Vietnam Deploys 10,000 Cyber Warriors to Fight 'Wrongful Views' (bloomberg.com) 92

Vietnam is deploying a 10,000-member military cyber warfare unit to combat what the government sees as a growing threat of "wrongful views" proliferating on the internet, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing local media reports. From the report: Force 47 has worked pro-actively against distorted information, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported, citing Nguyen Trong Nghia, deputy head of the general politics department under the Vietnam People's Military. The disclosure of the unit comes as the Communist government pressures YouTube and Facebook to remove videos and accounts seen damaging the reputations of leaders or promoting anti-party views. Facebook this year removed 159 accounts at Vietnam's behest, while YouTube took down 4,500 videos, or 90 percent of what the government requested, according to VietnamNet news, which cited Minister of Information and Communications Truong Minh Tuan last week. The National Assembly is debating a cybersecurity bill that would require technology companies to store certain data on servers in the country.

China Closes More Than 13,000 Websites in Past Three Years (reuters.com) 73

China has closed more than 13,000 websites since the beginning of 2015 for breaking the law or other rules and the vast majority of people support government efforts to clean up cyberspace, state news agency Xinhua reports. From the report: The government has stepped up already tight controls over the internet since President Xi Jinping took power five years ago, in what critics say is an effort to restrict freedom of speech and prevent criticism of the ruling Communist Party. The government says all countries regulate the internet, and its rules are aimed at ensuring national security and social stability and preventing the spread of pornography and violent content. A report to the on-going session of the standing committee of China's largely rubber stamp parliament said the authorities had targeted pornography and violence in their sweeps of websites, blogs and social media accounts, Xinhua said.

Man in China Sentenced To Five Years' Jail For Running VPN (theguardian.com) 42

A Chinese entrepreneur has been sentenced to five and a half years in prison for selling VPN service, a government newspaper said, as Beijing tries to stamp out use of technology that evades its internet filters. From a report: Wu Xiangyang was also fined 500,000 yuan ($75,900), an amount equal to his profits since starting the service in 2013, according to a report in the newspaper of China's national prosecutor's office. The Great Firewall, as the censorship apparatus is commonly known, means people in China are banned from visiting thousands of websites, including Google, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. Wu ran his VPN service from 2013 until June this year and claimed to serve 8,000 foreign clients and 5,000 businesses.

CDC Director Says No Words Are Actually Banned At the CDC (pbs.org) 177

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PBS: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald on Sunday addressed a report that President Donald Trump's administration had banned the CDC from using seven words or phrases in next year's budget documents. The terms are "fetus," "transgender," "vulnerable," "entitlement," "diversity," "evidence-based" and "science-based," according to a story first reported on Friday in The Washington Post. But Fitzgerald said in a series of tweets on Sunday said there are "no banned words," while emphasizing the agency's commitment to data-driven science. "CDC has a long-standing history of making public health and budget decisions that are based on the best available science and data and for the benefit of all people -- and we will continue to do so," she said.

A group of the agency's policy analysts said senior officials at the CDC informed them about the banned words on Thursday, according to the Post's report. In some cases, the analysts were reportedly given replacement phrases to use instead. But in follow-up reporting, The New York Times cited "a few" CDC officials who suggested the move was not meant as an outright ban, but rather, a technique to help secure Republican approval of the 2019 budget by eliminating certain words and phrases. A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC, said the reported decree on banned words was a misrepresentation.

United States

Trump Administration Prohibits CDC Policy Analysts From Using the Words 'Science-Based' (washingtonpost.com) 458

Long-time Slashdot reader hey! writes: On Friday the Washington Post reported that the Trump Administration has forbidden the Centers for Disease Control from using seven terms in certain documents: "science-based", "evidence-based", "vulnerable," "entitlement," "diversity," "transgender," and "fetus".

It's important to note that the precise scope and intent of the ban is unknown at present. Scientific and medical personnel as of now have not been affected, only policy analysts preparing budgetary proposals and supporting data that is being sent to Congress. So it is unclear the degree to which the language mandates represent a change in agency priorities vs. a change in how it presents itself to Congress. However banning the scientifically precise term "fetus" will certainly complicate budgeting for things like Zika research and monitoring.

According to the Post's article, "Instead of 'science-based' or 'evidence-based,' the suggested phrase is 'CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes."

The New York Times confirmed the story with several officials, although "a few suggested that the proposal was not so much a ban on words but recommendations to avoid some language to ease the path toward budget approval by Republicans."

