Posts Tagged ‘Google



28
Mar
10

Shaoxing City is world’s hacker hub

NEWS
Shaoxing City is world’s hacker hub

Sunday, March 28, 2010

••• An American Internet security company has named the Chinese city of Shaoxing as the world’s cyber-espionage capital.

According to a research by Symantec, almost 30 % of “targeted attacks” were sent from China and 21.3 % originated from Shaoxing in eastern China alone.

The key targets of Chinese hackers were mainly experts in Asian defence policy and human rights activists, researchers, who traced 12 billion emails for the study, said – suggesting state involvement.

Symantec is assisting the investigation into suspected hacking attacks on Google, which closed its website in China last week after refusing to censor itself on the government’s orders.
Cyber-espionage uses emails sent in small volumes with legitimate-looking attachments or documents to fool the user into letting a malicious code infect their computer.

“The ultimate aim is to gain access to sensitive data or internal systems by targeting specific individuals or companies,” the report said.

Previously, hackers in China had been able to camouflage themselves behind servers in Taiwan.

The findings show China was the source of 28.2 % of global targeted attacks.

It was followed by Romania, with 21.1 %, presumed to be mostly attempts at commercial fraud.

The United States came third, followed by Taiwan and then Britain, with 12 % of attacks.

Symantec: Internet Security Treat Report Volume XV

Symantec: RSA 2010 Francis De Souza

Symantec: RSA 2010 Kevin Rowney

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26
Mar
10

Google says 1,100 communities are vying for its broadband network

NEWS
Google says 1,100 communities are vying for its broadband network

Friday, March 26, 2010

••• More than 1,100 communities across (and more than 194,000 responses from individuals) the United States have expressed their interests to be the test sites of Google Inc.’s ultra high-speed broadband networks, the U.S. Internet company said on Friday.

Google announced in February that it plans to test broadband networks in one or more trial locations in the United States, claiming that the networks will deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans are using today.

The company has set March 26 as the deadline for local governments in the country to submit information on their interests to join the Google network trials and about existing facilities and resources in their communities.

Over 1,100 communities have responded by Friday morning, hours before the submission deadline, according to Google.

The enthusiasm by local governments to bring ultra high-speed broadband networks to their communities clearly showed that ” people across the country are hungry for better and faster Internet access,” Google noted in a blog posting.

“We’ve seen cities rename themselves, great YouTube videos, public rallies and hundreds of grassroots Facebook groups come to life, all with the goal of bringing ultra high-speed broadband to their communities,” Google said.

And that proved Google’s point: That Americans are clamoring for faster Internet access.

Antics to draw Google’s attention included the mayor of Duluth, Minn., who jumped into the icy waters of Lake Superior, and the mayor of Topeka, Kan., who renamed the city Google for the month of March. Rancho Cucamonga even got a Web makeover as Rancho Googlemonga. Closer to Google’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters, folks in Palo Alto boogied to the Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.” in front of City Hall.

“We’re not going to be able to build in every interested community,” said Google, which plans to reach up to 500,000 people with the experiment. “Wherever we decide to build, we hope to learn lessons that will help improve Internet access everywhere. After all, you shouldn’t have to jump into frozen lakes and shark tanks to get ultra high-speed broadband.”

The company said it will announce target community or communities of the network trials by the end of the year.

24
Mar
10

Sprint launches first WiMax Android smartphone HTC EVO 4G

NEWS
Sprint launches first WiMax Android smartphone HTC EVO™ 4G

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sprint and HTC Corporation today announced summer availability of the world’s first 3G/4G Android handset, HTC EVO™ 4G exclusively from Sprint. HTC EVO™ 4G delivers a multimedia experience at 4G speeds that is second to none, making it possible to download music, pictures, files, or videos in seconds – not minutes – and watch streaming video on the go with one of the largest pinch-to-zoom displays, at 4.3 inches, in the wireless industry.
Sprint 4G offers a faster wireless experience than any other U.S. national wireless carrier, and Sprint is the only national carrier offering wireless 4G service today in 27 markets. Sprint 4G delivers download speeds up to 10 times faster than 3G1, giving HTC EVO™ 4G the fastest data speeds of any U.S. wireless device available today.

“Sprint continues to lead the 4G revolution as we introduce HTC EVO™ 4G to give our customers an experience that is unlike anything available in wireless to date,” said Dan Hesse, Sprint CEO. “Not only is this feature-rich device incredible on our Sprint 3G network, but Sprint 4G speeds will take mobile multimedia, including live video streaming, gaming and picture downloads, to a whole new level.”

Customers will be able to purchase HTC EVO™ 4G through all Sprint channels and through national retail partners, RadioShack, Best Buy and Walmart, this summer. Pricing will be announced at a later date. Pre-registration begins today at http://www.sprint.com/evo.
A device beyond compare
HTC EVO™ 4G delivers a robust list of features, including a 1GHz Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ processor ensuring a smooth and quick user experience. With dual cameras – an 8.0 megapixel auto-focus camera with HD-capable video camcorder and a forward-facing 1.3 megapixel camera – HTC EVO™ 4G unleashes the ability to create, stream and watch video that far surpasses expectations of what is possible on a phone today.

With built-in mobile hotspot functionality, HTC EVO™ 4G allows up to eight Wi-Fi enabled devices to share the 4G experience. Users can easily share an Internet connection on the go with a laptop, camera, music player, game unit, video player, or any other Wi-Fi enabled device.

With integrated HD video capture and 4G speeds, HTC EVO™ 4G makes slow uploads and grainy video a thing of the past. Now, it is possible to post high-quality video to YouTube™ or Facebook, or share moments in real time over the Internet live, via Qik. After these videos have been captured, it is easy to share them on an HDTV via an HDMI cable (sold separately).

The custom Web browser is optimized for HTC EVO™ 4G’s large display and Sprint 4G speeds to deliver a full, no-compromise Internet experience. Adobe Flash technology ensures that rich Internet content, such as embedded video and animation, are displayed the way they are meant to be seen. Pinch-to-zoom and automatic text reflowing provide easy Web page views.

HTC EVO 4G features the newest version of the highly acclaimed HTC Sense user experience. Along with all of the HTC Sense features first introduced on HTC Hero™, HTC EVO™ 4G adds a number of new features, including Friend Stream, which aggregates multiple social communication channels including Facebook™ and Twitter™ into one organized flow of updates; a “Leap” thumbnail view to easily switch between home screen “panels;” the ability to download new, interactive widgets; and a “polite” ringer, which quiets the ringing phone once lifted up.

“HTC and Sprint have a strong history of working together to bring consumers technologies and advancements that make their lives easier,” said Peter Chou, CEO of HTC. “We believe that the HTC EVO™ 4G represents the best of Sprint and the best of HTC working together to bring an unmatched device to the U.S. This combination of HTC and Sprint innovation will allow people to do even more while on the go, faster than ever on the Sprint 4G network.”

