Google censoring searches in China again

02/08/2018
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Google has a new logo and updating its image – but under the surface it’s still that pre-2010 half-evil censor

Eight years after Google pulled out of the censored Chinese internet, they’re back.  It’s been reported that the company is working on a mobile search app that would block certain search terms and allow it to reenter the Chinese market.

Google has engaged in the China-controlled internet space before: but in 2010 it pulled out, citing censorship and hacking as reasons.  It didn’t pull out completely – it still offered a number of apps to Chinese users, including Google Translate and Files Go, and the company has offices in Beijing, Shenzhen and Shanghai – But the largest of its services – search, email, and the Play app store – are all unavailable in the country.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin told the Guardian in 2010 that his opposition to enabling censorship was motivated to his being born in Soviet Russia.   “It touches me more than other people having been born in a country that was totalitarian and having seen that for the first few years of my life,” he said as Google exited the Chinese market after 4 years of cooperating with the authorities.

But now they’re back, working on a mobile search app that would block certain search terms and black-listed material.  The app is being designed for Android devices.

According to tech-based news site The Information, Google is also working on a censored news-aggregation app too. The news app would take its lead from popular algorithmically-curated apps such as Bytedance’s Toutiao – released for the Western market as “TopBuzz” – that eschew human editors in favour of personalised, highly viral content.

Patrick Poon, China Researcher at Amnesty International, called Google’s return to censorship “a gross attack on freedom of information and internet freedom.”

In putting profits before human rights, he said, Google would be setting a chilling precedent and handing the Chinese government a victory.

This is important because many computer users will set a search site as their homepage and even find content by entering key-words into the url bar of their browser.  Because of Google’s ubiquity, it is frequently set as default search engine on browsers, meaning that millions of users will find that their experience of the internet is that delivered through the lens of Google.  If that lens is smudged or cracked by censorship, all these users’ internet experience is skewed.  So it is essential to highlight the fact that Google is not the neutral, trustworthy agent that many users think it to be.

GreatFire, an organisation that monitors internet censorship and enables circumvention of the “Great Firewall of China”, said the move “could be the final nail in the Chinese internet freedom coffin” and that “the ensuing crackdown on freedom of speech will be felt around the globe.”

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The “right to be forgotten” bites thief in ass

16/07/2014

So people who have done dodgy crap in the past have a “right to be forgotten”… meaning Google, Bing, etc have to delete links to stories about what crooks and conmen have got up to in the past. Basically, Google etc have to delete links to online stories that might “damage the reputation” of people who have done stupid and even criminal things they’ve done in the past.

But as Dan Gillmor has pointed out in the Guardian, it’s basically a charter for crooks and idiots to hide their stupidity and criminal actions, censoring their past so it looks like they’re not idiots or crooks… info that potential employers, new acquaintances and the like could well need to know. Are you going to enter into business with someone whose ineptness or criminal behaviour is public knowledge? Probably not. But now people will be employing unsuitable people.

But what’s funny about this charade is the fact that the “right to be forgotten” by Google will mean other news outlets will report on these secretive idiots. Check out the story on Robert Daniels-Dwyer. He wanted Google to remove links to reports that he was was convicted of trying to steal £200 worth of Christmas presents from Boots in Oxford in 2006. Google removed the links… but the Oxford Mail’s editor, Simon O’Neill, argued that it is “an assault on the public’s right to know perfectly legitimate information,” and Dwyers’ naughty past has been re-publicised far more than it would have been before the ruling! The Oxford Mail’s editor, Simon O’Neill, argued that it is “an assault on the public’s right to know perfectly legitimate information.”

Check out the original Oxford Mail story here. If the idiot had kept his gob shut, no one would have known about it… it was in 2006 for goodness’ sake!

Calling it a “right to censorship”, editor O’Neill continued: “It is an attempt to re-write history… We often get complaints from convicted criminals that publishing stories about them invades their privacy or is unfair but the simple fact is if they didn’t go out committing crime and appearing in court then there would not be a story.”

The Guardian reported:

The paper reported that Daniels-Dwyer had previously attempted to have the story removed from the Mail’s websites via a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission.

