EU Net Neutrality: Good and Bad

According to DSL Reports, last week the European Union approved, with little debate, a relatively weak set of net neutrality rules with many loopholes for ISP’s. However, a hidden gem in the new rules is that they prohibit default blocking of classes of content, such as the UK’s infamous default porn filters, so the UK may have to change its law to make the filters opt-in: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/eu-rules-uks-porn-filters-are-illegal-a6711756.html

Censorship

Censorship, courtesy opensource.com, CC license

EFF Strongly Opposes CISA Cyber Surveillance Bill and CFAA Amendment

Press release from the EFF, reposted here under Creative Commons license:

October 22, 2015 | By Lee Tien

EFF Strongly Opposes CISA Cyber Surveillance Bill and CFAA Amendment

Update: The Senate advanced CISA 85-14. You can see how your Senator voted here. Amendments to CISA will be voted on Monday. After a final vote early next week in the Senate, CISA will move to a conference committee where House and Senate leaders will resolve differences between the House-passed and Senate-passed bills. The final text will then be presented to Congress for a final vote in both chambers. 

The Senate will vote on the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) within the next week. EFF vehemently opposes the bill, as well as amendments that would expand the draconian Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

CISA is fundamentally flawed. The bill’s broad immunity clauses, vague definitions, and aggressive spying powers combine to make the bill a surveillance bill in disguise. Further, the bill does not address problems from the recent highly publicized computer data breaches that were caused by unencrypted filespoor computer architecture, un-updated servers, and employees (or contractors) clicking malware links.

The bill is also accompanied by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s amendment to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. EFF also opposes the amendment.

The CFAA makes it illegal to intentionally access a computer without authorization or in excess of authorization. But much of what we do online every day—from storing photos in the cloud to watching movies to using social networks to buying a plane ticket—involves accessing other people’s computers, often with a password. The CFAA does not explain what “without authorization” actually means. Overzealous prosecutors have gone so far as to argue that the CFAA criminalizes violations of private agreements like an employer’s computer use policy or a web site’s terms of service, and have taken advantage of this lack of clarity by bringing criminal charges that aren’t really about hacking a computer, but instead about doing things on a computer network that the owner doesn’t like.

The changes proposed to the CFAA by Sen. Whitehouse would give the government and corporations even more ways to abuse the law. We recommend the Senate take a page out of EFF’s common sense changes to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act if the chamber wants to modify the law. Many of these change can also be found in “Aaron’s Law,” which was introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren and Sen. Ron Wyden in light of the aggressive prosecution of Aaron Swartz.

CISA will come to a vote on the Senate Floor in the coming week. We urge users to call their Senators and tell them to vote against CISA.

Another View: Some TPP Provisions Could Help Internet Users

of ZDNet posted an interesting and detailed analysis of the leaked intellectual property provisions of the TPP, considering them especially from the perspective of Canadian and Australian Internet users. Besides the headline statement that the treaty would require ISPs to identify alleged infringers to rights holders, the article also notes that the agreement actually strengthens fair use (or “fair dealing”) protections for users:

Outlined in Article G17 of WikiLeaks’ copy of the TPP, copyright infringement for the following purposes are limited from prosecution: Criticism, comment, news reporting, research, teaching, scholarship, and other similar purposes; as well as providing access for those with visual impairments.

As an additional limitation, non-profit libraries, archives, museums, educational institutions, and public non-commercial broadcasters cannot be targeted by criminal penalties and, provided they did not know their conduct was prohibited, civil penalties, according to Article G10(a).

British Users Avoiding Cameron’s Adult Filters

Broadband Genie reports that since David Cameron’s UK government imposed mandatory default-on ISP filters, which have been blocking some 70 categories of “adult” content since early 2014, more than half of British internet users continue to opt out. Notably, the survey found that about a quarter of British ISP customers didn’t know whether or not they were being filtered.

The users who opted out of filtering cited as their reasons a desire for an unhindered internet experience and concerns about privacy and censorship. Despite the article’s headline, only 4% of Brits surveyed said they opted out because they feared the filters would be “ineffective.”

https://www.broadbandgenie.co.uk/blog/20150804-isp-filter-survey?

TPP Is As Bad As Feared

After the previous analysis of the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal by the Electronic Frontier Foundation seemed to indicate a fairly benign deal for consumers, a subsequent EFF analysis, “The Final Leaked TPP Text is All That We Feared,” says

Today’s release by Wikileaks of what is believed to be the current and essentially final version of the intellectual property (IP) chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) confirms our worst fears about the agreement, and dashes the few hopes that we held out that its most onerous provisions wouldn’t survive to the end of the negotiations.

