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Richard Dawkins Opposes UK Cinemas Censoring Church's Advert Before Star Wars ( 127

An anonymous reader writes: A controversy has erupted in the United Kingdom following the decision of the three theatre chains that control 80% of the movie screens in the country to refuse to show an advertisement for the Anglican church. The 60 second advertisement is for a new Church of England website,, the purpose of which is to encourage people to pray. The Odeon, Cineworld and Vue chains refused to allow it to be shown due to a policy not allowing political or religious advertising. Richard Dawkins supported the Church on free speech grounds, stating, "I still strongly object to suppressing the ads on the grounds that they might 'offend' people. If anybody is 'offended' by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended." Dawkins was joined by fellow atheist, Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston in backing the right of the Church to show the advertisement, stating "As a gentle atheist, I'm not offended by Church screening gentle cinema adverts; we shouldn't reject our deep cultural roots in Christianity." The assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain said he was "flabbergasted" by the decision to refuse to show it. The National Secular Society found it a "perfectly reasonable decision." The Anglican church had wanted to show the advert prior to the screening of the upcoming Star Wars movie given the expected large, multi-generational audiences.

BBC World Service To Provide Radio For North Korea and Eritrea ( 62

Ewan Palmer writes: The BBC World service has announced it will expand to serve the worst countries for press freedom as part of a plan to reach a global audience of 500 million. The British government announced its "single biggest increase in the World Service budget ever committed" and promised to invest more than $128 million by 2017/18 to the service. Along with improvements in countries such as Thailand, Russia and Somalia, they will launch radio services in North Korea and Eritrea who, according to Reporters Without Borders' 2015 World Press Freedom index, are the two worst performing countries in the world when ranked on a number of criteria including media independence, respect for the safety and freedom of journalists, and infrastructural environment in which the media operate.
Social Networks

EFF launches Site To Track Censored Content On Social Media ( 39

Mark Wilson writes: There are many problems with the censoring of online content, not least that it can limit free speech. But there is also the question of transparency. By the very nature of censorship, unless you have been kept in the loop you would simply not know that anything had been censored. This is something the Electronic Frontier Foundation wants to change, and today the digital rights organization launches to blow the lid off online censorship. The site, run by EFF and Visualizing Impact, aims to reveal the content that is censored on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, and YouTube — not just the 'what' but the 'why'. If you find yourself the subject of censorship, the site also explains how to lodge an appeal.
The Internet

New Anti-Piracy Law In Australia Already Being Abused ( 73

Gumbercules!! writes: A small Australian ISP has received a demand that it block access to an overseas website or face legal action in the Federal Court, in a case in which a building company is demanding the ISP block access to an overseas site with a similar name. This case is being seen as a test case, potentially opening the way for companies and aggregated customers to use the new anti-piracy laws to block access to companies or their competition. The ISP in question has obviously been selected because they're very small and have limited financial capacity to fight a legal case.
The Courts

Facebook Can Block Content Without Explanation, Says US Court ( 147

An anonymous reader writes: A U.S. court has ruled that Facebook can block any content posted to its site without explanation, after a Sikh group legally challenged the company for taking its page offline. U.S. Northern District of California Judge Lucy Koh ruled that the U.S. based rights group's encouragement of religious discrimination is illegal under the Communications Decency Act, which protects 'interactive computer services' providers by preventing courts from treating them as the publishers of the speech created by their users.

Quebec Introduces Bill To Mandate ISP Website Blocking ( 137

An anonymous reader writes: The Government of Quebec has introduced new legislation that requires Internet service providers to block access to unlicensed online gambling sites. The provisions are contained in an omnibus bill implementing elements of the government's spring budget, which included a promise to establish website blocking requirements. The bill provides that "an Internet service provider may not give access to an online gambling site whose operation is not authorized under Québec law." The government's lottery commission will establish the list of banned websites.
The Internet

Cuba's Internet Routing Is Messed Up 64

Internet access in Cuba has gotten far better in the last year, thanks in large part to thawing relations between Cuba's government and the U.S. In the case of a censorship-heavy, technology-impaired regime, though, "better" doesn't necessarily mean good. Northwestern engineering professor Fabián E. Bustamante and graduate student Zachary Bischof decided to quantify the performance of Cuban internet connections, and found them "perhaps even worse than they expected," with regards to routing in particular. Reader TheSync writes with this excerpt: During their study, Bustamante and Bischof found that when a person in Havana searched for a topic on Google, for example, the request traveled through the marine cable to Venezuela, then through another marine cable to the United States, and finally landed at a Google server in Dallas, Texas. When the search results traveled back, it went to Miami, Florida, up to the satellite, and then back to Cuba. While the information out of Cuba took 60-70 milliseconds, it took a whopping 270 milliseconds to travel back.

