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Category Archives: Censorship

10+ Years of Activists Silenced: Internet Intermediaries’ Long History of Censorship – EFF

Posted: August 25, 2017 at 3:36 am

Recent decisions by technology companies, especially upstream infrastructure technology companies, to drop neo-Nazis as customers have captured public attentionand for good reason. The content being blocked is vile and horrific, there is growing concern about hate groups across the country, and the nation is focused on issues of racism and protest.

But this is a dangerous moment for Internet expression and the power of private platforms that host much of the speech on the Internet. People cheering for companies who have censored content in recent weeks may soon find the same tactic used against causes they love. We must be careful about what we are asking these companies to do and carefully review the processes they use to do it. A look at previous examples that EFF has handled in the past 10+ years can help demonstrate why we are so concerned.

This isnt just a slippery slope fear about potential future harm. Complaints to various kinds of intermediaries have been occurring for over a decade. Its clear that Internet technology companiesespecially those further upstream like domain name registrars are simply not equipped or competent to distinguish between good complaints and bad in the U.S. much less around the world. They also have no strong mechanisms for allowing due process or correcting mistakes. Instead they merely react to where the pressure is greatest or where their business interests lie.

Here are just a few cases EFF has handled or helped from the last decade where complaints went upstream to website hosts and DNS providers, impacting activist groups specifically. And this is not to mention the many times direct user platforms like Facebook and Twitter have censored content from artists, activists, and others.

Youll notice that complainers in these cases are powerful corporations. Thats not a coincidence. Large companies have the time, money, and scary lawyers to pressure intermediaries to do their biddingsomething smaller communities rarely have.

The story gets much more frightening when governments enter the conversation. All of the major technology companies publish transparency reports documenting the many efforts made by governments around the world to require the companies to take down their customers speech.[1]

China ties the domain name system to tracking systems and censorship. Russia-backed groups flag Ukrainian speech, Chinese groups flag Tibetan speech, Israeli groups flag Palestinian speech, just to name a few. Every state has some reason to try to bend the core intermediaries to their agenda, which is why EFF along with a number of international organizations created the Manila Principlesto set out the basic rules for intermediaries to follow when responding to these governmental pressures. Those concerned about the position of the current U.S. government with regard to Black Lives Matter, Antifa groups, and similar left-leaning communities should take note: efforts to urge the current U.S. government to treat them as hate groups have already begun.

Will the Internet remain a place where small, marginalized voices get heard? For every tech CEO now worried about neo-Nazis there are hundreds of decisions made to silence voices that are made outside of public scrutiny with no transparency into decision-making or easy ways to get mistakes corrected. We understand the impulse to cheer any decisions to stand up against horrific speech, but if we embrace upstream intermediary censorship, it may very well come back to haunt us.

See original here:
10+ Years of Activists Silenced: Internet Intermediaries' Long History of Censorship - EFF

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Cambridge University Press battles censorship in China – The Economist

Posted: at 3:36 am

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I^.-#@|derdT#$0p^YwG@L J#Dv).]nH4[JQ zzx{Bi0nRe2N2+4@ 9'Ok[;>|b~;U5+ezq,<}'z$s=N|0P{ g Ua@&nEl(Fg|I$(@|b>C|Yb/,2-H 0hLEbbV[X/~:;;:0rJE&$vujYf)Q=urZ?8{0KLa I[f:^E ,NP4 5| K*@"_7$im6l)YO0i6;OVxd#&e7q O R^ / XAQN}[SLkDQ%G8t9"(f]BNRykYS>^>n)(nx635mcnh@zY7l6]}( &C_URFu CJmtye)S: i20*[`=h>Q 34zg[l?{p.z_Gs;4g{uos~Toa3>"+.LMq?OH | !|~|fx7McIfT:b,}|u#CIx: =o"a_1w5z_rqH_}Q"V %]I*"A*e>p9v,[>khh0BB6`J[^!5J&7X3<3nw %[84ph>j{X F"3VY2["1;Q761>[QPXe]q:"%Qv1##yBO848W.4S fouXYH*={iZ+|H K L}$ (NjM(y7i,@PSd b:0n";kJ1HlQ4}^Eio$+>..%zZfIowCZ|qq6- &5O<&/ D,fODNI:}R+^7Mp_%@(>QzGemE4_m$]_9JW#Q bHM4}SeaVfemF}R#_gqS4/ (TV5p+VQz#o /,@ O} *ETYDyee Ljgz$zV%K)k>6%aWofa bOjey9h@JR:Y}:F)b}IL'/3$(/1`C{F#%0/wO,ws9f+(6oI^p5f?ne_w2)Qy;K&4:IA0k=nNoi,4x=~7qjLSE9b_Lj7Ky8ZL1m2K:{xqq?zLty%F0nbF|$S=r4O +n>2:]*kX#tk5~Yje5{FaXg t4>q 'QBr5kj_;cY (CKTNcrWB`_|d[q-?| BNnnrtU7}BKYK$tZ2^./k;~frE8Z|tr{1^0[{I%tf=?AiMn?=Mh>>f{xZ74Qm]O"PPeIp[&V$DJM%>v@"z 7* ]O+Bw|]8*ki4x![C_,A?/@LXI&C*jc@We8Na(;Q? XdAnwon:G>a2t6F 4459Q+Vz 1cE1?{&E"8ZmF ] 3npfqCIE]4,^,# F&"+6M9^Z@6_Kn%o5XHj,.dnI=} {)A"#

