Tag Archives: Censorship

Reddit’s Piracy Sub-Reddit Reopens After Mutiny Shutdown

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/reddits-piracy-sub-reddit-reopens-after-mutiny-shutdown-170523/

For millions of people, Reddit is one of the most popular sources of news online. Arguably, though, the site’s real value lies with its users.

Like any community, Reddit user comments can range from the brilliantly informed to the deliberately destructive. But, more often than not, the weight of the crowd tends to get to the truth, sometimes with the help of the site’s moderators.

Each section of Reddit (known as a ‘sub-Reddit’), is dedicated to a particular topic and is controlled by a team of moderators. While mileage can vary, moderators tend to do a good job and are often relied upon to settle disputes and hold errant users to the rules.

Last night in /r/piracy (a sub-Reddit with close to 100,000 subscribers) one moderator went rogue, which resulted in the sub-Reddit being shut down.

According to one of the moderators now in charge of /r/piracy, a now-former moderator by the name of Samewhiterabbits committed a sin by using the sub-Reddit to further his own agenda. ‘Dysgraphical’ says that the problems started when Samewhiterabbits began heavily spamming the ‘sub’ with links to his own streaming website projects.

Apparently, this has been going on for some time, with Samewhiterabbits standing accused of launching, promoting and spamming websites that have the same names as existing and/or defunct platforms, but claiming them to be the real deal.

“Samewhiterabbits is using r/Piracy as a platform to spam his monetized website forks which he claims as official,” Dysgraphical said in a statement.

“This isn’t recent activity but rather his model. He capitalizes from streaming sites that were shutdown and spams his new domain(s) as the new home for the aforementioned streaming site.

“This moderator explicitly deletes competing stream sites and uses alternative account(s) to spam his monetized stream sites. It is not only blatant spam, but censorship as well.”

After another post appeared promoting ‘popular streaming sites’ that the /r/piracy team as a whole had no hand in, moderators including Dysgraphical and TheWalkingTroll stepped in to sort out the problem.

They were met with resistance, with Samewhiterabbit – who still had moderator powers – taking several popular threads ‘hostage’ and stopping the rest of the mod team from ending the wave of misleading spam.

“He has held several threads hostage by locking/removing them to censor any critique or mention of his shady wrongdoings. With limited moderation privileges, the most we can do at the moment is delete his threads,” Dysgraphical reported last night.

While sorting out the problem, /r/piracy was shutdown or, more accurately, made ‘private’. Then, in order to move forward, the moderators applied for more power (known as ‘permissions’ in forum speak) to remove the errant mod from the team.

To achieve that, an application was made to Reddit’s admins (those at the top of the site) who responded extremely quickly to help sort out the mess.

“A few of us now have full permissions. Thankfully the admins were rather quick in their response (given they can take several days) and we got this sorted quickly,” Dysgraphical reports.

Once that power was in the right hands, justice was served in the manner determined by the rest of the team. A few hours ago, Samewhiterabbits was reported banned from /r/piracy and everything started to get back to normal.

While online ‘drama’ like this predates the Internet, this particular situation does highlight the importance of having responsible moderators on any discussion platform. There is often an assumption that these figures are in authority because they can be trusted, but that is not necessarily so.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

The Quick vs. the Strong: Commentary on Cory Doctorow’s Walkaway

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/05/the_quick_vs_th.html

Technological advances change the world. That’s partly because of what they are, but even more because of the social changes they enable. New technologies upend power balances. They give groups new capabilities, increased effectiveness, and new defenses. The Internet decades have been a never-ending series of these upendings. We’ve seen existing industries fall and new industries rise. We’ve seen governments become more powerful in some areas and less in others. We’ve seen the rise of a new form of governance: a multi-stakeholder model where skilled individuals can have more power than multinational corporations or major governments.

Among the many power struggles, there is one type I want to particularly highlight: the battles between the nimble individuals who start using a new technology first, and the slower organizations that come along later.

In general, the unempowered are the first to benefit from new technologies: hackers, dissidents, marginalized groups, criminals, and so on. When they first encountered the Internet, it was transformative. Suddenly, they had access to technologies for dissemination, coordination, organization, and action — things that were impossibly hard before. This can be incredibly empowering. In the early decades of the Internet, we saw it in the rise of Usenet discussion forums and special-interest mailing lists, in how the Internet routed around censorship, and how Internet governance bypassed traditional government and corporate models. More recently, we saw it in the SOPA/PIPA debate of 2011-12, the Gezi protests in Turkey and the various “color” revolutions, and the rising use of crowdfunding. These technologies can invert power dynamics, even in the presence of government surveillance and censorship.

But that’s just half the story. Technology magnifies power in general, but the rates of adoption are different. Criminals, dissidents, the unorganized — all outliers — are more agile. They can make use of new technologies faster, and can magnify their collective power because of it. But when the already-powerful big institutions finally figured out how to use the Internet, they had more raw power to magnify.

This is true for both governments and corporations. We now know that governments all over the world are militarizing the Internet, using it for surveillance, censorship, and propaganda. Large corporations are using it to control what we can do and see, and the rise of winner-take-all distribution systems only exacerbates this.

This is the fundamental tension at the heart of the Internet, and information-based technology in general. The unempowered are more efficient at leveraging new technology, while the powerful have more raw power to leverage. These two trends lead to a battle between the quick and the strong: the quick who can make use of new power faster, and the strong who can make use of that same power more effectively.

This battle is playing out today in many different areas of information technology. You can see it in the security vs. surveillance battles between criminals and the FBI, or dissidents and the Chinese government. You can see it in the battles between content pirates and various media organizations. You can see it where social-media giants and Internet-commerce giants battle against new upstarts. You can see it in politics, where the newer Internet-aware organizations fight with the older, more established, political organizations. You can even see it in warfare, where a small cadre of military can keep a country under perpetual bombardment — using drones — with no risk to the attackers.

This battle is fundamental to Cory Doctorow’s new novel Walkaway. Our heroes represent the quick: those who have checked out of traditional society, and thrive because easy access to 3D printers enables them to eschew traditional notions of property. Their enemy is the strong: the traditional government institutions that exert their power mostly because they can. This battle rages through most of the book, as the quick embrace ever-new technologies and the strong struggle to catch up.

It’s easy to root for the quick, both in Doctorow’s book and in the real world. And while I’m not going to give away Doctorow’s ending — and I don’t know enough to predict how it will play out in the real world — right now, trends favor the strong.

Centralized infrastructure favors traditional power, and the Internet is becoming more centralized. This is true both at the endpoints, where companies like Facebook, Apple, Google, and Amazon control much of how we interact with information. It’s also true in the middle, where companies like Comcast increasingly control how information gets to us. It’s true in countries like Russia and China that increasingly legislate their own national agenda onto their pieces of the Internet. And it’s even true in countries like the US and the UK, that increasingly legislate more government surveillance capabilities.

At the 1996 World Economic Forum, cyber-libertarian John Perry Barlow issued his “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,” telling the assembled world leaders and titans of Industry: “You have no moral right to rule us, nor do you possess any methods of enforcement that we have true reason to fear.” Many of us believed him a scant 20 years ago, but today those words ring hollow.

But if history is any guide, these things are cyclic. In another 20 years, even newer technologies — both the ones Doctorow focuses on and the ones no one can predict — could easily tip the balance back in favor of the quick. Whether that will result in more of a utopia or a dystopia depends partly on these technologies, but even more on the social changes resulting from these technologies. I’m short-term pessimistic but long-term optimistic.

This essay previously appeared on Crooked Timber.

YouTube Content ID Critic Doesn’t Appreciate the Irony

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/youtube-content-id-critic-doesnt-appreciate-the-irony-170514/

YouTube is not only one of the best sites on the Internet today but is arguably the best multimedia platform ever created. There can be barely a person alive who has heard of the Internet but not of YouTube. The site is that important.

