In recent days, residents of Turkey have had unrestricted access to YouTube for the first time in 30 months. Now a court in Ankara has ordered the site banned again because the video sharing site hosts clips featuring former opposition leader Deniz Baykal. Turkey's Telecommunications Minister has been instructed to request the removal of the clips, and block the site if Google does not immediately comply.
YouTube was originally banned in May 2008 after the courts took issue with some clips on the site. Specifically, some videos were found to be insulting to Turkey's modern founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, This is considered a crime in Turkey. Turkish users have been able to access YouTube through proxies, but the experience is degraded. Bloomberg is reporting that the site is still accessible right now, but that could change at any time.
It's long been known that the Chinese authorities don't take kindly to people using sites like Twitter and Facebook in the country. The possibility that people might anonymously congregate on these popular sites frightens them to such a degree that they are blocked by the so-called "Great Firewall". While traditional internet devices and services in China cannot access these and other sites, it looks like the 3G Amazon Kindle is capable of bypassing the Great Firewall.
The 3G version of the Kindle connects to Amazon's Whispernet to access web services. There appears to something about the routing, even using Chinese 3G networks, that allows the device to reach forbidden websites. The result is a thriving grey-market for the e-reader in mainland China. Amazon is not able to sell the Kindle direct to consumers.
One individual that resells Kindles in China claims to be selling over 300 devices per month. Chinese auction sites too are havens for illicit Kindle sales. The only drawback to this method is that the Kindle's web browser is not very pleasing to use, being on a slow device with an eInk screen. We'll have to wait and see if Chinese authorities find a way to block this as well.
You may remember earlier this week when the interwebs were abuzz with news that the Libyan domain registry NIC.ly had pulled down a domain shortener. The site was at vb.ly, and NIC.ly has made a statement about the matter. They claim that since vb.ly was a " sex friendly URL shortener" it was in violation of its rules and regulations.
Ben Metcalf, who ran vb.ly claimed that Libyan authorities never contacted him. NIC.ly's statement asserts that they spent week trying to get a response from Metcalf, finally just pulling the site down. The way NIC.ly stressed the *ahem* adult nature of vb.ly, it seems that most .ly sites will be safe - unless they have short domain names.
Yes, NIC.ly chose to reiterate that they believe that domains under 4 letters should be reserved for Libyan groups. It's unclear if they would take action to reclaim these addresses. Do you think NIC.ly is being truthful here? Even if they are, should Libya be exerting so much control?
I wish I could say this was unexpected, but, well, let’s be honest here: My reaction to EA’s last-minute act of self-censorship was less of a “WHAT” moment and more of a dejected sigh followed by the shocking realization that, holy moly, the sky is blue today. And the grass! It’s green! When did that happen? The pieces were in place, after all. There was a controversy, subsequent knee-jerk reactions on all sides, and an unfortunate precedent left festering on the shelf for years. Sad to say, it was only a matter of time before this happened:
“We have also received feedback from friends and families of fallen soldiers who have expressed concern over the inclusion of the Taliban in the multiplayer portion of our game,” said EA producer Greg Goodrich. “This is a very important voice to the Medal of Honor team. This is a voice that has earned the right to be listened to. It is a voice that we care deeply about. Because of this, and because the heartbeat of Medal of Honor has always resided in the reverence for American and Allied soldiers, we have decided to rename the opposing team in Medal of Honor multiplayer from Taliban to Opposing Force.”
GameStop’s military base locations – which formerly refused to sell the game -- are now engaged in a “thorough review to fully understand the extent of the modifications."
Which means everything’s peachy, right? Well, no. Not at all, actually.
If you're the type to fret over data security and government censorship, Google has your back with their new Transparency Report. The report is likely a response to the search giant's recent run-ins with the likes of China over blocking services and requesting user information. The Transparency Report is broken down into two sections, Government Requests, and Traffic.
The Government Requests section offers an interactive Google Map with flags in each country that data is available for. By zooming in, we can see the number of requests for each country, as well as various court orders for removal of content. The data on the map is currently only from the last year, but more could be added as time goes on.
The Traffic section consists of a graph showing the amount of data passed through Google over time. Users can choose the country and Google service to view in the drop downs. The idea is that by looking for large drop-offs in traffic, users will be able to tell when the free flow of information has been interrupted. Do you think this kind of transparency will make governments think twice about limiting freedom online?
One of the Blackberry’s number one selling features has just turned into a major negative, at least if the trend overseas continues. The hallmark of RIM’s success has always been its push notification and messaging services that are unmatched in the wireless industry, unfortunately, RIM also put itself in a position where it was handling all of the messaging traffic going across the network. This allowed them to offer unmatched end to end encryption, but has also now become a tempting target for governments wishing to snoop on the private data of its citizens, and RIM is co-operating.
