Grant Gross

Author Archives: Grant Gross

The Week in Internet News: Encryption Faces Serious Threats

Encryption in danger: Encryption is essential, but a number of countries are trying to weaken its protections, Wired.com says. Recent attempts to weaken encryption have happened in Germany, Brazil, India, and other countries. “Technical as encryption can be, it is really about something at the very core of how we live our lives today: Should […]

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The Week in Internet News: Biden Wants Broadband for All

Filling the gaps: U.S. President Joe Biden has proposed spending $100 billion over eight years to bring broadband to all areas of the country, CNet reports. The broadband spending is part of a $2.25 trillion infrastructure proposal, which would also include repair of roads and bridges and improvements to the water supply and electrical grids. […]

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The Week in Internet News: Facebook Calls for Changes in Legal Protections for User Content

Rewriting the rules: Facebook, during a hearing in the U.S. Congress, called on lawmakers to revamp Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which protects websites from lawsuits for content posted by users, NBC News reports. Websites should be protected if they adopt user moderation practices largely in line with Facebook’s own rules, ZDNet noted. The change could give Facebook an advantage while upending much of the rest of the Internet, The Verge suggested.

Competition in space: The competition among satellite-based broadband providers is heating up, with OneWeb launching 36 new satellites from eastern Russia, The BBC reports. The company, now primarily owned by Indian conglomerate Bharti Global and the U.K. government, now has 146 broadband satellites deployed. The company plans to offer broadband service later this year to northern latitudes, including the U.K., Northern Europe, Alaska, Canada, and other areas. Meanwhile, three rural counties in North Carolina are testing broadband service from SpaceX, another satellite provider, as a way to provide Internet service to students, GCN says.

Bad virus information: Facebook and Twitter have removed millions of posts containing misinformation about COVID-19 in recent months, The Straits Times reports. Since last year, Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: U.K. to Roll Out Gigabit Broadband

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Blazing speeds: The U.K. government has announced the areas that will first get gigabit broadband service as part of an ambitious plan to roll out super high-speed Internet service to 85 percent of the nation by 2025, the BBC reports. First on the list are homes and businesses in Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Cumbria, Dorset, Durham, Essex, Northumberland, South Tyneside, and Tees Valley.

Protect the DNS: The U.S. National Security Agency and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency are pushing for a new security service, called Protective DNS, for the Internet’s Domain Name System, Nextgov says. Protective DNS “is different from earlier security-related changes to DNS in that it is envisioned as a security service – not a protocol – that analyzes DNS queries and takes action to mitigate threats, leveraging the existing DNS protocol and architecture,” says a guide from the NSA and CISA. The goal is to foil more than 90 percent of all malware attacks.

Tracking all the phones: Apple is warning that Chinese app makers are creating workarounds for the company’s upcoming limits on ad tracking on its iPhones, the South China Morning Post writes. An upcoming software update from Apple requires users to give permission Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: Berners-Lee Warns of Growing Digital Divide

A big divide: Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, says the digital divide has grown during the COVID-19 pandemic, the BBC reports. He called on governments to provide universal broadband by 2030 in his annual letter marking the anniversary of the Web. About one-third of young people do not have Internet access and many more people lack connections that are good enough to allow them to work or learn from home.

Spy vs. spy: Hackers have breached surveillance camera data collected by Silicon Valley startup Verkada and gained access to live feeds of 150,000 security cameras inside hospitals, companies, police departments, prisons, and schools, Bloomberg reports. Live cameras inside Tesla factories, women’s health clinics, and psychiatric hospitals were also breached. The breach exposed the reach of surveillance, the Washington Post suggested, with one expert saying that “our desire for some fake sense of security is its own security threat.”

