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Is Cuba trying to outlaw independent media? A new decree will prohibit foreign web hosting

3 days ago

It is also illegal to host "news media" sites locally.

Wifi-Cuba-800x532.jpg (800x532)

A WiFi symbol in Old Havana, Cuba. Photo by Nano Anderson, taken from Flickr under a CC License BY 2.0.

by Ellery Roberts Biddle

Cuban officials issued a decree law on July 4 that prohibits Cuban citizens from running websites hosted outside of the country. The law deals a heavy blow to Cuba’s growing independent media sector, where nearly all media sites and blogs take advantage of foreign hosting services and blogging platforms.

The law offers no details on its implementation — it is unclear whether it will affect people who use foreign-based social media platforms to publish their views — but Cubans say it presents at least two significant problems for any citizen who wants to run their own website. First, under the new rule, they will incur new costs. Hosting services in Cuba, which are provided exclusively by ETECSA, the country’s sole, state-run telecommunications provider, are more expensive than many foreign hosting services, and more than running a basic blog on a site like WordPress, where the minimum cost is zero.

The second and more worrisome aspect of the rule is that Cuban state regulations impose tight restrictions on which types of websites can be hosted in Cuba at all. According to item 27 on a long FAQ posted by ETECSA, publications that constitute “news media” cannot seek hosting on Cuban servers. Furthermore, for bloggers and others who write independent commentary, the rules prohibit content that “contradict[s] any provision of law or governmental act” or that could disrupt “public order.”

In a country where the media landscape is made up of three major components — state-run media, foreign press and wire services, and small but increasingly powerful local independent media groups — the new rule could put this third sector into long-term legal limbo.

“The law leaves independent media without ‘legal’ hosting options,” said local journalist and Global Voices author Elaine Díaz. “By imposing fines, they are criminalizing a decision that should not have any legal consequence.” Díaz is the editor-in-chief of Periodismo de Barrio, an independent media group based in Havana.

On Twitter, Díaz also criticized the fact that the law was brought in by decree, rather than undergoing discussion and scrutiny by the state assembly.

#NoMásDecretazos El artículo 68 afecta a cualquier ciudadano que tenga un blog en @wordpressdotcom o una página en @Medium. Es una violación y ni siquiera pasó por la Asamblea. La informatización debe ser por consenso o será injusta y arbitraria. pic.twitter.com/J2RVDXjdQ7

— Elaine Díaz (@elainediaz2003) July 5, 2019

#NoMoreDecrees Article 68 affects any citizen who has a blog on @wordpress or a page on @Medium. It is a violation and it was not even approved by the [National] Assembly. Information policies should be decided by consensus, or they will be unjust and arbitrary.

Published under a CC BY 3.0 US license.

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Trump asks Congress to permanently reauthorize NSA's expiring power to access domestic call records

on Aug 16, 2019

by Xeni Jardin

Trump Administration wants Congress to bring N.S.A.’s deactivated Call Records program back to life.

Donald Trump's White House is seeking to reauthorize the indefinitely-halted law that allows the NSA to access the phone companies' logs of Americans’ phone calls and text messages.

New: The next fight in the Stellarwind/Snowden/Freedom Act saga has arrived. In letter obtained by NYT, Trump asks Congress to permanently reauthorize NSA's expiring power to access domestic call records, acknowledging program is dysfunctional & suspended. https://t.co/dcPGGceS6y

— Charlie Savage (@charlie_savage) August 15, 2019

Reports Charlie Savage at the New York Times:

In a letter to Congress delivered on Thursday and obtained by The New York Times, the administration urged lawmakers to make permanent the legal authority for the National Security Agency to gain access to logs of Americans’ domestic communications, the USA Freedom Act. The law, enacted after the intelligence contractor Edward J. Snowden revealed the existence of the program in 2013, is set to expire in December, but the Trump administration wants it made permanent.

The unclassified letter, signed on Wednesday by Dan Coats in one of his last acts as the director of National Intelligence, also conceded that the N.S.A. has indefinitely shut down that program after recurring technical difficulties repeatedly caused it to collect more records than it had legal authority to gather. That fact has previously been reported, but the administration had refused to officially confirm its status.

