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Russia’s President Vladimir Putin approved a new Internet law Tuesday, further tightening the government’s stranglehold on free and open Web access. The so-called “bloggers law,” borrows from China’s censorship law and requires all Web-based writers with at least 3,000 daily page hits to register with the government. China’s benchmark is slightly more lenient, with a 5,000 page view limit or 500 shares for negative posts.

Russian bloggers, and even people with popular social media accounts, must now follow the same rules as mainstream news outlets: fact-checking and removing inaccurate information that’s posted. Bloggers also aren’t allowed to defame another person or group in their posts, and can’t obfuscate or hide facts to further an agenda. By grouping in everyday citizens who typically make up the blogosphere with journalists, the law gives the Russian government even more opportunity to curate what’s said on the Internet — and ostensibly determine what’s factual or defamatory. The move also puts even greater pressure on the already strained Russian media, which is already under strict government guidelines.

Over the past couple of years, Russia has increased its Internet censorship efforts, including passing online filtering protocols that let the government monitor all Web traffic. In a recent interview with former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, Putin hedged questions about whether Russia spies on its citizens online or otherwise.

Russia remains in the lowest tier (148 of 179) when it comes to media freedom, according to the Press Freedom Index. Reporters Without Borders wrote that the country may have dropped in the ranking if it weren’t for citizens’ strong resistance. The Russian government has banned over 2,000 websites, supposedly targeting illegal drugs, spam and pornography. In the past, bloggers who oppose the Russian government have had their websites blocked. Also, during this year’s Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, there were multiple deaths, dozens of attacks and police arrests as a result of a government crackdown on reporters who focused on corruption or were critical of the government.

But Russia’s blogger law goes further in attempting to curtail free speech online in the country. Starting in the fall, the Russian government will use software to scan the Internet for undisclosed curse words, putting greater scrutiny and restrictions on the country’s bloggers. Curse words in the media were banned in 2013 but Putin’s new law censors profanity — mainly pejoratives referring to genitalia or “women with loose morals” — in books, poetry, films and music among other things. This mandate may target conversation surrounding punk protest group Pussy Riot, whose imprisonment incited worldwide outcry. The law, effective Aug. 1, also requires Internet companies such as Google store servers housing Russian users data inside the country.

While it’s unclear how far the law would extend or how it would affect international outlets, Russia’s move will likely affect thousands of ordinary Russians and could spark a backlash akin to the protests that toppled former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. Ukraine’s draconian censorship law, which required websites to register with the state and criminalized defamation and “distribution of extremist materials,” did little but further fuel the protests raging in Kyiv.

Having cowed the traditional press, government leaders all over the world have increasingly turned to Internet censorship to quell dissent. At least 20 countries increased Internet restrictions over the course of one year, according to a 2012 study published by Freedom House, a democracy watchdog group. Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan shut down Twitter and YouTube amid pressure from corruption scandals in March. China also tightened its censorship efforts by criminalizing derogatory remarks on blogs and online forums last year.

Tech companies, however, are fighting such efforts. For example, during Turkey’s ban, Twitter posted directions on how users could still access the site through text messages or proxy servers. Google also recently took on China’s Great Firewall by announcing plans to encrypt all Web searches, which would make it harder for the government to see what sites people visit.

Source: Lauren C. Williams for ThinkProgress


The NSA “is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world.” (Washington Post)

Join us in protesting the National Security Agency’s wide-ranging invasion of privacy.

Take action →

Over the last decade, net neutrality has increasingly made its way into public discourse: politicians on Capitol Hill have battled over it, corporations have worked to curb it and public interest advocates have fought to preserve it. In September, the fight to keep the Internet free and open found its way to the DC’s Circuit Court of Appeals, where Verizon is attempting to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s current net neutrality regulations. Verizon vs. FCC, which could be decided as soon as this month, is the latest and arguably most important battle to protect the Internet from censorship and discrimination. But what is net neutrality? And what could this case mean for the future of the Internet? We’ve put together this explainer to catch you up.

What is net neutrality?

Network neutrality, or net neutrality, is a term first coined by technology policy scholar Tim Wu to describe the preservation of online innovation by prohibiting companies from discriminating against some users and content, or prioritizing some content over others. It guarantees a level playing field in which Internet users do not have to pay Internet service providers more for better access to online content, and content generators do not have to pay additional fees to ensure users can access their websites or apps.

By the way, what is an Internet service provider?

An Internet service provider, or ISP, is a company or organization that sells you access to the Internet. These companies, like Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner Cable or CenturyLink, do not own the Internet, they just provide the infrastructure needed to access it, like underground fiber optic cables. It’s a lot like how your local water company doesn’t actually own the water you use, they just own the water pipes.

