Melon Farmers Original Version

Internet Censorship in USA


Domain name seizures and SOPA


 

Updated: Social media influence...

Facebook and Twitter censors an expose of Hunter Biden seemingly in support of Joe Biden's election campaign


Link Here 16th October 2020
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA
Facebook and Twitter censored a controversial New York Post article critical of Joe Biden, sparking debate over social media platforms and their role in influencing the US presidential election.

In an unprecedented step against a major news publication, Twitter blocked users from posting links to the Post story or photos from the unconfirmed report. Users attempting to share the story were shown a notice saying:

We can't complete this request because this link has been identified by Twitter or our partners as being potentially harmful.

Users clicking or retweeting a link already posted to Twitter are shown a warning the link may be unsafe.

Twitter claimed it was limiting the article's spread due to questions about the origins of the materials included in the article. Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, said the company's communication about the decision to limit the article's spread was not great, saying the team should have shared more context publicly.

Facebook, meanwhile, placed restrictions on linking to the article, claiming there were questions about its validity.

The social media censorship drew swift backlash from figures on the political right, who accused Facebook and Twitter of protecting Biden, who is leading Trump in national polls.

Update: Censors caught red handed

16th October 2020. See article from bbc.co.uk

Twitter has updated a censorship policy which led it to block people from sharing a link to a story from the New York Post about Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

The article contained screenshots of emails allegedly sent and received by Hunter Biden, presidential candidate Joe Biden's son. It also contained personal photos of Hunter Biden, allegedly removed from a laptop computer while it was undergoing repairs at a store.

Twitter's Vijaya Gadde has now said posts will be flagged as containing hacked material, rather than blocked. She tweeted:

We tried to find the right balance between people's privacy and the right of free expression, but we can do better.

Empowering people to assess content for themselves was a better alternative for the public.

 

 

The Online Content Policy Modernization Act Is an Unconstitutional Mess...

Another internet censorship bill in the US


Link Here2nd October 2020
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA

EFF is standing with a huge coalition of organizations to urge Congress to oppose the Online Content Policy Modernization Act (OCPMA, S. 4632 ). Introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the OCPMA is yet another of this year's flood of misguided attacks on Internet speech ( read bill [pdf] ). The bill would make it harder for online platforms to take common-sense moderation measures like removing spam or correcting disinformation, including disinformation about the upcoming election. But it doesn't stop there: the bill would also upend longstanding balances in copyright law, subjecting ordinary Internet users to up to $30,000 in fines for everyday activities like sharing photos and writing online, without even the benefit of a judge and jury.

The OCPMA combines two previous bills. The first--the Online Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity Act ( S. 4534 )--undermines Section 230, the most important law protecting free speech online. Section 230 enshrines the common-sense principle that if you say something unlawful online, you should be the one held responsible, not the website or platform where you said it. Section 230 also makes it clear that platforms have liability protections for the decisions they make to moderate or remove online speech: platforms are free to decide their own moderation policies however they see fit. The OCPMA would flip that second protection on its head, shielding only platforms that agree to confine their moderation policies to a narrowly tailored set of rules. As EFF and a coalition of legal experts explained to the Senate Judiciary Committee:

This narrowing would create a strong disincentive for companies to take action against a whole host of disinformation, including inaccurate information about where and how to vote, content that aims to intimidate or discourage people from casting a ballot, or misleading information about the integrity of our election systems. S.4632 would also create a new risk of liability for services that editorialize alongside user-generated content. In other words, sites that direct users to voter-registration pages, that label false information with fact-checks, or that provide accurate information about mail-in voting, would face lawsuits over the user-generated content they were intending to correct.

It's easy to see the motivations behind the Section 230 provisions in this bill, but they simply don't hold up to scrutiny. This bill is based on the flawed premise that social media platforms' moderation practices are rampant with bias against conservative views; while a popular meme in some right-wing circles, this view doesn't hold water. There are serious problems with platforms' moderation practices, but the problem isn't the liberal silencing the conservative; the problem is the powerful silencing the powerless . Besides, it's absurd to suggest that the situation would somehow be improved by putting such severe limits on how platforms moderate; the Internet is a better place when multiple moderation philosophies can coexist , some more restrictive and some more freeform.

The government forcing platforms to adopt a specific approach to moderation is not just a bad idea; in fact; it's unconstitutional. As EFF explained in its own letter to the Judiciary Committee:

The First Amendment prohibits Congress from directly interfering with intermediaries' decisions regarding what user-generated content they host and how they moderate that content. The OCPM Act seeks to coerce the same result by punishing services that exercise their rights. This is an unconstitutional condition. The government cannot condition Section 230's immunity on interfering with intermediaries' First Amendment rights.

Sen. Graham has also used the OCPMA as his vehicle to bring back the CASE Act, a 2019 bill that would have created a new tribunal for hearing small ($30,000!) copyright disputes, putting everyday Internet users at risk of losing everything simply for sharing copyrighted images or text online . This tribunal would exist within the Copyright Office, not the judicial branch, and it would lack important protections like the right to a jury trial and registration requirements. As we explained last year, the CASE Act would usher in a new era of copyright trolling , with copyright owners or their agents sending notices en masse to users for sharing memes and transformative works. When Congress was debating the CASE Act last year, its proponents laughed off concerns that the bill would put everyday Internet users at risk, clearly not understanding what a $30,000 fee would mean to the average family. As EFF and a host of other copyright experts explained to the Judiciary Committee:

The copyright small claims dispute provisions in S. 4632 are based upon S. 1273, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019 (CASE Act), which could potentially bankrupt millions of Americans, and be used to target schools, libraries and religious institutions at a time when more of our lives are taking place online than ever before due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Laws that would subject any American organization or individual -- from small businesses to religious institutions to nonprofits to our grandparents and children -- to up to $30,000 in damages for something as simple as posting a photo on social media, reposting a meme, or using a photo to promote their nonprofit online are not based on sound policy.

The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to consider the OCPMA soon. This bill is far too much of a mess to be saved by amendments. We urge the Committee to reject it.

 

 

Offsite Article: Section 230 Is Under Attack...


Link Here 17th August 2020
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA
Both presidential candidates oppose the 25-year-old First Amendment of the internet.

See article from avn.com

 

 

Setting free speech thieves to catch free speech thieves...

The Whitehouse asks the FCC to investigate whether the law allows social media to censor right leaning content


Link Here30th July 2020
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA

The Department of Commerce, as directed by President Donald J. Trump's Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship, filed a petition to clarify the scope of Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. The petition requests that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) clarify that Section 230 does not permit social media companies that alter or editorialize users' speech to escape civil liability.

The petition also requests that the FCC clarify when an online platform curates content in good faith, and requests transparency requirements on their moderation practices, similar to requirements imposed on broadband service providers under Title I of the Communications Act. President Trump will continue to fight back against unfair, un-American, and politically biased censorship of Americans online.

 

 

Updated: The answer to too much censorship is more censorship...

US Government details internet censorship proposals via reducing safe harbour provisions known as Section 230 protections


Link Here21st June 2020
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA
The Justice Department unveiled proposals late Wednesday to limit big tech platforms' legal protections from being sued for moderating content - a move which follows Donald Trump's accusations of conservatives being censored by web giants.

The proposals from Attorney General Bill Barr's department would dilute the ability of internet platforms such as Google, Facebook, or Twitter to declare content objectionable and remove or downplay it at will.

The Democratic-controlled House is unlikely to take up a Republican proposal and in the Senate it would need either to be tabled by Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader or forced on to the agenda with 60 votes, neither of which seem likely in an election year.

Update: William Barr Says Social Media 'Starting to Censor' Views Is Problematic

21st June 2020. See article from bloomberg.com

U.S. Attorney General William Barr said social media giants are starting to censor views and antitrust law can be used to address their dominance, doubling down on Justice Department proposals to limit legal protections for online platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Barr said on Fox News:

Internet platforms are taking down views based on whether they agree with the viewpoint or not, which makes them a publisher rather than a neutral platform, voiding the liability protection they enjoy under the law

 

 

Updated: A Twitter spat...

Donald Trump threatens social media with the removal of Section 230 protections


Link Here30th May 2020
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA
A draft of the executive order announced by Donald Trump via Twitter in response to the platform's attempt to fact-check his tweets proposes a radical modification of Section 230, the so-called First Amendment of the Internet.  It asks the FCC to examine whether actions related to the editing of content by social media companies should potentially lead to the firms forfeiting their protections under Section 230. The section says that social media and internet forums are not generally responsible for the content of posts by their users (at least until the companies become aware of illegal content).

