Thai Coup Leaders Block Facebook, Claim They Didn't, As Gov't Official Admits They Did

van TechDirt - do, 05/29/2014 - 01:01
We recently wrote about how the leaders of the latest military coup in Thailand (one of many that have happened there) summoned ISP officials to tell them to start censoring the internet, though they were adamant that it was not actually censorship. It appears that these coup leaders really like to flat out deny exactly what they are doing. Today, for example, they completely blocked access to Facebook for a few hours, and then blamed it on a "technical problem." "We have no policy to block Facebook and we have assigned the ICT ministry to set up a supervisory committee to follow social media and investigate and solve problems," said Sirichan Ngathong, spokeswoman for the military council.

"There's been some technical problems with the internet gateway," she said, adding that the authorities were working with internet service providers to fix the problem urgently.
Not that such an excuse was believable, but it was made even less believable when the country's Information Communications Technology (ICT) Ministry came out and admitted that it had censored the site -- and will be asking other social media sites to censor themselves as well: "We have blocked Facebook temporarily and tomorrow we will call a meeting with other social media, like Twitter and Instagram, to ask for cooperation from them," Surachai Srisaracam, permanent secretary of the Information and Communications Technology Ministry, told Reuters.

"Right now there's a campaign to ask for people to stage protests against the army so we need to ask for cooperation from social media to help us stop the spread of critical messages about the coup," he said.
In other words, there was no "technical problem." There was just out and out censorship, and the government is expecting much more of that, because they don't want anyone saying anything critical about the coup. That's pretty clear, good old-fashioned censorship, no matter what the coup leaders would like to claim. Also, given how much people seem to like things like social media, it seems like a pretty silly strategy to take that away from people, hoping it will somehow make them more willing to support the coup.

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TrueCrypt Page Says It's Not Secure, All Development Stopped

van TechDirt - wo, 05/28/2014 - 23:54
Last fall, we noted that the popular disk encryption software TrueCrypt was undergoing a security audit, inspired by the Snowden revelations. At issue: TrueCrypt is open source and widely used and promoted (hell, Snowden himself apparently taught people how to use it), but no one really knew who was behind it -- raising all sorts of questions. A little over a month ago, we noted that the first phase of the audit didn't find any backdoors, but did note a few (mostly) minor vulnerabilities.

However, a little while ago, TrueCrypt's SourceForge page suddenly announced that " WARNING: Using TrueCrypt is not secure as it may contain unfixed security issues" and furthermore: "The development of TrueCrypt was ended in 5/2014 after Microsoft terminated support of Windows XP." While some initially questioned if this was a hoax, others quickly noted that a new version of the program was signed with the official TrueCrypt private key -- meaning that it's either legit, or TrueCrypt's private key has been compromised (which would obviously present another serious issue). If you happen to use TrueCrypt, you should be very, very careful right now.

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Nintendo Has A Plan To Share Ad Revenue With YouTubers, But Nobody's Happy About It

van TechDirt - wo, 05/28/2014 - 22:57

Roughly a year ago, Nintendo began a bold plan of declaring war on well-known YouTubers who created "let's play" videos using Nintendo IP. Well, perhaps war isn't the right word. Suddenly and swiftly, it claimed these YouTube videos through the site's system that then allowed it to push ads into the videos, the revenue for which it shared between YouTube and itself, leaving the videomakers out in the cold. It was misguided in several ways, the most obvious being that these kinds of videos and their creators are essentially free advertising for Nintendo, getting the word out to potential customers about games they may then pick up. It strains the mind to think of any large numbers of people who might substitute a "let's play" video for actually playing the game themselves, but Nintendo is Nintendo, so the company opted for control over goodwill.

