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kuhla

Fracturing of and content censorship of the internet.

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article - https://techcrunch.com/2018/02/13/uk-outs-extremism-blocking-tool-and-could-force-tech-firms-to-use-it/

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The UK government’s pressure on tech giants to do more about online extremism just got weaponized. The Home Secretary has today announced a machine learning tool, developed with public money by a local AI firm, which the government says can automatically detect propaganda produced by the Islamic State terror group with “an extremely high degree of accuracy”.
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So yes this is content moderation via pre-filtering — which is something the European Commission has also been pushing for.
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Home Secretary Amber Rudd also told the BBC she is not ruling out forcing tech firms to use the tool.

 

article - http://www.businessinsider.com/unilever-threatens-to-reduce-digital-ad-spend-2018-2

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Unilever is threatening to pull its ads from any platform, including Facebook and Google, that allows "toxic" content, according to Reuters. Keith Weed, Unilever's chief marketing officer, said the company — which owns numerous well-known consumer-packaged goods (CPG) brands including Ben & Jerry’s, Dove, and Lipton — will not invest in platforms that create division in society, do not protect children, or promote fake news.
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With both governments and major corporations pushing for this, something is going to change. Right now it's just content providers that are feeling the heat but at what point does it go "up" one level and become ISPs doing the filtering? Does it become opt-in system? What is this "child safe" internet of the future going to look like?

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The UK at this point is a lost cause.  I say that because every single report about their lack of freedom and their nanny state government's meddling in technology or censorship reads like passages straight out of 1984.  It's disgusting to think they the government was able to successfully push through laws banning citizens from looking at adult materials online unless they specifically call their ISP and enable it.  It's even worse when you realize the extensive surveillance apparatus and lack of privacy protections in the UK makes the US intelligence services envious.  For all the problems that the US has with privacy issues and spying, the UK is dramatically worse. 

I understand that governments don't want extremist material or hostile propaganda flooding social media or targeting their citizens.  I also understand that the absurdly low cost of troll farms and bots makes this a losing struggle.  Even countries with extreme censorship like China or various countries in the Middle East can't successfully curtail all the material they deem "unsuitable."  You cannot ban/censor your way to victory.  You also need human oversight at some level, because your automated system will invariably screw up. 

 

On the corporate side: I know I've read multiple posts about Google/YouTube's great demonetization apocalypse that happened a few months back (and is still happening).  There's some great tidbits if you look close enough that show these "AI / Machine Learning Software" are about as accurate as a blind man throwing darts.  Here's a nice little example I stumbled across this morning. 

http://www.greenheartgames.com/2018/02/13/curious-case-google-removing-77-positive-reviews/

There are also reports of various content creators on Youtube's platform testing the system by uploading private videos, some of them only 6-10 seconds long with a single solid color and no sound.  The algorithm then looks at the description and certain key words or phrases lead to an instant demonetization.  Sometimes they even get remonetized randomly.  It's one of the reasons why so many content creators are finding other methods to generate income, like Twitch, Patreon, etc. 

I understand that major corporations don't want their advertisement associated with something "unsuitable" but I think they also need to understand that the ads running before a YouTube video aren't manually put there and certainly aren't endorsing the content of that video.  Does it look terrible when a coke ad plays before a video of some asshat filming suicide victims?  Yea of course it does.  But to conflate their ad running before a YouTube video as an endorsement is complete bullshit. 
I won't pretend to provide a perfect fix, but I do think that revenue needs to be held in some sort of escrow account so that videos which become demonetized or falsely flagged by DMCA will still earn money for the content creator and not just get lost in some bureaucratic black hole.

tl;dr
Governments and Corporations cannot be trusted to ban/censor content.  I've seen overreaches on both sides and it's not pretty.  How long before people start looking for proper unregulated websites (darkweb?) to avoid gratuitous censorship?

