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Old 04-02-22, 07:54 AM   #1
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Default Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - February 5th, 22

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February 5th, 2022

In blow to Telecoms, California’s Net Neutrality Law Upheld
Barbara Ortutay

A federal appeals court has upheld California’s net neutrality law, rejecting an attempt by telecommunications industry groups to prevent the state from enforcing it.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a previous ruling, which means the status quo stays and the state can continue to enforce the law. This means California can continue its ban on internet providers slowing down or blocking access to websites and applications that don’t pay for premium service.

California’s net neutrality law was signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018. That came after regulators during the Trump administration killed federal net neutrality rules designed to prevent AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and other major internet providers from exploiting their dominance to favor certain services or apps over others.

In response, seven states and Puerto Rico enacted their own net neutrality policies. The most expansive effort of this sort was in California, which started enforcing the law last year, with potentially significant consequences for the rest of the U.S.

The Trump administration sued to block California’s 2018 law, preventing it from taking effect for years, but the Biden administration has dropped that lawsuit.

On Friday, proponents of net neutrality cheered the court’s decision, but called for federal net neutrality laws.

“This win is significant because it offers protections to people in our most populous state and drives the national conversation forward,” said Matt Wood, vice president of policy and general counsel of consumer advocacy group Free Press, in a statement. “Yet tremendous as it is, we still need the Biden FCC to reclaim its authority not just for nationwide open-internet rules, but for policies promoting affordable, resilient, just and reasonable internet connections for everyone.”

Big telecom companies oppose the stricter regulation that comes with the net neutrality rules and have fought it fiercely in court. They say the regulations can undermine investment in broadband and introduce uncertainty about what were acceptable business practices.

They say they prefer a national approach to a state-by-state one, but the industry has fought prior federal net neutrality rules. But with a Senate divided 50-50 between the parties, legislation in Congress may not draw enough support to pass.

It’s Back: Senators Want EARN IT Bill to Scan All Online Messages

The Graham-Blumenthal bill is anti-speech, anti-security, and anti-innovation.
Joe Mullin

People don’t want outsiders reading their private messages —not their physical mail, not their texts, not their DMs, nothing. It’s a clear and obvious point, but one place it doesn’t seem to have reached is the U.S. Senate.

A group of lawmakers led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have re-introduced the EARN IT Act, an incredibly unpopular bill from 2020 that was dropped in the face of overwhelming opposition. Let’s be clear: the new EARN IT Act would pave the way for a massive new surveillance system, run by private companies, that would roll back some of the most important privacy and security features in technology used by people around the globe. It’s a framework for private actors to scan every message sent online and report violations to law enforcement. And it might not stop there. The EARN IT Act could ensure that anything hosted online—backups, websites, cloud photos, and more—is scanned.

New Internet Rules, From Juneau to Jackson

The bill empowers every U.S. state or territory to create sweeping new Internet regulations, by stripping away the critical legal protections for websites and apps that currently prevent such a free-for-all—specifically, Section 230. The states will be allowed to pass whatever type of law they want to hold private companies liable, as long as they somehow relate their new rules to online child abuse.

The goal is to get states to pass laws that will punish companies when they deploy end-to-end encryption, or offer other encrypted services. This includes messaging services like WhatsApp, Signal, and iMessage, as well as web hosts like Amazon Web Services. We know that EARN IT aims to spread the use of tools to scan against law enforcement databases because the bill’s sponsors have said so. In a “Myths and Facts” document distributed by the bill’s proponents, it even names the government-approved software that they could mandate (PhotoDNA, a Microsoft program with an API that reports directly to law enforcement databases).

The document also attacks Amazon for not scanning enough of its content. Since Amazon is the home of Amazon Web Services, host of a huge number of websites, that implies the bill’s aim is to ensure that anything hosted online gets scanned.

Separately, the bill creates a 19-person federal commission, dominated by law enforcement agencies, which will lay out voluntary “best practices” for attacking the problem of online child abuse. Regardless of whether state legislatures take their lead from that commission, or from the bill’s sponsors themselves, we know where the road will end. Online service providers, even the smallest ones, will be compelled to scan user content, with government-approved software like PhotoDNA. If EARN IT supporters succeed in getting large platforms like Cloudflare and Amazon Web Services to scan, they might not even need to compel smaller websites—the government will already have access to the user data, through the platform.