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Cambridge University Press battles censorship in China - The Economist

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At Beijing book fair, publishers admit self-censorship – Yahoo News

Posted: at 3:36 am

Beijing (AFP) - Just days after the world's oldest publisher briefly caved in to Chinese censorship demands, international publishing houses are courting importers at a Beijing book fair, with some admitting they keep sensitive topics off their pages.

The censorship controversy that hit Cambridge University Press (CUP) sent a chill along the stands staffed by publishers from nearly 90 countries at the Beijing International Book Fair, which opened on Wednesday.

But some acknowledged their companies have already resorted to self-censorship to ensure that their books do not offend and are published in China.

CUP had given similar arguments when it initially complied with a Chinese import agency's demand to block articles from its China Quarterly journal, before reversing course on Monday after coming under fire from the academic community.

Terry Phillips, business development director of British-based Innova Press, was candid about it as he prepared to meet a Chinese counterpart at the fair's section for overseas publishers.

"We frequently exercise self-censorship to adapt to different markets. Every country has different sets of requirements about what they consider appropriate for education materials," Phillips told AFP.

"But as authors, I think we also have a responsibility to find ways to teach good citizenship and human rights," he said.

John Lowe, managing director of Mosaic8, an Asian educational publishing specialist based in Tokyo, said the authorities govern the distribution of the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) that companies need for their books to be sold in China.

"So it is in publishers' interest to not publish something that would anger authorities," Lowe said.

"You don't mention the three 'Ts': Tiananmen, Tibet and Taiwan. But it's usually fine to discuss human rights issues generally," Lowe said.

- CUP quiet -

The 300 articles that were temporarily removed from China Quarterly's website in China included texts on the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, the status of Tibet, the self-ruled island of Taiwan and the Chinese democracy movement.

CUP had said last Friday that it wanted "to ensure that other academic and educational materials we publish remain available to researchers and educators in this market".

In an about-face, the publisher announced on Monday that it was restoring access to the articles after international academics criticised CUP for succumbing to Chinese pressure and launched a petition demanding that it reverse course.

But the US-based Association for Asian Studies revealed this week that CUP had received a request from China's General Administration of Press and Publications to remove 100 articles from another publication, the Journal of Asian Studies.

Cambridge University officials said they would discuss the censorship issue with the importer at the book fair, which runs until Sunday, after expressing concern about "the recent increase in requests of this nature".

Rita Yan, a CUP coordinator at the publisher's booth, told AFP that the censorship issue "wasn't affecting our activities at the book fair."

Yan declined to comment further and said CUP's managing director of academic publishing was unable to speak with the press because she was occupied with meetings.

- Censorship: 'A selling point' -

Other publishers participating in the fair said the uproar has created an atmosphere of anxiety about censorship.

"Currently, we don't have any problems, but in the future, we don't know," said Ding Yueting, a marketer for Wiley, an educational publisher and research service based in New Jersey.

A representative of a large American publishing house, who requested anonymity because she was not authorised to speak to the press, said: "We're nervous about whether there will be increased censorship requests from Chinese agencies in the future."

