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  1. Microsoft has taken heat every time it tried to end support for Windows XP, but finally almost 13 years after it was released, Microsoft has flipped the switch and stopped delivering system updates to XP users. Well, mostly. There have been some angry rumblings, but consumers seem to be coping, and large customers like business and governments can buy extended support licenses. So everything is fine? Not from the perspective of the Chinese government, which apparently has trust issues after the end of XP support. New rules announced last week ban the use of Windows 8 on government PCs. Microsoft has a complicated history with Windows in China. PC sales are roughly the same as the US, but more than a third are still running XP. There are no official numbers on government IT platforms, but it’s safe to say XP’s share is even higher there. What is remarkable about the Chinese software market is the sheer number of pirated Windows installs. In spite of all those PC sales, Microsoft only sees about 5% of the revenue in China that it does in the US. It’s no secret that piracy is rampant in the Chinese consumer electronics market, and that’s probably one of the main reasons XP is still so widely used. Newer versions of Windows introduced tougher anti-piracy measures that require more fiddling to bypass, and are easier to trip in the future. The Chinese government has suggested in the past that Microsoft should lower the price of Windows instead of combating piracy. The block on Windows 8 was enacted as part of a notice on energy-saving procedures posted on the Central Government Procurement Center website. It was certainly an odd way to announce the ban of a major operating system. The official Xinhua news agency elaborated on the ban, saying it was being put in place to ensure future security after Microsoft ended support for Windows XP… after 13 years. Apparently the Chinese government doesn’t want to be in a similar situation after buying another “foreign OS.” That raises the question, of course, what OS is China going to use on government computers? China’s Kylin OS. It was originally based on FreeBSD, but now it’s derived from Ubuntu The Chinese propaganda machine might simply be trying to spin the end of XP support as some failing of the foreign software market in an effort to jumpstart a local alternative. There are a few Chinese Linux distros like StartOS and Kylin, but usage of these operating systems is still low. It’s more likely the Chinese government is working on its own version of desktop Linux to go along with the new Linux-based mobile OS known as China Operating System (COS). Microsoft is no doubt unhappy to hear about the ban on Windows 8 in the Chinese government, as if that platform needed any more bad press. With most Windows machines in China running pirated versions of the OS, it’s not like Microsoft is about to see profits fall off a cliff. Still, having the Chinese government actively discourage the use of Windows could make it hard for Microsoft to gain a foothold with the growing Chinese middle class who might have the means to pay for software. Source
  2. (Reuters) - Alphabet Inc’s YouTube said on Wednesday it would remove videos from YouTube that promote misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, expanding its current rules against falsehoods and conspiracy theories about the pandemic. The video platform said it would now ban any content with claims about COVID-19 vaccines that contradict consensus from local health authorities or the World Health Organization. YouTube said in a blog post that this would include removing claims that the vaccine will kill people or cause infertility, or that microchips will be implanted in people who receive the vaccine. A YouTube spokesman told Reuters that general discussions in videos about “broad concerns” over the vaccine would remain on the platform. Conspiracy theories and misinformation about the new coronavirus vaccines have proliferated on social media during the pandemic, including through anti-vaccine personalities on YouTube and through viral videos shared across multiple platforms. Although drugmakers and researchers are working on various treatments, vaccines are at the heart of the long-term fight to stop the new coronavirus, which has killed more than a million people, infected more than 38 million and crippled the global economy. YouTube says it already removes content that disputes the existence or transmission of COVID-19, promotes medically unsubstantiated methods of treatment, discourages people from seeking medical care or explicitly disputes health authorities’ guidance on self-isolation or social distancing. In its blog post, YouTube said it had removed over 200,000 videos related to dangerous or misleading COVID-19 information since early February. The company also said it was limiting the spread of COVID-19 related misinformation on the site, including certain borderline videos about COVID-19 vaccines. A spokesman declined to provide examples of such borderline content. YouTube said it would be announcing more steps in the coming weeks to emphasize authoritative information about COVID-19 vaccines on the site. Source