A provision of the bill that purports to protect services using encryption (Section 5, Page 16) doesn’t come close to getting the job done. State prosecutors or private attorneys would be able to drag an online service provider into court over accusations that their users committed crimes, then use the fact that the service chose to use encryption as evidence against them—a strategy that’s specifically allowed under EARN IT.

It’s hard to imagine anyone daring to use this supposed defense of encryption. Instead, they’ll simply do what the bill sponsors are demanding—break end-to-end encryption and use the government-approved scanning software. Just as bad, providers of services like backup and cloud storage who don’t currently offer user-controlled encryption are even less likely to protect their users by introducing new security features, because they will risk liability under EARN IT.

A Lot of Scanning, Not A Lot of Protection

Senators supporting the EARN IT Act say they need new tools to prosecute cases over child sexual abuse material, or CSAM. But the methods proposed by EARN IT take aim at the security and privacy of everything hosted on the Internet.

Possessing, viewing, or distributing CSAM is already written into law as an extremely serious crime, with a broad framework of existing laws seeking to eradicate it. Online service providers that have actual knowledge of an apparent or imminent violation of current laws around CSAM are required to make a report to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), a government entity which forwards reports to law enforcement agencies.

Section 230 already does not protect online service providers from prosecutions over CSAM—in fact, it doesn’t protect online services from prosecution under any federal criminal law at all.

Internet companies are already required to report suspected CSAM if they come across it, and they report on a massive scale. That scale already comes with a lot of mistakes. In particular, new scanning techniques used by Facebook have produced many millions of reports to law enforcement, most of them apparently inaccurate. Federal law enforcement has used the massive number of reports produced by this low-quality scanning to suggest there has been a huge uptick in CSAM images. Then, armed with misleading statistics, the same law enforcement groups make new demands to break encryption or, as with EARN IT, hold companies liable if they don’t scan user content.

Independent child protection experts aren’t asking for systems to read everyone’s private messages. Rather, they recognize that children—particularly children who might be abused or exploited—need encrypted and private messaging just as much as, if not more than, the rest of us. No one, including the most vulnerable among us, can have privacy or security online without strong encryption.
Senate to U.S. Public: Can We Please Have a Surveillance State Now?

In their “Myths and Facts” sheet, the bill’s supporters have said the quiet part out loud. Some of the document’s falsehoods are breathtaking, such as the statement that internet businesses are provided “blanket and unqualified immunity for sexual crimes against children.” It (falsely) reassures small business owners who dare to have websites that the government-ordered scanning they will be subject to will come “without hindering their operations or creating significant costs.” And it says that using automated tools that submit images and videos to law enforcement databases is “not at odds with preserving online privacy.”

The Senators supporting the bill have said that their mass surveillance plans are somehow magically compatible with end-to-end encryption. That’s completely false, no matter whether it’s called “client side scanning” or another misleading new phrase.

The EARN IT Act doesn’t target Big Tech. It targets every individual internet user, treating us all as potential criminals who deserve to have every single message, photograph, and document scanned and checked against a government database. Since direct government surveillance would be blatantly unconstitutional and provoke public outrage, EARN IT uses tech companies—from the largest ones to the very smallest ones—as its tools.

The strategy is to get private companies to do the dirty work of mass surveillance. This is the same tactic that the U.S. government used last year, when law enforcement agencies tried to convince Apple to subvert its own encryption and scan users’ photos for them. (That plan has stalled out after overwhelming opposition.) It’s the same strategy that U.K. law enforcement is using to convince the British public to give up its privacy, having spent public money on a laughable publicity campaign that demonizes companies that use encryption.

We won’t waver in our support for privacy and security for all, and the encryption tools that support those values. This bill may be voted on by the Senate Judiciary Committee in just a few days. We’ve told the U.S. Senate that we will not back down in our opposition to EARN IT. We need you to speak up as well.

Man Accused of Breaking Japan's Copyright Law by Posting Lines from Manga Online

Japanese police filed an accusation against a man and his company on Thursday for allegedly transcribing lines from a manga series and posting them on a website without permission in violation of the copyright law.

The police sent papers on the 44-year-old resident of Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, and the Tokyo-based company that operated the website to public prosecutors.

