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The 2018 Cyber Security Bootcamp Bundle combines popular industry certification prep that will help you learn new skills and prepare for top exams. You'll delve into essential topics like CEH v9, CISSP, and CompTIA's Network+, Security+, and A+. Over 115 hours of content is included to help you foster skills in ethical hacking, information systems security, network security, enterprise hardware, and more. It's on sale for $59. 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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Well, here's yet another crazy story of copyright interfering with art (ht to Jean for sending this over). Buckle in, because there's a lot to explain, starting with some truly astounding art, followed by more truly astounding art, with an extra helping of even more astounding art... and then an apparent claim of copyright infringement. What follows is truly amazing work by artist CJ Hendry. Most of this is taken from a long Instagram story in which she documented this entire process, so forgive the image heavy explanation here, but it helps to explain what happened -- so I'll include some explanatory screenshots. She started with a bunch of Andy Warhol's famous Polaroids, cutting them out of the book of such photographs, and then sketched amazingly accurate renditions of them. That, alone was incredibly impressive, but then she took it much further. She took her own drawings and crumpled up the papers: ... and then drew new images of her crumpled up drawings of the original polaroids: Then, she made t-shirts featuring her drawings of the crumpled up drawings that she made replicating Andy Warhol's Polaroids: If you're not in awe already, you should be. But Hendry kept going. Since this was all an homage to Andy Warhol, she took the homage even further and made up her own Campbell's style soup labels, put them on cans and put the t-shirts into the cans. She was intending to sell each of the t-shirts in the cans, which would have been amazing... but then, copyright (maybe?) apparently got in the way. It's not entirely clear who stepped in -- Hendry insists it was not the Warhol Foundation -- but suddenly that the sale has been cancelled: If you can't read that, it says: Thanks to everyone for the lovely messages about the tees sorry for letting you all down. Believe it or not it had nothing to do with the Warhol Foundation, another organization completely. Just for lolls I will probably bring out a tee as a massive spoof of the whole thing because why the heck not. Stay tuned... So, instead of selling them, she packed up each of these amazing cans, placed them in bright red boxes, labeled "Copyright Infringement -- Trash Only": ...and then has been placing them randomly around New York City for people to find, posting pictures (and addresses) on Instagram. I'm actually going to New York City in two days and am pissed off I'm going too late to find one of these amazing boxes and t-shirts. Again, it's not entirely clear who is behind this. The book publisher Taschen published the book of Andy Warhol's Polaroids, so perhaps they have a copyright interest here? The only other one I can think of would be Campbell's Soup, though that would be crazy. Of course, a decade ago, we wrote about the letter that Campbell's Soup sent to Warhol back in 1964, joking that if Warhol had tried to do the same thing today, he undoubtedly would have received a cease and desist from a humorless corporate trademark lawyer. Instead, Campbell's celebrated Warhol's creativity: It is too bad that the modern equivalent has been shut down via at least some sort of intellectual property threat. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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We've made it pretty clear by now that U.S. broadband policy generally stinks because the nation's biggest broadband providers (and the politicians who adore their campaign contributions) want to keep the U.S. broadband market as it is: uncompetitive, expensive, and broken. There are myriad ways they accomplish this, from quite literally writing and lobbying for the passage of protectionist state laws, to convincing regulators like Ajit Pai to turn a blind eye to pretty much all of the worst habits of entrenched telecom mono/duopolies. But at the heart of the problem sits the flawed form 477 broadband mapping data the FCC collects from broadband providers. With a vested interest in portraying a healthy market, ISPs have long submitted data that over-states broadband speed and availability. And, like a loyal servant to the industry it's supposed to hold accountable, the FCC (under both parties) rarely does much to actually verify that this data is accurate. This bad data then goes on to inform bad FCC policy. Case in point: the GAO released a study last week noting that the FCC routinely overstates broadband availability in tribal areas, which in turn results in policy that doesn't do a good job fixing the problem. As the report (pdf) notes, the flimsy, unverified data the FCC collects is only compounded by odd FCC methodology decisions, like declaring an entire area "served" with broadband if just one home in a census tract has service: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) collects data on broadband availability from providers, but these data do not accurately or completely capture broadband access on tribal lands. Specifically, FCC collects data on broadband availability; these data capture where providers may have broadband infrastructure. However, FCC considers broadband to be “available” for an entire census block if the provider could serve at least one location in the census block. This leads to overstatements of service for specific locations like tribal lands. FCC, tribal stakeholders, and providers have noted that this approach leads to overstatements of broadband availability. Because FCC uses these data to measure broadband access, it also overstates broadband access—the ability to obtain service—on tribal lands. The bad data, and the FCC's unwillingness to do anything about it for the last twenty years, then has a cascading effect down the line, the GAO found: Additionally, FCC does not collect information on several factors—such as affordability, quality, and denials of service—that FCC and tribal stakeholders stated can affect the extent to which Americans living on tribal lands can access broadband services. FCC provides broadband funding for unserved areas based on its broadband data. Overstatements of access limit FCC’s and tribal stakeholders’ abilities to target broadband funding to such areas. For example, some tribal officials stated that inaccurate data have affected their ability to plan their own broadband networks and obtain funding to address broadband gaps on their lands. Of course this is certainly a problem for tribal areas, especially given the Pai FCC's decision to try and limit the broadband improvement subsidies that help expand broadband coverage to these areas (which is odd for a guy that prattles on endlessly about how fixing the digital divide is his top priority). But this same problem is playing out everywhere in the country, as cable providers secure a growing monopoly over broadband thanks to telcos that refuse to upgrade aging DSL lines at any real scale. Our $350 million broadband map does a fairly terrible job mapping broadband, but it does do a wonderful job perfectly illustrating the width and breadth of this problem. The map is supposed to "educate and inform" Americans as to broadband availability. But as we've pointed out repeatedly, the plan hallucinates both speeds and ISP availability, and fails to include any data at all on pricing (at ISP request). You can try it out yourself here, perhaps noting that most of the ISPs it claims are available at your address likely don't exist. The end result is government regulators who look at one of the most broken markets in America through rose-colored glasses, resulting in our national broadband dysfunction never getting much better. And of course when somebody at the FCC does get the crazy idea of improving mapping and availability, ISP lobbyists quickly get to work killing those efforts. And, as you might suspect, the problem has only gotten worse under FCC boss Ajit Pai, who has taken steps to weaken the very definition of "competition" itself at incumbent ISP behest. As such, keep in mind, when you see data highlighting how terrible U.S. broadband is, you can be fairly certain it's significantly worse than that. And the reason should be pretty obvious: if somebody were to accurately illustrate the monopoly Comcast, Charter, Verizon, and AT&T enjoy (and the impact this has on everything from pricing to net neutrality), somebody might just get the crazy idea to embrace policies that actually do something about it. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Ron Wyden is writing letters again. This time he wants to know why the federal government isn't protecting the personal devices and email accounts used by federal officials. Attacks by state-sponsored hackers are never going to go away, and Wyden feels this lack of protection will make personal devices easy targets. From Wyden's letter [PDF] to Senate majority leaders: Press reports from January of this year indicate that Fancy Bear--the notorious Russian hacking group--targeted senior congressional staff in 2015 and 2016. My office has since discovered that Fancy Bear targeted personal email accounts, not official government accounts. And the Fancy Bear attacks may be the tip of a much larger iceberg. My office has also discovered that at least one major technology company has informed a number of Senators and Senate staff members that their personal email accounts were targeted by foreign government hackers. Given the significance of this threat, I was alarmed to learn that SAA cybersecurity personnel apparently refused to help Senators and Senate staff after these attacks The SAA informed each Senator and staff member who asked for help that it may not offer cybersecurity assistance for personal accounts. The SAA confirmed to my office that it believes it may only use appropriated funds to protect official government devices and accounts. This seems a little odd, but there's a good reason the SAA doesn't extend coverage to personal devices. As Pwn All The Things pointed out on Twitter, personal devices can be used for personal things, and we don't want our elected officials using tax dollars for personal reasons. This is a good example of a rule constructed for laudable reasons -- the strong firewall to stop legislators using govt money for campaigning and personal things is there for a reason -- ending up with bad consequences on edge-cases like defending high-value accounts from hackers To protect against hacking attempts, Wyden is introducing legislation that would eliminate the SAA silos. The bill would allow the SAA to "provide cybersecurity assistance" for personal devices on an opt-in basis. We'll have to see how this plays out when implemented. It may make it more difficult to discern if any federal funds were misused by Senators or their staff. On the other hand, it will help secure devices some government employees mistakenly believe aren't prime targets for state-sponsored hacking. It takes a certain amount of obtuseness to reach this conclusion, considering how heavily some government officials rely on their personal devices for communications with other government officials. The old FOIA dodge is still a popular one, and the difficulty of separating official work from personal work -- especially during election years -- likely means personal devices are used far more frequently than their government-issued ones. While it's good the government as a whole is continually working towards more robust security, the fact is the private sector offers plenty of options for government officials to better secure their personal devices. Personal responsibility is still underutilized at the federal level, which makes them no better (or worse) than much of the general public. