The Weight of Thought

"I’m Going To Prison For Arithmetic" Andrew Auernheimer aka Weev

We’ve talked a bit about how the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) — a part of the UN — is getting ready for a big meeting in Dubai in December (the “World Conference on International Telecommunications” — WCIT), where it will seek to put in place some new internet governance rules. There are significant concerns that the rules being discussed will favor certain governments and fracture the internet, by letting incumbent international telcos both tax internet usage and track all usage (potentially blocking anonymous usage). Part of the problem, of course, is that the ITU has been extraordinarily secretive.

In response to the criticism, the ITU is claiming that it will now be more open, including making the various draft plans publicly accessible. Still, it often looks like they’re making empty gestures towards openness, rather than showing any real commitment towards it. Take, for example, the FAQ the ITU released (pdf and embedded below) about the WCIT, in which they say that the public is welcome to come all the way to Dubai… to find out if they’ll be allowed in the meeting. Seriously.

Bad news for those expecting the BitTorrent site Demonoid to somehow spring up from the ashes after last week’s alleged bust. The Demonoid domain names are now officially for sale via Sedo, the final nail in the coffin for the popular site that was taken down via a combined assault from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and Interpol.

Demonoid BitTorrent

Inquiries and investigations spanned Ukraine and Mexico, arriving in the wake of a distributed denial of service attack that kept Demonoid offline for a week or so prior to authorities going after Demonoid’s hosting and leadership.

"The operation to close Demonoid was a great example of international cooperation to tackle a service that was facilitating the illegal distribution of music on a vast scale. I would like to thank all those officers involved in this operation to close a business that was built on the abuse of other people’s rights," said IFPI anti-piracy director Jeremy Banks in a statement.

While the site’s only tech admin was hopeful that Demonoid would return in some capacity following the DDoS attack, reports TorrentFreak, it appears that the towel has finally been thrown in on the popular torrent community.

Wozniak: Web crackdown coming, freedom failing

Controlling the web

Are US authorities increasingly trying to limit user freedom on the internet in the name of national security?

Twenty-one-year-old college student Nadim Kobeissi is from Canada, Lebanon and the internet. 

He is the creator of Cryptocat, a project “to combine my love of cryptography and cats,” he explained to an overflowing audience of hackers at the HOPE conference on Saturday, July 14.

The site, crypto.cat, has a chunky, 8-bit sensibility, with a big-eyed binary cat in the corner. The visitor has the option to name, then enter a chat. There’s some explanatory text, but little else. It’s deceptively simple for a web app that can save lives, subvert governments and frustrate marketers. But as little as two years ago such a site was considered to be likely impossible to code.

Cryptocat is an encrypted web-based chat. It’s the first chat client in the browser to allow anyone to use end-to-end encryption to communicate without the problems of SSL, the standard way browsers do crypto, or mucking about with downloading and installing other software. For Kobeissi, that means non-technical people anywhere in the world can talk without fear of online snooping from corporations, criminals or governments.

Twitter said in its first transparency report that the number of government requests for user information or to block content is rising in 2012.

"We’ve received more government requests in the first half of 2012, as outlined in this initial dataset, than in the entirety of 2011," Twitter’s legal policy manager Jeremy Kessel said in a blog post on Monday.

The overwhelming number of requests came from the United States, accounting for 679 of the 849 requests for user information.

In 75 per cent of the US cases, Twitter gave some or all information.

The largest per centage of the 100 million active Twitter users are located in the US. 

After the US was Japan with 98 cases and Britain and Canada with 11 each.

"One of our goals is to grow Twitter in a way that makes us proud," Kessel said.

"This ideal informs many of our policies and guides us in making difficult decisions. One example is our longstanding policy to proactively notify users of requests for their account information unless we’re prohibited by law."

Twitter said it received 3,378 “takedown" notices so far this year for copyright violations and removed 38 per cent of the requested tweets.

There were also six cases in which courts or governments requested removal of tweets.

None were in the United States, and none was removed, Twitter said.

The transparency report is modelled after a similar effort from Google.

The World Tomorrow : Cypherpunks Part 1 

Did you hear the one about the New York state lawmakers who forgot about the First Amendment in the name of combating cyberbullying and “baseless political attacks”?

Proposed legislation in both chambers would require New York-based websites, such as blogs and newspapers, to “remove any comments posted on his or her website by an anonymous poster unless such anonymous poster agrees to attach his or her name to the post.”

No votes on the measures have been taken. But unless the First Amendment is repealed, they stand no chance of surviving any constitutional scrutiny even if they were approved.

Republican Assemblyman Jim Conte said the legislation would cut down on “mean-spirited and baseless political attacks” and “turns the spotlight on cyberbullies by forcing them to reveal their identity.”

While the Internet has been bristling with anger over the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, the Internet industry has been either silent or quietly supportive of the controversial bill. With one exception.

Late Tuesday, Mozilla’s Privacy and Public Policy lead sent me the following statement:

While we wholeheartedly support a more secure Internet, CISPA has a broad and alarming reach that goes far beyond Internet security. The bill infringes on our privacy, includes vague definitions of cybersecurity, and grants immunities to companies and government that are too broad around information misuse. We hope the Senate takes the time to fully and openly consider these issues with stakeholder input before moving forward with this legislation.

CISPA was introduced to the House in November with the intention of allowing more sharing of cybersecurity threat information between the private sector and the government, but has since been criticized for a provision that would also allow firms to share users’ private data with agencies like the National Security Agency or the Department of Homeland security without regard for any previous privacy laws.