Category: Government-Citizen Online Activity

New online-abuse Website launched in the UK

Articles

UK government tackles online abuse with anti-trolling website | We Live Security blog (ESET)

Cyberbullies: Anti-trolling website launched to help victims | The Independent

Government launches anti-trolling website to help victims of online abuse | The Guardian

Previous Coverage

What can you do about people who use the Social Web to menace

Dealing with Internet trolls

From the horse’s mouth

Stop Online Abuse (UK-based)

My Comments

The UK government have launched a Website focusing on online abuse and how to deal with it, including legal remedies and resources.

It is focused more towards women and the LGBT (gay/lesbian/bi/trans) community who are facing these issues because, from various surveys, these user groups are often copping it the most. This covers online abouse related to domestic violence, sexism and sexual harassment, along with homophobia and related anti-LGBT abuse. But there are other situations where people do suffer in silence such as general racism, issues-focused or business-level disputes.

I see the “Stop Online Abuse” website applying to all situations where the Internet is involved and a lot of the commentary is very generic. But I do see some limitations with the legal remedies because there may be difficulties with applying them when situations happen across jurisdictions as is the norm with the Internet.

For example, the crime of “sending messages using any public electronic communications network such as Twitter or Facebook, which are grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character” that is part of the UK’s Communications Act 2003 may have a legal equivalent in your jurisdiction. This may be in the form of one or more national communications statute that proscribes the use of a communications service or “common carriage service” to harass others. Similarly, there are court injunctions that were cited for the UK like the Family Law Act 1996 Non-Molestation Order or the Protection From Harassment Act 1997 restraining order that have equivalents under your jurisdiction’s criminal, civil or family law but with different names.

It is worth contacting your local citizen’s advice bureau or similar government or voluntary organisation for more resources. Infact, locating an organisation that specialises in your particular circumstances like a domestic-violence support organisation may provide you with better information suited to your exact needs.

Similarly, it is a wise move for these organisations to “bone up” on the issue of online abuse so they can provide the right advice to suit their clients’ situations and needs. National, regional and local governments along with the judiciary can also see this site as a chance to provide a Web-hosted “one-stop shop” for their constituents to know more about these issues. This is in addition to creating legislative remedies for online-abuse problems. As well, as each case is litigated in a family, criminal or civil context, the knowledge created from the legal action can be used to tackle this situation better in the courtroom.

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Berlin creates a smartphone app to tackle neo-Nazism

Article Flag of Germany

La ville de Berlin lance une application «contre les nazis» | La Figaro (French language | Langue Française)

From the horse’s mouth

Berlin Against Nazis (Berlin Gegen Nazis)

Press Release (German Language / Deutsche Sprache)

My Comments

Another smartphone app has been developed for the community good, this time in Germany. Here, it is a notification app to distribute information about the issue of neo-Nazism to people who live in Berlin.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 press picture courtesy of Samsung

Smartphones are being seen as activist tools even with custom apps

“Against Nazis” (“Gegen Nazis”), which this fully-free app is called, serves more as a bulletin-board app which shows what is going on around town concerning neo-Nazi activity through the use of push notifications and an interactive map. Through these technologies, this information is distributed effectively real-time. This app allows users to act on the information in order to show solidarity against the neo-Nazi activity that is going on near them or to effectively strengthen the network’s activity. This app has been delivered in German, English and Turkish because of Germany having a distinct presence of Turkish people.

It has been developed by the “Berlin Gegen Nazis” (Berlin Against Nazis) network which is supported by the Berlin local government. This was brought on by a member of this network who was engaged in an anti-Nazi march in Rudolf Hess’s home town when a far-right group effectively took over that march.

The neo-Nazi groups still maintain a presence in Germany although they have a low impact on the national polls and on Berlin’s polls. In relation to Berlin, they have presence in poorer areas of the city like Schöneweide in the former East Berlin. It is also known that people who lived in the former East-Germany areas were soft towards the extreme-right ideology.

This is another way where the mobile phone platforms are being used for the public good especially due to the ease of access that these platforms provide. It also involves creating an information-delivery backbone which is cost-effective for these community organisations.