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Remember that quaint mantra from a few years back, "You can't compete with free!" The misguided idea behind the quip was that if the public could get your product for free, typically in digital form via the internet, then you were sunk. Dunzo. Kaput. The problem with this thinking is that selling a product has always had to be about more than an infinitely reproducable digital file, making any claim that "you can't compete with free" exactly two words too long. And, of course, we've seen so many counterexamples in which people and companies very much compete with free, and in fact make a killing at it, so as to make this theory essentially dead. We recently touted the fact that Nintendo is barely able to keep its Nintendo NES Mini in stock as perhaps the ultimate example of this, given how pretty much every computer and smartphone can get all those same games and functions via emulators. Well, it looks like others noticed this success Nintendo has had competing with free and have decided that they can do so as well. Sony has decided to jump into the retro console market with its Playstation Classic console, despite that it too has emulators available roughly everywhere. It’ll be out on December 3 in the US, Canada, Europe, Japan and Australia, and includes games like Final Fantasy VII, Jumping Flash, Ridge Racer Type 4, Tekken 3, and Wild Arms. There’ll be 20 bundled titles in total, but those five are the only ones announced at the moment. The PlayStation Classic will include two original PS1 controllers and a HDMI cable, and cost US$99.99 (€99.99 in Europe, AUD$150 in Australia). And guess what? It's going to sell like crazy. And that's because the reason for buying one goes beyond simply wanting to play a Playstation game. Anyone wanting to do that could simply download one of many emulators and game files and have at it. You know, "free." But this console will compete with free the exact same way Nintendo did: by having a small, slick console that reeks of nostalgia and serves as a conversation piece, all while having the available ports and cords for a modern day television on which to play it. Frankly, that's not exactly a ton of work to do to compete with free. There's no secret sauce. No magic formula. Just make what people want, don't make it laughably expensive, and reap the rewards. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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If there's something our nation's courts do well, it's make life as difficult as possible for anyone caught in its gears. The premise of "innocent until proven guilty" has been made a mockery by prosecutors who stack charges until defendants give up and give in. Plea deals end more than 90% of criminal cases before they ever go to trial. Criminal infractions subject only to tickets and fines become jailable offenses as well, once the courts are finished piling on. A $50 parking ticket can balloon into hundreds or thousands of dollars in fees and the routine issuance of bench warrants assures some who have committed moving violations spend a few hours or days in jail as part of the process. The New Jersey Judicial Commission recognizes the problem. It's having trouble working towards a solution, but at least it's trying. Much like anywhere else in the country, depriving drivers of their licenses in lieu of collected fees doesn't do anything to help the state collect fines. People with suspended licenses either can't get to work or take a calculated risk to ensure their income flow doesn't come to a halt. With automatic license plate readers flagging drivers with suspended licenses, cops are finding it easier to turn small driving infractions into life-crippling situations. The Judicial Commission's report [PDF] makes it clear how devastating this can be for drivers unable to pay steadily-increasing fees. (h/t The Newspaper) In a survey conducted of individuals that had at that time or previously had their license suspended, 42% lost their jobs as a result of the suspension; 45% who lost their job as a result of the suspension could not find another job; and 88% of those that were unable to find another job reported a decrease in income. Some of this devastation is the fault of the courts, which have not been fully assessing citizens' ability to pay fines in a timely manner. But some of this lands on prosecutors, who punitively ratchet up charges for no discernible reason, as in this example provided by the Commission. Julie received a speeding ticket for traveling 65 in a 55 mph zone. The ticket was payable, and could be paid online on NJMCdirect.com for a penalty of $95.00. That amount included the fine, court costs, and surcharges. Because a guilty finding results in 2 motor vehicle points being assessed by MVC, Julie appeared for her court date to seek a different result. After discussion with the prosecutor, the charge was amended to unsafe driving, N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.2, a violation that carries no motor vehicle points but a $250 surcharge. Julie’s total penalties went from $95 to $389. If these fees aren't collected quickly enough, courts often end up yanking people's driving privileges. This swiftly escalates normal tickets into unpayable territory, especially once everything leeching off the court system asks for its cut of the take. This is a "small sample" of fees that may be tacked onto normal misdemeanor citations at the judge's discretion. $100 assessed on domestic violence offenders to fund grants for domestic violence prevention, training, and assessment, as created by N.J.S.A. 2C:25-29.4; $250 for the Computer Crime Prevention Fund for disorderly persons/petty disorderly persons violations under Title 2C, Chapter 20, as created by N.J.S.A. 2C:43-3.8; $500 for the Drug Enforcement and Demand Reduction Fund for disorderly persons/petty disorderly persons violations under Title 2C Chapter 35, controlled dangerous substances, or Chapter 36, drug paraphernalia, as created by N.J.S.A. 2C:35- 15; $50 criminal laboratory fee for each conviction under Title 2C, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-20a; $50 for the Victims of Crime Compensation Office for disorderly persons/petty disorderly persons violations under Title 2C, and certain Title 39 violations, as created by N.J.S.A. 2C:43- 3.1a(2)(a), (c); and $75 for the Safe Neighborhoods Services Fund for disorderly persons/petty disorderly persons violations under Title 2C, and N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, driving under the influence, as created by N.J.S.A. 2C:43-3.2. The outcome for the courts and prosecutors is clear: there's money to be made destroying lives. The New Jersey court system made $400 million in profit in 2017 alone. The excess revenue was split between the courts and local governments. Few within the system want to see this steady flow of excess income interrupted. Some positive changes have been made in some New Jersey courts, providing those with an inability to pay fines with greater leniency and other restitution options. But other courts have seen the process of administering justice devolve into pure graft. Chief Justice Stuart Rabner issued an April 17, 2018 memorandum to all judges of the Municipal and Superior Courts regarding fines and penalties in Municipal Court. In that memo, Chief Justice Rabner highlighted two recent events that demonstrate the precise conduct this Committee was convened to address. The first was a Municipal Court judge who “diverted fines against defendants in a way that generated more revenue for municipalities and less for the county.” That Municipal Court judge pled guilty to a fourth-degree crime of falsifying records, and is barred from ever holding public office. The second relates to a Municipal Court judge who opened a 2014 court session “by announcing that any fines imposed were due that day, and that any defendants who refused to pay would be sentenced to county jail.” The judge later fined a defendant $239, including court costs, and when that defendant was unable to make a payment, the judge sentenced him to five days in jail and had him arrested. The Committee has handed down a long list of recommendations to change New Jersey's court system for the better. It includes reminding them that the US Supreme Court has ruled it's unconstitutional to jail people for their inability to pay fines -- something that seems to be ignored with alarming regularity. It recommends doing away with standardized fine collection and provide judges with more leeway to reduce fines and fees as needed when indigent citizens are affected. It also suggests there be more direct monitoring of other tactics -- like contempt charges and bench warrants -- that seek to impose higher fees on defendants if not depriving them of their freedom on top of their income. Failure to curb these two tactics just sends those already in financial distress into holes they may never be able to escape. At this point, the New Jersey court system has 2.5 million outstanding bench warrants related to traffic tickets and misdemeanors. Continuing to add to this total serves no purpose and shows the system is doing a ridiculously poor job collecting outstanding fees and/or deterring future violations. Perhaps the best suggestions are the simplest: hit drivers with restricted licenses rather than suspensions and write off old fees/fines where the offense was minor, like parking tickets. This should clear several thousand bench warrants immediately and provide indigent drivers with the ability to continue making a living while paying back court fees and fines. The government isn't supposed to be a profit-driven entity. But the way most court systems are set up, this becomes almost inevitable. Tech advances like plate readers and traffic cams have greatly increased court systems' cash flow by automating the process of ticketing and locating drivers. The problem is these governments now feel this revenue stream should continue unchecked and uninterrupted, with annual increases generally expected by all who benefit from it. This perverts incentives and turns the justice system into a revenue generator that grinds up and spits out those unlucky enough to find themselves tangled up in it. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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For those not familiar with the Star Trek: the Next Generation cannon, in the episode "Hero Worship" the Enterprise receives a distress call from somewhere deep in space, and in responding discovers a heavily-damaged ship with just one survivor. While the Enterprise crew is investigating what happened to the ship, they soon realize that they are being pounded by energy waves, and eventually it dawns on them that these waves could eventually destroy their ship like they apparently did the other. As the Enterprise tries to channel more and more power to its shields to protect itself from the battering, the waves hitting the ship become more and more violent. Until finally – spoiler alert! (although let's be honest: the episode basically telegraphs that this will be the solution) – Commander Data realizes that the waves are reflecting back the energy the Enterprise is expending, and that the solution is to cut the power or else be destroyed by the slapback. This is a sci fi story illustrating a phenomenon with which we're all familiar. It's that basic principle: to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And that's what's happening as people demand more censorship from platforms like Twitter, and then get more outraged when platforms have inevitably censored things they like. Of course increased calls to remove content will inevitably result in increased calls not to. And of course platforms' efforts to comply with all these competing demands will just make the platform more unusable until, like the wrecked ship, it will have torn itself apart to the point that it's hardly recognizable. As the Enterprise crew learned, solutions don't always require figuring out ways to expend more energy. Sometimes they involve disengaging from a struggle that can never be won and finding new ways to view the problem. And when it comes to platform moderation, that same lesson seems relevant here. Because just as the challenge facing the Enterprise was not actually to overpower the energy rocking it, that is not really the platforms' challenge either. The essential, and much less pugilistic, challenge they face is to figure out how to successfully facilitate the exchange of staggering amounts of expression between an unprecedented number of people. Content moderation is but one tool, but it's not the only one available, nor is it the best one for achieving that ultimate goal. Platforms shouldn't need to completely control the user experience; instead they need to deliver the control users need to optimize it for themselves. Being fixated only on the former at the expense of the latter is doomed to be no more successful than when the Enterprise was focused on doing nothing but feeding more power to the shields. In the end it wouldn't have saved the ship, because ultimately the solution it needed was something far less antagonistic. And the same is just as true for platforms. Internet platforms of course are not fictional starships. And unlike fictional starships they can't depend on artificial intelligence to set them on the right path. Theirs is a very human exercise, that first requires understanding the human beings who use their systems and then ensuring that the interfaces of these systems are built in accordance with how those users expect to use them, and need to. Which itself is a lesson the story teaches. The survivor of that wrecked ship happened to have been a child, who was worried that it was he who had accidentally destroyed his ship when he stumbled during a wave attack and hit a computer console during his fall. The Enterprise crew assured him there was nothing he could have done to hurt anything. The engineers who had designed those consoles understood what their users needed from their interfaces, including the protection the interfaces needed to afford, and the enormous stakes if users didn't get it. And that's what the people building computer systems always need to do, no matter what the century. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Back in the spring of 2013, just a month or so before Ed Snowden started revealing all sorts of surveillance shenanigans, there was another important revelation: the Obama DOJ had gone way overboard in spying on journalists, including grabbing the phone records of some AP reporters (without letting them know) and, even worse, telling a court that a Fox News reporter was a "co-conspirator" with a leaker in order to get his phone and email records. The Obama administration's war on the press has been well documented on this site, with many in the press highlighting how he was the most secretive -- not to mention the most aggressive in abusing the Espionage Act to target leakers and journalists more times than every other President combined prior to him. Once those two stories above came out, the DOJ initially promised to create new guidelines, though, when those guidelines came out, they seemed pretty limited and left a lot of avenues open for the government to spy on journalists, including using National Security Letters -- the meaningless "letters" the FBI/DOJ often hands out like post-it notes, demanding all sorts of info with zero due process, and frequently with an indefinite gag order. Back in 2015, we noted that the Freedom of the Press Foundation was suing the DOJ demanding the details of the rules used around those national security letters, given that the DOJ didn't want to release them. Earlier this week, the Freedom of the Press Foundation stated that (thanks to the lawsuit), the DOJ has now revealed its rules for seeking FISA Court orders spying on journalists, which are different than its rules for collecting general information from journalists (and different than the rules for the FBI to use NSLs, which is still secret). As Trevor Timm, Freedom of the Press's executive director, points out, the rules revealed here are "much less stringent" than the (already not that stringent) rules the DOJ came out with in 2015. Basically, the rules state that if the DOJ wants to get a FISC order on a journalist... it has to get approval from the Attorney General or Deputy Attorney General. That's much less than the regular DOJ guidelines that involve a multi-part test to make sure that surveillance of the journalist is actually critical to the investigation and not simply a shortcut to info (or, worse, a way to harm journalistic sources). If you can't read that, it just says: This memorandum directs the National Security Division ("NSD") to implement the following procedures that are designed to ensure that the Attorney General ("AG") or Deputy Attorney General ("DAG") reviews those FISA applications targeting known media entities or known members of the media, so that review of such FISA applications occurs at even higher levels than otherwise permitted by FISA and existing AG orders. And some may argue that having to escalate such FISA applications to the tippy-top of the DOJ represents some level of oversight, that oversight only goes as far as you can trust the Attorney General. And when's the last time we had an Attorney General anyone actually trusted (I can't ever remember having such an AG...). Indeed, our current AG, Jeff Sessions has publicly stated that he wants to prosecute more journalists and has suggested that he's even less interested in balancing the careful interests and rights of journalists than his predecessors. And, of course, we still have no idea what rules the FBI uses for its NSLs. However, as Timm points out, it's pretty ridiculous that the FISC rules have now been declassified but the FBI's NSL rules remain secret: If these rules can now be released to the public, why are the FBI’s very similar rules for targeting journalists with due process-free National Security Letters still considered classified? And is the Justice Department targeting journalists with NSLs and FISA court orders to get around the stricter “media guidelines”? Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Jeff Sessions is still quoting a bad study to score points with law enforcement officials. Earlier this year -- while speaking to the National Association of Police Organizations -- he cited a study by two Chicago lawprofs that supposedly drew a connection between violent crime spikes in Chicago and a settlement with the ACLU, reached after years of police misconduct and abuse. The Attorney General's point was clear: misconduct and abuse are what's keeping criminal activity at bay. Constitutionally-sound police work lets the criminals win. The problem with Sessions' assertions -- and the law profs' conclusions -- is several cities with consent decrees or settlements in place have seen violent crime rates continue to go down, indicating there's really no provable connection between violent crime rates and so-called "limitations" on police activity. Nevertheless, he persists. Speaking to the VALOR Survive and Thrive Conference, Sessions chose to quote the same faulty study again. (Quick sidebar: VALOR stands for "Preventing Violence Against Law Enforcement Officers and Ensuring Officer Resilience and Survivability."Really.) [h/t Ryan Reilly] More people were murdered in Chicago in 2016 than in New York and Los Angeles combined—even though Chicago has one-fifth of the population of those two cities. The situation was so bad that nearly a quarter of the nationwide increase in homicide that year happened in Chicago alone. This did not need to happen. In 2015 and 2016, Chicago had the same police on patrol and the same prosecutors in court, but dramatically different results. So what happened? According to a study by two professors from the University of Utah—one of whom is a former federal judge—the consent decree mandated a major change in Chicago’s community-based policing—including Terry stops—that allowed this bloodshed to take place. The professors found that the increased crime cost a staggering $1.5 billion and noted that 78 percent of its victims were African-American and 16 percent were Latino. Ninety-four percent of the victims were minorities. What happened is officers refused to do their jobs. Some saw the agreement as a trap. Others just didn't feel like making an effort. The ACLU consent decree required police officers to submit a detailed report to the ACLU, a former federal judge, and a publicly available database after every single Terry stop. John’s predecessor as United States Attorney, Zachary Fardon, said in an open letter to the City that the ACLU agreement “[told] cops if you go talk to those kids on the corner, you’re going to have to take 40 minutes to fill out a form, and you’re going to have to give them a receipt with your badge number on it.” And he noted that as a result, by January 2016, “the city was on fire” because “the rule of law, law enforcement, had been delegitimized.” That is a devastating analysis. Reporting by the Chicago Sun Times confirms this, stating in January 2016, that Chicago officers say that “they fear getting in trouble for stops later deemed to be illegal and the new [required forms] take too much time to complete.” Roughly the same thing happened in New York City, but there were no increases in violent crime. Officers were supposed to justify stops and produce documentation. The difference is NYPD officers continued to make stops, rather than abandon their duties. There are still unanswered questions about the legitimacy of some NYPD stops, thanks to missing mandatory paperwork, but the court-ordered overhaul of the department's stop-and-frisk program did not result in the apocalypse promised by the outgoing mayor. Simply put, Chicago police officers don't want to engage in Constitutional policing -- not if it means spending a bit more time filling out paperwork. The supposed "gotcha" moments will never occur if stops align with the Constitution, the agreement, and include the required paperwork. Abdicating your responsibilities has unpleasant outcomes, especially if you're in the business of law enforcement. A spike in violent crime is one conceivable result. But don't blame the agreement. Blame the officers for their lack of interest in respecting the rights of others. Sessions goes even further in these remarks, though. He blows past the so-called "ACLU effect" the Chicago law profs claimed to have pinpointed in their study to blame the ACLU (and others) directly for spikes in violent crime. There's a clear lesson here: if you want more shootings and more