Notably, the deal eliminates protections for whistleblowers and journalists who leak “trade secrets,” but it does preserve the First-Sale Doctrine which allows consumers to resell physical copies of copyrighted media.

You can read more analysis at the left-leaning website Common Dreams.

Secret TPP Deal Leaked

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has analyzed proposed international Internet copyright regulations leaked from the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Their initial report indicates that few additional restrictions will be imposed on countries like the US which already have infringement takedown regimes, although copyright terms will be lengthened in some countries like Canada.

A direct link via Wikileaks to the Intellectual Property chapter as a PDF is available here. (My blog does not host the file and is not responsible for its accuracy.)

Stopping the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Yesterday I received this press release from fightforthefuture.org:

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was finalized yesterday.

After nearly a decade of closed-door negotiations, corporate lobbyists and government bureaucrats spent the weekend hammering out the final details this weekend in Atlanta.

But before the TPP becomes law, each country has to ratify it — and we’re going to make sure that never happens.

The TPP is the kind of terrible policy that only comes along once every 10 or 20 years. It would open the door to Internet censorship around the world, endanger our privacy, impose draconian copyright standards, and virtually eliminate whistleblower protections — and that’s only 1 of the deal’s 30 chapters.

So we’re launching an all-out campaign to kill the TPP once and for all by making it so toxic that Congress can’t pass it and still expect to be re-elected.

For years politicians have been claiming the TPP was on the verge of being finalized, only to have the negotiations fall through time and again because of the massive public outcry opposing it.

Our work has been at the center of that firestorm — driving hundreds of thousands of emails and phone calls to Congress through our creative campaign sites, following key Senators to town hall meetings with a blimp, setting up a jumbotron on Capitol Hill to play anti-TPP videos, and so much more.

Right now, we need to get to work planning the largest mobilization against the TPP yet, but we need the funds to make it possibe. If we raise enough money, here’s what we’re planning to do:

    Build a central campaign site for hundreds of organizations to use that can serve as the hub for anti-TPP efforts — the same way we built www.stopfasttrack.com.
    Coordinate massive, on-the-ground protests in cities across the nation.
    Run locally-specific ads and billboards highlighting all the damage the TPP will do.
    Produce a series of compelling videos and articles to reach new audiences in different ways so that people understand the TPP problem and the public outcry keeps building.

To be honest, this is going to be hard — if all we do is run-of-the-mill activism, generating calls and emails to Congress, we’re going to lose. Hollywood, the biggest pharmaceutical companies, and every other giant industry are seriously invested in making sure Congress ratifies the TPP. That means we need to do something big to win.

We’ve beaten supposedly impossible odds before. We’ve stopped bills that everyone said were as good as law.

We can do this. We stopped SOPA, killed CISPA, and passed some of the strongest-ever protections for the open Internet. And we can stop the TPP if we all stand together.

Let’s do this,
~ Charlie, Evan, and everyone at Fight for the Future

The UN Censorship Proposal

After slogging through the recent UN Broadband Commission report that equates objectionable speech with gendered violence, and after reading the two-part analysis by Popehat (Ken White), I have summarized the salient points about the report.

First, the UN report on “Cyber Violence Against Women and Girls” is underpinned by a non-American concept of a balancing test for speech, which is not necessarily always bad (e.g., anti-Nazi laws enacted in Europe after World War II), but such a balancing test has been abused as an attempt to censor speech in the US based on viewpoint and has consequently been soundly rejected by the US Supreme Court.

Next, the report calls for “zero tolerance” for a very broadly defined range of allegedly misogynistic speech online, based in part on the highly speculative assumption that fantasy violence leads to real-world violence. Even some of the anti-harassment advocates who spoke at the UN commission expressed concerns that the report used an overly expansive definition of “violence” which includes, among other things, legal adult pornography and adult personal ads.

Especially troubling, the report calls for regulating private companies to require compliance with so-called “best practices,” including making it easier to identify anonymous users on social networks. Such policies would not only chill free expression, but perversely could even threaten the very people they aim to protect.

(Note: this post was completely revised on 3 October to add links and further details.)

Edited to add: The UN has taken the controversial report offline and plans to re-release it after major cleanup of spurious and missing citations, as reported below.

United Nations Apologizes for Fault-Ridden Cyberviolence Report