Jordanian Websites Go Dark to Protest Internet Censorship

More than 200 Jordanian websites went dark recently in a demonstration reminiscent of America’s anti-SOPA protest.

Jordan’s Internet Black-Out Day was coordinated and carried out within four days after details were released last week of a proposed amendment to the existing Press and Publication Law, which would grant the government sweeping powers to censor and block online content.

According to the Jordanian news site 7iber:

Jordan’s current press and publication law, which requires publications to get licensing from the Press and Publications Department and which imposes specific requirements and fees in order to grant these licenses, is already undemocratic and a hindrance to free press. The proposed amendments go further to stifle and restrict press freedom and freedom of expression. The amendments include holding websites accountable for comments posted by readers and forcing them to monitor comments and not publish them if they’re not directly related to the topic of the post or if they’re not verified. They also require websites to keep a record of comments for at least six months. Amendments include as well forcing websites to register and get licensed by the Press and Publication Department in order to be treated like any media publication in Jordan. This would apply to any website that publishes news, articles, or comments related to Jordanian affairs. The law would also give the director of the Press and Publications department the authority to block any website hosted outside Jordan if it violates laws that govern local websites.

The proposed legislation grew out of a campaign by a conservative grassroots group called Ensaf calling for the government to filter pornography sites.  Local Internet freedom advocates responded with a Facebook page called “I know how to protect myself.”

German Scientists find “Internet Addiction Gene”

New research out of Germany suggests that an addiction to the Internet can result from a gene variation that is also linked to addiction to nicotine.

Researchers at the University of Bonn and the  Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim compared the genomes of healthy individuals and those who reported that “all their thoughts revolve around the Internet during the day and they feel their wellbeing is severely impacted if they have to go without it.”

They found that most of those who exhibited “problematic behaviour” with the Internet carried a particular variant of  the CHRNA4 gene, which affects the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor in the brain, and plays an important role in activating the brain’s reward system.

Interestingly, though previous studies show that men are generally more prone to Internet addiction, the German study found the gene variant more prevalent in women.  Lead author Dr. Christian Montag suggests that “the sex-specific genetic finding may result from a specific subgroup of Internet dependency, such as the use of social networks or such.”

Why the Trans-Pacific Partnership Isn’t Just Another Free-Trade Agreement

The Trans-Pacific Partnership taking shape behind closed doors in the capitals of nine countries would rewrite trade rules for a range of goods, but the section on intellectual property is drawing the ire of free-speech and privacy advocates.

The TTP is being called “Global SOPA” because it includes many of the same policies proposed in the Stop Online Piracy Act, which went down in flames in Congress last year in the face of an online netizen uprising.

From  at ReadWriteWeb in “Why You Should Be Terrified Of A Free Trade Agreement You’ve Never Heard Of”:

The bulk of the criticism centers around TPP’s Intellectual Property protections. On one hand, these protections impose copyright standards on member countries that are more extensive and punitive than current standards in any of the member states At the same time, it pressures Internet Service Providers in participating countries to filter their own Internet traffic for infringing material and enforce violations by blocking access to offending websites. In theory, a video mashup, a song cover or even some Harry Potter fan fiction could shut down an entire site. Taken to the extreme, it’s SOPA on a global scale, without a vote, minus the public scrutiny.

Imposing such a regime by treaty could be much easier than through legislation, since SOPA was brought down by an upwelling of public outrage against a particular bill whose explicit intention was clamping down on Internet freedom, making the argument simply whether that was a good idea or not.  When a large and vocal segment of the population agreed loudly that it wasn’t, politicians in the House of Representatives backed down and the lobbyists lost.

But if the same SOPA policies are embedded in a “free trade agreement,” opponents will find themselves arguing against a broad trade treaty designed to benefit American farmers and manufacturers across the country in addition to intellectual property owners.  And the only thing needed to make Son of SOPA the law of the land would be a single Senate vote.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has an excellent infographic breaking it all down.

Mitt Romney’s Money will be Trending on Twitter Tonight

Mitt Romney will make history on the last night of the Republican National Convention — as the first political candidate in history to purchase a national “trending topic” on Twitter.

Romney is scheduled to “trend” on the evening of Thursday, Aug. 30, to coincide with his speech accepting the Republican nomination for president, an event the campaign evidently feared would not generate avid interest among the Twiterati.