(...) Complicating matters, three other surveillance authorities primarily used by the F.B.I. are also set to expire in mid-December. They include provisions that let investigators get court orders to collect business records relevant to a national security investigation, wiretap “lone wolf” terrorists without links to a foreign power, and keep wiretapping someone suspected of being a spy or a terrorist who switches phone lines in an effort to evade surveillance.

Mr. Coats’s letter said the administration supported making those three provisions permanent as well, rather than merely subjecting them to another extension of several years, as Congress has previously done.

Read the rest:
Trump Administration Asks Congress to Reauthorize N.S.A.’s Deactivated Call Records Program

AND: Read the letter Dan Coats sent to Congress here.

“The National Security Agency has suspended the call detail records program that uses this authority and deleted the call detail records acquired under this authority,” wrote former DNI Coats in the letter.

“This decision was made after balancing the program’s relative intelligence value, associated costs, and compliance and data integrity concerns caused by the unique complexities of using these company-generated business records for intelligence purposes.”

Published under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license.

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EFF Delegation Returns from Ecuador, says Ola Bini’s Case is Political, Not Criminal

on Aug 06, 2019

Globally Recognized Technologist Still Facing Charges in Drawn-Out Prosecution

EFF Press Release

San Francisco – A team from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has returned from a fact-finding mission in Quito for the case of Ola Bini—a globally renowned Swedish programmer who is facing tenuous computer-crime charges in Ecuador.

Bini was detained in April, as he left his home in Quito to take a vacation to Japan. His detention was full of irregularities: for example, his warrant was for a “Russian hacker,” and Bini is Swedish and not a hacker. Just hours before Bini’s arrest, Ecuador’s Minister of the Interior, Maria Romo, held a press conference to announce that the government had located a “member of Wikileaks” in the country, and claimed there was evidence that person was “collaborating to destabilize the government.” Bini was not read his rights, allowed to contact his lawyer, or offered a translator.

Bini was released from custody in June, following a successful Habeas Corpus plea by his lawyers. But he is still accused of “assault on the integrity of computer systems”—even though prosecutors have yet to make public any details of his alleged criminal behavior.

“If someone breaks into a house, and authorities arrest a suspect, the prosecution should at the very least be able to tell you which house was broken into,” said EFF Director of Strategy Danny O’Brien, who was part of EFF’s delegation to Quito. “The same principle applies in the digital world.”

In Ecuador, EFF’s team spoke to journalists, politicians, lawyers, academics, as well as to Bini and his defense team. These experts have concluded that Bini's continuing prosecution is a political case, not a criminal one.

“We believe that Ecuadorian authorities have grown concerned about the wider political consequences of either abandoning Bini’s case or continuing to prosecute, creating an impasse,” said O’Brien. “But Ola Bini’s innocence or guilt should be determined by a fair trial that follows due process. It should in no way be impacted by potential political ramifications.”

Bini has worked on several key open source projects, including JRuby, and several Ruby libraries, as well as implementations of the secure and open communication protocol OTR. He has also contributed to Certbot, the EFF-managed tool that has provided strong encryption for millions of websites around the world. Bini recently co-founded Centro de Autonomía Digital, a non-profit organization devoted to creating user-friendly security tools.

Published under a CC BY 3.0 US license.

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Will Cloudflare Kicking 8chan Undermine Controversial Sites?

on Aug 05, 2019

EDITOR'S NOTE: 8chan has reemerged on ZeroNet

by Andy

In the wake of this weekend's shooting atrocity in El Paso, Texas, CDN company Cloudflare has severed its links with 8chan, the platform where the shooter has said to have published his manifesto. In a statement, Cloudflare chief executive Matthew Prince cited "lawlessness" as a prime reason for the termination, a word often used to describe the activities of Cloudflare's 'pirate' site customers.

Another day, another senseless mass shooting in the United States, claiming the lives of yet more innocent victims.

While the authorities attempt to sift through this catastrophe and work out what drives people to carry out such terrible acts, attention is being placed on how their messages of evil are spread. Somewhat inevitably, parts of the Internet are set to shoulder at least some of the blame.

