read the rest

How to: beat Chinese social media image-filtering

Researchers from the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab (previously) have published an extensive report on the image filtering systems used by Chinese messaging giant Wechat to prevent the posting of banned political messages and other "sensitive" topics that are censored in China. Read the rest

Santander Bank freezes transgender woman's account because she sounded 'like a man'

Contraltos banking with Santander are advised to avoid the faculty of speech: they might freeze your account. This is what happened to Sophia Reis, a 46-year old trans woman from Nottingham who was told she could not access her money because she sounded like a man.

Ms Reis, who began transitioning in 2016, said she informed the bank of a name change in November.

But last Thursday, despite providing all the correct security information over the telephone, her debit card and accounts were frozen until she visited a branch and provided ID.

"I felt embarrassed. I felt humiliated because yet again I have to explain myself," she said.

Worse, a bank staffer made clear that this is a policy that won't change:

"I want for the bank, as an institution, to have something in place where people like myself get protected and don't have to go through this every time."

Ms Reis said a member of staff had now placed a note on her account but said the problem could happen again.

This is an interesting remark because it exposes that the problem has happened before at Santander and that the staffer feels obliged to warn the customer that it will happen again. It doesn't matter what apologies are made or changes promised, because culture eats strategy for breakfast. The only solution is to take your money somewhere else.

Photo: Sophia Reis Read the rest

India decriminalizes gay sex

India's Supreme Court ruled Thursday that gay sex is not a criminal offense.

Although public opinion in India's biggest cities has been in favour of scrapping the law, there remains strong opposition among religious groups and in conservative rural communities.

But this ruling, from the top court, is the final say in the matter and represents a huge victory for India's LGBT community.

Screengrab: BBC News Read the rest

United Nations: China is running forced re-education camps for Muslims and ethnic minorities

One million ethnic Uigurs are being held in a "massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy" by the Chinese government, says a United Nations Human Rights panel that has received multiple credible reports to back up their claim (this story has been percolating all summer long). According to Gay McDougall of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, you can tack an additional million people on to that initial figure: it’s estimated that another one million Muslims living in China’s western Xinjiang autonomous region have also been sent to similar camps for political indoctrination. The reasoning for this, according to Reuters, is that China’s sovereignty in the western Xinjiang autonomous region is being threatened by separatists and Islamic militants. The Uigurs mostly identify as Muslim, so there you go.

At the meeting in Geneva, McDougall was quoted as saying:

“We are deeply concerned at the many numerous and credible reports that we have received that in the name of combating religious extremism and maintaining social stability (China) has changed the Uighur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy, a sort of ‘no rights zone.”

The Chinese, for their part, have responded, "nuh-uh."

From The Globe & Mail:

The Chinese government has flatly denied rounding up large numbers of Muslims into internment centres for political indoctrination, telling a United Nations committee that such places do not exist.

The idea that “Xinjiang is a ‘no-rights zone’ is completely against the facts,” Hu Lianhe, deputy director-general of the Communist Party’s United Front Work Department, told members of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva Monday.

Read the rest

Canadian scolding of Saudi Arabia's human rights violations means nothing if they continue to sell them weapons

I’m a proud Canadian. I’m proud that my nation took a stand against the human rights practices in Saudi Arabia. Maybe you’ve read about it. Earlier this week, Canada’s Minster of Foreign Affairs tweeted that our nation was less than impressed with Saudi Arabia’s arrest of a woman’s right activist. It’s a sentiment echoed by Human Rights Watch and the United Nations.

From The Guardian:

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch said Saudi Arabia had arrested the women’s rights activists Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah. The arrests were the latest in a government crackdown on activists, clerics and journalists. More than a dozen women’s rights activists have been targeted since May.

Most of those arrested campaigned for the right to drive and an end to the country’s male guardianship system, which requires women to obtain the consent of a male relative for major decisions.

On Friday, Canada said it was gravely concerned about the arrests, including Badawi’s. Her brother Raif Badawi, a dissident blogger, has been imprisoned since 2012. His wife, Ensaf Haidar, lives in Canada and recently became a Canadian citizen.

As a result of Canada commenting on the Saudi treatment of these individuals, the Saudi Arabia kind of lost its shit: After tweeting that no one would be allowed to dictate how the nation administrated its people, the Saudi government called its ambassadors to Canada home and gave Canada’s ambassador to the nation 24 hours to get out of Dodge. The Saudis followed up by ordering many of its citizens who were attending university at Canadian institutions home and messing with established trade deals it holds with Canada. Read the rest

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