The executive order also orders a review of alleged 'unfair or deceptive practices' by Facebook and Twitter and calls on the government to reconsider advertising on services judged to 'violate free speech principles.'

Section 230 has ensured the legal protection of platforms from liability for third-party content since the popularization of the internet in the mid-1990s.

Reuters described the executive order as an extraordinary attempt to intervene in the media that experts said was unlikely to survive legal scrutiny. However Section 230 protections have already been removed for content relating to sex work and constitutional rights didn't help fend off censorship included in the FOSTA Act.

 

Offsite: Let's go through Trump's terrible internet censorship order, line by line

30th May 2020. See article from theverge.com

 

 

A shot of bleach in the arm of social media...

Trump plans to set up a panel to counter social media bias in generally censoring right wing opinions


Link Here 24th May 2020
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA
President Trump plans to create a panel to examine cases of bias against conservatives and suppression of free speech on social media, reported The Wall Street Journal. Last week the president tweeted:

The Radical Left is in total command & control of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google. The Administration is working to remedy this illegal situation. Stay tuned, and send names & events. Thank you Michelle!

It is not clear what department the panel would fall under or what authority it would have. However, the WSJ talked to sources that said the plans might lead to the creation of a commission that would work with agencies such as the Federal Communication Commission and the Federal Elections Commission.

In May 2019, the White House launched a tool that allowed people to share their experiences with political censorship but nothing really came of it. At a Social Media Summit held last July , several conservatives voiced concerns about censorship on social media and the shadow-banning of their content.

 

 

Protect Speech and Security Online...

Calling on Americans to reject the Graham-Blumenthal Proposal


Link Here 25th March 2020
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA

Senators Lindsey Graham and Richard Blumenthal are quietly circulating a serious threat to your free speech and security online. Their proposal would give the Attorney General the power to unilaterally write new rules for how online platforms and services must operate in order to rely on Section 230, the most important law protecting free speech online. The AG could use this power to force tech companies to undermine our secure and private communications.

We must stop this dangerous proposal before it sees the light of day. Please tell your members of Congress to reject the so-called EARN IT Act.   

The Graham-Blumenthal bill would establish a National Commission on Online Child Exploitation Prevention tasked with recommending best practices for providers of interactive computer services regarding the prevention of online child exploitation conduct. But the Attorney General would have the power to override the Commission's recommendations unilaterally. Internet platforms or services that failed to meet the AG's demands could be on the hook for millions of dollars in liability.

It's easy to predict how Attorney General William Barr would use that power: to break encryption. He's said over and over that he thinks the best practice is to weaken secure messaging systems to give law enforcement access to our private conversations. The Graham-Blumenthal bill would finally give Barr the power to demand that tech companies obey him or face overwhelming liability from lawsuits based on their users' activities. Such a demand would put encryption providers like WhatsApp and Signal in an awful conundrum: either face the possibility of losing everything in a single lawsuit or knowingly undermine their own users' security, making all of us more vulnerable to criminals. The law should not pit core values--Internet users' security and expression--against one another.

The Graham-Blumenthal bill is anti-speech, anti-security, and anti-innovation. Congress must reject it.

 

 

Opting in to censorship...

Tennessee lawmaker introduces bill for ISPs to default to porn censorship until the customers opts in


Link Here 15th February 2020
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA
A newly proposed law in the state of Tennessee would block all internet porn sites, unless a user chooses to opt in to porn by going through a series of steps and typing in a unique password. The bill was introduced last week by Republican state representative James Van Huss.

HB 2294 would require ISPs to provide parental controls that block access to a specific website or website category, and the category of pornography must be blocked by default.

Though Van Russ's Tennessee bill is titled the Safer Internet for Minors Act , the text of the bill contains no specific means for restricting access to the required parental controls to users over 18, and no age verification requirement. 

 

 

Offsite Article: Who fact-checks the fact-checkers?...


Link Here 8th November 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA
Demanding Big Tech companies act as arbiters of truth is a terrible idea. By Andreas Vou

See article from spiked-online.com

 

 

Protecting Americans from Online Censorship by appointing an online censor...

Donald Trump is considering appoint the FCC as the US social media censor


Link Here11th August 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA

A draft executive order from the White House could put the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in charge of social media censorship. The FFC has a disgraceful record on the subject of internet freedom. It recently showed totally disregard for the rights of internet users when siding when big business over net neutrality.

Donald Trump's draft order, a summary of which was obtained by CNN, calls for the FCC to develop new regulations clarifying how and when the law protects social media websites when they decide to remove or suppress content on their platforms. Although still in its early stages and subject to change, the Trump administration's draft order also calls for the Federal Trade Commission to take those new policies into account when it investigates or files lawsuits against misbehaving companies.

US media giants have clearly been showing political bias when censoring conservative views but appointing the FCC as the internet censor does not bode well.

According to the summary seen by CNN, the draft executive order currently carries the title Protecting Americans from Online Censorship . It claims that the White House has received more than 15,000 anecdotal complaints of social media platforms censoring American political discourse, the summary indicates.

The FTC will also be asked to open a public complaint docket, according to the summary, and to work with the FCC to develop a report investigating how tech companies curate their platforms and whether they do so in neutral ways. Companies whose monthly user base accounts for one-eighth of the U.S. population or more could find themselves facing scrutiny, the summary said, including but not limited to Facebook, Google, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat.

The Trump administration's proposal seeks to significantly narrow the protections afforded to companies under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Under the current law, internet companies are not liable for most of the content that their users or other third parties post on their platforms. This law underpins any company wanting to allow users to post their own comments without prior censorship. If protectsion were to be removed all user posting would need to be censored before being published.

 

 

State actors...

US Supreme Court accepts case that could define internet giants to be state actors and hence should only censor content according to constitutional law, not its own morality


Link Here18th October 2018
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA
After the recent censorship purge of over 800 independent media outlets on Facebook, the Supreme Court is now hearing a case that could have ramifications for any future attempts at similar purges.

The United States Supreme Court has agreed to take a case that could change free speech on the Internet. Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck, No. 17-702, the case that it has agreed to take, will decide if the private operator of a public access network is considered a state actor.

The case could affect how companies like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google and YouTube are governed. If the Court were to issue a far-reaching ruling it could subject such companies to First Amendment lawsuits and force them to allow a much broader scope of free speech from its users.

DeeDee Halleck and Jesus Melendez claimed that they were fired from Manhattan Neighborhood Network for speaking critically of the network. And, though the case does not involve the Internet giants, it could create a ruling that expands the First Amendment beyond the government.

 

 

Censorship and control...

American politicians are debating the need for internet regulation of social media


Link Here 9th August 2018
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA
US politicians are debating the need for internet censorship, social media regulation and privacy legisation.

Recently Axios' David McCabe published a fascinating policy paper from the office of Senator Mark Warner. The paper outlines a comprehensive censorship and regulatory regime that would touch virtually every aspect of social networks. It's a comprehensive starting point for discussion

The paper is notably well-versed both on the dangers posed by misinformation and the trade-offs that come with increased regulation, especially to privacy and free speech. No doubt the US debate will be echoed around the world.

So what exactly do Warner and his staff propose? The ideas are designed to address three broad categories: misinformation, disinformation, and the exploitation of these technologies; privacy and data protection; and competition.

Here are some the ideas presented.

Misinformation, disinformation, and the exploitation of technology.

  • requiring networks to label automated bots;
  • requiring platforms to verify identities, despite the significant consequences to free speech;
  • legally requiring platforms to make regular disclosures about how many fake accounts they've deleted;
  • ending legal protections on contents hosts for defamation;
  • legally requiring large platforms to create APIs for academic research;
  • spending more money to fight cyber threats from Russia and other state-level actors.

Privacy and data protection.

  • Create a US version of the GDPR;
  • designate platforms as information fiduciaries with the legal responsibility of protecting our data;
  • empowering the Federal Trade Commission to make rules around data privacy;
  • create a legislative ban on dark patterns that trick users into accepting terms and conditions without reading them;
  • allow the government to audit corporate algorithms.

Competition

  • Require tech companies to continuously disclose to consumers how their data is being used;
  • require social network data to be made portable;
  • require social networks to be interoperable;
  • designate certain products as essential facilities and demand that third parties get fair access to them.

These proposals remain far from becoming law -- but perhaps not as far as tech platforms would wish.

 

 

CALifornia Internet Police against HATE (CALIPHATE)...

California considers a bill to appoint a board of internet censors targeting social media


Link Here28th June 2018
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA
California is considering a bill that would require the state's attorney general to create a board of internet censors that would target social media.