Not at all unsurprisingly, service providers are usually reluctant to take any responsibility for the actions of their users or some cases, customers. However, in an announcement early this morning, CDN company Cloudflare said it would cease its work with 8chan, the “cesspool of hate” messaging board where it’s alleged the shooter shared his manifesto.

“8chan is among the more than 19 million Internet properties that use Cloudflare’s service. We just sent notice that we are terminating 8chan as a customer effective at midnight tonight Pacific Time,” CEO Matthew Prince wrote in a statement.

“The rationale is simple: they have proven themselves to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths. Even if 8chan may not have violated the letter of the law in refusing to moderate their hate-filled community, they have created an environment that revels in violating its spirit.”

While other publications will quite rightly focus on the human aspect of this weekend’s awful events, our reporting of issues affecting Cloudflare always center on the company’s involvement in copyright infringement actions. And there are several, almost every month.

Cloudflare is not a copyright infringer and always acts within the law but if 8chan is guilty of violating “the spirit” of the law and ripe for termination, it will be no surprise that copyright-focused groups will now be quietly rubbing their hands in anticipation.

The Pirate Bay, perhaps the most high-profile ‘pirate’ customer of Cloudflare, provides the most obvious example of a site with a stated aim of violating the law – copyright law, to be specific.

Yet to date nothing has been done to prevent the site from being a Cloudflare customer, because from Cloudflare’s side – perhaps counterintuitively – the CDN service itself hasn’t broken any laws. A similar argument can be made for the many hundreds or even thousands of comparable ‘pirate’ platforms which use Cloudflare in the same way.

It would be distasteful to compare the events of this past weekend with the sharing of movies, TV shows, and music, but copyright holders have had no problem using that as leverage in the past.

In a case brought against Cloudflare by ALS Scan, the adult publisher reminded the court that Cloudflare had previously terminated its business dealings with the Daily Stormer but hadn’t terminated its pirate site customers. Cloudflare didn’t want that discussion to take place at trial but its arguments were rejected by the judge.

In the end, Cloudflare and ALS Scan agreed to settle their case, meaning that a claim for contributory copyright infringement – through the prism of the Daily Stormer disconnection – didn’t get placed in front of a jury. But here we are, a little over a year later, with 8chan also having been terminated by Cloudflare under broadly similar circumstances.

In his message this morning, CEO Matthew Prince highlighted the fact that Cloudflare realizes that having policies that are more conservative than those of their customers would undermine customers’ abilities to run their ships as they see fit. This, the CEO says, means that the company sometimes has to bite its tongue – up to a point.

“We reluctantly tolerate content that we find reprehensible, but we draw the line at platforms that have demonstrated they directly inspire tragic events and are lawless by design. 8chan has crossed that line. It will therefore no longer be allowed to use our services,” Prince added.

Copyright holders regularly argue that pirate sites are “lawless” by their very nature but none have ever caused or inspired the kind of tragic events inflicted upon innocents in recent times.

All that being said, Cloudflare’s decision to terminate a site it states may have only violated “the spirit” of the law will eventually come back to haunt it, even if it was absolutely right to do so. No brand wants to be associated with those reveling in murder, but the clock is already ticking to see which copyright holder brings it up first, to support a case against Cloudflare and its customers.

It’s happened once, it will surely happen again.

Published under a CC BY-NC 3.0 license.

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Industry Groups Share Anti-Piracy Wish List With US Government

on Aug 05, 2019

by Ernesto

Several industry groups, including the MPAA, have shared their views on how to curb piracy with the US Department of Commerce. According to the submission, the Government can help to combat piracy by taking a variety of actions, including criminal investigations against key players and better copyright protections in trade agreements.

Earlier this month, the US Department of Commerce requested input from the public on several piracy-related matters.

Specifically, it wanted to know more about counterfeit and pirated goods that pass through online third-party marketplaces, and how this can be curbed.

Responding to this request, industry groups MPAA, IFTA, CreativeFuture, and SAG-AFTRA bundled their views on the matter in a joint submission. The groups, which represent various parts of the movie industry, make it clear that piracy remains a major issue.

The groups explain that piracy is complex and multi-faceted. One trend they have signaled over the years is that, similar to the legal offering, piracy is more often streaming related nowadays. In some cases, users don’t even know that they are using pirate services.