Experience Android at 4G
HTC EVO™ 4G, the world’s first 3G/4G Android handset, features the latest iteration of the increasingly popular Android platform. Leveraging the Android 2.1 platform, HTC EVO™ 4G can deliver a wide array of useful new features:

  • Android 2.1 enables a new way to search with pictures instead of words. Google Goggles™ works with everything from books, DVDs and barcodes to landmarks, logos, artwork and even wine labels. A picture taken of the Golden Gate Bridge returns all of the information anyone would need to know about the structure. By just taking a picture of several restaurant options, HTC EVO™ 4G will provide restaurant reviews to ensure the best choice.
  • Text messaging and email composition feature built-in voice-to-text technology. By simply pressing a microphone button on the screen, messages can be composed by just speaking, making keeping in touch faster and easier than ever.
  • Through Android Market™, HTC EVO™ 4G users have access to thousands of useful applications, widgets and games to download and install on their phone, with many more to come.

In addition to today’s Android apps, the performance of which will be enhanced by 4G speed, application developers will be introducing new apps that take advantage of 4G power in new ways – games and communications tools and other apps that bring together video, presence and location simultaneously, and capabilities that haven’t yet been imagined. For example, an application developer might create an app that allows a customer to simultaneously watch a streaming sporting event while pulling down stats and conducting a video chat with a friend.

A Sprint 4G developer guide is available today from the Sprint ADP Web site http://developer.sprint.com. The Sprint 4G developer guide explains how to develop on an Android 2.1 handset and how to take advantage of 4G and unique hardware/software capabilities, including how to use a forward-facing camera in an app; how to use HDMI output; and how to build in network detection (3G, 4G or Wi-Fi) to optimize quality of data in an app. The Sprint 4G developer also will include sample apps and source code that highlight these features. It will supplement the Android 2.1 SDK.  As a charter member of the Open Handset Alliance™, Sprint is actively engaged with the Android community. Sprint has employed an open Internet approach, and the Sprint Application Developer Program has been providing tools for third-party developers since Sprint first launched the Wireless Web on its phones in 2001.

“Sprint and HTC have come together to propel the Android platform into the 4G world with the introduction of HTC EVO™ 4G,” said Andy Rubin, vice president, mobile platforms at Google. “The Android platform was developed to give people unmatched mobile connectivity to the Internet. By combining this vision with the promise of Sprint’s first-to-market 4G technology, HTC EVO™ 4G makes accessing thousands of applications from Android Market, using Google™ services like Google Goggles, Google Earth™ and the all-new Gesture Search, or simply browsing the Web faster, easier and more enjoyable than ever before.”

Blazing trails with Sprint 4G
As the first national wireless carrier to test, launch and market 4G technology, Sprint made history by launching 4G in Baltimore in September 2008. Today, Sprint 4G covers more than 30 million people and expects to have up to 120 million people covered by the end of 2010.

Sprint currently offers 4G service in 27 markets, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Portland, Ore., San Antonio and Seattle. Following is a comprehensive list of markets by state where Sprint 4G is currently offered: Georgia – Atlanta, Milledgeville; Hawaii – Honolulu, Maui; Idaho – Boise; Illinois – Chicago; Maryland – Baltimore; Nevada – Las Vegas; North Carolina – Charlotte, Greensboro, (along with High Point and Winston-Salem), Raleigh (along with Cary, Chapel Hill and Durham); Oregon – Portland, Salem; Pennsylvania – Philadelphia; Texas – Abilene, Amarillo, Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Killeen/Temple, Lubbock, Midland/Odessa, San Antonio, Waco, Wichita Falls; Washington – Bellingham, Seattle. For more information, visit www.sprint.com/4G.

In 2010, Sprint expects to launch service in multiple markets, including but not limited to, Boston, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Minneapolis, New York City, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.  Sprint is harnessing the power of 4G as the majority shareholder of Clearwire, the independent company that is building the WiMAX network. Sprint is the only national wireless carrier to offer 4G services on the Clearwire WiMAX network.

About Sprint Nextel
Sprint Nextel offers a comprehensive range of wireless and wireline communications services bringing the freedom of mobility to consumers, businesses and government users. Sprint Nextel is widely recognized for developing, engineering and deploying innovative technologies, including two wireless networks serving more than 48 million customers at the end of the fourth quarter of 2009 and the first 4G service from a national carrier in the United States; industry-leading mobile data services; instant national and international push-to-talk capabilities; and a global Tier 1 Internet backbone. The company’s customer-focused strategy has led to improved first call resolution and customer care satisfaction scores. For more information, visit www.sprint.com.

About HTC
HTC Corporation (HTC) is one of the fastest growing companies in the mobile phone industry. By putting people at the center of everything it does, HTC creates innovative smartphones that better serve the lives and needs of individuals. The company is listed on the Taiwan Stock Exchange under ticker 2498. For more information about HTC, please visit www.htc.com.

• Source(s): Sprint, HTC & cnet
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24
Mar
10

Google’s withdrawal from China pushing itself into corner

NEWS
Google’s withdrawal from China pushing itself into corner

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

•••Google’s decision to stop censoring its Chinese search engine and redirect mainland users to its servers in Hong Kong was tantamount to pushing itself into a corner and ruining its image and interests, world media and experts say.

“If Google had hoped to rally rivals to its cause, it failed. If Google was planning to embarrass China by whipping up a global debate on Internet freedom, it failed,” the Financial Times wrote in an article published Monday.

China trade economist Derek Scissors of the U.S. Heritage Foundation called Google’s move to Hong Kong “pretty close to a complete exit” that will provoke Beijing and puts Google outside the firewall with regard to advertisers and other partners.

Russian newspaper Vedomosti said Google has completely burned all of its bridges in China behind it and is unlikely to ever return to the Chinese market.

Google, the world’s top search engine, held only an estimated 30 percent share of China’s search market in 2009, compared with home-grown rival Baidu Inc’s 60 percent. Official statistics put the number of netizens in China at 384 million by the end of 2009.

Michel Riguidel, head of the Department of Computer Science and Networks at Telecom Paris Tech, said all companies pay great attention to building their own images.

Google claimed that its image is based on freedom, information exchange and respecting human rights, but the fact is that it absorbs large amounts of personal information and does research on the information without getting agreements from web users, Riguidel said.

Izumi Harada, chief fellow of the Crisis and Risk Management Society of Japan, told Xinhua that there is no question that multinational companies should follow local laws while running their businesses in other countries.

Google has breached the commitment to observe Chinese laws and regulations that it made when entering China (four years ago), he said.

