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Host Violent Content? In Australia, You Could Go to Jail

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SYDNEY, Australia — The video showing the murder of 51 people in Christchurch carries both an offensive title, “New Zealand Video Game,” and a message to “download and save.”

Appearing on 153news.net, an obscure site awash in conspiracy theories, it is exactly the sort of online content that Australia’s new law criminalizing “abhorrent violent material” says must be purged. But that doesn’t mean it’s been easy to get it off the internet.

“Christchurch is a hoax,” the site’s owners replied after investigators emailed them in May. Eventually, they agreed to block access to the entire site, but only in Australia.

A defiant response, a partial victory: Such is the challenge of trying to create a safer internet, link by link.

In an era when mass shootings are live-streamed, denied by online conspiracy theorists and encouraged by racist manifestoes posted to internet message boards, much of the world is grasping for ways to stem the loathsome tide.

Australia, spurred to act in April after one of its citizens was charged in the Christchurch attacks, has gone further than almost any other country.

The government is now using the threat of fines and jail time to pressure platforms like Facebook to be more responsible, and it is moving to identify and block entire websites that hold even a single piece of illegal content.

“We are doing everything we can to deny terrorists the opportunity to glorify their crimes,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at the recent Group of 7 summit meeting in France.

But will it be enough? The video of the Christchurch attack highlights the immensity of the challenge.

Hundreds of versions of footage filmed by the gunman spread online soon after the March 15 attack, and even now, clips, stills and the full live-stream can be easily found on scores of websites and some of the major internet platforms.

The video from 153news alone has reached more than six million people on social media.

Australia is pitching its strategy as a model for dealing with the problem, but the limits to its approach have quickly become clear.

Although penalties are severe, enforcement is largely passive and reactive, relying on complaints from internet users, which so far have been just a trickle. Resources are scarce. And experts in online expression say the law lacks the transparency that they say must accompany any effort to restrict expression online.

Of the 30 or so complaints investigators have received so far that were tied to violent crime, terrorism or torture, investigators said, only five have led to notices against site owners and hosts.

“The Australian government wanted to send a message to the social media companies, but also to the public, that it was doing something,” said Evelyn Douek, an Australian doctoral candidate at Harvard Law School who studies online speech regulation. “The point wasn’t so much how the law would work in practice. They didn’t think that through.”

The heart of Australia’s effort sits in an office near Sydney’s harbor that houses the eSafety Commission, led by Julie Inman Grant, an exuberant American with tech industry experience who describes her mission as online consumer protection.

Worldwide, after decades of evolution, that system is robust. Software called PhotoDNA and an Interpol database rapidly identify illegal images. Takedown notices can be deployed through the INHOPE network — a collaboration of nonprofits and law enforcement agencies in 41 countries, including the United States.

In the last fiscal year, the Cyber Report team requested the removal of 35,000 images and videos through INHOPE, and in most cases, takedowns occurred within 72 hours.

“I think we can learn a lot from that,” said Toby Dagg, 43, a former New South Wales detective who oversees the team.

Experts agree, with caveats. Child exploitation is a consensus target, they note. There is far less agreement about what crosses the line when violence and politics are fused. Critics of the Australia law say it gives internet companies too much power over choosing what content should be taken down, without having to disclose their decisions.

They argue that the law creates incentives for platforms and hosting services to pre-emptively censor material because they face steep penalties for all “abhorrent violent material” they host, even if they were unaware of it, and even if they take down the version identified in a complaint but other iterations remain.

Want more Australia coverage and discussion? Sign up for the Australia Letter.

Mr. Dagg acknowledged the challenge. He emphasized that the new law criminalizes only violent video or audio that is produced by perpetrators or accomplices.

But there are still tough questions. Does video of a beheading by uniformed officers become illegal when it moves from the YouTube channel of a human-rights activist to a website dedicated to gore?

“Context matters,” Mr. Dagg said. “No one is pretending it’s not extremely complicated.”

Immediately after the Christchurch shootings, internet service providers in Australia and New Zealand voluntarily blocked more than 40 websites — including hate hothouses like 4chan — that had hosted video of the attacks or a manifesto attributed to the gunman.

In New Zealand, where Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is leading an international effort to combat internet hate, the sites gradually returned. But in Australia, the sites have stayed down.

Mr. Morrison, at the G7, said the eSafety Commission was now empowered to tell internet service providers when to block entire sites at the domain level.

In its first act with such powers, the commission announced Monday that around 35 sites had been cleared for revival, while eight unidentified repeat offenders would continue to be inaccessible in Australia.

