EU keeps former Soviet countries at arm's length

van EU Observer - 1 uur 22 min geleden
The EU kept former Soviet states at arm's length in the Riga summit, held in the shadow of Russia's aggression in Ukraine. Greece and the UK referendum gatecrashed the event.

Categorieën: Europees nieuws

Once Again, Just Because Someone Used Backpage.com For Trafficking, Doesn't Mean Backpage Is Liable

van TechDirt - 1 uur 22 min geleden

The criminal activity alleged may be horrific, but that's a non-factor when it comes to the consideration of protections afforded to website owners who host third-party content. The ongoing lawsuit against Backpage.com, filed by victims of sex trafficking (who were minors at the time), has reached an end. (Until appealed, of course.)

The arguments deployed by the plaintiffs were nothing new. In numerous cases, ranging from defamation claims to alleged prostitution of minors, plaintiffs have made similar arguments. The theory -- unsupported by law or common sense -- that website owners should be held legally responsible for the postings of others isn't novel. But it has yet to find a court willing to advance the theory. Why? Because doing so would result in the following sort of ridiculousness, which, while ridiculous, would chill free speech and cause many website owners to get out of the website-owning business. In their lawsuit against Backpage.com, the plaintiffs—three women who were forced into selling sex as teenage runaways—argued similarly, saying that because their trafficker found clients on Backpage, the website was responsible for their exploitation. But by this logic, Facebook is guilty whenever anyone posts a threat there, Craigslist is culpable should a landlord want "females only," and Reason is guilty should any of you folks broker a drug deal in the comments. Thankfully, section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, passed in 1996, established that the Internet doesn't work this way. A federal district court in Massachussetts addresses the multiple allegations by the plaintiffs in their argument seeking to find Backpage.com responsible for the postings of others, and finds that even in the totality, it fails to rise to the level needed to strip the site of its Section 230 protections. Singly or in the aggregate, the allegedly sordid practices of Backpage identified by amici amount to neither affirmative participation in an illegal venture nor active web content creation. Nothing in the escorts section of Backpage requires users to offer or search for commercial sex with children. The existence of an escorts section in a classified ad service, whatever its social merits, is not illegal. The creation of sponsored ads with excerpts taken from the original posts reflects the illegality (or legality) of the original posts and nothing more. Similarly, the automatic generation of navigational path names that identify the ads as falling within the “escorts” category is not content creation. The stripping of metadata from photographs is a standard practice among Internet service providers. Hosting anonymous users and accepting payments from anonymous sources in Bitcoins, peppercorns, or whatever, might have been made illegal by Congress, but it was not. Backpage’s passivity and imperfect filtering system may be appropriate targets for criticism, but they do not transform Backpage into an information content provider. Summing it up -- after dismissing all claims -- the court notes that the sexual trafficking of children is abhorrent, but that Section 230 protections aren't a sliding scale to be applied with varying amounts of force depending on the severity of the alleged actions. To avoid any misunderstanding, let me make it clear that the court is not unsympathetic to the tragic plight described by Jane Doe No. 1, Jane Doe No. 2, and Jane Doe No. 3. Nor does it regard the sexual trafficking of children as anything other than an abhorrent evil. Finally, the court is not naïve – I am fully aware that sex traffickers and other purveyors of illegal wares ranging from drugs to pornography exploit the vulnerabilities of the Internet as a marketing tool. Whether one agrees with its stated policy or not (a policy driven not simply by economic concerns, but also by technological and constitutional considerations), Congress has made the determination that the balance between suppression of trafficking and freedom of expression should be struck in favor of the latter in so far as the Internet is concerned. Putting aside the moral judgment that one might pass on Backpage’s business practices, this court has no choice but to adhere to the law that Congress has seen fit to enact. This is buttressed by a quote from another decision, quoted earlier in the discussion of the plaintiffs' claims -- one that deals specifically with another abhorrent criminal act. Child pornography obviously is intolerable, but civil immunity for interactive service providers does not constitute “tolerance” of child pornography any more than civil immunity from the numerous other forms of harmful content that third parties may create constitutes approval of that content. Section 230 does not limit anyone’s ability to bring criminal or civil actions against the actual wrongdoers, the individuals who actually create and consume the child pornography. Here, both the neighbor [who created the child pornography] and the moderator of the Candyman web site have been prosecuted and are serving sentences in federal prison. Further, the section 230(e)(1) exemption permits law enforcement authorities to bring criminal charges against even interactive service providers in the event that they themselves actually violate federal criminal laws. In essence, just because it's easier to pursue site owners than criminals, and that any recovery of damages may seem more likely, doesn't make it the correct path for retribution. Those who trafficked these plaintiffs are the wrongdoers, not the site that hosted these criminals' ads.

