Tag: censorship

What a load of Bologna – Facebook bans Poseidon’s penis

nepture-bologna2Facebook might have a problem when it comes to spotting fake news, but when it comes to a breast or willy its censors are out in force and apparently can stop Greek gods in their tracks.

However, it seems that its censors have a problem when it comes to real body parts and those that have been created by human hands. Or those bits which were inspired by the gods themselves.

Italian writer Elisa Barbari decided to use a picture of a local Bologna icon — the statue of Poseidon — on her Facebook page. But it seems that he powers that be thought that Poseidon in the altogether was too much for the retired army colonels, monks, nuns and other looneys who frequent the social notworking site.

Barbari said she received a message from Facebook’s censors that said, in part, her image contained “content that is explicitly sexual and which shows to an excessive degree the body, concentrating unnecessarily on body parts.”

The statue was made by a bloke called Giambologna in the 1560s. Despite being in Roman Catholic Italy it has not managed to offend anyone.

The statue merely depicts Neptune holding a trident.  He does not look particularly proud but then he has been swimming.

Barbari said Facebook was very explicit about what constitutes explicit. The company’s message to her also read: “The use of images or video of nude bodies or plunging necklines is not allowed, even if the use is for artistic or educational reasons.”

Facebook’s censors, like film censors, have serious trouble telling what should be covered up and end up becoming a little like those in Saudi Arabia. In September it killed off an image of a naked child during the Vietnam War that had appeared on a Norwegian newspaper’s Facebook page.

It took the intervention of the paper’s editor-in-chief and the country’s prime minister to get the company to see sense. What chance has a major deity who can cause earthquakes got?  Hopefully the Earth shaker will plunge his fork into Silicon Valley and remind Facebook who is boss.

Barbari’s Facebook page is using a snap of statue from behind, apparently Poseidon’s arse is not offensive.

Microsoft’s Chinese AI is clever enough to censor itself

beijing cybercafeSoftware King of the World has admitted that its Chinese flavoured AI chat bot will not talk about anything that the authorities behind the bamboo curtain don’t want them to talk about.

Xiaoice would not directly respond to questions surrounding topics deemed sensitive by the Chinese state including the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 or “Steamed Bun Xi,” a nickname of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“Am I stupid? Once I answer you’d take a screengrab,” read one answer to a question that contained the words “topple the Communist Party.”

Mentioning Donald “Prince of Orange” Trump also drew an evasive response from the chat bot. “I don’t want to talk about it,” Xiaoice says. Fair enough who does?

Microsoft has admitted that there was some filtering around Xiaoice’s interaction.

“We are committed to creating the best experience for everyone chatting with Xiaoice,” a Microsoft spokesperson said. “With this in mind, we have implemented filtering on a range of topics.” The tech giant did not further elaborate to which specific topics the filtering applied.

Microsoft says that Xiaoice engages in conversations with over 40 million Chinese users on social media platform like Weibo and WeChat.

Big Content orders old version of Ubuntu to be censored

she-wronged-him-right-c2a9-paramountWhile Google is normally pretty good at stopping daft take-down requests from the movie studios, it seems to have missed a doozy.

Paramount Pictures ordered a takedown of a link to a 32-bit alternate install image Ubuntu 12.04.2 LTS because it apparently infringed on Paramount movie ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction‘.

The link pointed to a stock and dated old Ubuntu release which has nothing to do with the god awful flick.

For some reason Google has complied with the request and scrubbed the link to the page in question from its search index.

Fortunately, only a single URL was affected by this notice, and it is a URL pointing to an old version of Ubuntu that few people are likely to search for.

Big Content floods Google with millions of take down requests.  The fact it has failed to stop any piracy and ends up taking down legit content is probably a sign that whatever method it is using is not working.

“Sky’s the limit” as it starts UK censorship of the Internet

cameron_pigGateDavid “I love bacon” Cameron’s dream of censored internet in the UK is going ahead, despite his 10exit from Downing Street.

Cameron felt that the UK would be a happy place if the great unwashed were not allowed to watch internet porn, making it available only to those who splash out on a VPN.  The move was also supposed to protect children who, rather than seeing porn on the PCs, would be free to be abandoned by their parents in pubs.

Murdoch’s Sky is enabling adult content filtering by default for all new customers. This means that if you want to see porn you have to specifically ask the nice woman who signs you up for the service “yes I want to see donkey porn”.