Drones to the rescue: A Wisconsin company is working on a way to use drones to provide reliable cellular service and Internet access to a rural area of the state, Wisconsin Public Radio reports. About 15 percent of the Northland Pine School District’s 1,340 students have no Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: Lawmakers Point to ‘Extremist’ Content on YouTube

Extreme video: A group of Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. has demanded that YouTube explain its policies related to dealing with extremist content, Yahoo News reports. “Incendiary content that indoctrinates, radicalizes, and mobilizes extremists continues to flourish” on YouTube, the lawmakers wrote.

Blaming encryption: Meanwhile, a new government report on possible extremist attacks on the U.S. Capitol says information on future plans are becoming harder to find because militia groups have shifted to encryption tools, Axios reports. U.S. law enforcement authorities appear to be trying to resurrect their calls for encryption backdoors even as extremist groups post information on public websites like YouTube.

Blaming the website: The U.S. isn’t the only government looking to hold websites more responsible for user-generated content. India’s information technology ministry has finalized a set of rules intended to make online service providers more accountable for their users’ bad behavior, Brookings.edu notes. The Brookings blog post suggests that this effort, mirrored by a similar debate in the U.S., will be a grave threat to free speech and privacy rights.

Clamping down: Meanwhile basic rights in 10 African countries are threatened by a trend toward digital authoritarianism, according to a Continue reading

Member News: Celebrating a Safer Internet

Safe learning: The Nigeria Chapter of the Internet Society celebrated Safer Internet Day with workshops about online safety at schools across the country. Chapter representatives talked to students about several topics, including fake news, online scams, phishing, and clickbait. The two-day workshops included in-person events that complied with COVID-19 social distancing rules, and an online discussion.

Internet to the village: The Kyrgyzstan Chapter has been working to bring Internet access to the village of Zardaly, in a remote and mountainous region of the southwest region of the country. The project has begun with a detailed study of the area, after which radio translators will be ordered and installed. The chapter has also posted an update about its Ilimbox project, an Internet-in-a-box device that, contains basic educational materials available without an Internet connection. The device has now been installed in 20 schools.

No registration required: The Hong Kong Chapter is among a coalition of groups opposing a proposal from the Chinese government that would require users of smartphones to register using their real names. Real-time registration won’t be effective in fighting crime and could hinder scientific research, the chapter said. “The real-name system cannot prevent crimes committed by using overseas calls Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: Cambodia Creates Its Own Great Firewall

Traffic cops: The government of Cambodia has moved to establish a national Internet gateway with a single point of entry for traffic into the country, regulated by a government-appointed operator, The Diplomat reports. The Washington Post’s editorial board said the move “strikes at one of the nation’s last vestiges of democratic life.” The move also points to a larger threat to “the entire globe,” led by censorship efforts in China, the editorial board wrote. “China wishes to establish a freedom-crushing model of cyber-sovereignty by which every country sets its own rules for a Web that serves those in power, rather than the people, without any regard for civil liberties or due process of law.”

A deal on the news: Facebook had prohibited Australian users from sharing news on the social media site because of a proposal that would require it and other online services to pay news outlets, but the company has reached a deal with the government there that again allows users to post news articles, the New York Times reports. The deal allows more time for negotiations, but the Australian Senate passed the law anyway, CNet reports.

Help with the bills: The U.S. Federal Communications Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: Facebook Blocks News from Australia

No news for you: Facebook has blocked Australians from viewing or sharing news on its site in response to a proposed law that would require social media sites and other online services to pay news publishers, the BBC reports. The “power play” may backfire, however, “given how concerned many governments have grown about the company’s unchecked influence over society, democracy and political discourse,” The Associated Press says.

SpaceX rejected: A village in France is not interested in becoming the site of a ground station for SpaceX’s satellite-based broadband service, Yahoo Finance says. Residents of Saint-Senier-de-Beuvron are concerned about the impact of the antennas on the health of residents, said Noemie Brault, deputy mayor in the village. Still, many supporters of the SpaceX Starlink project see major benefits, including expanded Internet access to low-income nations, writes Larry Press, an information systems professor at California State University. Press writes on CircleID.com that connections to India, for example, are likely to serve community organizations, clinics, schools, and businesses.

