internet

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Good evening, and welcome to tonight’s Debate. The Moot:

THAT On balance, the Internet does more harm than good

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Can Netflix really ban proxies and VPNs?

Netflix has announced that they are going to crack down on access via VPN and proxies to their US content.

In NZ Netflix is nobbled and you can only get full service if you use a VPN or a proxy service. Some people are overreacting to the news, one being lifestyle and travel blogger David Farrar who has stated on Facebook that he has already cancelled his Netflix subscription before the alleged bans have even come into existence.

But can Netflix actually do what they say they are going do?

Experts argue that any total shutdown would be impossible.

“It’s kind of a cat and mouse game,” InternetNZ CEO Jordan Carter said.

“Each step that Netflix or other content providers take to the block things, the companies that make money by selling unblocking services will find a way around it.”

“It turns this into an arms race.”     Read more »

Turn your damn phone off

It is the holiday season and there is evidence that constantly checking your emails on your smart phone may be doing you some damage.

The secret to happiness is to turn off your smartphone email app according to psychologists, who warn that constant updates have become a “toxic source of stress”.

Technology that puts people at the continuous beck and call of their emails has created a culture where people feel they must be constantly available for work, according to research.

As a result, an “unwritten organisational etiquette” has become ingrained in the workplace and employees have developed habits which are bad for their emotional well-being.

Studies have found that continuously checking and reading emails due to a “push notification” feature, which alerts users to new messages even when they are not in their Mail app, produces tension and worry. Experts recommend that switching off the Mail app on your mobile device will alleviate anxiety.    Read more »

Almost everything bad is the (largely) unintended consequence of utopians

James Delingpole reviews Matt Ridley’s book Evolution of Everything.

[E]volution is a phenomenon which extends far beyond Darwin to embrace absolutely everything. The internet, for example. No one planned it. No one — pace Al Gore and Tim Berners Lee — strictly invented it. It just sprang up, driven by consumer need and made possible by available technology. As Ridley says: ‘It is a living example, before our eyes, of the phenomenon of evolutionary emergence — of complexity and order spontaneously created in a decentralised fashion without a designer.’

Which is what, of course, is such anathema to control freaks everywhere, from the Chinese, Iranian and Russian regimes to Barack Obama, who famously declared in 2012: ‘The internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the internet.’

This claim, as Ridley demonstrates, is at best moot, at worst flat-out untrue. In fact, government was actually responsible for postponing the internet. One of its early forms was the Pentagon-funded Arpanet, which until 1989 was prohibited for private or commercial purposes. An MIT handbook in the 1980s reminded users: ‘sending electronic messages over the ARPAnet for commercial profit or political purposes is both antisocial and illegal’. Only after it was effectively privatised in the 1990s did the internet take off.

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Internet killed the Broadcast TV star

Teena Harris likes to have a movie night with her family once a week, so they can enjoy watching TV together for a change.

“What I’ve found is that now everybody has a device, you’re not sitting down like you used to,” says the 47-year-old marketing manager and mother of three.

Back in the old days – well, a year ago, actually – she says the St Heliers family used to gather in front of their 42-inch TV in the lounge and fight over which channel to watch.

“Last year we’d all sit down and watch My Kitchen Rules, but now we don’t.”

The Harris family are at the leading edge of a TV-watching revolution in New Zealand and around the world. A few years ago they watched free-to-air channels and Sky. Three months ago they dropped Sky because they weren’t watching it enough to justify the cost. The family has subscribed to Netflix, the US internet-based giant which started in New Zealand in March, and their viewing habits have almost totally switched to commercial-free online viewing.

Teena streams an episode of Netflix on the TV at night after coming home from work and doing dinner and the evening chores. Her husband Craig likes movies and documentaries and dips back into free-to-air to catch the late news.

Their 14-year-old son Sam has moved off the big screen altogether, watching action dramas like Homeland on his iPad. Daughters Sally, 12, and Molly, 9, follow the same teen dramas like Pretty Little Liars on Netflix that they used to watch on Sky’s Disney Channel.

“It’s changed from watching what’s served to you on traditional TV to going and picking what you want to watch,” says Craig. Read more »

Surely even the Russians wouldn’t be so stupid as to cut off the Internet?

They can bomb, they can annex and they can do whatever they like invading other non-relevant (non-western!) countries, but if they ever cut off the Internet, the backlash they’ll face will be unprecedented.

You can kill every day, but if you take away our Facebook, it will be the last thing you ever do.

The presence of Russian submarines and spy ships near undersea cables carrying most global Internet communications has US officials concerned that Russia could be planning to sever the lines in periods of conflict, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

The Times said there was no evidence of cable cutting but that the concerns reflected increased wariness among US and allied officials over growing Russian military activity around the world.

