The European Union enacted a law in 2014 that says search engines like Google should remove results from a query if the individual or company named in the result request it.
Google has since removed 901,656 of the 2.4 million URLs that individuals and companies have requested to be delisted.
This is not something that US users have the option to do — nor are they likely to, since the First Amendment protects the free flow of information across the internet.
Google has been forced to clean house ever since a 2014 ruling that says Europeans can request to be removed from search-engine results.
Google has received 655,429 requests to delist a total of 2.4 million URLs, and granted the removal of almost half of those URLs (901,656), according to its latest transparency report. The remaining 1.2 million URLs will not be delisted.
The requests started rolling in after the top court in Europe ruled against Google in a case involving a man who wanted the company to take down a link to an article about an auction on his home. The court subsequently enacted the “Right to be forgotten” law, which rules that individuals should have the right to ask search engines to remove any results with their name in it. (Interestingly, 1% of the requesters accounted for 20% of the total URLs requested for removal as of January.)
The requirements for Google to comply include whether or not the links are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive.” Requests are submitted through an online form, vetted manually, and then responded to via email. If they’re not granted, for reasons like public interest and existence of alternative solutions as named in the report, Google provides an explanation as to why. If they are granted, the results are removed from Google’s European search results.
The ruling is very much in line with the European Union’s privacy law, which focuses heavily on the privacy of individual citizens. But that isn’t how things work in the US, so American companies or individuals hoping to take Google to court in hopes of a similar outcome should probably rule out that possibility. The First Amendment prohibits the the US government from making any law that removes freedom of speech, meaning it’s a lot more conservative with regards to removing public information from the internet.
There’s also a lot of pushback to put restrictions on a company’s basic technology in the US, while the EU has repeatedly shown to have no such hesitation. This was the case when EU regulators fined Google $2.9 billion for denying “consumers a genuine choice” when shopping online for products.
The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) oversees video game ratings in North America.
On Tuesday, the ESRB announced that a new label will be applied to games “with in-game offers to purchase digital goods or premiums with real world currency.”
The label will show up on retail boxes in stores, as well as on digital storefronts like the PlayStation Store and Xbox Games Store.
The move comes after lawmakers in several states have proposed steps to regulate in-game purchases.
The group that oversees video-game ratings in North America just announced a huge change that impacts all games, and the future of the industry as a whole.
Going forward, any video game “with in-game offers to purchase digital goods or premiums with real world currency” must be labeled with a new sticker that says “In-Game Purchases.”
More directly: Any game with in-game purchases must now be labeled as such.
The move is a warning to consumers about potentially expensive components of a game they’re about to buy. The group that oversees game ratings in North America, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB), is framing the move around parents being informed.
“With the new In-Game Purchases interactive element coming to physical games, parents will know when a game contains offers for players to purchase additional content,” ESRB president Patricia Vance said in the press release that announced the new labels.
Beyond informing parents, the move is in response to the controversy surrounding several notable video games released in 2017. The biggest most recent example is “Star Wars Battlefront 2,” which infuriated players with its choice to lock major characters behind a paywall (the move was quickly retracted).
Then, in February, Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire got in touch with the ESRB directly.
“I respectfully urge the ESRB to review the completeness of the board’s ratings process and policies as they relate to loot boxes, and to take into account the potential harm these types of micro-transactions may have on children,” Hassan wrote in the letter.
Without saying as much directly, the ESRB is adding the label in an attempt to assuage the concerns of legislators. It’s a small move, but it’s one that impacts all video games published on game consoles in North America. Whether or not consumers will notice the label, or care, is another question altogether.
Beyond the new label, the ESRB has also launched a website dedicated to educating parents on various aspects of gaming — from parental control instructions for each console, to information about how various online services work, and all sorts of other stuff.
Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Joseph Kabila has refused to relinquish power for more than a year, and the Catholic Church has emerged as the leader in the fight against him.
Since December, when Kabila again refused to step down, the church and a spiritual group called the Lay Coordination Committee have organized a handful of protests, all of which have ended violently.
Most recently, anti-government protests in the capital city of Kinshasa on Sunday left four people dead and two more injured, according to the Associated Press.
Kabila’s refusal to step down has also aggravated violence between government forces and multiple armed groups in other areas of the country. This includes the Kasai and Kivu regions, where mass atrocities have been carried out by both sides, killing and displacing thousands in the last few years.
Kabila was supposed to step down after his two-term mandate expired on December 19, 2016, but he stayed on after invoking a controversial law requiring a successor to be elected. This sparked a wave of protests.