But a representative of another major American publisher, who also requested anonymity, said that a factor influencing self-censorship decisions is that there would be "no point" in producing books that will likely get banned.

"It would be embarrassing to go through the trouble of translating a book from English to Chinese, and then being unable to publish in China," he said.

"On the other hand, books that are censored in China often sell better abroad," he said.

"It's usually a major selling point."

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At Beijing book fair, publishers admit self-censorship - Yahoo News

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Delingpole: Thomas Wictor Is the Latest Victim of Google Censorship – Breitbart News

Posted: at 3:35 am

YouTube has suspended his account allegedly because he violated their terms of use; but really, he suspects, for the crime of being a Trump supporter who speaks unpalatable truths about leftist evils.

If youre unfamiliar with Thomas Wictor, youre missing a treat. Hes a Venezuelan-born recluse with a rich and varied past who, besides being the worlds greatest (and only) expert on World War I flamethrowers, also happens to produce some of the most fascinating Twitter threads and social media video commentary you will ever see on subjects ranging from Antifa to Pallywood to whats really going on in Syria and Iraq.

Some of his output is so kooky and recondite that, quite possibly, it strays into the realm of conspiracy theory.

But with Wictor you can never be quite sure because his exposition is so thorough and well-documented.

One of his specialties is forensic video analysis. This is how I first came across him, a few years back, when I wrote my first Breitbart News story based on his research. It concerned the four Palestinian boys supposedly blown up on a beach by Israeli artillery during the last Gaza conflict but really, or so Wictor claimed, murdered by Hamas who then exploited the dead children for propaganda purposes.

More recently he has attracted a big following on Twitter thanks to his epic threads which examine the truth behind various news stories, especially ones relating either to the Middle East or Antifas domestic terrorism.

This, he believes, is what got him into trouble with the lefts political correctness sentinels.

He told me:

I was able to prove at least three attempted murders by Antifa at Berkeley on April 15, 2017. In the video above [now deleted by YouTube], the Antifa member used a Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife.

The Fairbairn-Sykes is a double-edged stabbing weapon. It produces deep wounds that bleed heavily, making it hard to save the victim. It was only incompetence on the part of Antifa and sheer luck that the free-speech supporter didnt die. The Antifa member stabbed four times. Thats attempted murder in the first degree.

The reason I came to the attention of Google was that Donald Trump Jr retweeted me. After that, my YouTube account came under almost daily assault until it was terminated.

On Twitter, I support Jews, Shia Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Christians, blacks, whites I see no religion or color. My blog posts were all technical.

The last detail is important because, according to Googles explanations as to why his YouTube account was first closed temporarily then permanently, his videos had inappropriate content.

Eventually, Wictors account was killed with death-by-faceless-bureaucracy. (Ive included the full private thread of Wictors communication with me because its soclassically Thomas Wictor)

This is the internets loss and reflects ill on both YouTube and Google.

Happily, his Twitter threads are still operative and todays is another classic. It concerns a story aboutState Rep. Beth Fukumoto (D-Hawaii) and her claim reported in Huffington Post that she receivedracistcorrespondence from a Trump supporter.

Wictor has strong suspicions that it is a hoax because, using photos of the letter and envelope from the internet, he has subjected the correspondence to forensic analysis.

Read the full thread to find out why he thinks it is fake. Its classic Wictor.


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Delingpole: Thomas Wictor Is the Latest Victim of Google Censorship - Breitbart News

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Tech Companies and Censorship: Where Should We Draw The Line? –

Posted: August 22, 2017 at 11:28 pm

This has been a tough week.

Starting with the terrible event that occurred last weekend in Charlottesville, VA, where clashes between neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups erupted into fights and violence and led to death of one protester.

Throughout the week, the event continued to gain steam when President Trump commented about the incident, then made a second comment, then held an unprecedented press conference that even members of his own party condemned.

As prominent CEOs's of the President's manufacturing council began to drop out, several tech companies began or intensified their crack down on hate speech and banning of alt-right and neo-Nazi websites. According to PBS News, here are just a few big names and their actions:

Cloudflare, a company that provides security services to internet companies to protect them from hackers, also joined the movement by also dropping The Daily Stormer from its network services. The move was a bit of a surprise, because Matthew Prince, co-founder and CEO of Cloudflare, has long been an advocate of free speech saying that "a website is speech, it is not a bomb,"

Cloudfire took the action, however, because management determined that the The Daily Stormer was harassing individuals who were reporting their site as abusive. Prince was also clear that he and the company found the content on the site "abhorrent and vile" and in a company memo stated that "the tipping point for us making this decision was that the team behind Daily Stormer made the claim that we were secretly supporters of their ideology ... we could not remain neutral after these claims of secret support by Cloudflare."

