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Tibet-Documentary Filmmakers Draw Ire of Chinese Hackers

Tibet-Documentary Filmmakers Draw Ire of Chinese Hackers

Today in international tech news: Tibet documentarians learn about Chinese hacking the hard way; Russia puts its new Internet-cleansing law to use; rumors abound that Facebook is launching its own phone; and Chinese regulators might make WeChat users start paying.

By David Vranicar
04/01/13 9:25 AM PT

Members of a film crew working on State of Control, a documentary about Tibet, are convinced that the Chinese government is behind cyberattacks on their computers.

They've been faced with unknown parties taking external control over a computer's cursor; abrupt log-offs; at least one fried operating system; and DDoS attacks.

China has been getting plenty of attention for its cyberespionage campaign designed to snatch business secrets, but China apparently has a penchant for using cyberattacks to suppress free speech as well.

It figures, then, that a documentary about Tibet -- which, given the acrimony surrounding its incorporation into China in the 1950s, doesn't have the most benevolent past with Beijing -- would rile China.

The attacks on the documentary crew allegedly began in 2008, when filmmakers headed to India and Nepal to talk with people in Tibetan communities. Among their complaints: One of the crew members was repeatedly spontaneously logged out of Gmail, her laptop screen flashed mysteriously, and her cellphone calls were interrupted by clicking noises and Chinese voices. DDoS attacks disabled the websites of other crew members. China has been linked to cyberattacks on The New York Times, as well as The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.

[Source: The Washington Post]

Russia Uses New Law to Pressure Websites

Having recently passed a law that allows it to block Internet content that might harm children, the Russian government has forced Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to remove materials it finds objectionable.

Google-owned YouTube is reportedly the only site to resist.

Supporters of the law claim it is merely protecting children from the dregs of the Web. Detractors says that the law will lead to broad Internet censorship, and that it will be used to neuter social networks that help organize protests, including those against President Vladimir Putin.

Up to this point, however, it appears the law has been used only to expunge truly distasteful content. On Friday, Facebook took down a suicide-related page after it was told failing to do so would result in the site being blocked in Russia.

[Source: The New York Times]

Rumor: Facebook Teaming With HTC on Smartphone

Facebook will unveil a Facebook phone next week, according to the smartphone industry rumor mill.

OK, the reports are not totally unsubstantiated. Media have been notified of an event at Facebook headquarters Thursday with invitations adorned with the note, "Come See Our New Home on Android." Also, leaked documents suggest that rumors of a collaboration with Taiwanese manufacturer HTC are legitimate.

The phone -- if there is one -- is expected to have a 5-megapixel rear lens for photos, a 1.6-megapixel front lens for video calls and 16 gigabytes of storage. While all that is par for the course, the phone is expected to have atypical software, including easier access to instant messages and Instagram apps, while the home screen will also display a Facebook news feed.

An advertising campaign is reportedly already in the works.

[Source: The Guardian]

WeChat Could Start Charging

Users of WeChat, a Chinese messaging app that has dreamed of going global, may have to start paying fees because of complaints by China's major telecommunications operators.

The telecoms think WeChat, which has 300 million worldwide users, takes up too much bandwidth to be given away for free.

[Source: Shanghai Daily]


David Vranicar is a freelance journalist and author of The Lost Graduation: Stepping off campus and into a crisis. You can check out his ECT News archive here, and you can email him at david[dot]vranicar[at]newsroom[dot]ectnews[dot]com.


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