The internet is getting less free

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A protester holds an Amazon box made into a sad face as part of a protest against the company’s cloud services contracts with Palantir, which supports ICE.

Election interference and government surveillance on social media are hurting internet freedoms.

 

Amazon has been under fire from protesters lately for assisting surveillance technology company Palantir — and, by extension, ICE — as well as for its own surveillance products like Ring.

Free speech and privacy on the internet declined globally for the ninth consecutive year according to the Freedom on the Net 2019 report by bipartisan watchdog and think tank Freedom House.

 

The report’s authors cite two main reasons for the decline: increased online election interference — by government and civilian actors alike — and increased government surveillance, both of which are spreading on social media platforms. These are topics that continue to dominate the news cycle, whether it’s Facebook’s ad policy that allows politicians to spread lies or Amazon’s growing relationships with police departments that use its Ring smart doorbells and associated social media products to surveil communities. Freedom House recommends increased transparency and oversight of these platforms in order to stop the situation from getting worse.

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Former Google CEO predicts the internet will split in two — and one part will be led by China

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Speaking at a private event hosted by Village Global VC yesterday night, tech luminary and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt predicted that the internet will bifurcate into Chinese-led and US-led versions within the next decade.

Under Sundar Pichai’s leadership, Google has explored the potential to launch a censored version of its search engine in China, stirring up controversy internally and outside the company.

Eric Schmidt, who has been the CEO of Google and executive chairman of its parent company, Alphabet, predicts that within the next decade there will be two distinct internets: one led by the U.S. and the other by China.

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China reaches 800 million internet users

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China’s internet population has now grown beyond 800 million, according to the latest data from the Chinese government.

A new report [in Chinese] issued by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) put the number of people in China with access to the internet at 802 million. The agency — which is a branch of the Ministry of Industry and Information and is responsible for controlling the .cn country code — estimates that 29.68 million people in China came online for the first time in the second half of 2018.

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China’s Twitter censorship measured by computer scientists

Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.

China’s version of Twitter, a microblogging service called Weibo was launched in 2010.  Just like Twitter, users are allowed to post 140 character messages with @username and #hashtags.  140 characters in Chinese contain significantly more information content than in English.

 

 

 

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Iran’s ‘smart’ approach to censorship of the internet

An internet cafe in Tehran.

Iran has an intense relationship with the internet.  The country has made many attempts to curtail its citizens’ use of social media.  Iran’s  supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in May, issued a fatwa against anti-filtering tools that have helped citizens to access blocked material on the Internet.  In December, they launched Mehr, its own version of YouTube, which allows users to upload and view content they create, and to watch videos from IRIB, Iran’s national broadcaster.  They have also been building a national intranet – a government-run network that would operate “largely isolated” from the rest of the World Wide Web.  Reporters Without Borders named Iran to its 2012 “Enemies of the Internet” list with Iran’s intensified online crackdowns, increased digital surveillance of citizens, and the imprisonment of web activists.

 

 

 

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CISPA is SOPA 2.0

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CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011 (H.R. 3523), is a successor, of sorts, to the loathesome SOPA legislative proposal, which was shot down in flames earlier this year. EFF’s chilling analysis of the bill shows how it could be used to give copyright enforcers carte blanche to spy on Internet users and censoring the Internet (it would also give these powers to companies and governments who’d been embarrassed by sites like Wikileaks).

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Twitter to censor tweets on a country-by-country basis

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Some Twitter users are planning to go all of Saturday without tweeting to show their displeasure.

There are fears of Twitter censorship among bloggers and activists from China, the Middle East and Latin America as new Twitter policies could allow governments to censor messages, stifling free expression.

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The Great Information Wall of China

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Futurist Thomas Frey:  Over the past couple years, internet-fueled uprisings in Egypt, Lybia, Syria, and other parts of the world have made Chinese officials very nervous. They have exerted a firm hand in controlling any communications deemed detrimental to the ruling party and have now gone so far as to block any Google searches of the English words “democracy” and “freedom.”

 

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China Declares Skype Illegal

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No more Skyping in China

After having already banned Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, the Chinese government has now decided to outlaw Skype, as well. The move, announced in the People’s Daily, means that all Internet phone services will now be considered illegal within the country, except for those offered by two state-operated telecom companies — China Unicom and China Telecom…

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Google Leaving China … sort of

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Google’s long awaited decision

In a long-awaited announcement, Google said Monday that it will stop censoring search services on google.cn, its Chinese search site.
Google said it is now redirecting its Chinese users to Hong Kong site google.com.hk, which offers uncensored search results, according to its company blog.
“We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement,” the company said in its blog post.
The company said it “very much hopes” that the government of China respects its decision, though it is “well aware” that the Chinese authorities could block access to its services for users within the country’s borders.
Google will continue its wider business operations in China, including its ad sales business, though the search company conceded that the size of its sales workforce will be partially dependent on the ability of mainland Chinese users to access google.com.hk.
In addition to search, Google generates revenue from an ad sales business in China, its Android mobile phone operating system and its Chrome browser business. It also runs a host of Web services in China, including e-mail service Gmail.
Analysts widely agree with Google’s assessment that discontinuing its  search operations in China would have an “immaterial” effect on its revenue.
Google.cn had tens of millions of users in China, but was unable to control  more than about a third of China’s search market as it struggled to beat the  tough competition of entrenched search rivals such as Baidu.

In a long-awaited announcement, Google said Monday that it will stop censoring search services on google.cn, its Chinese search site. Google said it is now redirecting its Chinese users to Hong Kong site google.com.hk, which offers uncensored search results, according to its company blog.

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Google May Exit China Because of Cyberattacks, Government Censorship

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by Nitrozak and Snaggy
In a stunning move, Google (GOOG) said late Tuesday it may pull out of China because of ongoing government censorship of its search results — and because of hacking attacks of human rights activists who use its free Gmail service.

 

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