“The piracy services often have the look and feel of legitimacy, sometimes luring viewers who have no intent to patronize pirate operations and may not even realize they are doing so. And just as legitimate online dissemination of movie and television programming is moving toward streaming, so, too, is piracy,” the groups write.

Pirate streaming services exist in different shapes, ranging from free pirate sites to paid IPTV subscriptions. The latter is seen as an emerging threat. The groups note that it’s often easier to use than other forms of piracy. As such, there has been an increase in demand for pirate IPTV services recently.

“The MPAA has identified more than 1,000 illegal IPTV services operating around the world. They are accessible via dedicated web portals; third-party applications; and piracy devices configured to access the services as well as individual pieces of pirated content on demand. Such devices recently experienced a surge in consumer adoption,” the submission reads.

In addition to IPTV streaming, other forms of copyright infringement remain a problem as well. This includes torrent sites, cyberlockers, linking sites, as well as streaming devices and applications.

The groups hope that with proper support from the Government, it will be easier to counter these threats. In terms of concrete suggestions, they state that the US Department of Commerce can provide assistance on four fronts, starting with the encouragement of voluntary initiatives.

Encourage Best Practices

For several years industry groups have been pushing for voluntary anti-piracy agreements with the third-party intermediaries. Some success has been booked on this front already.

For example, many advertising networks are now banning pirate sites. Similarly, marketplaces such as Alibaba, eBay, and Amazon, are actively working with rightsholders to stop copyright infringements, and payment processors such as PayPal, Visa, and Mastercard are more vigilant as well.

However, not all companies are as cooperative. That’s where the Department of Commerce could lend a hand, by actively encouraging anti-piracy best practices and other forms of cooperation.

Examples of areas where improvement can be made are domain name registrars and reverse proxies, such as Cloudflare. These companies could implement “repeat infringer” policies, the groups state. In addition, some hosting companies could also do more to ban pirate sites and services.

“Given the central role of hosting providers in the online ecosystem, it is disconcerting that many refuse to take action when notified that their hosting services are being used in clear violation of their own terms of service prohibiting intellectual property infringement, and in blatant violation of the law,” the groups write.

Criminal Enforcement

The second area where the US Government could help is more direct. As highlighted a few weeks ago, the MPAA has made several referrals to the Department of Justice (DoJ), calling out pirate streaming operations that could be criminally prosecuted.

The Department of Commerce could spur on law enforcement to take up these cases.

“The creative community has pending a number of criminal referrals to DOJ regarding streaming piracy operations, with the goal of replicating the deterrent effect and protection of legitimate consumption that happened after the Megaupload action,” the groups write.

“Our hope is that the Commerce Department and others in the Administration will encourage the DOJ to take such action,” they add.

Help to Restore WHOIS data

The third area where the copyright industry groups request help is also familiar. It relates to the European privacy regulation GDPR, which requires many online services and tools to tighten their privacy policies. This also affects domain registrars.

Ever since this was implemented, domain registrar oversight body ICANN decided to shield names and other personal information of domain name owners from public view. The MPAA and other outfits don’t like this, as it makes it harder for them to track down site owners.

They, therefore, want to restore access to the full WHOIS details again. While ICANN promised progress on this front, the issue still hasn’t been resolved. To counter this, US Congress may have to step up and pass legislation to reach the desired effect, and the Commerce Department could back this.

“Should ICANN’s efforts drag on without resolution in sight, we ask that the Department of Commerce support such legislation,” the groups write.

In addition, broad WHOIS access requirements could also be made a requirement in trade agreements, the groups add.

“The Administration should also seek robust WHOIS access requirements in future trade agreements, perhaps expanding on language included in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to apply to more than just a nation’s country-code top-level domain.”

Trade Agreements

Trade agreements are also a separate area of interest. The copyright industry groups point out that the piracy ecosystem is complex. It involves a wide range of players and intermediaries, many of which are located outside the United States.

The groups would like the US government to promote international cooperation in the fight against piracy. In addition, it should update its enforcement model to focus more on the potential liability of third-party intermediaries.

“While much of the model is sound—focusing on core aspects of copyright law and enforcement—the Administration should redouble its efforts around internet enforcement tools, including the critical concept of secondary liability, which creates a threat of liability for internet intermediaries that facilitate or profit from piracy,” the groups note.

