last 7 days

26 May

The Empowered Community (EC) created within the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) as a consequence of the IANA stewardship transition will undergo its first test. Following approval by the ICANN Board of amendments to the organisation’s fundamental bylaws, the EC is now called to consider and approve these amendments before they can go into effects. The amendments, which relate to moving some responsibilities from one Board Committee to another, will trigger a series of events including a Community Forum to be held on 27 June during the ICANN59 meeting.

The G7 has put pressure on Internet companies and Internet service providers to increase their efforts to remove extremist content, accusing them of not taking sufficient action to stop terrorist organisations in promoting violence. 'The G7 calls for Communication Service Providers and social media companies to substantially increase their efforts to address terrorist content,' the statement reads. British Prime Minister Theresa May told reporters that she wished to see Internet companies 'report this vile content to the authorities and block the users who spread it'. 

Following a meeting between Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Chairman of Alphabet Eric Schmidt, the two parties announced to work together to remove 'toxic information'. Schmidt reassured the prime minister that Alphabet will work to remove content that violate Vietnamese laws. In similar cases, Alphabet developed curated YouTube sites for Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Alphabet remarks that this agreement is in line with their policies for working with governments.

25 May

Venezuela has endured over two months of increasingly violent anti-government protests that have been responsible for the deaths of over 50 people.  According to Venezuela increases Internet censorship and surveillance in crisis, when citizens started using SMS messages to share information and coordinate protests, President Maduro ordered an investigation into phone company Movistar, claiming that it was assisting opposition to the government. When protesters then moved to online TV stations, the Venezuelan government censored them as well. Vivoplay.net, elcapitolio.tv and vpitv.com have all been blocked at the DNS level, sparking demands for an investigation. Other websites have reported denial-of-service attacks. The United Nations Human Rights Commission issued a statement condemning 'the censorship and blocking of information both in traditional media and on the internet' in April.

24 May

On 24 May 2017, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution: 'The role of professional translation in connecting nations and fostering peace, understanding and development'. According to the  Head of the Belarusian Mission to the United Nations, the work of translation is the main practical tool for 'strengthening and preserving multilingualism in the world, supporting cultural and linguistic diversity, but also in strengthening the role of translators and interpreters in strengthening international dialogue and building bridges of mutual understanding and trust between nations as opposed to “building walls”'.

last 30 days

22 May

The Italian government will offer Internet companies the possibility to agree on their future tax bills, in an effort to boost revenue and to avoid tax disputes. The measure takes the form of an amendment to a government decree which states that multinationals can fix a tax bill in advance if they have revenues of over 50 billion euros a year and sales worth more than 50 million euros in Italy. 

Facebook's 'internal rulebook' has been revealed in a Guardian investigation, which contains insights into Facebook's guidelines related to the moderation of issues including violence, hate speech, terrorism, pornography, racism, and self-harm. These Facebook Files demonstrate the complexities of assessing harmful content. One of the major findings of the files is Facebook's moderation of revenge pornography, which amounts to nearly 54,000 cases a month, and 'sextortion', for which 14,130 accounts have been disabled. This is reportedly the area 'where moderators make most mistakes'. 

20 May

The European Commission has fined Facebook €110 million for giving misleading or incorrect information during Commission’s 2014 vetting of its deal to acquire messaging service WhatsApp. It was found that, contrary to Facebook’s statement in the 2014 merger review process, the technical possibility for automatic users identities’ matching between their Facebook and WhatsApp accounts not only existed in 2014 but also Facebook staff was aware of this. In August 2016, WhatsApp published terms of service and privacy policy updates, which included the possibility of linking users’ phone numbers linked to WhatsApp with Facebook identities. Margrethe Vestager, EU Competition Commissioner, said that the EC decision is a clear message to companies to comply with European Union merger rules, which also includes the obligation to provide true and correct information. 

19 May

A US court has dismissed two lawsuits that accused Facebook of supporting terrorism by allowing them to use the platform for the pursuit of terrorist goals. According to the judge, the law 'prevents courts from entertaining civil actions that seek to impose liability on defendants like Facebook for allowing third parties to post offensive or harmful content or failing to remove such content once posted'. One of the lawsuits was filed in July last year by families of U.S. victims of a Palestinian attack.