But today, YouTube has problems. Despite generating hundreds of millions each year for the music industry, the major labels argue that the company fails to do enough about piracy while exploiting the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA.

YouTube sees things quite differently. The company says that its Content ID recognition system, which was developed at huge cost, allows creators to block or monetize otherwise pirated content uploaded to the platform by users.

Like every anti-piracy system ever created, Content ID is fallible. It can be circumvented using various techniques and tricks found on any number of sites and indeed, on YouTube itself. This week, that fact attracted the attention of the Music Tech Policy blog.

“What’s Wrong With Content ID? Start with Dozens of YouTube Videos on How to Defeat It,” wrote editor, industry veteran, and outspoken Google critic, Chris Castle.

Castle begins by talking a little about one of the techniques often used by people trying to evade the clutches of Content ID – changing the tempo of an uploaded music track. The idea is that by altering the speed, the fingerprint of the uploaded track is changed enough for YouTube not to recognize it as an infringing copy.

No doubt it’s a popular trick, but at this point the conspiracy theories begin.

YouTube has a feature which allows people to speed up or slow down videos, which can be handy for speed ‘reading’ an audio book, for example, or slowing down a tutorial so someone inexperienced in the task can keep up.

However, discounting fans of pitch-shifted vocals, Castle says it’s actually there for Google to make money from pirates. Slowed-down, Content ID-evading tracks can be sped back up to enjoy at normal speeds, he says.

“Why is it there? To cater to fans of Alvin and the Chipmunks? No. It’s there so YouTube can monetize illegal copies of music and movies,” he says.

“If Google were serious about piracy, they’d dump the speed control on YouTube. They’d also police the ‘how to’ defeat Content ID videos on YouTube.”

While Castle is perfectly entitled to his opinion (and it’s one that is popular in the industry) he seems oblivious to the fact that his own article not only reveals how Content ID can be gamed, but also goes on to demand that YouTube censors discussion on the same topic.

If that doesn’t already feel like a case of “don’t do as I do, do as I tell you”, then perhaps the next bit will.

Amping the irony up to 11, Castle then embeds one of the Content ID circumvention videos from YouTube into his own article.

How the video appears in the article

Of course, some people will quite rightly argue that in order to properly report on the problem, someone writing on this topic might need to show an example of an ‘offending’ video on YouTube. We wouldn’t disagree with that assertion at all, 100% in agreement.

There are, however, plenty of problems. For a start, discussing how Content ID can be bypassed isn’t illegal, so if any uploaded videos covering that topic are all the creators’ own work, the resulting videos are legal too.

With that in mind, it’s difficult to see what grounds YouTube would have for taking those videos down. If nothing else, it would be seen as stifling free speech, no matter how disappointing that speech is to the music and movie industries.

Admittedly, inciting people to commit a civil wrong might be a problem in some regions, but in most cases that’s not what we’re talking about here, as illustrated by Music Tech Policy’s willingness to embed the video on its site.

The take-home here is that some material on YouTube is always going to be offensive to some people, we just have to learn how to deal with it and in some cases, make the best of it.

For example, last year I was particularly irritated to find a video on YouTube which detailed how my car could be stolen in seconds using a special device. A link to buy that device was included below the video. Screw YouTube, right? Not really.

With the information presented in the video, I was able to find and buy an aftermarket alarm/immobilizer that defeated that device and others like it.

Admittedly the video (and ‘buy’ link) had the potential to recruit other would-be car thieves to the party, but if I hadn’t have seen it too, my car would still be vulnerable today. The thieves, meanwhile, would still have the ability to steal it. As it stands, it’s going nowhere, at least by that method.

Ultimately, knowledge is power and it is absolutely pointless to try and suppress it with censorship, people are always one step ahead. We just need to use all available knowledge to our advantage.

So, despite Chris Castle perhaps not appreciating the irony, he was absolutely within his rights to write that article and embed those videos in order to illustrate a point that is not only important to him, but others too. Whether people agree with him or not is moot.

He shouldn’t be censored, and YouTube shouldn’t be required to censor people either. The site already provides Content ID to millions of satisfied users and presumably, it’s in YouTube’s best interest to have that working as advertised.

That it fails sometimes is no surprise but talking about its weaknesses, on YouTube and sites like Music Tech Policy and indeed here on TF, draws attention to the topic. And only when people are allowed to discuss stuff openly does anything get done.

Censorship is never the answer and only makes matters like these worse.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Premier League Asks Google to Take Down Facebook’s Homepage

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/premier-league-asks-google-to-take-down-facebooks-homepage-170429/

Removing search results is nothing new for Google. The company has been cleaning up its search index for years, in response to complaints from copyright holders.

Every week the search engine processes millions of requests. In most cases these claims are legitimate, but every now and then innocent web pages are mistakenly targeted.

This week we stumbled upon a takedown notice that’s clearly not right. The request was sent by NetResult on behalf of the Premier League, and targets a wide variety of sports streaming related sites.

“The reported URLs are offering unauthored live streams of Premier League content,” it reads, listing the homepages of sites such as streamsarena.eu, letsfooty.com, tvlink.in and sportcategory.com.

While targeting the homepages of these sites is already quite broad, it also lists the main Facebook.com URL among the infringing domains, asking Google to remove it from the search engine entirely.

Premier League Takedown Notice

Google has investigated the claims, including the Facebook one, but decided not to comply with the notice in question, leaving Facebook’s homepage in search results.

In situations like this, we can see how easy erroneous takedown claims can easily lead to over-blocking. It’s good to know that, despite receiving millions of requests per day, the search engine is still able to spot most of these flaws.

Unfortunately, however, not all mistakes are easily caught, especially when they concern smaller sites.

Just a few days ago we noticed that a page from the copyright troll blog DieTrollDie was removed from Google’s search results because it mentioned a torrent hash of a Lionsgate film, and another blog had several court filings removed from the results for the same reason.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Pirate Site Blockades Violate Free Speech, Mexico’s Supreme Court Rules

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-site-blockades-violate-free-speech-mexicos-supreme-court-rules-170425/

In many European countries it’s a mere formality to order local Internet providers to block access to pirate sites, but this is not the case in Mexico.

In 2015 the Government’s Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI) ordered local ISP Alestra to block access to the website mymusiic.com.

The website in question was targeted at a Mexican audience and offered music downloads, some of which were shared without permission.

The ISP was not pleased with the order and appealed it in court. Among other things, the defense argued that the order was too broad, as it also restricted access to music that might not be infringing.

A few days ago the case was heard by the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, which ruled that the Government’s order is indeed disproportional. Mexican law does allow for blocking orders, but these have to be targeted at specific content instead of the website as a whole.

Mymusiic.com

“Although such [blocking] measures are provided for by Law and pursue a legitimate purpose, the fact is that they do not meet the requirements of necessity and proportionality since the restrictions on the right of freedom of expression must refer to specific content,” Minister Alberto Perez Dayán said.

“Hence the generic bans on the operation of certain websites and systems may violate the human right of freedom of expression,” he added.

The broad request ordered by IMPI equates to censorship and violates the constitution. Minister Perez Dayán compared the proposed blockade with the shutdown of a printing press, for publishing a single work without permission.

With this Supreme Court decision in hand, it will be very difficult for the authorities, or rightsholders, to demand similar blockades in the future. Instead, they will have to resort to targeting specific content, through takedown notices or via more targeted blocking efforts.

Mymusiic.com, the site that got the landmark case started, has quietly disappeared and is no longer operational.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Reddit Rejects 81% Of All ‘Piracy’ Takedown Notices

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/reddit-rejects-81-of-all-piracy-takedown-notices-170416/

With millions of pageviews per day, Reddit is without doubt one of the most visited sites on the Internet.

