The Pirate Bay tends to be a website that national governments aren’t particularly fond of. That being the case, it’d be surprising if a national government ran ads on the site, advertising an Economic Action Plan, right? Canada did that, but not on purpose.
Banner ads for Canada’s Department of Finance’s Economic Action Plan started showing up on the site a few days ago, right next to ads for finding a Chinese bride, as shown by an image from the Ottawa Citizen. The ads were removed quickly, and the Department of Finance is blaming ad networks that were included in their media buy, specifically Yahoo!.
Yahoo! is in turn pointing a finger at Sympatico:
We have confirmed that Yahoo! was not responsible for the EAP ad showing up on The Pirate Bay. We have been able to trace the ad to Sympatico who were responsible for this ad’s appearance on the site, and they have been notified of the issue so they can take the appropriate actions.
Regardless of whose fault it actually was, the fact remains that for a while, the Pirate Bay had the pleasure of running a few government-purchased ads, and is enjoying the irony. According to TorrentFreak they’re even considering covering the site with unsolicited ads for the plan, for kicks. Though only the first run paid in real money, a second one would probably pay pretty well in smirks. [TorrentFreak via CNET]
What if a virus were a shapeshifter, able to change its appearance each time it infects a machine? What if a virus used your own files against you, able to ransack the programs on your computer for the bits of code it needs? Judging from the progress made on the Frankenstein virus, a venture sponsored by the U.S. Air Force, that may soon be a reality.
Developed by two professors at the University of Texas at Dallas, New Scientist says the Frankenstein virus is essentially a program compliler with directions about the algorithms it needs to assemble. Once unpacked and functional, it begins searching the software on your computer for the code it needs—generally taking little snippets called gadgets. These gadgets are written to perform specific actions and thus can be transposed over to another program more easily. The researchers only had the Frankenstein virus create two simple algorithms as a proof of concept, but they believe it can assemble any program, including full-scale malware.
And though there have been other viruses that can change their code, Frankenstein is believed to be more dangerous because it can also change its every aspect of itself to hide on your computer.
Frankenstein is different because all of its code, including the blueprints and gadget-finder, can adapt to look like parts of regular software, making it harder to detect. Just three pieces of such software are enough to provide over 100,000 gadgets, so there are a huge number of ways for Frankenstein to build its monster, but it needs blueprints that find the right balance. If the blueprint is too specific, it leaves Frankenstein little choice in which gadgets to use, leading to less variation and making it easier to detect. Looser blueprints, which only specify the end effects of the malware, are too vague for Frankenstein to follow, for now.
Image by gualtiero boffi/Shutterstock
When on the hunt for ancient civilizations, it’s not all about Pyramids and monuments. Archaeologists have developed a method of spotting smaller human settlements using spy-satellite photos from the 60s, digital maps and modern multi-spectral images of the planet’s surface. The Scientists are looking for “anthrosols” which are left by decayed organic matter and mud-brick buildings. Containing a higher levels of organic matter, anthrosols impart a different texture and appearance to untouched soil, giving it a distinct visual signature. Software is used to spot these visual fingerprints from images over a 50 year period. Data from NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission is also used to determine the volume of the matter, and therefore the likely length of survival of the settlement. To give an idea of how prolific the system is, it’s believed to have discovered 14,000 settlement sites in a 23,000 square kilometer area of Syria alone — none of them Atlantis.
Satellite images reveal 8,000 years of civilization, rooftop pranks originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 21 Mar 2012 20:42:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
If you hadn’t heard of SOPA before, you probably have by now: Some of the internet’s most influential sites—Reddit and Wikipedia among them—are going dark to protest the much-maligned anti-piracy bill. But other than being a very bad thing, what is SOPA? And what will it mean for you if it passes?
SOPA is an anti-piracy bill working its way through Congress…
House Judiciary Committee Chair and Texas Republican Lamar Smith, along with 12 co-sponsors, introduced the Stop Online Piracy Act on October 26th of last year. Debate on H.R. 3261, as it’s formally known, has consisted of one hearing on November 16th and a “mark-up period” on December 15th, which was designed to make the bill more agreeable to both parties. Its counterpart in the Senate is the Protect IP Act (S. 968). Also known by it’s cuter-but-still-deadly name: PIPA. There will likely be a vote on PIPA next Wednesday; SOPA discussions had been placed on hold but will resume in February of this year.
…that would grant content creators extraordinary power over the internet…
The beating heart of SOPA is the ability of intellectual property owners (read: movie studios and record labels) to effectively pull the plug on foreign sites against whom they have a copyright claim. If Warner Bros., for example, says that a site in Italy is torrenting a copy of The Dark Knight, the studio could demand that Google remove that site from its search results, that PayPal no longer accept payments to or from that site, that ad services pull all ads and finances from it, and—most dangerously—that the site’s ISP prevent people from even going there.