He demanded that Newsquest “should purge the article from all databases, internally and externally available, and from any news databases to which it provides content.”

Two factual amendments were made to the article, but the PCC dismissed his case.

If Daniels-Dwyer was the complainant to Google then it has rebounded on him because the 2006 story has got renewed, and extra, publicity – a direct consequence of all such complaints about online coverage (see the Streisand effect).

The right to be forgotten could well turn out to be the right to be remembered.

So it looks like Daniels-Dwyer has well and truly screwed himself! Ha ha ha!!

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Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” banned because of its “violent content”…?

27/08/2013

Here’s yet another tale of little grey men in little grey offices trying to censor the internet: author Mark Forsyth was in the British Library, and needed to access an online version of one of the Bard’s most famous plays; but the on site computer network denied him access because of its “violent content”! We’re talking about a play that is hundreds of years, is recognized as one of the greatest works of literature in the English language; a play that is routinely taught to 14 year olds – yet the British Library classified it as unsuitable and blocked it! Many young students who don’t want to bother reading the play now have a cast-iron excuse: they’re not allowed to read it!

The British Library has tried to shift the blame (they claim it was down to a newly installed wi-fi service from a third-party provider, who were probably doing what they were told to do), and the Library now say the play has been unblocked. All well and good – but how many other plays, novels, poems, etc have also been blocked? This will be revealed in a piece-meal manner as it’s revealed that one literary work after another has been blocked.

One security expert said the incident highlighted the “dysfunction” of internet filters.

Internet filters have recently come under increased scrutiny, after the government announced that pornography will be automatically blocked by UK internet providers, unless customers choose otherwise.

Digital rights activists raised concerns about the move, fearing that the lists of “banned” sites could be expanded to include pages that should be publicly available.

Prof Ross Anderson, a security expert at Cambridge University, told the BBC that internet filters were “pointless” and that it was “completely inappropriate” to have one in the British Library.

He added: “Everything that is legal should be available over the library’s wi-fi network. The only things they should block are the few dozen books against which there are court judgements in the UK.

“One of the functions of deposit libraries is to keep everything, including smut.”

The British Library defended its position, claiming it was trying to shield users from pornography and gambling websites. But I don’t see how banning literary classics or unfashionable political views will protect the children from smut and scratch-cards…

If you wanna do something, short of fire-bombing the British Library (an illegal act I would never suggest), you could always sign the Open Rights Group’s petition. If you’re one of the unbelievers, online petitions can have an effect. Honest! (So can fire-bombs, but they’re illegal yadda yadda hey!)


“Won’t somebody please think of the children?”

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Robin Walker – what a nasty piece of Tory to find on the sole of your shoe!

01/05/2013

I am a member of online campaign groups like 38 Degrees and Open Rights Group. These are groups that ask members what campaigns it should get involved with, then the group will call on its members to send to local MPs. ministers and other such, so our will is focused and targeted and helps ensure that the government and others can’t just ignore us. Divided we are nothing. United we can do anything… well, the government can’t just ignore us.

My local MP is the Tory Robin Walker. Incidentally, his late father Peter Walker (1932-2010) was MP for Worcester until 1992, when he resigned as MP and was sent to the House of Lords to do his masters’ work. Robin has been a pretty engaged MP – he has replied to every email I’ve sent him (he uses official House of Commons writing paper and envelopes – you would have thought that Parliament had discouraged use of snail mail) but only once has he expressed agreement with my point, about the Defamation Bill). Most recently he sent me a (probably form) letter telling me how important it was that the government keep my communication and other logs for all eternity just in case I were a terrorist or paedophile. He wrote:

Communications data is vital for the police in their fight against crime, including serious offences, such as child abuse, drug-dealing and terrorism.

Note the use of the “big 3″: child abuse, drug-dealing and terrorism”. The suggestion is that opposing the Data Communications Data Bill is, or supports, nonces, pushers and suicide bombers. Thanks Robin; yet another reason to avoid voting for him when the general election comes round.

Right now, I don’t have a clue who’ll get my vote: it won’t be the Conservatives, the Lib Dems are no longer a viable choice…if Ed Miliband can drag Labour back to the left I might put my mark by his name; but how likely will that happen?