Perhaps only coincidentally (or maybe not...), the last year has been rough for the gaming company. Console sales are down across the board, and Nintendo appears to be pinning its hopes on a couple of triple-A games coming out to save its skin -- which makes it all the more interesting that Nintendo is also announcing a new plan to share ad revenue with YouTubers who sign up for its affiliate program. Nintendo's statement came from a series of messages on its Japanese Twitter account that mentioned "several affiliate programs" for YouTube users that would allow them to "receive a portion of the advertising revenue" coming from videos featuring gameplay footage. I reached out to the company for additional information, and here's what a representative from Nintendo of America had to say:

"Nintendo has been permitting the use of Nintendo copyrighted material in videos on YouTube under appropriate circumstances. Advertisements may accompany those videos, and in keeping with previous policy that revenue is shared between YouTube and Nintendo. In addition, for those who wish to use the material more proactively, we are preparing an affiliate program in which a portion of the advertising profit is given to the creator. Details about this affiliate program will be announced in the future." On the surface, this seems like a huge step in the right direction. The once monolithic stance on collecting all the revenue possible from these videos is finally giving way to a program that will allow some of the fan-gathering YouTube personalities to have some skin in the game. You'd think there would be praise across the board for this. You'd be wrong. Between the ill-feelings still lingering from the actions of last year and the wariness of working under the umbrella of a Nintendo affiliate program, some of the bigger names seem suspicious in this phase where details are still lacking on the program. Zack Scott, another popular YouTuber and the one who first brought the issue to light last year after he noticed that some of the Nintendo-focused videos on his popular ZackScottGames channel were being tagged with the network's Content ID system, told Kotaku at the end of last June that he had resumed posting such work once Nintendo appeared to back away from its crackdown. I followed up with him today to see if anything had changed since his tentative return to posting Nintendo-centric "Let's Play" videos last year. He said that while he's been impacted "very, very minimally" by any changes in Nintendo and YouTube's policies so far, he could "definitely see a future" where this has a bigger influence.

"I feel the relationship between video creator and content publisher is mutually beneficial," Scott wrote in an email. "Numerous companies already understand this balance. I'd hate for the model to become where a popular creator can request revenue of a publisher in exchange for coverage. I'd equally hate for a publisher to request revenue of a creator in exchange for access." Left unsaid is the converse: will Nintendo use its affiliate program to attempt to exert control over YouTubers' video content. Keep in mind that the Nintendo IP on display isn't really the draw in these videos. After all, there are a million such videos for a million games. The popular ones are popular because of the personality of the YouTuber. They share the stage with the game and they got their audience on a ledger of trust from the viewers. If Nintendo attempts to leverage that trust by exerting control through its affiliate program, such as by only allowing access to content in exchange for positive or non-negative editorial speech within the video, it will be a massive problem, one that will ultimately backfire in Nintendo's face, while torpedoing a bunch of YouTube personalities along with it.

Either way, the devil is most definitely in the details with this kind of program. If Nintendo makes it extremely clear that editorial content is hands-off and that the affiliate program will be free from YouTuber corruption, this might, possibly work. Given the company's history, however, I have my doubts.

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UPS Insists That It Is Not Helping The NSA 'Interdict' Packages To Install Backdoors

van TechDirt - wo, 05/28/2014 - 22:08
After Glenn Greenwald's book came out last week, one of the big stories was the additional revelations about the NSA's interdiction program -- in which the NSA grabs packages of computer equipment that are being shipped, outfits the equipment with backdoors -- and sends them along their shipping route as if nothing happened. Most famously, it included an image of it happening, showing a clear Cisco box: Cisco has insisted publicly that it has nothing to do with this program and apparently complained directly to the President about this program, and how it harms their reputation. While some people doubt whether or not Cisco is being totally forthright, others wondered if perhaps it wasn't Cisco, but a third party, such as whoever ships Cisco's equipment. It turns out that company is often UPS, and Matthew Keys, writing for TheBlot, got UPS to vehemently deny assisting the NSA as well:

UPS, which Cisco has used since 1997 to ship hardware to customers around the world, said on Thursday that it did not voluntarily allow government officials to inspect its packages unless it is required to do so by law.

“UPS’ long-standing policy is to require a legal court-ordered process, such as a subpoena, before responding to any third-party requests,” UPS spokeswoman Kara Ross wrote in an e-mail to TheBlot Magazine. “UPS is not aware of any court orders from the NSA seeking to inspect technology-related shipments.”

In a follow-up e-mail, Ross said UPS had no knowledge of similar orders from the FBI, CIA or any other federal agency.

Keys also reached out to other popular shipping options, including the US Postal Service, FedEx and DHL. USPS says that they don't participate in any such NSA program (though, some may question the validity of that statement). FedEx and DHL appear to have simply ignored repeated requests for comment from Keys.