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Doncare has launched a mobile-phone app to help people in domestic-violence situations

Article

Doncare launches LiveFree App to fight domestic violence | The Weekly Review

From the horse’s mouth

Doncare Community Services

Press Release (PDF)

Facebook Page

App Site (iTunes App Store)

My Comments

Doncare Community Services, along with Doncaster Rotary Club, have just launched an iPhone app that provides information about domestic and relationship violence. This provides the general information that women need to know about handling these situations along with knowledge of legal and similar resources they can avail themselves of.

A typical situation that concerns online domestic-violence resources is that these resources are typically furnished as Web pages which can yield a privacy risk for the victim of this violence due to the fact that Web browsers list what you have browsed. This is a key risk for  lot of these victims who live in a highly-controlled abusive relationship. Here, the perpetrator is often likely to check on recent Web-browsing activity that the person has done on the computer equipment used in their home as part of wanting to know what they think and do as well as whom they see. These people even have to do this browsing from their workplace’s computer, a friend’s computer or a publicly-accessible computer like one installed in a library or café.

The native mobile app has the advantage that they can download the app from the platform’s app store, use it and delete it quickly if they fear that the perpetrator is snooping around their phone. Then they re-download the app from the app store as and when they can.

One limitation about this app is that it is focused on resources and legal options that are available and relevant to Victoria, Australia. An improvement that I would have would be to download information about options available in other jurisdictions, something that can be provided during the setup phase or at a later point. This effort could be positioned as part of a localisation effort that would take place during the app’s lifecycle.

At least this is an example of what can be done by family-violence support organisations regarding using the smartphone and tablets that people own. This is where a free, easily-downloaded, easily-uninstalled app that has this critical information and access to critical resources can be used as a tool by people who are at risk.

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Facebook launches a “Safety Check” program for use during emergencies

Facebook Safety Check iPhone notification screenshot courtesy Facebook

Facebook Safety Check notification on iPhone

Articles

SAFETY CHECK: Facebook Tool Simplifies Users’ Communication During Disasters, Crisis Situations | AllFacebook

Facebook’s new Safety Check lets you tell friends you’re safe when disaster strikes | NakedSecurity (Sophos)

From the horse’s mouth

Facebook

Introducing Safety Check (Press Release)

Feature Description

My Comments

Facebook has just released a system which works during natural disasters or other civil emergencies to allow people to be sure that those friends of theirs who are in the affected areas are OK. This system, known as Safety Check, was born out of a “notice board that Facebook built in to their system during the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami. It would still complement other methods like phoning or texting those you know in the affected areas.

If an emergency happens, this would affect a known geographical area and Facebook would determine if you or your friends are in that area or not. Typically, this would be brought on by emergency services and the media advising Facebook of these situations. This would be based on the City data in your Profile or rough-gauging where you are interacting with it from. It would also use the Last Location details if you opt in to and implement the “Nearby Friends” app as another metric.

Facebook Safety Check dashboard screenshots (regular computer and mobile) courtesy Facebook

Facebook Safety Check dashboard- regular and mobile (handheld) views

Here, you will have a notification that will pop up if you are in the affected area and you mark this as “I’m Safe” if you are OK and safe, or mark as being “Out Of Area” if Facebook miscalculates your location and determines that you are in that area when you are are not in that area. The latter situation can happen for people who are in a large metropolitan area or conurbation and the disaster or crisis situation only affects a small part of that area.

This status will show up to your Friends as a Notification and in their News Feed to reassure them.This is augmented by a special “dashboard” page created for the emergency that shows a filtered list of your friends who are in the area affected by the crisis so you cab know who has “called in” to say they are OK,

This same setup also benefits those of us who are outside the affected areas and want to simply be sure that none of our friends have been affected by that crisis. Here, we receive the News Feeds and Notifications about our Friends who have “checked in” as being safe or out of the affected area and can also see this on that same “dashboard” page.

As for the privacy issue, these updates are only visible to those people who are currently your Facebook Friends when it comes to “coarse” coverage and to those of us who have reciprocally enabled the “Nearby Friends” functionality on Facebook for each other.

Although Facebook is the dominant consumer-facing social network and is able to achieve this goal, various other messaging and social-network services could learn form this setup to allow “at-a-glance” notification of our loved ones’ welfare during natural disasters and other crises.

