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Links for December 16th 2009 through December 18th 2009:
- Privacy groups challenge Facebook on new settings [BBC News] – “Ten privacy groups in the US have filed a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission over Facebook’s new privacy settings. They argue that privacy on the social networking site has been adversely affected as the firm encourages users to open up their profiles. The company changed its privacy settings, ostensibly to make it easier for users to control their profiles. But it also made it easier for content to be shared with all Facebook users. The idea that personal photos and comments can be seen by all 350 million Facebook users has angered privacy groups. The complaint, filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center and signed by nine other privacy groups, argues that the recent changes “adversely impact users”. Facebook’s changes to users’ privacy settings disclose personal information to the public that was previously restricted,” the complaint read. “
- Microsoft admits code theft for Chinese blog Juku [BBC News] – “Microsoft has indefinitely suspended its Chinese microblogging service MSN Juku after admitting that it “copied” code used to create the site. A vendor contracted to work for the software giant was caught lifting code from a rival Canadian start-up, Plurk. According to Plurk as much as 80% of the basecode was “stolen directly”. Microsoft apologised to Plurk, saying “we are obviously very disappointed but we assume responsibility for this situation”.”
- Child groups slam Conroy’s ISP filtering plans – internet content filtering, mandatory internet fitering, National Children’s and Youth Law Centre (NCYLC), Save the Children [Computerworld] – Children’s rights groups have spoken out against the Federal Government’s plans to introduce mandatory ISP-level filtering, saying it will not effectively protect children. International child rights group, Save the Children, said while it congratulates the government on its attempt to improve the safety of children online, an ISP-level filter is not the best way to offer protection. Child rights specialist, and organisation spokesperson, Dr Annie Pettitt, said it would be more appropriate for the government to educate children and families about appropriate and safe Internet use. “The filter could lull parents into a false sense of security thinking that it is working, but we know hackers are always ahead of those filtering technologies,” Pettitt said. “We could be left in a situation where we think that the filter is sorting out stuff, when in fact it’s not.””
Earlier today I was interviewed by Damien Smith on RTR FM’s morning magazine talking about the Australian Federal Government’s plan to introduce national internet censorship. As you might imagine, I’m not a fan of the plan, and think its the thin edge of a very large, potentially very conservative and encompassing censorship programme. Feel free to listen to the interview, or grab the direct mp3 download, but more than that, please take a look at this material and judge the plan for yourself:
- The Official Report on the ISP Filtering Trial in Australia by Enex
- Net censorship trial report brings more questions than answers by EFA
- Google Australia’s Response to the Internet Filter Plans
- An open letter to Stephen Conroy by Eric Pinkerton
- Welcome to National Censorship Day by David Braue
Links for March 25th 2009 through March 30th 2009:
- Vintage DHARMA ads.[Flickr] – An outstanding set of fan-made ads for the more banal side of Lost‘s Dharma Initiative! By Adam Campbell [Via io9]
- Shooter video games ‘sharpen vision’ [News.com.au] – “Slaying hordes of bad guys in fast-paced video games improves vision, a study has shown for the first time. Far from being harmful to eyesight, as some had feared, action games provide excellent training for what eye doctors call contrast sensitivity, the study found. Contrast sensitivity is the ability to notice tiny changes in shades of grey against a uniform background, and is critical to everyday activities such as night driving and reading. It often degrades with age. The findings, published in Nature Neuroscience, reveal a previously unsuspected adaptability in the brain, and could open the way to new therapies, the researchers said.” (This week, video games are good! 🙂
- When Stars Twitter, a Ghost May Be Lurking – NYTimes.com – “The rapper 50 Cent is among the legion of stars who have recently embraced Twitter to reach fans who crave near-continuous access to their lives and thoughts. On March 1, he shared this insight with the more than 200,000 people who follow him: “My ambition leads me through a tunnel that never ends.” Those were 50 Cent’s words, but it was not exactly him tweeting. Rather, it was Chris Romero, known as Broadway, the director of the rapper’s Web empire, who typed in those words after reading them in an interview. “He doesn’t actually use Twitter,” Mr. Romero said of 50 Cent, whose real name is Curtis Jackson III, “but the energy of it is all him.” … someone has to do all that writing, even if each entry is barely a sentence long. In many cases, celebrities and their handlers have turned to outside writers — ghost Twitterers, if you will — who keep fans updated on the latest twists and turns, often in the star’s own voice.” (If you need a ghostwriter for 140chars, you’re not trying!)
- Conroy admits blacklist error, blames ‘Russian mob’ [SMH] – “The Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, has admitted that Bill Henson images were added to the communications regulator’s list of prohibited websites in error, while blaming the addition of a dentist’s site to the blacklist on the “Russian mob”. Meanwhile, the website of the Federal Government’s censorship body, the Classification Board, was hacked last night and defaced with an anti-censorship screed. The admission by Senator Conroy on ABC television’s Q&A program last night casts significant doubt on the Government’s ability to filter the internet without inadvertently blocking legitimate websites. Q&A was inundated with 2000 questions from the public about the Government’s hugely unpopular policy, and the audience last night ridiculed Senator Conroy by laughing at a number of his responses.”
- YouTube Being Blocked in China, Google Says [NYTimes.com] – “Google said Tuesday that its YouTube video-sharing Web site had been blocked in China. Google said it did not know why the site had been blocked, but a report by the official Xinhua news agency of China on Tuesday said that supporters of the Dalai Lama had fabricated a video that appeared to show Chinese police officers brutally beating Tibetans after riots last year in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital. Xinhua did not identify the video, but based on the description it appears to match a video available on YouTube that was recently released by the Tibetan government in exile. It purports to show police officers storming a monastery after riots in Lhasa last March, kicking and beating protesters. It includes other instances of brutality and graphic images of a protester’s wounds. According to the video, the protester later died.”