The group would include at least one person from the Department of Justice, representatives from social media providers, civil liberties advocates, and First Amendment scholars, according to CBS13. They would theoretically study how fake stories spread through social media and then advise platforms on how to stop them.

The nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation is already taking a stand against the measure, noting that it violates the First Amendment and make the government responsible for deciding if news is true or false.

 

 

Taking tips from Putin on how to censor the internet...

Trump signs bill to censor websites offering services for sex workers


Link Here12th April 2018
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA
President Donald Trump has signed the internet censorship FOSTA/SESTA bill into law, paving the way for more law enforcement actions against websites that facilitate prostitution.

Websites started shutting down sex-work forums even before Trump signed the bill. Craigslist removed its Personals section, Reddit removed some sex-related subreddits, and the Erotic Review blocked any user who appears to be visiting the website from the United States.

The bill becoming law will likely lead to more voluntary site shutdowns or law enforcement actions against sites that continue to be used for prostitution.

The SESTA and FOSTA acronyms (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act and Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) suggest that the new law is aimed at cracking down on sex trafficking. But the law barely distinguishes between trafficking and consensual sex work.

Operators of websites that let sex workers interact with clients could face 25 years in prison under the new law.

 

 

Censorship straight out of the Ministry of Truth...

Crazed Californian senator proposes law to require all local websites to get all news items censored by a government approved fact checker


Link Here11th April 2018
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA
There is no shortage of hostility towards Facebook at the moment, as a result of recent revelations about their exploitation of user data and dissemination of supposed 'fake news'.

And the Californian Government has taken this to a whole new level and come up with a tradition approach to demand that all online news in the state is censored by government approved 'fact checkers'.

California State Senator Richard Pan introduced the bill SB1424 Internet: social media: false information: strategic plan. that requires any online communication to be run through government-approved censors fact-checkers.

This bill would require any person who operates a social media Internet Web site with a physical presence in California to develop a strategic plan to verify news stories shared on its Web site. The bill would require the plan to include, among other things, a plan to mitigate the spread of false information through news stories, the utilization of fact-checkers to verify news stories, providing outreach to social media users, and placing a warning on a news story containing false information.

Although the bill initially suggests that this would apply only social media companies, the definitions confirm that it would apply to all internet communications from individuals, and companies large and small. The scope is defined in the bill:

As used in this section, social media means an electronic service or account, or electronic content, including, but not limited to, videos, still photographs, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, instant and text messages, email, online services or accounts, or Internet Web site profiles or locations.

conservativedailynews.com notes:

The bill stands little chance of passing and, if it did, would face serious challenges in court as an infringement of The First Amendment, but it is astonishing that a legislator would even consider such a thing in America.

 

 

Gullible lawmaker realises he has been taken for a ride...

Rhode Island senator removes bill calling for $20 charge for internets users to access adult material


Link Here28th March 2018
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA
Rhode Island state Senator Frank Ciccone has pulled his bill that would have charged users $20 to unblock online porn, citing that dubious origins of the people who suggested th ebill to him.

Ciccone said he made the decision to shelve SB 2584 , which would have required mandatory porn filters on personal computers and mobile devices, after Time.com and the Associated Press published stories on the main campaigner, Chris Sevier, who has toted his ideas to several states.

Sevier had publicized that language in his template called the legislation the Elizabeth Smart Law after the girl who was kidnapped from her Utah home as a teenager in 2002.  But Smart wanted nothing to do with Sevier idea, and she sent a cease-and-desist letter to demand her name be removed from any promotion of the proposal.

Ciccone later found out about Smart's letter and learned another thing about Sevier: He had a history of outlandish lawsuits, including one trying to marry his computer as a statement against gay marriage. Besides filing similar lawsuits targeting gay marriage in Utah, Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina and Kentucky, Sevier was sentenced to probation after being found guilty four years ago of harassment threats against country singer John Rich.

 

 

SESTA censorship...

US internet censorship bill passed by the Senate Commerce Committee


Link Here9th November 2017
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA

The Senate Commerce Committee just approved a slightly modified version of SESTA, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act ( S. 1693 ).

SESTA was and continues to be a deeply flawed bill. It is intended to weaken the section commonly known as CDA 230 or simply Section 230, one of the most important laws protecting free expression online . Section 230 says that for purposes of enforcing certain laws affecting speech online, an intermediary cannot be held legally responsible for any content created by others.

It's not surprising when a trade association endorses a bill that would give its own members a massive competitive advantage.

SESTA would create an exception to Section 230 for laws related to sex trafficking, thus exposing online platforms to an immense risk of civil and criminal litigation. What that really means is that online platforms would be forced to take drastic measures to censor their users.

Some SESTA supporters imagine that compliance with SESTA would be easy--that online platforms would simply need to use automated filters to pinpoint and remove all messages in support of sex trafficking and leave everything else untouched. But such filters do not and cannot exist: computers aren't good at recognizing subtlety and context, and with severe penalties at stake, no rational company would trust them to .

Online platforms would have no choice but to program their filters to err on the side of removal, silencing a lot of innocent voices in the process. And remember, the first people silenced are likely to be trafficking victims themselves: it would be a huge technical challenge to build a filter that removes sex trafficking advertisements but doesn't also censor a victim of trafficking telling her story or trying to find help.

Along with the Center for Democracy and Technology, Access Now, Engine, and many other organizations, EFF signed a letter yesterday urging the Commerce Committee to change course . We explained the silencing effect that SESTA would have on online speech:

Pressures on intermediaries to prevent trafficking-related material from appearing on their sites would also likely drive more intermediaries to rely on automated content filtering tools, in an effort to conduct comprehensive content moderation at scale. These tools have a notorious tendency to enact overbroad censorship, particularly when used without (expensive, time-consuming) human oversight. Speakers from marginalized groups and underrepresented populations are often the hardest hit by such automated filtering.

It's ironic that supporters of SESTA insist that computerized filters can serve as a substitute for human moderation: the improvements we've made in filtering technologies in the past two decades would not have happened without the safety provided by a strong Section 230, which provides legal cover for platforms that might harm users by taking down, editing or otherwise moderating their content (in addition to shielding platforms from liability for illegal user-generated content).

We find it disappointing, but not necessarily surprising, that the Internet Association has endorsed this deeply flawed bill . Its member companies--many of the largest tech companies in the world--will not feel the brunt of SESTA in the same way as their smaller competitors. Small Internet startups don't have the resources to police every posting on their platforms, which will uniquely pressure them to censor their users--that's particularly true for nonprofit and noncommercial platforms like the Internet Archive and Wikipedia. It's not surprising when a trade association endorses a bill that would give its own members a massive competitive advantage.

If you rely on online communities in your day-to-day life; if you believe that your right to speak matters just as much on the web as on the street; if you hate seeing sex trafficking victims used as props to advance an agenda of censorship; please take a moment to write your members of Congress and tell them to oppose SESTA .

 

 

The Internet Association has let the Internet down...

EFF comments that the big internet companies are now supporting a US internet censorship bill because they can afford to implement the onerous requirements, whilst smaller competitors cannot


Link Here5th November 2017
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA

A trade group representing giants of Internet business from Facebook to Microsoft has just endorsed a "compromise" version of the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), a misleadingly named bill that would be disastrous for free speech and online communities.

Just a few hours after Senator Thune's amended version of SESTA surfaced online, the Internet Association rushed to praise the bill's sponsors for their "careful work and bipartisan collaboration." The compromise bill has all of the same fundamental flaws as the original. Like the original, it does nothing to fight sex traffickers, but it would silence legitimate speech online .

It shouldn't really come as a surprise that the Internet Association has fallen in line to endorse SESTA. The Internet Association doesn't represent the Internet--it represents the few companies that profit the most off of Internet activity.

Amazon and eBay would be able to absorb the increased legal risk under SESTA . They would likely be able to afford the high-powered lawyers to survive the wave in lawsuits against them. Small startups, including would-be competitors, would not. It shouldn't pass our attention that the Internet giants are now endorsing a bill that will make it much more difficult for newcomers ever to compete with them .

IA also doesn't represent Internet users. It doesn't represent the marginalized voices who'll be silenced as platforms begin to over-rely on automated filters (filters that will doubtless be offered as a licensed service by large Internet companies). It doesn't represent the LGBTQ teenager in South Dakota who depends every day on the safety of his online community . It doesn't represent the sex worker who will be forced off of the Internet and onto a dangerous street .

The Internet Association can tell itself and its members whatever it wants--that it held its ground for as long as it could despite overwhelming political opposition, that the law will motivate its members to make amazing strides in filtering technologies--but there is one thing that it simply cannot say: that it has done something to fight sex trafficking.