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Categorieën: Technieuws

Daily Deal: M535 Wireless Optical Mouse

van TechDirt - 1 uur 30 min geleden
The proper desk set up can help you avoid injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome. Part of a good ergonomic set up is an adjustable mouse like the M535 Wireless Optical Mouse available in the store for 50% off. Gamers and desk jockeys will like that you can adjust the mouse's size to fit your hand and you can assign functions to seven different buttons to create shortcuts for common tasks. It comes with a button to send your cursor back to the center of the screen and customization is simple with the easy to use control panel. The mouse is compatible with Windows only and ships free to the continental US.

Note: We earn a portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team.

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Categorieën: Technieuws

[Opinion] Balkan Putinism, besieged

van EU Observer - 2 uur 10 min geleden
Political regimes in Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro are able to survive partly due to the EU’s general lack of an assertive neighborhood policy.

Categorieën: Europees nieuws

FBI Director Claims That The World's Most Knowledgeable Cybersecurity Experts Are Not 'Fair Minded' About Encryption Backdoors

van TechDirt - 2 uur 29 min geleden
Earlier this week, we noted that a huge list of companies, non-profits and cybersecurity experts had signed a letter to the White House about the stupidity and danger of trying to order backdoors into encryption (disclaimer: we signed the letter as well). While many in the press focused on the companies that had signed onto the letter (including Google, Apple, Cisco, Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook), as we noted, what was much more interesting was the long list of cybersecurity/encryption experts who signed onto the letter. Just in case you don't feel like searching it out, I'll post the entire list of those experts after this post.

It's a who's who of the brightest minds in encryption and cryptography. Whitfield Diffie invented public key cryptography. Phil Zimmermann created PGP. Ron Rivest is the "R" in "RSA." Peter Neumann has been working on these issues for decades before I was even born. And many more on the list are just as impressive.

So how do you think FBI director James Comey -- who has been leading the charge on backdooring encryption -- responded to these experts?

By calling them uninformed.

I wish I was joking. A group of tech companies and some prominent folks wrote a letter to the President yesterday that I frankly found depressing. Because their letter contains no acknowledgment that there are societal costs to universal encryption. Look, I recognize the challenges facing our tech companies. Competitive challenges, regulatory challenges overseas, all kinds of challenges. I recognize the benefits of encryption, but I think fair-minded people also have to recognize the costs associated with that. And I read this letter and I think, “Either these folks don’t see what I see or they’re not fair-minded.” And either one of those things is depressing to me. So I’ve just got to continue to have the conversation. First of all, it's kind of hilarious for the FBI director to be arguing that the people who signed that letter haven't done a cost-benefit analysis, since we've noted that the intelligence and law enforcement communities almost never do such an analysis. They always insist "more surveillance" must be better, without considering the costs involved.

And then there's this, showing that Comey still doesn't understand the letter at all: We’ve got to have a conversation long before the logic of strong encryption takes us to that place. And smart people, reasonable people will disagree mightily. Technical people will say it’s too hard. My reaction to that is: Really? Too hard? Too hard for the people we have in this country to figure something out? I’m not that pessimistic. I think we ought to have a conversation. Hey, Comey! No one is saying it's "too hard." They're saying it's IMPOSSIBLE to do this without weakening everyone's security. Impossible. It's not a "hard" problem, it's an impossible problem. Because if you weaken security to let the FBI in, by definition you are weakening the security to let others in as well. That's the point that was being made.

And this is important. For all of the ridiculous claims by Comey and others that we need to "have a conversation" on this, we do not. A conversation is counterproductive. All of these people can and should be working on systems to make us all more safe and secure. But if they have to keep explaining to ignorant folks like Comey why this is a bad idea, then they are taken away from making us safer. You can have a discussion over things that are hard. But there is no point in having a discussion over things that are impossible.

