Category: News

Techdirt asks court to throw out email defamation suit

Michael Masnick, who founded the Techdirt blog and invented the “Streisand effect.” has asked a court for a defamation lawsuit against him to be thrown out.

Masnick was sued last month by Shiva Ayyadurai, a scientist and entrepreneur who claims to have invented e-mail in 1978 while at a medical college in New Jersey.

In his motion, Masnick claims that Ayyadurai “is seeking to use the muzzle of a defamation action to silence those who question his claim to historical fame”.

His suit says: “Defendants believe that because the critical elements of electronic mail were developed long before Ayyadurai’s 1978 computer program, his claim to be the “inventor of e-mail” is false”.

Techdirt’s allegedly defamatory statements are constitutionally protected opinion. “This lawsuit is a misbegotten effort to stifle historical debate, silence criticism, and chill others from continuing to question Ayyadurai’s grandiose claims”, Masnick’s lawyers wrote.

The tricky point of the court case appears to be the fact that Techdirt referred to Ayyadurai as a “fake,” a “liar,” or a “fraud” by putting forth “bogus” claims. Masnick insists that such phrases are “rhetorical hyperbole” meant to express opinions and said that the law provides no redress for harsh name-calling.

Techdirt uses “frequently sarcastic, obviously… humorous” subheadings and “casual and often hyperbolic” tone.

Masnick said that the Ayyadurai repeatedly attacks the conclusion that he is not the ‘inventor of email. But bo matter how fervently plaintiff may insist that he alone “invented email,” the law does not entitle him to recover damages simply because Techdirt has uttered a “subjective characterisation” to the contrary.

Both Ayyadurai and Masnick acknowledge that the MAILBOX program was created at MIT in the 1960s and that Ray Tomlinson created the “@” symbol protocol in 1971.

Ayyadurai calls the ARPANET creations “command-line protocols for transferring text messages” or “primitive electronic communication systems.” In Masnick’s view, Ayyadurai doesn’t dispute the historical facts, but instead “attacks Techdirt’s opinion that because those developments implemented the essential features of ’email’ therefore Ayyadurai’s claimed ‘inventor’ status is unwarranted.”

Techdirt admits that Ayyadurai created a useful software program while he was at UMDNJ and even “applauds it.” Masnick also said Ayyadurai “should be quite proud of what he’s done”.

Techdirt’s “general tenor” reinforces that it is a blog of opinionated commentary. The posts in question were written in first person, “resemble letters and op-ed columns,” and relate to a “heated debate” over the origins of email that dates to at least 2012.

Masnick asked for the lawsuit to be thrown out under California’s anti-SLAPP law. If successful, an anti-SLAPP ruling could result in some of his legal fees being covered.

That motion argues that California law should be followed because Masnick, Techdirt.com, and parent company Floor64 all reside in California and have no connections to Massachusetts, where Ayyadurai lives and filed his lawsuit.

Part of the problem here is that Tech Dirt does not really have the money to be fighting this case, nor can it afford to lose. Ayyadurai has already settled one case in his favour because the magazine in question went bust and had to pay him off.

Blackberry sued by former workers

Troubled phone maker Blackberry is facing a class-action lawsuit from more than 300 former employees.

The outfit is accused of denying employees their termination entitlements by transferring them to a partner company and, once they had accepted employment there, firing them. The former employees were then allegedly given their final date of work.

“Blackberry’s actions amount to a termination of the employees’ employment. This entitles these employees to statutory, common law, and/or contractual entitlements on termination.”

Blackberry hasn’t commented on the case yet, though the suit said that it has refused to pay those entitlements and the transferred employees have lost their accumulated years of service.

In 2016, Blackberry also laid off around 200 employees from Waterloo and Florida, which followed an announcement in 2012 to cut over 5,000 jobs over the a multi-year period.

Blackberry is going down the toilet lately. No one is buying its phones and its current business plan is to flog its software and general patent trollage.