Google News Will Purge Sites Masking Their Country of Origin (bloomberg.com) 151

An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: Google moved to strip from its news search results publications that mask their country of origin or intentionally mislead readers, a further step to curb the spread of fake news that has plagued internet companies this year. To appear in Google News results, websites must meet broad criteria set out by the company, including accurately representing their owners or primary purposes. In an update to its guidelines released Friday, the search giant added language stipulating that publications not "engage in coordinated activity to mislead users."

Additionally the new rules read: "This includes, but isn't limited to, sites that misrepresent or conceal their country of origin or are directed at users in another country under false premises." A popular tactic for misinformation campaigns is to pose as a credible U.S. news outlet. Russian Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-backed organization, used that technique to reach an audience of nearly 500,000 people, spread primarily through Twitter accounts, Bloomberg reported earlier.


Google To Open AI Center In China Despite Search Ban (bbc.com) 38

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Google is deepening its push into artificial intelligence (AI) by opening a research center in China, even though its search services remain blocked in the country. Google said the facility would be the first its kind in Asia and would aim to employ local talent. In a blog post on the company's website, Google said the new research center was an important part of its mission as an "AI first company." "Whether a breakthrough occurs in Silicon Valley, Beijing or anywhere else, [AI] has the potential to make everyone's life better for the entire world," said Fei-Fei Li, chief scientist at Google Cloud AI and Machine Learning. The research center, which joins similar facilities in London, New York, Toronto and Zurich, will be run by a small team from its existing office in Beijing. The tech giant operates two offices in China, with roughly half of its 600 employees working on global products, company spokesperson Taj Meadows told the AFP news agency. But Google's search engine and a number of other services are banned in China. The country has imposed increasingly strict rules on foreign companies over the past year, including new censorship restrictions.
Social Networks

Twitter Says It Accidentally Banned A Bunch Of Accounts (buzzfeed.com) 25

An anonymous reader shares a report: Over the past 24 hours, some Twitter users had their profiles replaced with a notice saying their accounts were now being "withheld in: Worldwide." The "country withheld" program run by Twitter typically prevents users based in a specific country from from seeing tweets sent by a withheld account. This was the first time people could recall the company withholding accounts globally, which was in effect a total ban for the user. At the time of writing, BuzzFeed News had identified 21 accounts that were being withheld worldwide, and users on Twitter were beginning to wonder if this was a new method being used by the company to suspend accounts. But a Twitter spokesperson tells BuzzFeed News that the worldwide withholdings were in fact the result of a bug. "We have identified a bug that incorrectly impacted certain accounts. We have identified a fix, are working to resolve the issue, and anticipate it will be fully resolved shortly," the spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.

YouTube To Hire More Than 10,000 Content Moderators on Staff Next Year To Stop Its Child Exploitation Problem (buzzfeed.com) 92

YouTube is adding more human moderators and increasing its machine learning in an attempt to curb its child exploitation problem, the company's CEO Susan Wojcicki said. From a report: The company plans to increase its content moderation workforce to more than 10,000 employees in 2018 in order to help screen videos and train the platform's machine learning algorithms to spot and remove problematic children's content. Sources familiar with YouTube's workforce numbers say this represents a 25% increase from where the company is today. In the last two weeks, YouTube has removed hundreds of thousands of videos featuring children in disturbing and possibly exploitative situations, including being duct-taped to walls, mock-abducted, and even forced into washing machines. The company said it will employ the same approach it used this summer as it worked to eradicate violent extremist content from the platform.

Cloudflare's CEO Has a Plan To Never Censor Hate Speech Again (arstechnica.com) 395

"Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince hated cutting off service to the infamous neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer in August," reports Ars Technica. "And he's determined not to do it again. 'I'm almost a free-speech absolutist.' Prince said at an event at the New America Foundation last Wednesday. But in a subsequent interview with Ars, Prince argued that in the case of the Daily Stormer, the company didn't have much choice." From the report: Prince's response was to cut Daily Stormer off while laying the groundwork to make sure he'd never have to make a decision like that again. In a remarkable company-wide email sent shortly after the decision, Prince described his own actions as "arbitrary" and "dangerous." "I woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the Internet," Prince wrote in August. "It was a decision I could make because I'm the CEO of a major Internet infrastructure company." He argued that "it's important that what we did today not set a precedent." Prior to August, Cloudflare had consistently refused to police content published by its customers. Last week, Prince made a swing through DC to help ensure that the Daily Stormer decision does not, in fact, set a precedent. He met with officials from the Federal Communications Commission and with researchers at the libertarian Cato Institute and the left-of-center New America Foundation -- all in an effort to ensure that he'd have the political cover he needed to say no next time he came under pressure to take down controversial content.