No pictures, please: Facial recognition startup Clearview AI is in trouble in Canada for collecting photos of the country’s residents without their permission, TechCrunch reports. Collecting the photos violated Canadian privacy regulations, the country’s Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: No Internet, No Vaccine

Unhealthy access: People lacking Internet access in the U.S., including some racial minorities, may be missing out on COVID-19 vaccines, The Conversation suggests. Signing up for the vaccine in the U.S. has largely happened online, meaning fewer seniors from underserved minority communities have been able to make appointments. In addition, people without Internet access have missed out on other health resources during the pandemic, as the use of telehealth services has skyrocketed during the pandemic.

Permission to be social: Mexican Senator Ricardo Monreal has proposed regulations for social media companies that would require them to “request authorization” from the country’s telecom regulator in order to continue operating in the country, Reuters reports. The Latin American Internet Association is protesting against the proposal, saying it would violate the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement and create unjustified trade barriers.

No sale: U.S. President Joe Biden has paused the proposed sale of TikTok from Chinese owner ByteDance to Oracle and Walmart after former President Donald Trump raised security concerns about the app, NPR reports. Trump had threated to ban the video sharing app unless it was sold, but the Biden administration will undertake “a wide-ranging probe into how Chinese-owned technology companies could Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: Toronto Looks to Community Broadband

Broadband for the city: Toronto, the largest city in Canada, will consider building a municipal broadband network to bridge the digital divide, Now Toronto reports. A government committee has endorsed the ConnectTO initiative, which aims to fill in underserved areas in the city while avoiding competition with current Internet service providers. Meanwhile, Tucson, Arizona, is building its own municipal broadband network, StateScoop says. The network will focus on serving government offices, students, and elderly residents who lack reliable Internet service.

Protesting subsidies: In another broadband story, some rural ISPs are questioning an $886 million U.S. Federal Communications Commission rural broadband subsidy to SpaceX, the Elon Musk-owned company that has launched a satellite-based Internet service, reports Bloomberg on Al Jazeera. Some rural ISPs have suggested the satellite service is still in beta and plans to serve parts of New York City and airports in Newark and Miami, which don’t fit in with the mission of the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

Giant regulation: A new Japanese law requires tech giants to disclose terms of contracts with business partners and submit reports regularly to the government, in an effort to enforce fair business relationships with smaller companies, The Japan Times reports. The Continue reading

Member News: Mali Chapter Works to Get Women Online

Lending a hand: The Mali Chapter of the Internet Society is focusing on helping women who aren’t digitally literate connect to the Internet. The chapter is providing training to help these women, including women with disabilities, earn income through online services like Facebook and WhatsApp. Participants have included small business operators, including caterers and hairdressers.

Antisocial networks: A recent survey by Internet Society chapter the Israeli Internet Association has found that about half of the people in the country refrain from responding on social networks for fear of encountering violent reactions. The survey also found that 86 percent of Israelis believe that discourse on social networks is violent, and 80 percent believe that public figures and politicians share violent discourse on social media.

Talking governance: Netherlands chapter board member Ruben Brave was recently invited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the FreedomLab think tank to give a speech about Internet governance and respond to a recent position paper. He focused on recognizing human rights during debates about Internet governance. “Invest again in the explicit contribution of human rights in the re-design and management of Internet protocols by making people and resources available to knowledge institutions and invest in training for Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: Cook Blasts Social Media Algorithms

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Disinformation bots: Apple CEO Tim Cook raised concerns about social media algorithms promoting disinformation during a speech at an international privacy conference, ZDNet reports. “At a moment of rampant disinformation and conspiracy theories juiced by algorithms, we can no longer turn a blind eye to a theory of technology that says all engagement is good engagement – the longer the better – and all with the goal of collecting as much data as possible,” he said.

