Russia Pushing for Extensive Control of Internet

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Russia is leading the charge for governments to obtain extensive powers to control the World Wide Web.

If authorized, a proposal — signed by Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates — would take control of allotting Internet addresses from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a U.S.-based agency.

It would also give governments the power not only to block web addresses, but also allow for pacts between countries so access to websites could be eradicated at each others’ request.

The proposal is a confirmation of the fears many Western countries, privacy groups and Internet service providers had before the International Telecommunication Union Internet treaty talks began in Dubai Dec. 3.

Government regulators from 193 countries are taking part in the World Conference on International Telecommunications (Wcit) hosted by the ITU, a United Nations organization that oversees international communication policy.

Russia and its cohorts are seeking the changes as part of an overhaul of the International Telecommunications Regulations treaty — a document that hasn’t been updated since 1988.

The United States, Canada, Central and South America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and some Asian countries such as Japan are adamant the treaty should apply only to traditional telecommunications such as international wireline and wireless calls.

Countries can decide to opt out of sections of the revised treaty or decline to sign the document in its entirety.

The Russia-led coalition is gunning for the revised treaty to incorporate procedures to contend with spam e-mail. Its classification of spam, however, is so wide-ranging, practically any e-mailed message could be targeted allowing administrations to repress any person or group seen as a challenger to the regime or its ideals.

The U.S. along with Canada has issued a counter-proposal that would keep the treaty from being applied to Google and other search engines or government and business networks.

The U.S. and Canada said the changes Russia is pushing for would allow countries to suppress free speech, diminish anonymity online and allow for censorship of any and all Internet content.

U.S. ambassador to Wcit Terry Kramer late last week described a number of proposals for the treaty as “alarming.”

“There have been active recommendations that there be an invasive approach of governments in managing the Internet, in managing the content that goes via the Internet, what people are looking at, what they’re saying, et cetera,” he said during an on-the-record briefing.

“These fundamentally violate everything that we believe in in terms of democracy and opportunities for individuals, and we’re going to vigorously oppose any proposals of that nature.”

Kramer said a number of the proposed changes would force Internet providers to pay to have traffic delivered abroad.

“If you can think about the implications of this, today much of what we get via the Internet is free,” he said. “In these models, there would now be a paid model. And many of the organizations that send content are non-profit organizations, they’re universities that provide free online courses, they’re organizations like the Khan Academy that provide YouTube clips for free online education for young people.”

Kramer said better cyber security is necessary to protect users from malware and hackers and while many of the proposed treaty changes touch on that, they also “open the door for content censorship, for routing of traffic, and the ability of governments to control what’s happening on those networks.”

Google has expressed similar concerns.

“Only governments have a voice at the ITU,” Google said. “This includes governments that do not support a free and open Internet. Engineers, companies, and people that build and use the Web have no vote. The ITU is also secretive. The treaty conference and proposals are confidential.”

The search engine has launched a campaign imploring its users to “support a free and open Internet.”

The summit wraps up on  Dec. 14.

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Russia Pushing for Extensive Control of Internet

McAfee Fighting to Stay in Guatemala

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The creator of the McAfee antivirus program, who faces deportation to Belize in connection with a murder, has filed three appeals in a bid to remain in Guatemala.

John McAfee, who was rushed to hospital with a suspected heart attack after learning his request for asylum had been rejected Dec. 6, is back in the Guatemalan jail in which he has been held since illegally crossing the border Dec. 5.

McAfee’s lawyer, Telesforo Guerra, said the 67-year-old McAfee is in good health after suffering from stress and hypertension.

According to The Associated Press, Guerra filed an appeal for a judge to ensure McAfee’s physical integrity is protected, an appeal against deportation and a petition with immigration officials to allow McAfee to stay in Guatemala indefinitely.

McAfee, in an interview with Reuters, said he hopes to return to the United States.

“My goal is to get back to America as soon as possible,” McAfee said. “I wish I could just pack my bags and go to Miami. I don’t think I fully understood the political situation. I’m an embarrassment to the Guatemalan government and I’m jeopardizing their relationship with Belize.”

McAfee’s arrest brought to an end his fugitive status, during which time he claimed through blogs the police in Belize are persecuting him. The police were seeking McAfee for questioning in relation to the murder of a fellow ex-pat.

According to The Associate Press, McAfee fears for his life because he is in possession of sensitive information about official corruption and refuses to give money to local politicians.

McAfee, who entered Guatemala to ask for asylum, has been hiding from the authorities, blogging about his movements and calling reporters.

Guerra told The Associated Press McAfee’s life would be in danger if he were returned to Belize.

“He will be in danger if he is returned to Belize, where he has denounced authorities,” Guerra said. “From the moment he asked for asylum he has to have the protection of the Guatemalan government.”

Meanwhile, Belize police say they are not persecuting McAfee, adding there is no warrant for his arrest. According to the AP report, the country’s prime minister has doubts about McAfee’s mental stability.