Of course, it's not impossible that there are other methods being used to get the equipment -- or that the folks who handle these "special" projects are kept way far away from any official spokesperson. Clearly, however, the NSA can get these packages, and now the doubt is going to spread across pretty much everyone in the logistics chain, no matter what they say.

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Conspiracy Theorist And Alternative Medicine Salesman Threatens To Sue Writer For Publishing True Statements About Him

van TechDirt - wo, 05/28/2014 - 21:06

When you start claiming you've been defamed and sic your legal team on allegedly offending writers, you'd better make sure you haven't built up a body of work that reinforces the statements you're now asserting are bogus.

Keith Kloor, writer for Discover Magazine's Collide-A-Scape blog has the details. And there are a ton of details. [I]f you are someone who still wants to punish a journalist for something he or she has written, you don’t actually have to sue. You just have to rattle a few sabers and threaten legal action… Which is what Mike Adams, founder and operator of the Natural News website did when Forbes published a critical piece by Jon Entine of the Genetic Literacy Project. For his piece, Entine drew almost entirely on Adams' own writings, the public records of his various companies, and what scientists and other science bloggers had to say about him.

Adams did not appreciate the piece, which characterized him as "anti-science" and focused on his crusade against GMOs and how that commingled with his various conspiracy theories. He immediately went after Forbes and Entine. Forbes published the piece on April 3rd. The following day, Adams sent a long email to Forbes expressing his disappointment at being portrayed accurately in such a negative light. He also casually mentioned he and his legal team would be "aggressively pursuing" legal action against Forbes and Entine.

The following day, he sent a similar email to Entine, only with added passive-aggressive wording -- apparently to give it a more personable tone. Threats of legal action that would drain Entine's financial resources were followed up with invitations to meet "privately," where the two would be able to find some sort of common ground.

When these failed to get the retractions Adams sought, his lawyers sent letters to Forbes and Entine demanding immediate action. The one sent to Forbes contained this wishlist: We are now writing to request that Forbes 1) publish formal notice of retraction, explaining that the article lacked substantiation and contained false content, and 2) prohibit henceforth Jon Entine from serving as a contributing writer to Forbes, and reference this ban in the retraction. The one sent to Entine contained a much more extensive list of demands: We are writing to warn you of impending legal action we will take against you should you not abide by our following demands:

1) Immediately retract all content relating to Mike Adams and/or NaturalNews.com from all websites you exert control and/or influence over, including www.geneticliteracyproject.org;
2) Agree to cease from publishing any further information relating to Mike Adams or NaturalNews.com;
3) Issue a public apology for publishing defamatory information relating to Mike Adams and NaturalNews.com;
4) Compensate Mike Adams in the amount of $3,000.00 for legal fees incurred.
It also enumerated everything Adams found objectionable about Entine's article. Unfortunately for Adams, everything stated by Entine could be backed up by several sources. Entine composed a 29-page response "backgrounder" and sent a copy of it to Forbes legal reps.

The biggest problem Mike Adams has is... Mike Adams. If Adams feels no one has any cause to question his credentials, methods and business tactics, he's going to be pursuing a long list of people and entities.

Meanwhile, Adams has spoken to Keith Kloor at Discover about the legal activity. His letter needs to be read to be believed, but to sum it up succinctly, his argument appears to be "I'm a credible scientist! Look at my lab coat! And lab!" (You can actually look at all of this stuff via a video produced by Adams that carries the awesome tagline of "No green screen required!") What I find especially fascinating about the attacks on me by Entine and others is that after I was accused of being "anti-science" a couple of years ago, I took it upon myself to become well-versed in a particular branch of scientific study. I read academic textbooks, hired high-level analytical chemists and built a university-level laboratory where I'm personally running the ICP-MS instrumentation. This food contamination research has already achieved some extraordinary results in the interests of the public good and environmental protection as well. Scientific papers stemming from this research are in process right now and I hope to have some published this year. Whether or not you believe a person can be qualified to run a "university-level" lab after a "couple of years" of reading textbooks is made completely immaterial by the large body of work Adams has "contributed" to the scientific field over the past several years.

