The main events of the week:
GitHub and Vimeo blocked in Russia
On Monday, 1 December 2014, Roskomnadzor blocked video-hosting website Vimeo upon a request from The State Office of Public Prosecutor. The website was blocked due to a video called ‘Flames of War’ posted by ISIS. The ban was rescinded the next day after Vimeo administration deleted the video. However, on the same day Russian regulator blocked access to GitHub website. The regulator explained that illegal content was found on the website. Access to GitHub was restored after 7 webpages were removed from the site.
The Internet tax bill has introduced a universal tax on the internet that will be collected by organizations representing copyright holders. The initiative was developed by the Russian Union of Copyright Holders. The Union suggests that it is necessary to impose a fixed tax of 300 rubles per year on every internet user that should be collected through ISPs. The new mechanism was met with strong criticism from major ISP’s and the Ministry of Communications. On December 1 2014, major Russian IT companies such as ‘Mail.Ru’, ‘Yandex’, ‘Rambler&Co’ and ‘VKontakte’ released an open letter to the President arguing that the initiative violates the Constitution and the WTO regulations.
Russian TV channel forced to move
Russian TV channel Rain has been forced to move from its temporary location. This is the second time in recent weeks that Rain TV has been forced to change its location. The channel’s managing director has had to organize broadcasting from her apartment. After the first landlord refused to extend the channel’s lease, Rain TV temporarily broadcasted from Russian Snob magazine but was asked to leave this week. In addition to the problem with studios, Russian regulator Roskomnadzor requested all operators to provide details on Rain TV broadcasting and location.
Google for kids
Google is building a safe search engine for children. A new search tool will offer a way to do research more safely with more filtering. Google is aiming the new search tool at kids under 13 years of age.
Bitcoins on sale
The biggest Bitcoins auction in history was held in the US on December 5 2014. This was the second auction held by the Marshals Service for Bitcoins seized from Silk Road. In June the Marshals Service sold approximately 30,000 Bitcoins. On December 5, around 50,000 Bitcoins worth nearly $19 million were sold. However, after the two auctions the government still has 94,000 Bitcoins at its disposal.
The US protests
Protest movements have sparkled in the US following two grand jury decisions on two murder cases involving white police officers and black victims. Shortly after riots and looting took place in Ferguson, a Grand Jury decision not to indict a New York police officer in the chokehold case of Eric Garner lead to another wave of protests across the country. Eric Gardner died after the officer placed him in a chokehold; this practice is officially banned in the police force. A video of the accident showing Eric Garner wrestled down by the police officer and repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe” has gone viral. First protests occurred in central New York City on Wednesday and then spread across the country the following night taking up the streets in Denver, Chicago, Washington and Boston. Demonstrators took their protest to the streets with I Can’t Breathe campaign. Public outcry reached Twitter with #CrimingWhileWhite campaign that was trending in the US and worldwide for two days. White Twitter users have confessed the crimes they have committed, but only those who went without punishment to demonstrate an unequal justice system. In two days users sent more than 300,000 tweet confessions, sending 620 tweets a minute during the peak time of the campaign.
Hackers attack Sony
Sony shut down its servers after a major hacking attack which compromised hundreds of passwords, personal data on more than 47,000 of its employees and celebrities, approximately 1.1 million social insurance numbers and hundreds of files related to the company’s contracts and related information. The malware used against Sony may have a destructive effect on all the company’s computer systems. Further, four new movies leaked online following the attack. ‘Fury’, ‘Annie’, ‘Mr. Turner’ and ‘To Write Love on Her Arms’ are now available to download on numerous file-sharing hubs. Recently released ‘Fury’ has been downloaded more than 1.2 million times. Sony representatives and investigators are considering the possible involvement of North Korea in the attack. Earlier this year, North Korean government criticised the film ‘The Interview’, calling it an “evil act of provocation” aimed at the country’s leader Kim Jong Un. However, it is still unclear whether or not the cyber attack and the leak are related.
Consumers vs Apple
In a class action suit Apple has been accused of breaching the US anti-trust regulations. Plaintiffs argue that they have been forced to pay higher prices for Apple products due to Apple’s violation of competition laws between 2007 – 2009. They have claimed $350 million in compensations for “injuries” suffered in relation to the violation. Consumers argue that Apple software updates prevented iPod players from playing music files downloaded from sources other than iTunes store. According to plaintiffs, Apple implemented this software without informing their consumers and thereby forcing them to use only Apple’s products.