Jesse Wright, a leading expert of Institute Internet, told a Russian radio station that Google has been working in China since 2005 and knows the requirements of Chinese law.

“Compliance with the requirements of the Chinese was a condition of work in this market,” Wright said. “So, trying to force China to reconsider its own censorship requirements – be it Google or others – it seems to me untenable.”

Alexey Basov, CEO and co-founder of Begun, Russia’s largest contextual ad service, said if Google quits the Chinese market, it will be a major strategic loss for the company.

At about 3 a.m. Tuesday Beijing time, Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond made the “stop censoring” announcement in a blog post, saying “users visiting Google.cn are now being redirected to Google.com.hk, where we are offering uncensored searches in simplified Chinese.”

In reaction, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a routine media briefing that: “The Google case is just a business case and will not undermine China-U.S. relations unless someone politicizes the issue.”
• Source(s): Xinhua News Agency (China)
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24
Mar
10

Arguments over Google’s withdraw

NEWS
Arguments over Google’s withdraw

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

••• Google is also citing censorship in its withdrawal from the Chinese mainland market. Some netizens and experts say foreign companies should abide by the laws of the country.

Chinese Internet users and experts say abiding by the laws of the country is an established convention. They say all this applies to all companies, including Google.

A Chinese internet user said, “China has its own system and you have to abide by the laws in China if you want to do business in China. “

Shi Xiangsheng, Deputy Sec’y Gen., Internet Society of China, said, “The foreign Internet companies must promise to respect the local customs and laws when they start business in China. And it’s also the international convention.”

Google says another factor in the pull-out was attacks by hackers.

Shi said, “We are not quite clear about the hacker attack Google mentioned. But it did not appeal to the relevant regulator or ask the Chinese government to carry out investigations on the case. “

Some say it’s debatable that Google has completely withdrawn from China, as it transferred its search business to Hong Kong.
• Source(s): CCTV (China)
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24
Mar
10

Google in hot water

NEWS
Google in hot water

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

••• Google has recently been warned by several foreign authorities over its controversial services including Google news, Google street view, as well as the latest social network service Google buzz.

Last month, the European Union Commission said it had received various requests for anti-monopoly investigations regarding the Internet search giant. They claim Google has been filtering out its competitors on purpose in order to keep more advertisement profits.

In France, the government has formed a special team to investigate lawsuits filed by local media companies against Google. They accuse the company of profiting from their products without reimbursement. Another lawsuit was filed by Louis Vutton.

The luxury bagmaker said it has found links on Google’s website to pirated products. Italian authorities have also launched an anti-trust investigation against Google filed by the country’s print media.

Meanwhile, Google street view, which was introduced in 2007, has challenged privacy laws in Britain and Germany. Though the company has begun to obscure search results for human faces and car license plates, it is still frequently taken to court for violating privacy rights. Its latest social web service, Google Buzz, has also been accused of a privacy breach. The company was ordered by the Canadian government to explain privacy bugs, which have already triggered widespread complaints.

Google’s trouble seems to be everywhere. Recently Spanish telecom operator Telofonica accused the company of using free bandwidth for its own benefit. The company said it is considering charging Google for network use.
• Source(s): CCTV (China)
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24
Mar
10

Who will share the cheese after Google moves?

NEWS
Who will share the cheese after Google moves?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

••• Netizens said Tuesday Google’s withdrawal from the Chinese mainland was only a “publicity stunt” while experts believed the online search giant had abandoned its cheese when no others moved it.

Google announced Tuesday morning that it had stopped censoring its Chinese-language search engine Google.cn and redirected Chinese mainland users to another portal in Hong Kong.

Google’s earlier threats to pull out of China and its latest move to reroute traffic to Hong Kong were just “publicity stunts,” said a netizen named Ding Wei on the Internet industrial network www,sootoo.com.

“Google’s redirecting Google.cn to Google.com.hk is a compromised decision reflecting that the company wants to save its reputation in China,” the netizen said.

Google said in Tuesday’s statement it still intended to continue research and development and maintain a sales staff in the Chinese mainland.

Experts interviewed by Xinhua said they believed Google’s latest move was mainly out of business and market concerns, adding that Baidu and other Internet companies doing business in China would benefit from Google’s withdrawal.

“Google faces censorship in about 25 countries, but why does it only quit the Chinese mainland? Because it can not beat Baidu,” said Dr. Wang Yu, a Nanjing University lecturer.

“Google does not give up its smart phone operating system Android or other partnerships with domestic Internet companies, because unlike Google.cn, they are all promising,” said Wang who specializes in network information studies.

The domestic search giant Baidu would not be the only beneficiary of Google’s exit.

“Google’s about 30 percent market share in search services on the mainland will be absorbed not only by search engine rivals but also companies doing other search-related businesses,” said Li Zhi, a senior analyst with Analysys International, a leading Chinese Internet consulting company.

According to Analysys, Baidu occupies about 60 percent of the market share. Sohu’s Sogou, Tencent’s Soso and other new-comers including Microsoft’s Bing were all eyeing Google’s share of the market, analysts said.

Microsoft’s Beijing office said in an email reply to Xinhua on Tuesday that the company regarded China as the most important online search service market.

“The pull-out is the price to pay for Google’s move of politicizing commercial issues,” Li Zhi said.

Sean Tzou, CEO of Trina Solar Limited, a U.S. joint venture based in Changzhou of Jiangsu Province, said the biggest challenge for many joint ventures in China was their willingness and ability to adapt to the local environment.
• Source(s): Xinhua News Agency (China)

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23
Mar
10

Google case will not affect China – United States relations

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Google case will not affect China – United States relations
▪ China says Google issue will not affect China – United States ties

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

••• Google’s withdrawal from the Chinese mainland will not affect China-U.S. relations “unless someone politicizes the issue,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Tuesday.

Qin told a regular press conference the Google issue was a commercial matter and would not damage the image of China.

He said moves to tie the issue to the China-U.S. relations were “making a fuss” and “overstating the issue.”

The Chinese government encouraged and pushed for the openness of Internet and its management according to its laws and regulations, which was common practice in all countries, Qin said.

“What China is striving to prevent on the Internet is the flow of information that would pose a danger to national security and the interests of the society and the public,” he said.

“Any foreign company operating in China must abide by Chinese laws and regulations,” Qin said.

China would stick to the strategy of opening-up and the principle of mutual benefits, and welcome foreign entrepreneurs to invest and do business in China within the law.

“We will create a sound environment for them,” he said.

Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond said his company would “stop censoring” in a blog post at about 3 a.m. Tuesday Beijing Time, more than two months after the company said it had been attacked by hackers operating in China and was reconsidering its approach to China.
• Source(s): Xinhua News Agency (China)

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22
Mar
10

China says Google breaks promise, totally wrong to stop censoring

NEWS
China says Google breaks promise, totally wrong to stop censoring

Monday, March 22, 2010

••• Google has “violated its written promise” and is “totally wrong” by stopping censoring its Chinese language searching results and blaming China for alleged hacker attacks, a government official said early Tuesday morning.

The official in charge of the Internet bureau under the State Council Information Office made the comments about two hours after the online search service provider announced it has stopped censoring its Chinese-language search engine Google.cn and is redirecting Chinese mainland users to a site in Hong Kong.

“Google has violated its written promise it made when entering the Chinese market by stopping filtering its searching service and blaming China in insinuation for alleged hacker attacks,” said the official.

“This is totally wrong. We’re uncompromisingly opposed to the politicization of commercial issues, and express our discontent and indignation to Google for its unreasonable accusations and conducts,” the official said.
Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond made the “stop censoring” announcement in a blog post at about 3 a.m. Tuesday Beijing Time, more than two months after the company said it had been attacked by hackers supported by the Chinese government and was considering pulling out of the Chinese market.

The Information Office official said relevant departments of the Chinese government talked with Google twice at its requests, on Jan. 29 and Feb. 25 respectively, to hear the company’s real intentions and demonstrate sincerity of the government.

“We made patient and meticulous explanations on the questions Google raised (in the talks), …telling it we would still welcome its operation and development in China if it was willing to abide by Chinese laws, while it would be its own affair if it was determined to withdraw its service,” the official said.

“Foreign companies must abide by Chinese laws and regulations when they operate in China, ” the official said.

He noted that the Chinese government encourages the development and promotes the opening-up of Internet.

“Online opinion exchanges are very active in China and e-commerce grows rapidly here. As facts have demonstrated, the environment for Internet investment and development in China is sound,” the official said.

“China will unswervingly adhere to the opening-up principle and welcomes foreign companies’ participation in the development of Internet in the country,” he said.

The official also vowed the government will provide good service to foreign businesses, adding Internet will maintain, as before, rapid growth in China.
• Source(s): Xinhua News Agency (China)

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22
Mar
10

Google says its Google.cn site redirected

NEWS
Google says its Google.cn site redirected

Monday, March 22, 2010

••• Google Inc. on Monday said users visiting Google.cn are now being redirected to Google.com.hk.

The U.S. Internet company said in a blog posting that it intends to continue R&D work in China and also to maintain a sales presence there.

• Google to offer browser plug-in for privacy protection

Google is working on developing a browser plug-in that will let users opt-out of being tracked by Google Analytics.

Google Analytics product Manager Amy Chang said that engineers had been working on the plug-in during the past years and it would become available globally in the coming weeks.

According to a study by University of California, Google Analytics had been used in 71 percent of roughly 400,000 top domains as of March 2009. Google-controlled web bugs are tracking users on 92 of the net’s top 100 sites.

Although widely used in the world, the tool, Google Analytics, has always been criticized for privacy infringement.

“Now, there is a solution to that,”said Chang,”The plug-in will give users the choice to fully opt-out of sending any information back to Analytics”.

Google Analytics is a tool for tracking and analyzing site traffic. If the plug-in is finally installed in a large proportion of netizens’ computers, website builders and advertisers might find it hard to get the accurate data of click rate.
• Source(s): Xinhua News Agency (China)
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22
Mar
10

Google stops censoring in China

NEWS
Google stops censoring in China
• Google moves Chinese search to Hong Kong

Monday, March 22, 2010

••• Google has stopped censoring its search and news results in China and began redirecting visitors to Google’s Chinese-language service hosted in Hong Kong, making good on a threat in its high-profile standoff over censorship with Chinese officials.

The company said it is not pulling out of China and it will continue to host non-search services in China and intends to keep sales and research operations in China.

A Google spokesman said it is “too early to tell” what will happen to its roughly 600 employees in China, who may be reassigned.

David Drummond, the company’s chief legal officer, wrote in a blog post that the company’s Hong Kong site is “offering uncensored search in simplified Chinese, specifically designed for users in mainland China and delivered via our servers in Hong Kong”.

Mr Drummond said Google believes the move is a “sensible decision,” but said Google is “well aware that it could at any time block access to our services”. The company has also set up a site showing users which of its services are available in China and which are being blocked by the government.

“We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement,” Mr Drummond wrote.

The announcement comes after months of suspense over the fate of Google’s Chinese business, which has been in jeopardy since January 12, when the company said it would stop censoring its search results after it was hit by cyber attack it traced to China.

Google said at the time that it was increasingly troubled by China’s attempts to limit free speech.

The White House said it is “disappointed” that Google and China couldn’t settle a months-old dispute over censorship, but respects the company’s decision to stop its censored web-search services in China, Dow Jones Newswires reported later.

“We are disappointed that Google and the Chinese government were unable to reach an agreement that would allow Google to continue operating its search services in China on its google.cn Web site,” National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said.
Google said earlier that it will rout users to uncensored versions of Google Search, Google News and Google Images hosted in Hong Kong (Google.com.hk). The firm, which said in January that it was hit by a cyber-attack it traced to China, said it isn’t pulling out of the country, however.

Mr Hammer said in an email that the NSC was informed by Google shortly before its announcement.

“Google made its decision based on what it believed was in its interest,” Mr Hammer said. “We respect Google’s decision and refer you to the company for details. We have previously raised our concerns about this issue directly with the Chinese government.”

The matter is the latest in a series of disputes between Washington and Beijing, a list that includes the US’s concerns over China’s currency and China’s fury over a US arms deal with Taiwan.

Mr Hammer said US-Sino ties are “mature” enough to cope with differences of opinion.

• Source(s): The Wall Street Journal & Dow Jones

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22
Mar
10

Indifference, uncertainty cloud Google’s China threat

NEWS
Indifference, uncertainty cloud Google’s China threat

Monday, March 22, 2010

••• As the world’s largest search engine Google has been reported to announce its plan of leaving China on Monday, most Chinese Internet users believe they will be ok with a no-Google Internet despite all predictable inconvenience.

In a survey conducted by http://www.huanqiu.com, the official website of the Global Times newspaper, an affiliate of the People’s Daily, Internet users were asked “What’s your opinion of Google’s pulling out of China?”

Up to 84 percent of more than 27,000 respondents answered the “Don’t care” option.

“If Google wants to leave, just do it, and I will turn to Baidu. For sure we can survive without Google,” said an anonymous comment from Shandong Province on the news portal Xinmin.cn.

Google stirred up controversy in the world’s media and on the Internet in January when the company’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, said in a blog that Google might shut down google.cn and its China office due to disputes with the Chinese government and unidentified cyber attacks against its Chinese users.

