Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web, said he is alarmed at what has happened to it in the past year.
He said that the world needs to step in to reverse three new trends which could kill off the Internet as a useful tool for humanity
Sir Tim cited compromised personal data, fake news and the lack of regulation in political advertising, which he says threatens democracy.
“Even in countries where we believe governments have citizens’ best interests at heart, watching everyone, all the time is simply going too far. It creates a chilling effect on free speech and stops the web from being used as a space to explore important topics, like sensitive health issues, sexuality or religion.”
When Berners-Lee submitted his original proposal for the Web, he imagined it as an open platform that would allow everyone, everywhere to share information, access opportunities and collaborate across geographic and cultural boundaries.
He said that his faith has been badly shaken by a series of high-profile hacks and the dissemination of fake news by data science and armies of bots. The scourge of fake news and cyberweapons pose a significantly greater threat.
A coalition of Dutch film and TV producers is suing the local government claiming that they are responsible for the country’s high piracy rates.
They claim the government tolerated and even encouraged unauthorised downloading for years and want the government to foot the bill.
Dutch local law traditionally allowed piracy, but in 2014 when the European Court of Justice ruled it to be unlawful. The Dutch Government quickly outlawed unauthorized downloading to conform with the law.
But Big Content said that the government did not do enough to go after pirates. The government denied these allegations, pointing out that the filmmakers could go after downloaders directly if they want to recoup their losses.
Big Content must prove that it had suffered financial loss due to piracy, which should not be too difficult, but it might be tricky to calculate the scale of the damages since a pirate download doesn’t directly translate to a lost sale.
Last year film industry group VPSO already asked for $1.27 billion in damages for piracy losses that were allegedly suffered since 2004.
Facebook has suspended its location-sharing feature in Italy after a Milan court ruled last year that the social networking giant had violated competition and copyright laws by effectively copying a similar app from a local startup.
Italian software developer Business Competence filed a lawsuit in 2013, accusing Facebook’s Nearby feature of having copied its Faround application, which helps users locate Facebook friends in the vicinity.
Facebook launched its Nearby feature only months after Faround was included in the social network’s app store in 2012.
The complaint alleged that the two applications were “extremely similar” in their functions and general set-up.
Facebook said it has discontinued offering what it now calls Nearby Places in Italy while it appeals against the court’s ruling.
The court ordered Facebook to suspend Nearby Places in Italy or daily pay a fine of 5,000 euros for copyright infringement and unfair competition. It said that Facebook may have to pay further damages to be determined at a later stage.
Facebook wanted the order put on hold while it awaited a ruling on the merits of the case, but its request was rejected by the court in December. It said on Monday that it is complying with the decision pending its appeal.
Facebook insists that the claims were without merit and the order was wrongly decided, but we have respectfully complied with the order in the interim.
Business Competence’s Faround app was launched in September 2012 and quickly gained popularity among Italian users.
Faround was the most downloaded new social networking app in the country but downloads plunged the month after Facebook launched its own Nearby feature on December 17 of that year.
“It was a big blow to us to see that we were losing everything we had invested (into Faround),” Business Competence Chief Executive Sara Colnago said. It had cost the outfit half a million euros to build the app.
Despite getting a ruling from the Swedish Supreme Court, Big Content will have its work cut out trying to get Swedish ISPs to block The Pirate Bay.
Last week Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, Nordisk Film and the Swedish Film Industry ended a three year battle by getting a court to block a ‘pirate’ site
However other ISPs said that the ruling does not apply to them, so connectivity to the site will continue until a court orders otherwise. This means that Big Content will have to get a court order each time it wants to block the site for each ISP. It will then have to go through the whole performance again each time the Pirate site moves IP addresses.
There is also the chance that other courts might reject Big Content’s applications. In an October 2015 trial at the Stockholm District Court, Big Content lost a case and had to appeal.
Last Monday the court ruled that Bredbandsbolaget, the ISP at the centre of the action, must block The Pirate Bay.
Swedish ISPs don’t like the idea of becoming copyright policemen and are continuing to fight. Last week ISP Bahnhof even hinted that it may offer a technical solution to customers who are prevented from accessing the site.
Even the leading telecoms firms, which have been keener on striking an accord with Big Content say that they have no intention of blocking The Pirate Bay, unless it is forced to do so by law.
In a very British approach to online-piracy, the ISP Sky has asked its customers nicely to stop pirating content.
In an entry on its dedicated FAQs page, Sky has started sending out notices to those who have been sharing content on their broadband connection.
“However, if you continue to share content illegally using your broadband connection, Sky will request that you take immediate steps to remove or disable any file sharing software that is being used to share copyrighted content illegally.”