Links for March 19th 2009 through March 20th 2009:
- The Hugo Awards : 2009 Hugo Award Nominations – Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is up for a 2009 Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. That’s quite an achievement for a web one-off!
- 94% of Facebook users hate new design – web – Technology – theage.com.au – “Facebook’s redesign is getting an emphatic thumbs down from the notoriously change-wary users of the social network. Ninety-four per cent of the nearly 800,000 Facebook users who have voted in a poll on the site said they do not like the changes rolled out in the past two weeks. Only six per cent said they approve the redesign. Among those writing comments alongside the poll, user Nik McCarthy said the change “Pretty much sucks. Better before.”” (Interesting use of stats, but, yes, new Facebooktwitter design is silly. Very silly.)
- (fake?) ACMA Blacklist leaked; citizens threatened with prosecution [nic.suzor.com] – Nic asks a very good question: “The list is apparently from late last year, and contains just over two thousand URLs (about double the size of the current list). On the list are some sites which look like they may possibly contain some child sexual abuse material. Unfortunately, there are also a very high number of innocuous sites – dentists, tuckshops, dog kennels, favourite collections of lolcats. Reports are coming out that these sites may have been hacked in the past and found their way on to the blacklist. This raises an immediate problem – what happens when the website owner fixes its security hole and removes prohibited content? How do you (a) find out you’re on the blacklist; and then (b) get your site removed?”
Asher Moses reports today ‘Leaked Australian blacklist reveals banned sites’:
The Australian communications regulator’s top-secret blacklist of banned websites has been leaked on to the web and paints a harrowing picture of Australia’s forthcoming internet censorship regime. Wikileaks, an anonymous document repository for whistleblowers, obtained the list … University of Sydney associate professor Bjorn Landfeldt said the leaked list "constitutes a condensed encyclopedia of depravity and potentially very dangerous material". He said the leaked list would become "the concerned parent’s worst nightmare" as curious children would inevitably seek it out. But about half of the sites on the list are not related to child porn and include a slew of online poker sites, YouTube links, regular gay and straight porn sites, Wikipedia entries, euthanasia sites, websites of fringe religions such as satanic sites, fetish sites, Christian sites, the website of a tour operator and even a Queensland dentist. "It seems to me as if just about anything can potentially get on the list," Landfelt said.
At the moment ISPs and others are sent this list, with the option of implement it for some (or all) customers. The current Rudd government, with Stephen Conroy pushing it, wants this to be an Australia-wide mandatory block list. Misuse of such a list (along with the fact its implementation would slow internet access across all of Australia) is one the main reasons so many people, myself included, find national government level internet censorship abhorrent.
(It should be noted, that as this list was obtained from an ISP, it may contain links which were added only by the ISP, not from the ACMA list. I suspect that most of what’s blocked is from ACMA, especially the non-porn stuff, but the exact nuances aren’t 100% clear yet.)
Update: A story about the leaked list on the ABC is provoking a few comments!
Update 2: Conroy claims that the leaked list is not the official blacklist, although there are “are some common URLs to those on the ACMA blacklist”. Oddly, though, Conroy is still referring the matter to police to investigate who leaked the list … which isn’t the list.
Links for February 26th 2009 through March 6th 2009:
- Australians spend much more time online | Australian IT – “The Nielsen Online Internet and Technology Report surveyed more than 2000 Australians and found the average Aussie spent 89.2 hours a week consuming media last year or almost 80 per cent of their waking hours. … this was an increase of almost five hours on 2007 and an extra 17.8 hours from 2006. “Given the average Australian is only awake for around 112 hours per week, it’s surprisingly just how many of those waking hours are dedicated to media consumption… We’ve seen some pretty extraordinary increases in the past few years, however we would anticipate a levelling out in consumption hours of the next few years as Australians simply run out of hours in the day.” … people aged over 16 spent an average of 16.1 hours on the internet each week, 12.9 hours watching TV, 8.8 hours listening to the radio, 3.7 hours on a mobile phone and 2.8 hours reading newspapers. Some users also used more than one form of media at once, with more than three in five internet surfers [also]watching TV”
- RED MARS For Free [Warren Ellis] – “Kim Stanley Robinson’s brilliant sf novel RED MARS is now available as a free PDF download from its US publisher. [Direct link to PDF], and their Free Library page listing it and other available free downloads. Be warned: RED MARS is first of a trilogy, and there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself craving the others (GREEN MARS and BLUE MARS).” (If you”ve not read Red Mars, you’ve missed out on the best hard SF in years, go read it. As Ellis says, once you’ve gone Red, you won’t be able to stop yourself rushing to buy Green and Blue, too!)
- Virtual Worlds – Detailed timeline of the emergence of Virtual Worlds – encompasses many recognisable and a few more abstract elements (do virtual worlds really start in the 1700s?) (Thanks, Jill)
- Web censorship plan heads towards a dead end [The Age] – “The Government’s plan to introduce mandatory internet censorship has effectively been scuttled, following an independent senator’s decision to join the Greens and Opposition in blocking any legislation required to get the scheme started. The Opposition’s communications spokesman Nick Minchin has this week obtained independent legal advice saying that if the Government is to pursue a mandatory filtering regime “legislation of some sort will almost certainly be required”. Senator Nick Xenophon previously indicated he may support a filter that blocks online gambling websites but in a phone interview today he withdrew all support, saying “the more evidence that’s come out, the more questions there are on this”. The Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, has consistently ignored advice from a host of technical experts saying the filters would slow the internet, block legitimate sites, be easily bypassed and fall short of capturing all of the nasty content available online.”