The community-oriented platform has “subreddits” dedicated to pretty much every topic you can think of, including several dedicated to online piracy and related issues.

While the vast majority remain within the boundaries of the law, on occasion users post copyright-infringing material. This means that, like any user-generated site of its size, Reddit also has to process a steady stream of takedown requests from rightsholders.

To give the public insight into the process and volume, Reddit regularly publishes a transparency report. In the most recent report, published a few days ago, the company outlines the number of DMCA takedown notices received and how many of these were “valid.”

“For a request to be valid, it must comply with the statutory requirements outlined in the DMCA,” Reddit explains.

“Each DMCA takedown notice is reviewed carefully and, in circumstances where content is actually hosted on our servers, we assess whether the existence of the content on Reddit can fall under an exception, such as ‘fair use’ of the copyrighted material.”

If the company believes that the reported content might be covered by an exemption under copyright law, they contact the copyright holder asking for additional information. If the claim turns out to be legitimate, it is then removed.

Unlike some other sites and services, Reddit doesn’t blindly remove a posting that links to copyrighted content hosted on an external site. The company previously stated that “links do not generally infringe copyright.”

This is definitely a different approach than other companies, including Google, take, and it’s likely to be reflected in the numbers as well.

So how much content was removed in 2016?

According to the transparency report, Reddit received 3,294 copyright removal requests over the entire year. Not really an impressive number compared to a service like Google, but substantial nonetheless.

The rejection rate is without a doubt impressive. The company says that it was required to remove content from the site in 610 instances, which is 19 percent. That means that of all DMCA requests, 81 percent was rejected.

That’s quite a significant percentage. At Google, for example, more than 90 percent of all reported content is removed.

While the number of takedown requests Reddit receives pales in comparison to other Internet services, it’s good to see that the company carefully reviews all notices to prevent unwarranted censorship. It will be interesting to see how the volume of requests and the removal rate changes over time.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Court Sentences Movie Downloaders to 45 Days in Jail

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/court-sentences-movie-downloaders-to-45-days-in-jail-170416/

What’s the appropriate way to deal with online piracy? Education? Fines? Jail sentences? All of these things are possible in today’s world, depending on scale of offending and location.

In the United States, for example, educational warnings formed part of the Copyright Alerts program, but with that having fallen by the wayside, fines (aka settlement demands) are the most common form of punishment. People can still be taken to court though, and with statutory damages of $150,000 per title on the table, things can get hairy pretty quickly.

On the whole, jail sentences are uncommon and are usually saved for the more serious offenders, such as site operators and release groups. On the rare occasions, a custodial is handed out, they tend to be measured in months and years, not days and weeks. Over in Nigeria, it appears things are done a little differently.

Following a complaint from the local Hausa Film Makers Association, 18 people were arrested under suspicion of online piracy of so-called Kannywood films, movies produced by the Hausa-language film industry based in the north of the country.

The Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC), a paramilitary agency of the Nigerian government, took care of the prosecution. The accused appeared in court last week charged with unlawfully downloading and sharing the movies. According to a report from The Nation, things escalated quickly.

“When the one-count charge of piracy was read to them, they all pleaded guilty,” said Ibrahim Idris of the NSCDC.

“The Chief Magistrate, Sanusi Usman, thereafter sentenced them to 45 days imprisonment or to pay a fine of N12,000 each.”

While the $40 fine might be an option for some, any period in jail for sharing a movie seems particularly harsh, particularly in Nigeria, a country that places no priority on burglary offenses and chooses not to enforce its own traffic laws.

The United States classifies the country as having a “critical” crime rate so why piracy receives any attention isn’t clear, despite the country’s reported “zero tolerance” stance. There might, however, be a little clue in the way the Internet pirates were charged.

“The convicts were accused of downloading and sending of Hausa films, an act that contravenes a section of Kano State Censorship Board laws 2001,” Idris says.

Nigeria’s Censorship Board takes its responsibilities seriously, and while it appears to have responded to complaints of Internet piracy from an industry group, other areas of law may have come into play.

“The primary responsibility of the board is to filter any viewable, audible, or readable material produced by the mass media, or via the internet or performed on the stage,” the Board says in its mission statement.

“It is the duty of the board to censor such materials before they are released for public consumption; educate the stakeholders and the general public; and to prosecute the defaulters.”

When one begins to grasp the level of control commanded by the Board, it becomes clear that file-sharing networks are almost completely incompatible with its mission. It regularly bans songs and forbids their downloading so little surprise that when it suits the authorities, the big guns can be brought out to deal with the information-spreading public.

“The cheapest way of corrupting our cultural base is through the use of tools of mass media namely, the internet, television, adverts, movies, other cinematographs and through assorted literary works,” the Board explains.

“These tools of mass mind control and corruption are targeted on the youths of our developing countries on whose shoulders lie the future of this generation and yet unborn ones.”

The claims that pirates in the United States are merely destroying the film industry clearly pale in comparison…..

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Cloudflare Doesn’t Want to Become the ‘Piracy Police’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflare-doesnt-want-to-be-the-piracy-police-170413/

As one of the leading CDN and DDoS protection services, Cloudflare is used by millions of websites across the globe.

This includes thousands of “pirate” sites, including the likes of The Pirate Bay and ExtraTorrent, which rely on the U.S.-based company to keep server loads down.

Copyright holders are not happy that CloudFlare services these sites. Last year, the RIAA and MPAA called the company out for aiding copyright infringers and helping pirate sites to obfuscate their actual location.

The rightsholders want Internet services such as Cloudflare to help them address online piracy more effectively. They are pushing for voluntary agreements to go above and beyond what the law prescribes them to do.

In the UK, for example, search engines have agreed to do more to hinder piracy, and advertisers, payment processors, and ISPs have also taken more active roles in combatting infringement.

In a whitepaper, Cloudflare sees this trend as a worrying development. The company points out that the safe harbor provisions put in place by the DMCA and Europe’s eCommerce Directive have been effective in fostering innovation for many years. Voluntary “anti-piracy” agreements may change this.

“Slowly however, a wider net of intermediaries — from hosting providers to search engines, eCommerce platforms and other internet players — have been encouraged to help address new societal challenges, to help ‘clean up the web’, and effectively become internet police. Innovation continues but at the same time is threatened,” Cloudflare writes.

In addition, rightsholders are trying to update current legislation to increase liability for Internet services. In Europe, for example, a new copyright law proposal will make piracy filtering systems mandatory for some Internet services.

In its whitepaper, Cloudflare argues the such “back-door attempts to update legislation” should be closely monitored.

Instead of putting the blame on outsiders, copyright holders should change their views and embrace the Internet, the company argues. There are plenty of opportunities on the Internet, and the losses rightholders claim are often overblown rhetoric.

“Internet innovation has kept pace but many content creators and rights-holders have not adapted, and many content creators claim a loss in earning power as a result of online piracy.”

According to Cloudflare, content creators are often too quick to put the blame onto others, out of frustration.

“Many rights-holders are frustrated by their own inability to monetize the exchange of protected content and so the internet is seen not as a digital opportunity but rather a digital threat.”

Cloudflare argues that increased monitoring and censorship are not proper solutions. Third-party Internet services shouldn’t be pushed into the role of Internet police out of a fear of piracy.

Instead, the company cautions against far-reaching voluntary agreements that may come at the expense of the public.

“Voluntary measures have their limits and care must be taken not to have intermediaries be pushed into the area of excessive monitoring or indeed censorship. Intermediaries should not be forced to act as judge and jury, and indeed putting commercial entities in such a position is dangerous.”

