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Europol says it has taken Islamic State presences offline
by Paul Hill
The European Union’s police agency, Europol, has announced that it has hit Islamic State’s online presence, claiming that the group is totally offline for the time being. With the rapidity that online groups can be set up, they may spring back up in time but it’ll likely take a while for any subscribers of those channels to reconnect.
Commenting on the operation, Eric Van Der Sypt, a spokesman at Europol, said:
One of the terror group’s main channels of communications was Telegram but Europol was able to shut down channels and groups on that platform with the assistance of the app’s developers. Europol subsequently thanked Telegram for helping it to root out the malicious content. Telegram was not alone in hosting terrorist content though, as ISIS was also operating on Twitter, Instagram, and services run by Google.
In total, Europol said that it was working with nine platforms in total to conduct the coordinated takedown. Europol also confirmed that Spain's Guardia Civil arrested a suspected disseminator of propaganda.
By Hamza Jawad
GitHub confirms heavy restrictions in U.S.-sanctioned regions like Iran and Syria
by Hamza Jawad
U.S. trade sanctions upon certain regions having led to companies limiting their services in these countries isn't something new. Last year, Slack ended up accidentally banning anyone who logged in from Iran, a mistake it soon rectified. However, it has since blocked all Iran-based activity, in compliance with U.S. regulations.
It looks like other firms may now be following suit, with GitHub announcing its stance with regards to the issue in a statement on its website. Availability in these areas, which include Crimea, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Syria, is being heavily restricted, with users only being allowed limited access to the world's largest source code repository host for personal, non-commercial usage.
The firm noted that private repositories will be unavailable for residents in the aforementioned regions, with the same applying to paid services such as private organizational accounts or the GitHub Marketplace as well. Essentially, this only leaves behind certain free services that can be utilized. Furthermore, users are also prohibited from disguising their locations through IP proxies and VPNs. Those who now have restricted private repos can choose to make them public, in order to continue accessing them.
In a series of tweets, GitHub CEO Nat Friedman stated the company's pain at people being affected by this move, but effectively acknowledged that it was powerless due to the U.S. trade laws.
As expected, people did not take kindly to the announcement, with many pointing out that alternate arrangements that could have been undertaken. For example, Slack blocks IP addresses in Iran, but does not block all accounts belonging to these regions. This enables users to still retain access through VPNs, though as has been mentioned before, GitHub has chosen not to go down the same route.
The restrictions will be applied based on users' locations, and not their nationality or ethnicity. This means that only those attempting to gain access to GitHub while being present in a sanctioned region will be affected. People who believe their accounts have been banned due to an error will be able to appeal the decision through an account reactivation request process.
Let's see what happens.
UK Home Office AI tackles extremist propaganda [Update]
by Paul Hill
The UK Home Office has announced a new software tool that uses artificial intelligence to automatically detect terrorist content on platforms online, and ideally, remove them before they’re uploaded. The Government plans to distribute the software to smaller companies in order to tackle, more widely, the problem of extremist content propagated by terrorists and their supporters.
In the announcement, the Home Office said:
The software was developed in collaboration between the Home Office and ASI Data Science. It uses advanced machine learning in order to analyse the audio and visual data from content uploaded to the net and determines whether it could be ISIS propaganda. The technology is similar to that which the major tech companies already employ; with the software that the Government has developed, small companies, who don’t have the resources, will also be able to block propaganda.
The UK Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, said:
Several companies identified that could benefit from the newly developed software include Vimeo; Telegram’s publication platform, Telegra.ph; and pCloud.
Update: Andrey Yanakov, Partner Program Manager and Lead Marketing Strategist at pCloud reached out to us with the following statement:
Source: UK Home Office via The Guardian
This looks like a last-ditch attempt to chip away a part of Syria.
How long before Turkey quits NATO?