Category Archives: Technology

Director of National Intelligence Admits Government Used Section 215 to Track Browsing History

After initially denying the practice, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe admitted the government engaged in activity “that could be characterized” as tracking website visits.

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-3-2020

Protesters march in a demonstration demanding an end to government mass surveillance in Washington, D.C. on October 26, 2013. (Photo: Susan Melkisethian/flickr/cc)

The Trump administration recently used one of the most controversial surveillance provisions in U.S. history to record an unidentified person or group’s visit to an unspecified website, the New York Times revealed Thursday.

The Times reports Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe wrote to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on November 6 to inform him that Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act had not been used to collect internet search terms, and that none of the 61 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders issued in 2019 involved “web browsing” records. Continue reading

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Shocking New Figures Show How Just Much the US is Fueling the Violence in Yemen

New figures from the UN and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute show that since the war in Yemen began, the US has sold over $13 billion in high-tech weapons to Saudi Arabia, making the Kingdom a cash cow for US weapons makers.

By Alan Macleod  Published 11-20-2020 by MintPress News

Graphic: Antonio Cabrera

Despite presenting itself as a force for good and peace in the Middle East, the United States sells at least five times as much weaponry to Saudi Arabia than aid it donates to Yemen. The State Department constantly portrays itself as a humanitarian superpower with the welfare of the Yemeni people as its highest priority, yet figures released from the United Nations and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) show that since the war in Yemen began, the U.S. government has given $2.56 billion in aid to the country, but sold over $13 billion in high-tech weapons to Saudi Arabia, the leader of the coalition prosecuting a relentless onslaught against the country.

Figures like these are always debatable. What constitutes legitimate “aid” is a question everyone would answer differently. Furthermore, the $13 billion figure does not include the enormous weapons deal Saudi Arabia signed with Donald Trump in 2017, which will reportedly see the Kingdom purchase $350 billion over ten years. Continue reading

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‘Absolutely Sickening’: US Military Buys Location Data Harvested From Apps, Including One for Muslim Prayers

“The military industrial complex and the surveillance state have always had a cozy relationship with tech. Buying bulk data in order to profile Muslims is par for the course for them,” says Rep. Ilhan Omar.

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-16-2020

Reporting by Motherboard on Monday sparked alarm over the U.S. military buying location data harvested from mobile phone applications. Photo: Massive News

“Holy hell… This is absolutely unacceptable.” “Quite wild.” “Grotesque.” “Absolutely sickening.” “This should be illegal.”

Those were just some of the alarmed reactions to reporting by Joseph Cox for Motherboard on Monday that “the U.S. military is buying the granular movement data of people around the world, harvested from innocuous-seeming apps.” Continue reading

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Humans May Have Passed the ‘Point of No Return’ in Climate Crisis, Says Study—But That Doesn’t Mean All Hope Is Lost

In order to roll back catastrophic carbon emissions, humans must “start developing the technologies for large-scale removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere,” says one of the study’s lead authors.

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-12-2020

Melting permafrost in Canada’s Northwest Territories sends carbon-rich sediment into the Mackenzie Delta. (Photo: Charles Tarnocai/Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)

Humanity may have passed the “point of no return” in the climate crisis—even if everyone on the planet stopped emitting all greenhouse gases at this very moment, according to a study published Thursday.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed British publication Scientific Journals, alarmingly asserts that “the world is already past a point of no return for global warming” and that the only way to halt the catastrophic damage caused by greenhouse emissions is to extract “enormous amounts of carbon dioxide… from the atmosphere.” Continue reading

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Trump lost the election, but he won the online disinformation war

Social media platforms have allowed US conservatives to delegitimise the election and sow mistrust of democracy.

By Peter Geoghegan. Published 11-9-2020 by openDemocracy

Screenshot: WNCT

In late August, roughly five weeks before Americans went to the polls, a story appeared in The New York Times reporting new data about the reach of fringe US conservative outlets on Facebook. The numbers were staggering.

Posts by far-right news site Breitbart had been shared three times as often as posts from the official pages of every Democratic member of the US senate combined in the previous 30 days. Conservative firebrand Ben Shapiro had chalked up 56 million interactions, more than the main pages of ABC News, NBC News, The New York Times, The Washington Post and NPR put together. Continue reading

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Watchdog Fights Back as Facebook Attempts to Shut Down Research Exposing ‘Political Disinformation’ in Ad Practices

“Rather than combat the rampant disinformation and hate on its platform, Facebook has decided to go after the people who are helping voters understand who is trying to influence their votes.”

