posted 22 days ago on techdirt
It's that time again! In lieu of the top comments of the week, we're using this last Sunday of the year to look at the comments that racked up the most funny and insightful votes in all of 2017. We'll be highlighting the top three comments in each category, and noting where they ranked in terms of combined votes as well. (For those of you who are still interested in this week's winners, here's first and second place for insightful, and first and second place for funny.) The Most Insightful Comments Of The Year In the last week of January, we were still reeling from the inauguration and choking on the words "President Trump" when the cheeto-in-chief hit us with another gut-punch: the disgusting and transparently racist Muslim travel ban, enacted via a sloppy and ill-fated executive order. Mike, like most decent people with any kind of platform, felt compelled to speak out, and his post about "Our Humanity" became (unsurprisingly) a busy discussion which swelled to nearly 400 comments in less than a month, and yielded both of our 2017 winners on the insightful side. In first place, it's one of our most prolific commenters and frequent winners: Roger Strong. Roger got in with the first comment, and used it well to deliver a simple but highly appropriate quote: "The way a government treats refugees is very instructive because it shows you how they would treat the rest of us if they thought they could get away with it." - Tony Benn, British Minister of Parliament for 47 years Not only did this rocket to the top of the insightful leaderboard, it hit second place on the list for combined insightful and funny votes as well — not because it racked up any votes for comedy, but just based on the sheer weight of its insightful votes. Yup: to probably nobody's surprise, 2017 has been a year that demanded more thoughtfulness than cleverness, with the first place funny comment getting just barely more funny votes than the third place insightful comment got in its category — and staying well behind the second place winner for insightful. That winner? Mike Masnick himself, in an early reply to a critic of the travel ban post. As a general rule, we exclude staff comments from the weekly posts, but let's make an exception for the year-end round-up and for Mike's response (which also scored quite a lot of funny votes, bringing it to first place on the combined insightful-funny list) to the accusation that we were cherry-picking and making an emotional argument, and that only children are convinced by this: Really? Because that seemed to be the basis of the entire platform of the President of the United States. In third place, we have our only true anonymous winner this year (though the funny side is entirely pseudonymous commenters). It came in on the last day of August, in response to our post about Jeff Sessions attempting to use Hurricane Harvey as proof that the police need to be militarized. Someone claiming relevant expertise (naturally this can't be confirmed, but they sure appear to deliver on that claim with a very convincing argument!) offered a much more practical way of looking at things: Speaking as a first responder/first responder trainer... ...no. What's needed instead are exactly the kinds of resources that this administration wants to strip out of FEMA: simple, basic essentials that are relatively inexpensive and save lots of lives. Let me give you a timely example. The Cajun Navy, bless their hearts, showed up in force in Houston to do whatever they could to supplement the hopelessly-overwhelmed local, state, and federal personnel. And now some of them are dead, because they didn't have lifejackets (PFDs). A minimal PFD for this kind of work costs about $100, a good one is about $250, a bulk order for several thousand would no doubt drive the price down. No, it's not very cool and sexy and oh-gosh-look-at-the-pretend-soldiers, but it's a basic tool that keeps people alive in situations where they'd otherwise die. A quarter-million dollars worth of PFDs is chump change in comparison with the overall expense -- flying helicopters is REALLY expensive -- but it would yield value far beyond its price. That's just one example. There are a lot of others, including swiftwater rescue training -- something that almost none of the Houston city personnel have had because there's no money for it. But SWR is essential for anyone trying to perform rescues in fast water, particularly in urban areas where there are all kinds of hazards under the surface. Two days of quality SWR instruction costs $250/student and is probably enough to keep them from dying while trying to keep other people from dying. Harvey. Sandy. Katrina. This is the new normal. There will be another one. Soon. And money needs to be spent on basic gear and basic training before one of these turns into a multi-thousand person casualty event. So don't buy the cops AR-15's: buy them PFDs and SWR training. Those are FAR more likely to keep them alive. That's it for the insightful side. Now on to... The Funniest Comments Of The Year In first place on the funny side, we have our one and only returning winner from last year's list. In 2016, A Non-Mouse got a special category all their own with an impressive outlier comment that won third place in the insightful and funny categories separately, and first place in combined votes. As noted, things are rather different this year, with the insightful side dominating the charts: the first place winner for funny only managed to squeak into the combined leaderboard at ninth place (and is the only top-three funny winner to crack that chart at all). But the comedy didn't start with the comment — it started with the operator of allofgarden.com, an Olive Garden review website, who in July responded to a frivolous legal threat with an hilarious letter that, among other things, demanded a response "in limerick form". Naturally, the limericks began rolling into the comments — and A Non-Mouse's entry won the day by purposely misreading the "brandenforcements" email address that sent the initial threat: There once was a man Branden Forcements who confused some reviews for endorsements His threats that came after caused so much laughter that perhaps he should seek new employments In second place on the funny side, we have what is undoubtedly the shortest winning comment in Techdirt history (possibly tied for that spot, though certainly not beaten!) In early August, after a psychiatrist filed a ridiculous lawsuit over a completely wordless one-star review, frequent pseudonymous commenter Baron von Robber swooped in with the one-character comment that had to be made: * Finally, for third place we head back to May, when a hacker tried to extort money out of Netflix by threatening to leak the upcoming season of Orange Is The New Black, only to discover that he had deeply misunderstood Netflix's business model and its ability to actually compete with piracy. This rendered his threats facile and futile — something that Michael, another frequent pseudonymous commenter, elegantly summed up with a brief bit of dialogue: Hacker: "Pay me $60,000 or I am going to advertise for you!!!!" Netflix: "..." Hacker: "That's it! I'm starting my advertising campaign!" Netflix: "...umm...ok." And that, folks, is our round-up of the winning comments for the year! Keep up the great work everyone — I'm looking forward to seeing what comes in 2018. Happy new year! Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 23 days ago on techdirt
Five Years Ago This week in 2012, we were a bit surprised and confused to see pirated movies being shared from Hollywood IP addresses — and, it soon turned out, from all major record labels, and several government agencies including the DOJ. Whether this was just amateur honeypotting was unclear, but whatever the case, Hollywood still broke records at the box office that year. Meanwhile, the Senate was debating the extension of FISA — which means they were rejecting amendments that could improve it and passing it with all its problems intact. Ten Years Ago This week in 2007, we took a look at Hollywood's ongoing crusade to convince ISPs around the world to block sites it doesn't like, and also at how the industry's supposed challenges with digitally archiving films are caused by their obsession with ownership and copyright, not technological limitations. The MPAA, at least, realized (after years of complaints) that elaborately DRM-laden DVD screeners for the Oscars are not worth the effort. Meanwhile, as the EU began looking to destroy fashion innovation by enforcing fashion copyrights, we were even more distressed to hear copyright mentioned in the same breath as the great pyramids of Egypt and the works of Michelangelo. Fifteen Years Ago This week in 2002, people were telling the Copyright Office just what they think about the terrible parts of the DMCA, as Declan McCullough was treading the line of fearmongering but still providing a good look at some of the injustices the law enables. Cablevision's Optimum Online broadband was threatening to ban customers who use file trading services (regardless of the purpose of their use), and Hollywood was still obsessed with DRM — and this is an industry smart enough to fire the guy who convinced them selling DVDs might be a good idea! Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 24 days ago on techdirt
Since 2008, my final post of the year is one where I try to reflect on the year coming to a close -- with a general focus on optimism. That is, the usual goal of these posts is to take a step back from the day to day grind and look at the larger picture to see what good things have happened, that often get missed in the daily struggle. Techdirt has now reached its 20th birthday, and we've now been doing these posts for nine years. The first one was a response to a few comments I'd received, asking how it was possible to write about all the stuff we write about without getting depressed -- which made me realize that I was actually incredibly optimistic about the overall future. The things we write about are frustrating and annoying not because we're pessimistic about the world, but because we're optimistic. The frustration is a response to efforts to slow down or hinder all the good opportunities, and the progress and innovation we see. If you're curious, here are the past New Year's posts: 2008: On Staying Happy 2009: Creativity, Innovation And Happiness 2010: From Pessimism To Optimism... And The Power Of Innovation 2011: From Optimism And Innovation... To The Power To Make A Difference 2012: Innovation, Optimism And Opportunity: All Coming Together To Make Real Change 2013: Optimism On The Cusp Of Big Changes 2014: Change, Innovation And Optimism, Despite Challenges 2015: New Year's Message: Keep Moving Forward 2016: New Year's Message: No One Said It Would Be Easy... There's no denying it: this year has been a struggle. As many of you know, at the beginning of 2017 we were sued by someone who disagreed with our coverage. There is no denying that the lawsuit defined much of the year for us here at Techdirt -- and part of that was coming to terms with the very real impact the case was having on us as a site and on me personally. Thankfully, many of you stood up to support our continued reporting, and this fall, the case was dismissed, and the judge affirmed what we maintained all along: everything we wrote was protected by the First Amendment. That was gratifying. The case, however, is not yet over, as we are still dealing with the ongoing appeal by the plaintiff. In many ways, I think that our experience can be seen as an analogy for how I view the year as a whole. It has been quite a challenge on a variety of different fronts. For people looking to be upset or pessimistic, there are plenty of reasons to be concerned. The FCC has gone through with its plan to destroy net neutrality without any effort to bring about real competition in the market for broadband access. Attempts to undermine "the most important law on the internet," Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, have gained quite a lot of traction. While no such law has yet passed, it may pass early on in the new year. While Congress was just prevented from reauthorizing surveillance on Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act (temporarily), there's been little real effort to reform our broken surveillance system to abide by the 4th Amendment. On top of all of that, it feels like 2017 was the year that the dam broke, leading many people to start to be more concerned about the power of the internet, rather than the opportunities it enables. This has manifested itself in many ways, but most concerning to us is an increasing willingness to toss aside the principles of free speech in order to support censorship of speech that some segment of the population declares "bad." And that's leaving out a variety of potentially larger political and societal issues that have left many people quite concerned about the future. And yet, believe it or not, I am still optimistic about the future. I