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Theresa May Wants to End ‘Safe Spaces’ for Terrorists on the Internet. What Does That Even Mean? 

In the wake of the U.K.’s most recent terrorist attacks, its prime minister is talking tough on Internet regulation, but what she’s suggesting is impractical.

Tragically, there have been three major terrorist attacks in the U.K. in less than three months’ time. After the second, in Manchester, May and others said they would look into finding ways to compel tech companies to put cryptographic “back doors” into their services, so that law enforcement agencies could more easily access suspects’ user data.

May repeated her stance in broaders terms Sunday, following new attacks in London. “The Internet, and the big companies” are providing “safe spaces” for extremism, she said, and new regulations are needed to “regulate cyberspace.” She offered no specifics, but her party’s line, just days from the June 8 national election, is clear: a country that already grants its government some of the most sweeping digital surveillance powers of any democracy needs more and tougher laws to prevent terrorism (see “New U.K. Surveillance Law Will Have Worldwide Implications”).

The trouble is, this kind of talk ignores how the Internet and modern consumer technology works. As Cory Doctorow points out in a detailed look at how you would actually go about creating services with cryptographic holes, the practicalities of such a demand render it ludicrous bordering on impossible. Even if all of the necessary state-mandated technical steps were taken by purveyors of commercial software and devices—like Google or Apple, say—anyone who wanted to could easily skirt their restrictions by running open-source versions of the software, or unlocked phones.

That isn’t to say that May and the Conservatives’ general idea that the government should be able to probe user data as part of an investigation should be dismissed out of hand. The balancing act between national security and digital privacy has become one of the central themes of our digital lives (see “What If Apple Is Wrong?”). And while there are advocates aplenty on both sides, simple answers are hard to come by. Read the rest of this entry »

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House Republicans Seek to Cut Off Funding for Syrian Resettlement Program

The growing momentum behind new legislation, still being drafted, sets up a future clash between the White House and Congress.

John Hudson reports: Following the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, House Republicans are proposing to block federal funding for resettling Syrian refugees until a series of new conditions are met, Foreign Policy has learned.

 “Currently, 60 million people worldwide have been forced from their homes or are otherwise considered refugees — higher than at any other time in recorded history.”

The growing momentum behind new legislation, still being drafted, sets up a future clash between the White House and Congress as the Obama administration seeks to offer residency to 10,000 Syrian refugees who currently live outside the conflict zone. Currently, 60 million people worldwide have been forced from their homes or are otherwise considered refugees — higher than at any other time in recorded history. An estimated six million to eight million displaced people are still in Syria, and more than four million Syrian refugees are in Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon.

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“The 15 Republican lawmakers pushing the legislation aren’t the only politicians looking to slam the brakes on Obama’s resettlement program. The governors of 15 U.S. states have already said they would not allow Syrian refugees to live in their states.”

The draft legislation, a copy of which was obtained by FP, is backed by Reps. Brian Babin, Lou Barletta, Diane Black, Mo Brooks, Jeff Duncan, John Duncan, Blake Farenthold, Louie Gohmert, Frank Guinta, Gregg Harper, Walter Jones, Steve King, Mike Pompeo, Mark Meadows, and Bill Posey. It would prevent funding for the resettlement of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa until authorities adopt “processes to ensure that refugee and related programs are not able to be co-opted by would-be terrorists.” Once those processes are in place, details of the security checks must be given to Congress in both classified and public forums, and the administration must establish a “longer-term monitoring process” to track refugees in the U.S.

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“Additionally, House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul plans to raise the issue of blocking Syrian refugee resettlement at a Tuesday meeting with fellow Republicans, according to two congressional sources.”

The 15 Republican lawmakers pushing the legislation aren’t the only politicians looking to slam the brakes on Obama’s resettlement program. The governors of 15 U.S. states have already said they would not allow Syrian refugees to live in their states. Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions (R) has proposed legislation to restrict U.S. funding for refugee resettlement and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (R) has said he will introduce legislation to prevent Syrian refugees from obtaining U.S. visas. Read the rest of this entry »


iOS Conceal Carry: Women in India Fight Sexual Harassment with Smartphones

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Interest in phone apps with SOS buttons to alert contacts and websites to report sexual harassment has surged as more women challenge the view that they have a lower status than men

New Delhi —  Nita Bhalla and Alisa Tang, report: Indian women armed with smartphones are using the clout of social media to fight sexual harassment by filming and publicly shaming men who molest them as greater awareness of violence against women spreads.

In the latest of a series of incidents, a young Indian woman used her smartphone to shoot video of a man sitting behind her on an IndiGo airline flight who tried to grope her between the seats. She filmed her rebuke of him in front of the other passengers.

“A video is a weapon that scares patriarchy. The proof, like in the IndiGo case, is mostly undeniable. It leaves the woman with more power than usual to fight for her own cause with little need of either empathy or logistical help from a man. It pins a man down for his crimes with little scope of escape.”

— Piyasree Dasgupta, on leading news website firstpost.com

The video, posted on YouTube last week, went viral, adding to growing anger over gender violence in the world’s second most populous country where women are frequently sexually harassed in public and on transportation.

The trend to name-and-shame sex offenders comes after the gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman on a bus in Delhi in 2012. The incident sparked public protests and led to a national debate about the security of women – encouraging victims once embarrassed to come forward to use smartphones to expose perpetrators.

Interest in safety apps with SOS buttons to alert contacts and websites to report sexual harassment has surged in the past year or so as more women challenge the age-old patriarchal attitudes in India that view women as lower status than men. Read the rest of this entry »


Panic: DNC sends Paranoid email Defending Obama from Impeachment Possibility

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to military personnel during a Christmas day visit to Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe, Hawaii December 25, 2013. Obama is on vacation with his family in nearby Kailua.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to military personnel during a Christmas day visit to Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe, Hawaii December 25, 2013. Obama is on vacation with his family in nearby Kailua.

Patrick Howley reports:  The Democratic National Committee (DNC) sent out a paranoid email Saturday evening urging supporters to vote for Democrats so that Republicans can’t impeach President Obama.

The email, subject line “Impeachment,” was sent to Obama for America supporters, imploring them to contribute to the DNC’s 2014 efforts. “What do these people all have in common?,” the email asked, featuring quotes from Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Rep. Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan, and Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas discussing the possibility of impeaching Obama for one of his numerous instances of presidential misconduct.

Read the rest of this entry »