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Tue, 24 Oct 2017 11:00:05 +0000
Academic researchers fire latest shots in adblocking arms race
Manipulating javascript can overcome publishers' software.
A balloon launches from Nevada on its way to Puerto Rico.

Enlarge / A balloon launches from Nevada on its way to Puerto Rico. (credit: X)

One of Puerto Ricans' most basic needs in the wake of Hurricane Maria is communication with the outside world. Cell phone companies on the island are still working to repair infrastructure after the hurricane took 95 percent of the island's cell phone towers out of service.

So X, Alphabet's company devoted to technological "moonshots," is sending a fleet of balloons to serve as cell phone towers in the sky. "We are now collaborating with AT&T to deliver emergency Internet service to the hardest hit parts of the island," writes Alastair Westgarth, who leads the company's balloon-based Internet efforts.

The idea of providing Internet service via balloons sounds crazy—indeed it has sounded crazy since Google first announced the effort, dubbed Project Loon, in 2013. But Google—now X—is deadly serious about making balloon-powered Internet access a real thing.

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Mon, 26 Jun 2017 12:24:23 +0000
Balloon navigation breakthrough helps extend cell service in Puerto Rico
Alphabet's Project Loon is providing connectivity to hard-hit areas of the island.

Comedian George Carlin's monologue, "Seven words you can never say on television," opened the door for the American Civil Liberties Union to convince the US Supreme Court to nullify legislation outlawing "indecent" online speech.

Twenty years ago today the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision and unanimously overturned congressional legislation that made it unlawful to transmit "indecent" material on the Internet if that content could be viewed by minors. The justices ruled that the same censorship standards being applied to broadcast radio and television could not be applied to the Internet.

"The record demonstrates that the growth of the Internet has been and continues to be phenomenal," the high court concluded. "As a matter of constitutional tradition, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, we presume that government regulation of the content of speech is more likely to interfere with the free exchange of ideas than to encourage it."

(credit: Oyez Project )

The Supreme Court had decided a challenge brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued that the section of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) at issue could criminalize too broad a swath of speech. The ACLU maintained that the CDA did not define what "indecent" meant and that the law would dumb-down the Internet in the same manner as the censorship requirements imposed on broadcasters that transmit over public spectrum. The ACLU won its case on June 26, 1997. The decision, in conjunction with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and other surviving parts of the CDA, has provided one of the strongest legal tools for crafting today's Internet as we know it.

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Tue, 14 Feb 2017 11:12:55 +0000
How 7 words unfit for TV fostered an open Internet 20 years ago today
"When we decided to bring the case, none of us had been online."
Playboy is a porn mag again

Enlarge (credit: Playboy)

Playboy, after declaring nudity "pass

Wed, 08 Feb 2017 19:05:15 +0000
Playboy is a porn mag again
Presumably Playboy's magazine and website numbers were floppier than expected.
A Comcast Xfinity logo and Wi-Fi symbol.

Enlarge (credit: Comcast)

Comcast should stop saying in advertisements that it “delivers the fastest Internet in America” and the “fastest in-home Wi-Fi," according to the advertising industry's self-regulation body. The evidence Comcast uses to substantiate those claims is not sufficient, ruled the National Advertising Review Board (NARB).

Verizon had challenged Comcast's advertising claims, leading to today's ruling. Comcast said today that it disagreed with the findings but will comply with the decision.

Comcast used crowdsourced speed test data from Ookla to make its claim about Xfinity Internet speeds.

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Fri, 06 Jan 2017 21:00:38 +0000
Not so fast—Comcast told to stop claiming it has “fastest Internet”
Verizon wins challenge of Comcast's fastest Internet and "in-home Wi-Fi" claims.
Man who says he invented e-mail sues Techdirt for disputing claim

(credit: Dennis Yang)

Shiva Ayyadurai

Shiva Ayyadurai (credit: Darlene DeVita)

Techdirt founder Mike Masnick often takes no prisoners when it comes to his writings about intellectual property, net neutrality, the law, and everything in between. But now Masnick finds himself the target of the same lawyer who brought down Gawker on behalf of Hulk Hogan.

That lawyer, Charles Harder of Beverly Hills, is representing Shiva Ayyadurai, the man who claims to have invented e-mail. Ayyadurai is seeking $15 million in a federal libel suit (PDF) against Masnick and Techdirt parent company Floor64. The suit is over blog posts that labeled Ayyadurai a "fraud" and a "liar" because he claims to have invented e-mail in 1978 as a teenager in New Jersey.