still see the promise of the internet. I still recognize the wonders brought about by protecting everyone's civil liberties and how it has opened us up to many more insights and voices that were unfortunately silenced in the past. The ability to speak up on the internet has created a fascinating situation over the past few months, where often powerful men have been brought down for abusing their positions of power. We're also starting to see the beginnings of some brand new opportunities online. The concerns that many people now have over large internet companies are driving lots of interesting efforts into new online tools and services -- and, somewhat incredibly, new protocols which at least offer hope that we can return to the original promise of the internet: a truly distributed system, rather than a series of large silos. As with the lawsuit against us, it feels like we're living through incredibly challenging times. They create struggles and problems and challenges. But by standing up for what we believe in and in fighting for the rights and the future that we know are possible, we can still prevail. The fact that there are setbacks, or even derailments, along the way does not define the end result. The future always remains possible, and the promise and excitement and opportunity that led me to start Techdirt in the first place all still remain. I'm still amazed at how much has changed in the 20 years since we started Techdirt -- and while it's easy to remember the bad things, it's often hard to recognize all the good that has come along as well. And that's doubly true during the most challenging of times. But don't be fooled by short-term swings and momentum. Tides change, and the long-term trend for innovation and for civil liberties tends to go in the right direction, even with some challenges along the way. If anything, though, this year should remind us that even as the larger trajectory tends to go in the right direction, it only does that because there are lots of people who are fighting to make it so. It does not do that entirely on its own, and there are times when forces push back against such progress. In short: keep on believing in the good things that can come, and then go out and fight for them. Don't get disheartened by the struggles -- just recognize that those also present new opportunities. We certainly intend to keep on fighting here -- and we hope you'll be right there alongside us. If you'd like to help us -- you can do so by sharing our stories, by commenting on them, or more directly supporting us. You can support us at our Insider Shop, our First Amendment reporting fund at ISupportJouranlism.com, our our Patreon page or pick up some of our great t-shirts, hoodies and mugs. Many media sites have struggled in 2017 and we can't tell you how much we appreciate that you choose to spend time with us and to support us and keep us going. As always, the most amazing thing about Techdirt is the community of folks that are here. The community continues to amaze us and support us and to make everything that happens around here worthwhile. We reached 20 years of Techdirt earlier this year and I still wake up each and every day excited to write about these ideas, to share these ideas, and to debate these ideas. And a large part of what makes it such a joy is everyone here -- and not just the commenters, but the lurkers as well, or the people who share our stuff on social media. And, this year especially, seeing how the community stepped up to support us in our most challenging times was truly incredible. Thank you for being a microcosm of why I still believe in the power of community on the internet. Thank you for making Techdirt such a special place. 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posted 24 days ago on techdirt
There's no unified national view on First Amendment protections for filming police, but a few recent cases have established this right in some judicial circuits. Until a case makes its way to the US Supreme Court, cops who don't like being recorded in public can still roll the dice on immunity when arresting people for operating cameras. Via the Volokh Conspiracy (at its new, paywall-free home at Reason) comes another decision in favor of a First Amendment right to record. This one was delivered by the Hawaiian state supreme court, which at least ensures residents can't be hassled for recording officers… or at least ensures success in the pursuant lawsuit. In this case, journalist Thomas Russo happened upon a police checkpoint and decided to film it. During his filming of a traffic stop, he was instructed to do several things -- like back up and turn his vehicle's hazard lights on. Every instruction given by officers appeared to be followed in Russo's recording but officers still arrested him and took his phone. The charges -- failing to comply with a lawful order and disorderly conduct -- were ultimately dismissed. The court examined the footage of the stop and found it did not show Russo disobeying orders. Anything that appeared as noncompliance on Russo's part was due to the vagueness of the officer's orders, rather than direct disobedience. More importantly, the court takes a stand on the First Amendment issue. We agree with the reasoning of the First Circuit and of other federal courts of appeal that have considered this issue. The rights to free speech and press serve not only to protect the individual's right to self-expression, but also to promote the vital goal of “affording the public access to discussion, debate, and the dissemination of information and ideas.” Bellotti, 435 U.S. at 783... This aspect of the First Amendment is all the more critical when the ideas and information sought to be disseminated pertain to government officials and law enforcement personnel, “who are granted substantial discretion that may be misused to deprive individuals of their liberties.” Glik, 655 F.3d at 82; see also Gentile, 501 U.S. at 1034-35. Public access to such information serves to guarantee “public oversight of law enforcement” and “minimizes the possibility of abuse by ensuring that police departments and officers are held accountable for their actions.” Peer News LLC v. City & Cty. of Honolulu, 138 Hawai‘i 53, 73-74, 376 P.3d 1, 22-23 (2016) (considering accessibility of police officer disciplinary records under state public records law). In light of these principles, this court likewise concludes that the “filming of government officials engaged in their duties in a public place, including police officers performing their responsibilities,” Glik, 655 F.2d at 82, is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and by the independent protections afforded by article I, section 4 of the Hawai‘i Constitution. [...] In this case, Russo was engaged in video recording Officers Lawson and Fairchild as they conducted a traffic stop pursuant to a scheduled law enforcement action. Whether he was acting in an individual capacity or as a representative of the media, Russo's conduct in videotaping the police officers in public was protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 4 of the Hawai‘i Constitution. [...] [W]e observe that “[i]n our society, police officers are expected to endure significant burdens caused by citizens' exercise of their First Amendment rights,” and, to ensure the protections that the First Amendment affords, officers may often be expected to show restraint when “they are merely the subject of videotaping that memorializes, without impairing, their work in public spaces.” Glik, 655 F.3d at 84. As for the government's claims the officers had every right to arrest Russo for disobeying orders, the court has this to say: The video footage stipulated into evidence by the parties shows that Russo did, in fact, comply with the officers' order. When Officer Fairchild instructed Russo to return to his vehicle and turn on his hazard lights, Russo complied. When Officer Fairchild waved his hand and directed Russo to “step off to the side” to avoid getting “run over,” Russo likewise complied--responding, “Okay,” and walking away from the general area to which Officer Fairchild had gestured. When Russo was subsequently approached and ordered by Officer Lawson to “stand back there,” Russo complied by taking a few steps away from the area and asking whether he could stand on private property. When Officer Lawson responded that he could not and ordered him to “stand back there,” Russo took several steps back towards the highway and asked, “Can I stand on public property?” When Officer Lawson then threatened Russo with arrest, Russo immediately began walking backwards, away from the area and towards the general direction to which Officers Lawson and Fairchild pointed. For the remainder of the video, as the police officers persisted in walking towards Russo and commanding that he “stand back there,” Russo continued to walk backwards and away from the traffic stop area. It appears from the video recording that Russo only stopped walking backwards when he was physically prevented from doing so and arrested by the officers. Although Russo may have continued to engage Officers Lawson and Fairchild in conversation and questions during the encounter, the video itself plainly demonstrates that Russo obeyed their command. Russo appeared to make a concerted effort to comply with the officers' instructions, and the video shows that he walked away or backwards when ordered by the officers to step or stand back. The parties agreed that the video footage was the best evidence of the encounter, and the footage impels the conclusion that Russo did, in fact, comply with the officers' order. Thus, given the evidence in this case, there was no probable cause to support the charge of failure to comply with a lawful order of a police officer in violation of HRS § 291C-23. Not only was it a baseless charge, it was stacked on top of a First Amendment violation and a catch-all "disorderly conduct" rap. No credit of good faith is given and the court finds in favor of Russo and filming police officers. It's a solid win for Hawaiian citizens and another favorable court opinion to be cited in upcoming courtroom battles. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 25 days ago on techdirt
Touted as police accountability tools, body cameras haven't lived up to that reputation. Camera roll outs have had mixed results. In some places, departments have experienced declines in complaints. In others, the data shows nothing conclusive -- except, perhaps, that the cameras can be manipulated as easily as dashcams and audio recorders. The one place cameras are definitely paying off, it seems, is in courtrooms. And it has nothing to do with civil lawsuits and everything to do with locking people up. If there's an entity benefiting directly from the explosion in body camera use, it's the nation's prosecutors. The stated fears about body-worn cameras being used by department brass to play "gotcha" with the rank-and-file haven't materialized. More often than not, footage is being used to put people behind bars. A George Mason University survey [PDF] of prosecutors shows a majority of them have used body-worn camera footage as evidence. Most state prosecutors’ offices (almost two-thirds) are already working with BWC evidence. Of these offices, a full 42.1% have used the evidence for longer than one year. Yet, a significant number (almost one-fifth of those using BWC evidence) are still very new to working with it (one month or less). Nearly all prosecutors’ offices in jurisdictions with BWCs (92.6%) have used BWC evidence to prosecute private citizens. In comparison, 8.3% of offices located in jurisdictions with BWCs indicated that they have used BWC evidence to prosecute a police officer. It should be noted, however, that many more total citizens than police are prosecuted each year, so these percentages are not directly comparable. Prosecutors also found camera footage to be far more useful to them than their defensive counterparts. Very high numbers of respondents (79.5%) indicated that prosecutors in their offices support BWC use. Additionally, large majorities believed that BWC evidence will help the prosecution more than it will assist the defense (62.7%) and that BWCs would improve prosecutors’ overall ability to prosecute cases (65.8%). Fewer than 10% of lead prosecutors disagreed with these statements. Taken together, these results suggest that lead prosecutors view BWC evidence as a powerful prosecutorial tool. [...] A majority believed that BWC evidence would increase both rates of conviction (58.3% agreement) and the frequency/likelihood of plea bargains (62.3% agreement). Considering the advantages camera footage has given prosecutors, it's surprising there are still complaints about the tech. Most seem to indicate prosecutors aren't happy the tool that's helping them secure more convictions might also require them to do a more work. Beyond concerns about logistics (storage, retrieval), prosecutors cite the time needed to review footage as a potential downside. This complaint, however, goes right to the heart of the issue -- something that needs to be addressed by law enforcement agencies. 