According to notes obtained by the Wall Street Journal, negotiations between Research in Motion and India on July 26 set the framework for unfettered access to all messaging services, including those offered by third parties such as Gmail. RIM issued a statement on Thursday in an attempt to reassure its customers that it was negotiating with foreign governments "in the spirit of supporting legal and national security requirements, while also preserving the lawful needs of citizens and corporations." It is unclear if RIM is still willing to relocate servers to government run facilities upon request, but it seems they are willing to do whatever it takes to avoid getting shut down.
Either way it appears as though governments will soon have the right to eavesdrop on secure communications sent over a Blackberry, let’s just hope it doesn’t open the floodgates.
Back in 2008, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) commissioned the development of a content filtering software. Beijing Dazheng Human Language Technology Academy and Zhengzhou Jinhui Computer System Engineering were the two companies tasked with the development of the Green Dam Youth Escort content-filtering software.
According to local media reports, the lack of funds has forced one of the developers, Beijing Dazheng Human Language Technology Academy, out of the project. "We indeed lack funds. We cannot keep on operating any more after a one-year bitter struggle," Chen Xiaomeng, the general manager of Dazheng, told ChinaDaily.com. The other company is also unlikely to continue working on the project if the current situation persists.
Last month, Google stopped automatically redirecting Chinese search traffic to its uncensored Hong Kong site, opting instead for a landing page that contains a link to the uncensored site. The search engine giant was made to rethink its approach after it began to threaten its request for a fresh Internet Content Provider (ICP) license.
Google's legal boss David Drummond had said last month: “It’s clear from conversations we have had with Chinese government officials that they find the redirect unacceptable—and that if we continue redirecting users our Internet Content Provider license will not be renewed (it’s up for renewal on June 30).”
The new approach seems to have done the trick. “We are very pleased that the government has renewed our ICP license and we look forward to continuing to provide web search and local products to our users in China,” Google said on its official blog. The announcement comes after days of suspense surrounding the fate of Google's application for a fresh license.
Google will stop redirecting Chinese users to its uncensored Hong Kong site as it looks to maneuver itself into a more conciliatory posture. Its Internet Content Provider license is scheduled to come up for renewal on Wednesday. The Chinese authorities have warned Google that it will be denied a fresh license if it continues redirecting Chinese search traffic to its Hong Kong site. Unwilling to sacrifice its presence in the most populous internet market, the company has opted for an alternative to automatic redirection. That said, it won't be rolling back the clock to the uncomplicated days of censored search results any time soon.
Instead, Chinese users will soon begin seeing a landing page on Google.cn that links to its Hong Kong site, leaving the choice of clicking through to the uncensored search site with the user. In fact, it has already begun directing some Chinese users to the new landing page. The company has applied for a new license “based on this approach.”
“Without an ICP license, we can’t operate a commercial website like Google.cn—so Google would effectively go dark in China,” David Drummond, Google's Chief Legal Officer, wrote in a blog post Monday. “That’s a prospect dreaded by many of our Chinese users, who have been vocal about their desire to keep Google.cn alive. We have therefore been looking at possible alternatives, and instead of automatically redirecting all our users, we have started taking a small percentage of them to a landing page on Google.cn that links to Google.com.hk.”
Asking for realism in a game about intergalactic space-wars is a bit of a stretch, considering that we’ve yet to take our lethal bickering beyond earth’s gravitational pull. Still though, we have a pretty decent hunch that real star wars will still involve some amount of blood, swearing, and maybe even a bit of smoking. This seems like a safe assumption.
Ask someone from South Korea, though, and they might not be so sure. Granted, they may also be 12 years-old, as that’s the audience Blizzard is aiming for with its censored release of StarCraft II.
”Since StarCraft 2 was originally developed to be a game adolescents could enjoy, we're very pleased with the Game Rating Board's decision [to award the game an Age 12 rating]," said Blizzard, via a translation. "In the remaining time until StarCraft 2 goes on sale, we'll do our best to continue to perfect the game so that even more fans can enjoy it."
That decision comes after Blizzard set its censorship phaser to kill destroy, coloring in-game blood black, and removing all signs of smoking and “vulgar” language. Originally, the game would have been given the dreaded, “cover your eyes, honey” Adults Only rating, which – reading between the lines – probably would’ve done a nuclear strike-sized number on its sales. However, Blizzard is still considering releasing an uncensored version as well.
But hey, since we’ve already got the 12 year-olds’ attention, can we also throw an anti-cheating PSA in there? Certainly couldn’t hurt.