Blackerry said that it has reviewed the allegations in the lawsuit, and was confident it complied with all its obligations to its employees. It said the case “lacks merit”, and it will defend it “vigorously”.

Gates calls for Robot tax

Software king and sworn enemy of the mosquito, Sir William Gates III, has been suggesting that companies pay a tax on the robots they use.

Gate’s reasoning is that if a robot takes human job, it should continue to pay that human’s taxes.

In a recent interview with Quartz, Bill Gates said the move would temporarily slow the spread of automation and to fund other types of employment.

Money gained from taxing robots could then be used to finance jobs taking care of elderly people or working with kids in schools — jobs which humans are particularly well suited for:

Gates said that governments must oversee such programs rather than relying on businesses, to redirect the jobs to help people with lower incomes.

EU lawmakers considered a proposal to tax robot owners to pay for training for workers who lose their jobs. In the end though the legislators rejected it. Gate said that governments should be willing to raise the tax level and even slow down the speed of automation.

He said that technology and business cases for replacing humans in a wide range of jobs are arriving simultaneously, and it’s important to be able to manage that displacement.

“You cross the threshold of job replacement of certain activities all sort of at once,” Gates said. Warehouse work is already doomed.

FBI running three probes into Russian gaming of the US elections

The Untouchables have three separate probes into the Russian hacking of the US presidential elections.

For those who came in late, it is widely believed Tsar Vladimir Putin ordered his crack team of hackers to game the US presidential election to put a wealthy orange businessmen who owes him and his Russian chums rather a lot of cash in the top job.

Donald (Prince of Orange) and Tsar Putin have denied it, but then it is likely they would. Trumpets who support Donald Trump have been appearing all over the internet saying that “there is no proof” despite rather a lot of evidence that this sort of thing was going on.

The FBI’s Pittsburgh field office, which runs many cyber security investigations, is trying to identify the people behind breaches of the Democratic National Committee’s computer systems, the officials said.

Those breaches, in 2015 and the first half of 2016, exposed the internal communications of party officials as the Democratic nominating convention got underway and helped undermine support for Hillary Clinton.

The Pittsburgh case has progressed furthest, but Justice Department officials in Washington believe there is not enough clear evidence yet for an indictment, two of the sources said.

The bureau’s San Francisco office is trying to identify the people who called themselves “Guccifer 2” and posted emails stolen from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta’s account, the sources said.

Those emails contained details about fundraising by the Clinton Foundation and other topics.

Beyond the two FBI field offices, FBI counterintelligence agents based in Washington are pursuing leads from informants and foreign communications intercepts, two of the people said.

This counterintelligence inquiry includes but is not limited to examination of financial transactions by Russian individuals and companies who are believed to have links to Trump associates. The transactions under scrutiny involve investments by Russians in overseas entities that appear to have been undertaken through middlemen and front companies, two people briefed on the probe said.

Scott Smith, the FBI’s new assistant director for cybercrime, declined to comment this week on which FBI offices were doing what or how far they had progressed. It is hard to see him being enthusiastic to find a culprit as he might find himself having arrest the bloke who appointed him,

A White House spokesman pointed to a comment Trump made during the campaign, in which he said: “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia, but I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.”

Trump claims he has no business connections to Russia and that reports in the New York Times that Americans with ties to Trump or his campaign had repeated contacts with current and former Russian intelligence officers before the November election were fake news.

EU watchdogs want privacy assurances from Trump

European Union data privacy watchdogs are demanding that a move by US President Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump to crack down on illegal immigration will not undermine a transatlantic pact protecting the privacy of Europeans’ data.

Trump wrote an executive order on January 25 aiming to toughen enforcement of US immigration law. It ordered US agencies to “exclude persons who are not United States citizens or lawful permanent residents from the protections of the Privacy Act regarding personally identifiable information.”

This basically killed off any agreement that the EU had on safe harbour data transfers. It means that if there is a US company running a cloud operation in the EU it has to turn over any data on anyone.