The whole thing is based on the premise that people who share online content don’t know it is illegal. Something which has been ruled as “somewhat silly” by recent studies which show that such notices are not worth the energy as people who know enough to load a torrent know exactly what they are doing.
The scheme, which falls under the Creative Content UK initiative, is supported by most of the major ISPs including BT, Virgin Media, TalkTalk, and Sky Broadband, they’ve all started sending out educational alerts to users suspected of engaging in piracy.
Google announced that it has worked with Facebook and Mozilla to make page reloads in Chrome for desktop and mobile about 28 percent faster.
The big idea is that if you can cut down the number of network requests the browser makes to see if the images and other resources it cached the first time you went to a site are still valid you can speed things up rather a lot.
Writing in his bog, Google engineer Takashi Toyoshima said that users typically reload pages because they either look broken or because the content looks like it should have been updated. When browser developers first added this feature, it was mostly because broken pages were common. Today, users mostly reload pages because the content of a site seems stale.
Google simplified Chrome’s reload behavior and it now only validates the main resource. Facebook, just like other pages, says its pages now reload 28 percent faster, too.
Google admits that is a very minor change but the effects aren’t so minor. They estimate that the new method reduces the number of validation requests by as much as 60 per cent, making pages reload 28 per cent faster. And the sooner the browser finishes reloading a page, the sooner it can stop using data and hardware resources.
Google kicked 200 publishers off one of its ad networks in the fourth quarter, partly in response to the proliferation of fake news sites.
The sites were banned from its AdSense network and is part of an update to an existing policy that prohibits sites from misleading users with their content.
Google regularly weeds out advertisers for false or misleading claims, but impersonating news sites became an addition following the rapid rise of fake news, or propaganda sites.
Publishers were banned in November and December and included sites that impersonate real news organisations through shortened top-level domains, according to Google’s 2016 “bad ads” report, normally released at the beginning of each year.
So-called fake news publishers will sometimes take advantage of “.co” domains by appearing like legitimate news sites that would normally end in “.com”.
Google said in 2016 it took down 1.7 billion ads for violations, compared to 780 million in 2015. Google attributes the increase in ad removals to a combination of advertiser behaviour and improvements in technology to detect offending ads.
The troubled search engine outfit Yahoo is being investigated by Inspector Knacker of the US yard and financial regulators over its handling of two huge data breaches.
Yahoo was hacked in 2014 and huge amounts of personal data was stolen. Yahoo, which was a little concerned about more publicity failed to make the news public.
Now the FBI is looking into whether Yahoo’s two massive data breaches should have been reported sooner to investors. If Yahoo faces any fall-out from the case then it could be a major test in defining when a company is required to disclose a hack.
For those who came in late, the first data breach in 2013 that involved more than one billion users’ accounts. The second was in 2014, an intrusion which involved about 500 million accounts. SEC has requested documents from Yahoo.
The agency has been considering a model case for cybersecurity rules it issued in 2011. Yahoo has said that it was cooperating with the SEC, Federal Trade Commission and other federal, state, and foreign governmental officials and agencies including “several State Attorneys General, and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York”.
When Yahoo reported the 2014 breach, it said that evidence linked it to a state-sponsored attacker. It has not announced a suspected responsibility for the larger 2013 intrusion, but the company has said it does not believe the two breaches are linked.
The glorious Chinese government has set up a $14.55 billion fund to support investment in the internet sector.
According to the official news agency Xinhua the fund is backed by China’s cabinet [shurely the china cabinet.ed] and is designed to help turn China into a major player in internet technology, said the report.
Some of the cash has already been raised from major banks and telecoms firms including ICBC, China Mobile and China Unicom. The idea is to have a pile of cash which companies using the internet can apply to the fund for investment.
China said earlier this month it would invest huge amounts of cash between 2016 and 2018 to develop information infrastructure.
Facebook said it will update its social media platforms in Germany within weeks to reduce the dissemination of fake news.
German Justice Minister Heiko Mass has repeatedly called on Facebook to respect laws against defamation in Germany that are stricter than those in the United States.
The Germans are worried that fake news and “hate speech” on the internet could influence a parliamentary election in September in which chancellor Angela Merkel will seek a fourth term in office.
Now a Facebook note said the company would make it easier to report items suspected to be fake news and work with external fact-checking organisations.
“Last month we announced measures to tackle the challenge of fake news on Facebook,” the U.S. technology company’s German-language newsroom said.
“We will put these updates in place in Germany in the coming weeks.”
Its partners will be required to sing the U.S. Poynter International Fact-Checking Code of Principles, it said. Warning signs would be attached to reports identified as noncredible, and the reasons for the decision given.
Facebook would also make it impossible for spammers to forge the websites of reputable news agencies, it said.