Again and again and again , experts in sex trafficking have spoken out to say that SESTA is the wrong solution , that it will put trafficking victims in more danger, that it will remove the very tools that law enforcement uses to rescue victims. It's shameful that a small group of lobbyists with an agenda of censorship have presented themselves to lawmakers as the unanimous experts in sex trafficking. It's embarrassing that it's worked so well.

A serious problem calls for serious solutions, and SESTA is not a serious solution. At the heart of the sex trafficking problem lies a complex set of economic, social, and legal issues. A broken immigration system and a torn safety net. A law enforcement regime that puts trafficking victims at risk for reporting their traffickers. Officers who aren't adequately trained to use the online tools at their disposal, or use them against victims. And yes, if there are cases where online platforms themselves directly contribute to unlawful activity , it's a problem that the Department of Justice won't use the powers Congress has already given it . These are the factors that deserve intense deliberation and debate by lawmakers, not a hamfisted attempt to punish online communities.

The Internet Association let the Internet down today. Congress should not make the same mistake.

Stop SESTA

Tell Congress: The Internet Association Does Not Speak for The Internet

 

 

State ransomware...

South Carolina lawmaker proposes that all computers sold in the state should be pre-loaded with some nasty internet censorship malware that can be removed by proving age and paying a ransom


Link Here19th December 2016
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA

A bill filed this month by state Representative Bill Chumley would require sellers to install a digital censorship hijack on computers and other devices that access the internet to prevent the viewing of what the lawmaker considers obscene content.

The proposal also would prohibit access to any online resource that supports sex work and would require manufacturers or sellers to block any websites that supposedly facilitate trafficking.

Both sellers and buyers could get around the limitation, for a ransom fee. The bill would fine manufacturers that sell a device without the blocking system, but they could opt out by paying $20 per device sold. Buyers could also verify their age and pay $20 to remove the censorship software.

Money collected would go toward the Attorney General's Office's pet project  of a human trafficking task force.

Chumley's bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee. Legislators return to Columbia for a new session next month.

 

 

Update: Dangerous Talk...

US authorities close down escort review site covering sex workers in Seattle


Link Here11th January 2016
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA

US police have shut down TheReviewBoard.net, one of the best known and highly used escort review forums in the Seattle area.

TheReviewBoard.net operated for several years. The site describes itself as

Here local Seattle hobbyists and providers gather to share information, or chat in a relaxed environment.

The website's home page has now been hijacked by police and shows a message indicating it has been:

Seized pursuant to a promoting prostitution investigation conducted by the King County Sheriff's Office, the Bellevue Police Department, the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

According to KIRO-TV, eight men associated with TheReviewBoard.net site were arrested for promoting prostitution, money laundering, and various other charges.

The Sex Workers Outreach Project, known as SWOP, condemned the site's seizure and noted that there is resulting collateral damage.

SWOP believes the closure of TheReviewBoard.net is the latest in a long history of abuses of people in the sex trade that puts these communities in more vulnerable and often more dangerous situations.

Along with raids, attacks on web-based communities like TRB harm both native and non-native sex workers. In addition to a discussion forum, TRB functioned as a free advertising platform for adult workers. Many adult workers in the Northwest relied on the site as a low-barrier and free way to advertise and work without management, indoors, especially subsequent to MyRedbook's closure new barriers for using Backpage to advertise.

Capri Sunshine, a local sex worker and the SWOP-Seattle media coordinator, said:

The site was valuable to a lot of sex workers. It was free, undocumented workers without ID or credit cards could use it, and it was where most girls got the majority of their work

 

 

Update: Seizure App...

US authorities seize websites offering pirated Android apps


Link Here30th August 2012
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA

The US Department of Justice has seized the domain names of three websites offering pirated Android apps.

With help from French and Dutch police, the FBI took over applanet.net, appbucket.net and snappzmarket.com. In their place visitors to the sites now see the familiar FBI seizure banner.

The domain seizures are the first of their kind against rogue mobile app marketplaces.

Leading up to the actions FBI agents downloaded thousands of popular Android apps from the websites without charge. FBI Special Agent Brian Lamkin who led the operation described this type of online piracy as a growing problem that can't be ignored.

 

4th April
2012
  

Updated: Insulting American Liberty...

Arizona state's legislature passed internet censorship bill

Arisona's legislature has passed a bill which would update an existing telephone harassment law to apply to the Internet and other forms of electronic communication. The problem, though, is that it dramatically broadens the scope, making it potentially criminal to even marginally offend someone when they aren't even the target of the offensive communication.

The bill reads:

It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use any electronic or digital device and use any obscene, lewd or profane language or suggest any lewd or lascivious act, or threaten to inflict physical harm to the person or property of any person.

As outlined by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund:

The bill is sweepingly broad, and would make it a crime to communicate -- via any electronic means -- speech that is intended to 'annoy,' 'offend,' 'harass' or 'terrify,' as well as certain sexual speech.

Because the bill is not limited to one-to-one communications, House Bill 2549 would apply to the Internet as a whole, thus criminalizing all manner of writing, cartoons, and other protected material the state finds offensive or annoying.

Words like lewd or profane are not defined by statute, or in reference. Most people understand lewd to mean of a lusty or sexual nature, and profane is disrespectful of religious beliefs and practices. And how does one define annoying, when it's so individual?

Section one of this law is so vague, in fact, that a person could be prosecuted because a friend of a friend of a friend found a Facebook post offensive. Which is ridiculous.

Right now, the only thing standing in this bill's way is the governor's signature.

Update: Not So

4th April 2012. See  article from  business.avn.com

Despite numerous media reports stating that Arizona's HB 2549---the now infamous bill that, as one headline put it, would censor the internet ---has moved from the legislature and is sitting on Gov. Jan Brewer's desk waiting for her John Hancock, such is not the case, according to the Phoenix New Times.

As we've already mentioned twice before, reported Matthew Hendley this afternoon, the bill was never transferred to the governor, contrary to the numerous media reports saying it has. The bill was amended before it passed the Senate, meaning it was returned to the House---where it's apparently been stopped.

The bill, which sponsor Vic Williams says was drafted to address online harassment and stalking, and to protect people's privacy, contains language so sloppily written that UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, who is certainly no tinfoil hat-wearing Leftie, said it would not pass constitutional muster.

 

24th January
2012
  

Updated: Megaupload Megapanic...

Filesonic ends sharing on its 'cyberlocker' service in response to Megaupload arrests

Filesonic, one of the Internet's leading cyberlocker services, has taken some drastic measures following the Megaupload shutdown and arrests last week. In addition to discontinuing its affiliates rewards program, the site has disabled all sharing functionality, leaving users only with access to their own files. Many hundreds of thousands (probably millions) of links all around the web have now been rendered useless, at least temporarily.

This combination of news all adds up to a pretty big deal. Filesonic isn't just some also-ran in the world of cyberlockers. The site is among the top 10 file-sharing sites on the Internet, with a quarter billion page views a month.

Like Megaupload, Filesonic appears to based in Hong Kong and it's clear that the authorities there already worked with the US government to shut down Kim Dotcom's operations and seize his assets there.

The events of the last week have turned the cyberlocker world upside down and there is quite literally panic among users and site operators.

The Megaupload takedown appears to be a game-changer.

Offsite: Panic continues

24th January 2012. See  article from  torrentfreak.com

Fileserve, another leading player, also ended its affiliate program this weekend. Additionally, this morning TorrentFreak received news that Fileserve has now joined Filesonic in banning all 3rd party downloads.

VideoBB and VideoZer have both reportedly closed their rewards program and according to reports have also been mass deleting accounts and huge numbers of files.

Other sites closing their affiliate programs and/or deleting accounts/files include FileJungle, UploadStation and FilePost.

...Read the full article .

 

21st January
2012
  

Updated: Encyclopedic Protest...

Wikipedia to go dark for 24 hours in protest at the proposed SOPA internet censorship

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has announced that the encyclopedia will go dark this Wednesday in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act, aka SOPA.

Wales tweeted that the English-language version of Wikipedia would go down at midnight this Wednesday, Eastern standard time (5am in the UK), and come back up in 24 hours.

The heat is rising in the SOPA debate. Over the weekend, for example, three top Obama-administration officials issued a statement that said, in part, While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.

Presumably at least partially in response to the White House's statement -- and a possible Obama veto -- SOPA author Smith has dropped the DNS-blocking provision of the controvertial bill -- an action also taken by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), sponsor of the Senate's equivalent, the PROTECT IP* Act.

Update: Google Joins the Protest

18th January 2012. Based on article from  minivannews.com

Google's main search page has included a typically minimalist link:

Tell Congress: Please don't censor the web!