While admitting to the act, the man has told investigators that he had thought he was acting within the scope of what is permitted, people familiar with the investigation said.

Websites that pirate manga have become a problem in Japan, but it is rare for the operator of a website to be accused of copying lines.

The man is suspected of copying texts and images in editions 60 and 62 of the “Kengan Omega” manga series and making them accessible on a website in May 2020.

“Kengan Omega” is available on official manga apps. Its author had claimed that his copyright was infringed, as nearly entire lines were published without permission.

In March last year, the Tokyo District Court acknowledged the infringement and upheld the author’s demand that the administrator of an app server disclose information about the website’s operator.

The man is believed to have viewed the manga via an app and captured screenshots of its content. He allegedly earned revenue from ads placed on the website. The site has already been shut down.

In a separate case on Thursday, Tokyo police filed an accusation with public prosecutors against a 34-year-old resident of Sayama, Saitama Prefecture, for posting the cover of a popular manga magazine without permission on a so-called leech site, or a site that leads viewers to websites that violate the copyright law.

Last year, three people in Japan were found guilty of uploading so-called fast movies, or illegally edited short versions of copyrighted films, without permission.

Dying Light 2 Confirms Controversial Feature Right Before Release
Tyler Fischer

Dying Light 2 has confirmed a controversial feature right before the game releases later this week, after pre-orders have been submitted and people have succumbed to launch week hype. Whether this was strategic or not, who can say, but players aren't happy. Thankfully for those on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S, and Xbox Series X, this controversial feature isn't relevant, because it's not in these versions of the game. It's only in the PC version of the game. That's right, PC players, Dying Light 2 makes use of Denuvo.

The game's Steam page has been updated, and it now makes the following note: "Incorporates 3rd-party DRM: Denuvo Anti-tamper." What does this mean? Well, for PC users, it means the game will require connection checks and may suffer performance issues as a result. Not every game has suffered performance issues due to Denuvo, but enough have to give it its reputation among PC gamers, and it's a bad reputation.

Why is Dying Light 2 using this tech if it's so controversial? Because of pirating. The technology prevents pirating, which is still a problem in the PC gaming space, especially at launch.

At the moment of publishing, Techland has not said a word about the mini-controversy, and it's probably not going to at this point, but if it does, we will be sure to update the story accordingly.

Dying Light 2 is scheduled to finally release on February 4 via the PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S, and Xbox Series X. The zombie game is also in development for Nintendo Switch, but there's no word when this version will release beyond "sometime in 2022."

"Over twenty years ago in Harran, we fought the virus-and lost. Now, we're losing again," reads an official blurb about the game. "The City, one of the last large human settlements, is torn by conflict. Civilization has fallen back into the Dark Ages. And yet, we still have hope. You are a wanderer with the power to change the fate of The City. But your exceptional abilities come at a price. Haunted by memories you cannot decipher, you set out to learn the truth... and find yourself in a combat zone. Hone your skills, as to defeat your enemies and make allies, you'll need both fists and wits. Unravel the dark secrets behind the wielders of power, choose sides and decide your destiny. But wherever your actions take you, there's one thing you can never forget-stay human."

Exposed Documents Reveal how the Powerful Clean Up their Digital Past Using a Reputation Laundering Firm

Reputation firms like Eliminalia use legal threats and copyright notices to have material taken down around the world.
Peter Guest

In February 2021, Qurium, an organization that provides secure web hosting services for human rights organizations and independent news outlets, received a rambling message from someone whose email signature indicated they were in the legal department of the European Commission.

Writing in dense legalese, the representative, “Raúl Soto,” demanded that Qurium take action on articles from a Kenyan-based investigative journalism website that it hosts, The Elephant. The articles in question included an investigation into alleged corruption, but Soto’s email wasn’t about the allegations. Rather, he claimed that the piece had infringed the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which governs personal data collection and storage in Europe.

Qurium’s staff were suspicious. A brief investigation revealed that the street address in Soto’s signature was not, in fact, that of the European Commission; rather, it was a rented office space in Brussels. Using a publicly available database, they found that complaints were filed to search engines around the same time, claiming that The Elephant article was plagiarized and requesting that the piece be removed and de-indexed from searches — meaning it wouldn’t show up on the first few pages of search engine results.