Cloudfare stresses that it does not monitor, evaluate, judge or store content on sites operated by its clients, nor has it plans to do so. The company merely acts as a neutral ‘reverse proxy’ and operates within the boundaries of the law

Of course, Cloudflare isn’t completely deaf to the concerns of copyright holders. Among other things, it has a trusted notifier program that allows rightsholders to obtain the true location of pirate sites that use the service. However, they explicitly say ‘no’ to proactive monitoring.

“Policy makers should not look for quick, short-term solutions to other complex problems of the moment involving the internet. A firehose approach which soaks anyone and everyone standing around an issue, is simply not the way forward,” the company writes.

The full whitepaper titled “Intermediary Liability: Safeguarding Digital Innovation and the Role of Internet Intermediaries” is avaialble here (pdf).

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Congress Removes FCC Privacy Protections on Your Internet Usage

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/03/congress_remove.html

Think about all of the websites you visit every day. Now imagine if the likes of Time Warner, AT&T, and Verizon collected all of your browsing history and sold it on to the highest bidder. That’s what will probably happen if Congress has its way.

This week, lawmakers voted to allow Internet service providers to violate your privacy for their own profit. Not only have they voted to repeal a rule that protects your privacy, they are also trying to make it illegal for the Federal Communications Commission to enact other rules to protect your privacy online.

That this is not provoking greater outcry illustrates how much we’ve ceded any willingness to shape our technological future to for-profit companies and are allowing them to do it for us.

There are a lot of reasons to be worried about this. Because your Internet service provider controls your connection to the Internet, it is in a position to see everything you do on the Internet. Unlike a search engine or social networking platform or news site, you can’t easily switch to a competitor. And there’s not a lot of competition in the market, either. If you have a choice between two high-speed providers in the US, consider yourself lucky.

What can telecom companies do with this newly granted power to spy on everything you’re doing? Of course they can sell your data to marketers — and the inevitable criminals and foreign governments who also line up to buy it. But they can do more creepy things as well.

They can snoop through your traffic and insert their own ads. They can deploy systems that remove encryption so they can better eavesdrop. They can redirect your searches to other sites. They can install surveillance software on your computers and phones. None of these are hypothetical.

They’re all things Internet service providers have done before, and they are some of the reasons the FCC tried to protect your privacy in the first place. And now they’ll be able to do all of these things in secret, without your knowledge or consent. And, of course, governments worldwide will have access to these powers. And all of that data will be at risk of hacking, either by criminals and other governments.

Telecom companies have argued that other Internet players already have these creepy powers — although they didn’t use the word “creepy” — so why should they not have them as well? It’s a valid point.

Surveillance is already the business model of the Internet, and literally hundreds of companies spy on your Internet activity against your interests and for their own profit.

Your e-mail provider already knows everything you write to your family, friends, and colleagues. Google already knows our hopes, fears, and interests, because that’s what we search for.

Your cellular provider already tracks your physical location at all times: it knows where you live, where you work, when you go to sleep at night, when you wake up in the morning, and — because everyone has a smartphone — who you spend time with and who you sleep with.

And some of the things these companies do with that power is no less creepy. Facebook has run experiments in manipulating your mood by changing what you see on your news feed. Uber used its ride data to identify one-night stands. Even Sony once installed spyware on customers’ computers to try and detect if they copied music files.

Aside from spying for profit, companies can spy for other purposes. Uber has already considered using data it collects to intimidate a journalist. Imagine what an Internet service provider can do with the data it collects: against politicians, against the media, against rivals.

Of course the telecom companies want a piece of the surveillance capitalism pie. Despite dwindling revenues, increasing use of ad blockers, and increases in clickfraud, violating our privacy is still a profitable business — especially if it’s done in secret.

The bigger question is: why do we allow for-profit corporations to create our technological future in ways that are optimized for their profits and anathema to our own interests?

When markets work well, different companies compete on price and features, and society collectively rewards better products by purchasing them. This mechanism fails if there is no competition, or if rival companies choose not to compete on a particular feature. It fails when customers are unable to switch to competitors. And it fails when what companies do remains secret.

Unlike service providers like Google and Facebook, telecom companies are infrastructure that requires government involvement and regulation. The practical impossibility of consumers learning the extent of surveillance by their Internet service providers, combined with the difficulty of switching them, means that the decision about whether to be spied on should be with the consumer and not a telecom giant. That this new bill reverses that is both wrong and harmful.

Today, technology is changing the fabric of our society faster than at any other time in history. We have big questions that we need to tackle: not just privacy, but questions of freedom, fairness, and liberty. Algorithms are making decisions about policing, healthcare.

Driverless vehicles are making decisions about traffic and safety. Warfare is increasingly being fought remotely and autonomously. Censorship is on the rise globally. Propaganda is being promulgated more efficiently than ever. These problems won’t go away. If anything, the Internet of things and the computerization of every aspect of our lives will make it worse.

In today’s political climate, it seems impossible that Congress would legislate these things to our benefit. Right now, regulatory agencies such as the FTC and FCC are our best hope to protect our privacy and security against rampant corporate power. That Congress has decided to reduce that power leaves us at enormous risk.

It’s too late to do anything about this bill — Trump will certainly sign it — but we need to be alert to future bills that reduce our privacy and security.

This post previously appeared on the Guardian.

EDITED TO ADD: Former FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler wrote a good op-ed on the subject. And here’s an essay laying out what this all means to the average Internet user.

‘Piracy Filters Are Expensive and Far From Perfect’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/piracy-filters-are-expensive-and-far-from-perfect-170329/

Signed into law nearly twenty years ago, the DMCA is one of the best known pieces of Internet related legislation.

The law introduced a safe harbor for Internet services, meaning that they can’t be held liable for their pirating users as long as they properly process takedown notices and deal with repeat infringers.

In recent years, however, various parties have complained about shortcomings and abuse of the system. On the one hand, rightsholders believe that the law doesn’t do enough to protect creators, while the opposing side warns of increased censorship and abuse.

To address these concerns, the U.S. Copyright Office hosted a public consultation asking stakeholders to submit comments as well as research. One of the organizations participating is Engine, a non-profit organization representing the interests of the startup and tech communities.

Previously, several copyright industry representatives suggested that piracy filters are an efficient and effective way to deal with piracy. This would save rightsholders a lot of work, and in part shift the ‘policing’ burden to Internet services. However, not everyone in the tech community agrees.

Balancing the scale, Engine teamed up with Professor Nick Feamster of Princeton University to show that automated filters are far from perfect. In their research report titled “The limits of Filtering,” they list a wide variety of drawbacks.

“Before considering dangerous mandatory content filtering rules, policymakers should understand the inherent limitations of filtering technologies,” they write in their report.

“Reversing two decades of sensible copyright policy to require OSPs to deploy tools that are costly, easily circumvented, and limited in scope would deeply harm startups, users, and content creators alike.”

The researchers point out that filtering has a limited scope. File-formats continuously change or can be masked, for example, and even in the ideal case where a site only hosts straightforward audio files, it’s not perfect either.

The report cites a recent case study which found that the music fingerprinting system Echoprint misidentifies between 1 and 2 percent of all files. This might not sound like a lot, but when a site hosts millions of files, it adds up quickly.

With these numbers, tens of thousands of files would be taken down in error, which is far from ideal.

“Given the reported error rates, one could thus expect the state of the art fingerprinting algorithm to misidentify about one or two in every 100 pieces of audio content,” the researchers write.

“Accordingly, a 1–2 percent false positive rate for an automated filtering procedure is problematic for the same reasons, as such a technique would result in filtering legitimate content at rates that would frequently obstruct speech.”

That’s in an ideal situation. The reality is more complicated. An automated filtering tool can’t effectively decide fair use cases, for example. And for some types of content there are no good filtering options available to begin with.