Sidenote: For all the issues associated with cryptocurrency, I wonder how realistic using crypto as a monetization solution for multiple internet issues. 

  • Corporation/Governments provided monetary incentive to people that correctly report and moderate content deemed unsuitable. 
  • Websites switch from ad revenue streams to paywalls and donations payable through fiat or crypto

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On 2/13/2018 at 9:13 AM, kuhla said:

With both governments and major corporations pushing for this, something is going to change. Right now it's just content providers that are feeling the heat but at what point does it go "up" one level and become ISPs doing the filtering? Does it become opt-in system? What is this "child safe" internet of the future going to look like?

With a lot of the talk about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, this topic is coming right back up again. I am hearing people on the radio calling for government "regulating" these internet companies because they have too much power/are hurting democracy/not caring about the privacy of individuals. Combined with some of the changes coming in Europe (GDPR) and some of the changes already previously discussed in the UK and the extreme level of monitoring and censorship in China what is the internet's future look like?

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Well we're seeing some effects of this already.  Corporate Self censorship is becoming the new norm, and if you think it's merely because some content is unpalatable to advertisers then you're just fooling yourself. 
Youtube dropped new guidelines that basically ban a large portion of gun videos including, gun safety, gun assembly and other legal uses of firearms.  Some channels are literally backing their videos up to pornhub.  There are some rough attempts to move to different websites but it's scattered at best. 
https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/7667605?hl=en

Reddit proceeded to do the exact same thing.  They flat out banned anything that was involved in the trade or sales of: alcohol, tobacco and firearms.  This included subs like /r/gundeals which only posted promotions and sales.  There are other subs that were given a warning, but the admins are basically silent on this issue.  Of course a massive sub about marijuana consumption is still around and I imagine certain other illicit subs are functioning just fine.  That's skipping over the massive amount of pornography subs available. 
https://www.reddit.com/r/guns/comments/864c12/well_fuck_reddit_policy_change_containment_thread/

Let me lay out two things about this.  Websites that host user's content aren't obligated to host anything they disagree with.  This is perfectly legal and reasonable for these companies to decide they don't want any firearms content on their website they're well within their rights to pull the content and tell users to find somewhere else to host it. 
On the other hand, there's clearly some favoritism being shown by these websites.  Content that they're choosing to ban is generally legal, and even if it was illegal content, the host is technically protected (until very very recently) by CDA 230.  Unfortunately Congress just passed a law recently that neutered some of those protections (at least directly regarding human trafficking) read more here: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/03/how-congress-censored-internet

We're now in the unenviable position of having tech companies racing to self censor, and having various governments taking matters into their own hands with legislation like the GDPR.  We're getting hit from both sides in a very nasty way. 

There are plenty of things I can respect and even agree with in the GDPR, but I do think it goes too far in certain areas.  Regardless of my personal opinions on the GDPR, American companies are going to need to comply with it, especially the large multinational firms and social media platforms.  I fully expect this be fought in courts and even if the companies do not manage full compliance it will change their behavior. 

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This just got worse.  Congress passed the cloud act. 

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/03/responsibility-deflected-cloud-act-passes

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As we wrote before, the CLOUD Act is a far-reaching, privacy-upending piece of legislation that will:

  • Enable foreign police to collect and wiretap people's communications from U.S. companies, without obtaining a U.S. warrant.
  • Allow foreign nations to demand personal data stored in the United States, without prior review by a judge.
  • Allow the U.S. president to enter "executive agreements" that empower police in foreign nations that have weaker privacy laws than the United States to seize data in the United States while ignoring U.S. privacy laws.
  • Allow foreign police to collect someone's data without notifying them about it.
  • Empower U.S. police to grab any data, regardless if it's a U.S. person's or not, no matter where it is stored.

Gee, I love the complete lack of judicial oversight or basic privacy protection. 