  3. Russia bans 'Death Note' and other 'violent' anime A court blocked the shows on some streaming sites. Madhouse It seems a Russian court has started to scribble the names of anime series in a mysterious black notebook. A district court banned Death Note, Tokyo Ghoul and Inuyashiki on certain streaming websites over worries that teens are recreating violent acts from them. The St. Petersburg court system alleged that "Every episode contains cruelty, murder, violence," according to the The Moscow Times. In December, five lawsuits were brought against 49 sites that stream anime. Prosecutors also called for bans on Naruto, Elfen Lied and Interspecies Reviewers. The court blocked the distribution of Death Note and Inuyashiki on two websites and Tokyo Ghoul on one site. During Wednesday's hearing, an expert for the prosecution reportedly described Death Note as "potentially dangerous for a modern child." Although the bans are specific to those sites and the court seems to be tackling anime on a case-by-case basis, there are suggestions that the Roskomnadzor censorship agency may treat the ruling as a general ban on the shows. Parents in Russia have been demanding a ban on Death Note since 2013, following the death by suicide of a teen who had a collection of the manga. Source: Russia bans 'Death Note' and other 'violent' anime
  4. Here’s another story for the “everybody hates loot boxes” file: Claire Murdoch, the mental health director of the UK’s National Health Service, has issued a statement in which she warns that loot boxes in video games are potentially “setting kids up for addiction.” Murdoch’s statement, in which she also calls for video game companies to ban loot boxes from games that are sold to children, echoes that of some other governments around the world, some of which are taking an increasingly skeptical position on loot boxes in video games. In a release on the NHS website, the organization announced the creation of a gambling treatment center and 14 gambling clinics across the UK, which are being created via the NHS Long Term Plan to improve mental health and funded with at least £2.3 billion in extra funding across the next five years. The UK Gambling Commission found that 55,000 children across the UK are “classed as having a gambling problem,” while 400,000 total people in England are living with a serious gambling problem. Murdoch’s statement doesn’t quantify how many of those children are exhibiting a gambling problem because of loot boxes in video games, but she takes a strong stance on them nonetheless. In her statement today, Murdoch made four demands of video game companies. Most significantly, she called on publishers to ban the sale of games with loot boxes to children. She also thinks that game publishers should “introduce fair and realistic spending limits” to stop people from spending a ton of money on in-game purchases. Further, Murdoch said that video game companies should actually publish the odds for items in loot boxes and make those odds clear before the loot boxes are purchased. Finally, she thinks that companies should help increase awareness about the risks of microtransactions among parents. Have a look at her full statement below: The UK isn’t the first government to take a stronger stance on loot boxes. Here in the US, we’ve seen elected officials present bills that would ban loot boxes in games aimed at children. Countries like Belgium and The Netherlands have declared loot boxes to be a form of gambling, by extension making them illegal and forcing publishers to drop microtransactions entirely in some cases. In the UK, we’ve haven’t seen much in the way of regulation because the country’s Gambling Commission lacks the power. More specifically, loot boxes sidestep gambling regulations in the country because for some of them, there’s no way to monetize the items that players receive. That line is becoming increasing blurred as users sell their loot-packed accounts through third-party sites and as games publishers continue to test their limits. The release published by the NHS today specifically mentions one game that “even launched a virtual casino which lets players invest real money to gamble on games such as blackjack and poker.” While the NHS statement doesn’t mention the game by name, it doesn’t take a lot of guesswork to figure out what’s being referenced here (spoiler: it’s Grand Theft Auto V). Naturally, major publishers have been pushing back on the idea that loot boxes are something that needs to be regulated or outright removed from games. When EA went before the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee last year, Kerry Hopkins, the company’s VP of legal and government affairs, argued that loot boxes are “surprise mechanics” akin to a Kinder Egg. Hopkins went on to say that EA believes the way it has implemented loot boxes and microtransations in its games “is actually quite ethical and quite fun; quite enjoyable to people.” Given the player reaction to the loot boxes in Star Wars: Battlefront 2 – which certainly seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back in regards to calls to regulate loot boxes – we’re guessing that EA doesn’t have a very good handle on what its players actually enjoy. In any case, it’ll be interesting to see what comes of this statement from the NHS and Murdoch’s recommendations. We’ve seen multiple governments make tough statements concerning loot boxes, but outside of Belgium and The Netherlands, we haven’t see very much action – maybe all that will change soon. source