death, then listen to the ACLU, Black Lives Matter, or Antifa. If you want public safety, then listen to the police professionals who have been studying this for 35 years. This is the sort of thing high-ranking officials shouldn't be seriously thinking, much less saying out loud in front of other public officials in law enforcement. This is Sessions saying the ends justify the means and groups seeking accountability from their public servants have the blood of crime victims on their hands just because they want officers to respect the Constitution. Then he contradicts this assertion by citing falling crime rates in Los Angeles and New York -- both of which have been hit with settlements and consent decrees that altered how officers go about their daily business. Somehow he feels this doesn't undermine his "ACLU effect" comments or his willingness to saddle ACLU and BLM with the end result of police officers refusing to do their jobs. And if it isn't the ACLU killing citizens, it's everyone who doesn't immediately stand and salute the Thin Blue Line flag. The proof is in. It can no longer be denied: disrespect and lack of support for police officers has real world consequences. Leaders must understand and affirm the important and dangerous work of our officers. Failure to support our professionals undermines the pro-active policing that has been shown to save lives. The proof isn't in. The study he cites decides correlation is causation. The examples he gives about other major US cities undermine the vaunted "ACLU effect" conjured up by Chicago law profs. All Sessions has is some anecdotes and a deep disdain for anyone that isn't a cop or a prosecutor. American citizens are apparently whiny children who wouldn't know good policing if it stopped them on the street, threw them to the ground, and stood on their necks. Respect is earned. Sessions -- and those echoing his sentiments -- believe it's something certain people are owned. And the more he tries to collect on their behalf, the more likely he is to diminish the respect the American public has for him. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The Cresuer Touchwave Wireless Earbuds incorporate everything you need from wireless earbuds, like Bluetooth 4.1 and CVC Noise Cancellation, and nothing you don't, like complex buttons and extra weight. You can easily control songs or answer calls with a simple tap. Listen to your music for 3 hours on a single charge and you can charge the buds up to 4 full times while on the go with the wireless charging case. They're on sale for $45. 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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So many defamation lawsuits that we see are so obviously bogus on their face that often it feels like we should reconsider the rules for defamation in the first place. Over and over again we see defamation lawsuits that are obviously SLAPP suits, in which the powerful seek to silence those who criticize them. This lawsuit is one of the rare cases where it does not appear to be a SLAPP suit at all -- and, Elon Musk almost seemed to force the hand of Vern Unsworth into suing him for defamation. Musk, who is a visionary innovator, but who has been involved in increasingly bizarre behavior of late, kicked a bunch of this off with a tweet back in July calling Vern Unsworth a "pedo guy" after Unsworth criticized his submarine plan. If you somehow missed all of this, there were 12 children trapped in a cave in Thailand, and Musk got intrigued by the rescue attempts and very quickly worked with his own engineers to design and prototype a small submarine that might be used to help rescue the kids. There were a lot of mixed reports on all of this, from some thanking and appreciating Musk making such an effort (he even flew to Thailand with the sub) to others mocking him for shoving himself into the rescue efforts. Wherever you stand on that debate, it really makes no difference for what came next. While some of those involved in the rescue thanked Musk for trying (even though his sub wasn't needed), Unsworth, who had spent years mapping the caves and was widely credited for both bringing in the more experienced divers and for helping the rescuers find the kids in the first place, was unimpressed by Musk's sub and said so. Specifically, he called it a PR stunt, said it had no chance of working, and said "he can stick his submarine where it hurts." Cave rescuer on Musk: “It was a PR stunt. It had no chance of working.” pic.twitter.com/uPgRMQLkRx — Quoth the Raven (@QTRResearch) July 13, 2018 Musk -- quite understandably -- didn't appreciate those comments. However, his response calling Unsworth a "pedo guy" really seemed to come out of nowhere, followed up by Musk later betting a Twitter follower "a signed dollar" that it was true. However, soon after, Musk semi-apologized saying: ... my words were spoken in anger after Mr. Unsworth said several untruths & suggested I engage in a sexual act with the mini-sub, which had been built as an act of kindness & according to specifications from the dive team leader. This is still slightly odd, as I don't think anyone thought Unsworth was legitimately suggesting Musk "engage in a sexual act with the mini-sub," but whatever. The issue appeared to be over, but Musk apparently just couldn't let it die. In August, when someone reminded him of his comments, Musk suggested he actually stood by his original comments by implying the lack of a defamation lawsuit suggested the original statements were true: You don't think it's strange he hasn't sued me? He was offered free legal services. Ryan Mac, a reporter at Buzzfeed, then wrote about how Unsworth had not only lawyered up (weeks before Musk's tweet) but also sent Musk a letter warning him of the impending lawsuit (again, sent well before Musk's tweet). In response to this Musk engaged in a truly bizarre series of emails with Mac, in which he not only reiterated some of his claims about Unsworth, but went even further, claiming Unsworth had moved to Thailand "for a child bride who was about 12 years old at the time" and also telling Mac to "stop defending child rapists." Musk didn't supply any evidence to Mac, despite being asked directly if he could back up those claims. Mac's own reporting also failed to turn up evidence to back up those claims, and also debunked the lesser claims by Musk that Unsworth was "banned from the site" of the rescue divers. And, that takes us to the actual complaint filed against Musk in federal court in California. The complaint is pretty thorough. It lays out the specific statements that it says are false and defamatory and rebuts them. Ken "Popehat" White notes that some of the statements are pretty clearly not defamatory -- as they're either opinion or hyperbole. But the emails to Buzzfeed with the direct statements including claiming Unsworth took a minor bride certainly appear to go over the line. White notes that there are defenses to this -- including a lack of actual malice (i.e., when Musk said those statements he believed them to be true and had no reason to think they were false). That... might actually fly. But, as White also notes, it seems highly unlikely that Musk can get this dismissed under California's anti-SLAPP law, as at least a few of these statements involve direct statements of fact and (at least on their face) don't appear to be supported by disclosed facts. White doesn't think the original "pedo guy" claim rises to the level of defamation, but that one could go either way. But, still, it really looks like the totally unnecessary emails to Buzzfeed are what really put Musk in a difficult spot in this lawsuit. Still, the bigger issue for Musk is that the lawsuit notes Unsworth is also planning to file a similar lawsuit in the UK, where defamation laws are significantly more friendly to the plaintiffs, putting a burden on Musk to support his statements. Musk, of course, has basically all the money in the world to defend himself, and I do wonder if he'll try to file a counter-defamation lawsuit against Unsworth over Unsworth's comments (since Musk kept claiming they were false as well). If he does, it seems like Unsworth would actually have much stronger defenses against Musk, as none of Unsworth's comments appear to rise to defamation no matter how you look at them. Perhaps Musk will decide to fight these cases out in court, though it wouldn't surprise me to see him just pay up to settle the cases and get them over and done with. But, as far as defamation cases go, this one seems a lot more legit than many of the ones we normally see. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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You might recall that when the Trump FCC killed net neutrality, the public comment period (the only chance consumers had to actually offer their opinion) was plagued with all manner of identity theft and bogus comments. Oddly, the FCC didn't seem too concerned that dead people were filing comments to the FCC website supporting their extremely unpopular decision, and even actively blocked law enforcement investigations into what happened. It's worth noting that similar campaigns to generate bogus support for unpopular policies have plagued other government agencies in the post-truth era. Annoyed by the FCC's lack of transparency and its refusal to respond to FOIA requests for additional data, journalist Jason Prechtel sued the FCC in late 2017. This week, a ruling (pdf) by Christopher Cooper of US District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the FCC to hand over at least some of the data. The ruling requires that the FCC hand over email addresses that were used to submit .CSV files, which in turn contained the bulk comments. The order did not, however, grant Prechtel's request for server logs, which could help detail who used specific APIs. In his ruling, Cooper stated that understanding what went wrong would help prevent fraud in other proceedings moving forward (something, again, the FCC has shown it's really not too concerned about): "In addition to enabling scrutiny of how the Commission handled dubious comments during the rulemaking, disclosure would illuminate the Commission's forward-looking efforts to prevent fraud in future processes...It is surely in the public interest to further the oversight of agency action to protect the very means by which Americans make their voices heard in regulatory processes." Yes, go figure. The FCC argued it couldn't disclose this e-mail data because it would violate consumer privacy, but consumers were told by the FCC when they made these comments that their e-mail addresses would likely be made public, "mitigating any expectation of privacy," the Judge declared. Again, the FCC's disinterest in getting to the bottom of this issue can't be over-stated, the agency ignored nine inquiries over a period of five months by New York State investigators looking for more data on the problem, and (like that DDOS the agency was caught fabricating) refused to seriously respond to journalists' inquiries. In a blog post, Prechtel stated that he's not sure when he'll actually get access to the data, but was pleased that the court saw the importance for transparency surrounding the FCC's historically-unpopular policy: "Regardless of how the rest of the case plays out, this is already a huge victory for transparency over an issue that has gone unanswered by the FCC and its current leadership for too long. Of course, it may be a matter of months before we actually get to see the records I won (or may still win), and learn who else was submitting bulk comments to the FCC that we don’t already know about. Even then, the full scope of the records I asked for only goes through early June 2017, and doesn’t encompass several more months of millions of comments the FCC went ahead and let flood into their system in spite of all the high-profile controversy." A big source of the bogus comments appear to have originated with GQ Roll Call, on behalf of an "anonymous client" (which most assume is either a major broadband provider like AT&T or Comcast, or some other proxy partisan organization they covertly fund). Hopefully the data, whenever it arrives, helps shine a little more light on precisely what it is the FCC pretty clearly doesn't want exposed to the light of day. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The Ninth Circuit Appeals Court has upheld the stripping of immunity from a school resource officer who clearly violated the rights of multiple students, but still felt the need to be told twice by consecutive federal courts. School is school and kids will get in fights. Some accusations about bullying brought several seventh grade students to the school's office, along with Deputy Luis Ortiz. Ortiz reached the limits of his training and experience extremely quickly when he was unable to determine who was bullying who or why these seventh grade students wouldn't give him the respect he so clearly felt he was owed. So, here's how he made the most (constitutional violations) of a bad situation. From the decision [PDF]: On October 8, 2013, a group of seventh grade girls (twelve and thirteen year-olds) were handcuffed, arrested, and transported in police vehicles from their middle school campus to the police station. An assistant principal had asked a school resource officer, Sheriff’s Deputy Luis Ortiz, to counsel a group of girls who had been involved in ongoing incidents of bullying and fighting. School officials gathered the girls in a classroom to wait for Deputy Ortiz. The group included both aggressors and victims, and the school did not identify or separate them. When he arrived on campus, Deputy Ortiz initially intended to verify the information the school had given him and to mediate the conflict. Within minutes, however, Deputy Ortiz concluded that the girls were being unresponsive and disrespectful. He decided to arrest the girls because, as he explained to them, he was not “playing around” and taking them to jail was the easiest way to “prove a point” and “make [them] mature a lot faster.” Deputy Ortiz stated that he did not care “who [was] at fault, who did what” because “it [was] the same, same ticket, same pair of handcuffs.” Ortiz's decision to arrest a bunch of students to "prove a point" was corroborated by his own recording, which undermines the arguments he raised trying to secure immunity. The court doesn't appear to be pleased it has to handle a case where the defendant is so very clearly in the wrong, but it does what it can to ensure Ortiz will be at least as displeased as the judges are. There's nothing nice said here about Ortiz's actions and the court sees no reason to hedge its opinion with faint praise for law enforcement in general. At best, it admits handling school situations like these can be complicated, but the complexity of the situation doesn't excuse Ortiz's probable cause-less mass arrest of middle school students. Deputy Ortiz clearly stated that the justification for the arrests was not the commission of a crime, since he did not “care who is at fault,” nor the school’s special need to maintain campus safety, but rather his own desire to “prove a point” and “make” the students “mature a lot faster.” The arrest of a middle schooler, however, cannot be justified as a scare tactic, a lesson in maturity, or a chastisement for perceived disrespect. [...] Deputy Ortiz faced a room of seven seated, mostly quiet middle school girls, and only generalized allegations of fighting and conflict amongst them. Even accounting for what Deputy Ortiz perceived to be nonresponsiveness to his questioning, the full-scale arrests of all seven students, without further inquiry, was both excessively intrusive in light of the girls’ young ages and not reasonably related to the school’s expressed need. As for any questions about whether or not it had been clearly established officers cannot arrest students to "prove a point," the court quickly dispenses with that discussion: At the time of the students’ arrest, it was clearly established that a police seizure at the behest of school officials must, at a minimum, be “reasonably related to its purpose, and must not be ‘excessively intrusive in light of the age and sex of the student and the nature of the infraction.’” Defendants do not—and indeed, cannot—meaningfully contest Deputy Ortiz’s motivation for the arrests, which he stated multiple times. No reasonable officer could have reasonably believed that the law authorizes the arrest of a group of middle schoolers in order to prove a point. The court is also unimpressed by the officers' attempt to lie their way into the clear. Defendants… claim that the students’ behavior in the classroom justified the arrest because there was reason to believe the students would engage in imminent fights. That assertion is belied by the audio record of the encounter, which “quite clearly contradicts the version of the story told by” the officers. The students were mostly silent, only speaking to respond to the questions posed to them. But even taking at face value Deputy Ortiz’s claim that the girls were being disrespectful to him, and whispering among themselves, this conduct in no way rose to the level of probable cause that could have justified their arrests. In fact, as the court notes, Ortiz never attempted to determine which students were engaged in bullying before arresting them. The three plaintiffs suing him were all victims of the bullying and they were rung up just like the instigators. There's no ducking the lawsuit. On top of that, Ortiz (and another officer named in the lawsuit) will be facing state claims in addition to the federal civil rights violation allegations. Without a doubt, officers sometimes arrest people simply to "prove a point." But usually they'll do it with a bit more subtlety and try to eliminate any recordings that might undermined their official narrative. Ortiz was so determined to teach a bunch of uncooperative seventh graders a lesson, he completely forgot to make the arrest minimally plausible. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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We have been tracking milestones in the maturity of eSports as a real cultural pastime for several years now, given how eSports almost perfectly intersects two main topics here at Techdirt: technology and digital economies. While those that claimed eSports would become a real thing have long been the recipients of skeptical narrow eyes, pro gaming has already zoomed past a number of important checkpoints on its way to legitimacy. Tournaments were heavily viewed overseas at first, but pro gaming then became recognized by universities for athletic scholarships. Next came coverage of tournaments on ESPN, followed eSports leagues being created by some of the major professional sports leagues in America and abroad. Even the IOC kicked around the idea of including eSports in future Olympic Games. While the latest milestone perhaps isn't as grand as the opening of leagues and new broadcast channels, it is still a notable development that the very first pro gamer will be featured on the cover of ESPN The Magazine this week. That honor will go to Tyler "Ninja" Blevins, who has amassed an enormous following on Twitch and elsewhere. Ninja revealed the cover on Twitter and said "So excited to be the first professional gamer to be featured on @espn the Magazine. Cover and profile will be shown on Sports Center tomorrow in the 7 AM EST hour." We'll have to forgive ESPN for the hamfisted Playstation controller icons that accompany the cover image, I suppose. The bottom line is that this ESPN cover is reflecting the popularity of pro gaming, not creating it. Ninja has recorded streams viewed by over a half a million people, putting his viewership at levels that rival smaller professional sports events. Given the adoption of eSports by younger generations, ESPN needs to cater to those interests, if only for purely business reasons. Still, ESPN is a mainstay in the professional sports world. It's no small thing that eSports has reached a place to be featured on the cover of its magazine. In other words, anyone waiting for this whole eSports fad to wane in popularity appears to have been waiting in vain. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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A little opsec goes a long way. The Massachusetts State Police -- one of the most secretive law enforcement agencies in the nation -- gave readers of its Twitter feed a free look at the First Amendment-protected activities it keeps tabs on… by uploading a screenshot showing its browser bookmarks. Alex Press of Jacobin Magazine was one of the Twitter users to catch the inadvertent exposure of MSP operations. the MA staties just unintentionally tweeted a photo that shows their bookmarks include a whole number of Boston’s left-wing orgs https://t.co/KsmiQPj9sT — Alex Press (@alexnpress) September 13, 2018 If you can't read/see the tweet, it says: the MA staties just unintentionally tweeted a photo that shows their bookmarks include a whole number of Boston’s left-wing orgs The tweet was quickly scrubbed by the MSP, but not before other Twitter users had grabbed screenshots. Some of the activist groups bookmarked by the state police include Mass. Action Against Police Brutality, the Coalition to Organize and Mobilize Boston Against Trump, and Resistance Calendar. Here's a closer look at the bookmarks. The MSP did not deny they keep (browser) tabs on protest organizations. Instead, it attempted to portray this screen of left-leaning bookmarks as some sort of non-partisan, non-cop-centric attempt to keep the community safe by being forewarned and forearmed. We have a responsibility to know about all large public gatherings of any type and by any group, regardless of their purpose and position, for public safety reasons. Ok. But mainly these groups? The ones against police brutality and the back-the-blue President? Seems a little one-sided for an "of any type and by any group" declaration. The statement continues in the same defensive vein for a few more sentences, basically reiterating the false conceit that cops don't take sides when it comes to activist groups and the good people of Massachusetts are lucky to have such proactive public servants at their disposal. Whatever. If it wasn't a big deal, the MSP wouldn't have vanished the original tweet into the internet ether. The screenshot came from a "fusion center" -- one of those DHS partnerships that results in far more rights violations and garbage "see something, say something" reports than "actionable intelligence". Fusion centers are supposed to be focused on terrorism, not on people who don't like police brutality or the current Commander in Chief. What this looks like is probably what it is: police keeping tabs on people they don't like or people who don't like them. That's not really what policing is about and it sure as hell doesn't keep the community any safer. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce is somewhat infamous for its constant trademark bullying over the famed Hollywood sign (you know the one). Its latest target is apparently the Hollywood Babble-On podcast that is done as a live show each week by radio/podcast guy Ralph Garman and filmmaker/entertainer Kevin Smith. Before the show this past weekend, Garman had tweeted out that it might be the last Hollywood Babble-On ever. In the opening minutes of their latest episode, Garman explains that they've received a cease and desist letter from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce "re: unauthorized use of Hollywood stylized mark and Hollywood Walk of Fame mark." While I haven't seen the full cease-and-desist letter, from what Garman said on the podcast, the issue is so ridiculous that the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce should be called out for blatant trademark bullying. You see, while this is the normal logo/image promoting the podcast: At times, they've used other images, such as this one: It's that image that is apparently part of the problem (even though it's not clear how often it was used). The Chamber of Commerce is using the Hollywood style lettering, which is an approximation of the famous Hollywood sign, and the star behind their heads (which it apparently believes is an implied reference to the stars on Hollywood's walk of fame), to argue that this is unauthorized use of their marks. Some trademark lawyers will likely disagree, but this seems like classic trademark bullying. If you're unfamiliar with the podcast (and I'll confess to being a loyal listener from Episode 1 through the latest, and got to see the show once live at Kevin's invitation after he was on our podcast a few years ago), it's a fun (frequently not safe for work) show looking at some highlights from the week's entertainment news, mixed in with a series of re-occurring bits, frequently involving Garman's rotating cast of impressions. In short, it's two funny guys, who are both in show business and have been for many years, goofing off talking about show business, frequently mocking some of the crazier news stories coming out of that business. In other words, there's no way in hell that anyone in their right mind thinks that this podcast is officially sanctioned by "Hollywood" as some sort of official Hollywood product. The whole thing is kind of gently mocking some of Hollywood's sillier foibles. Indeed, this seems like a perfect use case for the old standby in trademark law: the "moron in a hurry" test. And, to make it more relevant to the hobbies of choice of Ralph and Kevin, I think it could be argued that neither a drunk, nor a stoned "moron in a hurry" would ever face even the slightest "likelihood of confusion" that Hollywood somehow had endorsed the podcast, just because it briefly had images showing slightly askew letters and a star. It remains one of the more frustrating aspects of trademark law that so many people believe that it means you get total control over the marks in question. That's not how it's supposed to work. It's only in cases where there is a likelihood of confusion that people would be confused and believe that the mark holder is behind (or otherwise endorses) the products and services in question. And here, that seems pretty difficult to believe. Of course, rather than fight these kinds of things out, it's frequently much easier to just pay up, which may be what the lawyers for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce are banking on. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Back in April, Techdirt wrote about a set of regulations brought in by the Tanzanian government that required people there to pay around $900 per year for a license to blog. Despite the very high costs it imposes on people -- Tanzania's GDP per capita was under $900 in 2016 -- it seems the authorities are serious about enforcing the law. The iAfrikan site reported in June: Popular Tanzanian forums and "leaks" website, Jamii Forums, has been temporarily shut down by government as it has not complied with the new regulations and license fees required of online content creators in Tanzania. This comes after Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) issued a notice to Jamii Forums reminding them that it is a legal offense to publish content on the Internet without having registered and paid for a license. The Swahili-language site Jamii Forums is back online now. But the Tanzanian authorities are not resting on their laurels when it comes to introducing ridiculous laws. Here's another one that's arguably worse than charging bloggers to post: [President John] Magufuli and his colleagues are now looking to outlaw fact checking thanks to proposed amendments to the Statistics Act, 2015. "The principal Act is amended by adding immediately after section 24 the following: 24A.-(1) Any person who is authorised by the Bureau to process any official statistics, shall before publishing or communicating such information to the public, obtain an authorisation from the Bureau. (2) A person shall not disseminate or otherwise communicate to the public any statistical information which is intended to invalidate, distort, or discredit official statistics," reads the proposed amendments to Tanzania's Statistics Act, 2015 as published in the Gazette of the United Republic of Tanzania No. 23 Vol. 99. As the iAfrikan article points out, the amendments will mean that statistics published by the Tanzanian government must be regarded as correct, however absurd or obviously erroneous they might be. Moreover, it will be illegal for independent researchers to publish any other figures that contradict, or even simply call into question, official statistics. This is presumably born of a thin-skinned government that wants to avoid even the mildest criticism of its policies or plans. But it seems certain to backfire badly. If statistics are wrong, but no one can correct them, there is the risk that Tanzanian businesses, organizations and citizens will make bad decisions based on this dodgy data. That could lead to harmful consequences for the economy and society, which the Tanzanian government might well be tempted to cover up by issuing yet more incorrect statistics. Without open and honest feedback to correct this behavior, there could be an ever-worsening cascade of misinformation and lies until public trust in the government collapses completely. Does President Magufuli really want that? Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+ Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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As the U.S. ponders what meaningful privacy protections should look like in the Comcast & Cambridge Analytica era, it should probably go without saying that consumers should be part of that conversation. Unsurprisingly, that hasn't really been the case so far. That was exemplified, in part, by the GOP's decision to neuter FCC broadband privacy rules much the same way they dismantled net neutrality: by ignoring any consumer-oriented input that didn't gel with their pre-existing beliefs: namely that all regulation is always bad and a nuanced conversation on the merits of each instance of regulation simply isn't necessary. When a "conversation" does occur, it tends to be superficial at best, and consumers pretty consistently aren't invited to the table. Case in point: on September 26, the Senate Commerce Committee will be holding a hearing entitled "Examining Safeguards for Consumer Data Privacy." One of the motivating reasons for this hearing, at least according to Senator John Thune, was because "consumers deserve clear answers" on privacy: "Consumers deserve clear answers and standards on data privacy protection,” said Thune. “This hearing will provide leading technology companies and internet service providers an opportunity to explain their approaches to privacy, how they plan to address new requirements from the European Union and California, and what Congress can do to promote clear privacy expectations without hurting innovation." It's odd then, that not a single consumer or consumer advocacy group was invited to appear at said hearing, according to the EFF: "...the Committee is seeking only the testimony of big tech and Internet access corporations: Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Charter Communications, Google, and Twitter. Some of these companies have spent heavily to oppose consumer privacy legislation and have never supported consumer privacy laws. They know policymakers are considering new privacy protections, and are likely to view this hearing as a chance to encourage Congress to adopt the weakest privacy protections possible—and eviscerate stronger state protections at the same time." Regardless of whether you think new privacy rules are necessary, it goes without saying that consumers should have some voice in the process. Instead, Congress pretty clearly prefers a round table where companies that have spent the better part of the last decade trying to avoid meaningful privacy protections get to dictate the course and cadence of the conversation. AT&T thinks it's a good idea to charge consumers more to protect their own privacy. Google and Facebook, meanwhile, have been working in concert with the telecom sector to scuttle state-level efforts on privacy, no matter what they look like. Like net neutrality, the Trump era attack on federal consumer protections (like the GOP's dismantling of modest FCC broadband privacy rules last year) has opened the door to numerous states rushing to fill the oversight vacuum. The end result, as we've seen in California, tends to be rushed bills that over-reach (as opposed to the FCC's broadband privacy rules, which took years to craft). And while the tech press likes to tap dance around this fact: this current administration and Congressional majority couldn't care less about meaningful consumer protections. Yes, some of these state efforts are terrible. And yes, it would be easy for federal rules to be equally bad. Especially when the crafting process is largely being driven by cross-industry gamesmanship (the telecom industry, for example, has covertly undermined its alliance with Silicon Valley and is pushing for rules that screw over their video ad competitors like Google, but leave giant ISPs free to do as they wish). That said, it shouldn't be assumed that meaningful privacy protections are impossible, especially given the Congressional status quo shake up that may be just over the horizon. The reality is none of the companies invited to this round table want serious privacy rules impacting them, even if they're well-crafted. Informed, educated, empowered consumers are more likely to opt-out of data collection and monetization, and you'd be hard pressed to find any major company that's eager to lose billions as these consumers dodge being tracked and sold to. It's also worth noting that if federal laws are passed, Silicon Valley and telecom giants are eager to have them be as flimsy and toothless as possible just to pre-empt the potential for tougher state rules that actually accomplish something. Without consumer groups at the table, these are the kind of facts that tend to get lost in the shuffle, and the entire conversation tends to shift to why privacy rules kill innovation and aren't necessary, and not what balanced, reasonable, but meaningful privacy rules of the roads might actually look like. Again, because as it stands now, none of the folks at this hearing are actually interested in that. Sure, maybe meaningful privacy protections are impossible, either due to government's failure to adapt to quickly changing markets, or outright corruption. But by omitting consumer groups from the conversation, it's being made abundantly clear that this isn't a serious effort one way or another, with the end result being more of an echo chamber than any meaningful policy discussion. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Windscribe VPN is a VPN desktop application and browser extension that work together to protect your online privacy, unblock websites, and remove ads and trackers that follow you across the websites you visit every day. There are 4 subscription lengths of access with unlimited data available for an unlimited number of devices: $19 for 1 year, $24 for 3 years, $40 for 5 years, and $69 for lifetime access. Windscribe's privacy policy can be found here for more information. 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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Our President promised to get busy on The Cyber. So did the last president. It's a very presidential thing to do. Something in the government gets hacked, exposing millions of people's personal info, and everyone in the government agrees Something Should Be Done. Committees are formed. Plans are drawn up. Directives are issued. Laws are passed. Then the whole thing is turned over to government agencies and nothing happens. Five US senators have sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting answers why the State Department has not widely deployed basic cyber-security protections, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA). The letter was sent yesterday and was signed by senators Ron Wyden [D-Ore], Cory Gardner [R-Colo], Ed Markey [D-Mass], Rand Paul [R-Ky], and Jeanne Shaheen [D-N.H.]. The letter [PDF] cites two reports. The first is the General Service Administration's assessment of cybersecurity practices. It shows the State Department has only implemented multi-factor authentication for 11% of "high-value devices." When the mandated goal is 100%, this barely reaches the level of "grossly inadequate." Considering the amount of turnover the agency has had in the past several months, you'd think it would be considerably more concerned with internal security. But it isn't. And, as the letter points out, it's not just stupid. It's also illegal. According to a 2018 General Service Administration (GSA) assessment of federal cybersecurity, the Department of State had only deployed enhanced access controls across 11% of required agency devices. This despite a law-- The Federal Cybersecurity Enhancement Act -- requiring all Executive Branch agencies to enable MFA for all accounts with "elevated privileges." Breaking the law. And just generally not doing much whatsoever on the security front. Similarly, the Department of State's Inspector General (IG) found last year that 33% of diplomatic missions failed to conduct even the most basic cyber threat management practices, like regular reviews and audits. The IG also noted that experts who tested these systems "successfully exploited vulnerabilities in email accounts of Department personnel as well as Department applications and operating systems." The senators are hoping the State Department will have answers to a handful of cybersecurity-related questions by October 12th, but given the agency's progress to compliance with a law that's been on the book for two years at this point, I wouldn't expect responses to be delivered in a timelier fashion. The agency's track record on security isn't great and these recent developments only further cement its reputation as a government ripe for exploitation. The agency's asset-tracking program only tracks Windows devices, its employees are routinely careless with their handling of classified info, and, lest we forget, its former boss ran her own email server, rather than use the agency's. Of course, given this long list of security failures, there's a good possibility an off-site server had more baked-in security than the agency's homebrew. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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We've mentioned several times how Google Fiber's promise to revolutionize the broadband sector never really materialized. There's a long list of reasons for that, from incumbent ISPs suing to stop Google's access to utility poles, to Alphabet executives suddenly getting bored with the high cost and slow pace of deploying fiber and battling entrenched monopolies. As it stands, Google Fiber's expansions are largely on pause as company executives figure out how much money they're willing to spend, what the wireless future looks like, and whether Alphabet really wants to participate. That said, while Google Fiber's actual footprint pales in comparison to the hype, the service was a success in that it generated a quality, nationwide conversation about the sorry state of U.S. broadband competition, and spurred some otherwise apathetic incumbent ISPs to actually up their game, as countless cities nationwide decried the terrible state of existing service. That point was driven home this week in this piece by Blair Levin and Larry Downes. In it, the two quite correctly note that Google Fiber not only pushed incumbents to expand more fiber, but also resulted in incumbent ISPs offering dramatically lower rates in markets where Google Fiber was deployed. This is, as you may already know, how real competition is supposed to work: "It stimulated the incumbents to accelerate their own infrastructure investments by several years. New applications and new industries emerged, including virtual reality and the Internet of Things, proving the viability of an “if you build it, they will come” strategy for gigabit services. And in the process, local governments were mobilized to rethink restrictive and inefficient approaches to overseeing network installations." I wrote something very similar on this subject back in 2015, noting that Google Fiber (read: actual competition) did more for broadband in a short period than the FCC's 2010 "national broadband plan," a collection of politically-timid policy goals set forth by Obama's first FCC boss, Julius Genachowski. Like most of the things Genachowski did, the plan carefully avoided offending anyone, barely addressed the overall lack of competition in the market, and (as the FCC likes to do) set forth a number of policy "goals" that would have been met with our without the plan's guidance. Levin, who played a starring role in crafting that plan, sent me numerous e-mails complaining about my original piece, yet several years later returns to make many of the same points. That said, Levin and Downes go on to notably oversell the lasting impact Google Fiber's effort is going to have on the (still quite broken) U.S. broadband market. There's an odd effort to suggest the broadband market has been permanently fixed by Google's now-shelved ambitions. Case in point: "Though Google appears to have paused future deployments, the broadband business has permanently changed. Fiber investments by former telephone companies have accelerated or restarted. More advanced DSL using fiber-copper hybrid technology was rushed into operation, as were new fiber-to-the-home services from AT&T, CenturyLink and Frontier. Cable companies once again upgraded their technology, accelerating deployment of gigabit-capable standards. New technologies — including low-orbit satellites and “fixed wireless” — were developed for remote and rural locations. The two-tiered market of high-speed cable and lower-speed DSL broadband has given way to a free-for-all, forcing adoption of more disruptive strategies by incumbents and new entrants alike. The result is increased competition between providers and among cities and regions eager for game-changing private investment." Reading that, you'd think it was mission accomplished. But Levin and Downes fail to even mention how incumbent ISPs continue to sue many cities that try to modernize their rules if they favor competition. They also ignore how many potential Google Fiber customers are immensely frustrated by delays, cancelled installations, and empty hype as Google Fiber figures out what it wants to do next. But most importantly, the piece ignores that despite Google Fiber, the broadband competition problem in the United States continues to get worse in many markets. One, without Google Fiber or an equivalent prompting them to, most telcos have refused to upgrade aging DSL lines to fiber at any real scale. That has resulted in cable incumbents like Comcast securing a bigger monopoly than ever across a huge swath of the states, and numerous areas where fast broadband simply doesn't exist (especially if you're poor). And while Downes/Levin look to wireless to magically fix this mono/duopoly, companies like AT&T and Verizon still enjoy monopoly control over the backhaul fiber used to feed cellular towers (and everything ranging from ATMs to schools). So yes, Google Fiber helped generate a conversation about broadband competition, and even helped address the problem in a few areas. But we've taken numerous steps back since Google Fiber's heyday. Especially given the Ajit Pai tactic of simply gutting most consumer protections and insisting that's going to somehow magically fix the problem of natural broadband monopolies (another issue the authors just kind of casually ignore as if it's not relevant to solving the current problem). The broadband market is a complicated mess, and is going to require an ocean of creative solutions, from serious policy that encourages competition, to local public/private partnerships where local governments play a role in improving connectivity to lower ROI markets. Yes, Google Fiber highlighted the problem. But its solution was a temporary one, and most would-be competitors lack the resources allowing them to bang their heads against a regulatory captured, broken market. So yes, Google Fiber taught us some valuable lessons, but it's entirely unclear if those lessons have actually been learned. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted about 1 month ago on techdirt
Earlier this year we wrote about the significant concerns we had with the CLASSICS Act, that sought to create a brand new performance right for pre-1972 sound recordings, requiring various internet platforms to pay for that additional right to stream such music. As we've discussed for years, pre-1972 sound recordings are kind of a mess in the copyright world. That's because they weren't covered by federal copyright law -- but rather a mess of state laws (some statutes, some common law). Historically, none of that included a performance right, but some courts have recently interpreted one to exist (while others have said it doesn't). On top of that, some of those state laws mean that certain works will remain covered by copyright for many decades after they would have gone into the public domain under federal copyright law. Many people have advocated for "full federalization" of those pre-1972 works, taking them away from those state copyright laws, and putting them on an even playing field with all other copyright-covered works. There is an argument against this, which is that doing so also creates brand new rights for works that are decades old, which clearly goes against the purpose and intent of copyright law (incentivizing the creation of new works for the public), but given what a mess having two (very different) systems entailed, it seemed like full federalization was the most sensible way forward. Of course, rather than pursue that path, the RIAA pushed through something much worse and totally one-sided. The CLASSICS Act created a new performance right for pre-1972 sound recordings, but left out the federalization part. In other words, the copyright holders would get all of the benefits of this new law, and the public would still be unable to have