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-26-2020

In response to Facebook’s attempt to cancel a NYU research project that has been collecting data about the company’s ad-targeting practices, Common Cause has launched a petition imploring the social media giant to “shut down disinformation on their platform—instead of trying to shut down the advocates and academics who are trying to expose it.” (Photo: Legal Loop)

In response to Facebook’s attempt to shut down a New York University research project that has been collecting data about the social media corporation’s ad-targeting practices, progressive advocacy group Common Cause has launched a petition drive imploring the technology behemoth to “let the program continue and instead shut down the rampant disinformation on the platform.”

After researchers at the NYU Ad Observatory recruited more than 6,500 volunteers to collect data about the ads Facebook shows them by using a specially designed browser extension, the social media giant informed the university in a mid-October letter that the project violates the site’s rules against bulk data collection, according to reporting from The Hill late last week. Continue reading

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‘Victory for Humanity’: Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons to Take Effect as Honduras Becomes 50th Nation to Ratify

The United States has not ratified the treaty and the Trump administration is actively urging nations to withdraw from it.

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-25-2020

“This is a new chapter for nuclear disarmament,” Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), said in a statement. (Photos: ICAN/Aude Catimel)

The global movement working to abolish nuclear weapons celebrated a “historic milestone” Saturday after Honduras became the 50th country to ratify the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, pushing the agreement over the threshold required to enter into force.

Honduras’ ratification sets the stage for the international treaty to take effect on January 22, 2021 despite the refusal of the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, and other powerful nuclear-armed nations to sign on to the agreement (pdf), which requires that signatories “never under any circumstances… develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess, or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” Continue reading

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Investing $2 Trillion in US Clean Energy and Infrastructure Could Create Millions of ‘Good Jobs,’ Analysis Finds

“We don’t have to choose between a strong economy or a healthy environment—we can have both,” says an EPI data analyst.

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-20-2020

A solar PV array in Gerlach, NV. Photo: BlackRockSolar

Pursuing trade and industrial policies that boost U.S. exports and eliminate the trade deficit while investing $2 trillion over four years in the nation’s infrastructure, clean energy, and energy efficiency improvements could support 6.9 to 12.9 million “good jobs” annually by 2024, according to an analysis published Tuesday.

The new report from a trio of experts at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a U.S.-based think tank, comes as the country continues to endure the public health and economic consequences of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 220,000 lives and millions of jobs in the United States alone this year. Continue reading

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‘Demented’: Oil Giant Refreezing Rapidly Melting Permafrost So It Can Keep Climate-Killing Arctic Drilling Alive

The effort represented such “mindless idiocy” for many that 350.org ran a “help us out with this caption” contest in response.

By Jon Queally, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-19-2020

An oil pipeline stretches across the landscape outside Prudhoe Bay in North Slope borough, Alaska. “New absurdities from Big Oil,” said the Energy Watch Group, which advocates for renewable energy, in response to the reporting. “What do you do when the Arctic is melting, threatening your drilling infrastructure—but you really don’t want to stop drilling? Right, cooling the ground beneath the infrastructure and keep on drilling.” (Photo illustration: Original by Bonnie Jo Mount/via Getty Images/with overlay)

Reporting out Monday detailing how oil giant ConocoPhilips’ obsession with drilling in the arctic regions of Alaska is so intense that it has devised ways to artificially freeze rapidly melting permafrost to maintain its drilling operations has climate campaigners howling over the ironic—and destructive—absurdity of the situation.

According to journalist Nat Herz, reporting for the Guardian with support of Fund for Environmental Journalism (FEJ), “ConocoPhillips had a problem” as it continued to drill for oil and gas beyond the Arctic Circle: Continue reading

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FCC Head and Internet’s Most Hated Man Ajit Pai Just Vowed to Kill First Amendment Rights Online

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has vowed to reinterpret Section 230 of the Communications Act on President Trump’s orders in a move that threatens to curb what’s left of Americans’ first amendment rights online.

By Raul Diego.  Published 10-16-2020 by MintPress News

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai speaking at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/CC

Citing “censorship outcry” from the three branches of government, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced yesterday via tweet the agency’s intention to move forward with regulation of social media by looking to modify Section 230 of the Communications Act, which protects the likes of Facebook and Twitter from the parts of the U.S. code that opens publishers to legal challenges over the content posted to their platforms, which inevitably puts content creators, themselves, in the cross hairs of the legal system without the benefit of their first amendment rights.  Continue reading

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