In other words, the groups would like to see more trade agreements where companies such as domain registrars, search engines, ISPs, hosting outfits, and other players in the piracy ecosystem, can be held liable under certain circumstances.

—–

All in all, its a pretty elaborate wishlist the MPAA, IFTA, CreativeFuture, and SAG-AFTRA have submitted to the Department of Commerce. The department will take this, as well as the recommendations from other stakeholders, under review.

These submissions will form the basis for a Presidential memorandum on counterfeit and pirated goods trafficking through online marketplaces and internet intermediaries, which will be released in due course.

A copy of the full submission from the MPAA, IFTA, CreativeFuture, and SAG-AFTRA is available here (pdf).

Published under a CC BY-NC 3.0 license.

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Tensions Rise as Copyright “Small Claims” Bill Moves Forward

on Jul 27, 2019

by Ernesto

Last week the Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of the CASE Act, a new bill that proposes to institute a small claims court for copyright disputes. As the bill moves to the Senate, tensions are rising between supporters and opponents, with familiar names, trying to rally support for their positions. Some see it as the ideal tool for rightsholders to protect their works, while others see it as a copyright-trolling threat.

In May, new legislation was tabled in the U.S. House and Senate that introduces the creation of a “small claims” process for copyright offenses.

The CASE Act, short for “Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement,” proposes to establish a copyright claim tribunal within the United States Copyright Office.

If adopted, the new board will provide an option to resolve copyright disputes outside the federal courts, which significantly reduces the associated costs. Supporters say that this will be ideal for smaller creators, such as photographers, to address copyright infringement.

Last week the Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of the CASE Act, which means that the bill is now heading to the Senate.

The positive vote was welcomed by many rightsholders. The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), for example, said that it’s a great first step to get this bill written into law.

“If enacted into law, for the first time photographers, graphic artists, illustrators, authors, songwriters and other individual creators and small businesses would have an affordable and accessible venue to protect their creative efforts from infringement,” ASMP noted.

ASMP and others see the CASE Act as a missing piece in the copyright enforcement puzzle. They believe that many creators are not taking action against copyright infringers at the moment, because filing federal lawsuits is too expensive.

Taking their complaint to the proposed tribunal at the US Copyright Office would be much cheaper. This issue is also highlighted by Keith Kupferschmid, CEO of the Copyright Alliance.

“Right now, few small creators have that ability because the law requires them to sue in federal court and federal court is much too costly and complex, especially when compared to the relatively small size of the claims at issue,” Kupferschmid tells TorrentFreak.

However, there is also significant pushback against the new bill. Several digital rights activists, for example, warn that the Copyright Office is not the most objective venue to resolve copyright disputes. Another common complaint is that a small claims court invites “copyright-trolling,” with rightsholders potentially filing a flurry of complaints.

EFF‘s manager of policy and activism Katharine Trendacosta notes that, although people can opt-out from participating in the tribunal, rightsholders will find those who don’t and prey on these people.

“It encourages copyright trolling by inviting filing as many copyright claims as one can against whoever is least likely to opt-out—ordinary Internet users who can be coerced into paying thousands of dollars to escape the process, whether they infringed copyright or not,” Trendacosta notes.

While potential damages are lower than in a federal court, they are still substantial. The Tribunal can award damages of $15,000 per infringement, or $30,000 per case, which could easily bankrupt families according to Re:Create‘s Executive Director Joshua Lamel.

“It is not small claims when it could bankrupt over half of American families for sharing a photograph online if they were subject to the CASE Act. It is not constitutional when the tribunal could get the law wrong and a defendant will have no recourse to appeal to the courts,” Lamel stresses.

The new bill creates a familiar tension between rightsholder groups and digital activists, with both refuting each other’s arguments.

According to the Copyright Alliance’s Keith Kupferschmid, opponents use scare tactics and intentionally misstate and omit details about the bill to gin up resistance.

“The bill will neither create or exacerbate a copyright troll problem or result in massive default judgments. The bill includes numerous safeguards to prevent such a thing. In fact, it includes many more safeguards than presently exist today when someone sues in federal court,” Kupferschmid tells us.