While these actions by tech companies seen by most as the proper and moral thing to do, some have rightfully questioned the ability of businesses in general to have such a significant influence on the fundamental right of free speech online -- censoring or even removing it altogether.

Prince goes on to say that entrepreneurs -- and society at large -- need to ask ourselves who should be responsible for policing and regulating online content. "I sit in a very privileged position," said Prince, "I see about 10 percent of all online traffic, and I can make a decision whether they can be online anymore. And I'm not sure I am the one who should be making that kind of decision."

The the question for all of us is who should be?

We are all affording the freedom of speech and expression -- a very unique, precious and delicate gift. We have also been afforded, through the sacrifice of many generations, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

When these two rights intersect and conflict, we need a moral standard -- not the constitution -- to moderate.

Of course, the question then becomes who gets to decide the moral standard?

Luckily, we have a democratic system in place that allows the country's citizens to select representatives who serve as the law makers that mold this standard. Is our system flawed -- absolutely -- but as Winston Churchill astutely recognized, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others."

When it comes to tech companies -- or any company for that matter -- they have an obligation to follow the law -- and that is about it. As Prince contends, the right policy is for content providers to be "content neutral." The community can be policed by its users in the form reporting reprehensible content, and companies have the obligations to engage experts and authorities in law enforcement to determine what should be removed.

Of course, if some companies wish to write and maintain an internal set of codes and as long as those codes do not infringe upon or otherwise break a law, a company has every right to do so. Customers who disagree can exercise their freedom of speech to voice their opinion or simply "protest with their wallets."

This debate will surely not end anytime soon, and by all indications, it is just getting started.

What do you think? Should censorship be under the management of companies, or should content be continued to be given freedoms under the right to free speech? Please share your (constructive and civil) comments below.

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Concerns About Censorship Soar As Russia Detains Director – Forward

Posted: at 11:28 pm

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A prominent Russian theater director who has lamented what he says is the lack of freedom and growing social conservatism in his country was detained on Tuesday and accused of embezzling state funds.

Russias Investigative Committee said it suspected Kirill Serebrennikov of embezzling at least 68 million rubles ($1.15 million) in state funds earmarked for an art project, it said in a statement.

Serebrennikov, artistic director at Moscows avant-garde Gogol Centre theater, denies wrongdoing. He faces up to 10 years in jail if found guilty.

Dmitry Kharitonov, a lawyer for Serebrennikov, said his client was detained in St. Petersburg where he was working on a film about a Soviet rock star.

Serebrennikov, an award-winning director whose father was Jewish, has used his work to criticize the authorities in the past, lashing out at what he sees as the pernicious growing role of the state and church in Russian society.

His detention shocked his supporters and the arts world.

The arrest of the director before a trial is a clearly excessive measure, wrote Alexei Kudrin, a liberal economist and former finance minister, on social media.

In May, investigators searched Serebrennikovs home and office and questioned him as a witness in an embezzlement case.

His lawyer could not immediately say if Serebrennikovs detention was linked to the same case or a different one. The accountant and general director of Serebrennikovs theater have already been accused of stealing state funds.

As The New York Times reported, well-regarded Russian cultural figures spoke out on Serebrennikovs behalf following both the earlier searches and his arrest. When Russian President Vladimir V. Putin gave a state award to the actor Yevgeny V. Mironov in May, Mironov passed him a letter advocating for Serebrennikov. And the literary critic and television host Aleksandr Arkhangelsky posted a Facebook status that, in the Times translation, was damning towards the authorities: Those who do this cover themselves with shame, he wrote.

In July, the Bolshoi Theatre postponed the world premiere of Nureyev, an edgy ballet about the famous Russian dancer which was directed by Serebrennikov.

The TASS news agency reported that Russias minister for culture had a long conversation with the Bolshoi before it announced it was postponing the premiere.

But Vladimir Urin, the theatres director general, said it had been pulled because rehearsals had shown it was not ready. He said it would be staged in May next year instead.