  5. Like many online platforms of late, Reddit has been updating some elements of its policies for the new decade. The latest change sees the site address impersonation on its platform, moving to ban it with a handful of exceptions. The move falls in line with the desire to limit the spread of misinformation, therefore the new policy update could affect things like deepfake videos that are not made for comedy, but rather to share false information. As such the one significant exception to this policy update from Reddit is that it will still allow impersonation on its platform provided it is satirical in nature. “Reddit does not allow content that impersonates individuals or entities in a misleading or deceptive manner. This not only includes using a Reddit account to impersonate someone, but also encompasses things such as domains that mimic others, as well as deepfakes or other manipulated content presented to mislead, or falsely attributed to an individual or entity. While we permit satire and parody, we will always take into account the context of any particular content,” reads the company’s updated policy. How Reddit will be able to effectively screen and determine the level of satire for impersonation in each and every case remains to be seen, especially with similar large sites like YouTube also failing to always enforce policies such as this effectively. That said in 2018 the platform explained that impersonation was the second lowest class of policy violation that year, accounting for 2.3 percent of reports. Whether that number has increased significantly over the past few months thanks to deepfakes is unclear. Regardless this latest move shows that Reddit is taking impersonation and misinformation on its platform seriously. Reddit tells any of its users who suspect they are being impersonated on the site to visit this link and report it. Source
  6. Reddit Piracy Takedowns and Subreddit Bans Skyrocketed in 2020 Reddit's latest transparency report reveals that the number of copyright takedown notices it receives continues to rise. Last year, 375,774 pieces of content were removed following copyright holder complaints. This is a 300% increase compared to the year before. At the same time, Reddit's repeat infringer policy resulted in 303 users and 514 subreddits being banned. With millions of daily users, Reddit is without a doubt one of the most visited sites on the Internet. The community-oriented platform has “subreddits” dedicated to pretty much every topic one can think of, including several that are linked to online piracy and related issues. A few years ago copyright holders paid little attention to these discussions. In 2017, the site ‘only’ removed 4,352 pieces of content in response to copyright holders’ complaints. Three years later, however, this number has skyrocketed to hundreds of thousands. This surge in takedowns is highlighted in the social media platform’s latest transparency report, published just a few hours ago. The company reports that it received a total of 86,866 takedown notices, which resulted in 375,774 pieces of content being removed. This is a 300% increase compared to the previous year. While the number of takedown notices and removed content has skyrocketed, Reddit also rejected many complaints. Last year, the site decided not to remove roughly 27 percent of the 517,054 items that were flagged. The reasons to reject takedown requests vary. The vast majority were duplicate requests, but Reddit also refused takedowns because an entire subreddit was targeted, the reported link wasn’t a Reddit URL, or simply because no infringement was found. In addition to links and other content taken down, Reddit also reports how many users and subreddits were removed from the platform on copyright grounds. This typically happens when they are classified as repeat copyright infringers. “We have a policy that includes the removal of any infringing material from the Services and for the termination, in appropriate circumstances, of users of our Services who are repeat infringers,” Reddit writes. In 2020, Reddit removed 303 users following repeat copyright infringement complaints, which is a small increase compared to last year. The number of subreddits that were taken down under this policy saw nearly a fourfold increase, from 137 in 2019 to 514 last year. In the past we have seen several instances of subreddits being removed for repeat copyright infringements, including /r/mmastreams. Other subreddits, such as /r/piracy, were repeatedly warned and had to clean house in order to survive. Finally, Reddit also received several 143 counternotices from users who argued that their content had been removed without a proper reason. It’s not clear how many of these were reinstated. All in all, copyright takedowns only result in a small fraction of all content that’s removed from the platform. In total, Reddit admins and moderators removed more than 225 million pieces of content for a variety of reasons. — The full 2020 transparent report, which also covers law enforcement requests, is available here Reddit Piracy Takedowns and Subreddit Bans Skyrocketed in 2020
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