Saturday, 13 July 2019

Instagram's War on Bullying

Yair Cohen, Social Media Lawyer, talks with BBC World News about Instagram's new features to crackdown on bullying. Yair talks about how welcome this news is but is it because Instagram really care about their users or is it because the government have warned them that if they don't do something drastic, they will take over and Instagram will lose all autonomy?

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Four Tech Giants Investigation - US Congress Antitrust Probe

Yair Cohen talks with Doha at Al Jazeera about why he thinks the US Government are warming up their antitrust enforcement machine.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Why the removal of Facebook Accounts of Antisemitic Right-Wing Extremists is a Bad Idea. Yair Cohen speaks with Eddie Mair on LBC

Facebook has thrown the book at several prominent people. It calls them “dangerous individuals” and they include people accused of hate speech anti-Semitism and white supremacist views.
Yair Cohen is a solicitor for Cohen Davis, specialising in social media law and author of the book The Net is Closing Birth of the E police.

What do you what do you think of Facebook's action here?

I think it is very difficult to justify this action by Facebook and I'd be the last person to condone anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, there is an increasing commonality between the left and the right, particularly at the extreme ends.

One of the main reasons given by Facebook for blocking those Facebook accounts was that many of the individuals blocked had been promoting anti-Semitism which, coincidentally, is one of the thickest common threads that link those two extremes. It seems, however, with very few exceptions that Facebook is only acting in relation to right-wing extremism, which makes the left-wing extremists feel fairly good about their own anti-Semitics views. For some reason, far-left anti-Semitism is far more acceptable to Facebook than far-right anti-Semitism.

Far left anti-Semitism views are often aired by “smart” people including academics, “liberal” politicians, respectable newspapers and others who are “too good” to be anti-Semites.  

There is no question that the far left has become even more extreme with its anti-Semitic views than the far right.  Therefore, Facebook’s one-sided banning of one side of the intolerance spectrum isn’t going to do any good.

Facebook’s policy of dividing the extreme left from the extreme right isn’t helpful. In fact, it is likely that the ban on far right extremists will increase anti-Semitic sentiments, first because the far right will just continue doing what it does best, which is to fight for its right to express its bigotry views and second, it legitimises the far left who will feel that its own form of anti-Semitic sentiments, which are often dressed up in “progressive” language  is acceptable, because ‘hey, you know, Facebook says it's okay. We haven't been banned.’

Far left anti-Semitism is far more dangerous than far right anti-Semitism because it is sneaky and because it is dressed up as progressive.

But surely, doing something is better than doing nothing, right? Isn’t it better that Facebook bans some anti-Semitism rather than does nothing?

The truth is that doing something half-heartedly isn’t the answer. For many years I have been advocating for a better policing of the internet and love it or hate it, in the future, the internet is going to be heavily regulated.  Selective policing is injustice and history tells us that the consequences of selective policing and selective justice are often far worse than no policing at all.

Facebook is very well known to be a left-wing organization.  On 23 August 2018, a post by Brian Amerige, a senior Facebook engineer, went quietly on Facebook’s internal message board, saying “We are a political monoculture that’s intolerant of different views”.  Facebook has since admitted to not having sufficient political diversity within the company and the concern is that taking action against one group of people, who happened to mostly consist of far right individuals is going to result in developing a resentfulness and anger among the far right whilst at the same time giving the far left an assurance that its form of anti-Semitism and other intolerances are acceptable. Whilst the message to the far-right is clear, the far left, on the other end is sent an ambiguous message that at best says, ‘Hey, you are doing just fine. You can continue spreading your form of anti-Semitism.’

Facebook is paying a lip service to the UK government’s calls for it to do more to combat intolerance and advocacy to self-harm.

It is only a lip service because it only bans a group which Facebook believe is outside a consensus.
Facebook’s efforts might have come across as more genuine if it banned anti-Semitic expressions full stop. But anti-Semitism is only one type of expression which Facebook needs to address. Anti-vaccine propaganda is another. In India, children are dying every day because their parents refuse to vaccinate them due to anti-vaccination propaganda which they either see on Facebook or Instagram or which they did not see themselves but had been told about, by someone in a position of authority, such as a teacher or a priest. The anti-vaccine propaganda, generally speaking, reflect far-left and libertarian-authoritarian values, which are not only allowed to go without interruption on Facebook but which are actively promoted there via sponsored links and auto suggestions searches. Despite the horrific consequences of this propaganda, which impacts on the lives of some of the poorest people in the world, Facebook believes that these views constitute “free speech”. In my view, anti-vaccine propaganda, is as bad as anti-Semitism propaganda.

So how is this is all going to end? I believe that in the future, there will be a third party, an impartial body that will advise Facebook and other popular social media organisations about the correct balance between free speech and the ban of intolerance and fake news propaganda. Ideally, this advisory or regulatory body will be acting as an advisor or a mediator and will be free of political affiliation and its role will be to provide social media companies with fair and impartial advice.
The government will eventually, like it or not, police the internet. This is inevitable. Recently it published a White Paper which warned internet companies very clearly of its intention to set up a news internet regulator. How powerful this regulator will be, will largely depend on how genuine social media companies’ effort to combat intolerance, prevent self-harm and decrease the amount of fake news is. So far, they aren’t doing that great.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Did Huawei have 'Hidden Back Doors' or is it political motivation? Yair Cohen speaks on RT

Apparently, some 'anonymous sources' contacted Bloomberg, an American media company, to tell them that Vodafone Italy discovered 'hidden back doors' in their routers that were made by the Chinese company Huawei. 