In a country without a First Amendment and with a deep culture of secrecy in government, there is no public list of sites that were blocked, no explanations, and no publicly available descriptions of what is being removed under the abhorrent-content law.

More transparency has been promised by officials in a recent report, and some social media companies have pledged to be more forthcoming. But Susan Benesch, a Harvard professor who studies violent rhetoric, said any effort that limits speech must require clear and regular disclosure “to provoke public debate about where the line should be.”

To get a sense of how specific complaints are handled, in early August a reporter for The New York Times submitted three links for investigation:

Investigators said the last item “did not meet the threshold” and was not investigated. For the Christchurch footage, a notice was sent to the site and the hosting service. The first complaint was referred to Facebook, which removed the post.

Over all, the process was cautious, but clearly defined by whoever reports a problem.

Two of the five complaints that led to action by the Cyber Report team involved the beheading of Scandinavian tourists in Morocco by Islamic State supporters. One involved images from the murder of Bianca Devins, a 17-year-old girl from New York state, and the final pair involved the Christchurch attack footage — one of which was submitted by The Times.

Of the five, one site has blocked access (153news), two sites or their hosting provider removed the material, and two sites have not yet responded.

Given that limited impact, the question Australia’s approach still can’t answer is whether governments that are eager to act can muster a more robust, transparent and careful form of internet cleanup.

“It’s tremendously important for humankind that we find ways of making and enforcing norms of behavior online,” Ms. Benesh said. “And companies have not been much help.”

Charlotte Graham-McLay contributed reporting from Wellington, New Zealand.

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How to make your phone safer, according to security experts

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Smartphone users rely on their devices for just about everything: business, shopping, communication, entertainment, and the list goes on.

According to Pew Research Center, 81% of Americans have a smartphone, and reportedly the average user checks theirs more than 50 times a day.

But despite our reliance on our phones, many of us are not using them safely.

Related: The 11 most sophisticated online scams right now that the average person falls for

Consider the most basic of safety precautions: locking your home screen. According to a 2017 Pew report, nearly 30% of smartphone owners do not use a screen lock or other security features to access their phone.

Lapses like that can make users prey to cybersecurity breaches. To avoid having personal information and passwords stolen, take these 10 safety precautions to make your mobile device more secure.

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Trump Told Ukraine to Investigate Biden Eight Times in One Conversation – Fox News

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Thanks for watching my video.
If you like my videos, please subscribe to the channel to receive the latest videos
Videos can use content-based copyright law contains reasonable use Fair Use (https://www.youtube.com/yt/copyright/).
For any copyright, please send me a message. Earlier today, Donald Trump claimed that an apparently alarming conversation he held with the president of Ukraine, which reportedly resulted in a whistle-blower complaint deemed a matter of “urgent concern,” was “perfectly fine and respectful” and, in fact, “pitch perfect!” New reporting, however, suggests that’s not actually the case, unless urging another country to investigate your political rival’s son numerous times is now considered acceptable behavior by the president of the United States. (Given the GOP’s historic attitude toward Trump, it’s possible it is.) The Wall Street Journal reports that during a July phone call, Trump pressed Volodymyr Zelensky eight times to work with Rudy Giuliani to probe Hunter Biden’s ties to a Ukrainian gas company. It’s unclear how long the call lasted, but even if it was an hour long, that’s a lot of interrupting to say, Okay, but you really need to investigate this Biden situation. “He told him that he should work with [Mr. Giuliani] on Biden, and that people in Washington wanted to know” if the allegations (raised by Giuliani that former V.P. Joe Biden tried to shield the Hunter Biden-connected company from investigation) were true, said a person familiar with the matter. According to this person, Trump didn’t offer foreign aid to Ukraine during the call, and the person “didn’t believe Mr. Trump offered the Ukrainian president any quid pro quo for his cooperation on any investigation.” In June and August, Giuliani met with top Ukrainian officials about the possibility of a Biden investigation, despite a Ukrainian official saying earlier this year that there was no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe Biden or his son. The former mayor’s August meeting, per the Journal, came just weeks before the Trump administration started reviewing the status of $250 million in aid to Ukraine, which was released to the country this month. While the acting director of national intelligence has thus far refused to send Congress the whistle-blower complaint, as the law says he is obligated to do, lawmakers are separately investigating if Trump or Giuliani tried to pressure the Ukrainian government to pursue investigations in an attempt to benefit Trump’s 2020 chances. On Thursday, Giuliani told Chris Cuomo that “of course” he told Ukraine to probe alleged wrongdoing by Joe Biden, later saying on Twitter that it’s the president’s “job” and not an abuse of power to pressure another country to investigate alleged “corruption” by his competition. If you would like to receive the Levin Report in your inbox daily, click here to subscribe. How are those trade talks with China going? Not great, Bob!Most PopularGood Help Is Hard To FindRudy Giuliani Is

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More signs emerging of an economic slowdown in Colorado, state forecasters warn – Canon City Daily Record

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State economists are trimming their forecasts for economic growth and tax revenues after business spending and exports declined more than expected this summer.