The Commission Nationale de I’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL), France’s data protection watchdog, has fined Facebook €150,000 for violating the country’s data protection rules. CNIL published a statement saying Facebook has failed in informing its users about how their personal data is tracked and shared with advertisers. A common statement by the Contact Group of the Data Protection Authorities of the Netherlands, France, Spain, Hamburg, and Belgium has also been issued along with the investigation results from three member countries: France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. At the same time, the Dutch Data Protection Authority (DPA) Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens's statement says that Facebook violates Dutch data protection law and does not provide sufficient information about the use of their personal data. DPA stated they did not fine Facebook, but if the violations continue ‘may decide to issue a sanction’. As a response, Facebook’s spokesperson said in an email statement to Reuters: ‘We take note of the CNIL’s decision with which we respectfully disagree’. 

18 May

The European Parliament has voted in favour of new rules that will enable users to enjoy services they are subscribed to even when they travel to other countries in the EU. As of 2018, users will not have to pay extra to watch series, music, or sports events that are subscribed to in their country, when travelling. Rules on the portability of online content, together with rules to end data roaming, are part of the EU’s Digital Single Market strategy, including the modernisation of copyright rules.

Microsoft has issued a policy paper on Cybersecurity policy for the Internet of Things (IoT), noting that securing IoT is an urgent matter that requires collaboration across borders, sectors, and organisations. In the company’s view, governments and the technology industry need to work together to increase the security of IoT networks and devices. When it comes to the industry, the paper recommends several practices to secure IoT hardware, integrate security into IoT solutions, ensure a more secure IoT deployment, and maintain the security of IoT devices. On the public sector side, governments can serve as catalysts or the development of good IoT security practices; build cross-disciplinary partnerships that encourage public-private collaboration and inter-agency cooperation; and support initiatives that improve IoT security across borders.

Theresa May's Conservatives hope to introduce a new tax on social media platforms, should the British Prime Minister get re-elected, a plan that has been included in their manifesto. The law would allow the government to impose a tax on social media companies and Internet service providers to generate funding for measures that make the Internet safer for young people. 

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted to start a process that could lead to a roll back of the net neutrality rules it had adopted in 2015. The vote means that the proposal put forward in April by Chairman Ajit Pai to overturn the classification of broadband providers and utility carriers is now an official FCC proposal, open for public comment until August. The proposal also envisions the repealing of a rule that allows the Commission to investigate business models of Internet providers that might be uncompetitive. And there is also a question raised as to whether the FCC should eliminate the rule that prohibits the blocking or slowing down of traffic. After the public comment period, the proposal can be modified, before being put to a final vote in the Commission. Although Pai has previously said that he favors an open Internet, it remains to be seen what will happen with the 2015 net neutrality rules. Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who voted against the plan, said that it ’jeopardizes the ability of the open Internet to function tomorrow, as it does today’.

17 May

RIPE Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC), the Regional Internet Registry for Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Central Asia, has launched a programme aimed to assist governments with their IPv6 allocation requests. As explained by the Registry, the aim of the programme is ‘to help governments accurately calculate the amount of IPv6 address space they need (and can justify) before they submit an allocation request’, in order to avoid cases in which their requests are not successful initially. Through the programme, governments are informed about the policy requirements for IPv6 allocations, in order to be help ten prepare requests that they can justify.

Ukraine has blocked Russia's largest social media and Internet services as a sanction against Russia's annexation of Crimea and the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine. The targeted sites include social networks VK.com and Odnoklassniki, as well as search engine Yandex and e-mail service Mail.ru. According to Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko, 'The challenges of hybrid war demand adequate responses. Massive Russian cyber attacks across the world...show it is time to act differently and more decisively.' The measure risks a backlash among the Ukrainian public, as these websites are widely popular in the country. 

16 May

Government of India invited citizens to add comments regarding future regulation of Virtual Currencies (VC). Indian citizens are invited to add their comments on an open government portal mygov.in, by 31 May. Purpose of this consultative process is a building of the future regulation regarding the Virtual Currencies (like Bitcoin) in India. Government is asking should Bitcoin and Virtual Currencies be banned, regulated, or observed. Government is asking specifics about the possible regulation:

b) In case VCs are suggested to be regulated:

i). What measures should be taken to ensure consumer protection?
ii). What measures should be taken to promote orderly development of VCs.
iii). Which appropriate institution(s) should monitor/ regulate the VCs?

c). In case VCs are not suggested to be regulated:

i). What should be the effective self-regulatory mechanism?
ii). What measures should be adopted to ensure consumer protection in this scenario?

