Tech-policy


The impact of Megaupload's shutdown on other file hosting sites is spreading. Just as FileSonic recently disabled file sharing, presumably to avoid prosecution for enabling illegal distribution of copyrighted material, the site FileServe has now done the same.

A reddit user pointed out the change earlier today. Attempting to download a file uploaded by another FileServe user results in a message that reads, "FileServe can only be used to download and retrieve files that you have uploaded personally. If this file belongs to you, please login to download it directly from your file manager."

While RapidShare claims not to be concerned about prosecution, as it has procedures in place to take down infringing content under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the actions of FileSonic and FileServe suggest the sites' makers aren't as confident in their own legal compliance. Fortunately, both sites are allowing users to continue downloading their own content. With Megaupload, even people who used the service to store and distribute content they created themselves have lost access to their files due to the criminal case and takedown of the entire site.

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Net neutrality: first it was vampiric, now it's Communist.

"The FCC is in essence building an Internet Iron Curtain that will restrict more of our freedom," said Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) in a press release after yesterday's release of the final "open Internet" rules.

"These regulations were approved last December and the FCC has been slow-walking them to avoid the lawsuits that are certain to be filed," she added. "It is just another example of a federal agency defying the will of the people."

Clearly, time has not softened Blackburn's stance. As a leading Republican voice on tech issues, Blackburn has had it in for net neutrality since the idea was proposed. Late last year she blasted the FCC for making "its vampric leap from its traditional jurisdiction—the terrestrial radio and land line telephones that have fallen into disuse—onto the gifts piled neatly under our trees. The iPads and iPhones, Androids, Wiis, Webbooks, and WiFi will all feel the federal bite in a way they never have before…"

She went on to add, bizarrely, that "the FCC is effectively nationalizing the Web" and warned that "the new Congress will prove a swift antidote to the federal bloodsucker you found at your throat this Christmas."

Blackburn was referencing her own Internet Freedom Act (H.R. 96), a short bill with 81 co-sponsors that would "prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from further regulating the Internet."

The bill hasn't made much headway, so Blackburn used yesterday's final rules to call again for its passage. "The Senate should act immediately on the resolution of disapproval and the House needs to bring up and pass my Internet Freedom Act so we can start to hold the FCC accountable," she said.

Between Congressional claims of vampiric communism and the ISP lawsuits about to fall like hammer blows, the FCC is certainly up against it with one of the key regulatory measures of Julius Genachowski's FCC chairmanship.

Groups like Public Knowledge are already preparing to "vigorously defend the FCC's rules in court and in Congress." Yesterday, Public Knowledge president Gigi Sohn called on Congress to "allow the litigation to move forward to resolve intricate legal issues without political interference." But as Blackburn's "Internet Iron Curtain" comment shows, however, Congress has no intention of staying out of the issue.

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Facebook's new Safety Center won't prevent you or your teenager from being harassed or coming into contact with slimy individuals, but it will help you get a grip on how to handle the situation. The company unveiled the redesigned section of the site Tuesday. It offers numerous resources to users, parents, educators, and even law enforcement, with input from a board of organizations aimed at improving online safety for users of all ages.

There's not much in the Safety Center for savvy 'Net users. However, for less techie users like our friends, coworkers, and family members, the Safety Center acts as a helpful one-stop shop for finding all manner of information. For example, users can find step-by-step instructions on what to do if someone is impersonating them on Facebook, how to report unwanted messages, what to do if a current or ex-spouse is controlling your account, how to report offensive Facebook groups, and what to do if another user makes a suicide threat.

These are just a handful of the topics covered under the General Safety section—there are topics of interest for parents and law enforcement too. Police can report a registered sex offender to Facebook, for example, or suspected terrorist activity. The parent section is largely to help them help their teens deal with cyberbullying and other abusive content, though it also offers information on what Facebook's privacy policies are for minors as well as how parents can better understand this Big Scary Internet that their kids are partaking in.

As critics have pointed out, Facebook seems to be dancing around its own shortcomings when it comes to promoting safety—many users feel that Facebook has made its site less safe recently by making nearly all user information public by default. Indeed, it's easy for casual users to post information that they thought was private and have it broadcast to the world instead. This remains a sticking point for safety critics, but the Safety Center still offers a plethora of resources beyond what nearly every other social network makes available to its users.

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