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Why India’s Battle Against Film Censorship Isn’t Over Yet | IndieWire – IndieWire

Posted: at 11:28 pm

Movies lovers in India and advocates of artistic freedom everywhere breathed a sigh of relief on August 18, when filmmaker Pahlaj Nihalani the censorious chairman of the countrys film certification body was fired from his post. He was quickly replaced by screenwriter and advertising icon Prasoon Joshi. Nihalanis firing signals a positive direction for the countrys relationship to censorship but the chain of events has opened up several thorny questions.

See MoreWhy India Continues to Censor New Movies

India is the worlds most prolific filmmaking country, but movie news coming out of the subcontinent is often fraught with tales of censorship, bans and the public outrage as a result. According to the Indian Constitution, no film is eligible for public distribution or screening unless certified by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). To complicate matters further, the relevant Act in the Constitution (which hails from 1952) allows the CBFC to prohibit films that threaten the sovereignty of the Indian nation, its national interest, decency or morality. Over the years, members of the board have utilized the vague language in the Constitutions text to get scissor-happy with countless films.

For example, India employs the controversial practice of adding on-screen disclaimers to any smoking scene that are intrusive at best, overwhelming at worst. This found no favor with Woody Allen, who back in 2013 decided not to release Blue Jasmine in India rather than cave in to such demands. This trend only worsened when Nihalani was appointed to the chairpersons post in 2015.

Blue Jasmine

Within a month of joining the body, Nihalani sent his colleagues a list of objectionable words that were to be censored in any film submitted for approval. The list included words such as masturbating and Bombay, the colonial name for Mumbai. It was a lost cause: Filmmakers across the country and some members of the CBFC itself lodged vehement protests that blocked Nihalanis efforts. However, ad hoc decisions were still made with various films; the word lesbian was muted in a romantic comedy and the durations of the kisses in the Bond film Spectre were ordered to be cut down by exactly 50%.

During his term, Nihalani never shied away from the limelight and often spoke at length about the rationale of his decisions. The colorful nature of his statements only added to his infamy. When asked in an interview why the kisses in Spectre were a problem at their intended length, he responded, This means you want to do sex in your house with your door open. And show to people the way you are doing sex.

Perhaps the most well-known decision of Nihalanis term as CBFC chairperson was the bodys refusal to grant approval to feminist sex comedy Lipstick Under My Burkha. In their letter to the films producer, they claimed that the story is lady-oriented, their fantasy above life and that there are contanious [sic] sexual scenes. (Whether they meant continuous or contagious has never been addressed.) The letter and CBFCs antics attracted worldwide attention, the criticism of artists and film festivals; in a beautiful example of the Streisand Effect, not only did Lipstick Under My Burkha eventually win certification but also punched above its weight at the box-office.

Joshi, the new chairperson, seems far more progressive and less trigger-happy in his public statements. As a lyricist, he has twice won the National Film Award, the highest such honor in India. In 2003, a campaign he orchestrated for Coca-Cola India won the Golden Lion at the Cannes International Advertising Festival. In past interviews, he has expressed a refreshing open-mindedness. (One example: I believe that ideally we should have a society where no censorship is required.) He is also generally admired in Indias film industry, where professionals respect his talent and experience.

Lipstick Under My Burkha


However, Joshis proximity to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) the biggest part of Indias ruling coalition ought to raise a few eyebrows. He has frequently worked on their political campaigns. For the BJPs campaign for the 2014 general elections, Joshi helped with the iconic Acche Din (Good times!) catchphrase, a message as integral to the BJPs positioning as Make America Great Again was to Donald Trumps Presidential campaign. Coincidentally, once the BJP formed the government at the center, Joshi was awarded with the Padma Shri, Indias fourth-highest civilian honor, for his contributions in the field of arts, literature and advertising.

Speaking with reporters in Mumbai after his appointment was made public, Joshi revealed that he did not know how [the CBFC] functions and that it takes time to understand the whole process. The credentials required to head a certification body are not amenable to bullet points, but Joshis statements make one wonder on what basis the government considers someone worthy of being appointed to the powerful post overlooking the distribution of every single film in the country. Among Joshis colleagues in the Board are several individuals with links to the BJP, some of whom have made inflammatory and partisan statements in the past.