66.9% of respondents feared that jurors might come to expect BWC evidence and that a lack of footage might lead jurors to question an account given by an officer or witness. Indeed, almost half of the sample (44%) agreed the BWC evidence would produce minor discrepancies between officer testimony and the videos. Additionally, 48.7% worried about the potential for BWCs to produce videos that do not fully or objectively capture events in a case. When cameras are deployed and policies are clear on when they should be activated, it should indeed damage the prosecution's case if footage isn't recorded by officers. Since few departments are willing to hold officers accountable for selectively recording incidents -- and since courts have yet to make broad determinations about missing footage -- it's up to the public (jurors) to greet officers' assertions about unrecorded incidents as more dubious than those where footage exists. There's another thing that surveys of law enforcement officers and officials has uncovered. Attempts by officials to calm officers concerned about body cam "gotchas" often contain assertions the recordings will be used to train officers and correct observed issues, rather than used to run them out of a job. But this assertion is mostly false. As former police officer Greg Prickett pointed out at Fault Lines, there's simply too much footage and too few hours in the day. In 2013, “Mitch” Brailsford was a police recruit in Mesa, Arizona, and was one of thirteen officers being equipped with an Axon body camera. He was one of the first officers so equipped and told the media at the time that it would help him be a better police officer by letting him review his actions and correct his mistakes. That is BS, although I have no doubt that Mitch believes it. It is common for rookies to believe this, but in practice, video is very rarely reviewed by patrol officers or their supervisors. There just isn’t time to do so. Prickett's assertion is borne out by more George Mason University research [PDF]. [T]he largest effect of the implementation of BWCs was on accountability, which had increased in scope to cover a range of aspects of policing, including training, reporting, discretion, and police-citizen interactions. At the same time, the intensity with which officers’ experienced accountability had not significantly increased as BWC footage was not systematically used to monitor, review, and/or evaluate police officer conduct and quality of performance. This continues to be true, even though this is one of the reasons given by agencies for the deployment of cameras. BWCs were implemented primarily for training purposes and to protect patrol officers against groundless complaints rather than as a mechanism for identifying officer misconduct, for failing to comply with departmental policies, and for poor street-level performance. Although Users initially feared that BWCs were going to be used to get them into trouble for minor instances of misconduct or rule violations, their frames changed over time as they realized that BWCs were not going to be used by Managers as a “gotcha” mechanism. When footage is reviewed, it usually exonerates officers. Day-to-day improvements in officer behavior just aren't happening because no department has the time to review hours of footage in search of training opportunities. Given this lack of oversight, it's hardly a surprise some research has shown almost no improvement in officer behavior following a body camera roll out. What has been sold to the public as a new era of transparency and accountability has instead become just another closed shop run by law enforcement and prosecutors. The main beneficiaries of millions of hours of footage are police officers. Footage that helps secure convictions makes its way to prosecutors immediately. Footage showing possible misconduct or exonerating evidence remains in law enforcement agencies' complete control until forced to relinquish it. While there have been positive developments here and there, the best accountability tool still seems to be cameras, but mostly those wielded by citizens. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 25 days ago on techdirt
In all of our coverage of the actions of the Turkish government under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, quite a picture of the man, who now has a stranglehold on his country, has emerged. We can be sure of many things with all of this coverage. For instance, Erdogan has an ego the size of an oil rig, yet the intellectual armor of a flea. We also know that His Honor is perfectly happy to brutally wield the power of a sovereign nation for the petty benefit of his reputation. And, when all else fails, detractors and the journalists that cover him can be simply labled "terrorists" before being jailed, tortured, or otherwise harmed. Still, for those of us in America, the dealings of a dictator can be beyond the horizon, both literally and figuratively. There are many places in the world ruled by goons, after all, and we have a proud tradition in America of simply not giving a shit if it doesn't effect the homeland in some conceivable way. Well, in the case of Erdogan, there is at least a touch-point for his brutality in New York Knicks big-man Enes Kantor who, after having members of his family arrested for the crime of being related to him, is now facing a trial in his absence on charges of insulting Erdogan and, you guessed it, being a terrorist. The Turkish government is seeking at least a four-year prison term for New York Knicks center Enes Kanter because of insulting remarks he made about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Twitter in May and June 2016, according to the Associated Press. And, yes, this is the world we live in in 2017. A Turkish judge issued an arrest warrant for Kanter in mid-May of this year, when an Istanbul-based prosecutor pointed to the 25-year-old's social media account as evidence of his alleged "membership of an armed terrorist organization." To which Kanter responded on Twitter: "You can't catch me. Don't waste your breath. I will come on my own will anyway, to spit on your ugly, hateful faces." Now, I will note that Kanter has not been shy about sharing his feelings about Erdogan. The NBA player has taken a shine to calling the Turkish President Recep "Hitler" and claiming that the recent coup attempt was a fiasco staged by the Turkish government purely to allow Erdogan to grab more power and to commit genocide on his rivals in the country. Whether either of those assertions are true, it's easy to see why Kanter might hold these opinions, given how drastically Erdogan has personally impacted Kanter's life for the worse. Turkish officials arrested Kanter's father in what the NBA player believes was a warning this past June, even though his family had publicly disowned him for his political views and Kanter said he "would sacrifice my mother, my father and whole family for Gulen's sake." This is how strongly he opposes a president who the United Nations accused of creating an "environment conducive to torture" and whose rise has resulted in what the New York Times called "an almost untrammeled grip on power." "Right now, even if I try to communicate with my parents, my mom or dad or brother or sister, [the government] will probably listen to their phones and as soon as they are in contact with me, they will put them in a jail — and the jails are not fun," Kanter said at the time of his father's arrest, via ESPN. "Right now, my family can't even go out to eat. My brother told me that my dad went to the supermarket and they spit on his face." It's somehow worth repeating that all of this was done for opinions Kanter had expressed on Twitter, while half a world away playing in the NBA. The end result of all of this is that Kanter can be said to be without a family, without a country, but yet is fully in possession of his freedom and political faculties. Most of the legal experts that have been asked to comment for these stories indicate that while it's likely that Turkey has or will petition for the extradition of Kanter, it's worth noting that President Trump has been relatively friendly with Erdogan, lavishing the dictator with praise as recently as this past Fall. One would hope that the spotlight of the NBA and America's tradition for free political speech and asylum for political refugees would equate to a full-throated rebuke of any extradition requests. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 25 days ago on techdirt
Have you ever sent a motivational text to a friend? If you have, perhaps you tailored your message to an activity or location by saying "Good luck in the race!" or "Have fun in New York!" Now, imagine doing this automatically with a compuuuter. What a great invention. Actually, no. That's not a good invention, it's our latest Stupid Patent of the Month. U.S. Patent No. 9,069,648 is titled "Systems and methods for delivering activity based suggestive (ABS) messages." The patent describes sending "motivational messages," based "on the current or anticipated activity of the user," to a "personal electronic device." The patent provides examples such as sending the message "don't give up" when the user is running up a hill. The examples aren't limited to health or exercise. For example, the patent suggests sending messages like "do not fear" and "God is with you" when a "user enters a dangerous neighborhood." The patent's description of its invention is filled with silly, non-standard acronyms like ABS for "activity based suggestive" messages or EBIF for "electronic based intelligence function." These silly acronyms create an illusion of complexity where plain, descriptive language would reveal the mundane nature of the supposed invention. For example, what the patent grandly calls EBIF appears to be nothing more than standard computer processing. The '648 patent is owned by Motivational Health Messaging LLC. While this may be a new company, at least one of  the people behind it has been involved in massive patent trolling campaigns before. And the two named inventors have both been inventors on patents that trolls have asserted hundreds of times. One is also an inventor listed on patents asserted by infamous patent troll Shipping and Transit LLC. The other named inventor is the inventor on the patents asserted by Electronic Communication Technologies LLC. Those two entities (with their predecessors) brought over 700 lawsuits, many against very small businesses. In other words, the '648 patent has been issued to Troll Co. at 1 Troll Street, Troll Town, Trollida USA. We believe that the claims of the '648 patent are clearly invalid under the Supreme Court's decision in Alice v. CLS Bank, which held abstract ideas do not become eligible for a patent merely because they are implemented in conventional computer technology. Indeed, the patent repeatedly emphasizes that the claimed methods are not tied to any particular hardware or software. For example, it states: The software and software logic described in this document … which comprises an ordered listing of executable instructions for implementing logical functions, can be embodied in any non-transitory computer-readable medium for use by or in connection with an instruction execution system, apparatus, or device, such as a computer-based system, processor-containing system, or other system that can fetch the instructions from the instruction execution system, apparatus, or device and execute the instructions. The '648 patent issued on June 30, 2015, a full year after the Supreme Court's Alice ruling. Despite this, the patent examiner never even discussed the decision. If Alice is to mean anything at all, it has to be applied to an application like this one. In our view, if Motivational Health Messaging asserts its patent in court, any defendant that fought back should prevail under Alice. Indeed, we would hope that the court would strongly consider awarding attorney's fees to the defendant in such a case. Shipping & Transit has now had two fee awards made against it for asserting patents that are clearly invalid under Alice. And the Federal Circuit recently held that fee awards can be appropriate when patent owners make objectively unreasonable argument concerning Alice. In addition to the problems under Alice, we believe the claims of the '648 patent should have been rejected as obvious. When the application was filed in 2012, there was nothing new about sending motivational messages or automatically tailoring messages to things like location. In one proposed embodiment, the patent suggests that a "user walking to a hole may be delivered ABS messages, including reminders or instructions on how to play a particular hole." But golf apps were already doing this. The Patent Office didn't consider any real-world mobile phone applications when reviewing the application. If you want to look for prior art yourself, Unified Patents is running a crowdsourcing contest to find the best prior art to invalidate the '648 patent. Aside from the warm feelings that come from fighting patent trolls, there is a $2000 prize pool. Despite the weakness of its patent, Motivational Health Messaging LLC might still send out demand letters. If you receive such a letter, you can contact EFF and we can help you find counsel. We have long complained that the Patent Office promotes patent trolling by granting obvious and/or abstract software patents. The history of the '648 patent shows how the Patent Office's failure to properly review applications leads to bad patents falling into the hands of trolls. Republished from EFF's Stupid Patent of the Month series. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 25 days ago on techdirt