The drama has continued for more than two months, during which its senior executives reiterated the company’s threat to stop “censoring search results in China,” while at the same time revealing the company was “negotiating with the Chinese government.”

The Chinese government has insisted that it maintains its regulation of the Internet and that foreign companies must abide by Chinese laws and regulations.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt said earlier in mid March that the company’s course of action would be announced “soon”.

“At first I felt sorry for Google, but after so many disputes, many of us get sick of it,” said a posting by “Caidao Rouqing” on the popular Tianya website.

Google has had problems in other countries too, ranging from lawsuits to disputes with governments in Germany, Britain, France, the Republic of Korea and its homeland, the United States.

However, Chinese users fear they will be unable to use the English-language google.com and other Google services, such as Gmail and Gtalk, if Google shuts down google.cn.

The worst but also likely scenario would be “an absolute pulling out” of all Google services, said Peter M. Herford, former producer of the U.S. current events show, “60 Minutes,” and journalism professor with Shantou University in south China’s Guangdong Province.

“Chinese searchers have Baidu and a few minor search engines, and English searchers will have Microsoft’s Bing and Yahoo,” Herford said, who is a long-term Google user and Internet observer.

“Google search in China is a minor player, and China is a very small part of Google’s search business. This is not the end of the world by any means,” Herford said.

Still, some netizens do regret the loss of services tailored for Chinese users on google.cn, such as maps, videos, music and translation.

Chinese blogger Ding Wenqiang said people would feel uncomfortable using alternative services at first, but would soon get over it.

“It’s like breaking up with boyfriends or girlfriends. People will find new ones soon,” Ding said.

Internet users in China who rely on Google for business also have their own worries.

Although Google’s threat to pull out did not mention its Internet advertisement businesses in China such as Google AdWords and AdSense, website operators who profit from the business-to-business tools still worry about the uncertainty.

“Google’s advertising services have created a lot of job opportunities in the Chinese Internet market, which has not been noticed by ordinary Internet users,” said Huang Haowen, an I.T. blogger who proclaims to be a loyal google fan.

Li Zhi, an analyst with Analysys International, said that AdSense was the main source of Google’s profit in China and a major competitor among tailor-made advertisement publishing tools in China’s market.

“If Google also pulls out AdSense, Baidu will be more dominant in online advertising business, and that might raise the costs for Chinese advertisers,” Li said.

As of 7 p.m. Monday, Google has yet to make any announcement on its plan of quiting China.
• Source(s): Xinhua News Agency (China)

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21
Mar
10

Chinese official media slams Google withdrawal threat as ‘arrogant’

NEWS
Chinese official media slams Google withdrawal threat as ‘arrogant’

Sunday, March 21, 2010

••• China’s official media on Saturday slammed U.S. Internet giant Google Inc. as “arrogant” for threatening to pull out of the Chinese market if the government doesn’t compromise on its Internet regulations.

“Maybe Google is preparing to retreat, and maybe it is still hesitating. But one thing is clear: China won’t let its regulations or laws bend to any companies’ threats,” said a commentary carried by the China Daily.

“It is ridiculous and arrogant for an American company to attempt to change China’s laws. The country doesn’t need a politicized Google or Google’s politics.” it said.

The strongly worded attack came after Google, the world’s largest Internet search engine, said in January it was contemplating a withdrawal on account of China’s attempts to further limit free speech in cyberspace and China-based cyber attacks and surveillance activities.

It declared it was “no longer willing to continue censoring” its search results on Google.cn and said it would enter into discussions with the Chinese government on “the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all.”

Google CEO Eric Schmidt was recently quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying at a media summit in Abu Dhabi that the company remained in “active negotiations” with Beijing and that “something will happen soon.”

Reports appearing in Chinese media this week cited sources as saying Google may announce early next week its plans to close all or part of its operations in China in April.

Amid dimming hope for a compromise, Saturday’s commentary suggested China is far from willing to concede by allowing unfiltered search engines to operate in the country.

“No country will allow information about subversion, separation, racialism and terrorism to circulate in it through the Internet.” it said. “Sovereignty and borders also exist in cyberspace, which will need to be watched by each country’s laws and regulations.”
Google.cn is the second most popular search engine in China with 338 million users, after Baidu.com, a local search engine commonly said to be China’s answer to the search engine giant.

Together, the two companies account for 96.3 percent of an online search engine industry estimated at 6.95 billion Chinese yuan (about $1 billion) in 2009, although Google lags far behind with only about a third of the total market.

The commentary said Google “must know that it should abide by laws and regulations in each country if it wants to do business there. Only by doing this can it become localized and win good market share as well as gain profits.”

Prior to its January declaration, Google had been criticized by free speech advocates for cooperating with the government in censoring search results with politically sensitive content.

It had maintained that the benefits of its presence, including increased access to information for Chinese users, outweighed the cost of censoring some results.

The commentary appeared to suggest that Google’s recent change of heart has less to do with alleged Chinese government support for hacking attacks against it, for which it said Google has no evidence, and more to do with its becoming politicized under the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.

“Google’s relations with the U.S. government cannot be deeper,” it said, noting that Google was the fourth-largest supporter of Obama in his election campaign and that former Google executives are now serving in positions in his government.

“Google’s actions show that the world’s biggest search engine company has abandoned its business principles and instead shows the world a face that is totally politicized,” it said.

“How can people believe that the company’s search results are without any bias when it lacks independence as well as business ethics?”

With or without Google, the commentary said, “China’s Internet market with 400 million users can only and will grow stronger.”
• Source(s): Xinhua News Agency (China) & Japanese Press
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19
Mar
10

Google ‘may announce China plans on Monday’

NEWS
Google ‘may announce China plans on Monday’

Friday, 19 March 2010

••• Google Inc. may pull out of China on April 10, China Business News reported Friday, citing an unidentified Chinese sales agent for the company.

The search engine may announce its exit Monday , the Shanghai-based newspaper reported, citing an unidentified Google China employee. It may reveal plans for its China work force on the same day, according to the report.

The company hasn’t confirmed the April 10 date for its pullout, although CEO Eric Schmidt said last week that something should happen soon.

A Tokyo-based spokeswoman for the company, Jessica Powell, declined to comment on the newspaper report.

In January, Google challenged the government of the world’s most populous country by threatening to allow all search results to be shown on its Chinese-language Web, including references to Tibet and the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

The Chinese government, which restricts Internet content, said the company had to obey its rules. The two sides have since been in talks to resolve the issue.

Google told its China employees after the January announcement that, should a pullout occur, they would have the option of moving to the company’s U.S. headquarters or working for its Asia-Pacific operations, the report said.

That suggests an exit from the Chinese market would only include the closure of Google.cn, rather than a complete end to Google’s business in China, the report said. Google has about 35 percent of the Chinese search market.