these recordings go into the public domain for many, many decades. Senator Wyden introduced an alternative bill, the ACCESS Act, which pushed for full federalization. Over in the House, the CLASSICS Act was unfortunately merged with a separate bill, the Music Modernization Act (which is mostly uncontroversial) and voted through unanimously. However, it hit a stumbling block in the Senate -- leading to negotiations to create a compromise between Wyden's ACCESS Act and the original CLASSICS Act. That compromise has now been released and... it's actually fairly decent. To be clear, this is not how anyone would draw up copyright law from scratch, and there are still bits and pieces that concern me in the bill. But compared to where we were with the CLASSICS Act, this is a pretty big improvement. It does still create this brand new performance right for pre-1972 works, which seems to totally undermine the point of copyright law, but seeing as that was going to happen no matter what under the original CLASSICS Act, the compromise here seems much better -- as it makes sure that even as those works get this new right, they also will move into the public domain much faster than they otherwise would. The key elements in this compromise bill include full federalization of pre-1972 sound recordings, putting all copyright works under the same system. There is a slightly weird tiered system for gradually moving pre-1972 sound recordings into the public domain where they belong. The new rules set a copyright term of 95 years after the date of publication -- bringing works into the public domain much sooner than they would have been if they remained under state law (where the term could have gone up to 190 years or so). And then there's a set of "transition" periods for works to get them into the public domain: PRE-1923 RECORDINGS.—In the case of a sound recording first published before January 1, 1923, the transition period described in subparagraph (A)(i)(II) shall end on December 31 of the year that is 3 years after the date of enactment of this section. 1923 - 1946 RECORDINGS.--In the case of sound recordings first published during the period beginning on January 1, 1923, and ending on December 31, 1946, the transition period described in subparagraph (A)(i)(II) shall end on the date that is 5 years after the last day of the period described in paragraph (A)(i)(I). 1947-1956 RECORDINGS.--In the case of sound recordings first published during the period beginning on January 1, 1947, and ending December 31, 1956, the transition period described in subparagraph (A)(i)(II) shall end on the date that is 15 years after the last day of the period described in subparagraph (A)(i)(I). The really key part here is that first batch. Those are works where they should already be in the public domain under US law, as pre-1923 works are deemed to be in the public domain under federal law. But, since state laws have gone on much longer, we've locked up tons of important early US sound recordings, especially a ton of early jazz recordings that almost no one can hear. Under this law, those works will come into the public domain three years after the law is in place. Some will argue (reasonably!) that this is already too long, and you'd be right (also, that it's weird to give those very old works a new right just for a three year period). But it's better than having to wait until 2067 for them to be freed up entirely. Now there's a second important idea put into this new bill -- which is a very, very, very light touch "orphan works" proposal. For decades now, plenty of people in the copyright space have fretted over what to do with the orphan works issue. This is an issue created by our own stupid copyright policies, in which, because the law no longer requires registration, there are billions of works where it is unclear who holds the copyright on those works, or even if there's any copyright at all. It's been a problem for many years that can seriously impact our ability to preserve historical culture, among other things. Of course, every time Congress (and the Copyright Office) suggested proposals to deal with this issue (even bad suggestions and really bad suggestions), some copyright holders (mainly photographers) would freak out, and misleadingly claim that orphan works laws were designed to strip them of their copyright. So, this new amended bill creates a very minor tiptoe towards an orphan works concept, just with sound recordings and only for "certain noncommercial uses of sound recordings that are not being commercially exploited." This is way, way, way too limited, but it's a start. Under the rules, someone engaged in non-commercial use (and boy, I can't wait to see the litigation fights over what counts as commercial v. non-commercial use...), has to make a "good faith, reasonable search" to see if a work is being commercially exploited. Following that, they have to file a notice with the Copyright Office announcing their intention to use the sound recording, allowing a 90 day period for someone to object. If there are no objections then, the work may be used in such non-commercial projects. This is extremely limited (way too much so), but hopefully will be useful to sites like the Internet Archive and various libraries. It would be nice if it went much further, but considering that no attempt to deal with orphan works has ever gone anywhere, this seems like at least a tiny step in the right direction. At the very least, hopefully it can be used to show that the world doesn't collapse when there is a way to make use of orphan works when the copyright holder cannot be found. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted about 1 month ago on techdirt
If you feel like you're about to get a silly trademark story, your spidey-sense is working. We'll keep this short and sweet, but this whole thing centers around Gwen Stacy, otherwise known as Spider-Woman. But because this is Marvel we're talking about, there is also something of an alternate universe version of Gwen Stacy, in which she went by the name Spider-Gwen, but has more recently had that character rebooted as Ghost-Spider. Confused yet? Well, it's about to get worse. When Marvel applied for a trademark on the Ghost-Spider name, two different companies asked for more time to oppose the marks. One opposition likely makes some sense and might be rather limited to the sports equipment and apparel markets that Marvel asked for in addition to comic books. That one comes from golf club manufacturer Taylor Made, which happens to make a putter line called Ghost Spider, with the apparel to match it. It's not an objection to the comic book trademark, but rather to the more wider ranging products that Marvel is claiming a trademark for. Maybe Marvel might agree to a change in category or working? Basically, Marvel applied for the Ghost-Spider mark for every market under the sun and Taylor Made appears to only want to challenge the registration for the markets in which it operates. Makes a fair amount of sense. So why is BMW also opposing the mark? John G. Froemming and Jessica D. Bradley, lawyers at Washington DC legal firm Jonas Day represent Bayerische Motoren Werke Aktiengesellschaft – better known as BMW. And they have issued a request to the United States Patent and Trademark Office for an extension of time to oppose the trademark. There's no real detail to go on, so we're left to speculate exactly what BMW's problem with the Ghost-Spider name would be. The folks at Bleeding Cool think they've figured it out. But if they're right, BMW doesn't have a valid opposition. BMW has the Spyder models. And it owns Rolls-Royce, with the Ghost models. Two different brands under two different makes of car does not customer confusion make. If that really is the story here, it would be much better if the folks at BMW didn't waste everyone's time, because that's the kind of opposition that will get tossed immediately. Meanwhile, maybe the folks at Marvel can dream up a few more alternate realities, including one where trademark law wasn't so completely busted. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted about 1 month ago on techdirt
For many, many years we've been writing about the ridiculousness of the Congressional Research Service's reports being kept secret. If you don't know, CRS is a sort of in-house think tank for Congress, that does, careful, thoughtful, non-partisan research on a variety of topics (sometimes tasked by members of Congress, sometimes of its own volition). The reports are usually quite thorough and free of political nonsense. Since the reports are created by the federal government, they are technically in the public domain, but many in Congress (including many who work at CRS itself) have long resisted requests to make those works public. Instead, we were left with relying on members of Congress themselves to occasionally (and selectively) share reports with the public, rather than giving everyone access to the reports. Every year or so, there were efforts made to make all of that research available to the public, and it kept getting rejected. Two years ago, two members of Congress agreed to share all of the reports they had access to with a private site put together by some activists and think tanks, creating EveryCRSReport.com, which was a useful step forward. At the very least, we've now had two years to show that, when these reports are made public, the world does not collapse (many people within CRS feared that making the reports public would lead to more political pressure). Earlier this year, in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, there was a nice little line item to officially make CRS reports publicly available. And, this week, it has come to pass. As announced by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, there is now an official site to find CRS reports at crsreports.congress.gov. It appears that the available catalog is still limited, but they're hoping to expand backwards to add older reports to the system (a few quick test searches only shows fairly recent reports). But all new reports will be added to the database. The result is a new public website for CRS reports based on the same search functionality that Congress uses – designed to be as user friendly as possible – that allows reports to be found by common keywords. We believe the site will be intuitive for the public to use and will also be easily updated with enhancements made to the congressional site in the future. Moving forward, all new or updated reports will be added to the website as they are made available to Congress. The Library is also working to make available the back catalog of previously published reports as expeditiously as possible. This is a big deal. The public pays over $100 million every year to have this research done, and all of it is in the public domain. Starting now, we can actually read most of it, and don't need to rely on leaks to find this useful, credible research. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted about 1 month ago on techdirt
We've done it — we've solved the challenge of content moderation! (Checks notes). No, wait, sorry: we haven't. But what we have done is invited Kate Klonick, law professor and author of the excellent paper The New Governors: The People, Rules, and Processes Governing Online Speech, to join us for an in-depth discussion about how we got here and why there are no easy or simple answers for content moderation. Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes or Google Play, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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