Ooniprobe exposes censorship worldwide

Internet censorship isn’t always obvious. Blocking may come and go, or censors might block just part of a site. Automating detection helps to unmask sneaky blocking attempts. Ooniprobe is a mobile application which lets people in censorship-prone areas contribute to a global picture of what’s hidden.

“OONI” stands for “Open Observatory of Network Interference.” It’s part of the Tor Project.
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Friday news roundup for Feb. 3

This week’s news roundup, with an effort to find more good news:

Brian CheskyAirbnb is offering free housing for refugees and others whom the US has turned away. Co-founder Brian Chesky wrote, “Not allowing countries or refugees into America is not right, and we must stand with those who are affected.”

The US government subjected Twitter to two National Security Letters, one in 2015 and one in 2016. The NSLs “requested” “a large amount of data.” The gag orders were lifted only in January 2017.
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Effects of the Muslim ban on the tech world

Trump’s ban on non-citizens (at first including permanent residents) from seven countries entering the US has hurt a broad range of people. Let’s take a look at its effects on the tech world.

Sanaz Ahari LemelsonThe Guardian reports that “the ban dealt a blow to the technology industry, which relies heavily on foreign-born software engineers.” It cites examples such as Sanaz Ahari Lemelson, a Canadian citizen who was born in Iran and has a green card in the US. She’s the director of product management at Google. Her parents, who live in Vancouver, can’t visit her in Seattle.
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The return of Lavabit

Lavabit is back.

In 2013, the federal government launched an all-out attack on the secure Lavabit email service in its efforts to get Edward Snowden. This led to Lavabit’s shutdown. It was a classic secret police operation; at the time, Ladar Levison wasn’t even allowed to talk about what the government was demanding. In 2014, Levison published more details.

The Feds ordered the installation of surveillance equipment on Lavabit and demanded its private SSL keys. This would have let the Feds read anything that users sent over the supposedly secure connection to the site, including their passwords. Levison endured weeks of outrageous treatment by the legal system. Just read his article; no summary could do it justice. In the end, he faced the choice of letting the government snoop all 400,000 of Lavabit’s customers’ accounts or shutting it down. He shut it down.

All this was under Obama. We can only expect worse from Trump. So it was on Trump’s inauguration day that Levison chose to relaunch Lavabit.
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Russia’s server control: Beyond LiveJournal

Why did LiveJournal’s move its servers to Moscow? Because of a law requiring websites that do business in Russia to store data on Russians in Russia. SUP is a Russian company, so it really had no choice. The authorities may even have ordered it not to tell anyone, though it couldn’t hide the fact.

This is only a small part of what’s happened in that country. Most LiveJournal users haven’t noticed that the same law led to permanently blocking LinkedIn. Apple and Google have agreed to remove LinkedIn from the Russian edition of their app stores. Google has moved its data on Russians to Russian servers.
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