A pullout by the U.S. company would mean it would probably be unable to return to the world’s biggest Internet market, said Peter Lui, formerly the company’s financial controller for the Asia Pacific region.

The public manner in which Google announced its intention means it may have “burnt bridges, and they’ve burnt the Google brand in China,” Lui said. “There is no way Google can ever come back.”

The company said it decided to stop censoring content after discovering its computers had been hacked from within China. Google said its systems had been targeted by highly sophisticated attacks aimed at obtaining proprietary information, as well as personal data belonging to Chinese human rights activists who use the company’s Gmail service.

At least 20 other international companies were similarly targeted, Google said.

The New York Times reported last month that the origins of the attacks had been traced to Shanghai Jiaotong University and Lanxiang Vocational School in eastern China’s Shandong province. The reports are “totally groundless,” said Qin Gang, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry.

McAfee Inc., the second-largest maker of computer security software that has been exploring the attacks with larger rival Symantec Corp., said this month it had discovered at least six incidents in which the computer systems that companies use to house valuable intellectual property had been accessed. Security research firm ISEC Partners Inc. said the attacks that Google reported employed skills that were “much greater than most enterprises are equipped to deal with.”

Speculation that negotiations had faltered intensified after the government said last week the plan to stop filtering at its Google.cn site was irresponsible. Some Google advertisers in China have been advised to switch to rivals, including Baidu Inc.

China censors online content it deems critical of the government by shutting down Web sites based in the nation and blocking access to overseas sites, including those of Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and YouTube. The Chinese service started by Google in 2006 limits search results to comply with government restrictions, such as blocking access to sites that discuss Taiwan or Tibetan independence, the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement and the Tiananmen Square military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

China has 384 million Internet users, according to government data, more than the total U.S. population.
• Source(s): AFP, Cox Media & CNN
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19
Mar
10

Google: Viacom wanted to buy YouTube

NEWS
Google: Viacom wanted to buy YouTube

Friday, March 19, 2010

Court filings released on Thursday in the bitter $1 billion copyright fight between Viacom and Google’s YouTube show just how far apart the companies remain, as the 3-year-old case winds through federal court.

Viacom, in 108 pages of court documents, portrays YouTube’s founders as reckless copyright violators who were far more concerned with increasing traffic to their site than obeying the law. Even executives at Google, which acquired YouTube for $1.7 billion in October 2006, questioned the ethics of building a site through questionable copyright practices, according to the Viacom filings.

But in the 100-page document filed by Google, perhaps not surprisingly, the search engine tells a different story. Viacom is painted as a media giant trying to play it both ways: demanding that YouTube take down videos even while third parties were uploading Viacom content on the entertainment giant’s behalf. More intriguingly, the parent company of MTV and Paramount Pictures was at one point interested in acquiring the video-sharing site, according to the documents.

“We believe YouTube would make a transformative acquisition for MTV Networks/Viacom that would immediately make us the leading deliverer of video online, globally,” according to an internal Viacom slide that Google filed with the court.

Interesting as the documents may be, it’s not clear which side will benefit most from the disclosures. Google argues that it is protected by the safe-harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which says, in short, that if a Web site acts in good faith to take down copyrighted content as soon as it learns of it, and it has not benefited financially through advertising or other means, it is protected from a lawsuit. Viacom is attempting to pierce that protection by proving that YouTube employees, at the very least, knew of rampant copyright violations on their site and did little about it.

U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton, in the Southern District of New York, set March 5 as the deadline for filing for summary judgment and gave the parties until April 30 to file opposing arguments to each other’s motions. All the arguments should be completed sometime in June. If the case proceeds to trial, it should occur sometime this year.

Legal scholars believe that the outcome of this landmark suit could well determine who gets to profit the most from content: the people who pay for its creation, or the people who help disseminate it over the Web. It could also determine whether YouTube, by far the most popular video site, suffers from an original sin of rampant copyright violation before Google took over.

Ill-gotten rewards, destroyed e-mail?
While there are still questions as to how much money Google is or is not making from YouTube, there is little doubt that YouTube’s founders profited handsomely from selling their company less than two years after building the site. According to court records, YouTube founders Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim walked away with $334 million, $301 million, and $66 million, respectively.

According to Viacom, those were ill-gotten rewards. The three young men had already planned to look the other way, as far as copyright violations were concerned, court documents claim. Their intent was to create the online-video equivalent of Napster and then sell it. To do that, Viacom claims that the team sought ways “to avoid the copyright bastards.”

Viacom said in one e-mail that Chen urged associates to “concentrate all our efforts in building up our numbers as aggressively as we can through whatever tactics, however evil.”

Viacom suggests that it may not have been given the benefit of finding out the whole story at YouTube, whose managers did not turn over some e-mails belonging to Hurley. The reason Google gave for any missing correspondence was that Hurley’s e-mails were accidentally destroyed when his computer suffered a malfunction sometime before the Google acquisition. Viacom said, however, that it was able to retrieve some of Hurley’s e-mails from Karim.

Those e-mails show that YouTube managers knew that employees uploaded unauthorized content and applauded such moves, Viacom claimed.

Google argues that Viacom has distorted and taken out of context many of the statements from YouTube’s e-mails while doing a sloppy cut-and-paste job on some of the YouTube e-mails. In one e-mail from Chen to Karim, it said, Viacom omitted the word “stop” from this passage: “In other news, Jawed, please stop putting stolen videos on the site.”

Google provides several e-mails showing that from the earliest days of YouTube’s existence, the founders sought to protect copyright. In one April 25, 2005, e-mail, Chen tells the other co-founders that videos would be rejected that violated one of the following rules: “video must be about you, must be appropriate for all audiences, cannot contain contact information, no copyrighted material.”

In an apparent attempt to underscore YouTube’s usefulness and to suggest that Viacom is being hypocritical, Google noted that Viacom continues to do business on YouTube.

Even after waging the court battle against Google and YouTube, Viacom continues to permit some of its materials to be posted there, according to a statement entered into the record by David King, who oversees YouTube’s Content Identification System, the technology designed to filter out copyrighted materials and block them from being reposted to the site.

“For some of its reference files, Viacom has instructed the site to block, which means take it down and prevent it from going up again,” King wrote. “But on others, Viacom has instructed YouTube to leave the clips up and provide the company with information “about how YouTube users are engaging with the matching videos.”

Viacom’s attempt to buy YouTube
According to Google, Viacom “thought so highly of YouTube that it tried, unsuccessfully, to buy it” in 2005, the search company wrote. After Viacom’s negotiations to buy YouTube fell through, it took a “strong-arm approach” in talks with Google as the new owner and at that time “deliberately allowed its content to remain on YouTube” to boost the ratings of TV shows.