Ayyadurai also sued Gawker for ridiculing him with headlines that said Ayyadurai has "pretended to invent Email" and "The Inventor of Email did Not Invent Email." After losing the Hulk Hogan case, Gawker went bankrupt, disappeared those Ayyadurai stories from the site, and agreed to pay $750,000 to Ayyadurai to settle his libel lawsuit.

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Wed, 19 Oct 2016 20:50:28 +0000
Man who says he invented e-mail sues Techdirt for disputing claim
Libel case brought by lawyer who represented Hulk Hogan in Gawker lawsuit.
If elected, Clinton would support an “Encryption Commission” to help feds

Enlarge (credit: Aurich / Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

Last week, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign team released a plan to address "the cyber," as the candidate had promised to do in a speech he gave earlier this month.

Like most of his other policies, Trump's cybersecurity plan is frustratingly thin on details. It calls for an "immediate review of all US cyber defenses and vulnerabilities, including critical infrastructure, by a Cyber Review Team of individuals from the military, law enforcement, and the private sector."

What that would look like in practice, how much it would cost, how it would be funded, and how it would be different from what the government already does remains murky.

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Wed, 12 Oct 2016 11:08:07 +0000
If elected, Clinton would support an “Encryption Commission” to help feds
Ars examines the two leading candidates' positions on crypto and Snowden.
65Tbps over a single fibre: Nokia sets new submarine cable speed record


The recently agglomerated networking juggernaut Nokia-Alcatel-Lucent has managed to squeeze 65 terabits per second—about 8 terabytes per second—over a single fibre measuring 4,100 miles (6,600km).

To put that 65Tbps figure into perspective, the Faster submarine cable between the US and Asia, which is co-owned by Google and some Asian telecoms giants, pushes 60Tbps over 12 optical fibres. As of mid-2016 Faster is the fastest (!) commercially operated submarine cable, and yet it's about 13 times slower per-fibre (65Tbps vs. 5Tbps) than the Nokia-Alcatel-Lucent demo.

Another cable, Marea, being laid between the US and Spain, will carry 160Tbps over 16 fibres (10Tbps per fibre) when it's inaugurated sometime in 2017-2018. If Marea upped its per-fibre speed to 65Tbps its total capacity would be around 520Tbps, or 65 terabytes per second. That would let you transfer about 16,250 4GB Blu-ray rips per second.

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Wed, 03 Aug 2016 12:13:55 +0000
65Tbps over a single fibre: Nokia sets new submarine cable speed record
Existing cables could be bumped to 50TB/sec; enough to transfer 12,500 Blu-ray rips/sec.
China now has more than 700 million Internet users

(credit: Wikimedia Commons)

In 2010, China had 420 million citizens connected to the Internet. Just six years later, that figure has soared past 710 million, according to an official government source.

Defining Internet users as anyone who has gone online at least once in the past six months, the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC) also says that more 20 million Chinese have started using the Internet since December alone, a 3.1 percent rise, as the country continues a determined push to get its citizens online.

There are now more than twice as many Internet users in China as there are citizens in the US—of whom just under 287 million are online. Around 11.5 percent (37 million) of Americans remain stubbornly offline, while China, with its population of 1.38 billion, now has just over half of its citizens using the Web. As you'd expect, the country's massive rural population is the sticking point; less than a third of these are Internet users. The rest either have no knowledge of computers, or no interest in them.

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Wed, 22 Jun 2016 13:01:51 +0000
China now has more than 700 million Internet users
China's online pop is twice the total pop of US. 20 million new users since December.
Global Internet commission: Leave crypto alone, ditch opaque algorithms

Crypto backdoors, the overuse of opaque algorithms, turning companies into law enforcement agencies, and online attacks on critical infrastructure have all been attacked by the Global Commission on Internet Governance in a new report published on Wednesday.

The body, which was set up in 2014 by UK-based Chatham House and the Canadian Centre for International Governance Innovation, has presented its 140-page-long One Internet report to provide "high-level, strategic advice and recommendations to policy makers, private industry, the technical community, and other stakeholders interested in maintaining a healthy Internet."

It comes out in favour of strict legal controls on the aggregation of personal metadata, net neutrality, open standards, and the mandatory public reporting of high-threshold data breaches. Along the way, it offers opinions on areas such as the sharing economy, blockchains, the Internet of Things, IPv6, and DNSSEC.

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Tue, 21 Jun 2016 12:31:26 +0000
Global Internet commission: Leave crypto alone, ditch opaque algorithms
Governments should agree on a list of "legitimate targets" for online attacks.
Internet used in eight child sex abuse cases daily in the UK, warns NSPCC

(credit: Adikos)

The Internet is used more and more in the UK by child sex abuse criminals and police must be better equipped to tackle the problem, a leading charity has warned.