This links to a protest page with comment and a petition:

Millions of Americans oppose SOPA and PIPA because these bills would censor the Internet and slow economic growth in the U.S.

Two bills before Congress, known as the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House, would censor the Web and impose harmful regulations on American business. Millions of Internet users and entrepreneurs already oppose SOPA and PIPA.

The Senate will begin voting on January 24th. Please let them know how you feel. Sign this petition urging Congress to vote NO on PIPA and SOPA before it is too late.

Update: Wikipedia hails a successful protest

20th January 2012. See  article from  telegraph.co.uk

The English version of Wikipedia was inaccessible worldwide for 24 hours (unless readers turned off javascript that is)

Founder Jimmy Wales said:

More than 162 million people saw our message asking if you could imagine a world without free knowledge, it said.

You said no. You shut down Congress's switchboards. You melted their servers. From all around the world your messages dominated social media and the news. Millions of people have spoken in defense of a free and open Internet.

Along with Facebook, Google and other major technology corporations, Wikipedia says the laws would place onerous obligations on websites to vet content uploaded by users, and threaten free expression online.

Update: On Hold (Until the heat is off?)

21st January 2012. See  article from  guardian.co.uk

In a dramatic display of the power of online protest, a congressional vote on the anti-piracy bills Pipa and Sopa have been shelved after some of the internet's main players demanded a legislative rethink.

Just two days after chunks of the internet went dark in opposition to proposals that critics claim will hamper the flow of online information, Senate majority leader Harry Reid announced the postponement of a planned ballot on Pipa, also known as the Protect IP Act.

Lamar Smith, the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary committee, followed suit, saying his panel would delay action on similar legislation called the Stop Online Piracy Act, or Sopa, until there is wider agreement on the legislation.

The decision to postpone the votes was made in light of recent events , Reid said -- taken to be a reference to Wednesday's day of action in which Wikipedia led the way with a 24-hour blackout.

During the CNN primary debate in South Carolina on Thursday, the four remaining Republican candidates vying for the White House nod came out against the Sopa. GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney said the law was far too intrusive and could hamper job creation and would harm the economy. His main rival, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, said existing laws were sufficient to allow an aggrieved copyright holder to sue, while libertarian Ron Paul said the bill threatened freedom.

 

20th January
2012
  

Update: Megaupload Goes Megadark...

Megaupload is shut by US authorities and bosses have been arrested

The U.S. Justice Department has charged seven individuals connected to the file-sharing site Megaupload.com, accusing them of a massive worldwide online piracy scheme that costed more than $500 million in damages and generated more than $175 million in profits, according to a Justice Department release. Megaupload's CEO is the rapper and DJ Swizz Beatz.

The business is allegedly led by Kim Dotcom of Hong Kong and New Zealand. Dotcom was arrested in New Zealand along with associates.

The main site, Megaupload.com which has been shut down, is accused of infringing on copyright by distributing movies, television shows, books and software even before their release dates. The companies Megaupload Limited and Vestor Limited are accused of having a business model expressly designed to promote uploading of the most popular copyrighted works for many millions of users to download. The site provided financial incentives for uploading popular content, the indictment charges.

The interest in this case is likely to be high as it is conveniently timed to match interest in the recent SOPA protest.

Update: Data owners fight to get their data

4th June 2012. See article from tweaktown.com , thanks to Nick

The Megaupload case continues, with Kyle Goodwin from the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) asking the court to return the files, that were legal, back to Goodwin.

Goodwin lost his files when Megaupload was seized in January, since then they've been to court, both for a hearing and a mediation, but nothing has changed according to the EFF.

On May 24, EFF filed a brief asking the court to order Goodwin's rightfully owned data returned. But the problem is, is that's not just Goodwin's files, it's the thousands upon thousands of other Megaupload users who had data on their servers, where they thought it was safe.

EFF has asked the court to implement a procedure to make all of those customers whole again by giving them access to what is legally theirs.

Goodwin used Megaupload to house business files, with others losing person data and information.

Update: MPAA: Megaupload Users Can Have Their Files Back, But...

11th June 2012. See  article from  torrentfreak.com

Almost half a year has passed since Megaupload's servers were raided by the U.S. Government, and still there is no agreement on how former users can retrieve their files. Previously the authorities and MPAA have objected against such a mass retrieval, but in a filing at the court today the movie industry changed its tone. The MPAA states that users can have their files back as long as access to copyrighted files is blocked.

In the wake of the January shutdown of Megaupload, many of the site's legitimate users complained that their personal files had been lost.

Among these users are many people in the U.S. military who used the site to share pictures and videos with family. Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom previously informed TorrentFreak that least 15,634 soldiers had accounts at Megaupload, between them sharing hundreds of thousands of files.

But as of January those files were rendered inaccessible and attempts by the parties involved to come to a solution have failed miserably.

Last month one of Megaupload's users, represented by the EFF, filed a motion asking the court to facilitate such a user data retrieval. Today, the MPAA filed a response to this motion in which they appear to be more open to the request.

The MPAA Members are sympathetic to legitimate users who may have relied on Megaupload to store their legitimately acquired or created data, although the Megaupload terms of use clearly disclaimed any guarantee of continued access to uploaded materials, MPAA's lawyers write.

But along with this sympathy comes a caveat. The movie studios don't want users to have access to copyright-infringing files.

If the Court is willing to consider allowing access for users such as Mr. Goodwin to allow retrieval of files, it is essential that the mechanism include a procedure that ensures that any materials the users access and copy or download are not files that have been illegally uploaded to their accounts.

Update: US authorities refuse to give back property they have stolen...

13th June 2012. See  article from  tgdaily.com

Innocent bystanders who lost mountains of data, personal files, documents, and more when the popular but illegitimately operated cloud-based site MegaUpload was taken down, may end up being just plain out of luck, at least for a while. The US Deparment of Justice wants to block former user Kyle Goodwin from accessing his high school football videos which he uploaded to the site.

But what happens to those who didn't do anything wrong? Lawyers for the US Attorney say the answer is nothing. In the same way that if you left a video game at a friend's house on the night that police raided your friend's house with a warrant, the government does not have a duty to make sure you get your stuff back in before the case is resolved.

 

15th January
2012
  

Update: MPAA Told Hands off DNS Blocking...

Obama speaks out against part of the SOPA internet censorship bill

The White House just released a statement commenting on the pending SOPA and PIPA anti-piracy bills in congress. While the Obama Administration sides with the opposition by saying that free-speech should be protected, censorship is evil, and that DNS-blocking is a no go, the statement doesn't mean that the bills are off the table.

Responding to two petitions signed by over 50,000 people each, the Obama administration recited much of the criticism voiced by SOPA/PIPA opponents. The Administration wrote:

Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small. Across the globe, the openness of the Internet is increasingly central to innovation in business, government, and society and it must be protected.

To minimize this risk, new legislation must be narrowly targeted only at sites beyond the reach of current U.S. law, cover activity clearly prohibited under existing U.S. laws, and be effectively tailored, with strong due process and focused on criminal activity.

The only strong position the Obama Administration takes is against DNS blocking. Here, the White House sides with many of the tech experts, and against the MPAA, by concluding that tampering with DNS poses a threat to the Internet.

In fact many of the lawmakers previously in favor of DNS-blocking have suddenly started to back pedal. They probably got a heads up and changed their tone before the White House statement was released. SOPA author Lamar Smith said DNS blocking would be removed from the bill until further notice.

 

12th January
2012
  

Update: Red Goes Black...

Reddit to go dark to protest SOPA internet censorship

On January 18, the online community at reddit will go dark for 12 hours in opposition of the Stop Online Piracy Act now being considered in the House and its companion PROTECT IP Act in the Senate. Both bills would give copyright holders tremendous power to have websites blocked, to get their advertising cut off, and to shut down their credit card or PayPal payments.

reddit's community has been organizing all manner of objections to the two bills, including a targeted (and successful) boycott of GoDaddy, which supported the legislation. This time, site admins decided to get involved in order to get the word out to all of reddit's users.

Reddit explained:

Instead of the normal glorious, user-curated chaos of reddit, we will be displaying a simple message about how the PIPA/SOPA legislation would shut down sites like reddit, link to resources to learn more, and suggest ways to take action..

We're not taking this action lightly. We wouldn't do this if we didn't believe this legislation and the forces behind it were a serious threat to reddit and the Internet as we know it.

 

6th December
2011
  

Update: Korean Copyright War...

US seizes domains of websites offering movie downloads to Korean speakers

Operation In Our Sites, launched by the US Department of Homeland Security's ICE unit, continues with the seizure of 11 Korean domain names that were allegedly related to movie piracy.

