GitHub has agreed to censor some of what its users post, in order to mollify the Russian authorities. Russian laws forbid web content that refers to suicide – to protect children – and the country recently blocked the whole developer collaboration platform because someone had posted suicide advice on it and the firm had refused to take it down. GitHub said it would in future comply with takedown requests from regulator Roskomnadzor, but it would post the notices it receives in the interests of transparency. “Although, we may not always agree with the choices the Russian government has made, we respect the country’s sovereignty and recognize that Russians may have different cultural sensitivities,” the firm said.
The European Commission has launched an investigation into Orange’s proposed takeover of Spain’s Jazztel. France’s Orange already has a Spanish subsidiary, whose connectivity Jazztel resells as a mobile virtual network operator. Jazztel, founded by Fon boss Martin Varsavsky 16 years ago, is more of a fixed-line player, while Orange has both mobile and fixed networks in Spain. The Commission said in a statement that it is worried about the fact that the merger would result in just three nationwide fixed-line communications providers in Spain (the others are Telefónica and Vodafone) and, by reducing competition, allow the ISPs to increase their prices. Orange has proposed commitments to keep things fair, but the Commission doesn’t think they go far enough.
The Opera browser now includes a bookmark-sharing feature, the Norwegian firm said on Wednesday. Instead of having to paste multiple URLs into an email or instant message, as of version 26 of the desktop browser, users can save their “findings” into a collection, with each page represented by a thumbnail. They can then share the URL for that collection via email or social media or whatever. Opera for Android has also gained a similar feature, with sharing also made possible via Bluetooth or Android Beam. In related news, Opera 26 marks the full return of Opera to Linux after the browser’s major internal revamp in 2013, with that version rejoining the stable stream. Version 24 snuck into the developer stream in June.
Russia is reportedly blocking blogs that provide independent analysis of jihadi activities. On Monday the Belgian historian, researcher and writer Pieter Van Ostaeyen said his blog, which tracks Islamic State among other extremist groups, had been blocked in Russia. He told (U.S.-funded) Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) that this followed his embedding of an IS video. RFE/RL reported that various other sites by Western analysts covering the same subject matter had met the same fate, and that Russia had even temporarily blocked the video site Vimeo due to the posting of an IS video. Russia recently started cracking down on websites that make “extremist calls” – a policy that the U.K. seems keen to emulate.
Germany’s equivalent to the NSA is able to spy on some German citizens thanks to a loophole in the country’s laws, a government surveillance inquiry learned last week. According to a former lawyer for the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the agency can legally intercept the work-related emails and phone calls of Germans working abroad for foreign companies, as these communications are attributed to the employer. The German government has since confirmed this. It was previously thought that it was illegal for German intelligence to spy on any of the country’s citizens. The inquiry is examining the implications of Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations. In July, a BND employee was arrested for passing details about the activities of the investigating committee to the Americans.
The one-time U.K. monopoly carrier BT may be sniffing around O2 and EE as it considers how best to get back into the mobile carrier game, but it seems it’s not the only one. According to a Reuters report, Hong Kong’s Hutchison Whampoa is also considering a bid for one of those companies. Hutch already owns Three, the smallest U.K. mobile network operator, so this would reduce the number of network-owning cellular players in the country down to three (the other being Vodafone). Three and EE already have a network-sharing deal that involves a joint venture called MBNL, so integration would be easier on that front. EE is jointly owned by Germany’s Deutsche Telekom and France’s Orange, and O2 by Spain’s Telefonica.
The Council of the EU, representing the 28 member states, is currently debating how to finalize the strict net neutrality rules that the European Parliament handed it earlier this year. It looked like the Council was about to water the rules down, but then the European Commission and the Parliament both pleaded with it not to, and now the decision has reportedly been delayed. The Italian presidency of the Council said Thursday that none of the compromise drafts had achieved consensus and a Council official quoted by IDG said the debate will now go through to 2015. The Commission and Parliament want strong rules and definitions but the member states want more flexible “principles” – we’ll have to wait to see who wins.
Having hit the crowdfunding target it set for its new tablet in just two hours, the Finnish mobile upstart Jolla has, eight days later, achieved that goal three times over. With $1.3 million pledged, the campaign still has 13 days left though – so Jolla has revealed some stretch goals that its community suggested. If it hits $1.5 million, the Android-compatible Sailfish OS tablet will get MicroSDHC support, allowing it to take memory cards of up to 128GB in size. If it hits $1.75 million, it will gain the ability to view and run two apps simultaneously, split-screen-style. And if $2.5 million is pledged, it will gain 3.5G cellular connectivity. Jolla co-founder Marc Dillon said the company was “overwhelmed” by the response so far.
A “SaveTheInternet.eu” coalition of civil society groups has sent a letter to the Council of the EU, which is finalizing the European Union’s new net neutrality rules, urging it not to water them down. Recent leaks suggested this will happen, after years of work to toughen the rules up, alarming EU digital chief Andrus Ansip and digital rights activists alike. The coalition argued that, without meaningful net neutrality rules, large ISPs will become gatekeepers choosing which services get to run in fast and slow lanes, and the economy and human rights will suffer as a result. Citizens are being urged to contact their representatives in the Council, which represents the 28 EU member states, ahead of its Thursday debate on the matter.