Roughly 3,000 cases—or eight per day—were reported in 2015, the NSPCC said on Tuesday as it revealed the findings based on so-called "cyber-flagging" figures.

The mandatory cyber flag system was implemented by the government in April 2015. It requires police forces in England and Wales to record any sexual crime committed against a child that involved use of the Internet.

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Tue, 21 Jun 2016 16:11:24 +0000
Internet used in eight child sex abuse cases daily in the UK, warns NSPCC
Charity says police must be better equipped to deal with scale of online problem.
Googling medical symptoms may no longer convince you that you’re dying

(credit: Google)

If you ask the Internet what’s wrong with you when you’re not feeling well, it’s bound to break the news that you’ve probably got cancer or perhaps some rare, terminal disease. It doesn’t matter that you just have a mundane, generic symptom. You likely only have a few months left and you should start getting your affairs in order. Sincere condolences, poor Internet user.

With the Web brimming with such bum medical advice—alarming patients and irking doctors worldwide—Google is now rolling out new search tools to try to strip away the medical malarkey or at least shove it down deep in search results.

In the next few days, the Internet giant will be adding in new digital cards that should pop up above common results when you search for terms like “stomach ache” and “skin rash.” The cards are said to contain accurate medical information about common ailments, created with the help of doctors from Harvard Medical School and the Mayo Clinic.

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Wed, 08 Jun 2016 17:17:13 +0000
Googling medical symptoms may no longer convince you that you’re dying
Searches will offer up reliable medical information above standard results.
The Parliament House in Singapore.

The Parliament House in Singapore. (credit: TteckK)

Singapore is planning to take 100,000 government computers off the Internet in order to boost security, according to several news reports. Government employees who need Internet connectivity to do their jobs will have access to "dedicated Internet-linked terminals," but by default the civil servants won't be able to go online using government-issued devices, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency reported today.

Government employees have received a memo about the change, which is being phased in over the course of a year. "There are some 100,000 computers in use by the public service and all of them will be affected," The Straits Times wrote.

Singapore government websites were hacked by Anonymous in 2013, apparently in response to censorship regulations imposed on news sites. The latest security measure is reportedly aimed at preventing similar attacks and the spread of malware through e-mail.

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Thu, 17 Mar 2016 18:40:10 +0000
Singapore—with world’s fastest Internet—is taking government PCs offline
Access limited to dedicated Internet-linked terminals—and personal devices.
Despite all appearances, Comcast Business wasn't available at SmartCar's address.

Despite all appearances, Comcast Business wasn't available at SmartCar's address. (credit: Comcast)

Nearly a year ago, a Silicon Valley startup called SmartCar signed up for Comcast Internet service. SmartCar founder and CEO Sahas Katta was moving the company into new office space in Mountain View, California, and there was seemingly no reason to think Comcast might not be able to offer him Internet access.

But Comcast never fulfilled its promise to hook up the business, blaming the delay on construction and permitting problems. Katta discovered that neighboring businesses were making do with painfully slow and unreliable DSL Internet from AT&T, and ultimately SmartCar reluctantly signed up for AT&T as well.

After hearing Comcast excuses for months, Katta finally got fed up and decided that he would find a new office building once his 12-month lease expires on April 20 of this year. Katta told Comcast he wanted to “cancel” his nonexistent service and get a refund for a $2,100 deposit he had paid. Instead, Comcast told him he’d have to pay more than $60,000 to get out of his contract with the company.

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Tue, 16 Feb 2016 10:52:20 +0000
Comcast failed to install Internet for 10 months then demanded $60,000 in fees
Tech startup needs a new office because it can't get Comcast Internet.
BT ad claims that the Internet was invented in the UK

BT, rather unfortunately for one of the world's largest and oldest telcos, has mistakenly claimed that the UK invented the Internet.

In the ad, BT's Openreach division states that "We believe that the country that invented the Internet should have world-class access to it." The ad appeared in a few UK newspapers over the weekend and on Monday.

While British people were behind most of the world's best inventions, including the reflecting telescope, tin can, steam turbine, and the telephone, we sadly didn't invent the Internet. BT's ad is actually referring to the World Wide Web, which was created by Tim Berners-Lee (who is a Brit) while working at CERN in Geneva.

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Sun, 31 Jan 2016 17:00:18 +0000
BT ad claims that the Internet was invented in the UK
Surely the telco giant should know the difference between Al Gore and Tim Berners-Lee?