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Categorieën: Technieuws

[Opinion] Innovative lessons across the Atlantic

van EU Observer - 2 uur 49 min geleden
Europe has its own Internet success stories like Skype, Snapchat and Spotify. But are they given the right atmosphere to grow and prosper?

Categorieën: Europees nieuws

[Feature] EU to analyse role of Facebook and Google

van EU Observer - 2 uur 51 min geleden
The EU will start an assessment into the role of online platforms. But the increased influence of internet companies has already been discussed by 'internet critics' for several years.

Categorieën: Europees nieuws

[Ticker] Juncker to meet Cameron Monday

van EU Observer - 3 uur 25 min geleden
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker will meet British leader David Cameron on Monday (25 May) in the UK, Juncker's spokesperson said Friday. The meeting comes as Cameron is seeking EU reforms before he holds a referendum on EU membership before the end of 2017.

Categorieën: Europees nieuws

Why Is The Attorney General Making Claims About PATRIOT Act That Her Own Agency's Report Says Are Not True?

van TechDirt - 3 uur 36 min geleden
We already posted about the new DOJ Inspector General report analyzing the FBI's use of the PATRIOT Act's Section 215 "business records" collection. Among the various things in the unredacted sections of the report is yet another claim (following on many similar statements) that the Section 215 program has never been shown to actually be that useful: That wasn't all that interesting on its own, given how many times others (including many with the security clearance and access to know) have made the same point. But what's incredibly troubling is that the very same day that this report came out, Attorney General Loretta Lynch was making the rounds claiming the exact opposite.

Meanwhile, today Attorney General Loretta Lynch weighed in on the debate in Congress, claiming the exact opposite. She was quoted by CBS News as saying that if Patriot Act Section 215 expires: “[W]e lose important tools. I think that we lose the ability to intercept these communications, which have proven very important in cases that we have built in the past.” (emphasis mine)

So to sum up: the Justice Department’s own Inspector General said information collected under Section 215 did not lead to "any major case developments,” but the Attorney General said that Section 215 has “proven very important in cases that we have built.” Both statements cannot be true.

And, remember, the Attorney General is the head of the Justice Department. It certainly sounds like she's either woefully uninformed or outright lying. She is new at the job, but not so new that she wouldn't know these basic facts.

And, in some ways it gets even worse. As Patrick Eddington points out, Lynch appears to be directly calling for the continuation of a program that the 2nd Circuit appeals court just declared illegal. Doesn't that raise some fairly important questions, when you have the Attorney General -- the person officially in charge of enforcing our laws insisting that we need to continue an illegal program?

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Categorieën: Technieuws

Sony Uses Copyright To Force Verge To Takedown Its Copy Of Sony's Spotify Contract

van TechDirt - 5 uur 39 min geleden
Well, well. A few days ago, the Verge got a huge scoop in the form of Sony's original US contract with Spotify, leading to a ton of discussion (mostly focused around the huge "advances" that Spotify guaranteed Sony, and the related question of whether or not Sony actually passes those advances on to musicians). The debate raged on for a couple days, and late last night, Paul Resnikoff over at Digital Music News noticed something interesting: the original contract was now missing, and The Verge's own website claims it's due to a copyright threat from Sony: On Twitter, the Verge's editor-in-chief Nilay Patel admits that a threat from Sony forced the site to take down the contract. In fact, he claims that Sony actually sent four cease and desist letters claiming copyright infringement: Earlier this week, Resnikoff reported that Spotify was apparently putting pressure on publications not to report on the contract, including "dangling threats" to scare them off. However, Spotify would have no copyright argument here. As the Verge report (still) notes, the contract was "written by Sony Music," meaning that if there's any copyright claim (we'll get to that shortly), it's held by Sony Music.

And we all know damn well that Sony loves to throw around bogus copyright threats. Even we have received one concerning reporting on Sony Pictures' leaked emails. Sony has threatened lots of other publications as well, and even Twitter over such leaks. And, Resnikoff notes that Sony Music threatened his site for an April Fool's joke, pretending to reveal internal emails concerning Sony's equity stake in Spotify.