Is net neutrality a new concept?

No. The first innovators of the Word Wide Web intended for Internet to be non-discriminatory and fair to all users. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web, is a staunch supporter of net neutrality regulation and frequently makes public critiques of companies who aim to violate it.

Now, what happens without net neutrality?

Without net neutrality, your Internet service provider could block or slow online content, depending on which websites or apps they wish to preference. For example, an ISP might speed up your access to, but slow or degrade your access to They could also charge different prices for different content. An ISP might charge more to host last week’s episode of Parks and Recreation than to feature an article about it. Internet service providers could also charge fees to Internet companies for providing that content to you. They might, for example, begin charging Netflix a fee for carrying online video over its network, which it likely will pass on along to its customers.


Has anyone in the US attempted to establish net neutrality rules?

Yes, the FCC issued an Internet policy statement in September 2005 that attempted to ensure ISPs “operated in a neutral manner” by offering consumers choice in content, providers and devices. But because it was merely a policy statement, it came with no enforceable rules. In 2006, Republican Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska introduced a failed bill that would have prohibited ISPs from blocking traffic or applications. It would have also tasked the FCC with studying net neutrality for five years and handling net neutrality complaints.

What movement on net neutrality has happened since Obama took office?

The FCC shifted to the left after Obama’s 2008 campaign, which included a net neutrality platform. Obama appointed Julius Genachowski, a lawyer and media businessman who had previously served on the campaign’s technology policy working group, as the commission’s new chairman in 2009. With a new, more liberal chairman and a pro-net neutrality president in office, the FCC began the process of introducing net neutrality rules in October of 2009. In August of 2010, Google and Verizon released a joint policy proposal intended for the FCC as a framework for net neutrality rules, emphasizing self-regulation on broadband Internet. This proposal called for stricter net neutrality regulations on wired Internet services than on wireless Internet services and extremely limited regulation from the Commission. Four months later, in December 2010, the FCC adopted the Open Internet Order by a 3-2 vote. The order, which instituted relatively light net neutrality rules, imposed stricter rules on wired Internet services and weaker rules on wireless services, just as the Google and Verizon proposal had suggested.

What are the rules in the FCC’s Open Internet Order?

Wired Internet service providers, like your broadband Internet at home, are prohibited from blocking content, must disclose their network management practices, terms and conditions and are prohibited from prioritizing some traffic over others. On the other hand, mobile broadband providers, like your cell phone carrier or wireless internet provider, are only required to disclose their network management practices and terms and conditions of their service. These orders fell short of public interest goals to protect consumers, as people are increasingly accessing the Internet via mobile devices. But they also extended too far for some conservative congress members and companies, like Verizon.

Why did Verizon take the FCC to court over net neutrality?

Shortly after the order was instituted in 2011, Verizon sued the FCC saying that the commission does not have regulatory authority to impose net neutrality rules on any Internet Service Provider. After two years of legal filings, oral arguments for Verizon vs. FCC began in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in September.

h/t: Leticia Miranda at The Nation


Just in: FCC votes to consider proposal to end ban on cellphone calls in-flight

Fox News falsely claimed that the Lifeline program to provide low-income Americans with cell phone access is funded by taxpayers. In fact, it’s funded entirely by fees charged to phone providers and other telecommunications companies, some of which pass on the costs to customers’ phone bills.

On Fox & Friends August 27, Gretchen Carlson interviewed Detroit News editorial page editor Nolan Finley about the Lifeline program, which according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) “provides discounts on monthly telephone service for eligible low-income consumers to help ensure they have the opportunities and security that telephone service affords, including being able to connect to jobs, family, and 911 services.” The program also pays for free cell phones for some low-income Americans.

During the segment, both Carlson and Finley falsely asserted that the Lifeline program is taxpayer-funded, referring to it as an “entitlement program.”

Despite these claims, often repeated by Fox News, the Lifeline program is not funded by taxpayers or the U.S. Treasury. As noted in May 2012, “Lifeline is funded by telecom customers who pay a universal service fee as part of their phone bills. The fee technically is not a tax but a cross subsidy, the rules of which are determined by the Federal Communications Commission.” The article further noted that the U.S. Treasury “does not collect or handle the funds” collected by the universal service fee.

From the 08.27.2013 edition of FNC’s Fox and Friends:



The biggest thing to come out of Texas may turn out to be a blow to Internet freedoms: legislators there are considering a bill that would compromise privacy on the Web for all residents of the Lone Star State.


