Tag: democracy

Facebook blames policy changes on low user vote

Despite claiming to offer its users some semblance of democracy, Facebook has made the changes it wants to its policies – blaming users themselves for not bothering to vote on a topic which received little promotion from the company.

Last week, the site opened the polls to give its users the chance to vote on how Facebook handles people’s data, and, ironically, a plan to get rid of the site’s policy to let users vote in the first place. But it has now said that participation was not high enough to reach a consensus from its users.

According to Facebook’s governance page, around 670,000 users voted, with roughly 88 percent rejecting the new changes. However, the total number of votes needed to stop the company doing as it pleased was short of the 30 percent of the site’s billion active users, which Facebook required to make the vote count.

It has taken this as a sign to do as it pleases, despite those who did take the time to vote asking it not to make the changes.

Elliot Schrage, Vice President, Communications, Public Policy and Marketing recently caused an outrage after telling users that Facebook would be making updates to two policies which governed the site. This included the Data Use Policy, which explains how the company collects and used data when people use Facebook, and the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (SRR), which explained the terms governing the use of services.

However, with the low vote count, Facebook has spun its way into doing what it likes, placing the blame solely on its users. It means that user data can now be shared between Facebook-owned services, primarily Instagram, and will remove controls over who can message users.

Voting, which is triggered after 7,000 people comment on a Facebook update post, will also be abolished.

Content industry threatens Pirate Party over Pirate Bay proxy

Music industry group the BPI is furious with the British Pirate Party for running its Pirate Bay proxy.

According to TorrentFreak, the BPI is planning to sue the UK Pirate Party into a coma after it refused to take its Pirate Bay proxy offline.

The BPI asked the Pirates to shut down the website, but quickly turned to threats whenit didn’t get its way.

Pirate Party leader Loz Kaye said the party will stand behind its principles, or rather its lawyers, and that could mean an expensive legal battle.

After the High Court ordered several UK ISPs to block subscriber access to The Pirate Bay earlier this year, millions of users started using the UK Pirate Party’s proxy service. In fact it is one of the most popular sites in the UK.

The problem is that any legal action could turn into a financial disaster for the political party. However, it says that it will do everything in its power to keep the proxy online. The Party points out that it is by no means clear that allowing access to The Pirate Bay is against the law.

The party is becoming increasingly concerned about how the BPI has been given too much power to decide on which websites should be blocked. Until last week the Pirates had not been contacted by anyone to take its proxy down.

Copyright holders have taken the proxy site of the Dutch Pirate Party offline. The court forbade the Pirates from hosting or even linking to Pirate Bay proxies. The Dutch Pirate Party announced that it would appeal the verdict, but is saving up its pennies so that it can hold an appeal.

The general feeling among the Pirate Party members is that Big Content is using its legal muscle to get them to fold. If it manages this, it will be the first time that corporate interests have killed off a UK political party.

A BPI spokesperson said: “There is no issue with Pirate Party themselves, or Pirate Party expressing their views on any other section of their website.”

Facebook to users: vote to keep your vote

Facebook has decided to try and calm the furore surrounding its privacy policy by giving users the chance to vote on how they want the site to be run.

The site has opened the polls  to give its users the chance to vote on a number of proposed policy changes as to how Facebook governs its site.  These include how Facebook handles people’s data, and, ironically, a plan to get rid of the site’s policy to let users vote in the first place.

The proposed votes are a result of a backlash after Elliot Schrage, Vice President, Communications, Public Policy and Marketing , announced some changes to Facebook’s policy last week.

At the time he told users that Facebook would be making updates to two policies which governed the site. This included the Data Use Policy, which explains how the company collects and used data when people use Facebook, and  the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (SRR), which explained the terms governing the use of services.

He claimed that the company was thinking about withdrawing the voting rights of users and replacing it with a “more meaningful feedback and engagement tool”, CNET reports.

Of the 20,107, that commented on the post, many opposed their right to vote being taken away. This looks unlikely to change Facebook’s mind, though.

Under its guidelines, an enormous 300 million must vote against the changes. Facebook is seemingly banking on low figures – only 342,632 people voted last time.

 
 

Huawei says US democracy better than Chinese alternative

Huawei’s chairman in the USA has written an open letter to anyone who cares to read it, where, acting as spokesman for a company part-funded by the oppressive Chinese Communist Party, attempts a gushing appraisal for democracy in the United States.

“Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow,” Ken Hu quotes Abraham Lincoln as saying. Perhaps a more appropriate or apt line to pick would have been Lincoln’s: “If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?” Or even: “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”

Untrue rumours and allegations, he begins, in a letter trying to quell fear that Huawei has acted shadily behind the back of US senators on an acquisition bid for 3Leaf. “Futurewei, Huawei’s US subsidiary, purchased certain assets from 3Leaf, an insolvent technology start-up located in Santa Clara, in May and July 2010.”

It was “when 3Leaf was ceasing its operations and no other buyers for its intellectual property were forthcoming,” Hu says. He continues: “Huawei submitted a timely request to the Bureau of Industry and Security at the Department of Commerce in advance of completing the purchase.” Hu claims the Department of Commerce was not shaky and no licence was required to export technology. 

