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International

Malaysian penalty for “fake news”: 10 years in jail

By | Content Issues, International, News

The Malaysian government has brought forward a bill in Parliament that sets the penalty for publishing so-called “fake news” online with up to ten years in jail plus a fine of 500,000 MYR (about £90,000), Reuters reports.

Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia

“The proposed Act seeks to safeguard the public against the proliferation of fake news whilst ensuring the right to freedom of speech and expression under the Federal Constitution is respected,” the government said in the bill.

The bill gives a broad definition to fake news, covering  “news, information, data and reports which is or are wholly or partly false”. It seeks to apply the law extra-territorially, to anything published on the Internet provided Malaysia or Malaysians are affected by the article.

“Fake news” has become an increasingly popular target of political attack since Donald Trump popularised the term in his battles with CNN and other major broadcasters. In the UK, a Parliamentary Select Committee recently held their first ever hearings in Washington DC on the subject, summoning social media platforms to be lambasted for failing to suppress allegedly “fake news”. The Prime Minister’s office established a new unit to counter fake news in January.

So far, however, no UK government Minister has suggested jailing people for writing something on the Internet that isn’t right.

Council of Europe publishes guidlelines for Internet intermediaries

By | International, News

The Council of Europe has published a Recommendation to Member States on the roles and responsibilities of Internet intermediaries. The Recommendation declares that access to the Internet is a precondition for the ability effectively to exercise fundamental human rights, and seeks to protect users by calling for greater transparency, fairness and due process when interfering with content. The Recommendation also calls for greater respect for user privacy.

The Recommendations’ key provisions aimed at governments include:

  • Public authorities should only make “requests, demands or other actions
    addressed to internet intermediaries that  interferes with human rights and fundamental freedoms” when prescribed by law. This means they should therefore avoid asking intermediaries to remove content under their terms of service or to make their terms of service more restrictive.
  • Legislation giving powers to public authorities to interfere with Internet content should clearly define the scope of those powers and available discretion, to protect against arbitrary application.
  • When internet intermediaries restrict access to third-party content based on a State order, State  authorities should ensure that effective redress mechanisms are made available and adhere to applicable  procedural safeguards.
  • When intermediaries remove content based on their own terms and conditions of  service, this should not be considered a form of control that makes them liable for the third-party content for  which they provide access. 
  • Member States should consider introducing laws to prevent vexatious lawsuits designed to suppress users free expression, whether by targeting the user or the intermediary. In the US, these are known as “anti-SLAPP laws“.

The Recomendations’ provisions aimed at service providers include:

  • A “plain language” requirement for terms of service.
  • A call to include outside stakeholders in the process of drafting terms of service.
  • Transparency on how restrictions on content are applied, when, and detailed information on how algorithmic and automated means are used.
  • Transparency reporting
  • Effective remedies and complaints mechanisms for users who wish to dispute restriction of their service or content. “all remedies should allow for an impartial and independent  review of the alleged violation [of users’ rights to expression]. These should – depending on the violation in question – result in inquiry, explanation, reply, correction, apology, deletion, reconnection or compensation”.

The Council of Europe is an intergovernmental body entirely separate from the European Union. With 47 member states, it seeks to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law, including by monitoring adherence to the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. Its Recommendations are not legally binding on Member States, but are very influential in the development of national policy and of the policy and law of the European Union.

UK prime minister calls on internet firms to remove extremist content within two hours

By | Content Issues, International, News

The UK prime minister, Theresa May, has told internet companies that they need to go “further and faster” in removing extremist content in a speech to the United Nations general assembly. The prime minister said that terrorist material is still available on the internet for “too long” after being posted and has challenged companies to find a way to remove it within two hours. The material in question can include links to videos glorifying terrorism and material encouraging converts to commit terrorist acts.

In her speech, May said:

“Terrorist groups are aware that links to their propaganda are being removed more quickly, and are placing a greater emphasis on disseminating content at speed in order to stay ahead.

Industry needs to go further and faster in automating the detection and removal of terrorist content online, and developing technological solutions that prevent it being uploaded in the first place.”

The UK, together with France and Italy, is demanding evidence of progress by the time of a meeting of G7 interior ministers in Rome on 20 October.

Internet giants protest over rollback of net neutrality

By | Content Issues, International, News
A large number of internet giants – including Facebook, Google, AirBnB and others – are preparing for a “Day of Protest” on Wednesday 12th July over a ruling by the US communications regulator, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), that will reverse Obama-era net neutrality rules that prevent the prioritisation (or “throttling”) of data.

These were implemented by classifying ISPs as telecommunications operators regulated under Title II of the US Communications Act.Campaigners fear the decision by the communications regulator will lead to a two-tier internet in which ISPs can determine the download speeds of content. Sean Vitka, a lawyer for pro-net neutrality groups Demand Progress and Fight for the Future, said: “If a new company can’t access companies on the same terms as the incumbents they’re not going to have the chance to thrive.But the NCTA, a trade association for network operators argued that Title II regulation is “a complicated set of rules from the 1930s” and “not remotely connected to net neutrality”.

The FCC implemented net neutrality rules under Title II when the courts found that it had exceeded its authority under Title I when imposing a previous ruleset in 2010.

On Wednesday, several internet companies will be voicing their opposition to the move in a variety of ways, from changing their homepage to black, simulate what internet access is like in a world without net neutrality, displaying messages against the move, and more.

Leaked documents according to the Daily Mail and Wikileaks reveal that CIA has hacked Wi-Fi routers

By | International, Malware and DOS attacks, News

Leaked documents from activist group Wikileaks and as reported by the Daily Mail has shown that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has hacked a number of routers and has converted them into devices used to snoop in on people’s conversations. The Daily Mail reports that the hacks have targeted 25 router models from manufacturers such as Linksys, DLink and Belkin. Furthermore, the Daily Mail cites the Wikileaks document as stating that the firmware could be expanded to affect a hundred or more devices if they are given only slight modifications.

The 175-page document was reportedly nicknamed “CherryBlossom” (CB for short) by the intelligence agency. The document described CherryBlossom as stating that: “The Cherry Blossom (CB) system provides a means of monitoring the internet activity of and performing software exploits on targets of interest”.

The firmware apparently works by converting the router into a “FlyTrap” that sends messages also known as “beacons” to CIA-controlled server nicknamed “CherryTree”. The FlyTrap sends information such as the router’s device and security information, which CherryTree logs into a database.

Devices that were protected with a weak or default password were highly susceptible to the firmware, the document from Wikileaks show.

The findings, if true, show the various problems associated with friendly governments taking the view that it is acceptable for intelligence agencies to compromise either security or privacy. The end result can only be the use of such mechanisms by actors with less than noble intentions – ranging from hostile governments to organised criminals to terrorists all the way down to script kiddies. This serves as a useful forewarning on the dangers of requiring ‘backdoors’ on encryption technology, together with the policy ramifications from the Investigatory Powers Act Technical Capability Notices.