So here's the question: why did Vox (the owner of the Verge) cave? For a modern media operation, it must have lawyers that know the threat is bullshit.

Yes, it is possible to get a copyright over the contract, but it's likely to be a pretty thin copyright, because the amount of "creative" work in the contract is minimal. Much of the contract is likely boilerplate. But, more importantly, the Verge has a slam dunk fair use case here. They're providing commentary on the contract. It's a matter of public interest. They're not "selling" the contract and they're certainly not harming the "market" for the contract itself, of which there is none.

We actually dealt with this issue once before -- two years ago when Apple pulled the same bullshit move to pull down a contract that Resnikoff himself had posted on Digital Music News. Somewhat ironically, the first party to report on that... was the Verge! And in their report, they quoted law professor Eric Goldman noting the ridiculousness of it: "It's just kind of a jerk move. We all know what's happening here. Apple doesn't care about protecting the copyright of contracts. It's using copyright to try and suppress information that it doesn't want made public." Sounds about right when applied to Sony in this case. Besides, all this is really doing is drawing much more attention (yet again) to the contract, on a story that had already started to die down.

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Categorieën: Technieuws

Press, University Say Study Shows Link Between Gaming And Alzheimer's; Spoiler: No It Doesn't

van TechDirt - 7 uur 45 min geleden

If I've learned any single thing covering technology news it's that you can blame absolutely anything on video games. Mass violence? Games. Failure at professional sports? Pssh, games, yo. Love life not as spicy as you might like? Those games, those games. But a study that supposedly claims a link between video games and Alzheimer's Disease? Come on. “Call of Duty increases risk of Alzheimer’s disease”, said the Telegraph. “Video game link to psychiatric disorders suggested by study”, reported the Guardian. The Daily Mail posed the problem as a question, “Could video games increase your risk of Alzheimer’s?”, reminding us that whenever a news headline asks a question, the answer is no.

We know that when science news is hyped, most of the hype is already present in the press releases issued by universities. This case is no exception - the press release was issued by the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, and unsurprisingly it focuses almost entirely on the tenuous link to Alzheimer’s disease. Tenuous is being exceptionally kind in this case. The study in question, produced in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, barely focused on any link between gaming and the disease, in fact. Instead, the team of Canadian researchers were simply studying the difference in brain-wave activity with groups of gamers and non-gamers. They noticed specifically a significant difference in the activity of one type of brain-wave with gamers, N2PC, which can have an effect on attention spans. So, how did we get from that to a link to Alzheimer's? Were there clinical tests done? Was the team of researchers even in any way focused on the most famous form of dementia?

No. Instead, the article describes the methodology for reaching the conclusion of a link thusly: 1. The type of learning shown by the gamers has been associated in previous studies with increased use of a brain region called the caudate nucleus

2. Increased use of the caudate nucleus can be associated with reduced volume of the hippocampus

3. Reduced volume of the hippocampus can be associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease

4. Therefore (take a deep breath) video gaming could increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease That's three, three associations of mere correlation at best, with not even a shred of evidence for causality. And from that we get not only press reports of a link, which I can understand because the major media groups in Western culture have proven to be more interested in sensationalism than stuff that actually exists, but university institutions pushing out press releases to feed the hounds? That's not only wrong, it's borderline character-assassination on the wider gaming industry. Sadly, even some on the research team have gotten in on the act, likely in the hopes of generating press coverage of the study. The press release also includes a statement from the lead researcher that is a clear exaggeration. Dr Gregory West is quoted as saying “we also found that gamers rely on the caudate nucleus to a greater degree than non-gamers”. Actually they didn’t find this at all, because their study didn’t measure activity in the caudate nucleus. Instead it measured a type of behaviour that previous studies have associated with activity in the caudate nucleus. There is a world of difference between these two, and readers would do well to take these latest claims with a generous helping of salt. No, man! Salt intake is associated with water retention, which is associated with bloating, and weight-gain can be a factor in spousal infedelity, therefore salt leads to my wife cheating on me if I take these grains you prescribe!