The newspaper quoted naval commanders and intelligence officials as saying they were monitoring significantly greater Russian activity along the cables’ known routes from the North Sea to Northeast Asia and waters closer to the United States.   Read more »

It’s illegal for us to buy this NZ book, but the rest of the world can

American publishing house Polis Books plan to publish Into the River, by Ted Dawe, in hardcover and as an e-book after founder Jason Pinter heard about the New Zealand ban.

“Any time a book is banned, all it serves to do is get the book more readers,” he told Radio New Zealand’sMorning Report.

“This is how I heard about the book, to begin with – I was actually on holiday with my family, and it made me want to read the book.”

There are no plans to restrict the age of American readers, although Mr Pinter said Polis would recommend that readers be over 13, as parents tended to buy for their children and might want to be aware of its more sensitive themes.

Why don’t crazies like Family First ever consider the Streisand Effect?  Instead of saving kids from being exposed to material they deem unsuitable, they now have achieved an even greater market for the book.   Read more »

Would you trust the UN to control the Internet?

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Everything the UN does turns to custard, except profligate waste and spending money, they are world champions at that.

Now there is a proposal for the UN to take over control of the internet.

It may not have intended to, precisely, but the United Nations just took sides in the Internet’s most brutal culture war.

On Thursday, the organization’s Broadband Commission for Digital Development released a damning “world-wide wake-up call” on what it calls “cyber VAWG,” or violence against women and girls. The report concludes that online harassment is “a problem of pandemic proportion” — which, nbd, we’ve all heard before.

But the United Nations then goes on to propose radical, proactive policy changes for both governments and social networks, effectively projecting a whole new vision for how the Internet could work.

Under U.S. law — the law that, not coincidentally, governs most of the world’s largest online platforms — intermediaries such as Twitter and Facebook generally can’t be held responsible for what people do on them. But the United Nations proposes both that social networks proactively police every profile and post, and that government agencies only “license” those who agree to do so.

“The respect for and security of girls and women must at all times be front and center,” the report reads, not only for those “producing and providing the content,” but also everyone with any role in shaping the “technical backbone and enabling environment of our digital society.”

How that would actually work, we don’t know; the report is light on concrete, actionable policy. But it repeatedly suggests both that social networks need to opt-in to stronger anti-harassment regimes and that governments need to enforce them proactively.

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Spot on HDPA, it is the hackers who are scumbags not those playing away

The scumbag media have been lapping up the Ashley Madison hack, enjoying wrecking peoples lives off of the back of criminal hackers.

Heather du Plessis-Allan-Soper calls time on the media and says we should be going after the scumbag hackers.

A few years ago a friend learned a good lesson about private information online. This was back when TradeMe was new and everything about it was novel. Someone posted a house for auction with a $1 reserve. Novel! Someone wrote a funny sales pitch for their dead grandmother’s knitting needles. Novel!

TradeMe was where my friend went to track down one of these people selling something quirky.

He logged into his TradeMe account to post the seller a message below their auction. He was a journalist, he explained. This was his name. This was who he worked for. This was his email address and would the person drop him an email to organise an interview.

It didn’t take long for another TradeMe user to spot the correspondence, click on my friend’s trading history and give him a quick heads up. Everyone could see he — the journalist of this name, working for this company — had recently bought two second-hand gay porn DVDs.

My friend hadn’t come out publicly yet. He could have been embarrassed or hurt if, instead of a polite heads up, the person had called a gossip columnist.

So consider that before we roll out the moral indignation over the cheaters being named and shamed in the Ashley Madison adultery website hack.

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Boing Boing and the EFF label the HDC as troll-friendly

Boing Boing and the EFF don’t have much good to say about Amy Adams’ Harmful Digital Communications Act.

If you set out to create the platonic ideal of a badly considered anti-trolling bill that made a bunch of ineffectual gestures at ending harassment without regard to the collateral damage on everything else on the Internet, well, you’d be New Zealand’s Parliament, apparently.

The Harmful Digital Communications Act has been under consideration for three years, but despite a long debate, the Parliament elected to create restrictions on all online speech — from private arguments to videos of police brutality — that would never be countenanced in the offline world.

HDC’s takedown regime takes all the worst elements of DMCA takedowns — someone complains to a hosting company or ISP and they remove material nearly automatically, with hardly any consideration of whether the complaint passes the giggle-test — and makes them even worse. Under the new system, trolls who mass-dox or denial-of-service attack a victim could make all of her online presence disappear with impunity, and face no penalties at all for abusing the procedure. If the victim did manage to attempt a counterclaim to keep her online life intact, it would require that she disclose her home address and other details to her attackers.

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