Dave Loschiavo

SLOAT, Calif.—Plumas County is rural, mountainous, and at the far north of the Sierra Nevada Range. In area, it is larger than the individual states of Rhode Island and Delaware, but the population here is under 20,000. It all makes for a beautiful place to live, but some amenities that are common in more densely populated areas can be hard to come by.

High-speed Internet access that’s reliable across all seasons of the year is one clear example. In 2014, the local cable TV provider (New Day Broadband) went bankrupt, taking with it the only source for cable-based Internet access in the town of Quincy, California. It was also the only tethered high-speed provider accepting new customers. AT&T used to offer DSL in the area, but the company stopped taking on new clients and does not allow existing customers to transfer service. And while both satellite Internet access and multiple WISPs (wireless ISPs) are available, both of these delivery methods face reliability challenges in stormy, snowy weather (a common occurrence for this area in the winter).

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Wed, 16 Dec 2015 18:05:44 +0000
Today, a California ghost town can have fiber to the doorstep—but it’s not easy
Pop. density in Sloat is roughly equal to Montana, but you can get 48.4Mbps/9.8 Mbps.
Trump doesn’t want ISIS “using our Internet”

(credit: Aurich Lawson / Thinkstock)

A week after saying the US should disrupt the Islamic terrorist group ISIS' online recruiting by "closing that Internet up in some way," Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was given a chance to clarify what he meant at last night's GOP debate.

"You talk freedom of speech. You talk freedom of anything you want. I don’t want them using our Internet to take our young, impressionable youth," Trump said at the debate. "We should be using our brilliant people, our most brilliant minds to figure a way that ISIS cannot use the Internet."

Trump's "our Internet" phrasing referred to the fact that Americans invented the Internet, but he said he doesn't want to shut down the Internet in the US—only in other countries.

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Tue, 08 Dec 2015 15:38:51 +0000
Trump doesn’t want ISIS “using our Internet”
GOP candidates debate closing the Internet, surveillance, and encryption.
The Donald.

The Donald. (credit: Gage Skidmore)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says he wants to talk to Bill Gates about "closing that Internet up in some way" in order to prevent Islamic terrorist group ISIS from recruiting kids.

Speaking at a Pearl Harbor Day rally in South Carolina yesterday, Trump said, "We have kids that are watching the Internet and they want to be masterminds... they're young, they're impressionable, they go over there, and they want to join ISIS."

Clearly, the Internet is to blame. Trump continued (see video here, Internet-related comments beginning at 22:53):

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Tue, 03 Nov 2015 15:52:04 +0000
Trump says “closing that Internet” is a good way to fight terrorism
Because ISIS recruits kids from the Internet, you see.
World’s top Internet companies and telcos rated on protection of users’ digital rights

Enlarge (credit: Ranking Digital Rights)

The Ranking Digital Rights project has launched its first Corporate Accountability Index, in which 16 leading Internet and telecommunications companies were evaluated on the protection they offered their users' digital rights. A total of 31 indicators were taken into account, in an attempt to rate each company's policies and practices that affect users’ freedom of expression and privacy.

For the eight Internet companies and eight telecommunications companies selected, Ranking Digital Rights says that only six companies scored at least 50 percent of the total possible points. The highest score overall was 65 percent, obtained by Google, and nearly half the companies in the Index scored less than 25 percent, "showing a serious deficit of respect for users’ freedom of expression and privacy," according to the project.

Alongside Google, the other Internet companies were (in order of their ranking): Yahoo (58 percent), Microsoft (56), Twitter (50), the South Korean mobile apps company Kakao (47), Facebook (41)—and then a big gap to the remaining two: the Chinese giant Tencent (16 percent) and the Russian Mail.Ru (13). Among the telecoms, Vodafone had the highest score (54 percent), followed by AT&T (50), Orange (37), and then a large drop to the Mexican company Am

Tue, 13 Oct 2015 13:48:37 +0000
World’s top Internet companies and telcos rated on protection of users’ digital rights
Google scores best among Internet companies, Facebook way behind.
Playboy magazine will no longer publish nude photos, thanks to Internet

The Internet has claimed one of its highest profile victims yet: As of March 2016, Playboy magazine will no longer feature fully nude models. This follows on from August last year, when the Playboy website also stopped publishing nude photos and videos. Yes, you'll now be able to read Hugh Hefner's flagship publication, which published its first nude centrefold way back in 1953, just for the articles.

Speaking to The New York Times, Playboy CEO Scott Flanders explained the reasoning behind the change: "You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just pass

Playboy magazine will no longer publish nude photos, thanks to Internet
It turns out to be very easy to find images of naked women online.
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