Since Korean websites are becoming likely targets for the operations launched by US authorities, the well-known banner that declares a site illegal, alerting its visitors that it has been shut down by law enforcement agencies, now has a Korean translation of the warning.

007disk.com, 007disk.net, 82movie.com, 82movie.net, 82us.com, bzserv.info, itvwmg.com, ktvwmg.com ,wmgitv.com, wmgus.com and wmgus.net were domains that offered download links to the latest movies in return for a small fee.

Many of the seized domains belong to a US company, even if they were clearly designed to target Korean speakers.

So far, 350 domains have been taken into custody by the US federal government and these operations will not stop too soon.

 

3rd December
2011
  

Offsite: US Internet Censorship without Adequate Judicial Oversight...

Judge orders hundreds of sites de-indexed from Google, Facebook

After a series of one-sided hearings, luxury goods maker Chanel has won recent court orders against hundreds of websites trafficking in counterfeit luxury goods. A federal judge in Nevada has agreed that Chanel can seize the domain names in question and transfer them all to US-based registrar GoDaddy. The judge also ordered all Internet search engines and all social media websites ---explicitly naming Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Bing, Yahoo, and Google---to de-index the domain names and to remove them from any search results.

The case has been a remarkable one. Concerned about counterfeiting, Chanel has filed a joint suit in Nevada against nearly 700 domain names that appear to have nothing in common. When Chanel finds more names, it simply uses the same case and files new requests for more seizures. (A recent November 14 order went after an additional 228 sites; none had a chance to contest the request until after it was approved and the names had been seized.)

How were the sites investigated? For the most recent batch of names, Chanel hired a Nevada investigator to order from three of the 228 sites in question. When the orders arrived, they were reviewed by a Chanel official and declared counterfeit. The other 225 sites were seized based on a Chanel anti-counterfeiting specialist browsing the Web.

...Read the full article

 

26th November
2011
  

Update: War on Football Shirt Piracy...

US seizes 131 more domain names

US authorities have initiated the largest round of domain name seizures yet as part of their continued crackdown on counterfeit and piracy-related websites. 131 domain names have been taken over by the feds to protect the commercial interests of US companies. The seizures are disputable, as the SOPA bill which aims to specifically legitimize such actions is still pending in Congress.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have resumed Operation In Our Sites , their domain name seizing initiative.

TorrentFreak has identified 131 domains taken over by the government during the last 24 hours (See  article for list),.

This time the action appears to be mostly sites selling sports kit, football jerseys etc, but there are also DVD and software sellers.

Update: 70 More

25th July 2012. See  article from  thehill.com

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it has seized 70 domain names of websites accused of selling counterfeit products. During the operation, federal law enforcement officers purchased sports jerseys, baby carriers and luxury goods from the sites. Many of the goods purchased from the sites were shipped from outside the United States.

Federal authorities have seized a total of 839 domain names, including the latest round of seizures, according to ICE. Of that number, 229 domain names have been forfeited to the U.S. government.

 

9th August
2011
  

Offsite: Link Website Unlinked...

A US federal court has backed the government's domain siezures
A US federal court has ruled that the domain seizure of sports streaming site Rojadirecta does not violate the First Amendment, and has refused to hand the domain back to its Spanish owner.

The order stands in conflict with previous Supreme Court rulings and doesn't deliver much hope to other website owners who operate under US controlled domain names.

Two months ago the company behind the site, Puerto 80, filed a petition in the Southern District of New York for the return of its domains. This call was later supported by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) who together with Center for Democracy and Technology and Public Knowledge submitted an amicus brief in support of the Spanish company.

However the United States District Court Judge Paul Crotty decided to deny Puerto 80?s request, which means the domain will remain in the hands of the US Government. The Judge argues that seizing Rojadirecta's .com and .org domains does not violate the First Amendment of the Constitution.

The Judge wrote that the main purpose of the Rojadirecta websites, however, is to catalog links to the copyrighted athletic events, any argument to the contrary is clearly disingenuous.'

 

5th August
2011
  

Update: Listening In...

US to monitor blogs and social networking to keep tabs on 'extremism'
The Department of Homeland Security's National Operations Center (NOC) will monitor blogs, social media, public forums, message boards and keywords to create a real time estimate of the U.S. national threat situation.

The Mexican paper Milenio reported a few weeks back that the Department of Homeland Security Office of Operations Coordination and Planning (OPC) through its National Operations Center (NOC) will monitor social media websites, blogs, public forums, news websites and keywords to create a real-time snapshot of the [U.S.] nation's threat environment at any moment.

As the document, titled Privacy Impact Assessment of Public Available Social Media Monitoring and Situational Awareness Initiative , states:

The NOC will use Internet-based platforms that provide a variety of ways to follow activity related to monitoring publicly available online forums, blogs, public websites, and message boards. Through the use of publicly available search engines and content aggregators the NOC will monitor activities on the social media sites.

The NOC will review information posted by individual account users on third-party social media websites of activities and events necessary to provide situational awareness and establish a common operating picture. The NOC will access these web-based platforms to identify content posted by public users for the purpose of providing situational awareness and establishing a common operating picture.

 

11th July
2011
  

Update: World Censors...

Nice 'n' Naughty
US claims censorship rights to .com domains

British website owners could face extradition to the US on piracy charges even if their operation has no connection to America and does something which is most probably legal in the UK, the official leading US web anti-piracy efforts has told the Guardian.

The US's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) is targeting overseas websites it believes are breaking US copyrights whether or not their servers are based in America or whether there is another direct US link, said Erik Barnett, the agency's assistant deputy director.

As long as a website's address ends in .com or .net, if it is implicated in the spread of pirated US-made films, TV or other media it is a legitimate target to be closed down or targeted for prosecution, Barnett said. While these web addresses are traditionally seen as global, all their connections are routed through Verisign, an internet infrastructure company based in Virginia, which the agency believes is sufficient to seek a US prosecution.

As well as sites that directly host or stream pirated material, ICE is also focusing on those that simply provide links to it elsewhere. There remains considerable doubt as to whether this is even illegal in Britain, the only such case to be heard before a British court, involving a site called TV-Links, was dismissed by a judge in February last year.

Barnett, in an interview with the Guardian, explained the broader thinking behind it: By definition, almost all copyright infringement and trademark violation is transnational. There's very little purely domestic intellectual property theft, he said.

Civil rights and internet freedom organisations said they were alarmed at the apparent intention to enforce US copyright laws around the globe.

Isabella Sankey, director of policy for Liberty, said: Many countries, including the US, are increasingly asserting jurisdiction over alleged actions that take place in other parts of the world. The internet increases our risk of falling foul of the law, making it possible to commit an offence on the other side of the world without even leaving your bedroom.

She called on the government to amend the UK's extradition agreement with the US so a British judge could decide where an alleged crime should be best tried: It would allow UK courts to bar extradition in the interests of justice where conduct leading to an alleged offence has quite clearly taken place on British soil .

 

28th May
2011
  

Updated: PROTECT IP Bill...

Nice 'n' Naughty
Repressive US internet censorship bill

The US has come up with a far reaching internet censorship bill called  PROTECT IP ( Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property).

The bill is an attempt to deal with foreign sites which can be difficult for US enforcement to reach, even when those sites explicitly target US citizens.

The PROTECT IP Act makes a few major changes to last year's COICA legislation. First, it does provide a more limited definition of sites dedicated to infringing activities. The previous definition was criticized as being unworkably vague, and it could have put many legitimate sites at risk.

While the definition of targeted sites is tighter, the remedies against such sites get broader. COICA would have forced credit card companies like MasterCard and Visa to stop doing business with targeted sites, and it would have prevented ad networks from working with such sites. It also suggested a system of DNS blocking to make site nominally more difficult to access.

The PROTECT IP Act adds one more entity to this list: search engines. According to the detailed summary of the PROTECT IP Act, this addition responds to concerns raised that search engines are part of the ecosystem that directs Internet user traffic and therefore should be part of the solution.

Rightsholders also score a major victory with the new legislation, which grants them a private right of action---something Google publicly trashed as a terrible idea earlier this year. Copyright and trademark holders don't have to badger the government into targeting sites under the new bill; they are allowed to seek court orders directly, though these orders would only apply to payment processors and advertising networks (not to ISPs or search engines).

The emphasis here is on forcing intermediaries to get involved in policing such sites. The PROTECT IP Act goes even further than forcing these intermediaries to take action after a court order; it actively encourages them to take unilateral action without any sort of court order at all.