In an ideal world, the CBFC would stick to its original mandate: certifying films in order to help them reach their audiences. There would be no need for filmmakers to fear cuts to their labor of love or for producers to be anxious about their release dates. Removing Nihalani is a step in the right direction, but a lot more remains to be done.

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Ban of white nationalist website raising fears of government censorship – Washington Times

Posted: at 11:28 pm

Major internet companies rush to oust a white nationalist website last week could make it tougher for tech companies and open-net advocates to try to keep the government from censoring websites in the future, the CEO of one of the companies said.

GoDaddy, Google and Cloudflare a company that protects sites from being knocked off-line all booted Daily Stormer from their services after the white nationalist website cheered the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and mocked the 32-year-old woman killed in the aftermath.

Matthew Prince, CEO for Cloudflare, acknowledged the decision makes it harder for his company to fight against pressure by some governments to take down a website in the future.

I dont know the right answer, but I do know that as we work it out its critical we be clear, transparent, consistent and respectful of Due Process, Mr. Prince wrote in his statement.

At a time when open-internet advocates are pushing policies such as net neutrality, the quick moves to punish the online presence rally participants or sympathizers worried activists who said the companies appeared to be making up the rules as they went along.

We think that there is a better route to making decisions that impact fundamental rights like freedom of expression than what appeared to be pretty ad hoc decisions being made right now, said Peter Micek, general counsel for Access Now.

Daily Stormer took the brunt of the online blowback last week, getting kicked off hosting sites. Twitter also banned an account that shared links to stories from the controversial site, while Facebook expunged all efforts to share the offending article that mocked the woman killed in Charlottesville.

But Facebook allowed the article to remain posted as long as it was accompanied by criticism of Daily Stormer or its white nationalist views.

Floyd Abrams, a prominent First Amendment lawyer, said he thinks its a good thing for the Facebooks of the world to ban certain types of racist speech, although he admits editorial editing from these sites is not without concern.

There is an inherent danger when so many people get so much of their information from, say, Facebook that when Facebook makes the decision not to carry something, the public is effectively deprived, said Mr. Abrams.

Meanwhile, OkCupid, an online dating site, banned one user who admitted to being a part of the white nationalist protests.

The kind of viewpoint refereeing the sites engaged in is likely legal because the sites are private, experts said.

I dont see that as adding any exposure to the service provider because they already have the ability as a private actor and as a commercial provider to determine who they are going to work with, to contract with or, if you will, even to discipline, said Brigadier Gen. Michael McDaniel, a professor at WMU-Cooley Law School.

But Mr. Abrams said tension is created when these sites engage in editing but are still protected from liability under the law.

Thats something that all these companies must be thinking about carefully, he said.

A spokesperson for Google said they ousted Daily Stormer because they feared Googles terms of use would be violated.

Twitter declined to comment, while GoDaddy and Facebook didnt respond to questions about their censorship decisions.

Mr. Prince at Cloudflare admitted to Gizmodo that he made an exception to their policy in canceling Daily Stormer but insisted he hadnt set a new precedent.

I think we have to have a conversation over what part of the infrastructure stack is right to police content, he said.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation said what hosting companies such as GoDaddy and Cloudflare did was more worrisome than the social media companies censorship.

With a content host that is like a social media site, they can just take down one post or eliminate one bit of content whereas Cloudflare and GoDaddy and so on, they cant, said Jeremy Malcolm, senior global policy analyst at Electronic Frontier Foundation. They had to take down an entire website, and that gives a lot more risk of taking down legitimate speech along with the problematic speech.

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Measuring the Internet for Freedom – Project Syndicate

Posted: at 11:28 pm

ROME Last year, during a wave of deadly political protests in Ethiopia, the government blocked more than 15 media websites and the smartphone chat application WhatsApp. Sites promoting freedom of expression and LGBTQ+ rights, as well as those offering censorship-circumvention tools, such as Tor and Psiphon, were also suppressed.

All of this was uncovered through the use of software called ooniprobe, which is designed to measure networks and detect Internet censorship. Ooniprobe was developed more than five years ago by the Tor-supported Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI), with which I work, in order to boost transparency, accountability, and oversight of Internet censorship. The software is free and open source, meaning that anyone can use it. And, indeed, tens of thousands of ooniprobe users from more than 190 countries have already done just that.

