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Posts tagged ‘Internet’

Facebook takes down page of Palestine news site

October 11, 2019

Facebook on Wednesday deleted the page of the Palestinian Information Center (PIC) in a move, the news site says, which is part of its war on Palestinian content on social media networks.

The site’s management said Facebook provided them with no prior warning before deleting the page, which had nearly five million followers, without any justification.

They called on Facebook to reinstate the page and stop its battle against Palestinian content, saying they have contested the ban.

The Palestinian Information Center has previously been forced to suspend posting on Facebook after the social media giant banned the accounts of some of its directors. Member of management have also seen their accounts deleted and removed.

The blocking of the PIC’s page comes as part of an extensive campaign in recent weeks that included many Palestinian social media platforms.

The Palestinian Information Center was founded in December 1997 in Arabic, as the first Palestinian news site, dedicated to advocating the Palestinian cause and the Arab conflict with the Zionist occupier. It is biased in favor of the rights of the Palestinian people and their sanctities and the legitimate right to resist the occupier by all legitimate and internationally guaranteed means. It is the only Palestinian site that broadcasts its material in eight languages.

Earlier this week, journalists and activists in Palestine launched a social media campaign against Facebook’s censorship of Palestinian content.

Using the hashtag FBblocksPalestine, the drive hopes to bring to light “the threat posed by Facebook against Palestinian content, and to make it public, as well as reveal the double-standard policy of Facebook management in dealing with Israeli and Palestinian incitement on its site,” says Eyad Rifai, head of Sada Social Centre which is running the drive.

Source: Middle East Monitor.


High-tech Estonia votes online for European Parliament

May 20, 2019

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Estonia was crippled by cyberattacks on government networks during a dispute with Russia in 2007. Today the tiny tech-savvy nation is so certain of its cyber defenses that it is the only country in the world to allow internet voting for the entire electorate, in every election, and thousands have already done so in the European Parliament elections.

Internet voting — or i-voting —has been available since 2005 in the nation that gave the world Skype, and the percentage of voters using the internet to cast ballots has increased with each election, reaching 44% of voters in national election in March.

Linda Lainvoo was one of the first Estonians to vote in the European Parliament election, which she did from a cafe before heading to work Thursday morning. The 32-year-old civil servant has voted online since she was first eligible to vote.

“I couldn’t imagine my life any different,” Lainvoo said after logging into a secure online portal with her ID card and a PIN code. “I do everything online so I don’t have to stand in queues and do things on paper.”

After downloading an app and identifying herself, she viewed the electoral lists inside a virtual “voting booth” and selected her candidate. The elections are taking place from May 23-26 across the 28-member bloc to fill 751-seat European Parliament, where Estonia, a nation of just 1.3 million, has six representatives.

It took Lainvoo about 30 seconds to vote and by the time she had finished, around 2,000 others in Estonia had also voted. Estonia’s i-voting system runs from the 10th until the fourth day before the election and allows people to cast multiple ballots, with only the last vote counting. This aims to prevent voter coercion.

Young, tech-savvy males made up the bulk of i-voters in the first few elections, according to the head of Estonia’s Electoral Office, Priit Vinkel. But after four elections it “diffused in the electorate and we can’t say who the i-voter is. Any eligible voter can be an i-voter.”

The electoral commission’s research shows internet voting significantly increases turnout for Estonians abroad and for people living more than 30 minutes away from a polling station. While it’s hard to quantify the impact of i-voting on the overall turnout numbers, Vinkel says it’s a “sticky voting method” that has “stopped alienation,” meaning a majority of people who have voted online at least once keep voting electronically and are more likely than average voters to keep voting at all.

When Estonia broke away from the Soviet Union and declared its independence nearly three decades ago it embarked on a modernization program that including going digital early on. The country has introduced a high-tech national ID system in which physical ID cards are linked to digital signatures that citizens use not only to vote, but to pay taxes and access health and school records.

But there have been vulnerabilities. In 2007, a massive cyberattack crippled the country’s networks following a dispute with Russia over Estonia’s removal of a Soviet-era war memorial in Tallinn. The unprecedented scale of the attack forced governments worldwide to reconsider the importance of network security and defense.

Estonia, which borders Russia, took time to build security and privacy into its model. It created a platform that supports electronic authentication and digital signatures to enable paperless communications, in contrast with failed efforts by private companies to provide secure online voting systems in the United States, for example.

The architect of Estonia’s i-voting system, Arne Ansper, compares it to postal voting. An external envelope verifies the identity of the voter — a digital signature for internet voting — which is then stripped from the ballot, leaving an anonymous internal envelope guaranteeing the secrecy of the vote. This envelope is then decrypted at the end of the election.