It appears we won't be seeing any action on Section 702 until next year. The authority was supposed to sunset at the end of 2017, but legislators have yet to reach an agreement on any modifications or reforms. As 2017 comes to a close, Congress, still divided over how (or whether) to limit federal surveillance authorities, has kicked the can down the road to at least January 19. As part of a continuing resolution to keep the federal government running for a few more weeks, Congress extended the deadline to decide what to do about Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments. This is probably the best solution for now. While there have been some serious efforts made to reform Section 702, none of those efforts have been allowed to reach the floor for a vote. Instead, both the House and Senate Oversight Committees have offered up horrible zero-reform bills as "official" 702 remixes -- both of which expand government agency access to NSA data stores and push the next sunset as far away as 2025. Going into the final days of the year with no reform package, the suspicion was legislators would append one of the two terrible bills as a rider to the annual must-pass budget bill, thus circumventing any real debate about the NSA's controversial collections. With the pressure off (temporarily) -- thanks to the passed resolution -- there may be a chance for actual legislative discussion about the oft-abused programs. If talks are productive enough, we may see these powers pruned a bit before being reauthorized. (There is zero chance of a total sunset, even though sunset provisions are put in place to provide for eventual retirement of collection authorities.) Given the new administration's obvious approval of anything remotely connected to the War on Terror, it's going to be difficult to enact significant reforms, no matter when they're finally discussed. No matter what happens in 2018, we can at least be grateful Congress didn't auction off the general public's interests in favor of ensuring government agencies continue to get paid. It's important to remember none of this would be happening without Edward Snowden. The documents he leaked pushed the Intelligence Community towards more transparency, resulting in the release of FISA court opinions and Inspector General's reports showing widespread abuse/misuse of Section 702 collections by the NSA. Without the leaks, it's unlikely the NSA would be any more transparent than it was back when it was referred to as No Such Agency. Our government's dragnet surveillance operations would still be cloaked in impenetrable darkness and its abuses of power its own dirty little secret. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 25 days ago on techdirt
Tired of fighting Excel to get it to do what you want? Do you want to use Excel to solve complex problems, automate spreadsheets, and master graphs for presentations instead of going crazy trying to figure out how? Well, here's where you'll learn. This $49, 4 course Ultimate Excel Bootcamp Bundle will help you become familiar with PivotTables, PivotCharts, conditional formatting, macros, Dynamic Ranges, and more. With 70+ hours of content, you will quickly become an Excel expert. Note: The Techdirt Deals Store is powered and curated by StackCommerce. A portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals helps support Techdirt. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 25 days ago on techdirt
Now that the FCC has done as it said it was going to do and declared that broadband internet is properly classified under Title I of the Communications Act, rather than Title II, I'm left wondering if taxpayers will be getting back all the subsidies that we provided Verizon, AT&T and others when they claimed that their broadband networks should be classified under Title II in order to qualify for those subsidies. You may recall that we wrote about this three years ago, highlighting multiple examples where Verizon specifically begged for Title II classification of its fiber-to-the-premise networks in multiple cities to guarantee that it would get these subsidies. See, for example, Verizon begging to be classified under Title II in New Jersey. Or how about something similar in Washington DC: in DC. Somehow, I imagine that Verizon has no intention of paying back taxpayers for those benefits. I mean, why would it? This is the very same company that has repeatedly promised massive broadband deployment in exchange for subsidies, and then repeatedly failed to deliver and, when called on it, gets local politicians to drop the promises (but not the subsidies). The Title II shell game appears to be more of the same. Make sure that its networks get declared as Title II to get the subsidies and tax breaks, then avoid any of the requirements/regulations of Title II, but keep all the benefits. Somehow I don't see FCC chair Ajit Pai being too concerned about all of this. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 25 days ago on techdirt
Numerous states say they'll be crafting their own net neutrality protections in the wake of the FCC's recent vote to dismantle the rules. ISPs of course predicted this, which is why Comcast and Verizon successfully lobbied the FCC to include provisions in its "Restoring Internet Freedom" order that bans states from protecting consumers from privacy and net neutrality violations, or other bad behavior by incumbent ISPs. In ISP lobbying land, stopping states from writing protectionist law is an assault on "states rights," but when states actually try to help consumers you'll note the concern for states rights magically disappears. Regardless, New York State, California and Washington have all indicated that they will attempt to test the FCC's state preemption authority on this front in the new year by crafting their own net neutrality legislation. You'll recall that the FCC already had its wrist slapped by the courts for over-reach when it tried to preempt states from passing anti-community broadband laws, quite literally written by large ISPs, intended to hamstring creative solutions (including public/private partnerships) for the telecom industry's broadband competition logjam. But even if the FCC wins this new legal fight over state authority, folks like New York Assemblymember Patricia Fahy argue there's numerous steps states and cities can take to protect consumers on the net neutrality front without running afoul of the FCC's order. The text of her proposal (pdf) includes numerous proposals, including refusing to do business with companies that repeatedly violate net neutrality: "If you are going to be a contractor and want to work with New York, then you must meet the principles,” Fahy tells Fast Company. She hopes that this approach will get around a roadblock known as preemption. The Constitution generally gives the federal government final authority over commercial activities that cross state lines. But while New York can’t require ISPs to uphold net neutrality, it can use its “power of the purse” to punish ISPs that don’t. "There’s a decent amount of precedent for saying, if you want a state contract, you have to meet such and such requirements,” she says, noting construction contracts contingent on certain labor practices or the use of U.S.-made steel." Again we'll see how this all pans out in the new year. States will likely face the same problem as the federal government did when trying to define net neutrality violations amidst a sea of ISP lobbying influence. Regardless, the FCC's battles with the states will be just one part of a cavalcade of lawsuits filed against the FCC in the new year for over-stepping its authority, ignoring the public, and rushing through what's potentially the least-popular decision in tech-policy history. This same sequence of events played out earlier this year when the GOP and Trump administration rushed to kill consumer broadband privacy protections, resulting in numerous states attempting to create their own broadband privacy laws. And while Comcast, Verizon and AT&T lobbyists like to whine that states are wreaking havoc by creating discordant, inconsistent consumer protections, they tend to ignore the fact that this wouldn't be happening if they hadn't spent millions of dollars gutting popular, over-arching protections on the federal level. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 25 days ago on techdirt
We, the people, are going to shell out $1 billion for the DHS to scan our faces into possibly illegal biometric systems. Those are the conclusions reached by the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy and Technology. A close examination the face scanning system the DHS plans to shove in front of passengers of international flights shows it to be a waste of money with limited utility. DHS' biometric exit program… stands on shaky legal ground. Congress has repeatedly ordered the collection of biometrics from foreign nationals at the border, but has never clearly authorized the border collection of biometrics from American citizens using face recognition technology. Without explicit authorization, DHS should not be scanning the faces of Americans as they depart on international flights—but DHS is doing it anyway. DHS also is failing to comply with a federal law requiring it to conduct a rulemaking process to implement the airport face scanning program—a process that DHS has not even started. But American citizens will be included, according to the DHS. Its response to US travelers' wondering why they're being treated like terrorism suspects is that they're welcome to opt out of the collection. All they have to do is not fly. The DHS insists it's only targeting foreign visitors, but the system will scan everyone. The agency also promises not to retain face scans of US citizens, but it's highly doubtful it will keep that promise. The government has rolled out a variety of biometric collections, each one intermingled with existing law enforcement and terrorism databases. Collect it all and let the courts sort it out: that's the government's motto. On top of the illegality and lack of proper deployment paperwork, there's the fact the program really just doesn't do anything useful. As the Center points out in its thorough report, there was originally a point to scanning incoming foreign visitors and comparing them to government databases: catching incoming criminals and members of terrorism watchlists. But there's no solid rationale behind the push to scan faces of foreigners as they leave the country. The DHS has a theory, but it's not a good one. DHS, for its part, has never studied whether there is a problem that necessitates a change in its approach to tracking travelers’ departures. DHS claims that the aim of the program is to detect visa overstay travel fraud and to improve DHS’ data on the departure of foreign nationals by “biometrically verifying” the exit records it already creates for those leaving the country. Visa overstay travel fraud could—in theory—be a problem worth solving. Foreign nationals who wish to remain in the country undetected past the expiration of their visas could be arranging to have others leave the country in their place using fraudulent credentials. But DHS has only ever published limited and anecdotal evidence of this. The DHS -- despite rolling this out -- still has no idea if it will do anything more than stock its database of human faces. Five years after being asked to demonstrate how biometric exit scans would be an improvement over the status quo, the DHS has yet to provide answers. In fact, it's hasn't even been able to deliver an estimate as to when its report answering these questions will be delivered. This dovetails right into the DHS's lackadaisical roll out of its biometric program. So far, the tech has only been installed in a few airports, but even in this limited trial run, the agency seems uninterested in ensuring the system's accuracy. The DHS claims the program is doing great because it's not returning a lot of false positives. But that's the wrong metric if you're hoping to catch people on the way out of the country. DHS currently measures performance based on how often the system correctly accepts travelers who are using true credentials. But if the aim of this system is to detect and stop visa overstay travel fraud—as DHS suggests—it is critical and perhaps more important to assess how well it performs at correctly rejecting travelers who are using fraudulent credentials. Yet DHS is not measuring that. The Center recommends DHS suspend the program indefinitely. It should not be put back into place until the DHS has clear legal authorization to do so and with all of the required privacy impact paperwork filed. It should spend some more time studying the tech to see if it can actually perform the job the DHS wants it to. The end goal for the tech -- overstay travel fraud -- seems like a spurious reason for expanded surveillance in US airports, especially when isn't interested in limiting this biometric collection to foreign citizens only. But chances are none of these recommendations will be followed by the DHS -- not while answering to a presidential administration that has done its best to portray most foreigners as inherent threats to the US way of life. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 25 days ago on techdirt