On a broader scale, Engine’s research also predicts an overall negative impact on Internet services. The costs involved could prove to be problematic for smaller startups, for example. Medium-sized file-sharing services would have to pay between $10,000 and $25,000 in licensing fees alone.

A filtering requirement will also create uncertainty among startups. Are they required to filter, to what degree, and is their fingerprinting technology sufficient?

Finally, there’s an elephant in the room. Even if filtering magically works 100%, there will always be plenty of rogue pirate sites in foreign jurisdictions that still offer infringing content.

Speaking with TorrentFreak, Engine’s Executive Director Evan Engstrom, who co-authored the report, hopes that lawmakers will seriously consider the concerns. Not just the US Copyright Office, but also the European Commission (EC) which has concrete plans to make piracy filters mandatory.

“All filtering technologies are limited in significant ways: they are only able to process a relatively narrow range of content files and all can be circumvented through encryption or basic file manipulation. And contrary to the EC’s belief, fingerprinting technologies can be quite expensive, particularly for startups,” Engstrom says.

“We hope this paper provides policymakers considering such mandatory filtering proposals with the technical and economic evidence necessary to fully understand their implications.”

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

KickassTorrents Team Fights on and Prepares for “Happy Torrents Day”

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/kickasstorrents-team-fights-on-and-prepares-for-happy-torrents-day-170312/

After KickassTorrents was shut down July last year, several KAT-crew members regrouped in an effort to get the community part of the site back up.

They launched the Katcr.co forum as their new home and hinted that torrents could come back too, in the future.

And indeed, by December a new version of the site was launched, complete with the KAT look and feel.

Now, several months have passed, and the new site is still up, gaining traffic month after month. While things will never be entirely the same, the community doesn’t intend to give up its traditions including “Happy Torrents Day” which is penned in the agenda for March 30th.

In a message on the site the KAT-team has announced the sixth celebration of this festive day where people are encouraged to share as much as possible. Marking this milestone, we got in touch with one of the staffers, Mr. Gooner, to ask what all the fuss is about.

“Happy Torrents Day is to honor and celebrate the freedom and ability to share, to encourage users to share as much as possible on the day, whilst participating in various events within the community. We’ve known users to book time off work for the day and organize themselves well in advance,” Mr. Gooner says.

While the tradition is being kept alive, things will be a bit different this year. Although the new site has millions of visitors a month, the traffic is nowhere near what it was. According to the team, however, the most important part is that people can share again, freely.

“Our milestones for Happy Torrents Day are simply to share as many torrents as possible, more every year and celebrate our freedom to do so,” Mr. Gooner notes.

Happy Torrents Day 2017

While KATcr looks a lot like the old site, there is still more work to be done behind the scenes to get it where the team wants it to be. The development of the original site took years and the current staff are working hard to get it at that level again.

The past months haven’t been without issues though. When the site first launched its torrent section it was unreachable for days, due to the massive attention, and even today there are some additional hiccups. However, things are progressing.

“At the present moment, the site design and code is not where we want it, system timeouts and overloads are present at some stages but as we mentioned it’s a huge challenge to start from scratch again. We are working hard on it,” Mr. Gooner says.

KATcr doesn’t consider itself a KAT successor. They are KAT. While the technical part of the site was previously managed by a separate team, the same group of staffers, uploaders, and users is still on board.

At the old site, the community was managed by much of the same team that handles things today.

“We are not the KAT successor – we are KAT and always have been. Kickass Torrents was never run by the founder, it was always run by Team Kickass, our Super Users, Translators, uploaders and community members.

“Every thread, team member promotion and site feature was decided by the team. The site was and is still running under the same command of administration, moderation team, and rules,” Mr. Gooner adds.

Bringing back a website whose alleged former owner and operators are caught up in a US criminal investigation isn’t without risk. Thus far, however, the new site hasn’t been targeted by law enforcement.

There are the occasional legal takedown requests, of course. The KAT team says it will fully comply with these, as long as they’re lawful.

“We’ve had some interesting demands such as supplying access to our database so that a particular agency can access and remove content directly from our site on their say-so. Obviously unreasonable requests won’t be entertained, however, genuine copyright requests are voluntarily actioned without delay,” Mr. Gooner says.

As for the future?

The KAT team intends to keep building the site and community, improving it bit by bit. If the original founder returns they are happy to hand over the reigns but for now, they plan to stay on their current course.

“Right now we are focusing on getting back to where we were. We fully support our founder and expect him to be released. If that happens quickly, we will go back to full site immediately.”

“If that takes time, we will continue to work hard, re-build the code and get KAT back to where we were. After that, we will just keep growing, sharing and fighting internet censorship. And the more they push us, the harder we’ll fight,” Mr. Gooner concludes.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

UK Court Dismisses Case Against Torrent Site Proxy Operator

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/uk-court-dismisses-case-against-torrent-site-proxy-operator-170307/

cityoflondonpoliceDuring the summer of 2014, City of London Police arrested then 20-year-old Callum Haywood of Bakersfield for his involvement with several proxy sites and services.

The investigation linked Haywood to Immunicity, a censorship circumvention tool that allowed users to route their traffic through a proxy network. In addition, he was also connected to the Pirate Bay proxy list Piratereverse.info plus several KickassTorrents and other proxy sites.

These proxies all served as a copy of the original sites, which are blocked by several UK ISPs, allowing users to bypass restrictions imposed by the High Court. While Haywood wasn’t operating any of the original sites, police decided to move ahead with the case anyway.

Following the arrest, progress was slow. It took nearly two years for the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) to formally announce charges, which amounted to one count of converting and/or transferring criminal property and six counts of possession of an article for use in fraud.

The charges related to the operation of a Pirate Bay proxy and two KickassTorrent proxies, and could’ve potentially landed the now 23-year-old a prison sentence of over ten years.

Haywood, however, denied any wrongdoing and after three dismissal hearings, his Honour Judge Dickinson QC of the Nottingham Crown Court agreed that the case should be dismissed. The initial dismissal was signed late last week, and after PIPCU chose not to appeal, the case is now over.

Piratereverse.info

piratereverse

No official paperwork has been released yet, but we were informed that the Court dismissed the case because of conflicting arguments that were presented during hearings last September and December.

The prosecution initially argued that the reverse proxy sites allowed users to make a fraudulent false representation to their ISP, by obscuring their IP-addresses. In a later hearing, however, they argued that Haywood was the one who made the false representation through his software.

The contradicting claims appear to demonstrate a lack of technical understanding on the prosecution’s side. In their September argument, they seemed to confuse a reverse proxy site with a forward proxy, which would indeed hide a user’s activity from an ISP.

In the December hearing, the prosecution made another error. In their attempt to explain what a reverse proxy server is, they relied on printouts from Wikipedia as official evidence. The judge wasn’t happy and stressed that it was unacceptable for the prosecution to submit clearly inadmissible evidence.

While Haywood is obviously pleased with the end result, the case took its toll. There was a looming uncertainty present for years, as well as the prospect of ending up in prison if the case went in the wrong direction.

“Two and a half years is a long time, I have gone from being an undergrad computer science student to graduating with a first class honours, and working as a software developer for a network appliance vendor,” Haywood informs TF.

“While I don’t think it has prevented me from achieving what I wanted, it has been a very difficult period of time for my family, and my friends. Having the case dismissed goes to show how the right decision was to plead not guilty – had I pleaded guilty, I would have been sentenced without contest.”

Haywood always maintained his innocence and in the end it paid off. He now hopes to leave the bad times behind and focus on the future. As for the authorities, he hopes that they will address real threats to society, instead of reverse proxy sites.

“I am pleased that it is over, as it was very frustrating. Everyone that I had discussed the case with who had a decent understanding of the technicalities was shocked that it had been allowed to get so far.