But they aren’t calling for a downturn yet, given the continued strength in hiring and consumer spending.

“We are not forecasting a recession, but recession risks remain elevated,” Meredith Moon, an economist with the Colorado Legislative Council, (CLC) told members of the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee on Friday.

Trade tensions and slower growth abroad are weighing on economic activity in the U.S. and Colorado. Higher tariffs and a stronger U.S. dollar have contributed to a 6.4 percent drop in Colorado exports this year through July, Moon said in a quarterly briefing.

Some Colorado producers are getting hit much harder — wheat exports are down 56 percent year-to-date, corn exports are down 44.5 percent, and animal hide exports are off 38.4 percent.

Nor are consumers abroad drinking more Colorado alcohol to ease their worries. Beer exports from the state are down 37.4 percent and whiskey exports are off nearly 80 percent.

But compared to other states, Colorado’s economy is among the least dependent on exports, putting it in a better spot to weather a trade war.

“We have fairly limited exposure to foreign markets,” said Kate Watkins, chief economist with the CLC.

And the employment situation report from the Colorado Department of Labor shows continued hiring, with a robust 9,000 nonfarm jobs added in August versus July.

Hiring between June and August was revised higher from an initial estimate of 7,200 to 10,000, something that doesn’t line up with a contraction.

The state’s unemployment rate fell to 2.8 percent in August from 2.9 percent in July and 3.4 percent a year ago. Over the past year, Colorado has had one of the biggest percentage-point drops in its unemployment rate of any state.

A tight labor market is resulting in stronger wage gains and leaving consumers more confident about spending.

“The current economy is being driven by consumer spending,” said Luke Teater, deputy director at the Office of State Planning and Budgeting. “Consumer spending has been strong. We expect that to continue.”

And although home price gains are slowing, homeowners in Colorado continue to see some of the strongest home equity gains in the country, according to CoreLogic.

Only 1.75 percent of Colorado homeowners were behind on their mortgage in the second quarter, the best showing in the country, according to Black Knight, a real estate information provider.

But there are several risks. If business activity contracts, it is only a matter of time before hiring follows. A national manufacturing index showed its first decline since 2015 and short-term interest rates are lower than long-term rates, one of the most reliable indicators of a coming recession.

Home price appreciation is slowing in metro Denver, developers are adding fewer apartments and auto dealers are struggling to move as many cars and trucks as they did last year.

State forecasters don’t expect the brief spike in petroleum prices because of a bombing of Saudi oil facilities last weekend to be sustained. If demand globally continues to weaken, producers in the state, already struggling, will be hurt.

Last week, the city of Denver reported that sales tax collections rose at a 4 percent pace in the first half of the year compared to a 7 percent pace last year, linked to slower construction spending and fewer automobile purchases.

Slower economic activity has caused economists at both the CLC and OSPB to scale back their projections for state tax collections, although the two groups disagree on the amount.

The more optimistic OSPB forecast is expecting general fund revenues, after increasing 7.3 percent last fiscal year, to grow a tamer 4.1 percent this fiscal year.

The state is expected to collect $44.1 million less in its general fund this year than what was forecast in June, and $109.5 million less next year.

“The most likely scenario is a slowdown, not a contraction,” said Lauren Larson, budget director at the OSPB.

The CLC is projecting a $76.3 million drop in general fund collections this fiscal year versus what it estimated in June, and a $120.9 million haircut next year.

Surprisingly, the revenues collected last fiscal year, ended June 30, are coming in $76.1 million below the June forecast, according to the CLC.

In the state’s favor, the surplus due back to taxpayers under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights or TABOR will provide a cushion of sorts. If revenues continue to come in lower than expected, those refunds will disappear before spending gets cut.

Watkins said that much of the slow down appears to be centered in the areas that have enjoyed the strongest growth this decade, while other areas that struggled are still seeing an acceleration.

“We are seeing quite a bit of slowing in the Front Range, especially Denver,” she said. “There’s been a pick up in activity in other parts of the state.”

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