The EU’s data protection authorities said they would write to U.S. authorities “pointing out concerns and asking for clarifications on the possible impact of the Executive Order” on that framework, known as the Privacy Shield, as well as on another agreement protecting law enforcement data shared between the United States and the EU.

The EU-US Privacy Shield is used by almost 2,000 companies including Google, Facebook and Microsoft to store data about EU citizens on US servers and makes possible about $260 billion of trade in digital services.

It replaced a previous system thrown out by the top EU court on the grounds it allowed US spies unfettered access to data stored on US servers.

The European Commission press office has played down concerns over any threat to the privacy of Europeans’ data, saying the US Privacy Act had never protected Europeans’ data and so any changes to it would not affect EU-US data transfer agreements.

But it might be that the European court might see things differently.

Seven-year-old asks Google for a job

An “entrepreneurial” Hereford seven year old wrote to Google for a job and the outfit’s CEO replied.

Apparently, it was Chloe Bridgewater’s second letter, the first was to Father Christmas, and it was addressed to “dear Google boss”.

Much to everyone’s surprise, CEO Sundar Pichai wrote back and was not a dick about it.

After all he could have said Google only hires Chinese men at the moment, or that she lacked the five years’ programming experience before she could even considered.

Instead he told Chloe to work hard and follow her dreams.

Her dad Andy said the family was gobsmacked.

” I don’t think Chloe could understand the magnitude of the reaction she’d got afterwards,” he said.

“She’s got a great entrepreneurial spirit. Ever since nursery, she’s always been told in school reports she’s bright, hard-working and polite – we’re very proud of her and her younger sister [Hollie, five] is similar,” he said.

Pichai  wrote:

“Thank you so much for your letter. I’m glad that you like computers and robots, and hope that you will continue to learn about technology.

“I think if you keep working hard and following your dreams, you can accomplish everything you set your mind to – from working at Google to swimming at the Olympics.

“I look forward to receiving your job application when you are finished with school! 🙂

“All the best to you and your family.”

The inspiration for Chloe’s letter had been her internet research showing Google’s offices including bean bags, go karts and slides but she also highlighted a keen interest in computers which we thought would have been handy.

Chloe also admitted to an interest in a job in a chocolate factory or as a swimmer at the Olympics in the letter so it could go anyway.

Woolly mammoth making a come back from the dead

While the Dodo has gone the way of the dodo, boffins who have never read Jurassic Park are close to bringing back the woolly mammoth.

Without needing to get any public liability insurance, the team of boffins are on the brink of resurrecting the ancient beast in a revised form, through an ambitious feat of genetic engineering.

Speaking ahead of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston this week, the scientist leading the “de-extinction” effort said the Harvard team is just two years away from creating a hybrid embryo, in which mammoth traits would be programmed into an Asian elephant.

“Our aim is to produce a hybrid elephant-mammoth embryo,” said Prof George Church. “Actually, it would be more like an elephant with many mammoth traits. We’re not there yet, but it could happen in a couple of years.”

So not quite the animal that died out 4,000 years ago but more a “mammophant”, would be partly elephant, but with features such as small ears, subcutaneous fat, long shaggy hair and cold-adapted blood.

The mammoth genes for these traits are spliced into the elephant DNA using the powerful gene-editing tool, Crispr.

So far, the team have stopped at the cell stage, but are now moving towards creating embryos – although, they said that it would be many years before any serious attempt at producing a living creature.

“We’re working on ways to evaluate the impact of all these edits and basically trying to establish embryogenesis in the lab,” said Church.

Since starting the project in 2015 the researchers have increased the number of “edits” where mammoth DNA has been spliced into the elephant genome from 15 to 45.

Some of these modifications could help preserve the Asian elephant, which is also in trouble and might follow its shaggy ancestor into the elephant species grave yard.

Some other scientists are a little worried that the genetics boffins have not thought things through enough.