  • Tumblr will remain independent
  • Yahoo bought it because Tumblr was getting too expensive
  • The only thing changing will be the one’s legally owning Tumblr
  • There will remain absolutely no restrictions on gifs/fics/pictures/edits/porn/terms and conditions
  • The terms and conditions will remain the same
  • Tumblr’s options were to shut Tumblr down or get funds
  • ThE lAyOuT iS nOt ChAnGiNg

Better hope and pray to God that this is true.

(via synystergaits-deactivated201310)

Adam Carolla wants “Big Brother” to know he’s fine with them listening to his cell phone conversations. The comedian and popular podcast host laid out his views Friday in light of the ongoing Boston Marathon bombing investigation. “Big Brother doesn’t give a fuck about me and my cell phone conversations,” Carolla said, and he thinks anyone else who’s abiding the law should feel the same way.

Speaking about the Boston suspects and what authorities could have done to prevent last month’s attack, Carolla said, “If you’re involved with this, and you’re going to the mosque, and you’re preaching radical shit, and you’ve got a YouTube channel devoted to blowing stuff up, then we need to look at you.” He said when civil libertarians start warning about “Big Brother” and its increased power after events like this, he likes to remind them what would happen if the government was listening to his cell phone calls.

“All I do is complain about shit and I don’t talk about anything,” he said. “And Big Brother doesn’t give a fuck about my cell phone conversations, because it’s just me talking about cars and complaining about asshole producers I have to work with.” He joked, “It’s rarely speaking about jihad.”

Carolla concluded his point by saying, “if you’re going through your life, and you’re paying your taxes… and you’re not robbing anybody, then the camera’s your friend.” It’s an argument often made by proponents of increased surveillance, and one often challenged by those who, for what ever reason, don’t want to be watched.

From the 05.03.2013 edition of The Adam Carolla Show:

h/t: Mediaite


International Business Times: The suspect, believed to be Dutchman Sven Olaf Kamphuis, has been arrested in Barcelona  in relation to the cyber-attack on Spamhaus, which has been called the biggest in the history of the internet.

Authorities have only addressed the 35-year-old suspect as SK; however, IBTimes UK understands the suspect in custody is Sven Olaf Kamphuis who is affliiated with Stophaus, a group whose goal it is to shut down the anti-spam Spamhaus operation.

The distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, which took place over several days towards the end of March, was called the largest in internet history and hyperbolically compared to a nuclear bomb going off, by the company helping defend against the attack.

More from the International Business Times here.


It’s time to get pissed. The U.S. law that would turn Google, Facebook, and Twitter into legally immune government spies just passed the House.

We expected CISPA to pass; that’s why this spring, we’re going to organize the largest online privacy protest in history to make sure CISPA is gone for good.

And, in response to (Republican) Rep. Mike Rogers’ accusation that CISPA opponents are just “14 year-old tweeter[s] in the basement”, we thought we’d also challenge Rep. Rogers to get on live national television and debate a 14 year-old in a basement on CISPA. The search for the 14 year-old begins. Are you or do you know a 14 year-old who could totally school a congressman on this issue?

This bill affects everyone — not just U.S. citizens. Anyone with a Facebook account could now have their data shipped directly to the U.S. government. That’s why Internet users overwhelmingly oppose this bill. Over 1.5 million people signed petitions against it. But Congress didn’t listen.

Does this remind you of something? Yep, this is the exact position we were in with SOPA last year. Then the Internet rose up and we made history with the SOPA strike.

Join the largest online privacy protest in history to make sure CISPA goes the same route as SOPA and doesn’t become the law that breaks the 4th Amendment. Are you in?

CISPA threatens our most basic rights. Privacy is important not just for our security but for our rights to freedom of expression. The giant tech companies that stood with Internet users against SOPA are not going to help us this time (but some of the large sites like Mozilla, Imgur, and Reddit are all against CISPA and we love them).

Only a massive grassroots outcry will stop this bill. We’re starting to build the tools. But we need your help.

Can you share the flyer below on social media? And tell everyone you know to sign up to join the protest?

(via princesslabelmaker)

BEAVERTON, Ore. (AP) — A grieving Oregon mother who battled Facebook for full access to her deceased son’s account has been pushing for years for something that would prevent others from losing photos, messages and other memories — as she did.

"Everybody’s going to face this kind of a situation at some point in their lives," says Karen Williams, whose 22-year-old son died in a 2005 motorcycle accident.

The Oregon Legislature responded and took up the cause recently with a proposal that would have made it easier for loved ones to access the “digital assets” of the deceased, only to be turned back by pressure from the tech industry, which argued that both a 1986 federal law and voluntary terms of service agreements prohibit companies from sharing a person’s information — even if such a request were included in a last will and testament.

Lobbyists agree the Stored Communications Act is woefully out of date but say that until it’s changed, laws passed at the state level could be unconstitutional.