The law is strongly on Cloudflare's side here. Internet infrastructure providers like Cloudflare have broad legal immunity for content created by their customers. But legal rights may not matter if Cloudflare comes under pressure from customers to take down content. And that's why Prince is working to cultivate a social consensus that infrastructure providers like Cloudflare should not be in the censorship business -- no matter how offensive its customers' content might be.


Apple, Google CEOs Bring Star Power as China Promotes Censorship (bloomberg.com) 38

An anonymous reader shares a Bloomberg report: Apple's Tim Cook and Google's Sundar Pichai made their first appearances at China's World Internet Conference, bringing star power to a gathering the Chinese government uses to promote its strategy of tight controls online. Apple's chief executive officer gave a surprise keynote at the opening ceremony on Sunday, calling for future internet and AI technologies to be infused with privacy, security and humanity. The same day, one of China's most-senior officials called for more aggressive government involvement online to combat terrorism and criminals. Wang Huning, one of seven men on China's top decision-making body, even called for a global response team to go well beyond its borders. It was Cook's second appearance in China in two months, following a meeting with President Xi Jinping in October. The iPhone maker has most of its products manufactured in the country and is trying to regain market share in smartphones against local competitors such as Huawei. "The theme of this conference -- developing a digital economy for openness and shared benefits -- is a vision we at Apple share," Cook said. "We are proud to have worked alongside many of our partners in China to help build a community that will join a common future in cyberspace."

Tim Wu: Why the Courts Will Have to Save Net Neutrality (nytimes.com) 251

Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia who first coined the term "net neutrality," writes for the New York Times: Allowing such censorship is anathema to the internet's (and America's) founding spirit. And by going this far, the F.C.C. may also have overplayed its legal hand. So drastic is the reversal of policy (if, as expected, the commission approves Mr. Pai's proposal next month), and so weak is the evidence to support the change, that it seems destined to be struck down in court. The problem for Mr. Pai is that government agencies are not free to abruptly reverse longstanding rules on which many have relied without a good reason (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled), such as a change in factual circumstances. A mere change in F.C.C. ideology isn't enough. As the Supreme Court has said, a federal agency must "examine the relevant data and articulate a satisfactory explanation for its action." Given that net neutrality rules have been a huge success by most measures, the justification for killing them would have to be very strong. It isn't. In fact, it's very weak. From what we know so far, Mr. Pai's rationale for eliminating the rules is that cable and phone companies, despite years of healthy profit, need to earn even more money than they already do -- that is, that the current rates of return do not yield adequate investment incentives. More specifically, Mr. Pai claims that industry investments have gone down since 2015, the year the Obama administration last strengthened the net neutrality rules.
United Kingdom

Pornhub Owner May Become the UK's Gatekeeper of Online Porn (yahoo.com) 95

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Yahoo News: Mindgeek may be the most powerful company that you've never heard of, or at least, a company you'll claim never to have heard about in polite company. It's the conglomerate that owns some of the world's most visited porn sites, including Pornhub, RedTube and YouPorn. Far from simply being a popular and free way for people to consume adult content, it may soon have a powerful political role in the UK that will ensure its dominance for decades to come. That's because, within the next year, Mindgeek may become the principal gatekeeper between the country's internet users and their porn. In April, the UK passed the Digital Economy Act 2017, legislation that mandated that any website showing adult content must verify the ages of its visitors. It was pushed through in response to concerns that children were being corrupted by easy access to and exposure to adult content at an early age. Section 15(1) of the bill requires that "pornographic material" not be published online, on a "commercial basis," unless it is "not normally accessible by those under 18." The bill has several flaws, not least the number of vague proposals it contains, and the ad hoc definition of what pornography actually is. Section 17 of the same act outlined the creation of an "age-verification regulator," the digital equivalent of a bouncer standing between you and your porn. This gatekeeper will have the right, and duty, to demand you show proof of age, or else refuse you access. In addition, the body will be able to impose fines and enforcement notices on those who either neglect or circumvent the policy. [...] The Open Rights Group believes that the BBFC will then hand over the actual mechanisms of the age verification platform to a third party in the private sector. Mindgeek has had several conversations with officials and is currently pushing its own age verification platform, AgeID. If selected, this platform could become the principal wall between Britons and their pornography -- giving Mindgeek enormous power in the market.

Hitler Quote Controversy In the BSD Community 500

New submitter Seven Spirals writes: Recently, the FreeBSD folks have removed Fortune with a fairly predictable far right 4chan condemnation. Then last weekend saw a lively debate on NetBSD's current-users mailing list about the inclusion of Hitler quotes in the Fortune database with dozens of posts falling on the left and right. The quotes themselves are fairly tame material probably intended as cautionary. However, the controversy and the reaction of BSD users has been real and very diverse. So far, the result has been to pull Fortune out of FreeBSD and to relocate the quotes into the "offensive" database in NetBSD's case.