Those users have contributed to the collection of millions of network measurements, all of which are published on OONI Explorer, arguably the largest publicly available resource on Internet censorship. Thanks to their use of ooniprobe, we uncovered the extent of last years wave of censorship in Ethiopia, as well as details of many other cases of censorship elsewhere in the world.

In Uganda, local groups used ooniprobe during last years general election, when the government blocked social media. Ooniprobes network-measurement data not only confirmed the governments action; it also uncovered which sites were blocked and the different methods used by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to implement censorship.

Ooniprobe also came in handy in Malaysia in 2015. Facing accusations that he had transferred nearly $700 million from the state investment fund 1MDB to his personal bank accounts, Prime Minister Najib Razak attempted to block news outlets and blogs that reported on the scandal. It was ooniprobes network-measurement software that enabled Malaysian civil-society groups to collect data that serve as evidence of the blocking.

Of course, censorship is not always carried out to protect the politically powerful; it can also be used to reinforce social and cultural norms. In Indonesia, for example, low social tolerance for homosexuality may have played a role in the blocking of numerous LGBTQ+ websites, even though the country does not officially restrict LGBTQ+ rights. Similar factors may have influenced efforts to block sites perceived as overly critical of Islam.

In Thailand, ISPs have, in the last three years, blocked access to a number of sites that are perceived to be offensive toward the countrys royal family. But, here, there is a legal justification: Thailands strict prohibition against lse-majest protects the royal familys most senior members from insult or threat. Other cases of legally justified Internet censorship include the blocking of sexually explicit websites in countries where pornography is prohibited.

Then there are cases where the motivation for censorship is unclear. Why, for example, has an online dating site been blocked in Malaysia? In some countries, ISPs appear to be censoring sites at their own discretion. According to ooniprobe data, multiple Thai ISPs simultaneously blocked access to different types of websites from news outlets to Wikileaks to pornography indicating that they likely received vague orders from authorities.

Before ooniprobe, such censorship was difficult to detect, leading to a lack of accountability, with governments and ISPs often denying any and all involvement. Even in cases where governments announce official lists of blocked sites, they may leave some targets off. Likewise, ISPs may not always comply with official orders to lift blocks. Vimeo and Reddit, for example, were recently found to be blocked in some networks in Indonesia, even though the official ban on those sites was lifted more than two years ago.

With ooniprobe, users are not only able to expose Internet censorship; they can also acquire substantial detail about how, when, where, and by whom the censorship is being implemented. OONIs Web-Connectivity Test, for example, is designed to examine whether access to websites is blocked through DNS tampering, TCP/IP blocking, or a transparent HTTP proxy.

Other ooniprobe tests are designed to examine the accessibility of chat apps namely, WhatsApp, Telegram, and Facebook Messenger within networks, as well as that of censorship-circumvention tools, such as Tor, Psiphon, and Lantern. OONI also provides software tests that uncover the presence of systems (middle boxes) that could potentially be responsible for censorship or surveillance.

The depth of OONI data supports much-needed accountability and oversight. Lawyers can use OONI data to assess the legality of Internet censorship in their countries, and potentially introduce it as evidence in court cases. Journalists, researchers, and human-rights defenders can use the data to inform their work as well. And censorship-circumvention projects like Tor can use OONI findings on emergent censorship events to shape their tools and strategies.

OONI data can help enrich public discourse about the legality, necessity, and proportionality of Internet censorship. That makes it a critical tool for safeguarding human rights on the Internet and beyond.

Todays media landscape is littered with landmines: open hostility by US President Donald Trump, increased censorship in countries such as Hungary, Turkey, and Zambia, growing financial pressure, and the challenge of "fake news." In Press Released, Project Syndicate, in partnership with the European Journalism Centre, provides a truly global platform to frame and stimulate debate about the myriad challenges facing the press today.

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Grappling Championships Use Bitcoin To Circumvent Censorship … – Bitcoin News (press release)

Posted: August 20, 2017 at 5:47 pm

Bitcoin proponents often talk about the many benefits the decentralized currency can offer the world, and one of these attributes is bitcoins censorship resistance. This week chatted with, Firas Zahabi, a well known Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) grappling trainer from Canada who decided to use bitcoin as an incentive to promote online grappling events.