"Everybody wants to do the right thing, but the hard legal reality is the federal communications act," said Jim Hawley, a vice president at TechNet, an industry group that represents companies such as Google and Microsoft.

Oregon lawmakers moved ahead anyway with a proposal that would have given “digital assets” — everything from photos and messages stored online to intellectual property and banking information — the same treatment as material property for estate purposes.

"I think it’s time for us to really look at what we can do now," said Democratic Sen. Floyd Prozanski after hearing Williams testify about her loss last month.

Two weeks later, however, language in the bill that would have covered social media accounts, from Facebook to Flikr, was stripped as tech lobbyists said the federal law and company privacy policies trumped anything that the bill would have included.

"I recognize the emotional toll these types of decisions can have on a family who’s lost a loved one," Prozanski said Thursday. "But some of these issues may have to be addressed when we have more information than we currently have."

Currently, five states have digital assets laws, which vary widely. This group includes Oklahoma, which passed a law two years ago allowing estate lawyers to access digital assets, even social media accounts. That measure did not face the opposition that has emerged in Oregon.

"There is some question if laws like the one we passed in Oklahoma, would stand up to a challenge by Facebook and Gmail saying their terms of service agreements supersede laws like this one and the one being discussed in Oregon," said Ryan Kiesel, a former Oklahoma legislator who wrote the law.

"That’s a question that remains to be answered," he added.

Several other states, including Nebraska — guided in part by the story of Williams’ 22-year-old son, Loren — are also considering proposals. And the Uniform Law Commission, a non-profit, non-partisan group that writes model legislation for states to help standardize laws around the nation, is examining the issue.

"This law is a real need as we have moved into a digital world," said Lane Shetterly, an Oregon attorney and a representative on the commission’s drafting committee. The group is responsible for standardizing a range of legislation, including commercial transaction regulations and child custody laws.

Proponents say the need is clear. Without clarity or direction, the digital information left behind by a deceased person can spark emotional legal battles, pitting big business against devastated families. And as more and more memories are being stored online, new tools are necessary to make sure loved ones can easily access personal details that could be lost forever.

"If this were a box of letters under his bed, no one would have thought twice," Williams said.

Months after the death of her first-born son, who was away at college in Arizona, Williams found comfort in his Facebook page. There, she was able to click through photos and letters that helped ease the pain of her loss — for two hours.

She learned of the page from his friends and wanted access to his memories to keep them from being deleted, which was Facebook’s policy at the time. Unaware of Internet privacy regulations, she reached out to Facebook for help. As she waited for a response, one of his friends provided a tip that helped her discover his password. “It was like a gift,” she said.

Shortly after, however, the site’s administrators changed the password, citing company policy in denying her. Williams sued and won, but she never received the full access she sought. Eventually, the account was taken down. In the end, she gained little more than a symbolic victory and a role as champion of a cause that didn’t exist before the digital age.

Kiesel, the former Oklahoma lawmaker, says the various attempts at legislation have sparked a long overdue conversation about estate planning for digital assets.

"I think that, because of the wide prevalence of online accounts and digital property, the federal government will ultimately need to pass some legislation that provides greater uniformity," he said.

Under current law, Internet companies that provide storage for digital assets are prohibited from disclosing account information, even to families, without a court order, which can be costly and difficult to obtain.

Even then, there are no guarantees. Facebook, for example, citing its terms of service agreement won’t provide access, even if a judge orders them to do so. Facebook will not comment on pending legislation or specific cases other than to defer to their service agreement, which states, in part, “We may access, preserve and share your information in response to a legal request (like a search warrant, court order or subpoena) if we have a good faith belief that the law requires us to do so.”

Along these lines, TechNet, one of several groups in opposition to the Oregon measure, provided written testimony arguing that legislation requiring online companies to provide access could subject them to federal criminal penalties.

Since she began her quiet crusade after her 2007 court victory yielded limited, temporary access to her son’s account, the social media landscape has changed considerably, but there is still no industry standard. Where Facebook once deleted the accounts of deceased users, for example, pages can now be memorialized for public view.

Many predict the problem will grow as long as there are no estate laws in place to determine what happens to virtual property left behind by the deceased.



Remember back in 2011, when Congress angered privacy advocates and Internet users by introducing legislation like SOPA and ACTA? When more concerns were raised as tech giants like Google fought back against federal law enforcement requests for emails? When, in 2012, Congress introduced the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, which passed the House despite a veto threat from the White House, drawing criticism from privacy advocates?

Well, CISPA is back and completely unchanged from the original draft. And it’s this week’s topic for Underreported Story.

(via truth-has-a-liberal-bias)