…which would go almost comedically unchecked…
Perhaps the most galling thing about SOPA in its original construction is that it let IP owners take these actions without a single court appearance or judicial sign-off. All it required was a single letter claiming a “good faith belief” that the target site has infringed on its content. Once Google or PayPal or whoever received the quarantine notice, they would have five days to either abide or to challenge the claim in court. Rights holders still have the power to request that kind of blockade, but in the most recent version of the bill the five day window has softened, and companies now would need the court’s permission.
The language in SOPA implies that it’s aimed squarely at foreign offenders; that’s why it focuses on cutting off sources of funding and traffic (generally US-based) rather than directly attacking a targeted site (which is outside of US legal jurisdiction) directly. But that’s just part of it.
…to the point of potentially creating an “Internet Blacklist”…
Here’s the other thing: Payment processors or content providers like Visa or YouTube don’t even need a letter shut off a site’s resources. The bill’s “vigilante” provision gives broad immunity to any provider who proactively shutters sites it considers to be infringers. Which means the MPAA just needs to publicize one list of infringing sites to get those sites blacklisted from the internet.
Potential for abuse is rampant. As Public Knowledge points out, Google could easily take it upon itself to delist every viral video site on the internet with a “good faith belief” that they’re hosting copyrighted material. Leaving YouTube as the only major video portal. Comcast (an ISP) owns NBC (a content provider). Think they might have an interest in shuttering some rival domains? Under SOPA, they can do it without even asking for permission.
…while exacting a huge cost from nearly every site you use daily…
SOPA also includes an “anti-circumvention” clause, which holds that telling people how to work around SOPA is nearly as bad as violating its main provisions. In other words: if your status update links to The Pirate Bay, Facebook would be legally obligated to remove it. Ditto tweets, YouTube videos, Tumblr or WordPress posts, or sites indexed by Google. And if Google, Twitter, WordPress, Facebook, etc. let it stand? They face a government “enjoinment.” They could and would be shut down.
The resources it would take to self-police are monumental for established companies, and unattainable for start-ups. SOPA would censor every online social outlet you have, and prevent new ones from emerging.
…and potentially disappearing your entire digital life…
The party line on SOPA is that it only affects seedy off-shore torrent sites. That’s false. As the big legal brains at Bricoleur point out, the potential collateral damage is huge. And it’s you. Because while Facebook and Twitter have the financial wherewithal to stave off anti-circumvention shut down notices, the smaller sites you use to store your photos, your videos, and your thoughts may not. If the government decides any part of that site infringes on copyright and proves it in court? Poof. Your digital life is gone, and you can’t get it back.
…while still managing to be both unnecessary and ineffective…
What’s saddest about SOPA is that it’s pointless on two fronts. In the US, the MPAA, and RIAA already have the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to request that infringing material be taken down. We’ve all seen enough “video removed” messages to know that it works just fine.
As for the foreign operators, you might as well be throwing darts at a tse-tse fly. The poster child of overseas torrenting, Pirate Bay, has made it perfectly clear that they’re not frightened in the least. And why should they be? Its proprietors have successfully evaded any technological attempt to shut them down so far. Its advertising partners aren’t US-based, so they can’t be choked out. But more important than Pirate Bay itself is the idea of Pirate Bay, and the hundreds or thousands of sites like it, as populous and resilient as mushrooms in a marsh. Forget the question of should SOPA succeed. It’s incredibly unlikely that it could. At least at its stated goals.
…but stands a shockingly good chance of passing…
SOPA is, objectively, an unfeasible trainwreck of a bill, one that willfully misunderstands the nature of the internet and portends huge financial and cultural losses. The White House has come out strongly against it. As have hundreds of venture capitalists and dozens of the men and women who helped build the internet in the first place. In spite of all this, it remains popular in the House of Representatives.
That mark-up period on December 15th, the one that was supposed to transform the bill into something more manageable? Useless. Twenty sanity-fueled amendments were flat-out rejected. And while the bill’s most controversial provision—mandatory DNS filtering—was thankfully taken off the table recently, in practice internet providers would almost certainly still use DNS as a tool to shut an accused site down.
…unless we do something about it.
The momentum behind the anti-SOPA movement has been slow to build, but we’re finally at a saturation point. Wikipedia, BoingBoing, WordPress, TwitPic: they’ll all be dark on January 18th. An anti-SOPA rally has been planned for tomorrow afternoon in New York. The list of companies supporting SOPA is long but shrinking, thanks in no small part to the emails and phone calls they’ve received in the last few months.
Dr. Augustine Fou is Digital Consigliere to marketing executives, advising them on digital strategy and Unified Marketing(tm). Dr Fou has over 17 years of in-the-trenches, hands-on experience, which enables him to provide objective, in-depth assessments of their current marketing programs and recommendations for improving business impact and ROI using digital insights.
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