It has certainly been a turbulent year for the NFL. The league is reeling from ratings declines, accusations of political bias, its own versions of the #MeToo wave that has collided with our larger culture, and a seemingly never ending controversy over how players comport themselves during the National Anthem that essentially works as a feedback loop of outrage on every side helped along by the man holding the highest public office in our union. With that in mind, relatively small intellectual property dust-ups may seem low on the eyeball list for those following the league, but it's still worth pointing out when the league gets IP questions wrong, as it often does. Yet not every accusation lobbed in its direction is valid and the rather over the top response from one online outlet over the branding of some t-shirts is one that is not. The background on this is that Barstool Sports is a part humor, part satire, part sports blog with a turbulent relationship with Roger Goodell and the NFL. The Boston iteration of the site has been a particularly virulent thorn in the NFL's side and made much of its name when the league suspended Tom Brady for deflating some footballs. The site also pitches a line of t-shirts with the phrase "Saturdays are for the boys" on them, which I suppose is some kind of a nod to college football. Well, the NFL recently came out with a line of "Sundays are for the [blank]" line of shirts, with the blank being each of the 32 NFL teams that famously play games on Sundays. This did not escape Barstool Sports' attention. But this I cannot stand for. I’m not letting this rat fuck Roger Goodell pull one over on me. I’m not letting him stand at the podium at the Super Bowl, say he’s never heard of Barstool Sports, then start slinging SAFTB gear in the NFL.com store. That’s fucking bullshit and I wouldn’t be a man if I let it slide. I don’t know what I’m gonna do because I’m not entirely sure that this is actionable, as we don’t own every day of the week, but I’ve never let the rules stop me from making a scene before, Roger. I’ll get Charlie Kelly to draw up a C&D in crayon and I’ll go sit my ass in the lobby at Park Ave, a place where I’m banned from enter, again. I’ll have Michael Portnoy Esq bury you up to your eyeballs in paperwork. I’ll start selling so many goddamn NFL copyright infringing t-shirts it’ll make your head spin. First and foremost: bros, take a breath. Whatever the relationship between Barstool Sports and the NFL, these t-shirts are not some threat to the site's merchandise income. As for the intellectual property question here, there really isn't one. A phrase of this nature, this size, and this level of creative originality isn't going to be the cornerstone of the copyright lawsuit of the century, and that's without taking into account the NFL's large cadre of lawyers. On the trademark front, the phrases are both non-unique enough and sufficiently different so as to wave off any concerns about public confusion. There's just nothing here. But if the threat of selling copyright infringing merch on Barstool's end isn't some joke, or perhaps even if it is, such statements serve as great evidence for any willfull infringement claims the NFL might want to make against the site in the future. Some of the media coverage has included questioning what the upside for the NFL is in using such a similar phrase, which is fairly silly. The upside is selling the shirts. The real question is: what is the downside? The answer is pretty clearly: there is none. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 26 days ago on techdirt
The FCC has done away with Net Neutrality. In its place, we get videos of Ajit Pai mocking his opponents, served up in a melange of mishandled memes. We also, apparently, get this: a future where our lives are interrupted by push notifications that treat grown-ass police officers like kidnapped children. (h/t That Anonymous Coward) The Federal Communications Commission today added a new alert option—called a “Blue Alert”—to the nation’s emergency alerting systems. Blue Alerts can be used by state and local authorities to notify the public of threats to law enforcement and to help apprehend dangerous suspects. Blue Alerts warn the public when there is actionable information related to a law enforcement officer who is missing, seriously injured or killed in the line of duty, or when there is an imminent credible threat to an officer. A Blue Alert could quickly warn you if a violent suspect may be in your community, along with providing instructions on what to do if you spot the suspect and how to stay safe. Warning people about violent suspects in their area is somewhat useful -- a severe weather alert but for crime. But there's no reason for a system like this to prioritize crimes against police officers. Adding mere threats to the mix just adds a bunch of junk info of nearly no use to the citizens on the receiving end of these alerts. At best, people will clear them from their screen as quickly as they do interloping Amber Alerts. At worst, they'll decide to play Batman and put themselves and officers at risk by attempting to Do Something. This is being rolled out nationally, following two years of prep that commenced after the passage of the Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu National Blue Alert Act, named after two NYPD officers who died in an ambush attack. It's a DOJ initiative, but one that requires the assistance of the FCC to utilize the national Emergency Alert System. The FCC is also there to nudge wireless providers towards compliance with "voluntary" guidelines for pushing these alerts to cell phone users. At this point, 28 states have already implemented some form of "Blue Alert" system. The national roll out will encompass the remaining states and US territories. That's what the FCC is announcing: the use of two alert networks to tell people cops are in danger. Today's Order provides a 12-month implementation period for Blue Alerts to be delivered over the Emergency Alert System and 18 months for delivery over the Wireless Emergency Alert system. This bill should never have been made law. There's nothing out there that suggests distributing this information outside of law enforcement networks will have any net safety benefit for the public. Taking it nationwide only adds to "Alert" market saturation. Cops have strong support systems and plenty of firepower on their side, unlike missing seniors (Silver Alert) or kidnapped children (Amber Alert). And, unlike targeted weather alerts, a Blue Alert offers up almost no information usable by the general public. If a suspect is still on the loose, the most beneficial information is only implicit: cops are searching for a suspect who hurt/killed one of theirs. For citizens in the area, the best option is to shelter in place. That way they (and their vehicles) won't be mistaken for suspects' and filled with bullet holes. In all seriousness, the Blue Alert system only serves one purpose: to elevate law enforcement officers above the people they serve, granting their victimhood a higher status than that granted to their fellow citizens. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 26 days ago on techdirt
In 2011, Colombian graduate student Diego Gómez did something that hundreds of people do every day: he shared another student's Master's thesis with colleagues over the Internet. He didn't know that that simple, common act could put him in prison for years on a charge of criminal copyright infringement. After a very long ordeal, we can breathe a sigh of relief: a Colombian appeals court has affirmed the lower court's acquittal of Diego. How did we get to the point where a student can go to prison for eight years for sharing a paper on the Internet? Diego's case is a reminder of the dangers of overly restrictive copyright laws. While Diego is finally in the clear, extreme criminal penalties for copyright infringement continue to chill research, innovation, and creativity all over the world, especially in countries that don't have broad exemptions and limitations to copyright, or the same protections for fair use that we have in the United States. In another sense, though, the case is a sad indictment of copyright law and policy decisions in the U.S. Diego's story is a reminder of the far-reaching, worldwide implications of the United States government's copyright law and policy. We failed Diego. How did we get to the point where a student can go to prison for eight years for sharing a paper on the Internet? The answer is pretty simple: Colombia has severe copyright penalties because the United States told its government to introduce them. The law Diego was tried under came with a sentencing requirement that was set in order to comply with a trade agreement with the U.S. International trade agreements are almost never good news for people who think that copyright's scope and duration should be limited. By establishing minimum requirements that all countries must meet in protecting copyrighted works, they effectively create a floor for copyright law. It's easy for signing countries to enact more restrictive laws than the agreement prescribes, but difficult to create less restrictive law. Those agreements almost never carry requirements that participating nations honor limitations on copyright like fair use or fair dealing rights. Just this week, a coalition of 25 conservative groups sent a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) arguing against the inclusion of any provision in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that would require countries to include balanced copyright limitations and exceptions such as fair use, as EFF and other groups have suggested. Countries like Colombia essentially get the worst of both worlds: strong protection for large rights-holders and weak protection for their citizens' rights. As we've pointed out before, it's depressing that someone can risk prison time for sharing academic research anywhere in the world. If open access were the standard for scientific research, Diego would not have gotten in trouble at all. And once again, it's the actions of countries like the United States that are to blame. The U.S. government is one of the largest funders of scientific research in the world. If the United States were to adopt a gold open access standard for all of the research it funds—that is, if it required that research outputs be made available to the public immediately upon publication, with no embargo period—then academic publishers would be forced to adapt immediately, essentially setting open access as the worldwide default. EFF is delighted that Diego can rest easy and focus on his research, but unfortunately, the global conditions exist to put researchers all over the world in similar situations. No one should face years in prison for the act of sharing academic research. Making the changes in law and policy to prevent stories like Diego's from happening again is a goal we should all share. Republished from EFF's Deeplinks blog. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 26 days ago on techdirt