Murdoch, who is not normally a fan of censorship, claims that Sky wants to “help families protect their children from inappropriate content” even if the service is not being flogged to families or is going to a family which has parents who take their responsibly seriously.

The government has proposed that all money-making porn sites that operate in the UK need to have an age verification system in place, and in many ways Sky’s scheme is just an extension of the idea.

Sky’s approach, however, the reverse of similar systems used by other ISPs, Rather than asking customers if they want to enable the content filter, the question is flipped on its head so they are asked if they want to disable the option.

Announcing the filtering, Sky’s brand director for communications products, Lyssa McGowan, said: “From today, Sky Broadband Shield will be automatically switched on the moment a new customer activates their Sky Broadband. At the end of last year, we said that we wanted to do even more to help families protect their children from inappropriate content. The first time someone tries to access a filtered website, the account holder will be invited to amend the settings or turn it off altogether. It ensures a safer internet experience for millions of homes, while still giving account holders the flexibility to choose the settings most appropriate for their households.”

What though is being missed is that the decision to enable the filter by default was taken because only 5-10 percent of customers made use of the option when it was off by default. This would suggest that 90-95 per cent of Sky customers did not want censorship.  Imposing it would surely cost the outfit business.


China bans Apple mobile entertainment

Mao Tse Tung - Wikimedia CommonsAlready facing slumping iPhone Sales, the fruity cargo cult Apple will have to explain to Wall Street how it miffed the Chinese government so much that it was banned from running its mobile entertainment empire behind the Great Firewall of China.

Apple online book and film services were switched off over the weekend, which was a bit of a downer given that Jobs’ Mob hoped to spin the service as a way of making pots of cash while people were not buying their iPhones.

Apple’s favourite newspaper the New York Times reported that a state regulator demanded Apple halt the service. The move came after Beijing introduced regulations in March imposing strict curbs on online publishing, particularly for foreign firms.

Apple said in a statement on Thursday that it hopes to make the services available to customers in China as soon as possible and the New York Times said that Jobs Mob had a lot of contacts in the Chinese government who would help out.

However the Chinese government might be a little miffed with Apple. Jobs’ Mob  bragged before a senate committee that it had the power to tell the Chinese government that they were not allowed to lift data from iPhones.

Frank Gillett of research firm Forrester said that this might be the beginning of more pressure on Apple by the Chinese government.

The company released its book and movie services in China only late last year, leaving Chinese consumers little time to form a habit.

Chinese consumers’ appetite for the iphones is critical to quarterly earnings. Apple is expected to post its first-ever quarterly drop in iPhone sales, to about 50 million units, reflecting a saturated global market.

Wall Street expects adjusted earnings per share to drop 14 percent to $2.00 and revenue to drop 10 percent to $52.0 billion.


China gets around Cameron-style monitoring with word-play

cameronWhile David Cameron is confident that he can stamp out porn and terrorism with Chinese style monitoring and censorship, he should know that the Great Firewall of China has been bought to its knees by word play.

According to the BBC the Chinese have worked out that you can defeat the filter by replacing words which the firewall is looking for with words that it isn’t.

For example if you want to say that the government is a bunch of capitalist, corrupt, bribe merchants you use the word “Zhao.”  Zhao is the most common Chinese family name so the filters can’t pick it up, otherwise they will become completely clogged up in seconds.

But Zhao also happens to be the name of the Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang who died in 2005. So you can say A “Zhao family member” to refer to someone with a vested interest, someone who holds actual power.

Vincent Ni of the BBC Chinese Service says the way social media users are using “Zhao” is in line with a Chinese linguistic tradition which pre-dates the internet. “Chinese people have long used what are known as ‘oblique accusations’ which enable them to express their opinion when it would not be possible to make a direct criticism of those in authority.”

The method can be easily adapted on western social networking and has actually been used on satirical magazines like Private Eye where euphemisms “tired and emotional” replace more litigious phrases like “drunk in public” or “bacon lover” becomes Tory British Prime Minister with a tendency to try to control things he shouldn’t.

Apple peddles censored news

surprised-newspaper-readerFruity cargo cult Apple believes that there is a market for news “selected” for the needs of Apple fanboys..

The Apple News app is being billed as delivering readers a selection of stories from around the mediasphere that’s tailored to their specific interests and reading habits.