National Coalition Calls for Campus Censorship of "Offensive" Speech ( 585

schwit1 writes with this opinion piece from Eugene Volokh, who teaches free speech law at UCLA School of Law, about the push to ban "offensive" speech and censor websites on campus. He writes: "A large coalition of advocacy groups has asked the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights to pressure colleges to (1) punish students for their speech and (2) block student access to certain Web sites — especially sites such as Yik Yak, which allow students to anonymously post their views..... Yet another example of today's Anti-Free Speech Movement for American universities — unfortunately, one that fits well into the Education Department's attitudes. Fortunately, courts have firmly rejected these kinds of calls to restrict college student speech, though the OCR and the college administrations it pressures can get away with a lot of restrictions until the lawsuits are actually brought."

How Amazon's Monster Erotica Book Ban Shaped CloudFlare's Censorship Stance ( 125

An anonymous reader writes with news that CloudFlare chief executive Matthew Prince recently spoke about how Amazon's ban on "monster erotica" helped shape his position on censorship. ZDNet reports: "I worry about Jeff Bezos' bizarre obsession with dinosaur sex," said Prince, towards the end of a long conversation in our New York newsroom. "I don't think I've ever heard a chief executive -- hell, I don't think I've ever heard anyone say anything like that before," I said. Prince was referring to how the bookseller and online retail giant banned so-called "monster erotica," a genre of fan-fiction revolving around fantasy-based fictional encounters with mythical or extinct creatures (including dinosaurs), which was for a time sold on its online bookstore. Amazon, according to reports, pulled hundreds of the self-published books it sold -- as well as some content that fetishized incest and rape -- despite "vague" guidelines by the retailer. "You can make a rational argument that if you're writing books fantasizing about having sex with animals or children, maybe that promotes a certain kind of behavior. But there's no risk of someone abusing a dinosaur," he said.

Apple Reportedly Disables Its News App In China ( 64

An anonymous reader writes: When Apple launched iOS 9, it replaced its Newsstand app with Apple News. The software has only been available to users in the U.S., but those who registered their phones in the U.S. had no problem using the app while overseas. Now, the NY Times reports that Apple is specifically disabling the app for users located in China. "Those in China who look at the top of the Apple News feed, which would normally display a list of selected articles based on a user's preferred media, instead see an error message: 'Can't refresh right now. News isn't supported in your current region.' ... Beijing generally insists that companies are responsible for censoring sensitive content inside China. In Apple's case, that would mean it would probably have to develop a censorship system — most Chinese companies use a combination of automated software and employees — to eliminate sensitive articles from feeds."
United States

NSF Awards $74.5 Million To Support Interdisciplinary Cybersecurity Research ( 9

aarondubrow writes: The National Science Foundation announced $74.5 million in grants for basic research in cybersecurity. Among the awards are projects to understand and offer reliability to cryptocurrencies; invent technologies to broadly scan large swaths of the Internet and automate the detection and patching of vulnerabilities; and establish the science of censorship resistance by developing accurate models of the capabilities of censors. According to NSF, long-term support for fundamental cybersecurity research has resulted in public key encryption, software security bug detection, spam filtering and more.

Jimmy Wales and Former NSA Chief Ridicule Government Plans To Ban Encryption 176

Mickeycaskill writes: Jimmy Wales has said government leaders are "too late" to ban encryption which authorities say is thwarting attempts to protect the public from terrorism and other threats. The Wikipedia founder said any attempt would be "a moronic, very stupid thing to do" and predicted all major web traffic would be encrypted soon. Wikipedia itself has moved towards SSL encryption so all of its users' browsing habits cannot be spied on by intelligence agencies or governments. Indeed, he said the efforts by the likes of the NSA and GCHQ to spy on individuals have actually made it harder to implement mass-surveillance programs because of the public backlash against Edward Snowden's revelations and increased awareness of privacy. Wales also reiterated that his site would never co-operate with the Chinese government on the censorship of Wikipedia. "We've taken a strong stand that access to knowledge is a principle human right," he said. derekmead writes with news that Michael Hayden, the former head of the CIA and the NSA, thinks the US government should stop railing against encryption and should support strong crypto rather than asking for backdoors. The US is "better served by stronger encryption, rather than baking in weaker encryption," he said during a panel on Tuesday.