Brits are wage-slaves, with mortgages and their children’s educations keeping the populace keeping their nose to the stone, while bankers, corporate directors and other vested interests keep their money in tax havens. But don’t worry: the Conservatives want your personal data, phone logs, emails, bowel movements, whatever, stored for all eternity in a massive computer system that probably fail (as do most government-contracted computer systems do). We’re stuck with this situation unless someone does something about it.

Who’s your MP? Does he care about you? I’d love to see along string of Comments to this post, telling us how our MPs act for our best interests. And my current voting advice regarding the next election: go to the voting station, spoil your ballot (I like to write at the bottom of the voting card “None of the above” and a X in a box next to it), put it in the black box, and be on your way. This is not apathy, this is showing the establishment that the status quo must end.

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18 January – Internet Freedom Day!! Hip Hip Hooray!!

18/01/2013

I got an email today from the nice people at Fight for the Future, reminding me that a year ago today, “you, me, and 24 million people defeated SOPA and Internet censorship. It was the largest online protest ever.” SOPA was the Stop Online Piracy Act, a proposed US law that would have impacted horribly on all our freedoms online. But it was stomped, one year ago today, and now many people are calling for 18 January to be known as Internet Freedom Day.

The email suggested one way we can celebrate Internet Freedom Day:

How is Fight for the Future participating? Since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is coming up, we’re reminded that Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is copyrighted, and often censored on sites like Youtube. We realized that watching and sharing this speech (which could be considered illegal) to celebrate Dr. King’s work and the freedom we fought for is exactly what needs to happen.

To honor Dr. King’s legacy of nonviolent civil disobedience and to celebrate our historic defeat of SOPA, we made this video that contains the entire 17 minute speech.

Join us in a small act of civil disobedience to remember what we fight for. Watch and share this video.

If SOPA had passed, you could have gone to jail for sharing a video of it, and entire websites could have been shut down for linking to it.

But even more than that, there’s a bigger question: Are you okay with a world where when someone just learning about race and civil rights goes to the web to see MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech and is confronted with a notice that says “this video has been removed”? It isn’t until 2038, when the copyright on this speech is over, that you’re even allowed to share this video.

If you haven’t done so already, send this video to a friend, tweet it, talk to your friends about it, and celebrate MLK’s work and our ability to fight back online censorship that can keep the things we love and need from us.

Nice sentiment. And if you click that link to see the Martin Luther King “I Have a Dream” speech, you will see that there’s still a lot to fight for.

The email also said:

Last, but not least, our friend and Center for Rights board member, Marvin Ammori, just wrote a book called On Internet Freedom that you can download *for free* today. He describes it as “a sort of love song to the First Amendment and the Internet.” (You can download the Kindle app for free to read on your computer, phone, or anything else, and we think he’d approve if you removed the DRM to read it on other devices.)

But anyway: 18 January as Internet Freedom Day? Hell yeah, I’m up for it.

Let’s try and make sure the Internet is, and remains, Free.

HAPPY INTERNET FREEDOM DAY!!!

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Wanna share your goodies? You must be a pirate then – keel-haul the varmint!

24/02/2012

Surfthechannel.com used to be a wonderful site, where you could search for tv shows and movies; links to sites like megaupload.com and novamov.com would be supplied, and us cheap freebie-hunters could catch up on all sorts of series that we might have missed, with free downloads so we didn’t have to cane the credit card to watch the time-lapsed shows.

But now it’s all fucked up.  Search for a movie or TV show on Surfthechannel.com and you used to get direct links to streaming sites.  Now you get Filebox.com, Vureel, iTunes… so now it’s basically a pay-to view site, with very occasional free stuff.

I know Surfthechannel.com must have been threatened by someone – but it would have been far more honorouble to relocate to an overseas server, adjust your link-scanning systems (so you could easily use the “save harbor” defence)… but no, you lay on your back and let Bush, Obama, etc tickle your tummy.

Bad luck, Surfthechannel.com – I’m never using you again; I strongly urge my visitors to stay  clear of your vile site; and I hope to hell you dump your damned URL, find another name and overseas host, and go back to the good ol’ days.  So-called “intellectual property owners” scare you people shitless; and I really don’t know why.  Grow some balls, you idiots.