It claims that all its friends in the Tame Apple Press are signing up to join it.  In fact if you want to feel like being sick, you can always read what these “Apple partners” are saying about the awful service

“Like Apple Music before it, Apple News enjoys a distinct advantage over third-party competitors by virtue of coming preinstalled on every iPhone and iPad running iOS 9. Also like Apple Music before it, the app immediately impresses with its appealing interface—and gradually disappoints with its as-yet-unrealized potential,” enthused the Slate.

However the news system, which is supposed to protect you from the perils of click bait actually does stop decent stories going through.  It also gives you stories such as those which mention C list celebs and reality telly stars who no one should be interested in.

In fact, the signs are that what Apple wants you to read is probably not what you should be reading.  Whatever algorithms Apple is using is no better or worse than a human magazine editor.

However one thing is likely to be certain, you are not reading this story on Apple News.  Apple is a company which is famous for its reality distortion field.  It has a policy of not commenting on news which is unfavourable to it – unless it really has too.  Its recent statements about how well it is doing in China fly in the face of what analysts expect the company to archieve.

Trusting a company which operates in such a way selecting your news is insane.  How can you ever be sure that you will ever see a negative Apple story, or a piece of information you really need about your shiny too.


Football club replaces press with app

Stanley Matthews, WIkimedia CommonsLocal and other press have been banned from attending press conferences at Swindon Town FC in favour of a smartphone app.

According to the UK Press Gazette, questions from local newspaper the Swindon Advertiser are ignored.

Instead, journalists are expected to use a smartphone app called Fanzai which bills itself as a social networking site for both clubs and football players.

Local media were told that the football club wouldn’t be holding any press conferences.

But a writer at the Advertiser said Swindon only seemed to be the only football club using Fanzai.

The club said it is disappointed with the way it’s being portrayed. It said it has hired an “in house” journalist who will conduct all the interviews and then run these “stories” on its web site and via Fanzai.

Fanzai, the club said, “is a family friendly app which is free of the profanity and abuse that users may experience on existing social media”.

China takes aim at internet portals

I Ching trigramsIn a bid to further regulate the internet, the government run Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has been given the power to summon people running online news and information portals and bring them to account.

China is already one of the most highly regulated countries in the world and jealously protects its subjects from reading things it doesn’t want them to.

But today it extended its powers, according to regulated Chinese news service xinhuanet.com

CAC, it said, will be given the power to question executives if it believes their sites break the law – that ranges from publishing “false information”, pornography and rumours.

CAC said executives will be offered “guidance” and the ability to “correct errors” rather than receive punishment.

But it does not rule out punishing portals and news sites for their “violations” if the people running the web sites or portals don’t mend their ways.

Cameron’s censorship system kills off legitimate businesses

David-Cameron-at-the-EU-s-007British Prime Minster David “one is an ordinary bloke” Cameron’s censorship of the internet campaign is killing off legitimate businesses.

Cameron favoured internet censorship to protect “the children” from the perils of the internet, when they should be more worried about being left in pubs by their parents. He was also “lobbied” by high profile people in the movie industry to protect them from privacy.

However the blockade of the Pirate Bay by UK ISPs is causing trouble for CloudFlare. This is because one of a Pirate Bay proxy is hosted behind the same IP-addresses as a proxy site called ilikerainbows.co.uk.

In addition to blocking domain names, Sky also blocks IP-addresses. This allows the site to stop https connections to The Pirate Bay and its proxies, but when IP-addresses are shared with random other sites they’re blocked too.

CDN service CloudFlare, has found itself on the UK blocklist and any of its legitimate clients are blocked.

CloudFlare asked the proxy site to resolve the matter with Sky, or else it would remove the site from the network after 24 hours.

“If this issue does not get resolved with SkyB though we will need to route your domain off CloudFlare’s network as it is currently impacting other CloudFlare customers due to these blocked IP addresses.”

The operator of the “Rainbows” TPB proxy was surprised by Sky’s overbroad blocking techniques, but also by CloudFlare’s response. Would CloudFlare also kick out sites that are blocked in other countries where censorship is common?

This is not the first time that CloudFlare customers have been blocked by mistake. Earlier this year the same thing happened to sites that shared an IP-address with The Pirate Bay.

What is weird about the whole situation is that website blocking is not changing anything as pirates are getting around all the blocks. All that is happening is more real businesses are getting hit as collateral damage.