Also read: Markets Update: Bitcoin Cash Rallies for Three Solid Days

Firas Zahabi has trained many champion MMA fighters and is the founder of Tristar Gym, a grappling martial arts training center located in Quebec, Canada. The gym is well known as one of the worlds top MMA training camps, and grappling fights are very popular in the region. However, Zahabi tells us over a phone conversation that the local governments in Canada have deemed holding MMA events illegal. Grappling martial arts itself is legal in the region, but MMA events are not allowed, which gives young Canadian fighters less of an opportunity to compete and show their skills. So Zahabi decided to create online events on Youtube which he calls the Pure Victory Championship and fighters compete for bitcoin prizes. Zahabi believes the act of hosting events online decentralizes the playing field and bitcoin leaves the middle man out of the equation. (BC): Can you tell our readers about the Pure Victory Championship?

Firas Zahabi (FZ): Recently they made grappling events illegal where Im from here in Quebec, and then they made events illegal in Ontario. Quebec is a hotbed for grappling talent, and the biggest MMA event in the world called the Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) is happening soon, and two of my students are attending this year. So grappling in Quebec is really popular, but the local governments made it illegal because there was bickering back and forth between event promoters that were calling the cops on each other. They were trying to cancel each others events and corner the market.

Law enforcement got tired of all these calls, and now we are not allowed to have grappling events. Grappling is perfectly legal still, but holding grappling events here is illegal. Alongside this, Canada recently declared bitcoin as a commodity, and to the government, its not money, not a currency. So Im not allowed to hold events and give out prize money, but we are allowed to film and upload ourselves fighting online. And now the fighters get bitcoin, and its kinda like them getting a free t-shirt or swag, because I am giving them a commodity as a prize for participation. We thought it was an excellent idea and the viewers can tip the fighters as well and our grapplers have been making money during an event. The grapplers are also enthusiastic about competing again in the future and the audience absolutely loves it.

Its been all positive feedback and people are following the events. We only have four episodes so far and the fifth episode should launch next week. Its really creating a great buzz with just four episodes.

BC: How much bitcoin have the fighters been getting?

FZ: Theyve been getting roughly $100-300 dollars in bitcoin between winnings and tips. Dont forget that theyre getting bitcoin and that could be worth a lot in the future. This is only after one match, and when you grapple you have to pay to compete, so it helps the fighters earn. Further, these episodes could still give fighters some earnings, and after twenty videos it will create a fishnet effect. I think the fighters havent finished collecting and once they get more and more popular they create a bigger following, and the prizes will get bigger.

BC: What gave you the idea to include bitcoin into these events?

FZ: The politics and the government. They need to let young fighters have a place to release their energy. If these kids cant find anything to do they will likely find some trouble and grappling is such an amazing outlet for the youth. Not only are they getting fit but they are exercising their minds, and they are building a whole community. We are a thriving community, and they just came and shut us down. Could you imagine if they made baseball events illegal? I dont understand it, these kids need an outlet rather than being in the pool halls and the streets. Martial arts is one of the most constructive things a human being can do, especially in their youth.

So I said lets decentralize jiu-jitsu. If we cant have grappling events how can we monetize our skills? The middleman is just such a problem, hes always sticking his hands in our pocket and always bullying us. So lets decentralize our jiu-jitsu, lets make it so the audience can see the competitors compete, pay them in cryptocurrency and remove the middleman.

So my next phase for Pure Victory Championship will be global and what Im going to do is let fighters film their match, and if your game is good enough I will air it, and the winner will get $300 in cryptocurrency. Which is a lot for fighters just starting off, and the internet is hard to stop.

BC: Did the government give a formal explanation to why they made grappling events illegal?

FZ: No they told us if you have any more grappling events they will come and shut us down, and they have already. One major grappling event was canceled with hundreds of competitors. So what Im hoping to do is put the power back into the competitors hands.

BC: Have the fighters mentioned anything about receiving cryptocurrency as a prize?

FZ: They love it, every fighter loves it. Look at the price of bitcoin right now. The guy who recently got $100 worth of BTC is pumped as its worth about $300-400 right now.

The world loves MMA and its a very popular sport and grappling enthusiasts are going to hear an awful lot about cryptocurrency this year.

What do you think about FirasZahabis Pure Victory Championships? Let us know in the comments below.

Images via Pixabay,,FirasZahabis, and Pure Victory Championship

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