Qurium traced the domain used in Soto’s email to a reputation management company called Eliminalia, registered in 2013 by a Spanish entrepreneur named Diego “Dídac” Sánchez and headquartered in Barcelona and Kyiv. Eliminalia specializes in removing information from the internet; its tagline is “We Erase Your Past, We Help You Build Your Future” and it promises “100% confidentiality.”

Now, documents viewed by Rest of World shed light on the reputation management industry, revealing how Eliminalia and companies like it may use spurious copyright claims and fake legal notices to remove and obscure articles linking clients to allegations of tax avoidance, corruption, and drug trafficking. The Elephant case may be one of thousands just like it.

Metadata, filenames and the inclusion of internal company information, including contact details and references to company policies, suggest the documents originated from within Eliminalia. Alongside names referred to as clients, the documents include URLs that were to be removed or de-indexed on their behalf. Rest of World spoke to several people and media organizations who ran websites listed in the documents and confirmed that they had been approached by people linked to, or directly employed by, Eliminalia.

Among the thousands of names listed as clients in the documents are the former foreign minister of the Dominican Republic, an individual indicted in Argentina for his role in a cryptocurrency pyramid scheme, and people accused of corruption worldwide, all apparently looking to erase information about themselves from the internet. There are 17,000 URLs that were apparently targeted on clients’ behalf between 2015 and 2019. In at least one case, it appears that Eliminalia may have been hired by a third party reputation managment firm on behalf of a client. It is unclear whether the list represents the entirety of the company’s clients, but it includes individuals and companies from Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and shows the extent to which services of this kind have become a way for wealthy and powerful individuals to control information on the internet.

Magalis Camellón, head of Eliminalia’s legal department, said in an email that the company had “no contractual relationship” with any of the people named in this story, and that “Unfortunately, competitors carry out incorrect actions (DMCA) on behalf of Eliminalia and thus try to tarnish the reputation of our company.” The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, is a piece of U.S. legislation designed to prevent copyright theft online which can be used to issue takedown requests. Camellón declined to provide further details.

Some of the people who appeared in the documents are private individuals who apparently sought to have explicit videos removed from pornographic websites. But the most prolific users of the service appear to be businesspeople and politicians targeting critical articles.

An Eliminalia client agreement from 2021, seen by Rest of World, shows that the company charged 2,500 euros ($2,800) for the removal or de-indexing of each link. In a 2016 interview, Sánchez said that his firm charges some high-profile clients and businesses a premium rate of around $20,000-$30,000. The documents apparently show some clients targeting hundreds of articles and pages.

Among the names listed in the documents is “Miguel Octavio Vargas Maldonado,” who appears to be the former foreign affairs minister of the Dominican Republic. His name is listed next to more than 500 links to news articles, blogs, social media posts, and YouTube videos apparently targeted for removal or de-indexing. Many are articles referring to questions over his political fundraising practices. They include accusations that Vargas had received donations from an individual who would later be convicted of drug trafficking. Some of the targeted links remain active, while others now return 404 errors or “file not found.” Maldonado could not be reached for comment. Emails to his political party bounced back, and its website is currently down. He has previously denied all wrongdoing while in office.

The documents also include an individual referred to as “José Antonio Gordo Valero,” who apparently targeted several articles for removal or de-indexing which refer to the collapse of OneCoin, a Bulgaria-based company later revealed to be an illicit investment scheme. OneCoin drew in investors by pretending to offer them access to a high-return cryptocurrency, reportedly raising $4 billion before being exposed as a fraud. The company’s founder, Ruja Ignatova, disappeared sometime around 2017 but was charged in absentia for money laundering, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit securities fraud in the U.S.

An entrepreneur named José Gordo joined OneCoin in 2015 and has been named in an indictment for the OneCoin scam in Argentina. The articles listed next to Gordo’s name in the documents reviewed by Rest of World include references to his role at the company. Gordo did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Other names in the documents include “Diego Adolfo Marynberg,” who appears to be the same Marynberg connected to funding right-wing causes, including settlement efforts in Israel. Reports also alleged that his company received preferential treatment in the acquisition of Argentinian bonds worth millions of dollars. More than 70 URLs appear next to Marynberg’s name in the documents, including pages from the Israeli newspapers The Times of Israel and Haaretz as well as Clarin, one of Argentina’s biggest news sites. Marynberg did not respond to a request for comment, and a message sent to one of his funds, headquartered in the Cayman Islands, went unanswered.