Child porn laws continue to be used stupidly by state prosecutors to punish teens for consensual behavior. The ACLU has entered a case on behalf of a 14-year-old who sent explicit photos of herself to another teen. This teen then sent the photos to others. At some point, the state decided to step in. What the teen did was demonstrably stupid, but should it be criminal? Using the law to set an example and shame some teenagers undermines the seriousness and intent of child pornography laws. Minnesota statute 617.247 clearly states that its intent is to “protect minors from the physical and psychological damage caused by their being used in pornographic work depicting sexual conduct which involves minors.” Yet it is the state, not Jane that is doing the victimizing. “I’m not a criminal for taking a selfie,” stated Jane Doe. “Sexting is common among teens at my school, and we shouldn’t face charges for doing it. I don’t want anyone else to go through what I’m going through.” This is clearly a ridiculous reading of Minnesota's law. The law can't "protect" Jane Doe from taking sexually explicit photos of herself -- not unless this is the prosecutor's idea of "protection." If anyone else had taken the photos, Jane Doe would be the victim of child pornography production. Even more ridiculously, Jane Doe and the teen she sent the photos to would have been in the clear if they'd limited their interaction to sexual intercourse. Minnesota statutory rape law is violated when a person has consensual sexual intercourse with an individual under age 16, although it is raised to 18 when the offender is an authority figure. If the younger party is 13-15, their partners must be no more than 2 years older, and children under 13 may only consent to those less than 36 months older. Although it is possible this prosecutor may have decided to wield this law just as badly. Because there is no such "Romeo and Juliet law" in Minnesota, it is possible for two individuals both under the age of 16 who willingly engage in intercourse to both be prosecuted for statutory rape, although this is rare. As the ACLU points out in its brief [PDF], the prosecution of Doe serves no conceivable definition of "justice." It doesn't take a child predator off the street and it requires Doe to register as a sex offender even if she pleads to a lesser charge. It robs the term "production" of any meaning by stripping it of context, treating the willing production of explicit material BY a minor as equivalent to the non-consensual production of child pornography by an adult pedophile. The lack of an exploited victim means the prosecutor shouldn't have a legal basis for the prosecution. But here we are, watching the state of Minnesota attempt to turn someone who took pictures of herself into a criminal. The National District Attorneys Association has suggested prosecutors limit pursuit of teen sexting cases and to deploy a "light touch" in those they do choose to pursue. But the prosecutor isn't interested in following the NDAA's suggestions. As Scott Greenfield points out, leaving sensitive issues like this up to prosecutors rarely works out well for the public. The problem with relying on prosecutorial discretion to clean up bad laws, to not use the bludgeon in ways that no one really wanted, is that it’s prosecutorial discretion. The prosecutor can choose to use a “light hand,” or come down hard. We might disagree with his choice, but the choice is his, not ours. That’s what discretion means. If the prosecutor, for whatever reason, chooses to beat a teen into submission, he can. If the elements of the crime cover her conduct, then it’s a crime and she’s a criminal. That it’s stupid isn’t the point. This is law. The law may be stupid but we can apparently always count on some prosecutors to be even stupider. There are a wealth of options available to deter Does from sexting in the future -- none of which involve criminal charges or sex offender registration. Parents, family members, schools, community groups… all of these can provide guidance for teens without having to involve law enforcement or a prosecutor's lack of discretion. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 26 days ago on techdirt
A common lobbying tactic in the telecom sector is to take something you were already planning to do anyway, then when it happens claim it only could have occurred thanks to "X" policy or lobbying favor. For example you'll recall that every time AT&T wants a merger approved, the company will promise to "expand" broadband into areas it already planned to service. Regulators are frequently all-too-happy to let this disingenuous nonsense slide because (thanks to an unskeptical media) it helps portray them as having held a company's feet to the fire -- even if nothing is actually changing. Fast forward to last week, when Comcast posted a missive to its website claiming that thanks to the GOP Tax plan and the Trump administration's attack on net neutrality, the company would be doling out $1,000 bonuses to some employees, and spending fifty billion dollars on network investment over the next five years: "Based on the passage of tax reform and the FCC's action on broadband, Brian L. Roberts, Chairman and CEO of Comcast NBCUniversal, announced that the Company would award special $1,000 bonuses to more than one hundred thousand eligible frontline and non-executive employees. Roberts also announced that the Company expects to spend well in excess of $50 billion over the next five years investing in infrastructure to radically improve and extend our broadband plant and capacity, and our television, film and theme park offerings. With these investments, we expect to add thousands of new direct and indirect jobs." Except some reporters did something that's notably unfashionable in the post-truth era: they actually checked Comcast's math. Not too surprisingly, they discovered that Comcast's promise to spend $50 billion over the next five years is something that was going to happen anyway based on Comcast's recent spending and projected growth rates: "In Q3 2017, the most recent quarter, Comcast's capital expenditures were $2.4 billion. Continuing to spend at that rate, even if Comcast doesn't increase spending to account for inflation, would push Comcast to $9.6 billion a year or $48 billion over the next five years...In the most recent four quarters combined (Q4 2016 through Q3 2017), Comcast spent $9.4 billion on capital investments. (Q4 2016 was the high point at $2.6 billion.) Continuing to spend $9.4 billion annually without any inflation-related increases would result in $47 billion over the next five years, a few billion below the "new" target. ...if Comcast continues increasing capital expenditures by the same rate as it did with net neutrality rules in place, the company would easily break the $50 billion figure that Roberts attributed to the net neutrality repeal and tax break. Again, this is standard operating procedure at these companies. In 2009, Comcast top lobbyist David Cohen put a looming company plan to offer discounted broadband to low-income homes on hold. Why? He specifically wanted to use it as regulator bait to secure the company's 2011 plan to acquire NBC Universal: "At the time, Comcast was planning a controversial $30 billion bid to take over NBC Universal, and Cohen needed a bargaining chip for government negotiations. "I held back because I knew it may be the type of voluntary commitment that would be attractive to the chairman” of the Federal Communications Commission, Cohen said in a recent interview. So again, this tactic to take something already planned and pretend it's "new" is just how these companies operate. AT&T of course tried something similar by announcing it too would invest an additional $1 billion next year thanks to tax "reform" and the attack on net neutrality. But the company intentionally omits any hard math (like how much it would have spent anyway), allowing it to craft entire worlds out of hot air and nonsense. And again, media outlets that only mindlessly parrot these claims just create a massive PR bonanza, where companies are routinely praised for doing nothing out of the ordinary. Which brings us to the company's bonus promises. AT&T was routinely praised in the media for the bonuses, though few could be bothered to notice they were actually tied to a new contract hashed out with company unions, and had nothing to do with AT&T's new, lower tax rate. In Comcast's case, even if the bonuses weren't already planned, they're a pittance compared to the billions of dollars the company will net thanks to a permanently-lower tax rate, the death of net neutrality, and the dismantling of consumer broadband privacy protections earlier this year. Again, the Trump administration's assault on net neutrality is just one small part of an effort to completely gut nearly all state and federal oversight of some of the least competitive and least liked companies in America. The billions of additional dollars that can be generated via the abuse of captive markets is going to be incalculable, so a piddly one-time bonus (instead of a healthy raise) is literally the very least the company could do. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 26 days ago on techdirt
The Learn to Code 2018 Bundle will give you a wide breadth of programming knowledge. Pay what you want for it and you'll get an introduction to R, a powerful programming language that helps developers solve even the most complex data problems. If you beat the average price listed in the store, you open up access to 9 other courses. They cover Angular, HTML, CSS, Bootstrap 4, Node, Java 9, React, C#, iOS 11 and Swift4, Python, JavaScript, PHP, and MySQL. It's over 140 hours of instruction to help get you up to speed on the latest in coding. Note: The Techdirt Deals Store is powered and curated by StackCommerce. A portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals helps support Techdirt. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 26 days ago on techdirt
For many years we've criticized copyright policymakers who rely on "faith-based" policymaking. That is, they believe that copyright is inherently "good" and refuse to consider any evidence showing harms from copyright that is too strong, or refuse to concede that there may be better ways to create incentives or to remunerate creators beyond copyright. The idea of actually having evidence-based copyright has long seemed like a pipedream -- and apparently the EU Commission would like to keep it that way. Back in September, we wrote about how the EU Commission spent $400,000 on a study that showed unauthorized downloads had little impact on sales -- and then refused to release the report, recognizing that it would undermine the narrative they were pushing in trying to expand anti-piracy laws. And, now, another such "buried" report has been discovered. As with the last one, this new report was discovered by Pirate Party EU Parliament Member Julia Reda, though she used the standard EU Freedom of Information process that anyone else could have used. After discovering that last report, she made a request for all copyright related studies that the EU Commission had requested since 2013, even if they were unpublished. That initial request listed out some papers that were still in progress -- including the one that Reda has now released. This study is one that a lot of news publishers almost certainly wished would have never seen the light of day -- which might explain why the EU Commission kept it buried. The report focuses on the question of news aggregators and what impact they're having on news publishers. As you may recall, publishers around the globe -- but especially in Europe -- have been insisting that aggregators like Google News are somehow responsible for their own business failures, and are demanding that Google pay them for the awful crime of sending them traffic. The fact that these publishers could easily block Google from sending them traffic -- but refuse to do so -- reveals that they really do find that traffic valuable. But they still want payments on top of it, and will continue to demonize Google News and other aggregators until they get it. And, indeed, the EU Commission continues to suggest that forcing aggregators to pay publishers would be a good idea. But, perhaps not surprisingly, the study that the Commission requested shows the exact opposite of what the publishers claim. Looking at situations in Spain and Germany -- both countries that tried to force Google to pay -- gives some real world evidence that is inconvenient for publishers and those pushing for these kinds of laws: The available empirical evidence shows that news aggregators have a positive impact on news publishers' advertising revenue. The research goes through a number of different empirical studies to conclude this. It notes that there are two competing forces, and the empirical question is which force wins out. News publishers insist that aggregators work as a substitute for their sites, while aggregators (and others!) insist that they're complementary, and that news aggregators drive more traffic, which the publishers can then monetize. It then cites a whole bunch of studies presenting empirical evidence that the complementary effects far outweigh the substitution effects. As the paper concludes: We can conclude from this overview that the studies published so far contain no empirical evidence in support of the substitution hypothesis and thus no evidence that online aggregators have a negative impact on original newspaper publishers' revenue. On the contrary, the evidence shows that aggregators may actually be complements to newspaper websites and may help consumer discover more news and boost the number of visits. All of this seems like, damn, it would be kind of useful if you were trying to create good copyright policy. But instead the report was completely buried and hidden, while the EU Commission to this day continues to push for policies that insist the substitution effect is stronger than the complementary effect. Even though the evidence that the very same Commission asked for shows that's untrue. So, once again, it's feeling like evidence-based copyright remains a pipedream. What's unfortunate, though, is that in the past we felt it was a pipedream because no one was willing to do the research. Now it appears it's a pipedream because policymakers, when shown the evidence, will do everything possible to hide it, rather than to use it to create more effective and reasonable copyright laws. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 26 days ago on techdirt