Transparency and security have been built into the system by allowing people to verify that their vote has been tallied correctly, while a third-party system creates logs that are compared to the results of the ballot boxes and which would reveal any discrepancies.

The role played by social media and fake accounts used to spread fake news in the 2016 U.S. election has also forced governments to reassess electoral interference. “Trust is the paramount factor in making sure that Internet-based voting actually takes place,” said Tonu Tammer from the government agency in charge of the security of Estonia’s computer networks.

Tammer says his organization is continuously monitoring and adapting to possible threats to the system, but says there are greater risks than an internet attack. “The biggest concern when it comes to trust is the dissemination of false news,” he said, explaining that it’s easier to erode trust by claiming electoral fraud than actually carrying out a successful attack.

On Friday, the European Commission criticized social media giants Facebook, Google and Twitter for not doing enough to fight disinformation ahead of the EU elections. But with more than 82,500 people having already voted online by Monday, it seems trust is still strong.

Back in the Tallinn cafe, Lainvoo closes her laptop and prepares to leave for the office. “I’m not an IT person, but I trust their expertise, and I also trust my state,” she said.

Russia moves to expand state control of internet

April 11, 2019

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian lawmakers approved Thursday a bill that would expand government control over the internet and whose opponents fear heralds a new era of widespread censorship. The bill would install equipment to route Russian internet traffic through servers in the country. That would increase the powers of state agencies and make it harder for users to circumvent government restrictions.

The proposed move sparked protests of several thousand people in Moscow last month. Opponents argue it would allow the state to control the flow of information and enforce blocks on messaging applications which refuse to hand over data.

The bill’s backers have sought to play down the expanded powers for controlling traffic. Instead, they say it’s a defense measure in case Russia is cut off from the internet by the United States or other hostile powers.

Nikolai Zemtsov, a lawmaker who backed the bill, told The Associated Press a future Russia could cooperate with ex-Soviet countries on a “Runet” where news from critical Western media was restricted. “It could be that in our limited, sovereign internet we will only be stronger,” he said.

The bill passed by 322-15 in a second reading in the lower house of parliament. The second reading is when amendments are finalized, and is usually the most important. The bill must pass a third reading and the upper house before being signed into law by President Vladimir Putin.

Since last year, Russian authorities have been trying to block the messaging app Telegram, which has refused to hand over users’ encrypted messages in defiance of a court order. Telegram’s traffic used millions of different internet protocol addresses, meaning attempts to block it resembled a game of whack-a-mole. Many unrelated apps, online stores and even Volvo car repair services were temporarily knocked offline last year before Russian officials eased their pressure. The new law could make a block easier.

Russia already requires certain personal information about Russian citizens to be stored on servers in the country. That measure led to the social network LinkedIn being blocked in 2016. By moving to exert more control of the internet, which is not overseen by a central authority, the Russian government is taking a page from China’s playbook.

China subjects its 700 million internet users to extensive monitoring and tight controls. Beijing has a system of automated filters — known as the “Great Firewall” — to block political content as well as sites related to gambling and pornography. Chinese users are prevented blocked from using Western internet sites such as Facebook, Google and Twitter, leaving the market open for homegrown giants like Tencent.

Chinese regulators have ratcheted up control on local microblogs such as Weibo, ordering them to set up a mechanism to remove false information. They’ve also been cracking down on virtual private networks — software that can be used to get around internet filters by creating encrypted links between computers and blocked sites.

Kelvin Chan in London contributed to this report.

WikiLeaks’ Assange arrested at Ecuador embassy in London

April 11, 2019

LONDON (AP) — Police in London arrested WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorean embassy Thursday for failing to surrender to the court in 2012, shortly after the South American nation revoked his asylum.

Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno said a tweet that his government withdrew Assange’s status for repeated violations of international conventions. Moreno described it as a “sovereign decision” due to “repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life.”

Assange took refuge in the embassy in London in 2012 and has been holed up inside ever since. “Today I announce that the discourteous and aggressive behavior of Mr. Julian Assange, the hostile and threatening declarations of its allied organization, against Ecuador, and especially the transgression of international treaties, have led the situation to a point where the asylum of Mr. Assange is unsustainable and no longer viable,” Moreno said in a video statement released on Twitter.

Police said Assange has been taken into “custody at a central London police station where he will remain, before being presented before Westminster Magistrates’ Court as soon as is possible.” Video posted online by Ruptly, the agency wing of Russia Today, showed about five to six men in suits forcibly escorting Assange out of the embassy building, surrounding him as he staggered down the steps and boarded a police van.

Police said officers were invited into the embassy by the ambassador following the Ecuador government’s withdrawal of Assange’s asylum. Assange had not come out of the embassy for years because he feared arrest and extradition to the United States for publishing thousands of classified military and diplomatic cables through WikiLeaks.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt thanked Moreno for breaking the impasse, saying on Twitter that Assange “is no hero and no one is above the law.” His arrest came a day after WikiLeaks accused the Ecuador’s government of an “extensive spying operation” against Assange.