The inter-agency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States thought it smelled something fishy and stuck its nose in. Originally, Huawei intended to decline the CFIUS decision to withdraw: to “reveal the truth about Huawei”. Later on it realised it was causing a lot of hubbub and withdrew its 3Leaf acquisition application this February.

Later, in the open letter addressed to all of the United States, Hu attempts to dispel what he calls rumours about Huawei’s involvement with the Chinese military. It sheds some light on CEO Ren Zhengfei, claiming that the military allegation ties are simply because the top dog served in the People’s Liberation Army in 1974, in civil engineering. In 1982, he was invited to the National Congress of the Communist Party of China because of his “outstanding performance” – so no ties there, then.  As deputy director, Hu underlines that Ren had no military rank.

Throughout the entire letter, Hu bangs on about how much Huawei values the freedom that US democracy brings. It is gushing with references and even quotes Barack Obama on his hope speech. It must be noted that Huawei is, as a privately owned company, certainly part-funded by the Chinese government and the Bank of China. And speaking of openness and transparency – why has Huawei stayed so quiet until it accidentally became high profile for all the wrong reasons? Hu says simply that money from Chinese banks are part of a credit line to its customers, rather than directly to Huawei. 

“As of today, US$10 billion has been loaned to our customers from the China Development Bank,” Hu says. 

Concluding, Hu and Huawei invite the United States to openly voice its concerns about security so that they can answer them. “We remain open to any investigation deemed necessary by American authorities and we will continue to cooperate transparently with all government agencies.”

Russia bans YouTube for housing extremism

A Russian court in the Far Eastern Federal District has ordered all local internet service providers to block access to Youtube and four other websites which it believes harbour and promote “extremist” views.

The Komsomolsky-on-Amur court wanted the sites banned because Hitler’s writings, such as Mein Kampf, were available to read, while others had a video uploaded entitled “Russia for Russians”, which is a slogan used by far right groups in the country.

A few other countries have banned Youtube in recent years. In 2007 Thailand banned the site after a user uploaded a short film which showed grafitti over a picture of Thailand’s king. Insulting the king is illegal there and may result in several years of imprisonment. So the country decided to ban Youtube after Google, which likes to appear vocal on issues of free speech and censorship, refused to delete the video.

A more recent incident in May of this year had Pakistan ban Youtube, along with other popular websites like Facebook, Wikipedia, and Flickr. Pakistan said that Youtube was broadcasting “sacrilegious content” and needed to be banned. It raises serious questions about the balance between free speech and respect for cultural differences, and where, if anywhere, we draw the line.

In Russia, however, the internet service providers are not on board with the Youtube ban. At least one ISP, Rosnet, has said that it is appealing the ruling.

New laws were passed in Russia in early July which are aimed at curbing extremist views and propaganda, but they have been widely criticised by human rights activists and freedom of speech groups, which believe the laws in and of themselves are extreme.

The Moscow Helsinki Group, the oldest human rights group in Russia, is staunchly against the new laws which it believes are liable to abuse. It did not agree that a five year sentence was warranted for swearing at a foreign person, for example, which the laws potentially allow.

This latest step is a further sign of how far these measures can be taken.

Last year Russia banned gambling, hunting down and closing any previously legal casinos operating within the country. In efforts to tackle problems within its society it is becoming closer to policing the activities of all its citizens, which is a worrying sign for anyone concerned with democracy and free speech. But plenty of countries in the West raise eyebrows too.

Pirate Party discovers secret EU IP observatory

A Pirate Party MEP was shocked to discover that an EU IP observatory which uses taxpayers’ funds to police the internet looking for pirated software already existed.

Christian Engström was co-opted onto a legal affairs committee JURI in the European Parliament, which was looking at setting up an “IP Observatory” that should monitor and combat all kinds of intellectual property infringements, from commercial goods andcounterfeiting to kids downloading films and music.

The committee was in the process of drafting a resolution, known as the Gallo report, on the subject.

However Engström was incandescent with rage when he discovered that the Brussells Eureaucrats had already set the thing up.

The Observatory which has not got the official nod from MEPs said that its job was to improve the quality of information and statistics related to counterfeiting and piracy on the Internal Market of the EU identify and spread national best practice strategies and enforcement techniques from both the public as well as the private sector

The Observatory has already commenced work in a number of key areas. As an example, the Commission has carried out an exercise to identify structures and frameworks currently in place to combat IP infringements, within Member States.

Not surprisingly the development work is being taken care of by the content industry which not only knows of the Observatory’s existence but have been suggesting that their methodology of assessing piracy figures is the correct one.

Apparently private industry representatives from a broad range of European and national associations, regularly engaged and experienced in fighting counterfeiting and piracy, were invited to represent a wide diversity of sectors and geographical areas. These participants have also been invited to contribute to specialised working groups.

Member States designated national representatives to take part. Member States were asked to nominate representatives who have established relations with private industry and share a common know-how in fighting counterfeiting and piracy. The national representatives also have broad experience in internal and external coordination and are familiar with the design of consumer awareness-raising activities.