Viacom, according to Google, was serious enough about acquiring YouTube that it extended an offer. What Viacom suggested to YouTube was that Viacom and Google buy it and operate the service together.

“So the idea would be Viacom and Google buy YouTube,” Adam Cahan, a former executive vice president at Viacom-owned MTV Networks and now the CEO of Auditude, wrote in a cited e-mail. “Viacom legitimizes the content on the site by providing content and developing a business model.”

Some YouTube supporters are bound to wonder whether Viacom’s lawsuit was just retaliation for being outbid by Google.

On the other side, Viacom argues that it was always the intent of YouTube’s founders to draw an audience by piggybacking on the popularity of professionally made clips. But first, Viacom claims that the team tried to come up with ways “to avoid the copyright bastards.”

Google says Viacom has distorted and taken out of context many of the statements from YouTube’s e-mails.

While some of the accusations that each of the parties are flinging at the other are intriguing, many of them will have little or no bearing on the relevant issues. What’s most important now is the judge’s reading of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.

Google’s legal defense rests on the wording of the DMCA, whose safe-harbor provision says that as long as the Web site does not have knowledge of “apparent” infringing activity, and as long as it does not receive a “financial benefit”–such as displaying advertisements on the page–it will generally be immune from lawsuits.

Viacom insists that Google doesn’t qualify for the safe harbor because it not only profited by selling ads on the site, but it also built up a large fan base that was drawn by the unauthorized copies of films and TV shows. In addition, Viacom argues that Google had knowledge of copyright violations, as is evidenced in the e-mails from YouTube’s founders.

Whichever way Stanton rules, the losing party will probably appeal. The final outcome of the case will likely help clarify whether protecting intellectual-property rights on the Internet is the responsibility of a copyright owner or a Web site operator.

Regardless, it’s fun reading, if you’re into this kind of thing. Note the concern among Viacom executives that News Corp. would end up owning YouTube instead of them.

Viacom’s statement of undisputed facts

Google’s statement of undisputed facts

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17
Mar
10

YouTube Users Upload 24 Hours of Video Every Minute

NEWS
YouTube Users Upload 24 Hours of Video Every Minute
Oops Pow Surprise…24 hours of video all up in your eyes!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

••• YouTube said Wednesday that 24 hours worth of video are being uploaded to the video-sharing site every minute.

“What’s next? 30 hours? 36 hours?” YouTube director of product management Hunter Walk said in a blog post.“A day’s worth of content uploaded to YouTube every minute is a big achievement for our community and speaks to the role video plays in connecting and changing the world one upload at a time,” Walker said.

Google-owned YouTube announced in May that 20 hours of video were being uploaded to the site every minute, up from 15 hours in January.

In mid-2007, six hours of video were being uploaded to YouTube every minute, according to the site.

Google bought YouTube in 2006 for 1.65 billion dollars but the Mountain View, California-based Internet search and advertising giant has not yet managed to turn a profit with the site despite its massive global popularity.

YouTube has been gradually adding professional content such as full-length television shows and movies to its vast trove of amateur video offerings in a bid to attract advertisers.

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16
Mar
10

Chinese Censorship of Google Issue Betrays Concerns

NEWS
Chinese Censorship of Google Issue Betrays Concerns

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

••• Chinese authorities have been explicit and unwavering in their disapproval of Google’s threat to disobey their censorship regulations on its Chinese search site, Google.cn. The company will have to “bear the consequences” for making such an “irresponsible” move, the Minister of Industry and Information Technology said last week.

Behind the scenes, however, there are signs that officials realize that their view on Google may not be superpopular. The Communist Party’s Propaganda Department issued requests to media outlets on Friday to halt their coverage of the possible closure of Google’s Chinese Web site, says a Chinese journalist familiar with the situation. Chinese news Web sites have also been told they will be required to use only official accounts of the situation if Google.cn is closed, another individual with knowledge of that order said.

It’s not uncommon for propaganda authorities in China to give orders dictating the nature of news coverage on sensitive issues where they fear dissent. The fact that authorities have decided that Google’s situation should get that treatment suggests they know that many Chinese Internet users, tens of millions of whom are Google users, don’t see things the same way the government does.

On Monday, coverage of Google in the Chinese media was scarce, apparently reflecting the government gag-order. One of the few items that ran was a commentary by the state-run Xinhua news agency that sharply criticized Google’s actions. It accused the company of “sensationalizing” Chinese Internet censorship and of violating “basic international practices” of following local laws. “We welcome Google to stay if it wants, but it has to abide by Chinese law. There is no space to bargain on this issue,” the commentary said. “One thing is certain: the earth will not stop spinning because Google leaves. Chinese Internet users will continue to go online.”

Indeed, there are Chinese users who feel Google has been too uncompromising, and some actually approve of the sorts of limits the government sets on Internet expression, which they see as a way to cleanse it of pornography and violence. Even Google users, who tend to be young, urban professionals, are unlikely to take to the streets en masse if Google.cn is shut.

But Internet censorship is a hot-button issue for an increasing number of Internet users in China, and interviews and online polls suggest that most Google users in China – even those who support Google’s decision on principle – do not wish to see the company leave. The company is widely perceived in China for having more innovative products, having better English-language search results, and for being less zealous in filtering its results than Chinese competitors. When it first announced on Jan. 12 that it might leave, supporters brought flowers to its offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

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13
Mar
10

Google ‘99.9 percent’ sure to shutter Google.cn

NEWS
Google ‘99.9 percent’ sure to shutter Google.cn

Saturday, March 13, 2010

••• Google, seemingly torn between Chinese censorship and Chinese opportunity, is now “99.9 percent” certain that it will shut down its Chinese search engine, Google.cn.

According to a Financial Times source “familiar with the company’s thinking,” the search giant, having reached an apparent impasse with the Chinese government officials, has drafted detailed plans to close the Chinese search business, though it remains optimistic about finding a way to maintain its overall operations in China.

For Google, which, amid an investigation into alleged Chinese hacking of prominent U.S. Web properties, expressed in January that it no longer intends to run a censored search engine in China, staying in China after shuttering Google.cn could involve enabling its Chinese sales, software development, and research operations to remain intact.

Throughout the first quarter of 2010, it has appeared very unlikely that the Chinese government would revise its Internet censorship laws for Google–or any other company wishing to operate in China, for that matter. Its public message–that these companies are subject to Chinese law, regardless of their internal ethical codes–has not wavered.

“If [Google] takes steps that violate Chinese laws, that would be unfriendly, that would be irresponsible, they would have to bear the consequences,” Li Yizhong, China’s minister for industry and information technology, said Friday, according to the Financial Times report.

Despite those stern words, Li encouraged Google, which he said has “taken 30 percent of the Chinese search market,” to continue its operations in the country, employing its people. To Google, he said, “If you don’t leave, China will welcome that; if you don’t leave, it will be beneficial for the development of the Internet in China.”