Update: Passed Committee

27th May 2011. See  article from  torrentfreak.com

The controversial PROTECT IP Act unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee today. When the PROTECT IP Act becomes law U.S. authorities and copyright holders will have the power to seize domains, block websites and censor search engines to prevent copyright infringements. Introduced just two weeks ago, the bill now heads over to the Senate for further consideration and another vote.

Two weeks ago a group of U.S. senators proposed legislation to make it easier to crack down on so-called rogue websites, and today the Senate's Judicial Committee unanimously approved the bill.

When the PROTECT IP Act becomes law the authorities can legitimately seize any domain name they deem to be facilitating copyright infringement. All that's required to do so is a preliminary order from the court. But that's just the start, the bill in fact provides a broad range of censorship tools.

In case a domain is not registered or controlled by a U.S. company, the authorities can also order search engines to remove the website from its search results, order ISPs to block the website, and order ad-networks and payment processors to stop providing services to the website in question.

Update: Blocked

28th May 2011. See  article from  indexoncensorship.org

Just hours after the PROTECT IP Act passed unanimously in the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon placed a hold to prevent it from reaching the Senate.

Wyden argued the legislation was an overreaching approach to policing the internet.

 

23rd May
2011
  

Update: Copyright Domain...

Nice 'n' Naughty
US continues action against copyright infringing websites

US authorities have resumed Operation In Our Sites and have seized several domain names associated with copyright infringement or counterfeit related crimes. Among the new targets are two sites that linked to copyrighted films hosted on third party streaming sites such as megavideo.com and veoh.com.

Previously under the flag of Operation In Our Sites the authorities shut down a dozen file-sharing and streaming sites and many more accused of selling counterfeit goods.

TorrentFreak was able to confirm the latest targets:

  • Re1ease.net
  • Watchnewfilms.com
  • Dvdcollectionsale.com
  • Dvdscollection.com
  • Dvdsetsonline.com
  • Newstylerolex.com
  • mygolfaccessory.com
  • overbestmall.com

The first two domains are accused of copyright-related offenses, but did not host any copyrighted films themselves. Both Re1ease.net and Watchnewfilms.com linked to popular movie streaming sites such as Veoh.com and Megavideo.com. The rest of the domains appear to be connected to sales of counterfeit goods.

The new targets were most likely put forward to ICE by movie industry groups. In April of this year ICE director John Morton admitted that his organization was acting based on tips from industry representatives, among others.

The authorities are also aware of the fact that the domain seizures themselves are not really an effective tool. As pointed out before, more than half of the piracy-related domains that were seized by Operation In Our Sites simply continued under a different name.

 

6th May
2011
  

Update: Censorship Workaround...

Mozilla refuse US government request to ban Firefox add-on

Mozilla officials have refused a US government request to ban a Firefox add-on that helps people to access sites that use internet domain names seized earlier this year.

The Firefox add-on, available on Mozilla.org, made it easy for users to access sites that used some of the confiscated addresses. It did this by redirecting them to substitute domain names that were out of the reach of US courts, such as those with a .de top level domain.

You simply type Demoniod.com into your browser as usual, the add-on's authors wrote in an FAQ explaining how it works. The browser sends the address to the add-on, the add-on checks if Demoniod.com is on the list of sites to be redirected and immediately redirects you to the mirror site.

US officials alleged MafiaaFire circumvented their seizure order and asked Mozilla to remove it. The open-source group, in not so many words, said no. Our approach is to comply with valid court orders, warrants, and legal mandates, but in this case there was no such court order, Harvey Anderson of Mozilla explained.

A vocal chorus of lawmakers and policy wonks have decried the domain seizures, arguing that the ex parte actions are a serious power grab that threaten the stability of the internet. If the US government can confiscate addresses it doesn't agree with, what's to stop China or any other country from doing the same thing?

 

16th April
2011
  

Update: Three of a Kind...

US confiscates three major internet poker domains and arrests associated execs

In a major operation against online gambling, the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office have charged the founders of the three biggest Internet poker sites with supposed fraud, illegal gambling and laundering (ie spending) billions of dollars in gambling proceeds.

The FBI said it's indicting 11 defendants, including the founders of PokerStars , Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker, with bank fraud, money laundering, and illegal gambling offenses. The feds also seized five Internet domain names used by the companies to host their poker games and issued restraining orders against 75 bank account used to process payments. The U.S. attorney's office is also seeking $3 billion in damages. The defendants could be sentenced with up to 20 years in prison.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement: As charged, these defendants concocted an elaborate criminal fraud scheme, alternately tricking some U.S. banks and effectively bribing others to assure the continued flow of billions in illegal gambling profits Moreover, as we allege, in their zeal to circumvent the gambling laws, the defendants also engaged in massive money laundering and bank fraud. Foreign firms that choose to operate in the United States are not free to flout the laws they don't like simply because they can't bear to be parted from their profits.

The feds say the poker sites violate the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act passed in 2006. The offshore poker companies have argued they operate outside the reach of U.S. law.

 

15th April
2011
  

Update: Fire and Ice...

Firefox add-on redirects requests from domains seized by the US to their new locations

The seizure of file-sharing related domain names by the US Government hasn't been as effective as the entertainment industries had hoped since many of them simply continued their operations under new domains. To make these type of domain transitions go more smoothly, an anonymous group has coded a simple Firefox add-on that automatically redirects users to these new homes.

ICE director John Morton confirmed last week that the seizures will continue in the coming years. But at the same time the authorities amp up their anti-piracy efforts, those in opposition are already coming up with ways to bypass them.

One of these initiatives is the MAFIAA Fire add-on for Firefox. The plugin, which will support the Chrome browser at a later stage too, maintains a list of all the domains that ICE (hence the fire) has seized and redirects their users to an alternative domain if the sites in question have set one up.

 

2nd March
2011
  

Update: US Police Censorship...

Police given open ended powers to censor the internet without due process

The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has received a great deal of backlash for their actions of seizing tens of thousands of domains over the past year, and accusing site owners of counterfeiting, piracy, and ,most recently, engaging in child pornography. Even a US Senator has pointed out that these actions may violate the constitutional rights of site owners affected, however ICE Director John Morton continues to defend the domain seizures as a noble effort to protect Americans.

Morton points out that websites are property that the government has the right to seize when evidence of a crime is revealed: We can seize and forfeit them just like we seize and forfeit bank accounts, houses and vehicles that are used in other crimes. Any instrument of a crime is subject to our jurisdiction in terms of seizure and forfeit.

Morton also states that the domain seizures are not a tool to censor websites ...BUT... to simply enforce copyright laws: We're about making sure that the intellectual property laws of the United States, which are clear, are enforced. When somebody spends hundreds of millions of dollars to develop the next movie or a billion dollars to develop the next heart medicine, the innovation and the enterprise that went into that effort is protected as the law provides. It's that simple.

Fine words but they will be lost on the tens of thousands of innocent website owners who had their domains seized last month. It is also the duty of these agencies to preserve the rights of Americans. These domain seizure processes need to be reviewed and appropriately overhauled before more mistakes are made and more innocent people are affected.

 

17th February
2011
  

Updated: Mass censorship...

US takes down 84,000 websites

The US Government has yet again shuttered several domain names this week. The Department of Justice and Homeland Security's ICE office proudly announced that they had seized domains related to counterfeit goods and child pornography. What they failed to mention, however, is that one of the targeted domains took down 84,000 innocent websites with it.

Thousands of site owners were surprised by a rather worrying banner that replaced their website. Advertisement, distribution, transportation, receipt, and possession of child pornography constitute federal crimes that carry penalties for first time offenders of up to 30 years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine, forfeiture and restitution, was the worrying message they read on their websites.

The shared domain in question is mooo.com, which belongs to the DNS provider FreeDNS. It is the most popular shared domain at afraid.org and as a result of the authorities' actions a massive 84,000 subdomains were wrongfully seized as well. All sites were redirected to the US takedown banner.

Eventually the domain seizure was reverted and the subdomains slowly started to point to the old sites again instead of the accusatory banner.

Meanwhile: Hilary Clinton scolds other nations for internet censorship

Based on article from bbc.co.uk

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned repressive governments not to restrict internet freedom, saying such efforts will ultimately fail.

She said the US was committed to global internet freedom and announced that the US government would invest an additional $25m to help online dissidents and digital activists fight state repression.

She named China, Syria, Cuba, Vietnam and Burma as countries restricting online speech, and noted that Egypt's attempt to stifle protesters by switching off the internet was unsuccessful. Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook were important tools that gave voice to people's aspirations.

She acknowledged that the internet has a problem with hateful speech which can inflame hostilities, but said that efforts to curb such content often become an excuse to violate rights to free speech: The best answer to offensive speech is more speech. People can and should speak out against intolerance and hatred .