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Be sure about that property sale being conducted over the Internet is kosher

Article

Scammers sell Canberra house without owner’s knowledge | ABC News (Australia)

My Comments

House

Is the sale of the house meant to be?

Recently, a news item was run by the ABC News concerning scams involving the sale of houses and other real-estate property via the Internet without the owner’s knowledge. This was affecting people who own a property in another country such as a “expat” who is maintaining their former home as a rental property. I also reckon that this can also happen with other high-value high-risk transactions such as the sale of financial instruments, vehicles or collectable rarities.

What was highlighted with the scam was there was no face-to-face contact between the parties. Typically the trasaction was based around email messages, instant-messaging posts or other similar technologies, especially where the contact addresses were always changing. This could highlight the use of disposable email accounts to facilitate the transaction and avoid repudiation.

If you can’t meet the other party face-to-face because you and them are separated by distance, it would be a good idea to make voice contact, whether through the classic telephone setup or through Skype or a similar VoIP setup. I would even go as far as conducting a videocall using Skype, Viber Desktop or a similar technology as a way of confirming the identity and veracity of the other party.

As well, it is essential that you have the documents and signatures concerning the transaction verified. For an international transaction, you could engage the services of your country’s diplomatic presence in the remote country. You may also have to engage an official translator if you are dealing with documents written in a foreign language.

One thing to remember is that if there is undue urgency to complete the transaction or you find that the transaction is on terms that is out of place for one of that kind, including prices that are ridiculously high or low for the property or properties of a similar type, location or condition, you could be falling foul of a scam. As well, seek counsel from experts relating to the kind of transaction that is taking place like real-estate agents, valuers or banks.

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Swiss Customs agency to have own mobile-platform app for travellers

Swiss Customs sign - courtesy Wikimedia CommonsArticle – German Language / Deutsche Sprache

Zollverwaltung plant Smartphone-App | Netzwoche (Switzerland)

Verzollung per Smartphone geplant | PCTipp.ch

From the horse’s mouth

Swiss Customs Authority (Eidgenössische Zollwerwaltung EZV)

App download site

My Comments

The country who turns out the most precise and most premium traditional watches has taken anther step further with e-government. Here, the Swiss customs authority have worked on a mobile-platform app that overseas travellers use for calculating customs duty and VAT on goods they intend to bring back to Switzerland or registering these goods. This is also part of a simplification effort concerning how Swiss citizens have to deal with importing goods privately such as part of online shopping.

There are questions on what level of functionality this app will provide such as provision of other customs-related information or whether this will work just for private importers only with different software for businesses.

But at least it is an example of a customs authority implementing their e-government goals to more than just large importers. It also is a government department implementing the mobile platforms like smartphones and tablets in this role rather than just using a Web view on a desktop computer for this kind of e-government application.

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Venice’s independence referendum is the proving ground for e-voting

Article

E-voting comes of age in Italy with Venice independence referendum | PCWorld

My Comments

Venice - Creative Commons  2.0 - Courtesy of word_virus

Venice – a city that could be legitimising the online vote

As you think of wafting down those canals in Venice in a gondola, or listen to that piece of classical music by Vivaldi who was born in Venice , you don’t know that this area has just been a turning point for a change that could affect how you vote.

This neighbourhood became fed up with the way the Italian state was taxing them but not putting much back in to that area. The sentiment whipped up some interest in the secessionist movement and, due to an increase in the IT industry in that area, the idea came across to run a referendum for secession using the Web.

This required that each person registered to vote receive a unique identity number for that election where they logged in to a Web page using that number to cast their vote online with a computer, tablet or smartphone. There was also the ability to use a regular telephone to cast your vote for the referendum. There were measures in place to detect and prevent voter fraud using this system and it would also have used the SSL technology to assure a secret vote on the Web front.

Of course, the mainstream Italian media, most of whom was controlled by Silvio Berlusconi, called the vote a farce but this was able to be seen in Italy and other areas as a mature proving ground for the Internet-driven e-voting concept. Other areas like Switzerland have implemented e-voting for various referenda and Norway has eyed this technology as something to implement in their municipal elections.