One of the main safeguards is the fact that people can opt-out. However, the opponents, for their part, believe that this is meaningless. They counter that many people may simply have no clue what to do. They would prefer to see an opt-in system instead.

“The average person is not really going to understand what is going on, other than that they’ve received what looks like a legal summons,” EFF’s
Trendacosta notes.

Some opponents believe that the new bill will give rightsholders an easier way to take down content and keep it down permanently. If a copyright holder files a takedown request after it starts a small claims action, the platform will have to keep the content down until the action is resolved

The Copyright Alliance, of course, sees things differently. It doesn’t believe that it’s logical for rightsholders to pay a fee to simply take a single piece of content down. And if rightsholders file inaccurate claims, they can easily lose a case.

Instead, Kupferschmid counters that the CASE Act could actually help creators to fight abusive takedowns. If people have their content taken down, from YouTube, for example, they can use the small claims court to cheaply dispute this.

Opponents of the bill are not impressed by this argument, however. EFF Senior Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz tells TorrentFreak that such claims are rare and often hard to prove.

“The proposal to have the new Board hear claims of false takedowns sounds good on paper, but it won’t help people in practice. Legal claims against people for sending false takedowns are very rare, but that’s not because of the expense of a lawsuit – it’s because the legal standard for a false takedown is very narrow and hard to prove,” Stoltz says.

We can go on and on with arguments from both sides, but it’s clear that the bill is creating quite a bit of tension between both camps.

What we do want to stress, however, is that the CASE Act will be useless to the copyright trolls who go after alleged BitTorrent pirates. Unlike an earlier version of the bill, there is no subpoena power. This means that rightsholders can’t start a case against a John Doe who’s only known by an IP-address.

In other words, the proposed small claims court, if adopted, can only be used against infringers who are known by name. That leaves out the millions of traditional file-sharers and downloaders.

As the CASE Act moves forward, be can expect more lobbying from both sides. Which position lawmakers will be most susceptible to will eventually decide whether it’s turned into law, or not.

Published under a CC BY-NC 3.0 license.

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NSA gets caught illegally collecting phone and text data (again), blames telephone companies

on Jun 27, 2019

by Mark Frauenfelder

The American Civil Liberties Union released internal NSA memos received under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit revealing that, once again, the NSA improperly collected phone call and text message metadata of US citizens.

A spokesperson for the agency was quick to pin the blame on the telecommunications companies that provided the information:

“While NSA lawfully sought data pertaining to a foreign power engaged in international terrorism, the provider produced inaccurate data and data beyond which NSA sought,” NSA’s media relations chief Greg Julian told The Wall Street Journal.

In other words, "We didn't want the data we took, and anyway, we were busy catching TERRISTS.

ACLU staff attorney Patrick Toomey said in a statement, “These documents only confirm that this surveillance program is beyond redemption and should be shut down for good. The NSA’s collection of Americans’ call records is too sweeping, the compliance problems too many, and evidence of the program’s value all but nonexistent. There is no justification for leaving this surveillance power in the NSA’s hands.”

Published under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license.

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Russia Says it Will Soon Begin Blocking Major VPNs

on Jun 07, 2019

by Andy
Back in March, ten major VPN providers including NordVPN, ExpressVPN, IPVanish and HideMyAss were ordered by Russian authorities to begin blocking sites present in the country's national blacklist. Following almost total non-compliance, the country's telecoms watchdog says that blocking nine of the services is now imminent.

When it comes to site-blocking, Russia is one of the most aggressive countries in the world.

Thousands of pirate sites are blocked on copyright grounds while others are restricted for containing various types of “banned information”, such as extremist material.

The domains of these platforms are contained in a national blacklist. Service providers of many types are required to interface with this database, in order to block sites from being accessible via their systems. This includes VPN providers, particular those that ordinarily provide censorship workarounds.

Back in March, telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor wrote to ten major VPN providers – NordVPN, ExpressVPN, TorGuard, IPVanish, VPN Unlimited, VyprVPN, Kaspersky Secure Connection, HideMyAss!, Hola VPN, and OpenVPN – ordering them to connect to the database. Many did not want to play ball.