Skype Vanishes From App Stores in China (nytimes.com) 37

Skype, Microsoft's Internet phone call and messaging service, has been unavailable for download from a number of app stores in China, including Apple's, for almost a month (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), The New York Times reported on Tuesday. From the report: "We have been notified by the Ministry of Public Security that a number of voice over internet protocol apps do not comply with local law. Therefore these apps have been removed from the app store in China," an Apple spokeswoman said Tuesday in an emailed statement responding to questions about Skype's disappearance from the app store. "These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business." The removal led to a volley of complaints from Chinese users on internet message boards who were no longer able to pay for Skype's services through Apple. The users said that the disruption began in late October. Skype, which is owned by Microsoft, still functions in China, and its fate in the country is not yet clear. But its removal from the app stores is the most recent example of a decades-long push by China's government to control and monitor the flow of information online.

Eric Schmidt Says Google News Will 'Engineer' Russian Propaganda Out of the Feed (vice.com) 356

Justin Ling, writing for Motherboard: Eric Schmidt, Executive Chariman of Alphabet, says the company is working to ferret out Russian propaganda from Google News after facing criticism that Kremlin-owned media sites had been given plum placement on the search giant's news and advertising platforms. "We're well aware of this one, and we're working on detecting this kind of scenario you're describing and deranking those kinds of sites," Schmidt said, after being asked why the world's largest search company continued to classify the Russian sites as news. Schmidt, in an interview at the Halifax International Security Forum over the weekend, name-checked two state-owned enterprises. "It's basically RT and Sputnik," Schmidt added. "We're well aware and we're trying to engineer the systems to prevent it."
Social Networks

Report Claims That 18 Nation's Elections Were Impacted By Social Engineering Last Year (bbc.com) 235

sqorbit writes: Independent watchdog group Freedom House released a report that claims that 18 nation's elections were "hacked." Of the 65 countries that Freedom House monitors, 30 appear to be using social media in order to affect elections by attempting to control online discussions. The report covers fake news posts, paid online opinion writers and trolling tactics. Other items in the report speak to online censorship and VPN blocking that blocks information within countries to interfere with elections. The report says net freedom could be aided by: large-scale programs that showed people how to spot fake news; putting tight controls on political adverts; and making social media giants do more to remove bots and tune algorithms to be more objective.

New EU Consumer Protection Law Contains a Vague Website Blocking Clause (bleepingcomputer.com) 45

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: The European Union (EU) has voted on Tuesday, November 14, to pass the new Consumer Protection Cooperation regulation, a new EU-wide applicable law that gives extra power to national consumer protection agencies, but which also contains a vaguely worded clause that also grants them the power to block and take down websites without judicial oversight. The new law "establishes overreaching Internet blocking measures that are neither proportionate nor suitable for the goal of protecting consumers and come without mandatory judicial oversight," Member of the European Parliament Julia Reda said in a speech in the European Parliament Plenary during a last ditch effort to amend the law. "According to the new rules, national consumer protection authorities can order any unspecified third party to block access to websites without requiring judicial authorization," Reda added later in the day on her blog. This new law is an EU regulation and not a directive, meaning its obligatory for all EU states, which do not have to individually adopt it.
The Internet

China Cyber Watchdog Rejects Censorship Critics, Says Internet Must Be 'Orderly' (reuters.com) 78

China's top cyber authority on Thursday rejected a recent report ranking it last out of 65 countries for press freedom, saying the internet must be "orderly" and the international community should join it in addressing fake news and other cyber issues. From a report: Ren Xianliang, vice minister of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), said the rapid development of the country's internet over two decades is proof of its success and that it advocates for the free flow of information. "We should not just make the internet fully free, it also needs to be orderly... The United States and Europe also need to deal with these fake news and rumors," Ren told journalists without elaborating.

Afghanistan Clarifies It Will Not Block WhatsApp, Telegram (reuters.com) 18

The Afghan government will not block the instant messaging services WhatsApp and Telegram, a spokesman told news agency Reuters on Monday, following days of controversy after reports the services would be suspended. From a report: "Government of Afghanistan isn't going to ban any social media platforms. WhatsApp and Telegram to continue operating in Afghanistan," Javid Faisal, deputy spokesman to government Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah wrote on Twitter. The row over instant messaging services began after a letter from Afghanistan's telecoms regulator to Internet service providers telling them to block the services "without delay" was circulated on social media platforms last week.

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