“It is also a disappointment how many resources were wasted in dealing with this case, when there are much more serious actual crimes on our streets,” Haywood concludes.

TorrentFreak contacted PIPCU for a comment, but we haven’t heard back at the time of publication.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Italy’s Pirate Site Blocklist Expands with Flashx, RARBG and Others

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/italys-pirate-site-blocklist-expands-with-flashx-rarbg-and-others-170306/

Website blockades are becoming more common throughout Europe, but with a flurry of recent orders Italy takes the crown.

In recent months hundreds of domain names have been added to the nation’s pirate blocklist, based on complaints from a wide range of copyright holders.

An overview of most of the key cases available on the website of local telecoms watchdog AGCOM lists 300 blocked urls alone.

Over the past week several new domain names were added once again, including ddlhqfilm.com, flashx.tv, games.torrentsnack.com, mega-wii.com, musicplayon.com and rarbg.to.

The applications came from a variety of rightsholder groups and companies, listing several examples of copyright infringements. For Mega-Wii, for example, Digital Content Protection listed several pirated games belonging to EA, Nintendo and Warner Bros. Entertainment.

Based on the information provided, AGCOM ordered local ISPs to block access to the site within two days, as required by law.

TorrentFreak spoke to a site operator whose domain name was blocked recently. He says that in absolute terms, the effect is fairly obvious. Italian traffic to the site tanked soon after Internet providers processed the order, as can be seen below.

Traffic drop following blockade

Still, whether this means that these visitors will stop pirating is less clear. The operator, who prefers not to have his site named, points out that people will simply find ways arount the restrictions.

“These blockades definitely have major effects on site users. Users learn to circumvent them, realizing how stupid their governments are,” the operator informs TorrentFreak.

The effectiveness of the blockades is also put in doubt by academic research. University of Padua professor Giorgio Clemente previously ran a comprehensive analysis, comparing traffic data before and after the Italian blocking measures were implemented.

This research used the same methodology as an earlier MPAA-commissioned study which examined UK blockades. However, instead of merely looking at the blocked domains, Professor Clemente also took domain name changes into account because site operators commonly switch domains to bypass censorship efforts.

With this more complete set of datapoints, he found that Government-sanctioned blockades actually increased traffic to the targeted sites.

“The most important conclusion is that blocking access to websites increases their popularity. In particular, AGCOM helps to advertise pirated works, creating the classic and well-known Streisand effect,” Professor Clemente told TF at the time.

Still, AGCOM and rightsholders are convinced that their actions help people to stay away from pirate sites. In addition to the domains mentioned above, there’s also an application pending against the popular streaming site 123movies, which is the next target to be blocked.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Music Industry Wants Piracy Filters, No Takedown Whack-a-Mole

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/music-industry-wants-piracy-filters-no-takedown-whack-a-mole-170222/

Signed into law nearly twenty years ago, the DMCA is one of the best known pieces of Internet related legislation.

The law provides a safe harbor for Internet services, shielding them from copyright infringement liability as long as they process takedown notices and deal with repeat infringers.

In recent years, however, various parties have complained about shortcomings and abuse of the system. On the one hand, rightsholders believe that the law doesn’t do enough to protect creators, while the opposing side warns of increased censorship and abuse.

To address these concerns, the U.S. Copyright Office is currently running an extended public consultation.

This week a new round of comments was submitted, including a detailed response from a coalition of music industry groups such as the RIAA, National Music Publishers’ Association, and SoundExchange. When it comes to their views of the DMCA the music groups are very clear: It’s failing.

The music groups note that they are currently required to police the entire Internet in search of infringing links and files, which they then have to take down one at a time. This doesn’t work, they argue.

They say that the present situation forces rightsholders to participate in a never-ending whack-a-mole game which doesn’t fix the underlying problem. Instead, it results in a “frustrating, burdensome and ultimately ineffective takedown process.”

“…as numerous copyright owners point out in their comments, the notice and takedown system as currently configured results in an endless game of whack-a-mole, with infringing content that is removed from a site one moment reposted to the same site and other sites moments later, to be repeated ad infinitem.”

Instead of leaving all the work up to copyright holders, the music groups want Internet services to filter out and block infringing content proactively. With the use of automated hash filtering tools, for example.

“One possible solution to this problem would be to require that, once a service provider receives a takedown notice with respect to a given work, the service provider use automated content identification technology to prevent the same work from being uploaded in the future,” the groups write.

“Automated content identification technologies are one important type of standard technical measure that should be adopted across the industry, and at a minimum by service providers who give the public access to large amounts of works uploaded by users.”

These anti-piracy filters are already in use by some companies and are relatively cheap to implement, even for relatively smaller services, the music groups note.

The whack-a-mole problem doesn’t only apply to hosting providers but also to search engines, the music groups complain.

While companies such as Google remove links to infringing material upon request, these links often reappear under a different URL. At the same time, pirate sites often appear before legitimate services in search results. A fix for this problem would be to stop indexing known pirate sites completely.

“One possible solution would be to require search engines to de-index structurally infringing sites that are the subject of a large number of takedown notices,” the groups recommend.

Ideally, they want copyright holders and Internet services to reach a voluntary agreement on how to filter pirated content. This could be similar to YouTube’s Content-ID system, or the hash filtering mechanisms Dropbox and Google Drive employ, for example.

If service providers are not interested in helping out, however, the music industry says new legislation might be needed to give them a push.

“The Music Community stands ready to work with service providers and other copyright owners on the development and implementation of standard technical measures and voluntary measures. However, to the extent such measures are not forthcoming, legislative solutions will be necessary to restore the balance Congress intended,” the recommendation reads.

Interestingly, this collaborative stance doesn’t appear to apply to all parties. File-hosting service 4Shared previously informed TorrentFreak that several prominent music groups have shown little interest in their voluntary piracy fingerprint tool.

The notion of piracy filters isn’t new. A few months ago the European Commission released its proposal to modernize the EU’s copyright law, under which online services will also be required to install mandatory piracy filters.

Whether the U.S. Government will follow suit has yet to be seen. In any case, rightsholders are likely to keep lobbying for change until they see significant improvements.

The full submission of the music groups is available here (pdf).

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Kids Shouldn’t Use the Internet, Russia’s Site-Blocking Chief Says

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/russias-site-blocking-chief-kids-shouldnt-use-the-internet-170218/

Whether we like it or not, there are entities out there that like to try and control what we can and cannot see.

From the MPAA ratings system in the United States to the British Board of Film Censors Classification in the UK, various bodies like to remind us that there are filters in place, ostensibly for our own protection.

Of course, if run properly these kinds of systems can sometimes provide us with useful guidance, which is often welcome. At least they’re relatively subtle when compared to the flat-out Internet censorship provided by the Great Firewall of China, we assure ourselves.

But behind all of this censorship are claims that it’s all done for the greater good, to prevent the undermining of the state, to protect children, or to prevent damage to media companies, for example. Russia takes all of these things fairly seriously, and now blocks thousands of platforms on all kinds of grounds, from extremism to online piracy.

In certain quarters there’s an assumption that those behind such blocking know what they’re doing and can be trusted to do the right thing. This week, however, a few sentences from the boss of Russian telecoms watchdog Rozcomnadzor (which oversees site-blocking) revealed just how far away these people can drift.

In a Q&A session with AIF.ru, Alexander Zharov spoke on a number of issues, including online safety, especially for children. Naturally, kids need to be protected but the Rozcomnadzor chief has some quite radical ideas when it comes to them using the Internet.

“I believe that a child under 10-years-old should not go online. To use [the Internet] actively they need to start even later than that,” Zharov said.

As that begins to sink in, with parents around the globe destroying their kids’ smartphones, tablets, and games consoles in agreement, Zharov hasn’t finished.