In January 2017, the Catholic Church brokered a deal between Kabila’s People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy and opposition parties that elections would be held in December 2017 and that Kabila would step down.
In December 2017, Kabila again refused to step down, saying that an election would have to be held at the end of 2018 because the government didn’t have enough money.
Election officials have even said that, because of continued financial and logistical problems, the election might be even held later than that.
An internal review by a local sheriff’s office indicated that Scot Peterson, the resource officer on duty during the Parkland shooting, failed to confront the gunman.
Peterson is believed to have remained outside of the building while the shooting unfolded on February 14.
Some people have criticized Peterson’s conduct.
Veterans with combat experience urged caution about lambasting Peterson, whose resignation was announced on Thursday.
After an internal review by the Broward County Sheriff’s office indicated that the student resource officer on duty during the Parkland, Florida, shooting failed to confront the gunman, critics on social media were quick to direct their anger toward the officer on Thursday.
Scot Peterson was armed and in uniform at the time, and reportedly did “nothing” as the shooting unfolded at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He remained outside of the building for at least four minutes during the incident, according to Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. Peterson’s resignation was announced on Thursday.
“I am devastated,” Israel said at a news conference. “Sick to my stomach. He never went in.”
Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old suspect, was armed with an AR-15 assault-style rifle during the shooting, in which 17 people were killed.
David French, a senior writer at the National Review and a former US Army officer in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG), called Peterson’s inaction “heartbreaking” and “infuriating.”
“I’m amazed at the number of people who are excusing the apparent failure of the SRO to engage the shooter because the shooter was armed with the allegedly almighty AR-15,” French said on Twitter. “That SRO’s job is to fight and — if necessary — die for those kids.”
“When a person puts on the uniform, they are declaring that they are willing to die (not wanting, willing) to protect their community,” French said in another tweet. “That is a hard, terrifying thing, but enforcing that discipline is vital.”
Others believed Peterson should be criminally charged for his inaction.
“Deputy Scott Peterson, whose cowardice led to the murder of many school students, needs to face criminal charges,” Ryan Saavedra, a writer at the conservative blog site Daily Wire, said in a tweet.
“Deputy Scot Peterson is going off to ‘retire’ while a community is ripped apart and 17 families are destroyed. Enjoy your retirement, coward,” Fox 10 anchor Kari Lake said in a reply to Saavedra.
But veterans, many of whom have combat experience, shed light on the difficulty of performing their duties under extreme duress, as one may experience in a combat situation.
“Those who study the effect of fear in combat, this isn’t that unusual,” said Mark Hertling, a CNN contributor and former Lt. Gen. in the US Army. “While soldiers/security are trained to run to the sound of the guns…not all do for a variety of psychological reasons.”
“It happens more often than most would think, and it’s part of human nature.” Hertling said.
Paul Szoldra, editor-in-chief of Code Red News and a former infantryman in the Marine Corps, noted that even service members acted differently in combat scenarios.
“I know people are dumping on the school resource officer who didn’t go into the school, but the sad fact is some people freeze in combat situations,” Szoldra said. “It happens with cops and soldiers, training be damned, especially if it’s their first time under fire.”
“As much as we’d like a convenient foil to blame, and this cop certainly provides that, I would imagine he’s going to carry the guilt of his choice to not go in for the rest of his life,” Szoldra continued. “Ultimately, the blame for this rests on the shooter alone.”
Nate Bethea, a writer on veterans-related issues and a former US Army infantry officer, criticized those who had no combat experience and were quick to condemn Peterson.
“When I was in Afghanistan we had a platoon in my battalion lose a guy during a shootout, and the whole team froze,” Bethea said. “These were trained airborne infantrymen whose fellow soldier’s life was in danger. They eventually got back in the fight, but yeah.”
Kevin Quinn, the former president of the National Association of School Resource Officers and a former law-enforcement officer, said he was “sick” after hearing the sheriff’s office’s statements on Peterson.
“I am sick to my stomach, listening to the @browardsheriff tell how the SRO at #Parkland HS in FL didn’t enter the school and respond properly during the shooting last week,” Quinn said. “That is NOT how the SRO’s that I work with would act. I would lay down my life for my students!!”
Peterson had worked at the high school since 2009 and was nominated for Deputy of the Year in 2017. His nomination letter lauded him for his decades of service in law-enforcement.
“Peterson is a dedicated SRO who values his position and takes pride in protecting the students, faculty and staff at his school,” the internal letter read. It continued: “Deputy Peterson is dependable and reliable and handles issues that arise with tact and solid judgment.”