UPDATE: I wrote this blog post some time ago, but never got round to posting it.  Until now.  The US seems to have declared war on the “pirates”, actually stealing URLs of alleged DMCA-violating sites… so if you point your browser at http://www.megaupload.com, what you actually get to see is

I’m sure there are other hosting sites out there who’ve been hit similarly, but I haven’t actually found one yet.  But one thing I have noticed is a growth of difficulty in finding stuff via Project Free TV.  The Project has avoided DMCA-inspired attacks by adhering to its policy of not hosting any material whatsoever. As the Project Free TV Disclaimer says:

The author is not responsible for any contents linked or referred to from his pages – If any damage occurs by the use of information presented there, only the author of the respective pages might be liable, not the one who has linked to these pages.

Project Free TV doesn’t host any content

All Project Free TV does is link or embed content that was uploaded to popular Online Video hosting sites like Veoh.com / Youtube.com / Google Video. All youtube/veoh/googlevideo users signed a contract with the sites when they set up their accounts which forces them not to upload illegal content. By clicking on any Links to videos while surfing on Project Free TV you watch content hosted on third parties and Project Free TV can’t take the responsibility for any content hosted on other sites.

We do not upload any videos nor do we know who and where videos are coming from. We do not promote any illegal conduct of any kind. Links to the videos are submitted by users and managed by users.

No doubt the USA and its bitches, the EU and the UK, are working out how to deal with this “loophole” in the current legislation.  But hopefully they will fail.  Hopefully the Project Free TV will be able to emulate the Pirate Bay‘s  continued existence.  I’m a little worried that I may have jinxed the entire project by stating my hopes.  But fuck that.  Just remember the mantra: “Hope for the best but expect the worst”.  That way, we should never be too disappointed.

I’m not condoning “piracy” here.  But I oppose the idea that anyone can tell me what I can or can’t do with my own CDs/DVDs.  And as for the rights-owners’ claims that each “illegal” download equals one lost sale… you gotta be crazy to believe that and evil to say it.


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Megaupload.com shut down by USA… even though it’s run from New Zealand

21/01/2012

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock somewhere the past few days, I thought I’d fill you in: the popular “internet locker” storage site Megaupload.com has been closed down by the USA because of charges of alleged “piracy”. Apparently:

Shotguns, a Rolls Royce Phantom and millions of dollars were seized from properties linked to Megaupload on Friday, as the US sought to extradite the file-sharing firm’s founders over online piracy claims

and it seems that our of the seven Megaupload executives arrested, including founder Kim Dotcom, appeared in a New Zealand courtroom for a first appearance in what is likely to be a lengthy extradition process. USA authorities, clearly following orders from the vested interests in the SOPA/PIPA controversy, the US wants to put Megaupload bosses on trial for charges including accusing them of racketeering, money laundering and copyright infringement. It’s widely reported (even by the Guardian, damn their eyes!) that Aukland police seized luxury cars, firearms and millions of dollars in cash. As if ownership of nice legal stuff somehow makes these people guilty.

When Kim Dotcom spoke to press, apparently unfazed, he said he has “nothing to hide”

I really don’t get this raid at all. Megaupload.com is an online locker service, where the pubic can buy storage space for files. Megaupload does not examine all these files, but if someone reports that their intellectual rights are being infringed, Megaupload immediately take down the content in question. This all suggests to me that Megaupload is exactly the lawful, prudent service that should be protected under “safe harbor” laws. Ad I certainly don’t get where the US authorities are involved. As the EFF put it: “If the United States can seize a Dutch citizen in New Zealand over a copyright claim, what is next?”.

This is all clearly meant to bolster the case of those who back the draconian SOPA/PIPA laws being considered in the USA. SOPA/PIPA garnered a lot of bad press on “black-out Wednesday” and President Obama’s stated intent to veto the ridiculous laws.

One more interesting factoid: The Pirate Bay was nearly wrecked by Swedish authorities following US orders. And now New Zealand has done the same. So tell me something: when did the entire world become USA juridiction? And WTF are we going to do about it?

Go to Megaupload.com and you get to see this

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