Earlier this year Washington State sued Comcast for routinely ripping off its customers. The original complaint (pdf) argued that Comcast violated Washington state’s Consumer Protection Act (CPA) by misrepresenting its "Service Protection Plan," which lets users pay a $5 per month additional fee to cover "all" service calls. But the investigation found that Comcast not only over-stated what the plan covered, but routinely signed customers up for the plan who never asked for it, resulting in an additional $73 million in subscription fees over the last five years for what the State AG called a "near-worthless" plan. The original complaint found that Comcast reps repeatedly sold the plan as being "comprehensive," covering all service calls, including those related to inside wiring, customer-owned equipment connected to Comcast services and "on-site education about products." But when customers subscribed to the plan called up thinking they'd then get a break from Comcast on service charges, the company would routinely bill customers anyway for all manner of services and repairs that should have been covered under the plan. Amusingly, last week while Comcast was busy celebrating the vote to kill net neutrality, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that his office would be amending and expanding its original complaint. According to investigators, the width and breadth of Comcast's protection plan scam went far deeper than investigators originally realized. After reviewing company interactions with subscribers, the AG found that "Comcast may have signed up more than half of all SPP subscribers without their consent," and in numerous instances charged customers for the SPP plan after telling them it was "free." Ferguson's office claims they were "shocked" by the level of deception that occurred at Comcast: "This new evidence makes clear that Comcast’s conduct is even more egregious than we first realized,” Ferguson said. “The extent of their deception is shocking, and I will hold them accountable for their treatment of Washington consumers." If you've watched as Comcast gleans millions of dollars from unnecessary usage caps, extremely misleading fees (which it's also being sued over), or surcharges thanks to its monopoly over cable boxes, none of this should be remotely shocking. Being misleading is a rite of passage in the broadband sector, where captive customers, a lack of competition and blindly loyal state and federal regulators and lawmakers means accountability of any sort is frequently in short supply (though this is precisely the sort of stuff many falsely believe "the market" will magically take care of on its own accord). And it's all about to get much worse. As we've well established, the Trump administration is gutting most meaningful FTC and FCC oversight of uncompetitive duopolies companies like Comcast. Worse, Comcast and Verizon have successfully lobbied the FCC to block any states that try to hold these ISPs accountable on the net neutrality, privacy, or errant billing fronts. All while the already flimsy competition Comcast faces in many of its markets weakens further thanks to telcos being unwilling to upgrade their networks. In other words, if you thought Comcast's behavior was bad in the past, you likely haven't seen anything yet. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The American Dream: own your own business... be your own boss... run your reputation into the ground... charge people's credit cards $350 for negative reviews... get sued by the government. Welcome to Nashville, Indiana, home of the Abbey Inn, whose absentee ownership, lack of on-duty staff, and hidden clauses have led to a precipitous decline in brand health, along with the opportunity to defend itself against a lawsuit brought by the state's attorney general. It all started with hotel guest Katrina Walker's disastrous stay at the Abbey Inn. The hotel room wasn’t just dirty. It was “a nightmare,” the guest said. The air smelled like sewage. Hair and dirt covered the bed sheets, as if the linens hadn’t been cleaned after the last guests had left the Abbey Inn & Suites room that Katrina Arthur and her husband were renting in Nashville, Ind in March 2016. The air conditioner and shower in the room didn’t work right, either, Arthur told WRTV. “We were just wanting to get away and have some alone time,” Arthur told the TV station. “It looked really pretty on the website.” Walker left a negative review of Abbey Inn after an email from the hotel asked her to submit a review. This was followed by a (bogus) legal threat from someone who should definitely know better. Attorney Andrew Szakaly, who owns the hotel, wrote a letter to Arthur on April 2, 2016 telling Arthur that her negative review included “false statements” that had caused “irreparable injury” to his business, according to Indiana’s attorney general. If Arthur didn’t take down the negative review, Szakaly threatened to file a libel lawsuit against her, according to the attorney general’s office. Andrew Szakaly isn't just an attorney and the now-former owner of the Abbey Inn. At the point this legal threat occurred, Szakaly was also the attorney for the town of Nashville. At this point, he's moved on to become the county's chief deputy prosecutor. He's also not willing to answer questions about the problems at Abbey Inn that occurred while he owned the business. He's also nuked his own site, which had his phone number and email address. But it lives on at the Internet Archive, even if calls and emails are going unanswered. He will likely have to provide some answers. After sending out the bogus legal threat, Szakaly billed Walker $350 for the negative review, citing a clause in Abbey Inn's guest policy. Walker claims she never saw anything in the copy of the guest policy she received at the hotel. The clause also isn't posted anywhere in the business where guests can view it. It can be found in archived snapshots of the Inn's website -- which has also been nuked following negative press coverage. Now, Indiana's state attorney general is taking the business to court. The complaint [PDF] (h/t Cyrus Farivar) lists dozens of things the Abbey Inn did wrong, on top of the $350 charge for "disparaging" an already-questionable hotel. Abbey Inn Suites maintains an overnight phone number for times when an employee is not available on-site to address consumer issues, but signs in each guest room state a consumer must not call overnight phone number unless there is an emergency. The signs further state if a consumer calls the overnight phone number and there was not an emergency, Abbey Inn Suites will charge the consumer in the amount of $100.00. [...] During her stay, Ms. Arthur, experienced issues with a sewage smell in her room, issues with water pressure, problems with the air conditioner, and an unkempt room. Ms. Arthur attempted to notify Abbey Inn Suites management of the issues, but there was no employee on site and her calls to the after-hours phone number went unanswered. There was no employee at the front desk when Ms. Arthur checked out on March 13, 2016, to whom she could direct a complaint about the issues encountered during her stay. This last part is especially important because it gives guests no other option but to "violate" the bogus clause in the guest policies that they never see [emphasis added]: Guests agree that if guests find any problems with our accommodations and fail to provide us the opportunity to address those problems while the guest is with us, and/or refuses our exclusive remedy, but then disparages us in any public manner, we will then be entitled to charge their credit card an additional $350 damage. Should guest refuse to retract any such public statements legal action may be pursued. The lack of staff makes it all but impossible for issues to be resolved before the guest leaves. The attorney general accuses the business of violating state deceptive practices laws with its non-disparagement clause. The office seeks an injunction and fines of $5,000 per violation. As the complaint points out, the guest policy went far beyond discouraging negative reviews. It also prevented consumers from bringing grievances against the Inn. The Policy also forces consumers to accept the Defendant's final and binding "exclusive remedy" to resolve any situation or issue, regardless of what that remedy entails and whether it actually resolves the situation or issue to the consumer's satisfaction. [...] The Policy not only attempted to limit negative online reviews, thus improperly shielding the Defendant from the consequences of providing consumers with a negative experience or unsatisfactory customer service during their stay, but would also prohibit a consumer from filing a consumer complaint with the Attorney General or Better Business Bureau, filing a lawsuit, or even a police report, as all could be considered a "disparagement" in a "public manner." The Abbey Inn's reputation is now destroyed, thanks to a clause inserted by the attorney/owner who also happens to hold a government job as a prosecutor. Hopefully, this all lands in the lap of Brown County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Andrew Szakaly. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 26 days ago on techdirt
Over the last year, the scale of Russia's disinformation activities has become clearer. Its Internet Research Agency has deployed an astonishing range of sophisticated techniques, included accounts on Twitter and Facebook, and hiring activists within the US without the latter being aware they were working for the Russian government. We also now know that the same organization has been buying Facebook ads on a large scale that were seen by over a hundred million US citizens. But it would be naïve to think that Russia is the only foreign power engaged in this kind of activity. In fact, it would be surprising if any intelligence agency worth its salt were not carrying out similar activities around the globe. The first detailed information about China's use of fake social media accounts to recruit informants and extract sensitive information has just been published by the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV), Germany's domestic intelligence service. As Reuters reports: Nine months of research had found that more than 10,000 German citizens had been contacted on the LinkedIn professional networking site by fake profiles disguised as headhunters, consultants, think-tankers or scholars, the BfV said. Quartz quotes the BfV's president, Hans-Georg Maaßen, as saying: "We are dealing with a broad attempt to infiltrate parliaments, ministries and administrations," said Maaßen. “Chinese intelligence services are using new strategies of attack in the digital space." An interim report on the analysis that appeared on the BfV site in July (original in German) explains how the Chinese operated. The supposed headhunters, scholars and Chinese officials claimed that there were interested in the specialism of the person being approached. They inquired about a possible exchange of professional views on the topic, and spoke of an "important customer" in China: the Chinese contact persons ask those involved for a curriculum vitae and offered to pay for a trial project. If this was completed satisfactorily, an invitation is made to go to China to meet with the "important customer", with the costs of the stay being covered by the Chinese side. In fact, however, the "important customer" never appears and is not explicitly named. In due course, the persons involved are usually asked regularly to write reports in return for appropriate remuneration, or to pass on internal, sensitive information from the respective work area. As part of its report, the BfV published a selection of the fake profies. Reuters explains: Many of the profile pictures show stylish and visually appealing young men and women. The picture of "Laeticia Chen", a manager at the "China Center of International Politics and Economy" was nicked from an online fashion catalogue, an official said. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang was, of course shocked by the accusations, which he called "baseless": "We hope the relevant German organizations, particularly government departments, can speak and act more responsibly, and not do things that are not beneficial to the development of bilateral relations," Lu said. The implicit threat there chimes with two other stories about China that Techdirt published last month. In one of them, the Chinese authorities put pressure on the academic publisher Springer Nature to censor thousands of papers that dealt with topics that showed China in a less than flattering light. Similarly, Allen & Unwin was "persuaded" by the Chinese authorities not to publish a book about China's growing but covert influence in Australia. The row between Australia and China has since escalated further. The latter denounced remarks by Australian politicians as being "full of prejudices against China", and lodged a formal protest. Taken with the latest news of China's attempts to recruit informants using social media, these recent events are evidence of a newly aggressive China on the world scene -- and of what The Economist calls China's "sharp power". Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+ Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 27 days ago on techdirt