WikiLeaks claims meetings with lawyers and a doctor inside the embassy over the past year were secretly filmed. WikiLeaks said in a tweeted statement that Ecuador illegally terminated Assange’s political asylum “in violation of international law.”

Twitter Throttled Account of Pro-Life Film ‘Unplanned,’ Users Say


April 1, 2019

Scores of people on Twitter are saying the social-media platform was preventing them from following the account of “Unplanned”—a movie about a former Planned Parenthood clinic director turning against abortion.

Hundreds of people said late March 31 that they clicked the “Follow” button on the movie’s Twitter account, only to return to the page moments later and see they were no longer following the account. Many reported experiencing this issue repeatedly, with some posting videos of the phenomenon.

“Every single time I follow @UnplannedMovie within seconds drops my follow—nine times in a row ‘sup @Twitter ?” wrote Salena Zito, a reporter at the right-leaning Washington Examiner, in a March 31 tweet.

She received more than 180 replies, most of which were people reporting the same issue.

Actress Ashley Bratcher, who stars in the movie, said she also encountered the problem.

“I can’t even follow my own movie. It keeps kicking me off!” she said in an early April 1 tweet.

People reported that the follower count on the movie’s Twitter page was wildly fluctuating on March 31, from anywhere between over 170,000 to mere hundreds or thousands.

Twitter Trouble

The movie had a rough start on Twitter, when its account was suspended for some time on March 30, a day after the movie’s theater debut. A Twitter spokesperson said the account was suspended by mistake.

“It wasn’t directly about this account. When an account violates the Twitter Rules, the system looks for linked accounts to mitigate things like ban evasion. In this case, the account was mistakenly caught in our automated systems for ban evasion,” the spokesperson said in an April 1 email.

“We reinstated the account as soon as it was brought to our attention. An account’s followers take time to fully replenish after it is reinstated. We are not hiding follower counts or disallowing certain people from following.”

The spokesperson said the time to “replenish“ the follower count caused the problem users complained about. “That’s why it appeared as if some people were automatically ‘unfollowing,’” the spokesperson said. “That wasn’t the case.”

The movie’s account posted a notice from Twitter, which said the follower count after suspension “may take an hour or so … to return to normal.” The Help Center on Twitter’s website states incorrect follower counts on reactivated accounts “will be fully restored within 24 hours of reactivation.”

“If it has been more than 48 hours and your counts have still not been restored, contact support for assistance,” the website says.

Actress and author Patricia Heaton, who also reported having the issue, said in an April 1 morning tweet that “this problem has been fixed.”

Indeed, during the morning hours, people started to report that their attempts to follow the account appeared to stick.

Promotional Boost

The Twitter controversy seems to have considerably added to the movie’s promotion, as its account grew from only several thousand followers on the movie’s opening day to more than 250,000 as of noon on April 1.

The movie is a biopic of Abby Johnson, a former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas who later became an anti-abortion activist. With a $6 million budget, the movie ranked fifth on its opening weekend, grossing an estimated $6.1 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the country, performing more than 330,000 abortions a year, according to its 2017-2018 Annual Report (pdf). Among its other frequent services are breast exams, cervical cancer screenings, pregnancy tests, and contraception.

The issue of abortion has been pushed to the forefront in recent months as several Democrat-controlled states proposed or passed bills that would allow abortions all the way up to the time of birth, with limited constraints for very late-term abortions—an apparent effort to preserve easy access to abortion in case the conservative majority on the Supreme Court overturns the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which hamstrung states’ ability to restrict abortion.

At least nine states controlled by Republicans have bills underway to restrict abortion. The bills would likely be ruled unconstitutional by federal courts under Roe v. Wade, which would likely prompt the states to try to escalate the issue to the Supreme Court.

Source: The Epoch Times.


Bill to route internet through Russian servers spurs protest

March 10, 2019

MOSCOW (AP) — Several thousand people have rallied in Moscow to protest legislation they fear could lead to widespread internet censorship for Russian users. The sanctioned rally on Sunday was organized in response to a bill in parliament that would route all internet traffic through servers in Russia, making virtual private networks (VPNs) ineffective.

The proposed measure also would create a division in Russia’s agency that regulates communications to oversee traffic control and routing. The bill has passed the first of three readings in the Duma, the lower house of parliament.

Advocates say the bill is intended to address concerns that Russia could be cut off if the United States applies a new cybersecurity doctrine in an offensive maneuver. Critics say the bill would create an internet firewall similar to China’s.

Can Zuckerberg’s media blitz take the pressure off Facebook?