Majority of comments are on a positive note inviting the government to take action in fintech and virtual currency regulation. Ban of the bitcoin virtual currency is unlikely to happen.

The Partnership on AI, founded in September 2016 by Amazon, DeepMind/Google, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft with the aim to develop best practices on the challenges and opportunities in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), has announced the expansion with new partners, as well as the launch of a series of initiatives. New partners include the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Human Rights Watch, and Centre for Democracy and Technology, among others. In the upcoming period, the Partnership on AI plans to launch several, including: topic-specific and sector-specific working groups to research and formulate best practices; the creation of a Civil Society Fellowship programme aimed at assisting people at non-profits and NGOs who wish to collaborate on topics in AI and society; the formation of a cross-conference ‘AI, People, and Society’ Best-Paper Award; and the start of an AI Grand Challenges series to stimulate aspirational efforts in harnessing AI to address some of the most pressing long-term social and societal issues.

The Arbitration and Mediation Centre of the World Intellectual Property Organisation will become an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) provider for the .eu and .ею top-level domains (TLDs), as of June 2017. As announced by EURid, the registry for the two TLDs, holders of a trademark, trade name, company name, or other rights will be able to use the services of the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre to dispute potentially speculative and abusive .eu and .ею domain name registrations The Centre becomes the second ADR provider, in addition to the current Czech Arbitration Court.

In the midst of worldwide debates about Internet access and content, a groundbreaking five-year partnership between the UN Human Rights Office and Microsoft for the 'development and use of advanced technology designed to better predict, analyze and respond to critical human rights situations'. This alliance continues work in two areas of agreement: 'a commitment to ensuring technology plays a positive role in helping to promote and protect human rights' and 'a recognition of the need for the private sector to play a bigger part in helping to advance the cause of human rights globally'. Microsoft explains its approach to the partnership here

Earlier this month, Thailand passed a law that prohibits online content that is 'contrary to public order or public morality' leading Thai Internet service providers (ISPs) to request Facebook to block 600 Facebook pages. On 12 May, Thailand threatened Facebook to take legal action, unless the social media platform removes the remaining 131 pages that are considered illegal by the Thai authorities. Thai secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, Takorn Tantasith, told reporters that 'if even a single illicit page remains, we will immediately discuss what legal steps to take against Facebook Thailand', giving the company four days to comply. With the deadline approaching, ISPs claimed that they were pressured to shut down access to Facebook in the country. After the deadline passed on 16 May, Takorn Tantasith announced that Facebook was cooperating and blocked the 131 posts. 

13 May

[Update] Read: The WannaCry ransomware cyber attack in detail: dig.watch/wannacry

A new version of ransomware, dubbed WannaCry, has quickly spread worldwide and infected hundred thousands of devices across many countries. The New York Times reported that WannaCry has hit the UK hospitals forcing public health system National Health Service to accept only the most urgent patients, and froze computers at the Russian Ministry of Interior, while MalwareTech security researcher reported almost 200,000 infected computers in all the continents. Similarly to other types of ransomware, WannaCry encrypts data on the infected device and demands a ransom of $300 in BitCoins to be paid to a given Bitcoin wallet within several days, otherwise the data will remain locked. Unlike other versions, however, WannaCry propagates through the network and infects computers like a worm - that is even if their users have not activated the infected file or link - allowing its massive effect. This was made possible by exploiting the vulnerability in Windows, called EternalBlue, which recently leaked from the NSA cyber-tools repository, Forbes reports. While Microsoft has issued a patch for this vulnerability in March already, many computers – especially in bigger systems that have complex procedures – have not yet installed the patches, and are being infected. The MalwareTech researcher realised that the WannaCry code demands infected computers to regularly contact a certain non-existing Internet domain, and registered such domain to create the map of infected computers. It appeared, however, that this served as a kill-switch for the malware spread, which was built in by the criminals to be able to abandon the infection process if needed. While the infection has been accidentally stopped, experts warn that a new form of ransomware will emerge very soon, and invite users, institutions and companies to update their Windows promptly.