McAfee went into hiding in November after police attempted to question him about the shooting death of Gregory Viant Faull. The murder took place early last month on the Belize island where the men were neighbors.

McAfee reportedly was involved in various quarrels with neighbors and the police regarding complaints his dogs were aggressive and he kept illegal weapons and drug paraphernalia in his home. McAfee admitted his dogs were troublesome and that Faull had complained about them, but has said he did not shoot Faull who lived a few houses down from him.

McAfee’s month on the run with his girlfriend Sam has garnered global attention due to his contact with reporters and frequent blog posts detailing his escapades, which included donning disguises.

A Nov. 26 blog post, which can be read here, details the events since the murder from McAfee’s point of view.

“The government begins a disinformation program painting me as paranoid,” a portion of the post reads.  “I respond in the press unsuccessfully. In this blog I post my first evidence of the absurdity of their stance, by divulging a plot to extort $150,000 from me – with photos of the event.”

His many blog posts can be viewed here.


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McAfee Fighting to Stay in Guatemala

FTC Backs Apple in Patent War With Motorola

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is throwing its weight behind Apple as Motorola petitions for a sales ban of the company’s iPads and iPhones.

The FTC has filed a brief with the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals stating that Motorola’s attempts to ban the sale of Apple devices that allegedly violate its patents “risks harming competition, innovation, and consumers.”

The brief, filed as part of an Illinois patent lawsuit involving Smartphones and tablets that was dismissed in June, recently came to light. The filing speaks to the ongoing appeals process.

The brief talks about “patent hold-up” — the way in which owners of standard-essential patents (SEPs) can use the threat of injunctions to distort competition by insisting on high royalties and other unfair licensing terms.

“Once a standard is adopted, and implementers begin to make investments tied to the standard, it becomes very difficult to change a technology in the standard without impairing interoperability,” the FTC said in a statement. “The SEP holder can then engage in hold-up by seeking compensation based not on the value of its invention, but on the costs and delays of switching away from the standardized technology.”

Although the FTC did not express opinion on if Apple violated Motorola’s patents, the agency said when the two sides cannot agree on licensing terms, “the proper approach is usually to limit the relief available to the patent holder — specifically, to allow only monetary damages, and not an injunction that prohibits the sale of products incorporating the patented technology.”

“This is generally the proper approach, because allowing a patent holder to seek an injunction on a SEP can facilitate patent-holdup, which can raise prices to consumers, while undermining the standard-setting process,” the statement said.

In its court filing, the FTC said injuctions such as the one Motorola requested against Apple also can “deter innovation by increasing costs and uncertainty for other industry participants, including those engaged in inventive activity. It can also distort investment and harm consumers by breaking the connection between the value of an invention and its reward — a connection that is the cornerstone of the patent system.”

Without passing judgment as to whether Apple actually infringed on Motorola’s patents, the FTC said that when talks break down over licensing terms, “the proper approach is usually to limit the relief available to the patent holder — specifically, to allow only monetary damages, and not an injunction that prohibits the sale of products incorporating the patented technology.”




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FTC Backs Apple in Patent War With Motorola

Twitter to Debut Own Photo Filters in Response to Instagram Move

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Twitter is rumored to be slapping back at Instagram by launching its own set of photo filters.

The feature, which, according to news reports, will be available before year’s end, is in response to Instagram’s decision to disable Twitter users’ ability to properly display its photos.

The filters will be made for use inside the official Twitter app, according to AllThingsD.

The new version of the app is in the testing phase, according to the AllThingsD report. In fact, that could be the reason Twitter chairman Jack Dorsey has posted so many black and white photos over the weekend.

The deteriorating relationship between Twitter and Instagram may be at least partly responsible for the Facebook-owned mobile photo-sharing service’s recent decision to distance itself from Twitter.

Instagram and Twitter, once allies in the battle against Facebook, are now on opposite sides of the fence.

Twitter posted a brief statement Dec. 5 to acknowledge it is aware of the issue:

“Users are experiencing issues with viewing Instagram photos on Twitter,” the website reads.

“Issues include cropped images. This is due to Instagram disabling its Twitter cards integration, and as a result, photos are being displayed using a pre-cards experience. So, when users click on Tweets with an Instagram link, photos appear cropped.”

Instagram’s founder and CEO Kevin Systrom said during the LeWeb 12 conference Dec. 5 that the move is related to Instagram’s desire to take control of its content, the New York Times reported.

“We’ve decided that right now, what makes sense, is to direct our users to the Instagram website,” Systrom said.

According to the Tech Crunch, Systrom said it is just a matter of time before Instagram images will no longer be visible on Twitter. Instead all clicks will go directly to

“We’re working on building an awesome web presence, which we just launched,” said Systrom. “We revamped our web properties, and now we’re able to staff up teams to work on web properties with the Facebook acquisition.”



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Twitter to Debut Own Photo Filters in Response to Instagram Move