Some countries may still cast doubt over the idea of electronic voting technologies, usually due to breaking perceived “comfort zones” or fear of an increased risk of electoral fraud. Even postal voting in Australia has been considered acceptable only as an “away-from-home” voting option or on a municipal level by all but a minority of councils.

What would be considered important for any online voting system would be to have a unique number for each registered voter relating to a particular election or referendum, not correlating to other “primary-key” numbers used as part of public service or commerce like tax numbers, social-security or public-health (NHS / Medicare) numbers. As well, this number is provided to each voter by regular post with one envelope for each voter even though multiple voters reside in one household such as parents and children of voting age. This would be considered a “use-once” number to assure “one person one-vote one-value” and not relate to the vote being cast.

As well, an online system would have to have highly-scrupulous security measures like use of SSL (https) Web pages with even the option of an on-screen keyboard to deter keystroke logging to assure everyone of the secret ballot. Even making sure that client-side software such as mobile-platform apps are approved would be considered important to avoid the creation of “Trojan horse” apps that work against democracy by betraying users’ votes.

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Bridging common Internet technology with the courtroom

Article

BBC News – Byte-sized revolution heralds Twitter in Scottish court

My Comments

Over the many hundreds of years, the courts of justice, especially those countries that work to British common law like the UK and Australia, have been overly cautious about the use of recording and reporting technology during the cases brought before them.

Now, a sentencing hearing held in the Scottish High Court has become the first courtroom venue to allow the use of Twitter to permit dissemination of information by observers. The Twitter-based technology would have worked well with remand and sentencing hearings in criminal cases or the conclusion of a case; where there are short exchanges. As well, these hearings, especially the remand hearings may work as a logical bookmark for a court case. On the other hand, “blog-type” reporting, where a regular bulletin is published on a Web page; at the end of each day’s proceedings, could become relevant for long-form civil and criminal cases.

One main concern that the judiciary would have about this is the protection of justice against situations like “trial by media”. It also may be of concern with criminal, family and other cases involving children or other vulnerable people and there is a desire in these cases to limit exposure of these people to pejorative media coverage.

I would suggest that the judiciary investigate the issue of the courtroom and the Internet through various means. This could include integration of questions regarding Web coverage of cases being part of specific cases across the legal fabric; trial-running of specific provisions in particular hearings or cases like what the Scottish High Court had done and even having particular cases of common interest being live-blogged by trusted reporters. As well, lawyers, judges and magistrates who have valuable knowledge or experience concerning the online courtroom should be encouraged to publish their findings as much as possible. The legislative pillar of government should also investigate this topic in case laws have to be revised concerning this practice.

As well, there could be investigation in to secure RSS feeds as a technological measure for the justice system. This is where people have to be authenticated before the can have access to this feed. This could be extended to a courthouse running a case-specific “keep-u-posted” RSS feed service searchable by case number or participant so that people who are part of or are following a case can know what is going.

Once the judiciary investigates the feasibility of the “online courtroom”, they can integrate this pillar of government in to the “e-government” agenda. As well, those who do cover a court case using live-blogging or other online techniques need to keep core principles of justice in their minds.

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Could this e-government initiative be upsetting the applecart in Europe as far as the Browser Choice initiative is concerned?

Article

E-Government-Offensive im Microsoft-Browser | news.ORF.at (Austria – German language)

My comments and brief interpretation

Judging from my basic understanding of the German language together with use of Google’s machine translation, I had “got the gist” of this situation which would be considered hostile to the European Commission’s agenda concerning Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser.

What I was reading here was that the federal government in Austria were placing heavy emphasis on Internet Explorer 8 as part of their “e-government” initiative. This was including a downloadable toolbar add-in amongst obvious page-optimisation for this browser.

Most likely, I would suspect that, like most large organisations, the Austrian government uses Internet Explorer 8 as part of their standard operating environment and they expect that most users in that country may have stuck with IE8 even during the “Browser Choice Screen” switchover. One could say that this government could get away with this practice because many public and private organisations supply iPhone client apps to make their “front-end” useable on an iPhone which may be platform-specific.

What I would like to see with this is that if the government sites become less useful or unable to fulfil their function because of the preference for a particular browser is concerned, then the sites should be organised to at least fulfil their function no matter the desktop-computer user agent.

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