12 May

The European Commission has launched a public consultation on the evaluation and revision of the Regulations for the .eu, the country code top-level domain (TLD) for the European Union: Regulation 733/2002 establishing the .eu TLD, and Regulation 874/2004 setting the rules for how the .eu is managed. The consultation, open until August 2017, is mainly aimed at gathering input for the evaluation, asessing the .eu regulatory framework against the evaluation criteria: Effectiveness: have the objectives been met? Efficiency: were the costs involved reasonable? Coherence: does the policy complement other actions or are there contradictions? Relevance: is EU action still necessary? EU added-value: can similar changes have been achieved at national/regional level, or did EU action clearly provide added-value?

A Viennese Court of Appeals has ruled that Facebook must remove posts deemed as hate speech. Merely blocking the posts in Austria will not be enough: Facebook must delete the posts across the platform. The ruling is seen as a victory for anti-trolling activists, and a cause for concern for free speech proponents who believe that Austrian rules should not extend worldwide.

In response to the distribution of online child sexual abuse material (CSAM), the Indian government has announced that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must 'implement mechanisms to block and remove such content regularly'. This requires ISPs to adopt Internet Watch Foundation resources, which maintains a dynamic global list of websites and URLs containing CSAM, by 31 July 2017. 

Access to the Chinese messenger app WeChat has been restored by the Russian government. WeChat was blocked in Russia following an allegation that it hadn't registered with the Russian authorities. The Russian media regulator now confirmed that WeChat has 'provided the information that is necessary to include them in the registry'. 

Facebook will appeal a court decision in Austria, which ruled that comments posted on the social media platform about the leader of Austria's Green Party are illegal under the country's laws on hate speech. The court ordered Facebook not just to take these comments down in Austria, but everywhere else as well. Critics claim that this court decision - as well as similar ones that were taken in the case of Google in Canada and France - will endanger Internet freedom, as it would impose Austrian regulations worldwide.

11 May

Authorities in Taiwan are reportedly planning to block Google’s public Domain Name System (DNS) service, over cybersecurity concerns. In a presentation published by the Government’s Service Network (GSN), DNS spoofing techniques and other cybersecurity issues are identified as the main concerns regarding Google’s DNS service. Instead, the authorities seem to suggest that users would be required to use a government DNS service to access the Internet. It is, however, not clear whether Google’s DNS service will be blocked only for governmental employees, or for all users in the country.

US President Trump signed the executive order aimed to strengthen the security of federal government institutions. The key part of the plan demands moving government services to a cloud, which should be implemented under the coordination of the director of the newly established American Technology Council of the White House. The executive order also calls the agencies to implement a set of best practices in cybersecurity developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology – known as NIST Framework – which has been praised globally and implemented by many industries, yet government institutions seem to have lagged behind. In addition, the Cabinet secretaries are requested to develop plans for protecting critical infrastructure. The voluntary anti-botnet campaign is also planned, involving industry to take actions to minimize DDoS attacks. During a briefing in White House, Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert commented that the plans build on the efforts of the Obama administration in the same direction, and informed that the Trump’s budget blueprint sets aside USD 1.5 billion for cybersecurity. While experts agree that the executive order will likely strengthen national cybersecurity, some like Drew Mitnick from the Access Now organisation express disappointment that it doesn’t address some of the key security concerns like the security of Internet of Things devices, data breaches, or responsible disclosure of vulnerabilities.

Pakistani lawmakers are calling for the implementation of a blasphemy law that would provide investigatory powers with means to take action against people who spread 'sacrilegious' content online. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has so far searched, identified, and blocked 12,968 websites in relation to blasphemy. In addition, millions of Pakistanis have been receiving text messages from the Pakistani government warning against blasphemous content, which state that 'uploading & sharing of blasphemous content on Internet is a punishable offence under the law' and that this content needs to be reported for legal action.  

The Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), Maciej Szpunar, has issued a non binding opinion on the case in which the CJEU is asked whether Uber is an information society services provider or a transportation company. Szpunar is of the view that the service offered by Uber cannot be cannot be classified as an information society service, as the service amounts to the organisation and management of a comprehensive system for on-demand urban transport. He therefore recommends that the Court’s answer to the question at hand should be that the service offered by Uber must be classified as a service in the field of transport. Spuzar concludes that Uber is subject to the conditions under which non-resident carriers may operate transport services within EU member states.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression David Kaye, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst, issued a news release in which they urged India to 'immediately end its ban on social media networks and on mobile Internet services in the State of Jammu and Kashmir'. The ban was imposed following student demonstrations in the region. According to David Kaye, 'Internet and telecommunications bans have the character of collective punishment and fail to meet the standards required under international human rights law to limit freedom of expression'.

An article contributed by the World Economic Forum Why Women Need to be at the Heart of the Digital Revolution starts: 'Studies suggest that if governments & businesses double the pace at which women are becoming digitally fluent, we could reach gender equality in the workplace by 2040.' It emphasises the importance of women's right to access the Internet as important to their means to achieve economic prosperity and to realise the benefits of technology, and the resulting positive impact on the rest of society. This sentiment is strongly stated in No Woman Left Behind -- Closing the Gender Digital Divide as well, which notes that 'Women make up a majority of those without access to the internet which means that they are already disadvantaged from fully participating in globalisation.' The article also notes that 'Studies have shown that despite there being fewer talented women in technology than men, many of those who are qualified are still not hired.' Global priorities stress connecting not only the next billion, but the missing women.

Uber, which has just started operating in Myanmar, has decided to only hire government-accredited taxi companies, in order to avoid legal complications. The company is partnering with local taxi drivers and their unions to provide its services, being of the view that ‘having the government support from day one is pretty powerful’ (according to Sam Bool, Uber's expansion general manager for South East Asia, cited by Reuters).

10 May

Spam bots and scripts were used for influencing the U.S. FCC (Federal Communications Commission) consultations on a revision of the net neutrality rules, reported The Verge. Comments seem to be submitted in name of different real people, including details on their physical address. However, when asked, some of these people denied that they had commented in the consultation process. In an analysis undertaken by Jeffrey Fossett it was demonstrated that a spam bot was responsible for generating the vast majority of these people's comments. The fake comments contained mainly anti-net neutrality messages. A significant share of the comments were sent from addresses and people whose personal details were identified in various spam databases that had leaked in the past.

As part of an ongoing investigation into the regulatory requirements that impact on the safety of drones, the Committee on rural and regional affairs and transport in the Australian Senate has come to the conclusion that ‘the regulatory regime must be strengthened’, in order to reduce the prospect of a serious accident involving drones. The committee recommended that the Ministry for Infrastructure and Transport strengthens regulations applicable to drones in three areas: safety awareness and training for users, registration of drones and tracking by the Civilian safety Authority, and the introduction of geofencing technology and drone shields.

9 May

Global and regional organisations are expressing concern about the current human rights situation in Venezuela. An OAS press release IACHR Deplores Repressive Measures Taken by Venezuela against Protests and Condemns Resulting Deaths and Injuries, states 'The IACHR calls on the State to cease these measures and to effectively comply with its international human rights obligations.' It notes that the IACHR 'particularly condemns the rise in deaths, injuries, and mass detentions that have accompanied the militarization of management of the protests, in regard to which the IACHR has expressed its concern.'  On a related note, the article Venezuela / Protests: UN and IACHR Rapporteurs condemn censorship, arrests and attacks on journalists provides further information about the situation in Venezuela, in a situation that is exacerbated by the lack of clear reporting by the Venezuelan government as noted already last year in the UN Watch article: Fraud on the UN: Venezuela’s Corruption of its 2016 UPR Human Rights Review which notes 'The UN’s examination today of Venezuela’s human rights record, in a periodic review conducted every five years by fellow UN member states at the Human Rights Council, is severely compromised by the Maduro regime’s manipulation of the non-governmental contribution to the record, which is supposed to consist of “credible and reliable information.”'

Oracle and Cisco have expressed support for the proposal put forward last month by the Chairman on the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to overturn the classification of broadband providers and utility carriers  – a measure that is seen as weakening the FCC’s ability to enforce net neutrality rules. In a recent letter sent to Chairman Pai, Oracle’s Vice President Kenneth Glueck applauds the proposal, noting that ‘reclassifying broadband Internet access as an information service will eliminate unnecessary burdens on, and competitive imbalances for, ISPs while enhancing the consumer experience and driving investment’. Cisco’s Vice President Jeff Campbell had previously expressed a similar opinion, stating that Pai’s proposal ‘will review what is needed to protect consumers and prevent anti-competitive behavior, while rolling back Title II reclassification, which has inhibited investment’.