Engström said that with the Observatory clearly in place why did Brussels even ask the European Parliament’s views on this issue.

“We have been invited to hold an exchange of views in the JURI committee, and we are currently spending time on drafting a resolution on if and how the IP Observatory should be set up.”

However for some reason before that the parliament was invited to join the discussion, the decision had already been taken, and the IP Observatory had already been set up and started working. A fact that commission forgot to mention when the concept was being pitched to the JURI committee.

Engström’s beef is that an important agency which is designed to decide how bad the piracy problem is in the EU has been co-opted by the content industry which has rammed through its vision without any sense of democracy or nod towards facts or contrary beliefs.

The contempt that the Commission has for Parliament over this is fairly obvious.

 

 

 

Pirate Party discovers secret EU IP observatory

Commission hands over control to the content industry

 

 

A Pirate Party MEP was shocked to discover that an EU IP observatory which uses taxpayer’s funds to police the internet looking for pirated software already existed.

Christian Engström was co-opted onto a legal affairs committee JURI in the European Parliament, which was looking at setting up an “IP Observatory” that should monitor and combat all kinds of intellectual property infringements, from commercial goods counterfeiting to kids downloading films and music.

The committee was in the process of drafting a resolution, known as the Gallo report, on the subject.

However Engström was incandescent with rage when he discovered that the Brussell’s bureaucrats had already set the thing up.

The Observatory which has not got the official nod from MEPs said that its job was to improve the quality of information and statistics related to counterfeiting and piracy on the Internal Market of the EU identify and spread national best practice strategies and enforcement techniques from both the public as well as the private sector

The Observatory has already commenced work in a number of key areas. As an example, the Commission has carried out an exercise to identify structures and frameworks currently in place to combat IP infringements, within Member States.

Not surprisingly the development work is being taken care of by the content industry which not only knows of the Observatory’s existence but have been suggesting that their methodology of assessing piracy figures is the correct one.

Apparently private industry representatives from a broad range of European and national associations, regularly engaged and experienced in fighting counterfeiting and piracy, were invited to represent a wide diversity of sectors and geographical areas. These participants have also been invited to contribute to specialised working groups.

Member States designated national representatives to take part. Member States were asked to nominate representatives who have established relations with private industry and share a common know-how in fighting counterfeiting and piracy. The national representatives also have broad experience in internal and external coordination and are familiar with the design of consumer awareness-raising activities.

Engström said that with the Observatory clearly in place why did Brussels even ask the European Parliament’s views on this issue.

“We have been invited to hold an exchange of views in the JURI committee, and we are currently spending time on drafting a resolution on if and how the IP Observatory should be set up.”

However for some reason before that the parliament was invited to join the discussion, the decision had already been taken, and the IP Observatory had already been set up and started working. A fact that commission forgot to mention when the concept was being pitched to the JURI committee.

Engström’s beef is that an important agency which is designed to decide how bad the piracy problem is in the EU has been co-opted by the Contend industry which has rammed through its vision without any sense of democracy or nod towards facts or contrary beliefs.

The contempt that the Commission has for Parliament over this issue is fairly obvious.

 

 

New-fangled democracy won't cut it in China

According to Winston Churchill – whose mother was American – democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.

And while America is the land of the free, and quite a liberty bearer generally, it’s not right to assume that what’s sauce for the US goose is sauce for the Chinese gander.

It’s the most ancient culture in the world, and the only way such a vast country could have been governed is through a centralised bureaucracy that certainly paid no heed to what the Greeks were up to with their curious ideas of democracy.

It’s curious, then, that multinationals like Google, Yahoo and for that matter Microsoft naively believed that because China opened itself up to commerce, a centralised government would just blithely gaze on while an opportunity existed for China’s communist government to exploit source code for its own military and cryptic ends.

But it’s also no surprise that the US government is standing back from the Google affair while it sees how the Chinese government reacts to the search engine’s threat.

Sir Winston ChurchillThat’s because there’s one other foundation on which America is built apart from liberty – and that’s capitalism.  The USA is in debt to the Chinese government to the tune of not short of a trillion dollars – while Google spouts about its security being breached – it’s not in America’s interests to rock the boat too wildly.

China has overweening ambitions and has the resources to put long term plans into action. For most of 2008, I was working in India, which has espoused democracy, and I would hear a familiar complaint from the business people I talked to all the time.

They wished that India wasn’t a democracy so that the essential infrastructure needed to transform the sub-continent into another Asian powerhouse could be pushed ahead without the will of the people getting in the way of the plans.

No doubt it’s a terrible nuisance to have to take into account the wishes of individuals or parties they form when you want to press ahead with plans that are going to put crores of rupees into your pocket.

China’s stance to foreign companies operating in its country is that they have to obey the laws. China is a dictatorship and its laws aren’t created by an indepedent parliament or congress and moderated by an unfettered judiciary. In such circumstances, the normal rules of British fair play and the principles enshrined in the US Constitution just don’t run.

Google, perhaps, should have thought of this before it put time and energy into the marketplace, and not after the fact.