Under Public Pressure, India Withdraws Draft Encryption Policy 35

An anonymous reader writes: The government of India withdrew its draft policy on encryption owing to public responses just a day after releasing the document. The Communications and Information Technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said — "I read the draft. I understand that the manner in which it is written can lead to misconceptions. I have asked for the draft policy to be withdrawn and reworded." While it is encouraging that the government recognized it mistake and withdrew, many fear that this is part of a larger problem when it comes to this government taking technology policy decisions. Recently, the government was in the dock for its lack of clarity on Net Neutrality.

India's Worrying Draft Encryption Policy 114

knwny writes: The government of India is working on a new National Encryption Policy the contents of which have raised a few alarms.Among other things, the policy states that citizens and businesses must save all encrypted messages (including personal or unofficial ones) and their plaintext copies for 90 days and make them available to law enforcement agencies as and when demanded. The policy also specifies that only the government of India shall define the algorithms and key sizes for encryption in India. The policy is posted on this website.

Delete, Dump and Destroy: Canada's Government Data Severely Compromised 85

sandbagger writes: Stories about government data and historical records being deleted, burned — even tossed into Dumpsters — have become so common in recent years that many Canadians may feel inured to them. But such accounts are only the tip of a rapidly melting iceberg. A months-long Maclean's investigation, which includes interviews with dozens of academics, scientists, statisticians, economists and librarians, has found that the federal government's 'austerity' program, which resulted in staff cuts and library closures (16 libraries since 2012) — as well as arbitrary changes to policy, when it comes to data — has led to a systematic erosion of government records far deeper than most realize, with the data and data-gathering capability we do have severely compromised as a result.

Robotics Researcher Starts Campaign To Ban Development of Sexbots 536

Earthquake Retrofit writes: A robotics ethicist from the UK's De Montfort University has started a campaign to ban the development and use of sex robots. "She believes that they reinforce traditional stereotypes of women and the view that a relationship need be nothing more than physical." The campaign was spurred by news that some companies claim to be fairly far along in development of such technology. One company even plans to start selling them later this year. The campaign's goals and concerns include "We propose that the development of sex robots will further reduce human empathy that can only be developed by an experience of mutual relationship," and, "We challenge the view that the development of adults and child sex robots will have a positive benefit to society, but instead further reinforce power relations of inequality and violence."
The Courts

YouTube 'Dancing Baby' Copyright Ruling Sets Pre-Trial Fair Use Guideline 127

Mr. Droopy Drawers writes with news that the famous "Dancing Baby" case will move forward to trial, after a pre-trial ruling Monday that's already unpopular with the copyright holders on one side of the case. The New York Times reports that a three-judge panel has "ruled that copyright holders must consider fair use before asking services like YouTube to remove videos that include material they control. ... [The guideline] "sends a strong message that copyright law does not authorize thoughtless censorship of lawful speech," Corynne McSherry, the legal director for Electronic Frontier Foundation, said in a statement." Mr. Droopy Drawers adds, "Of course, the RIAA is none too happy about the ruling saying, that it puts undue burden on copyright holders. However, the judge countered, 'Even paying "lip service" to the consideration of fair use is not enough, and could expose a copyright holder to liability.'"

(Also covered in an AP story carried by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.)

Report: Google Will Return To China 82

An anonymous reader writes: Google famously withdrew from mainland China in 2010 after fending off a series of cyberattacks from local sources. Now, according to a (paywalled) report from The Information, the company is working on plans to return. "As part of the deal Google is looking to strike, Google would follow the country's laws and block apps that the government objects to, one person told The Information." They're also seeking approval for a Chinese version of Google Play.

Assange Says Harrods Assisting Metro Police in 'Round-the-Clock Vigil' 275

The Daily Mail reports that Julian Assange seems to have yet another foe (or at least friend of a foe) watching persistently while he stays put in the Ecuadorean embassy in London: Harrod's Department Store. The Metro Police, according to Assange, have developed a relationship with the store, and are using that relationship to facilitate their full-time observation of his roosting place in the embassy. When the founder of Wikileaks says, "We have obtained documents from Harrods [saying that] police have people stationed 24 hours a day in some of the opposing buildings Harrods controls," it seems likely that those documents actually exist.

Malaysia Blocking Websites Based On Political Content 121

An anonymous reader writes: A few days ago Slashdot carried a piece of news from Malaysia whereby [news] websites based in Malaysia must be registered. Now comes the news that Malaysia is actively blocking websites which carry political opinion contrary to those of the ruling elite. Granted, Malaysia is no US of A nor Europe, but the world must understand that Malaysia is the only country in the world where racial apartheid laws are still being actively practiced — and have received endorsement from the ruling elite which has controlled Malaysia for the past 58 years. (Wikipedia lists some other candidates for modern-day apartheid in its entry on Contemporary segregation.)