Researchers at Trend Micro have discovered a new Internet of Things (IoT) botnet, called Persirai, which targets over 1000 Internet Protocol (IP) camera models. The company has detected around 120,000 IP cameras that are vulnerable to the botnet, and warned that many of the vulnerable users are not aware that their cameras are exposed. Most such vulnerable cameras have been detected in China, Thailand, the USA, Hong Kong, Mexico, the UK, Brazil, Italy, Japan, and South Korea.

8 May

Facebook is launching new features to help suppress fake news in the context of the upcoming general election in the United Kingdom. The company will delete thousands of fake profiles, will work together with a fact checking charity, and will cease to promote implausible posts. It is also publishing newspaper adverts with tips to spot fake news. According to a Facebook spokesperson, the changes are expected to 'reduce the spread of material generated through inauthentic activity, including spam, misinformation, or other deceptive content that is often shared by creators of fake accounts'. 

6 May

Just 48 hours before the Presidential Elections in France, over 9 GB of allege archive of emails of Emmanuel Macron, a candidate, leaked online thanks to an external hacking attack. The attack was based on a phishing domain created by the attackers to impersonate the site that Macron’s campaign associates used for cloud data storage. Such an attempt was reported by the security firm Trend Micro back in March, and attributed to the Russian hacker group Fancy Bear, yet Macron’s campaign then claimed the attack failed. According to Wired, cybersecurity experts have confirmed that the structure of the email archive seems real, yet warned that this doesn’t mean that the content is genuine but some of it could be forged designed to spark scandal. The Daily Beast, however, reported that Macron’s team had prepared a strategy against possible hacking and has purposely accessed the phishing pages to implant false information through multiple true and false log-ins, in order to force the attackers and the leaking websites like Wikileaks to need to spend time to figure out what is false and what is true. Ultimately, it may have discredited the entire leak, which could be one of the reasons why newspapers and broadcasters in France avoided to report on details of the leak, The New York Times reports.

Russia has blocked access to Chinese social media app WeChat, as the company did not provide its contact details to the Russian authorities. Although the app is the most popular social media platform in China, WeChat is not very popular in Russia, as its inhabitants prefer VKontakte, WhatsApp, and Viber. Yet, the blockage could affect Chinese tourists and Russians doing business with China.

5 May

Updates to the rights of persons with disabilities issues have documented recent work to highlight web access for persons with disabilities, notably, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) that free online course content must be accessible to persons with disabilities, or it must be removed from the UC Berkeley site. Discussion about this decision, such as Justice Department Disability Demands Raise Serious Free Speech Issues and Obama-Era DOJ Violated Free Speech Through Burdensome Demands for Disabled Access indicate that the decision is still controversial and may face review. Before the current Berkeley case, a related ruling in 2015 Justice Department Reaches Settlement with edX Inc., Provider of Massive Open Online Courses, to Make its Website, Online Platform and Mobile Applications Accessible Under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The debate continues, including objections by scholars, and support for removal of the non-compliant materials from some educators: 'Berkeley’s move to ensure accessibility in all of its public materials is necessary, though the college could also consider making choice selections from its past wealth of material accessible for all students'.



4 May

Alphabet, Google's parent company, has agreed to pay €306 million to settle a tax dispute with the Italian government, after a tax dispute that lasted for more than a year. The agreement covers the period from 2002 to 2015. Alphabet has already settled similar disputes with the British authorities, and is still negotiating tax settlements with France and Spain. 

In the context of new regulations in Thailand that prohibit content 'contrary to public order or public morality', Thai Internet service providers (ISPs) have asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to block 600 Facebook pages. These pages have been ordered by the Thai court to be closed, yet they cannot be blocked by the ISPs as they are encrypted and host servers are located abroad. 

An ‘incredibly sophisticated’ phishing campaign using spoofed email addresses affected over a million users of Google’s Software as a Service (SoA) ‘Docs’ platform. By purporting to share a document for collaboration, the program requested access to the user’s email account. Google addressed the issue and released a statement and invited affected users to visit its security checkup page.