The documents also include many links related to stories about Venezuela. Among the names in the documents was “Majed Khalid Majzoub.” Based on analysis of the stories that were targeted, this appears to be a misspelling of Majed Khalil Majzoub, an influential businessman with close ties to several governments, including the administration of Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro. Majzoub’s name appears next to more than 180 URLs, mostly from independent outlets. Of the two URLs that pointed to articles from Germany’s Der Spiegel, one now returns an error message; the other, which appears to refer to relations between Venezuela and Colombia, directs to an unrelated story about Brexit. Majzoub could not be reached for comment. Der Spiegel did not respond to a request for comment.

One outlet targeted repeatedly according to the documents is Infodio.com, a site run by the London-based Venezuelan investigative journalist Alek Boyd. Boyd told Rest of World that he has on several occasions been targeted by false claims under the DMCA and received messages from PR and public affairs companies threatening him with legal action. He told Rest of World that he has been contacted on at least two occasions by people using Eliminalia email addresses and identifying themselves as employees of the firm, who attempted to get him to take down content.

Eliminalia’s presence in Venezuela has previously raised concerns among free expression organizations. Freedom House’s 2017 Freedom on the Net report for the country warned that Eliminalia had been implicated in trying to “clean up the reputation” of local politicians and businesspeople, citing reporting by Lisseth Boon of Runrun.es.

Boyd said he’d reached out to social media companies, law enforcement agencies, and regulators to try to alert them to the practice, without success. He admitted to a degree of fatalism about powerful people’s use of reputation management services.

“If anyone can, with a little bit of money, modify their reality, and the reality that the world can access, then what’s the fucking point?” he said.

Several of the clients listed in the documents appear to have used the service to try to limit the damage to their reputations caused by the release of the so-called Panama Papers, which exposed the widespread use of offshore financial centers by politicians and public figures around the world.

The documents show that several people listed as clients may have been channeled to Eliminalia — knowingly or not — by another reputation management agency, ReputationUp, which is registered in Spain and has operations in Latin America. The CEO of ReputationUp, Andrea Baggio, told Rest of World that his company had a “collaboration” with Eliminalia that it had “abruptly interrupted.”

“We decided to block any type of relationship as soon as we realized that their operating method was not congruent with our ideas and with our ethical code,” Baggio said. He declined to provide a date for the termination of the arrangement.

The documents contain a particularly large list of names from Mexico — more than 2,000 of the links listed were apparently targeted by clients based in the country. That includes businesspeople and politically connected individuals wanting articles removed from major news outlets, such as La Jornada and Proceso.

According to the Mexican news outlet Animal Politico, Eliminalia launched operations in Mexico in 2015. The following year, Sánchez boasted in an interview that he already had 400 clients.

The takedown of an investigation by Mexican outlet Página 66 illustrates how reputation management firms like Eliminalia may be behind a pattern of journalistic investigations in the country that were suddenly deleted with no explanation.

In January 2018, Página 66 published a story about deals between a local government agency and a subsidiary of Grupo Altavista, a conglomerate with interests in infrastructure, cybersecurity, and surveillance technology. Months later, Página 66 received a notice from its hosting provider informing them that, because of the story, the outlet had been reported for breach of intellectual property. More notices followed, along with legal-sounding emails, threatening messages on social media, and more attempts, using DMCA reports, to get the content removed. The story is currently down. Página 66 did not respond to a request for comment.

The URL of the original Página 66 story is in the documents reviewed by Rest of World, as is a link to a statement by transparency advocacy group Article 19 discussing the case, which remains online at the time of writing. The name associated with the takedown request is listed as Humberto Herrera Rincón Gallardo. Herrera is a so-called personal branding expert whose website shows he’s been widely quoted in the Mexican business press on the subject of reputation management. Hererra is also listed as having requested the removal of several articles relating to the Altavista Group, among other stories. His name also appears on a copyright complaint made to Página 66.