“Some parents are proud of the fact that their three-year-old kid can deftly control a tablet and use it to watch cartoons. It is nothing good, in my opinion. A small child will begin to consider the virtual world part of the real world, and it changes their perception of reality.”

To put these ‘banning kids from the Internet’ statements into some kind of perspective, the image below shows figures compiled by UK telecoms regulator OFCOM for its Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report 2016 (pdf).

As we can see, around 80% of kids up to the age of 11 use tablets to consume media, which in many cases is delivered via the Internet. Throw the online capabilities of smartphones and games consoles into the mix and we have a massively connected group of 3 to 10-year-olds, all of them becoming conversant with the vital online world.

That the head of the body overseeing web-blocking in Russia believes that none of them should have access to the Internet is truly mind-boggling, especially when one considers the value children bring to the table.

According to a study just published by eMarketeer, 88.6% of internet users under four-years-old will watch digital video online in 2017, something which in turn will positively affect consumption volumes overall.

“Buoyed by the growth in younger age categories, overall video numbers are up, in 2017 eMarketer estimates that 43.2 million people, equating to 79.4 per cent of Internet users will be watching online videos,” Advanced Television reports.

But credit where it’s due. Zharov does have some good advice for parents, such as limiting the time kids spend online and keeping an eye out for behavior that might indicate cyber-bullying.

“With older children in my family, we have agreed as follows: when on the web, any unusual situation, you need to discuss it with your parents,” he wisely says.

Fortunately for Zharov, the embarrassing “Daddy, what’s a VPN?” question won’t raise its ugly head for at least another half a decade, if he can keep his youngest child (whose coming five) off the Internet for that long.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

BitChute is a BitTorrent-Powered YouTube Alternative

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/bitchute-is-a-bittorrent-powered-youtube-alternative-170129/

bitchute-logoYouTube attracts over a billion visitors every month, with many flocking to the platform to view original content uploaded by thousands of contributors. However, those contributors aren’t completely free to upload and make money from whatever they like.

Since it needs to please its advertisers, YouTube has rules in place over what kind of content can be monetized, something which caused a huge backlash last year alongside claims of censorship.

But what if there was an alternative to YouTube, one that doesn’t impose the same kinds of restrictions on uploaders? Enter BitChute, a BitTorrent-powered video platform that seeks to hand freedom back to its users.

“The idea comes from seeing the increased levels of censorship by the large social media platforms in the last couple of years. Bannings, demonetization, and tweaking algorithms to send certain content into obscurity and, wanting to do something about it,” BitChute founder Ray Vahey informs TorrentFreak.

“I knew building a clone wasn’t the answer, many have tried and failed. And it would inevitably grow into an organization with the same problems anyway.”

As seen in the image below, the site has a familiar layout for anyone used to YouTube-like video platforms. It has similar video controls, view counts, and the ability to vote on content. It also has a fully-functioning comment section.

bitchute

Of course, one of the main obstacles for video content hosting platforms is the obscene amounts of bandwidth they consume. Any level of success is usually accompanied by big hosting bills. But along with its people-powered philosophy, BitChute does things a little differently.

Instead of utilizing central servers, BitChute uses WebTorrent, a system which allows people to share videos directly from their browser, without having to configure or install anything. Essentially this means that the site’s users become hosts of the videos they’re watching, which slams BitChute’s hosting costs into the ground.

“Distributed systems and WebTorrent invert the scalability advantage the Googles and Facebooks have. The bigger our user base grows, the more efficiently it can serve while retaining the simplicity of the web browser,” Vahey says.

“Also by the nature of all torrent technology, we are not locking users into a single site, and they have the choice to retain and continue sharing the files they download. That puts more power back in the hands of the consumer where it should be.”

The only hints that BitChute is using peer-to-peer technology are the peer counts under each video and a short delay before a selected video begins to play. This is necessary for the system to find peers but thankfully it isn’t too intrusive.

As far as we know, BitChute is the first attempt at a YouTube-like platform that leverages peer-to-peer technology. It’s only been in operation for a short time but according to its founder, things are going well.

“As far as I could tell, no one had yet run with this idea as a service, so that’s what myself and few like-minded people decided. To put it out there and see what people think. So far it’s been an amazingly positive response from people who understand and agree with what we’re doing,” Vahey explains.

“Just over three weeks ago we launched with limited upload access on a first come first served basis. We are flat out busy working on the next version of the site; I have two other co-founders based out of the UK who are supporting me, watch this space,” he concludes.

Certainly, people will be cheering the team on. Last September, popular YouTuber Bluedrake experimented with WebTorrent to distribute his videos after becoming frustrated with YouTube’s policies.

“All I want is a site where people can say what they want,” he said at the time. “I want a site where people can operate their business without having somebody else step in and take away their content when they say something they don’t like.”

For now, BitChute is still under development, but so far it has impressed Feross Aboukhadijeh, the Stanford University graduate who invented WebTorrent.

“BitChute is an exciting new product,” he told TF this week. “This is exactly the kind of ‘people-powered’ website that WebTorrent technology was designed to enable. I’m eager to see where the team takes it.”

BitChute can be found here.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Researchers Issue Security Warning Over Android VPN Apps

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/researchers-issue-security-warning-over-android-vpn-apps-170125/

warningThere was a time when the Internet was a fairly straightforward place to navigate, with basic software, basic websites and few major security issues. Over the years, however, things have drastically changed.

Many people now spend their entire lives connected to the web in some way, particularly via mobile devices and apps such as Facebook and the countless thousands of others now freely available online.

For some users, the idea of encrypting their traffic has become attractive, from both a security and anti-censorship standpoint. On the one hand people like the idea of private communications and on the other, encryption can enable people to bypass website blocks, wherever they may occur and for whatever reason.

As a result, millions are now turning to premium VPN packages from reputable companies. Others, however, prefer to use the all-in-one options available on Google’s Play store, but according to a new study, that could be a risky strategy.

A study by researchers at CSIRO’s Data 61, University of New South Wales, and UC Berkley, has found that hundreds of VPN apps available from Google Play presented significant security issues including malware, spyware, adware and data leaks.

Very often, users look at the number of downloads combined with the ‘star rating’ of apps to work out whether they’re getting a good product. However, the researchers found that among the 283 apps tested, even the highest ranked and most-downloaded apps can carry nasty surprises.

“While 37% of the analyzed VPN apps have more than 500K installs and 25% of them receive at least a 4-star rating, over 38% of them contain some malware presence according to VirusTotal,” the researchers write.

The five types of malware detected can be broken down as follows: Adware (43%), Trojan (29%), Malvertising (17%), Riskware (6%) and Spyware (5%). The researchers ordered the most problematic apps by VirusTotal AV-Rank, which represents the number of anti-virus tools that identified any malware activity.

The worst offenders, according to the reportvpn-worst

The researchers found that only a marginal number of VPN users raised any security or privacy concerns in the review sections for each app, despite many of them having serious problems. The high number of downloads seem to suggest that users have confidence in them, despite their issues.

“According to the number of installs of these apps, millions of users appear to trust VPN apps despite their potential maliciousness. In fact, the high presence of malware activity in VPN apps that our analysis has revealed is worrisome given the ability that these apps already have to inspect and analyze all user’s traffic with the VPN permission,” the paper reads.

The growing awareness of VPNs and their association with privacy and security has been a hot topic in recent years, but the researchers found that many of the apps available on Google Play offer neither. Instead, they featured tracking of users by third parties while demanding access to sensitive Android permissions.

“Even though 67% of the identified VPN Android apps offer services to enhance online privacy and security, 75% of them use third-party tracking libraries and 82% request permissions to access sensitive resources including user accounts and text messages,” the researchers note.