...BUT...she drew a sharp distinction between Wikileaks' possession of secret government correspondence and internet freedom.

Fundamentally, the Wikileaks incident began with an act of theft, Clinton said: Government documents were stolen, just the same as if they had been smuggled out in a briefcase.

 

15th October
2010
  

Update: MoneyLeaks...

Pressure being applied to WikiLeaks

The whistleblowing group WikiLeaks claims that it has had its funding blocked and that it is the victim of financial warfare by the US government.

Moneybookers, a British-registered internet payment company that collects WikiLeaks donations, emailed the organisation to say it had closed down its account because it had been put on an official US watchlist and on an Australian government blacklist.

The apparent blacklisting came a few days after the Pentagon publicly expressed its anger at WikiLeaks and its founder, Australian citizen Julian Assange, for obtaining thousands of classified military documents about the war in Afghanistan, in one of the US army's biggest leaks of information. The documents caused a sensation when they were made available to the Guardian, the New York Times and German magazine Der Spiegel, revealing hitherto unreported civilian casualties.

WikiLeaks defied Pentagon calls to return the war logs and destroy all copies. Instead, it has been reported that it intends to release an even larger cache of military documents, disclosing other abuses in Iraq.

Moneybookers moved against WikiLeaks on 13 August, according to the correspondence, less than a week after the Pentagon made public threats of reprisals against the organisation. Moneybookers wrote to Assange: Following an audit of your account by our security department, we must advise that your account has been closed to comply with money laundering or other investigations conducted by government authorities.

 

20th August
2010
  

Update: Intrigue...

Wikileaks publishes encrypted file for insurance against prosecution

A novel use of encryption by whistle-blowing website Wikileaks could challenge the legal system for years to come, according to an influential observer of the hacking community.

Emmanuel Goldstein, editor of 2600 The Hacker Quarterly magazine, made his comments in reference to an encrypted file recently posted on the Wikileaks site.

Some suspect the file - as yet unopened - contains further sensitive material. It has been reposted around the web and is available for anyone to download.

Wikileaks recently published 76,000 secret US military logs detailing military actions in Afghanistan; an act the US authorities described as highly irresponsible. The website now says it will release 15,000 further sensitive documents, once it has completed a review aimed at minimising the risk that the release could put people's lives in danger.

The release of the logs has led many to wonder what action the US might take against Wikileaks. Now it seems the site may be using encryption as insurance against legal and other threats to the information it holds.

The insurance.aes256 file has been posted alongside the already published leaked war logs and can be downloaded by anyone. Leaked video of July 2007 helicopter attack in Baghdad Some have speculated that the insurance file is another video

From the file name, it is believed that it has been encrypted using the AES256 algorithm - described as extremely strong by Professor Whitfield Diffie, of the Information Security Group at Royal Holloway University, London. Prof Diffie believes that AES256, which he says has been extensively studied could prove too tough even for US intelligence agencies to break.

While no-one knows what the insurance file contains, this has not prevented the contents becoming a matter of considerable speculation. Some suspect that the file contains a further leaked US military video, others that it is another tranche of US military logs - perhaps this time from Iraq. Or it could just be an imaginative bluff.

 

11th August
2010
  

Update: Dangerous Leaks...

Wikileaks asked to delete civilian names from disclosed Afghanistan war reports

Wikileaks has been urged by human rights groups to censor previously secret files on the Afghanistan war to protect civilians who have worked alongside the US and other foreign forces from reprisals.

The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International and three other groups have sent a series of emails to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange calling for the names of Afghan civilians to be removed from the 77,000 classified military documents published by the online whistle-blower last month, and from any documents disclosed in the future.

Nader Nadery, of the commission said: There was no consideration about civilian lives , noting a rise in assassinations of Afghan civilians seen as government collaborators.

The Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, the Open Society Institute and the International Crisis Group have also been involved in exchanges about the released documents.

A WikiLeaks spokesman said the group had requested help from NATO to check the files prior to publication to ensure the lives of civilians were not put at risk: For this reason, we conveyed a request to the White House prior to the publication, asking that the International Security Assistance Force provide us with reviewers, he said. That request remains open. However, the Pentagon has stated that it is not interested in 'harm minimization' and has not contacted us, directly, or indirectly to discuss this offer.

 

8th August
2010
  

Update: Plugging Leaks...

US press secretary asks Wikileaks to return the disclosed Afghanistan war reports

The website WikiLeaks recently publicly disclosed more than 70,000 classified US field reports from the war in Afghanistan. The Pentagon says it wants them back.

Press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters the Pentagon was formally demanding through the news media that WikiLeaks return the reports, as well as 15,000 additional records the website says it might release soon: We are asking them to do the right thing and not further exacerbate the damage done to date . If doing the right thing is not good enough for them, we'll figure out what other alternatives we have.

He declined to elaborate on whether the defence department was contemplating legal action but said the FBI and the justice department were investigating how the documents were leaked.

Morrell acknowledged that the genie is out of the bottle in regard to the more than 70,000 reports that are not only posted on the WikiLeaks site, but have since been copied and downloaded by people all over the world. He said the Pentagon was primarily interested in blocking the release of the 15,000 other documents.

 

1st March
2008
  

Update: Uncensorable Wikileaks...

Wikileaks wins case against domain name withdrawal

Civil libertarians scored a decisive victory on Friday when a federal judge reversed two controversial orders meant to disable Wikileaks, a website devoted to disclosing confidential information exposing unethical behavior.

US District Judge Jeffrey S. White issued the orders two weeks ago after Wikileaks posted internal documents purporting to show that a bank located in the Cayman Islands engaged in illegal tax evasion and money laundering. One ruling demanded Wikileaks and a host of third parties refrain from posting any additional documents or linking to any documents that had already been disclosed. The other required Dynadot, the registrar of the Wikileaks.org domain name, to make the address inaccessible and to prevent its owner from transferring it to any other service.

Earlier this week, attorneys representing the Electronic Frontier Foundation, American Civil Liberties Union and other groups filed motions in the case arguing that the White's orders violated several Constitutional protections and legal principles. Specifically, they argued the restrictions amounted to prior restraint, which under the Constitution, can only be imposed in limited situations. After more than three hours of oral argument in a San Francisco federal courtroom today, White conceded.

The court has serious questions about the concerns, as properly raised before the court, would make the granting of relief requested by the plaintiffs constitutionally appropriate, he said. He immediately rescinded both orders.

White said he may also be swayed by arguments that he didn't have the authority to issue the order because Wikileaks was not headquartered in the US. Bank Julius Baer, the Swiss-based owner of the Cayman Islands bank, had argued the group operating Wikileaks was based in California and pointed to whois records for the Wikileaks.org domain name as proof. Federal courts lack jurisdiction in cases where both the plaintiff and defendant are located outside the country.

The reversal means that while Julius Baer's case proceeds, the Wikileaks website will be free to continue operating unhindered by any kind of preliminary ruling. Dynadot attorney Garret Murai said the company would reconnect the Wikileaks.org domain name as soon as White issued a written order.

 

17th February
2008
  

Leaking Uncensorability...

Domain Name Registrar attacked to restrict WikiLeaks

It looks as if the interesting and controversial, Wikileaks website, which promises anonymous, untraceable, uncensorable publication of leaked documents from whistleblowers, and which recently published the devastating No2ID Campaign annotated leaked UK National Identity Scheme document, is weathering some technical hitches and legal litigation attacks.

It seems that there has been a fire in an Uninterruptible Power Supply, which took the WikiLeaks web servers offline for much of Saturday, at their Swedish co-location hosting company.

More seriously and for the longer term, the brand name of WikiLeakS.org is no longer online, due to a Temporary Restraining Order issued by the California Northern District Court in San Francisco, aimed at a Domain Name Registrar, rather than just the actual publishers of controversial material, who happen to be outside of US legal jurisdiction..

Spy Blog has provided a list of alternative URLs for WikiLeaks which have not yet been censored.

The plaintiffs in the California case are a Swiss Bank bank - Bank Julius Baer and its associated Cayman Islands tax avoidance subsidiaries, egged on by their expensive Hollywood media celebrity shyster lawyers Lavely & Singer. Julius Baer have been pursuing a Swiss whistleblower, some of whose leaked documents have been allegedly published on WikiLeaks.org. Why this is a problem when the world's financial monitoring and tax authorities appear to have already had access to them, is a mystery.

It is interesting that the first threats to this supposedly "uncensorable, anonymous, mass whistleblowing" project, do not come from Government Big Brother authorities, but from the private sector, and from equipment failures at a Single Point of Failure.




 

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