Sidenote: The omnibus spending bill that was just signed into law is most likely going to be the source of terrible news for the foreseeable future, I bet we'll find more and more garbage that was crammed in at the last minute and some congressional representative will say "oh dear, that's terrible we should fix something that we clearly didn't read and passed" but nothing will get done. 

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There will also be more opportunity to download all the data a company has on you, something companies are already starting to roll out. Services like Google Takeout have existed for a while, and smaller services like Slack are starting to roll out similar options to satisfy the GDPR’s data portability requirements. That helps in two ways: it lets you check what companies are collecting, and it could help unwind platform dominance by letting you transfer data between networks. If you want a way to export your Facebook messages to Ello, the new portability requirements will ensure there’s a way to do it.

Source: https://www.theverge.com/2018/3/28/17172548/gdpr-compliance-requirements-privacy-notice

I genuinely hadn't considered that.  I suppose that would be tremendously useful (and irresponsible) to just pull information from a major platform you use and import it onto another platform.  I suppose that would reduce some barriers to entry for future social networks and services, but I still think the largest barrier is the user base.  People use facebook/instagram/snapchat because everyone else uses those services.

I also listed to this podcast talking about the "surveillance economy" which echos some of the major points about why this recent facebook flub will most likely have lasting consequences (I'm still unconvinced of this). 
https://www.marketplace.org/2018/03/27/tech/make-me-smart-kai-and-molly/55-surveillance-economy

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6 hours ago, Malaphax said:

I genuinely hadn't considered that.  I suppose that would be tremendously useful (and irresponsible) to just pull information from a major platform you use and import it onto another platform.  I suppose that would reduce some barriers to entry for future social networks and services, but I still think the largest barrier is the user base.  People use facebook/instagram/snapchat because everyone else uses those services.

Data, especially user data, loses value over time. A bunch of old data that 10 other sites probably already copied and sold 5x over? Worthless. The new value will be in analysis. BIG DATA. MACHINE LEARNING. TRUCKNET.

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"How Have Europe's Upload Filtering and Link Tax Plans Changed?"
article - https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/02/how-have-europes-upload-filtering-and-link-tax-plans-changed

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There is no way in which platforms could possibly comply with this directive other than by agreeing to monitor all of the content they accept, either manually or automatically.
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No the most unbiased source but one of the more high-profile writeups regarding some new laws being proposed in EU.

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https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20180920/17133740682/gdpr-being-used-to-try-to-disappear-public-us-court-docket.shtml

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This is a public court docket regarding a case accusing Bujaldon of serious fraud. That's not just public information, but it's the kind of information that people clearly want to be public. Yet, Bujaldon has been able to get it shot down the memory hole thanks to the GDPR, and Pacer Monitor has complied and disappeared the entire docket.

While Greenspan clearly didn't want to similarly comply, he later notes that his hosting company forced him to remove Bujaldon's name, and replace it with his initials or else it would suspend his server:

Whenever I hear about EU data protections and privacy I always have a mixed reaction.  There are parts of the GDPR that make sense and provide protections for individuals against large corporate interests, but there are also parts like this which can of course be abused and will be abused in the future because the law was written rather... broadly. 

tenor.gif

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Aside from Google being deep in the process of rolling out a censored search in China - they're currently waiting for the right moment, politically speaking.  Google and other tech companies are pursuing a more "European" model of speech, which includes censoring content that they deem undignified or uncivil. 

I'm really getting sick of people using 1984 as a guide book for policy rather than as a piece of science fiction meant to warn people about unfettered censorship. 

https://www.reddit.com/r/technology/comments/9mzf97/an_internal_company_briefing_produced_by_google/
Direct link to the Google Document: https://www.scribd.com/document/390521673/The-Good-Censor-GOOGLE-LEAK#from_embed

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source - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-47198426

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Russia is considering whether to disconnect from the global internet briefly, as part of a test of its cyber-defences.

The test will mean data passing between Russian citizens and organisations stays inside the nation rather than being routed internationally.