Matthew Cobb, professor of zoology at the University of Manchester, points out that the mammoth was not simply a set of genes, it was a social animal, as is the modern Asian elephant. What will happen when the elephant-mammoth hybrid is born? How will it be greeted by other elephants?

The woolly mammoth roamed across Europe, Asia, Africa and North America during the last Ice Age and vanished about 4,000 years ago, probably due to a combination of climate change and the fact that mammoth steaks were rather delicious.

 

Zuckerburg talks bulwarks about isolationism

Facebook's Zuckerberg - Wikimedia CommonsSocial notworking Tsar Mark Zuckerberg was speaking a load of bulwarks against rising isolationism.

In a note, he wrote to Facebook users and claimed that the social notworking site could be the “social infrastructure” for the globe and a bulwark against isolationism.

“Across the world there are people left behind by globalization, and movements for withdrawing from global connection,” Zuckerberg wrote.

The question, the 32-year-old executive said, was whether “the path ahead is to connect more or reverse course,” adding that he stands for bringing people together.

Zuckerberg quoted Abraham Lincoln, the US president during the country’s 19th century Civil War and waxed rather philosophical saying that the dogmas of the quiet past, were inadequate to the stormy present.

Facebook could move far beyond its roots as a network for friends and families to communicate, suggesting that it can play a role in five areas, all of which he referred to as “communities,” ranging from strengthening traditional institutions, to providing help during and after crises, to boosting civic engagement.

In comments on Facebook, some users praised Zuckerberg’s note for staying positive, while others declared “globalism” dead.

Facebook has been under pressure to monitor closely police hoaxes, fake news and other controversial content, although the concerns have had little impact on its finances. The company reported 2016 revenue of $27.6 billion, up 54 percent from a year earlier.

One area where Zuckerberg wrote that Facebook would do better would be suggesting “meaningful communities.” Some 100 million users are members of groups that are “very meaningful” to them, he wrote, representing only about five percent of users.

Facebook is also using artificial intelligence more to flag photos and videos that need human review, Zuckerberg wrote.

While there is much that can be agreed with in Zuckerberg manifesto he did avoid one word which would have been nice to hear “privacy.”

Simple Javascript hack breaks most chip protection

Five researchers from the Vrije University in the Netherlands have put together an attack that can be carried out via JavaScript code and break ASLR protection on at least 22 microprocessor architectures.

This includes hardware from Intel, AMD, ARM, Allwinner, Nvidia and all the other names in the industry.

Dubbed ASLRCache, or AnC, the attack focuses on the memory management unit (MMU), a lesser known component of many CPU architectures which improves performance for cache management operations.

The researchers worked out that this component shares some of its cache with untrusted applications, including browsers.

All it took was a bit of malicious JavaScript that specifically targeted this shared memory space and attempted to read its content.

Basically the AnC attack can break ASLR and allow the attacker to read portions of the computer’s memory. From there it is possible to launch more complex exploits and escalate access to the entire OS.

Russian hackers seek to game Euro elections

After their success in helping get Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump elected in the US, Tsar Putin has set his Russian hackers gaming the EU elections, a US DoJ bloke has warned.

A former Justice Department official who served in the Obama administration said European countries must be willing to respond forcefully to efforts by Russia or others to use cyber-attacks to meddle in their elections.

While the US was also aware that attacks were taking place they didn’t manage to stop Putin getting a bloke who owes him and his chums money from getting elected.

Former Assistant Attorney General John Carlin, who ran the national security division at the Justice Department and oversaw the pursuit of cyber criminals, said the United States did not do enough to deter the hacking and leaking of Democratic Party emails during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“What we did was too late. We weren’t bringing deterrence at all to the table.”

Carlin warned that countries with upcoming elections should be prepared to offer forceful and timely responses to cyber-attacks.

“Pre-election, it’s vital that not just the United States but partners like Germany, like France make it clear what the red line is, that there’s going to be strong deterrence and that in terms of deterrence, our policy has got to be we are going to take action until the action stops,” Carlin said.

Elections are set this year in European countries including France, Germany and the Netherlands.