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Categorieën: Technieuws

Alert: North Korea Now Capable Of Using Photoshop To Launch Missiles From Submarines

van TechDirt - 10 uur 48 min geleden
Whenever our friends in Pyongyang decide to troll the planet with one of their hilariously bad propaganda pieces, it always makes me wonder just how serious the North Korean regime is about this whole war thing. I mean, using video game footage and music to threaten 'Merica? C'mon, son. And those photoshopped photo-ops of your human-chicken-dumpling leader just don't inspire much confidence in the country's technological capabilities. But it's when North Korea combines war and fun-bad photoshopping that the real fun begins.

Take the country's recent press brag, for instance, in which North Korea announces that they've managed to launch a missile from a submarine.

Experts, it appears, aren't all that impressed with the photo. That was particularly the case when the state-run Pyongyang press circulated other photos of the launch that were complete with columns of smoke from the missile, columns of smoke conspicuously absent from the initial photo that was circulated above. As Markus Schiller and Robert Schmucker, of Schmucker Technologie, told Reuters, “Considering the track record of North Korean deceptions, it seems sensible to assume that any North Korean SLBM [submarine-launched ballistic missile] capability is still a very long time in the future, if it will ever surface.”

What the column-less photo lacked in smoke, it made up for with weird, poorly placed ocean smudges. That reddish patch of water you see to the left of the missile? That’s supposed to be the rocket’s reflection.
And, so, sadly, the only thing this launch report from North Korea tells us is that they still haven't gotten photoshop down. Oh well. If they ever did get into an actual shooting war again, I suppose they could always just photoshop themselves into some kind of victory pose. Given how often their progress with weapons technology turns out to be non-progress at photo-bullshitting, such a war is probably a remote possibility. Several of the commenters over at Gawker offered to help them out, of course, though this one is probably my favorite.

Call in Mario Marine!

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Categorieën: Technieuws

[Ticker] Tight race in Poland's presidential elections

van EU Observer - 10 uur 50 min geleden
A TNS poll has put sitting president Bronislaw Komorowski on 45% and Andrzej Duda, from the main opposition centre-right Law and Justice party, on 43% ahead of Sunday's run-off vote for the presidency. The presidential elections are seen as a dress rehearsal for autumn's parliamentary elections

Categorieën: Europees nieuws

[Ticker] Cameron to talk about EU reform in Riga

van EU Observer - 11 uur 12 min geleden
The Eastern Partnership summit in Riga is "an opportunity to start some of the discussions" on EU reform, British PM David Cameron said Friday. "There will be ups and downs", he noted, assuring of his "determination" to give the Brisith people "a proper choice" before the 2017 EU membership referendum.

Categorieën: Europees nieuws

[Ticker] Mogherini joins appeals on Palmyra heritage site

van EU Observer - 11 uur 22 min geleden
Fears mount over the fate of Palmyra, a prominent archaeological site in Syria, which was seized by Islamic State militants on Thursday. "Mass killings and deliberate destruction of archaeological and cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq amount to a war crime," EU foreign chief Federica Mogherini warned.

Categorieën: Europees nieuws

[Ticker] ECB to keep buying bonds

van EU Observer - 11 uur 29 min geleden
The European Central Bank's is set to continue its bond-buying scheme decided in January 2015 as planned, according to minutes of the governing council's April meeting released on Thursday. Under the so-called QE programme, the ECB aims to buy 60 billion euros of bonds per month until September 2016.

Categorieën: Europees nieuws

MEPs push for stronger tax probe, threaten court action

van EU Observer - 11 uur 33 min geleden
A special committee to examine tax breaks for multinationals is being stonewalled at every turn, prompting some MEPs to consider legal action.

Categorieën: Europees nieuws

No outcome from Greece talks in Riga

van EU Observer - 11 uur 34 min geleden
A two-hour meeting between the leaders of Germany, France, and Greece in Riga produced no tangible outcome on the Greek debt crisis.

Categorieën: Europees nieuws

Slaves and terrorists? EU rhetoric on migrants under fire

van EU Observer - 11 uur 34 min geleden
Prominent academics have accused EU leaders of “perversion of history” in rhetoric to justify use of “naval and technological might” against migrants.

Categorieën: Europees nieuws

Public consultation on circular economy starts 'in few days'

van EU Observer - 11 uur 35 min geleden
The European Commission is examining how it can “promote circular economy across the whole value chain”.

Categorieën: Europees nieuws