A draft law mandating technical changes needed to operate independently was introduced to its parliament last year.

The test is expected to happen before 1 April but no exact date has been set.
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Just another step closer to imposing nation borders on the internet as we know it.

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On 5/31/2018 at 10:57 AM, kuhla said:

"How Have Europe's Upload Filtering and Link Tax Plans Changed?"
article - https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/02/how-have-europes-upload-filtering-and-link-tax-plans-changed

No the most unbiased source but one of the more high-profile writeups regarding some new laws being proposed in EU.

"The final version of a controversial new EU copyright law has been agreed after three days of talks in France."

article - https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-47239600

What a disaster. More attempts to enforce impossible standards and old paradigms on a new medium.

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source - https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/d3mvam/canadian-telecom-giant-bell-wanted-nafta-to-ban-some-vpns?utm_source=reddit.com
 

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Bell, one of Canada’s “big three” telecom companies, asked the Canadian government to seek rules that would make some VPN services illegal ahead of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations.
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“Canada should seek rules in NAFTA that require each party to explicitly make it unlawful to offer a VPN service used for the purpose of circumventing copyright, to allow rightsholders to enforce this rule, and to confirm that it is a violation of copyright if a service effectively makes content widely available in territories in which it does not own the copyright due to an ineffective or insufficiently robust geo-targeting system,”
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In its NAFTA submission, Bell argued that the government should explore options to deal with piracy “such as the site-blocking regimes required in Europe.”
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Again. Governments being asked to block internet content by corporations. Everyone ready for the great wall of America? great wall of Canada? great wall of EU?

Lines up nicely with some recently discovered malicious phishing activity in Venezuela by the current government.

They sky is not falling yet but I'm wondering if we are seeing the sun going down on the golden age of the internet as we know it.

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Australia is censoring various websites like 4chan, 8chan and liveleak due to the recent shooting. 

https://www.9news.com.au/2019/03/19/16/47/telcos-block-access-to-4chan-liveleak

Even more fun and exciting news is the upcoming porn ban in the UK.  Better yet, 76% of Briton's aren't aware that the porn block is coming. 

https://www.theverge.com/2019/3/18/18270763/uk-porn-block-ban-start-date-april-survey-unaware

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"Chairman Thompson: Tech Companies Must Work to Stop Spread of Terrorist Content"
official letter - https://homeland.house.gov/news/press-releases/chairman-thompson-tech-companies-must-work-stop-spread-terrorist-content

(paraphrasing) You companies should have software that removes 99% of content from toxic and violent ideologies on a global level before anyone sees it just like you already do with other content.

I have to imagine that the tools/procedures they are asking for are going to have consequences they have not even considered yet.

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I think one of the more hilarious and egregious examples of current automated content censoring is Youtube's automated moderation system (I refuse to call it DMCA, because they don't actually follow the DMCA rules).  It often flags things seemingly at random, but completely misses some of the  obvious exploitative content that humans recognize.  Not to mention it's currently being abused to hell and back, often with major companies filing false strikes or even basic users holding different content creators hostage.  Yet I've only ever heard these major tech companies talk about how AI/Machine Learning is totally going to save us from this issue at some nebulous point in the future rather than address we also need solutions that we can implement now. 

While I think tech companies can do better at recognizing and removing content that is inappropriate from various platforms, I also think that it's a losing battle of best efforts.  Any level of human moderation is another set of issues, not the least of which is that we basically ship our "digital trash" to developing countries, because that's the most cost efficient idea we've come up with.  When you introduce human moderation (or even AI moderation since it's designed by humans) you also introduce bias, and people get very mad over that - as evidenced by the complaints many right leaning politicians have made about Facebook or Youtube censoring more of their content. 