Gaming the stock market: In a rebellion against large Wall Street short sellers, a group of individual investors centered around a Reddit forum have been driving up the price of GameStop stock, even as the company faces questions about its long-term viability. One founder of the Reddit community called the effort “a train wreck happening in real time,” CNet reports. GameStop’s stock has shot up by more than 2700 percent since the beginning of the year, even as the bricks-and-mortar game software vendor is facing business challenges.

The power of Big Tech: The head of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund is raising concerns about the huge influence of large tech firms, Arabian Business says. The fund is worried about “how some of these technology Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: Google Threatens to Leave Australia

Google won’t pay for news: Google has threatened to end its search engine services in Australia over the government’s efforts there to require the company to pay news publishers for articles it links to, the BBC reports. The proposed Australian news code would require Google and Facebook to enter into mediated negotiations with publishers over the value of news content, if they don’t reach agreement first.

RIP, balloon-based Internet: Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is shutting down Loon, its attempt to deliver Internet service through balloons floating in the stratosphere, CNet reports. Alphabet says the business model doesn’t work, with the company unable to get costs low enough to offer services.

Judge rejects Parler: A U.S. judge has ruled that Amazon doesn’t have to reinstate Parler, the conservative Twitter competitor, after the company kicked it off its web hosing services this month, NPR reports. Amazon kicked out Parler after some members of the site threatened U.S. lawmakers and allegedly used the service to plan the 6 January attack on the U.S. Capitol. Parler has argued that Amazon’s decision threatens it with “extinction,” but the judge ruled that Amazon is under no obligation to “host the incendiary speech that Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: Backlash after WhatsApp Plan to Share Data

Don’t share me: After WhatsApp announced plans to share user data with owner Facebook, many users have started to move on to other secure messaging apps, the Independent reports. Rival Telegram reported a 500 percent increase in new users after the change was announced. Meanwhile, WhatsApp and Facebook are launching advertising in an effort to keep users, with the companies taking out full-page advertisements in 10 Indian newspapers, Reuters says. India is WhatsApp’s largest market, with 400 million users.

Defending the ban hammer: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has defended the company’s decision to permanently ban outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump, after Trump supports attacked the U.S. Capitol, the BBC says. The decision was difficult, however, Dorsey said. “I do not celebrate or feel pride,” he tweeted. “After a clear warning we’d take this action, we made a decision with the best information we had based on threats to physical safety both on and off Twitter.”

Parler goes to court: In related news, Amazon Web Services ended its web hosting arrangement with right-wing Twitter competitor Parler after the Capitol riots, effectively shutting the microblogging site down. AWS pointed to a series of posts on Parler threatening violence, including Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: U.K. Investigating Google Chrome’s Privacy Push

No more cookies: Google’s Chrome browser has announced a plan to replace tracking cookies with a system that shares less information with advertisers, but the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority is worried that more user privacy would have a “significant impact” on news websites and on the digital advertising market, the BBC reports. The agency has warned that publishers’ profits could drop if they no longer run personalized advertisements.

A vulgar display of content: The Chinese National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications has fined short video app Douyin, a sister app to TikTok, for spreading “obscene, pornographic and vulgar information,” the South China Morning Post says. The app was fined “tens of thousands of yuan,” the regulator said. Regulators said they received more than 900 reports related to pornographic and vulgar content on Douyin in the past year.

The sports car Internet: Gigabit Internet service is coming to rural Kansas and Missouri with funding from the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, FlatlandKC.org reports. The site compared gigabit speeds to a fast sports car. The FCC has selected 180 winning bidders to receive $9.2 billion in funding to provide increased Internet access to 5.2 million Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: U.S. Stimulus Bill Pumps Up Broadband

Broadband to the people: A new COVID-19 stimulus bill passed by the U.S. Congress includes $7 billion to help residents connect to broadband and pay their monthly bills, the Washington Post reports. The legislation is one of the largest one-time investments in broadband ever in U.S. history. “Nearly half the money is slated to fund a new monthly benefit for low-income families, aiming to ensure that those who have lost their jobs can stay online at a time when the pandemic has forced millions of people to work, learn and communicate on their devices from home.”