3 May

Facebook has announced that it will hire 3,000 content reviewers to review violent or illegal videos. The announcement was made in response to growing pressure on the social media platform, as controversy has arisen over live-streamed murders in the U.S. and Thailand, and the UK Home Affairs Select Committee condemned the company for being 'shamefully far' from tackling illegal content. It remains to be seen how Facebook will manage the challenges that emerge with the job of reviewing such content. In January, two former Microsoft employees sued the company as they claim to have suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder after being forced to view 'inhumane and disgusting content'.

The Chinese government has announced new regulations that will tighten its control over online news content. According to the new rules, news outlets will need a government license to publish, share, or edit news. In addition, media companies' senior editors will need to be approved and media staff members will have to follow government training and assessment. The rules will enter into force on 1 June.

The Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee in the European Parliament has adopted a report titled ‘An European agenda for the collaborative economy’, inviting the European Commission and EU member states to address ‘regulatory grey areas’ related to the collaborative economy. In the MEPs’ view, the EU should reap the collaborative economy benefits while ensuring fair competition, workers’ rights, and tax compliance. At the same time, any regulation in the field should not restrict the collaborative economy. The report is expected to be discussed and voted by the full European Parliament during its June plenary session.

2 May

Verizon announced it sold its cloud and managed hosting services to IBM, while continuing to work alongside on strategic initiatives. The transaction will be completed later this year.

China will launch an online encyclopaedia in 2018. According to officials, more than 20,000 people have been hired to produce entries. Unlike Wikipedia, where entries are submitted and edited by volunteers, the Chinese encyclopaedia will be created by scholars from state-run universities. According to the project's editor-in-chief, Yang Muzhi, 'The Chinese Encyclopaedia is not a book, but a Great Wall of culture'. Critics claims that the encyclopaedia is a way for the Chinese government to promote state-approved content, as authorities consider Wikipedia's appeal in China to be 'bewitching'.

1 May

Nine Republican senators in the US Congress had introduced a bill aimed at nullifying the net neutrality order adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2015, and at prohibiting the FCC for issuing a similar order in the future. In the initiators’ view, the bill, titled ‘Restoring Internet Freedom Act’, would ‘help ensure that the Internet remains open and free of heavy-handed federal regulations’, and ‘is a step in the right direction as Congress works to ensure Internet regulation does not stifle innovation’. The proposed legislation would ‘prohibit the FCC from reclassifying broadband Internet access service as a telecommunications service and from imposing certain regulations on providers of such services’. The bill is in line with the proposal put forward by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai which would overturn the classification of broadband providers as utility carriers.

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a decision upholding once again the net neutrality order introduced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2015. A panel of the court has previously upheld the FCC’s Open Internet order, in a case brought against the rules by representatives of the US broadband industry. The losing parties have later filed a petition seeking for a review of the court’s decision, but the court decided to deny the petition. In its decision, the court affirmed that the FCC had ample authority to reclassify ISPs as common carriers, and dismissed the argument that the FCC's policy somehow infringes the free speech rights of broadband companies.

A new parliamentary report by the UK Home Affairs Select Committee has found that social media companies are 'shamefully far' from tackling illegal content. According to the report, the firms are 'big enough, rich enough and clever enough' to solve the problem, yet it takes to long for illegal and dangerous content to be removed. The report recommends the government to 'consult on a system of escalating sanctions, to include meaningful fines for social media companies which fail to remove illegal content within a strict timeframe', similar to the financial penalties proposed in Germany.

The Work and Pensions Committee in the UK Parliament issued a report on the self-employment practices of  ‘gig economy’ companies (such as Uber and Amazon), noting, among others, that ‘the ease with which companies are able to classify their workforces as self-employed both fails to protect workers from exploitation, and potentially increases strain on the welfare state’. To address this issue, the Committee suggests that ‘an assumption of the employment statute of “worker” by default, rather than “self-employed”, would protect both the workers and the public purse’, and that ‘companies wishing to deviate from this would need to present the case for doing so’. The report also calls on the UK government to close the loopholes that incentivise a behaviour in which gig economy companies ‘evade responsibility to their workers’ wellbeing and increase their profits’.


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