Facebook, which was a bit late to the party, recently released its latest transparency report. In a break from earlier versions of the report, the social media giant has finally moved beyond only detailing requests for information by the government and its alphabet agencies and is now including intellectual property requests and statistics as well. There is a decent amount of information in both sections of the report, but on matters of both intellectual property requests and government information requests, an analysis of the numbers leads to some troubling conclusions. Let's deal with the IP section first. The headline of much of the media reporting on this has been about the 377,000 or so requests Facebook got to take down content based on IP issues, with well over half of those specifically being about copyright. It's not a small number and some are using it to make the case that Facebook is Mos Eisley when it comes to copyright infringement: a hive of scum and villainy. Tragically for those arguments, the validity of those requests makes this all seem far less impactful. Aggregate data shows Facebook received about 377,400 complaints from January through June, with many referencing multiple posts. About 60 percent of the reports related to suspected copyright violations on Facebook. A “small fraction” of requests were excluded because they were not sent through an official form, Facebook said. The company removed user uploads in response to 81 percent of filings for counterfeiting, 68 percent for copyrights and 47 percent for trademarks, according to its report. The percentages were roughly similar for Instagram. By my math, the copyright front shrinks from the 377k number to 150k of copyright content Facebook decided, rightly or wrongly, was valid enough to take down the content. That isn't a small number still, but it's not as daunting a number as it originally appeared, particularly when you factor in that Facebook generally sides with the disputer over the person who's content it is removing. On trademark, the numbers are much worse, with less than half of the requests being valid enough to have the content removed. The overall picture is one in which there is indeed some infringement on a site as massive as Facebook, but there is also an enormous amount of invalid requests to the site as well. Not the best look for those that think intellectual property enforcement on the site should be expanded even further. As for government information requests, you will not be shocked to learn that they've gone up rather sharply as of late. The ninth Facebook transparency report also showed that government requests for information about users increased 21 percent worldwide compared with the second half of 2016, from 64,279 to 78,890. As we discuss this on the eve of the federal government looking to renew its domestic surveillance powers, it's well worth noting that any of the voices that hollered about the dangers of government spying over, say, the last eight years or so ought to be screaming at the sky, and possibly their own IoT devices, about what has only been an expansion of surveillance and privacy invasion for the general public. That the government is able to get away with this kind of one-sided action only becomes more mysterious as the actions against the public increase over time. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 27 days ago on techdirt
There was a bit of controversy last week concerning Apple slowing down older devices. It started, as so many things do, with a Reddit post, noting that Apple appeared to be slowing down the processor on phones with older batteries. Geekbench's John Poole then ran some tests confirming this. Apple then confirmed that it was doing so. All three of those links above also present the reason for this -- which is not necessarily a nefarious one -- though that doesn't necessarily mean it's a good explanation either. In short, it was a solution to a problem of older batteries causing "spontaneous" or "unexpected shutdowns." But, of course, slowing down the phone to avoid those kinds of shutdowns still has the impact of reduced performance on older phones -- which ultimately angers users or makes them feel like they need to upgrade before they really do. This wouldn't necessarily be a huge issue if two things were true: (1) it was easy to replace the batteries and (2) Apple was clear and upfront about this -- telling people they could avoid this issue by replacing the battery. Neither of those things are true. Apple makes it quite difficult to replace the batteries (though, not impossible) and only now is explaining this "hack." And, because this is America, lawsuits are already being filed. Multiple lawsuits. I imagine that they'll all be combined at some point into a giant class action, though I'm not sure how much of a chance this case has of going very far. Either way, I'd post the lawsuits, but as I type this PACER appears to not be working properly, and I really doubt there's much that's interesting in the complaints anyway. What's more interesting here is the troubling nature of just how much control over our devices we've given to the companies who sell us stuff. This all goes back to the theme that we've discussed many times around here, of how we no longer seem to own what we've ostensibly purchased. The fact that a company such as Apple can sneak in and change our settings in a way that harms overall performance -- even if it claims it has a good reason to -- is something that concern us all. And that's especially true as more and more of our devices have such connectivity... and our own ability to get in and fix stuff is more and more limited. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 27 days ago on techdirt
The FBI has proudly announced its kicking of another goal into the unguarded War on Terrorism net. And the press rejoices: The enthusiastic republishing of the FBI's narrative does little more than rewrite the DOJ's press release. Very few have dug into the charging documents. If they had, they might not have depicted a terrorist attack that was never going to happen as somehow being "thwarted" by the arrest of a 26-year-old man reeling from the recent loss of his children in a custody battle. According to the criminal complaint [PDF], Everitt Jameson was planning to detonate explosives at Pier 39 in San Francisco, a popular destination for tourists. The lead-up to Jameson's arrest (and supposed "thwarting") was filled with FBI informants and undercover agents, but not a single actual member of a terrorist group. The investigation began with a paid informant passing on Jameson's Facebook activity to the FBI. On September 19, 2017, a credible FBI Confidential Human Source (CHS) who has accurately reported to the FBI on national security matters in the past, reported a suspicious Facebook account. The Facebook persona was Everitt Aaron Jameson, vanity everittj. The Facebook id # was hidden. The CHS reported Jameson was "Liking" and "Loving" posts that were pro-ISIS and pro-terrorism. To provide an example of the types of posts Jameson was "Liking" and "Loving" during this time period, the CHS reported to the FBI that Jameson "loved" a post on November 29, 2017 that is an image of Santa Claus standing in New York with a box of dynamite. The text of the post reads, "ISIS post image of Santa with dynamite threatening attack on New York." The Propaganda poster shows Santa Claus standing on a roof next to a box of dynamite looking out over a crowd of shoppers with the words "We meet at Christmas in New York… soon." Under this post, Jameson selected the "Like" option and then selected the "Heart" option to signify that he "Loved" the post. As we've noted before, "liking" social media posts is not the same thing as endorsing the content. Jameson may have liked the sentiments expressed, but it doesn't immediately follow he would be willing to engage in violent acts of terrorism. That's not what the FBI thought, though. Rather than monitor the account and open a preliminary investigation, the FBI decided to get involved. Undercover agents began communicating with Jameson pretending to be ISIS members. Over the next couple of months, agents frequently exchanged messages and met with Jameson, nudging him towards committing an act of terrorism. Jameson pledged his limited utility to the cause, fulfilling the expected "material support" charges by offering use of his tow truck and his (very brief) background as a US Marine. (Jameson was discharged shortly after basic training for failing to disclose his asthma.) He also said he could kick in about $400 a month. Jameson did state he was considering something along the lines of the San Bernardino shootings or the New York attack in which a vehicle was driven into a crowd. But the FBI was more interested in getting Jameson to build bombs. Jameson was compliant, but seemingly unable to actually acquire the supplies to build them. UCE2 asked Jameson what assistance the UCE2 could provide. Jameson stated that he needed ammunition, powder, tubing, and nails. When asked what kind of a weapon he would need, Jameson noted that he would prefer an assault rifle. He also explained that he was trained in both the M-16 and an AK-47 rifle. Jameson also stated that he needed timers and remote detonators (presumably for the explosive charges Jameson previously described to the UCE2). Jameson said that he could get the PVC pipe, nails, and powder (presumably, black powder used for commercial explosives and ammunition). That conversation happened on December 16th. On December 18th, no further preparation for the attack had been done by Jameson. The undercover agent tried to arrange another meeting about the attack plans, but was rebuffed by Jameson. Later during the evening, the UCE2 contacted Jameson to discuss arranging a follow-up meeting. Jameson responded by indicating that he had been "very busy tonight." Moreover, Jameson told the UCE2, "I also don't think I can do this after all. I've reconsidered." The UCE2 stated, "We only can do Allahs will," and Jameson replied "In Sha Allah one day I can. But I can't." Rather than keep tabs on the little terrorist that couldn't, the FBI decided to call in its markers. It acquired a search warrant for Jameson's residence one day later. The search uncovered some handguns, a rifle, 13 rounds of ammunition, and four fireworks. The feds also found his handwritten note pledging allegiance to ISIS and Jameson's will, signed and executed on November 11th. As far as the complaint states, Jameson was never in contact with any suspected ISIS members. All discussions about a terrorist attack involved at least one FBI undercover agent. Jameson himself took himself out of play by stating he couldn't go through with the planned attack. This statement was made before supplies were gathered or a storage area obtained to assemble and store the bombs. The "terrorist" who "thwarted" his own attack sounds very much like a person looking for some sort of direction in his life after a traumatic divorce and chose exactly the wrong sort of people to identify with. That his closest contacts during this period were FBI agents interested in securing a terrorism bust does little to further the narrative of ticking terrorist time bomb disarmed at the last minute by heroic G-men. One wonders how many discussions about attacking America Jameson would have engaged in if simply left alone. Or if he would have come up with plans to blow up part of San Francisco if he hadn't found supposedly like-minded ISIS supporters to talk to. It's impossible to say Jameson never would have engaged in violence, but the criminal complaint shows Jameson did nothing more than click Facebook buttons before the FBI got involved. And for that, he's probably going to go to prison for a long time. It seems Jameson would have benefited from a few more positive role models. But steering confused and depressed people away from sympathizing with ISIS doesn't make headlines. And it certainly doesn't help keep the lights on at the FBI. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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