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13
Mar
10

U.K. pressures Facebook to install ‘panic button’ to protect kids

NEWS
U.K. pressures Facebook to install ‘panic button’ to protect kids

Saturday, March 13, 2010

••• British officials say they’re pressuring Facebook to make a “panic button” available on its Web pages following the death of a teenager at the hands of a man she met on the popular social networking site.

British child protection authorities have been lobbying Facebook and other social networking sites to install a one-click button which can allow children to get immediate police help if they suspect they’re at risk.

Calls for Facebook to install the button intensified following the kidnap, rape and murder of 17-year-old Ashleigh Hall. Her killer, Peter Chapman, used a bogus Facebook identity to befriend her online.

Harriet Harman, the deputy leader of Britain’s governing Labour Party, said Thursday ministers were lobbying Facebook to adopt the button.
Why are we asking this now?

On Monday, Peter Chapman, 33, was sentenced to a minimum of 35 years in prison for the murder of Darlington teenager Ashleigh Hall. Chapman, a convicted sex offender, was “very active” on a stolen black Acer laptop in the period leading up to the murder; it later transpired that he had used the social networking website Facebook in order to choose his victim. While websites such as Facebook usually play a passive, benign role in crimes that headlines might suggest are entirely attributable to them, this is one case where the death of a young woman was indeed caused by the ease of constructing a false Facebook identity, coupled with a tragic ignorance of the signs we should all look for, and the rules we should all follow.

What did Chapman do?

In autumn last year he signed up to Facebook under a false identity. By using the name Peter Cartwright and a photograph of an attractive, bare-chested young man, he successfully posed as a 19-year old and began to exchange messages with Ashleigh. Within the space of a month they had arranged a weekend rendezvous; Chapman explained in a message that the father of “Peter Cartwright” would be picking her up in his car. Ashleigh’s body was found the following Monday.

What is it about these sites that’s creating such a problem?

First, they’re extraordinarily popular with young people. Facebook is second only to Google in terms of overall popularity online, and the amount of time we spend on such websites to socialise, exchange messages, post links to interesting websites, play games and arrange real-life meet-ups is increasing rapidly. Marketing research company Nielsen reported last summer that 17 per cent of all time spent online is on social networking websites – and that figure is pushed up considerably by teenagers. Second, we’re gullible. The ease with which we can be flattered into opening messages and entering into dialogue with people we don’t know is staggering; it’s known as “social engineering” and has been rampant online since the first major web virus spread around the globe behind the email subject title “I LOVE YOU”.

Is this issue restricted to children?

Certainly not. Each week sees countless examples of adults being hoodwinked online, too. Indeed, the older generation’s lack of familiarity with modern technology can put them at an even higher risk of being duped into handing over money, revealing secrets or making ill-advised arrangements to meet strangers. The most famous recent example was when Fidel Castro’s 40-year old son had his explicit email messages reprinted in newspapers worldwide; the person he thought was “gorgeous” 27-year old Columbian sports journalist Claudia Valencia was actually a 46-year old man called Luis Dominguez.

Is Facebook a particular source of concern?

Facebook is one of the few social networking sites that require you to use your real name when you sign up. “It ultimately creates a safer and more trusted environment for all of our users,” says a Facebook spokesman. “We require people to be who they are.” However, it remains very easy to pretend to be someone else – as demonstrated by Peter Chapman with tragic consequences – and Facebook’s “real name” culture might even mean that we’re less likely to spot fakery. MySpace and Bebo, by contrast, are a free-for-all with no restrictions on pseudonymity – but it’s important to realise that there are many sound, privacy-related reasons for not revealing one’s true identity online. Indeed, many children are very aware of and comfortable with the idea of managing multiple online identities.

Can we ever be 100 per cent sure who we’re talking to online?

No. But while this fact could easily prompt paranoia, it’s more useful to adopt a healthy scepticism about online relationships and to classify them very differently to real-life ones.

What could be done to prevent a repeat of the Ashleigh Hall tragedy?

The Home Secretary Alan Johnson said yesterday that both the UK and the US were working on ways to detect the presence of convicted sex offenders on the internet, but legislating effectively in the online space is incredibly difficult. An NSPCC-supported plan to extend the sex offenders’ register to include their online identities and email addresses was deemed a breach of offenders’ rights under European law in December 2008, and while it remains a government commitment, the ease with which Chapman created his online alter ego demonstrates how toothless such a law would prove. In the US, the state of Illinois saw a new law take effect on 1 January which bars known sex offenders from social networking websites, but the definition is so broad as to potentially exclude them from risk-free online zones such as job-hunting websites, Amazon and even Google. In addition, tracking offenders’ internet use from an increasing number of access points (cafes, libraries, mobile phones, Wi-Fi hotspots and much else besides) just isn’t practical.

What more could these sites do to protect children?

Given that millions of teenagers use Facebook, MySpace and Bebo as virtual platforms to socialise, raising the minimum age permitted to join (currently 13 for Facebook and Bebo, 14 for MySpace) would be a drastic and unworkable measure – and, indeed, wouldn’t have helped 17-year-old Ashleigh Hall. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), an arm of UK policing dedicated to child protection, is campaigning for social networking websites to incorporate a clearly visible button which would allow children to report suspicious behaviour; MSN Live Messenger and Bebo are two of many to already feature it, but Facebook is not yet on board – a fact described by Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne as a “glaring failure”. But the human weakness in detecting suspicious behaviour can render even that button redundant – making education the most crucial measure.

What rules should be followed?

CEOP’s website at thinkuknow.co.uk is an excellent resource for children, featuring information on how to have fun, how to stay in control and where to report anything that seems unusual. There’s also a primer for parents about social networking and other internet activities that their children might be indulging in. But three golden rules for children: don’t post material that you wouldn’t want your parents to see; keep your personal information private; and keep your internet friends as internet friends – because online identities may not always correspond to those in real life.

Is there any way of completely eliminating the risks?

Only by avoiding use of the internet altogether, but in the 21st century this is becoming an increasingly impractical option. Engagement and familiarity with the internet’s delights and menaces are a far better way for us all to stay safe.

Are sites such as Facebook as dangerous as they are made out to be?

Yes

• The internet is an unregulated space that convicted sex offenders have unfettered access to

• The ease with which we can adopt online pseudonyms can make the online landscape very confusing

• Children who have not had sufficient education about online safety may find themselves at risk

No

• The media enjoys demonising Facebook and likes to play upon existing fears of the internet

• Social networking websites are an increasingly important social tool and should be encouraged

• The vast majority of children have no more trouble in their online social lives than they do in the playground

• Source(s): U.K. Press

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