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The blockade of the Pirate Bay by UK ISPs is causing trouble for CloudFlare customers. Several websites have been inadvertently blocked by Sky because a Pirate Bay proxy is hosted behind the same IP-addresses. In a response, CloudFlare threatened to disconnect the proxy site from its network. Like any form of censorship web blockades can sometime lead to overblocking, targeting perfectly legitimate websites by mistake. This is also happening in the UK where Skyâ€™s blocking technology is inadvertently blocking sites that have nothing to do with piracy. In addition to blocking domain names, Sky also blocks IP-addresses. This allows the site to stop https connections to The Pirate Bay and its proxies, but when IP-addresses are shared with random other sites theyâ€™re blocked too. This is happening to various customers of the CDN service CloudFlare, which is used by many sites on the UK blocklist. Every now and then this causes legitimate sites to be blocked, such as CloudFlare customers who shared an IP-address with Pirate Bay proxy ilikerainbows.co.uk. Although the domain is merely a redirect to ilikerainbows.co, itâ€™s listed in Skyâ€™s blocking system along with several CloudFlare IP-addresses. Recently, the CDN service received complaints from users about the issue and alerted the proxy owner. â€œIt has come to our attention that your website â€” ilikerainbows.co.uk â€” is causing CloudFlare IPs to be blocked by SkyB, an ISP located in the UK. This is impacting other CloudFlare customers,â€ CloudFlare wrote. The CDN service asked the proxy site to resolve the matter with Sky, or else it would remove the site from the network after 24 hours. â€œIf this issue does not get resolved with SkyB though we will need to route your domain off CloudFlareâ€™s network as it is currently impacting other CloudFlare customers due to these blocked IP addresses.â€ The operator of the â€œRainbowsâ€ TPB proxy was surprised by Skyâ€™s overbroad blocking techniques, but also by CloudFlareâ€™s response. Would CloudFlare also kick out sites that are blocked in other countries where censorship is common? â€œWhat do they do when Russia starts blocking sites under their system? Are they going to kick users off CloudFlare because thereâ€™s a Putin meme that the Russians donâ€™t like?â€ Rainbowsâ€™ operator tells TF. Instead of waiting for the domain to be switched off by CloudFlare he reverted it back to the domain registrarâ€™s forwarding services. The main .co domain still uses CloudFlareâ€™s services though, as does the official Pirate Bay site. This is not the first time that CloudFlare customers have been blocked by mistake. Earlier this year the same thing happened to sites that shared an IP-address with The Pirate Bay. At the time we contacted Sky, who informed us that they do all they can to limit collateral damage. â€œWe have a process in place to monitor requested site blocks to limit the chances of inadvertently blocking sites, and in addition to this if we are advised by a site owner or Sky customer that a site is being inadvertently blocked we take the necessary steps to remove any unintended blocks,â€ a Sky spokeswoman said. In addition to Sky we also contacted CloudFlare about the issue multiple times this year, but the company has yet to reply to our inquiries. Itâ€™s clear though that despite cheers from copyright holders, website blocking is not all rainbows and unicorns. Without any significant change to Skyâ€™s blocking setup, more of these inadvertent blocks are bound to happen in the future. https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-bay-blockade-censors-cloudflare-customers-150424/
BitTorrent Inc, the company behind the popular file-sharing client uTorrent, hopes to start a new revolution with its people-powered browser Maelstrom. Now that the first Beta has been released to the public ,developers can come up with interesting use cases, such as censorship free websites. San Francisco-based BitTorrent Inc. already has a few popular applications in its catalog, including uTorrent and Sync. However, with its new â€œpeople-poweredâ€ browser it hopes to spark another revolution. Project Maelstrom, as itâ€™s called, is still in the early stages of development but the company has decided to push a Beta out to the public so developers can start building tools and services around it. In short, Maelstrom takes Googleâ€™s Chromium framework and stuffs a powerful BitTorrent engine under the hood, meaning that torrents can be played directly from the browser. More excitingly, however, Maelstrom also supports torrent-powered websites that no longer have to rely on central servers. By simply publishing a website in a torrent format the website will be accessible if others are sharing it. This can be assisted by web-seeds but also completely peer-to-peer. For example, earlier this week Wikileaks published a controversial archive of documents and emails that leaked after the Sony hack. If the hosting provider was forced to take the files down they would disappear but with Maelstrom-supported sites, users would be able to keep it online. The same is true for torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay, which suffered weeks of downtime recently after the siteâ€™s servers were raided. BitTorrent powered page At the moment there are very few websites that support Maelstrom. There is an earlyWordPress plugin and others are experimenting with it as well, but wider adoption will need some time. That said, traditional magnet links work too, so people