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Tech firms could be held liable for extremism and abuse

Google, Facebook and Twitter should be held liable for illegal and dangerous content on their platforms, an ethics body has said. The BBC understands that the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) will urge the government to introduce new laws on extremist and abusive content. Prime Minister Theresa May has said companies need to remove extremist content quickly or face fines. One free speech advocate said it could turn Facebook into a “national censor”. Lord Bew, who chairs the CSPL, told the Times he was normally “allergic” to proposing…

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Will tech firms challenge China's 'open' internet?

Sometimes you can gauge how proud someone is about being at an event by the extent to which they want to talk about it. When that event is China’s annual global internet get-together in Wuzhen there are plenty who turn up, but fewer who want to advertise their attendance. China has been smart and ruthless in its control of the internet within its borders. It blocks some foreign sites all together and it censors – heavily – what Chinese are allowed to see. Nonetheless the big idea at this gathering…

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Broadband firms must ditch 'misleading' speed ads

Broadband firms will no longer be able to advertise their fast net services based on the speeds just a few customers get, from May next year. Currently ISPs are allowed to use headline speeds that only 10% of customers will actually receive. In future, adverts must be based on what is available to at least half of customers at peak times. It follows research that suggested broadband advertising can be misleading for consumers. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) looked into consumers’ understanding of broadband speed claims and found that many…

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Water firms still using 'magic sticks'

Water companies are using divining rods to find underground pipes despite there being no scientific evidence they work, an Oxford University scientist found. Sally Le Page said her parents were surprised when a technician used two “bent tent pegs” to find a mains pipe. She contacted all the UK’s water companies, and a majority confirmed engineers still use the centuries-old technique. However, a number said the equipment was not standard-issue equipment. The process of using divining rods, also known as dowsing, has been in use for hundreds of years. ‘No…

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More than 480 web firms record 'every keystroke'

Hundreds of web firms are tracking every single keystroke made by visitors, a study from Princeton University has suggested. The technique – known as session replay – is used by companies to gain an understanding of how customers use websites. More than 480 websites used the technique, according to the study. Experts questioned the legality of using such software without user consent. “These scripts record your keystrokes, mouse movements, and scrolling behaviour, along with the entire contents of the pages you visit, and send them to third-party servers,” the researchers…

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Social media firms under scrutiny for 'Russian meddling’

Media playback is unsupported on your device Facebook, Twitter and Google lawyers defended themselves to US lawmakers probing whether Russia used social media to influence the 2016 election. The three firms faced hard questions at a Senate panel on crime and terrorism about why they missed political ads bought with Russian money. Lawmakers are eyeing new regulations for social media firms in the wake of Russia’s alleged meddling in 2016. The firms said they would tighten advertising policies and guidelines. Senator Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, asked Facebook –…

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