These hidden back doors were created so that the Chinese government can have unauthorised access and be able to spy on Vodafone's home and business networks in Italy.

On further investigation, Vodafone has admitted vulnerabilities, which were diagnosed in 2009 and were resolved in 2011 and 2012, which involved removing a diagnostic function. The ‘back door’ that Bloomberg have referred to is Telnet. This is a protocol that is commonly used by many vendors in the industry for performing diagnostic functions. It would not have been accessible from the internet and so to state that this would have given Huawei access to Vodafone’s fixed line network in Italy is not true

A backdoor, in cybersecurity terms, is a method of bypassing security controls to access a computer system or encrypted data. It is an important part of technological equipment to allow fixing and servicing. 

Bloomberg say that this further damages the reputation of Huawei, which is already facing a ream of accusations from the US over the ties to the Chinese Government and allegations of spying. Huawei repeatedly denies creating backdoors in order to allow for Government spying and says it’s not beholden to Beijing. 

However, journalists from the American media company – Bloomberg, said that they saw confidential security reports with their own eyes and it tells a different story.

The US launched investigations about trading with China in 2017 and it imposed tariffs on billions of dollars worth of Chinese products last year and Beijing retaliated in kind. The US and China have been locked in an escalating trade battle since 2017 and the US has been moving to ban the use of Huawei’s equipment and is lobbying its allies to do the same.

Can it be a coincidence that suddenly, this allegation is being made about Huawei having access to Vodafone’s client’s networks, when there hasn’t been any evidence of unauthorised access?. 

Yair Cohen - Social Media Lawyer and MD of Cohen Davis was interviewed on RT about this possible breach of privacy issue. 

Monday, 15 April 2019

Must watch! Lawyer Yair Cohen TV interview on the history of the interne...

Solicitor Yair Cohen in an interview on Al Jazeera explains the three stages the internet has gone through since it was created as an anarchistic free speech platform to what it is to become soon, a fully policed medium.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Yair Cohen interviewed on White Paper on Online Harm

Earlier this week, the UK government published a White Paper in relation to its intention to regulate online and social media platforms.

A “White Paper” isn’t a law but only an initial summary of proposals, or perhaps a “wishful thinking” document for the public to consider and respond to.
If the proposal in the Online Harms White Paper are to become law, the internet will never again be the same place.

The proposed laws will impact on many aspects of our lives. From career and work to children and family.

The government is proposing to put a mandatory duty of care on social media platforms to take reasonable steps to protect their users from a range of harms — including but not limited to illegal material such as terrorist and child sexual exploitation and abuse but also in relation to so called “fake news”.

 This video summarises well what the White Paper is all about and presents everything you need to know about it in about 4 minutes.

Friday, 15 March 2019

This week, Yair Cohen was interviewed on Al Jazeera TV and was asked by the host: 'Do you think that the expectations of the egalitarian nature of the internet were too high?'
Yair: 'I think that the internet, in the early days, was seen almost as an anarchistic place. The idea of the bureaucracy meant that at that time, there was more of an expectation that the people from the government shouldn't be setting foot on there; almost like it was a place free of law. That was during the first 10-15 years of the internet. Then, the whole idea of democracy started to mean something totally different; almost like an uprising - the people versus the government. Whilst, democracy as we know it; what it really means is that people are ruled by the government and people are uprising against the government. So, I think what we are seeing now is more involvement from the government on the internet and there are some people that are not welcoming this. They feel that there should be democracy there. The way I see it is a restoration of the rule of law and creating safer harbours for people to be able to freely express themselves within certain boundaries.'
AJ TV: 'The key question and I am sorry to be asking you, is - How do you police something that is so vast, so disparate and yet also contains so many dark and deep areas?'
Yair: 'Well, if you take a big city such as Los Angeles - the town is not being policed precisely in the same way in every quarter, and every building, every alley and every area. There are certain places where police don't really go and there are places where there is more police presence. I accept that the internet cannot be entirely policed. The interesting thing is that when you have a company such as Google, which operates worldwide, Google then becomes the collector within all the different countries, so once say the UK or the EU government are able to influence Google's behaviour, within the locality, within the UK or Europe, that influence almost becomes viral and it means that Google needs to go and change the way it does things all over the world. So, in a way, global companies are the key to spreading better policing on the internet.'
AJ TV:'How much responsibility do we, as users, have when it comes to what we watch on the internet and reporting things that we regard as offensive or possibly criminal, or have we actually abdicated all of that responsibility and we are just allowing ourselves to be fed with all of this information, as long as it panders to the beliefs that we have?'
Yair: 'That is a very good question. I think for many years we have been left to fend for ourselves on the internet. There wasn't anyone to help or protect or anywhere to go to. What we need to ask is how would we behave if an event occured offline, on the street, if we saw a person being bullied or being assaulted or even a person that was being encouraged to commit suicide, or that type of thing. How would we react, then? We should be reacting precisely the same way on the internet. I think it is become more acceptable for us to say that we don't accept this type of behaviour; we don't want to part of this and we don't want to be part of that. So, there is a lot of responsibility laid on us as people when we see the support of the government and government agencies, it makes life much easier and much safer for say a woman, children, ethnic minorities that previously did not feel safe with the room of the internet.'