Herrera and Altavista did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Priscilla Ruiz, legal coordinator for digital rights at Article 19 in Mexico, laughed when told that the organization’s page appeared in the documents, but appeared resigned. “That’s how things happen here,” she said.

Ruiz said that the apparently widespread use of services like Eliminalia in Mexico is concerning. Corruption and organized crime have held sway over politics in the country for decades. Using this technique, powerful people can secretly pay to try to hide their past scandals and gloss their reputations, making it harder for the electorate to punish corruption and bad behavior. “The only source [of information] that we have is what the journalists are doing,” she said. “A piece of information like [Página 66] published is important to us to see how businesses are involved in political decisions.”

Eliminalia was founded in Spain by Sánchez and is now part of Maidan Holding, a Kyiv- and Barcelona-based umbrella group for Sánchez’s business interests.

On the Maidan website, Sánchez is described as a self-made man who broke out of a difficult early life as a ward of the state in Barcelona, overcoming his lack of formal education, to build his first company in his early 20s. “In a short time frame and at the age of 25, “Dídac” Sánchez became a paradigm among young entrepreneurs,” the site reads. His private Instagram account has more than 40,000 followers.

Maidan’s site is speckled with inspirational sayings, including “Responsibility is not given, it is taken” and “Small things nourish big things.” Sánchez also runs his own foundation, working on poverty and social exclusion in Spain.

Maidan’s other businesses include a reproductive medical clinic that offers surrogacy for hire, plans for a cosmetic surgery clinic, a payments business, and several public relations and reputation management companies, including Eliminalia.

The reputation management industry has expanded dramatically over the past decade, taking advantage of “right to be forgotten” laws — such as GDPR, which gives users some control over their data and information published about them online — and an enormous demand for ridding the internet of past indiscretions. The industry has thrived, in part thanks to the effectiveness, ease, and low cost of making complaints using the DMCA. Hosting providers often lack the capacity or interest to investigate every complaint, and, under the law they can be held liable for contributing to the infringement of copyright, if it’s later proven, which can be very costly. Often, they simply comply with these requests.

“The almost magical piece is that once they do that, [the host] is done. They’re clean, under no circumstances can they be held liable,” Adam Holland, manager of the Lumen database, a project at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University that tracks DMCA requests, told Rest of World. “All the incentives are toward taking it down. Because why would you push back? You might incur legal liability, whether it’s right or wrong.” While some search engines and bigger hosting companies do occasionally push back on requests, “the vast, vast majority, still are honored almost instantly,” Holland said.

While there are legitimate uses for the DMCA complaint process and third-party reputation management services, they can also be used to obscure evidence of past wrongdoing.

Qurium’s earlier investigation seems to demonstrate how Eliminalia attempts to substantiate DMCA complaints. To back up the plagiarism claims against The Elephant, Qurium found that the article in question was copied and pasted to several different websites, all with domains that made them sound like African news outlets. The duplicate articles were given timestamps that made them look like they’d been published before the original. Those websites were hosted on the servers of a company called World Intelligence Limited, based in Manchester, U.K. Companies House, the U.K.’s register of businesses, lists Sánchez as World Intelligence Limited’s sole director.

John Githongo, a veteran anti-corruption campaigner and the publisher of The Elephant, told Rest of World that the cost in time and money of resisting takedown requests can be substantial for small organizations like his — which he thinks is the point. “Success for them is keeping you busy and spending money you don’t have,” he said. Githongo said that reputation management companies and the practices they use give the impression that they’re “basically shakedown artists, who pretend to use Western laws to essentially get you to stop publishing.”

Tord Lundström, Qurium’s digital forensics technical director, said that since its investigation into The Elephant case, Qurium has seen attempts to create fake websites to claim copyright become more sophisticated and harder to trace. It has identified more than 200 new domains that it believes to have been created by companies linked to Eliminalia, for the purpose of backing up DMCA claims or to manipulate search results. Eliminalia did not respond to requests for comment on the new website network, nor on allegations of misuse of the DMCA process.

Lundström said that the reputation management industry urgently needs regulation. DMCA and GDPR weren’t designed to be used in this way, but, so far, policymakers and courts in the U.S. and Europe haven’t taken any significant steps to address the industry.