NordVPN, for example, flat-out refused to comply, stating that doing so would violate service agreements made with its customers. IPVanish also rejected any censorship, as did VPN Unlimited, VyprVPN and OpenVPN.

The VPN services in question were given a limited time to respond (30 days) but according to Roscomnadzor, most are digging in their heels. In fact, of the companies contacted with the demands, only one has agreed to the watchdog’s terms.

“We sent out ten notifications to VPNs. Only one of them – Kaspersky Secure Connection – connected to the registry,” Roscomnadzor chief Alexander Zharov informs Interfax.

“All the others did not answer, moreover, they wrote on their websites that they would not comply with Russian law. And the law says unequivocally if the company refuses to comply with the law – it should be blocked.”

And it appears that Roscomnadzor is prepared to carry through with its threat. When questioned on the timeline for blocking, Zharov said that the matter could be closed within a month.

If that happens, the non-compliant providers will themselves be placed on the country’s blacklist (known locally as FGIS), meaning that local ISPs will have to prevent their users from accessing them. It is not yet clear whether that means their web presences, their VPN servers, or both.

In the case of the latter, it’s currently unclear whether there will be a battle or not. TorGuard has already pulled its servers out of Russia and ExpressVPN currently lists no servers in the country. The same is true for OpenVPN although VyprVPN still lists servers in Moscow, as does HideMyAss.

Even if Roscomnadzor is successful in blocking any or all of the non-compliant services, there are still dozens more to choose from, a fact acknowledged by Zharov.

“These ten VPNs do not exhaust the entire list of proxy programs available to our citizens. I don’t think there will be a tragedy if they are blocked, although I feel very sorry about it,” Zharov concludes.

Published under a CC BY-NC 3.0 license.

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Silk Road 2.0 Admin Only Faces Tax Charges

on May 30, 2019

One of the admins of the now closed darknet market known as Silk Road 2.0 may only face tax charges now. Blake Benthall, also known as Defcon, received leniency due to his cooperation with law enforcement. This is in stark contrast to the double life sentence that the admin of the original Silk Road darknet market was given. Silk Road 2.0 came online not long after the original Silk Road was seized by law enforcement. However, the Silk Road 2.0 was also seized not long after, and Benthall was facing charges in federal court back in November of 2014.

defcon.jpeg (900x900)
_Blake Benthall aka Defcon_

Silk Road 2.0 saw around $400,000 worth of transactions a day during the time it was operational. Law enforcement was able to deanonymize users of the market with the help of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, who used exploits in Firefox and the Tor Browser to achieve the deanonymization of users. The Silk Road 2.0 was seized as part of a joint international law enforcement operation known as Operation Onymous.

According to documents from the Department of Justice that were obtained by Motherboard, Benthall will not be facing any drug charges. "If the defendant fully complies with the understandings specified in this Agreement, he will not be further prosecuted criminally by this Office for any crimes, except for criminal tax violations," relating to the Silk Road 2.0, the an Assistant United States Attorney said in the document. The document goes on to note that Benthall will not be charged for the personal use amounts of hash gummies he had been found with.

Prosecutors have agreed to not use any self incriminating details that Benthall had told to law enforcement during the prosecution against him for tax crimes, but only on the condition that he continues to be fully cooperative with the feds. He is also required to file accurate tax returns for 2013 and 2014, and pay back taxes that he owes. Others involved with the Silk Road 2.0 did not receive such leniency, but that is because they refused to fully cooperate with law enforcement. Brian Farrell, also known as DoctorClu, was a moderator on the market’s forum, and he ended up receiving a sentence of 8 years in prison. Last month another admin of the Silk Road 2.0, known as Thomas White, received a sentence of 5 years in prison in the United Kingdom.

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Welcome Back!

on May 31, 2015

DeepDotWeb was taken down by an international law enforcement operation. DeepDotWeb has provided high quality journalism about the darknet, cryptocurrency, internet freedom, privacy, encryption, and more. We hope to continue to be the most cited source in scholarly articles about the darknet.

Please consider donating to the site to help us produce more high quality content. Bitcoin and Monero donation addresses are on the left.

If you are interested in advertising on DeepDotWeb 2.0 please contact us.

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To contact us on ZeroNet, send us a message on ZeroMail to: deepdotweb

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