Here's an entire section on chemtrails. Here's Adams claiming high doses of Vitamin C will "eliminate cancerous tumors" (something his lawyers deny he ever said). Here's Adams claiming the Aurora theater shooting was a false flag operation. Adams attacks "AIDS myths." Adams on President Obama's birth certificate (stored at archive.org as original post has been removed by Adams.) Another one of his removed posts combines both Sandy Hook and the 9/11 attacks into a big ball of conspiracy. If you need any additional convincing of Adams' lack of scientific credentials, there's always his appearance on Dr. Mehmet Oz's TV show.

When Entine calls Natural News "the most anti-science site on the web" (something Adams' lawyers are trying to get Entine to retract and apologize for), all he really has to do is point to Natural News itself as evidence to back up his claim -- but Entine provides several links to other scientists arriving at the same conclusion.

It doesn't appear that Forbes or Entine are just going to roll over for Adams. He may have claimed that he has the financial resources to outlast either of them in court, but it's highly unlikely the legal battle would last long enough to present a threat to anyone's bank account. The statements made by Entine are backed up with a ton of facts, most of them handily provided by Adams himself.

There's no lawsuit yet, but this one would appear to be a perfect SLAPP candidate, if filed in a state where such a law exists. (There's no telling where it might be filed, since Natural News' business address is an abandoned building in Tucson, Arizona, and his multiple sites are run through a Taiwan registry.) Adams may have thought he'd get an easy win with a little bluster and a lowball ($3,000) damage request, but that rationale appears to be about as solid as the "science" he pushes.

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MakerBot Files For Patent On A Design Derived From Work By Its Community

van TechDirt - wo, 05/28/2014 - 20:06

As Techdirt noted a couple of years ago, patents have been the bane of the 3D printing world, holding it back for years, possibly decades. Now it looks like patents have reared their ugly head again in this world: In a stunning display of madness, makerbot industries files a patent application on a mechanism clearly derived from content created by their users. What's almost worse is the article they wrote praising the invention, presumably while they were filing the paperwork. MakerBot is one of the key companies in the low-cost 3D printing market. It was founded in 2009 and based its first model on the completely open RepRap design. However, in 2012, MakerBot moved away from its open source roots, claiming that it needed to make this shift in order to build a long-term business: We are going to be as open as we possibly can while building a sustainable business. We are going to continue to respect licenses and continue to contribute to the open technology of 3D printing, some of which we initiated. We don't want to abuse the goodwill and support of our community. We love what we do, we love sharing, and we love what our community creates. Most of the community seemed resigned to accepting that explanation, and have continued to post designs under various licenses to MakerBot's Thingiverse site for others to use and build on. In the case of the mechanism referred to above, the Replicator 2 extruder upgrade, the license employed is CC Attribution-ShareAlike (CC-BY-SA). It's a liberal license that allows people to do pretty much what they like with the design, provided they give attribution and pass on the same freedoms to any modified versions. But there is one important caveat: No additional restrictions -- You may not apply legal terms or technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the license permits. That raises the question whether a patent on the physical object derived from a design released under CC-BY-SA constitutes an additional restriction. Independently of that, there's also the issue of prior art. MakerBot's own blog post on the new extruder notes that several people contributed to the mechanism over a period of time: Thing #42250 "Replicator 2 Extruder Upgrade" by whpthomas, is one of these very useful designs. It's based on an extruder mod from Thingiverse superstar emmett, who based his design on one from another star user, whosawhatsis. Although prior art ought to ensure the patent was not granted, we know it doesn't always work like that. But even if MakerBot succeeds in gaining and holding on to patents derived from designs posted to its Thingiverse, it is likely to be a Pyrrhic victory unless the company issues a statement that the patent is purely for defensive purposes, and offers an appropriate license for people to use. If it doesn't, the community's trust in the company, already strained by the move away from open hardware, will almost certainly be gone. That's particularly regrettable given the company's origins, and the following speech from 2012 by company co-founder Bre Pettis on the advantages of sharing, transcribed here by Hack a Day: When we started MakerBot, we knew we were going to be open source hardware. We were inspired by Arduino, and we were open source software nerds. So, we knew the idea if we could make it and share it, we'd get more back from it. And I think this is something we learned as kids, that sharing is good, that if you share something you get more back from it, but we forget this as adults. So, with open source hardware we're back to that. When you get a MakerBot, you're not just getting a machine, you're getting the knowledge of how it works. You're getting the information about everything that puts it together. So if you want to modify it, or if you just want to learn about it, if you want to hack it, you can do it. Unless it's been patented by MakerBot, of course...