“Impersonation, fake DMCAs, removing content: The right to be forgotten is not used properly. … It has to be a court that says that the right to be forgotten is not intended for cleaning the image of [corrupt] people,” he said. Right now, he said, the ability to scrub your past from the internet can feel as if it’s reserved for the wealthy few. “It depends on how much money you have. If you have enough money, you have the right to be forgotten.”

U.S. Lawmakers Introduce 'Right to Repair' Bills to Spur Competition
David Shepardson

U.S. lawmakers are introducing "Right to Repair" legislation this week to ensure consumers can get vehicles, electronic devices and agriculture equipment serviced by independent outlets.

Representative Bobby Rush, a Democrat, said Thursday he had introduced legislation to ensure vehicle owners and independent repair shops have equal access to repair and maintenance tools as automakers' dealerships.

Representatives Mondaire Jones, a Democrat, and Republican Victoria Spartz introduced separate legislation Wednesday dubbed the Freedom to Repair Act to reform copyright law to make it easier for consumers to get repairs.

Public Knowledge Policy Counsel Kathleen Burke said the bill would allow "consumers to repair their own devices without needing to get the Copyright Office’s permission every three years."

As part of a wide-ranging initiative to boost competition, President Joe Biden has made ensuring people can repair their own products a priority.

Last month, Biden said in too many cases "if you own a product, from a smartphone to a tractor, you don’t have the freedom to choose how or where to repair that item you purchased."

Rush's bill would require all tools and equipment, wireless transmission of repair and diagnostic data and access to on-board diagnostic systems needed for repairs be made available to the independent repair industry.

Rush said it would "end manufacturers’ monopoly on vehicle repair and maintenance and allow Americans the freedom to choose where to repair their vehicles."

The U.S Federal Trade Commission in July voted to make it a priority to address the issue of manufacturers pushing consumers to use licensed dealers to repair items ranging from smartphones to farm equipment.

Rush's bill would create a committee to provide recommendations to the FTC on addressing barriers to vehicle repairs.

A group representing major automakers has sued to try to block a Massachusetts voter-approved measure that would expand access to vehicle data and allow independent shops to repair increasingly sophisticated automotive technology.

Reporting by David Shepardson Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

PCIe 5.0 SSDs Promising up to 14GB/s of Bandwidth will be Ready in 2024

Silicon Motion's PCIe 5.0 controller will show up in plenty of drives.
Andrew Cunningham

Most companies still haven't shifted their entire NVMe SSD lineups to use PCI Express 4.0, but PCIe 5.0 SSDs for PCs are already on the horizon.

Storage company Silicon Motion said in a recent earnings call that it expects its PCIe 5.0-capable SSD controllers for consumer SSDs will be available sometime in 2024, opening the door to a wide variety of high-performance drives from different manufacturers. SSD manufacturer ADATA teased some PCIe 5.0 SSDs at CES last month (albeit without an expected release date), boasting of read speeds up to 14GB/s and write speeds of up to 12GB/s using a Silicon Motion SM2508 controller. Current high-end PCIe 4.0 SSDs like Samsung's 980 Pro top out at roughly half those speeds.

Other reports have suggested that these PCIe 5.0 consumer SSDs are coming later in 2022, but according to the call transcript, that only applies to the latest version of Silicon Motion's PCIe 5.0 controller for enterprise SSDs—the products that end up in servers and data centers, not what typically ends up in the PC on your desk or lap. Early PCIe 4.0 SSDs for consumer PCs were also demonstrated at CES a couple of years before they became products that you could actually buy.

For 2022 and 2023, Silicon Motion will continue to focus on those PCIe 4.0 SSDs. Budget SSDs like Western Digital's WD Black SN770 SE are only beginning to transition to PCIe 4.0, and according to reviews like this one from Tom's Hardware, their controllers and flash memory aren't yet fast enough to benefit much from the extra bandwidth. Silicon Motion also says that PCIe 4.0 SSDs have only become common in pre-built PCs within the last year because of "extensive verification and testing" requirements.

If you'd like to future-proof your PC for PCIe 5.0 SSDs when they do arrive, Intel's 12th-generation "Alder Lake" processors and AMD's upcoming Ryzen 7000-series Zen 4 CPUs both support PCIe 5.0.