can play video and audio from regular torrent sites directly in the browser. BitTorrent Inc. informs TF that the main goal is to provide a new and open publishing platform. Itâ€™s now up to developers to use it to their advantage. â€œWe believe in providing an alternative means for publishing that is neutral and that gives ownership back to those publishers. But one of our biggest goals with this release is just to get it out and into the hands of developers and see what emerges,â€ Maelstromâ€™s project lead Rob Velasquez says. And in that respect momentum is building. BitTorrent Inc. says that a community of more than 10,000 developers and 3,500 publishers has already been established, with tools to bring more on board now available via Github. While Maelstrom can bypass Internet censors, itâ€™s good to keep in mind that all shared files are visible to the public. Maelstrom is caching accessed content to keep it seeded, so using a VPN might not be a bad idea. After all, users leave a trail of their browsing history behind. On the upside, Maelstrom can be more private for publishers as they donâ€™t have to share any personal details with hosting companies or domain registrars. â€œThe BitTorrent protocol remains the same, but it does mean that you no longer have to hand over personal, private data to domain registrars or hosting companies to put up a simple website,â€ Velasquez notes. The idea for a BitTorrent-powered browser is not new. The Pirate Bay started work on a related project last year with the aim of keeping the site online even if its servers were raided. It will be interesting to see if Maelstrom can get some traction. Thereâ€™s still a long way to go, but the idea of an open and censorship-free web does sound appealing. With a Mac version still under a development, Project Maelstrom (beta) can be downloaded for Windows here. https://torrentfreak.com/beating-internet-censors-with-bittorrents-maelstrom-browser-150419/
Popular blogging platform Tumblr is hiding "torrent" related posts from public view. The term "torrent" has been added to the site's adult filter, to prevent people from stumbling upon "offensive" content. It appears that piracy is becoming a growing concern for micro-blogging platform Tumblr. Earlier this week users panicked following an increase in takedown notices, which resulted in the termination of several blogs. While this uproar was rather public, there are also better concealed changes that seem to target pirated content. Tumblrâ€™s decision to hide posts mentioning the word â€œtorrentâ€ for example. Those who search the site for â€œtorrentâ€ related queries will notice that there are no results displayed, even though there are plenty of posts mentioning the word. The same is true for posts tagged with â€œtorrent.â€ Tumblr is hiding the results in question from both public and logged in users but the latter can make the posts show up if they switch off the â€œsafe modeâ€ lock on the right hand side of the screen. Below is what the search results for â€œUbuntu Torrentâ€ currently look like. No torrents allowed Tumblrâ€™s â€œsafe modeâ€ was turned on by default over a year ago to hide offensiveâ€œadult orientedâ€ content from the public view. The same filter also blocks words such as â€œpenisâ€ for the same reason. Needless to say, not all â€œtorrentâ€ posts are offensive or damaging to childrenâ€™s eyes. A Vuze developer who highlighted the issue notes that other uses of the dictionary word are less threatening. â€œAmusingly, the first result for us is pictures of water flowing over rocks.. so, non-adults feel safe, Tumblr will protect you against pictures of the outdoors,â€ the developer writes on Tumblr. â€œAlthough, it is true that a torrent is a VIOLENT stream of liquid. And we should all be protecting our children against violence,â€ he adds. Itâ€™s not clear whether the word â€œtorrentâ€ has been banned over piracy concerns or whether its frequent association with porn is the reason for the ban. In any case, Tumblrâ€™s filter is also hiding plenty of legitimate content, showing once again that Internet censorship is a slippery slope. http://torrentfreak.com/tumblr-censors-torrent-related-tags-and-searches-150220/
Steam users who want to discuss the latest news about the torrent site KickassTorrents may notice that their chats are censored. The popular instant messaging service is sending all mentions of the Kickass.to domain into a black hole, while warning that other torrent sites are potentially malicious. With millions of active users Steam is not just a game distribution platform, but also a social network and a communication tool. Many people use Steamâ€™s instant messaging tool for chats with friends. About games of course, but also about lots of other stuff. Interestingly, it appears that Steam doesnâ€™t want its users to talk about certain topics. When the popular torrent site KickassTorrents went offline earlier this week, one Steam user noticed that his messages on the topic were being censored. â€œThere is no warning or blocked message notification. The messages simply disappeared,â€ we were told. After running some tests, which have been replicated by TF, itâ€™s clear that messages mentioning the Kickass.to domain name are not coming through. Itâ€™s not just the domain thatâ€™s censored, but the entire message. Below is an example of the vanishing text where the user sent the following three lines. 