Though the GOP’s vice-presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, did trend on Twitter following his acceptance speech on Aug. 29, the Romney campaign is leaving nothing to chance.  The purchase of a national “trending topic” on Twitter will assure that Romney appears to be the subject of much comment on the social media platform, simulating the effect of great interest in his candidacy among users of the service.

The “trend” the Romney campaign bought for this evening will appear as #RomneyRyan2012, along with a tag noting that it has been “Promoted.”  Mousing over the tag shows the helpful disclosure “Paid for by Mitt Romney of President, Inc.”

No confirmation yet on reports that Romney also intends to take his mother to the Prom.

Apple: No Killer Drone Apps for the iPhone

The killjoys of Cupertino have thrice rejected Drones+, which (would have) let you track America’s fleet of flying deathbots on their global killing spree from the comfort of your iPhone.

Drones+ doesn’t disclose drone flight paths en route to strikes or provide real-time images of the targets or anything like that.  It’s only meant to send an alert (and map point) to the phones of the morbidly curious whenever a drone strike occurs, based on a publicly available database of strikes compiled by the U.K.’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism, according to WIRED’s Danger Room.

Apple’s reasoning for blocking Drones+ from the App Store has changed each time it rejected the app, but the latest excuse is that the content is “objectionable and crude.”  Simply pushing out map points after strikes have been confirmed might be considered rather “crude” functionality for users who would really prefer a live video stream of scurrying Taliban below, but that’s probably not what Apple was talking about.

That leaves open the question of who may have objected to the content.  Apple, says Danger Room, wasn’t able to comment about that.

Drones+’s developer, Josh Begley, is currently considering an Android version.

GOP Platform Supports Privacy & Internet Freedom, Opposes Net Neutrality

A Romney presidency would be broadly supportive of data privacy and Internet freedom, suggests an analysis of the GOP platform adopted this week at the Republican National Convention, but that would include the freedom of service providers to create a 2-speed Internet.

Ars Technica Business Editor  looked at the tech-related planks of the GOP platform and found strong language on data protection and resistance to regulation — particularly against the Obama Administration’s movement toward “net neutrality” policies which would prevent carriers from charging more to transmit some content faster.

Farivar and the scholars he consulted found some of the language to be vague or somewhat self-contradictory.  For example, the platform states: “We will ensure that personal data receives full constitutional protection from government overreach and that individuals retain the right to control the use of their data by third parties,” which most privacy advocates would agree with.  But in the same sentence, the GOP goes on to say: “the only way to safeguard or improve these systems is through the private sector” — an approach Farivar notes most advocacy groups agree has failed.

The strong stance extending to personal data “full constitutional protection from government overreach” also raises questions about how Republicans would respond to Twitter’s argument that the Fourth Amendment protects an Occupy-Wall-Street protester’s private tweets from a court subpoena.

Then again, The Daily Show proved that Republicans don’t necessarily believe that adhering to every part of the GOP platform is mandatory.

Pro-Assange Hactivist Breaches Main U.K. Police Website

The ongoing cyber-assault on websites across the United Kingdom to protest the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has added to its list of scalps the main police website for England and Wales,, according to the hacker blog CyberWarNews.

A hacker using the handle @0x00x00 announced on Twitter a series of datadumps drawn from the U.K. police site flagged with the hashtag #OpFreeAssange.

CyberWarNews characterized the data, which is archived at

The first lot of accounts belong to officers/users of the site and total 97 all with a common setup email and clear text password as well as other personal information.

The second lot of data is from user logs and appears to be a list of logs from officers looking into certain warrant files.

The third contains officer contain details and the fourth is contact details for other places with England and Wales.

While many of the hactivists waging cyberwar against the British authorities on behalf of Assange affiliate themselves with groups like Anonymous, LulzSec and NullCrew, @0x00x00 claims to be an independent operator.  Yesterday, NullCrew leaked usernames and passwords hacked from Cambridge University along with a statement:

“Julian Assange has been fought against for speaking his voice. NullCrew along with all of Anonymous are fighting this, and will not stop.

“If truly, the proper thing doesn’t happen with Assange, the United Kingdom will forever be a target to Anonymous and NullCrew, and all the other groups associated with Anonymous.”