Anthony Levandowski’s Latest Moonshot is a Peer-to-Peer Telecom Network Powered by Cryptocurrency

It was born out of his autonomous vehicle startup Pronto
Kirsten Korosec, Lucas Matney

A new mobile data network — accompanied by the quinfecta of a website, Medium post, white paper, dedicated subreddit and Discord channel — quietly launched late Tuesday evening in San Francisco, promising a new way to exchange data anonymously and at high speeds without relying on legacy carriers, and at a cheaper price. The peer-to-peer open source wireless network called Pollen Mobile will incentivize its users with cryptocurrency to run their own mini cell towers and build out the network’s coverage in the Bay Area where the service is initially launching.

Anthony Levandowski’s autonomous vehicle technology startup Pronto AI is launching the project. Levandowski, a polarizing, early pioneer in the autonomous vehicle industry, was pardoned last year by former President Donald Trump after being sentenced to 18 months in prison on one count of stealing trade secrets.

Why is an autonomous vehicle startup creating a decentralized telecom incentivized by cryptocurrency? The catalyst of Pollen Mobile stemmed from Pronto’s need for reliable, affordable mobile connectivity for its autonomous vehicles, Levandowski, who is still CEO of Pronto, told TechCrunch in a text message conversation. Pronto has been using Pollen internally for its AVs for months.

“The reason why is simple, we needed reliable, affordable mobile connectivity for our AVs and we couldn’t find it,” he wrote. “So we built our own and realized it could be something others want.” He added later: “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

The distributed Pollen Mobile network, which plans to begin its initial launch in the coming days, relies on a network of data transmitters it somewhat oddly calls flowers, bumblebees and hummingbirds — code for radio towers, connectivity validation devices and mobile phones.

An FCC rule change in 2020 allowed the company to build its own cell towers and create mini-mobile networks for the sites where its autonomous vehicles operate, according to its post on Medium.

“We got to thinking about all the other things that people don’t like about existing mobile companies. We saw an opportunity to build something truly revolutionary — something that tackles what we see as the “Four Horsemen” of mobile networks,” the Medium blog post states. These “Four Horsemen” are a lack of privacy and anonymity, poor coverage, high costs and no user voice.”

Small cell towers called “flowers,” which range from the size of a pizza box to up to six feet tall, provide coverage of between a few blocks up to one mile. These flowers are installed by “flower owners” in their homes or offices and connect to the internet and provide coverage to other Pollen users. Flower operators earn PollenCoin (PCN) from the community of users depending on the coverage area, service quality and amount of data transmitted, according to information the company posted on its Discord channel.

Operators pay the upfront cost for the physical data transmitter hardware; the cheapest (and smallest) flower costs $999 while the largest and most powerful transmitter costs more than $10,000. Justifying the high upfront cost means operators taking a leap of faith that the network will succeed and the value of PCN’s fixed supply will increase.

One of the many open questions for the nascent endeavor is how or if ISPs will respond — the distributed network will be piggybacking onto flower operators’ home internet and will be channeling peer-to-peer data through those networks.

The network currently has more than a dozen radio towers operating in the Bay Area, according to the company’s network tracker.

Pollen Mobile will ship smaller devices called “bumblebees” that collect data about the strength of the network’s coverage. These devices, which validate “flower” coverage, are also owned by users and can be placed in their car, drone or bike. Bumblebee owners also earn PCN based on the number of unique coverage validations provided each day.

Finally, there are the “hummingbirds,” which are the mobile devices that use the Pollen network. Phones will require an eSIM download to connect to the network, and other devices like laptops can connect via a special adapter (called “Wings”), the company said. Users pay for connectivity using PCN.

Eventually building out a network of users willing to pay for a data network in its earliest stages will depend on selling the vision of a more anonymous mobile network which doesn’t sell or log customer data. The data-only network also won’t allow for phone calls or SMS messages, and users paying for the service won’t get a phone number.

Pollen has so far been operated internally by Pronto as a subsidiary. Levandowski said it will be turned over to a decentralized autonomous organization, or eDAO, and run independently from there. The organization will eventually govern how the network evolves and dictate how and where users are incentivized to build out coverage.

“We’re not controlling where flowers go,” Levandowksi told TechCrunch. “We designed the network so that the community and market forces will determine where rewards flow.”

Until next week,

- js.

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