1. The next line may be missing 2. A line mentioning Kickass.to 3. Was there a line 2 The person on the other end of the conversation only sees line 1 and 3, without a warning or notification that the second line was not sent. Itâ€™s unclear why Steam is censoring these conversations. TorrentFreak contacted Valve to find out more about the disappearing chats, but at the time of publication we have yet to receive a response. It would be easy to conclude that the copyright infringing links on Kickass.to are the reason, but then itâ€™s strange that The Pirate Bay and all other torrent sites are not affected. Interestingly, however, kickass.to seems to be the only one thatâ€™s affected right now. Other domains including Kickass.so and Torrentz.eu are flagged by Steam as potentially malicious, and users get a warning if they attempt to open them. These domains do show up in private chats though. Without a comment from Valve the true reason for the awkward censorship measures remains unknown. It is clear though, that Steam is keeping a close eye on what people talk about. That by itself is already quite concerning. http://torrentfreak.com/steam-censors-kickass-mentions-chat-client-150214/
The much-praised Chilling Effects DMCA archive has taken an unprecedented step by censoring its own website. Facing criticism from copyright holders, the organization decided to wipe its presence from all popular search engines. A telling example of how pressure from rightsholders causes a chilling effect on free speech. On an average day Google now processes more than a million takedown requests from copyright holders, and thatâ€™s for its search engine alone. Thanks to Googleâ€™s transparency report the public is able to see where these notices come from and what content theyâ€™re targeting. In addition, Google partners with Chilling Effects to post redacted copies of all notices online. The Chilling Effects DMCA clearing house is one of the few tools that helps to keep copyright holders accountable. Founded by Harvardâ€™s Berkman Center, it offers an invaluable database for researchers and the public in general. At TF we use the website on a weekly basis to spot inaccurate takedown notices and other wrongdoings. Since the native search engine doesnâ€™t always return the best results, we mostly use Google to spot newsworthy notices on the site. This week, however, we were no longer able to do so. The Chilling Effects team decided to remove its entire domain from all search engines, including its homepage and other informational and educational resources. Ironically enough, complaints from copyright holders are at the base of this unprecedented display of self-censorship. Since Chilling Effects has partnered with Google to publish all takedown notices Google receives, its pages contain hundreds of millions of non-linked URLs to infringing material. Copyright holders are not happy with these pages. Previously, Copyright Alliance CEO Sandra Aistars described the activities of the Chilling Effects projects as â€œrepugnant.â€ As a result of the increased criticisms Chilling Effects has now decided to hide its content from search engines, making it harder to find. â€œAfter much internal discussion the Chilling Effects project recently made the decision to remove the siteâ€™s notice pages from search engines,â€ Berkman Center project coordinator Adam Holland informs TF. â€œOur recent relaunch of the site has brought it a lot more attention, and as a result, weâ€™re currently thinking through ways to better balance making this information available for valuable study, research, and journalism, while still addressing the concerns of people whose information appears in the database.â€ The self censorship may sound strange coming from an organization that was founded to offer more transparency, but the Chilling Effects team believes that it strikes the right balance, for now. â€œAs a project, weâ€™ve always worked to strike that balance, for example by removing personally identifying information. Removing notice pages from search engine results is the latest step in that balancing process,â€ Holland tells us. â€œIt may or may not prove to be permanent, but for now itâ€™s the step that makes the most sense as we continue to think things through,â€ he adds. While we respect the decision itâ€™s a real shame for researchers that the notices and other informational material are now hidden from search engines. The notices themselves remain online, but with just the siteâ€™s own search itâ€™s harder to find cases of abuse. The copyright holders on the other hand will be happy. But they probably donâ€™t care much about the chilling effect it has. http://torrentfreak.com/chilling-effects-dmca-archive-censors-itself-150110/
In many European countries, for example, national courts have ordered ISPs to block access to sites such as The Pirate Bay and Kickass.to. However, thatâ€™s not the only type of blocking and filtering thatâ€™s common nowadays. There are thousands of companies, schools and other organizations that voluntarily use commercial blocking software to restrict access to objectionable or threatening sites. As with all filters, however, there are false positives. TorrentFreak, for example, is often categorized as a file-sharing site, and blocked to prevent copyright infringement or other associated â€œthreatsâ€. Apparently this is also happening at Microsoft, where the filter managed by the local information security risk management department blocks TorrentFreak on the internal network. Microsoft employees who try to access our site are welcomed with the following message. â€œThe requested resource has been blocked as an identified risk to your client and the Microsoft corporate network.â€