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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[Focus] Eastern European projects at risk in EU budget spat

van EU Observer - wo, 05/28/2014 - 19:57
Eight member states say the EU should not boost its 2014 budget by €4.7 billion to cover delayed bills for infrastructure projects in eastern Europe.

Categorieën: Europees nieuws

Eastern European projects at risk in EU budget spat

van EU Observer - wo, 05/28/2014 - 19:57
Eight member states say the EU should not boost its 2014 budget by €4.7 billion to cover delayed bills for infrastructure projects in eastern Europe.

Categorieën: Europees nieuws

EU unveils plan to curb reliance on Russian gas

van EU Observer - wo, 05/28/2014 - 19:48
The EU has unveiled plans to reduce its reliance on Russian gas, with increased imports from Norway and energy efficiency at the top of its wish-list.

Categorieën: Europees nieuws

[Ticker] Forbes: Merkel still world's most powerful woman

van EU Observer - wo, 05/28/2014 - 19:27
German Chancellor Angela Merkel remains the world's most powerful woman, according to Forbes. The US magazine notes that after Merkel accused the NSA of tapping her phone, the White House ordered that data privacy protections be extended to non-Americans. Merkel has been Forbes' most powerful woman for nine years.

Categorieën: Europees nieuws

Can Senator Leahy Actually Get Anything Done To Help With Civil Liberties And Innovation?

van TechDirt - wo, 05/28/2014 - 19:00
Senator Patrick Leahy is often considered one of the most powerful Senators. He's the most senior Senator, third in the presidential line of succession (after the VP and the Speaker of the House) and the head of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee. He's often presented as a "friend" to both the technology and civil liberties communities -- even though many in both of those communities still view him skeptically for his all out support for dangerous copyright legislation in the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), which would have seriously messed with the underlying DNS structure of the internet. Even so, on a variety of other issues, including NSA reform, ECPA reform and patent reform, he's often been seen as leading the charge.

But over and over again, it seems that charge is... to go nowhere.

Politico has a story about how last week was a disaster for the tech industry in Washington DC. For all the talk about how Silicon Valley has been flexing its lobbying power, patent reform was killed, a good NSA reform bill was replaced with a bad one (leading the tech industry to pull its support) and the fight for immigration reform went the way it normally does -- nowhere beyond people yelling at each other.

But what I found even more interesting is just how powerless the "powerful" Senator seems to be on so many of these issues. Leahy has been the leading Senate voice for ECPA reform (requiring a warrant to search your electronic data) for years -- and it has pretty widespread support. And yet, he's unable to get it to move forward because the the SEC and IRS want to be able to read emails without a warrant. Really?

Similarly, for over a decade, Leahy has been the point person on patent reform in the Senate, promising to finally reform the system to stop abusive patents. The bill he finally got through in 2011 did absolutely nothing after it was watered down and watered down and watered down some more. And this year, when it looked like there might finally be a bill with at least a little (not nearly enough) progress towards stifling abusive patent practices, he got completely shut down by the trial lawyers and Harry Reid.

And, now we're basically relying on Senator Leahy to fix the NSA reform package. He introduced the companion to the USA Freedom Act in the Senate, and many in the tech and civil liberties communities are hopeful that Leahy will stand firm in actually reforming the NSA. And while he's been saying all the right things about reforming the NSA, given his track record, you have to start to wonder: can this super powerful Senator actually get this done right?

Yes, getting anything done in Congress is a pretty difficult process these days (perhaps for good reason). But we keep hearing about how Senator Leahy is so powerful and such a friend to innovation and civil liberties. But over the past few years, it's been a lot of tough talk, and nothing ever seems to actually get done. It really begins to make you wonder if he's such a "friend" to these communities after all.

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[Opinion] EU needs new Ukraine strategy

van EU Observer - wo, 05/28/2014 - 18:34
The EU needs a strategic agenda based on its own stated values, which can deliver on Ukraine's pressing political and security needs.

Categorieën: Europees nieuws

EU gives 'space' for Russia to make peace with Ukraine

van EU Observer - wo, 05/28/2014 - 18:05
EU countries are keen to "give space" for Russia to come to terms with Ukraine's new leader, after Russia's failed attempt to derail elections.

Categorieën: Europees nieuws