Tag Archives: anonymity

There’s an anonymous chat-to-blogging tool on Telegram – here’s how to use it

secretgram

A new anonymous blogging and commenting bot has appeared on the encrypted chat app Telegram — and it has some interesting potential applications for journalists.

Secretgram “helps you to create a post with anonymous comments in your Telegram channels and groups.” But it also appears to create a post that anyone can comment on anonymously — if they know the URL. Continue reading

Secure technically doesn’t mean secure legally

The EFF have an interesting investigation into WSJ and Al-Jazeera ‘leaks’ sites and terms and conditions which suggest users’ anonymity is anything but protected:

“Despite promising anonymity, security and confidentiality, AJTU can “share personally identifiable information in response to a law enforcement agency’s request, or where we believe it is necessary.” SafeHouse’s terms of service reserve the right “to disclose any information about you to law enforcement authorities” without notice, then goes even further, reserving the right to disclose information to any “requesting third party,” not only to comply with the law but also to “protect the property or rights of Dow Jones or any affiliated companies” or to “safeguard the interests of others.” As one commentator put it bluntly, this is “insanely broad.” Neither SafeHouse or AJTU bother telling users how they determine when they’ll disclose information, or who’s in charge of the decision.”

More details on the Seismic Shock police visit. Still worrying.

Following yesterday’s post on the visit paid by two West Yorkshire police officers to an anonymous blogger, the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones has done some digging and spoken to the blogger in question, who explains:

“Someone had traced my IP address to Leeds University and the police had spoken to the university and retrieved some files of mine, none of which contained anything which I hadn’t made public. The police then relayed a message from the head of ICT department that I shouldn’t be using university property in such ways.”

Rory’s piece continues:

The officers asked him to take down his blog, which was at that time being written partly on a university computer, and he agreed to do so. “Why?” I asked him. “I did it because I felt intimidated,” he said. “I felt had to co-operate with the police.”

So why did the police or Leeds University get involved in this argument? The university offered no comment, except to say that the person who knew about this issue was away on holiday.

This is the most worrying piece of the puzzle for me.

  • Firstly, that – apparently on the basis of a complaint – the police should request computer files from a university.
  • And secondly, that the university should comply.

I’m waiting for a response from West Yorkshire Police and Leeds University for further details – particularly on how the police handle harassment complaints like this (and what the nature of the complaint was), and the university’s policy for handing over student data. This may well be a storm in a teacup, but there are valid questions here that need to be answered.

A roundup of other reports on the story can be found here.

UPDATE: I’ve now received a reply from West Yorkshire Police who appear to be merely repeating what they already told Index on Censorship: “As a result of a report of harassment, which was referred to us by Surrey Police, two officers from West Yorkshire Police visited the author of the blog concerned. The feelings of the complainant were relayed to the author who voluntarily removed the blog. No formal action was taken.”

I’ve repeated my questions about how they handle harassment complaints and requests for data more generally.

Police pay Seismic Shock blogger a visit over 'harassment'

This* is worrying on so many levels:

  • a blogger links to evidence linking a reverend in the Anglican church with holocaust denial and antisemitism
  • the reverend complains to Surrey Police, who pass it on to Yorkshire Police, who pay the blogger a visit, during which the blogger agrees to delete one of his blogs.
  • in addition, it appears that the police have also spoken to the university which the blogger attends, where the head of ICT “would like to remind me that I should not be using university property in order to associate individuals with terrorists and Holocaust deniers”
  • The blogger eventually chooses to speak up when the same reverend threatens another blogger with similar action (despite them being in Australia)

Forget about the specifics. Here are the questions:

  • Why are police getting involved in a libel issue ? Update: West Yorks police say it was a claim of “harassment”.
  • Why are they ‘paying a visit’?
  • Why are they approaching an educational institution to gather information on that person?
  • Why does that educational institution then get involved?

Extremely worrying. Watch this one.

*If that link doesn’t work, try this or this.

What’s your problem with the internet? A crib sheet for news exec speeches

When media executives (and the occasional columnist on a deadline) talk about ‘the problem with the web’ they often revert to a series of recurring themes. In doing so they draw on a range of discourses that betray assumptions, institutional positions and ideological leanings. I thought I’d put together a list of some common memes of hatred directed towards the internet at various points by publishers and journalists, along with some critical context.

If you can think of any other common complaints, or responses to the ones below, post them in the comments and I’ll add them in. I’ll also update this blog post whenever I come across new evidence on any of the topics.

Meanwhile, here’s a table of contents for easy access:

  1. Undemocratic and unrepresentative (The ‘Twitterati’)
  2. ‘The death of common culture’
  3. The ‘echo chamber’/death of serendipity (homophily)
  4. ‘Google are parasites’
  5. ‘Bloggers are parasites’
  6. ‘You don’t know who you’re dealing with’
  7. Rumour and hearsay ‘magically become gospel’
  8. Triviality
  9. ‘Unregulated’ lack of accountability
  10. Cult of the amateur

Undemocratic and unrepresentative (the ‘Twitterati’)

The presumption here is that the media as a whole is more representative and democratic than users of the web. You know, geeks. The ‘Twitterati’ (a fantastic ideologically-loaded neologism that conjures up images of unelected elites). A variant of this is the position that sees any online-based protest as ‘organised’ and therefore illegitimate. Continue reading

Another blogger doing investigative journalism – on the fashion industry

Last week Jezebel blogger Tatiana outed herself. That isn’t particularly important, but it does give me an excuse to highlight what a fantastic job she did as a somewhat overlooked investigative blogger.

‘Going undercover’ has a rich history in investigative journalism – in fact, for investigative television journalism, it’s almost part of the genre toolkit. In print, German journalist Gunter Wallraff was a particularly successful exponent – his book The Lowest of The Low,  describing his experiences working undercover as a Turkish immigrant, was the most successful in German publishing history.

But it’s one thing to use a wig and contact lenses to disguise yourself as a Turkish immigrant. If you want to expose the fashion industry, most journalists don’t have the option to pass themselves off as a size zero, six foot model with razor sharp cheekbones.

And so we come to Tatiana – now known to be Jenna Sauers. These are the sorts of things she wrote: Continue reading

Anonymous blogging – Blogacause’s Michael Groves explains how they do it

Last month I said in my post ‘7 ways to blog anonymously‘ that I was trying to find out how anonymous blogging platform Blogacause.com ensured anonymitu. I’ve now had a response, from owner Michael Groves. Here’s what he said – comments and further questions welcomed:

Blogacause uses the blojsom blogging platform to execute the blogs you see on our site. The home page and subpages, not including blogs, are
built on coldfusion code. Since I’m a web application programmer by trade, I’ve rewritten the code in blojsom such that any identifying
information that was previously stored about visitors or bloggers is no longer a part of the engine code.

With regard to comments on the site I did leave the code in place but as you will notice as a blogger on our site it always returns the same IP, that of the hosting server (we did this because we though we might need to track down some very specific spammers from the Asian countries so we can block them. However, a recent code page I developed will allow us to automatically ban spamming IPs and this is due for deploy 4th quarter 2009. So eventually the comment IP will be removed entirely.). Continue reading