Spoiler

Should we censor the picture on the left, or on the right, or both?  Who gets to decide which one is inappropriate? I don't have any good answers - and seemingly neither do the people who work at Google, Facebook or the US government. 
https://s7347.pcdn.co/backgroundprobability/files/2014/07/who-holly-fisher-holly-hobby-lobby.jpg

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they ban some pokemon channels cause they keep mentioning CP for combat power lol

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3 hours ago, Jedi2155 said:

Starlink possible alternative to country wide ban? Of course receives are a big question of legality.

Yeah I have been thinking about that program.

I'm not 100% clear on who the target market is, unless the plan is just to spur innovation and competition.

If you are really poor, then you likely don't have a computer at home, but you probably have a smartphone so you are still limited to local companies and local government to provide your connection. 

If you are just sorta poor, then maybe you have a computer at home and that smart boy Ricky can set it up for you with that thing he calls a vee-pee-enn and internet and I can get whatever I want even though the local government doesn't like it.

If you are rich then you care a lot about more than just access, you want high speed and low latency and this is not for you.

Maybe it is for the rich that are just in very rural settings? "Underserved"? I feel like the number of people in that group are low.

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Since it's satellite based system there needs to be a hardware component.  I guess you could publish open source plans on how to build a transceiver that's compatible or rely on more standard sales/donations to get the hardware to potential users.  Either way a government could simply make owning the hardware or connecting to the network illegal (I suspect this will happen in some countries).  Banning satellite transceivers is probably easier than banning anything that can connect to a network or utilize a VPN. 

Systems like this might make some sense for very rural areas with limited broadband access, but even then the target audience is still rather small, and other options would most likely be a better fit.  I'm happy that options like this might spur competition, but I'm not entirely sure what the long-term goal is, especially when you get nebulous statements about using proceeds from this venture to fund mars missions. 

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19 hours ago, kuhla said:

If you are really poor, then you likely don't have a computer at home, but you probably have a smartphone so you are still limited to local companies and local government to provide your connection. 

This assumes the local companies and government have good internet to start with. Having traveled to many parts of the world in the past several years, I've been to many areas where network coverage is just very very weak. I see vast value as a secondary network to the super congested transcontinental fiber networks to poor countries (Philippines internet was poor pretty much everywhere for example). 

If you are just sorta poor, then maybe you have a computer at home and that smart boy Ricky can set it up for you with that thing he calls a vee-pee-enn and internet and I can get whatever I want even though the local government doesn't like it.

If you are rich then you care a lot about more than just access, you want high speed and low latency and this is not for you.

This is assumed to be high speed and low latency. I haven't done the numbers yet, but I can imagine it'd be in the tens of megabits (if not more), and 10-50 ms latencies (world wide).

Maybe it is for the rich that are just in very rural settings? "Underserved"? I feel like the number of people in that group are low.

I think its quite common in the vast majority of the USA who live "between" the big cities. Especially the technical folk who have to live near the infrastructure they manage.

 

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Maybe more relevant to the other privacy related thread but whatever...

"Mozilla Firefox Could Soon Get a “Tor Mode” Add-on"

article - https://news.softpedia.com/news/mozilla-firefox-could-soon-get-a-tor-mode-add-on-526774.shtml

Spicy. I can almost imagine that if this gets fully implemented that some countries will block firefox as much as they can, the download sites, the user agents, etc.

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article - https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/porn-block-uk-ban-government-bill-website-delay-sex-a9158396.html
 

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Controversial plans for a “porn block” to stop children viewing adult material online have been dropped, the government has announced.

The long-delayed measure – first promised in 2015 and first due to come into effect last year – “will not be commencing” after running into trouble and after repeated delays.

“The government’s commitment to protecting children online is unwavering,” Nicky Morgan, the digital secretary, insisted, in a statement revealing the climbdown.

The policy would have required all adult internet users wanting to watch legal pornography to prove they are over 18 by providing some form of identification.

Websites that refused to implement the checks faced being blocked by UK internet service providers or having their access to payment services withdrawn.
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This was never realistically feasible so good riddance.

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