Even from this low point, things manage to get worse. Many VPN users associate the product they’re using with encryption and the privacy it brings, but for almost one-fifth of apps tested by the researchers, the concept is alien.

“18% of the VPN apps implement tunneling protocols without encryption despite promising online anonymity and security to their users,” they write, adding that 16% of tested apps routed traffic through other users of the same app rather than utilizing dedicated online servers.

“This forwarding model raises a number of trust, security, and privacy concerns for participating users,” the researchers add, noting that only Hola admits to the practice on its website.

And when it comes to the handling of IPv6 traffic, the majority of the apps featured in the study fell short in a dramatic way. Around 84% of the VPN apps tested had IPv6 leaks while 66% had DNS leaks, something the researchers put down to misconfigurations or developer-induced errors.

“Both the lack of strong encryption and traffic leakages can ease online tracking activities performed by inpath middleboxes (e.g., commercial WiFi [Access Points] harvesting user’s data) and by surveillance agencies,” they warn.

While the study (pdf) is detailed, it does not attempt to rank any of the applications tested, other than showing a table of some of the worst offenders. From the perspective of the consumer looking to install a good VPN app, that’s possibly not as helpful as they might like.

Instead, those looking for a VPN will have to carry out their own research online before taking the plunge. Sticking with well-known companies that are transparent about their practices is a great start. And, if an app requests access to sensitive data during the install process for no good reason, get rid of it. Finally, if it’s a free app with a free service included, it’s a fair assumption that strings may be attached.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

China Bans Unauthorized VPN Services in Internet Crackdown

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/china-ban-unauthorized-vpn-services-in-internet-crackdown-170123/

blocked-censorWhile the Internet is considered by many to be the greatest invention of modern time, to others it presents a disruptive influence that needs to be controlled.

Among developed nations nowhere is this more obvious than in China, where the government seeks to limit what citizens can experience online. Using technology such as filters and an army of personnel, people are routinely barred from visiting certain websites and engaging in activity deemed as undermining the state.

Of course, a cat-and-mouse game is continuously underway, with citizens regularly trying to punch through the country’s so-called ‘Great Firewall’ using various techniques, services, and encryption technologies. Now, however, even that is under threat.

In an announcement yesterday from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the government explained that due to Internet technologies and services expanding in a “disorderly” fashion, regulation is needed to restore order.

“In recent years, as advances in information technology networks, cloud computing, big data and other applications have flourished, China’s Internet network access services market is facing many development opportunities. However, signs of disorderly development show the urgent need for regulation norms,” MIIT said.

In order to “standardize” the market and “strengthen network information security management,” the government says it is embarking on a “nationwide Internet network access services clean-up.” It will begin immediately and continue until March 31, 2018, with several aims.

All Internet services such as data centers, ISPs, CDNs and much-valued censorship-busting VPNs, will need to have pre-approval from the government to operate. Operating such a service without a corresponding telecommunications business license will constitute an offense.

“Internet data centers, ISP and CDN enterprises shall not privately build communication transmission facilities, and shall not use the network infrastructure and IP addresses, bandwidth and other network access resources…without the corresponding telecommunications business license,” the notice reads.

It will also be an offense to possess a business license but then operate outside its scope, such as by exceeding its regional boundaries or by operating other Internet services not permitted by the license. Internet entities are also forbidden to sub-lease to other unlicensed entities.

In the notice, VPNs and similar technologies have a section all to themselves and are framed as “cross-border issues.”

“Without the approval of the telecommunications administrations, entities can not create their own or leased line (including a Virtual Private Network) and other channels to carry out cross-border business activities,” it reads.

The notice, published yesterday, renders most VPN providers in China illegal, SCMP reports.

Only time will tell what effect the ban will have in the real world, but in the short-term there is bound to be some disruption as entities seek to license their services or scurry away underground.

As always, however, the Internet will perceive censorship as damage, and it’s inevitable that the most determined of netizens will find a way to access content outside China (such as Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter), no matter how strict the rules.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Internet Freedom Day: How Massive ‘Blackout’ Protests Killed Two Anti-Piracy Bills

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/internet-freedom-day-how-blackout-protests-killed-two-anti-piracy-bills-170118/

internetfreedomsopaAt the start of the decade several new bills were introduced in the United States, aiming to make it easier for copyright holders to enforce their rights online.

The proposals, including SOPA and PIPA, would’ve streamlined the shutting down of allegedly infringing domain names and threatened to increase liability for third party services, among other things.

Fearing broad Internet censorship, the proposals ignited a wave of protests led by various activist groups. But, what started as a small protest movement was swiftly elevated to mainstream news, when tech giants such as Google and Wikipedia joined in.

Exactly five years ago, following months of scattered protests, the opposition peaked into a massive Internet blackout campaign.

As a result, the balance of power tipped and Hollywood and the music industry were forced into retreat. Soon after the blackout, both bills were declared dead, a victory which is still frequently referenced today.

A year after the succesfull blackout campaign, January 18 was declared Internet Freedom Day. While the first celebration attracted international news headlines, it’s now become a relatively small event.

Still, many of the concerns that were brought up half a decade ago remain relevant today. Site blocking efforts and domain name seizures are still high on the agenda, and the same is true for search engine ‘censorship’ and liability for ISPs and other third party services.

What has changed is that, instead of tackling these issues through legislation, rightsholders are now focusing on individual lawsuits and voluntary agreements.

This means that for activists, Internet Freedom Day could still be relevant now, both as a remembrance and as a call to action. In any case, it’s worth noting that without the protests things could have been very different today.

Below are a few of the many ‘blackout’ pages that were up (or down) five years ago.

Wikipedia

Wikipedia was completely inaccessible for 24 hours, except the pages about censorship, PIPA and SOPA, of course.

Google

Google blacked out its logo to protest PIPA/SOPA and added a link to a resource page where people could take action.

google strike

Reddit

Reddit directed its users to a resource site where they could take action.

reddit

Imgur

The image sharing site Imgur offered information on the protests as well as steps to take action.

imgurprotest

Demonoid

Demonoid, one of the largest BitTorrent communities at the time, went dark completely, with a nice spotlight effect.

demonid

Firefox

Firefox users were welcomed with a dark themed default homepage, alerting people about the looming PIPA/SOPA threats.

Craigslist

The online classified advertisements portal Craigslist directed the public to a resource site where they could take action.

craigslist-blackout

WordPress

WordPress joined the protest too, and decided to censor itself for the day.

wordpress

Minecraft

Minecraft protested as well, but in red with the tagline “PIPA & SOPA, How About NOPA.”

pipa

TorrentFreak

Yes, we also took part, giving readers the option to save the Internet, or… Meh…

torrentfreak-blackout

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Internet Filtering in Authoritarian Regimes

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/01/internet_filter.html

Interesting research: Sebastian Hellmeier, “The Dictator’s Digital Toolkit: Explaining Variation in Internet Filtering in Authoritarian Regimes,” Politics & Policy, 2016 (full paper is behind a paywall):

Abstract: Following its global diffusion during the last decade, the Internet was expected to become a liberation technology and a threat for autocratic regimes by facilitating collective action. Recently, however, autocratic regimes took control of the Internet and filter online content. Building on the literature concerning the political economy of repression, this article argues that regime characteristics, economic conditions, and conflict in bordering states account for variation in Internet filtering levels among autocratic regimes. Using OLS-regression, the article analyzes the determinants of Internet filtering as measured by the Open Net Initiative in 34 autocratic regimes. The results show that monarchies, regimes with higher levels of social unrest, regime changes in neighboring countries, and less oppositional competition in the political arena are more likely to filter the Internet. The article calls for a systematic data collection to analyze the causal mechanisms and the temporal dynamics of Internet filtering.