March 22, 2018

NEW YORK (AP) — In the wake of a privacy scandal involving a Trump-connected data-mining firm, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg embarked on a rare media mini-blitz in an attempt to take some of the public and political pressure off the social network.

But it’s far from clear whether he’s won over U.S. and European authorities, much less the broader public whose status updates provide Facebook with an endless stream of data it uses to sell targeted ads.

On Wednesday, the generally reclusive Zuckerberg sat for an interview on CNN and conducted several more with other outlets, addressing reports that Cambridge Analytica purloined the data of more than 50 million Facebook users in order to sway elections. The Trump campaign paid the firm $6 million during the 2016 election, although it has since distanced itself from Cambridge.

Zuckerberg apologized for a “major breach of trust,” admitted mistakes and outlined steps to protect users following Cambridge’s data grab. “I am really sorry that happened,” Zuckerberg said on CNN. Facebook has a “responsibility” to protect its users’ data, he added, noting that if it fails, “we don’t deserve to have the opportunity to serve people.”

His mea culpa on cable television came a few hours after he acknowledged his company’s mistakes in a Facebook post , but without saying he was sorry. Zuckerberg and Facebook’s No. 2 executive, Sheryl Sandberg, had been quiet since news broke Friday that Cambridge may have used data improperly obtained from roughly 50 million Facebook users to try to sway elections. Cambridge’s clients included Donald Trump’s general-election campaign.

Facebook shares have dropped some 8 percent, lopping about $46 billion off the company’s market value, since the revelations were first published. While several experts said Zuckerberg took an important step with the CNN interview, few were convinced that he put the Cambridge issue behind hm. Zuckerberg’s apology, for instance, seemed rushed and pro forma to Helio Fred Garcia, a crisis-management professor at NYU and Columbia University.

“He didn’t acknowledge the harm or potential harm to the affected users,” Garcia said. “I doubt most people realized he was apologizing.” Instead, the Facebook chief pointed to steps the company has already taken, such as a 2014 move to restrict the access outside apps had to user data. (That move came too late to stop Cambridge.) And he laid out a series of technical changes that will further limit the data such apps can collect, pledged to notify users when outsiders misuse their information and said Facebook will “audit” apps that exhibit troubling behavior.

That audit will be a giant undertaking, said David Carroll, a media researcher at the Parsons School of Design in New York — one that he said will likely turn up a vast number of apps that did “troubling, distressing things.”

But on other fronts, Zuckerberg carefully hedged otherwise striking remarks. In the CNN interview, for instance, he said he would be “happy” to testify before Congress — but only if it was “the right thing to do.” Zuckerberg went on to note that many other Facebook officials might be more appropriate witnesses depending on what Congress wanted to know.

At another point, the Facebook chief seemed to favor regulation for Facebook and other internet giants. At least, that is, the “right” kind of rules, such as ones requiring online political ads to disclose who paid for them. In almost the next breath, however, Zuckerberg steered clear of endorsing a bill that would write such rules into federal law, and instead talked up Facebook’s own voluntary efforts on that front.

“They’ll fight tooth and nail to fight being regulated,” said Timothy Carone, a Notre Dame business professor. “In six months we’ll be having the same conversations, and it’s just going to get worse going into the election.”

Even Facebook’s plan to let users know about data leaks may put the onus on users to educate themselves. Zuckerberg said Facebook will “build a tool” that lets users see if their information had been impacted by the Cambridge leak, suggesting that the company won’t be notifying people automatically. Facebook took this kind of do-it-yourself approach in the case of Russian election meddling, in contrast to Twitter, which notified users who had been exposed to Russian propaganda on its network.

In what has become one of the worst backlashes Facebook has ever seen, politicians in the U.S. and Britain have called for Zuckerberg to explain its data practices in detail. State attorneys general in Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey have opened investigations into the Cambridge mess. And some have rallied to a movement that urges people to delete their Facebook accounts entirely.

Sandy Parakilas, who worked in data protection for Facebook in 2011 and 2012, told a U.K. parliamentary committee Wednesday that the company was vigilant about its network security but lax when it came to protecting users’ data.

He said personal data including email addresses and in some cases private messages was allowed to leave Facebook servers with no real controls on how the data was used after that. Paul Argenti, a business professor at Dartmouth, said that while Zuckerberg’s comments hit the right notes, they still probably aren’t enough. “The question is, can you really trust Facebook,” he said. “I don’t think that question has been answered.”

Cambridge Analytica headquarters in central London was briefly evacuated Thursday as a precaution after a suspicious package was received. Nothing dangerous was found and normal business resumed, police said.

AP reporters Danica Kirka and Gregory Katz in London and Michael Liedtke in San Francisco contributed to this story.

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