RIP Flash: Adobe has finally killed off the controversial Flash video and animation tool that was a formative technology for the Internet, the Independent says. While Flash was widely used on websites for many years, critics complained about security problems and a poor user experience. In 2009, 99 percent of all PCs with an Internet connection had Flash installed, Adobe has said.

Alexa, what taxes do I owe? The Indian government is working on Alexa-like chatbots to deliver public services, India Today reports. The government has invited bids for a voice assistant similar to Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant. Using artificial Continue reading

Member News: Connecting Remote Tribes

Connecting the people: The San Francisco Chapter recently received a Beyond the Net Grant from the Internet Society Foundation and will use it to help bring high-quality Internet service to more than 9,000 Native Americans in in a remote area of southern California. The grant will be used to extend wireless service about seven miles further into tribal lands.

Campaign against disinformation: The Netherlands Chapter is working with the artificial intelligence-powered KRINO Project to fight fake news online. KRINO will be able to analyze online content, including political statements, social media posts, and even medical information, but with humans reviewing its recommendations. The AI-based tool is in development, and the chapter’s Make Media Great Again Working Group will help fine tune the tool.

How the Internet works: Recently, two Internet Society chapters have hosted Internet-related training programs for members of the community. The Mali Chapter hosted the first edition of the Mali School of Internet Governance, with 46 people, including lawyers, engineers, law enforcement officers, and students, participating. The goal of the training is to give participants the knowledge and confidence to participate effectively in Internet governance processes and debates at regional, national, and international levels.

Digital literacy: The Panama Chapter Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: Google Faces Third U.S. Antitrust Lawsuit

Another game of monopoly: Attorneys general from 38 U.S. states and territories have filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google, just days after 46 states and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed antitrust lawsuits against Facebook. The new lawsuit against Google is the third recent antitrust action against the company in recent weeks, CNet says. Ten states previously filed a lawsuit related to Google’s ad auctions, and the U.S. Department of Justice previously filed a lawsuit on Google’s browser deals with smartphone makers. The newest lawsuit targets Google’s search functionality, saying it delivered results that favored its own products over those of competitors.

Order from chaos: Meanwhile, the European Commission is threatening new regulation of big tech firms with rules to aim to “curb the hegemony of dominant multinationals and force them to be more transparent about how content is ranked, advertised and removed,” Euronews reports. Part of the goal is to allow European businesses to “freely and fairly compete online just as they do offline,” said Margrethe Vestager, executive vice president for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age.

The perimeter is breached: Hackers have gotten into the IT systems of several U.S. government agencies and Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: Facebook Faces U.S. Antitrust Lawsuits

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Do not pass go: The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and attorneys general from 46 states have filed antitrust lawsuits, charging the social media giant Facebook of expanding its monopoly position by acquiring potential rivals including WhatsApp and Instagram, The Hill reports. It’s possible that Facebook would be required to sell off those acquisitions. Facebook has noted that both acquisitions were approved by regulators at the time.

Get off my phone: The government of China has ordered several apps, including one from TripAdvisor, to overhaul their products in an alleged crackdown on pornography and other “improper” content, The Associated Press says. In the meantime, China’s National Cyberspace Administration ordered the removal of 105 apps including TripAdvisor from app stores. The agency said there were public complaints about obscene, pornographic, and violent information as well as fraud, gambling, and prostitution.

Cookie spies: The government of France’s data privacy agency has fined Google US$121 million and Amazon $42 million for breaking the country’s rules on tracking cookies, Reuters says. The Google fine was the largest ever from the French Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés. The CNIL said the companies’ French websites didn’t seek the prior consent of visitors before advertising Continue reading

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