The Parkland shooting highlights steps Peterson should have taken during the incident. SROs are sworn law enforcement officers and are defined by the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) — an agency under the US Justice Department — as those who are “responsible for safety and crime prevention in schools.”
Student resource officers also play multiple roles by bridging the gap between enforcing the law and other education: “Beyond law enforcement, SROs also serve as educators, emergency managers, and informal counselors,” the COPS’s website reads.
The controversy surrounding Peterson’s conduct may linger, as the Broward County sheriff declined to offer some key details about the investigation.
Israel said surveillance footage of Peterson captured during the massacre may never be released.
Meanwhile, Peterson now appears to have concerns about his own safety. Multiple reports emerged on Thursday that deputies from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s office in Florida were guarding his home after his family requested protection.
Businessman Rick Gates is reportedly planning to plead guilty to charges filed against him by special counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia investigation.
Gates was Manafort’s protégé. The two met as Washington lobbyists three decades ago.
He joined Donald Trump’s election efforts in 2016 when Manafort became the campaign manager.
On Friday, special counsel Robert Mueller’s office charged Rick Gates, the former deputy chairman of the Trump campaign, on two counts related to conspiracy against the US and making a false statement to federal investigators.
A day earlier, Mueller filed 32 charges against Gates and Paul Manafort, the former chairman of the Trump campaign, in a superseding indictment, accusing them of financial crimes related to tax and bank fraud.
The two associates were charged on 12 counts, including conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy against the US, and false and misleading statements last October. Both men pleaded not guilty at the time.
Robert Mueller, the special counsel to the US Justice Department leading the probe into the Trump campaign’s possible coordination with Russia in last year’s election, has been investigating Manafort and Gates because their relationships with foreign leaders and suspicious financial dealings abroad.
Manafort, who has strong ties to Trump’s inner circle, has been a key part of Mueller’s investigation. Gates is a lesser known figure in Washington, but still an influential Trump booster with wide-ranging connections to powerful leaders and businessmen around the world. Here’s what we know about him.
Gates’ early days in Washington politics
Gates met Manafort nearly three decades ago while he was an intern at Black, Manafort, Stone, and Kelly — one of the most powerful lobbying firms in DC.
The firm worked to help boost the image of dictators and strongmen around the world, including Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Mobutu Sese Seko of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Russian-aligned former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych.
Although Manafort left the firm the same year Gates joined, the two reunited in 2006 at a new consulting company called Davis Manafort.
Two years later, Gates took over the company’s affairs in Eastern Europe, flying to London, Paris, and Moscow, meeting with potential business partners, developing deals, and negotiating contracts, according to The New York Times. His trips to Russia included meeting with associates of Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch linked to organized crime who is an ally of President Vladimir Putin.
Connections to the Trump campaign
Gates joined Trump election efforts in the spring of 2016 when Manafort became the campaign manager, working as Manafort’s deputy. He traveled with Trump and grew close with many top campaign officials, including former chief of staff Reince Priebus and adviser Tom Barrack.
After Manafort was ousted as Trump’s campaign chief in August 2016, Gates continued working on behalf of the soon-to-be president, helping fundraise $25 million for the pro-Trump nonprofit America First Policies and working on Trump’s inaugural committee. As Mueller’s probe intensified in the early months of the Trump administration, Gates left the nonprofit altogether.
As recently as June, however, The Daily Beast reported that Gates was still visiting the White House and working under Barrack, who has remained one of Trump’s most trusted advisers.
Trump reportedly “had no idea [Gates] was in the building, otherwise he wouldn’t be too happy,” a source told the outlet. Gates still had access to the West Wing, even if it wasn’t directly with the president.
Secret payments concealed abroad
During his tenure at Davis Manafort, Gates helped start a private equity fund called Pericles that was set up to buy companies in Russia and Eastern Europe.
The money that was funneled through that fund, reportedly through offshore bank accounts in Cyprus and other countries, is at the center of Mueller’s indictment of Manafort and Gates.
On February 22, Mueller’s office alleged that more than $75 million flowed through the defendants’ offshore accounts and that Manafort laundered over $30 million in undisclosed income with Gates’ assistance. Gates is alleged to have laundered more than $3 million.
Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, told the New York Times in June that “Paul’s payments for his work abroad have all come through traceable wire transfers to his U.S. accounts.”
Manafort has denied any wrongdoing, even though his name appears on documents linked to those shell companies in Cyprus.
Read the full, original indictment against Gates and Manafort below:
Any criminal justice system has two purposes: The first is to punish those who have broken the law; the second is to bring about rehabilitation in the lawbreaker, so that he or she will turn his back on a life of crime and embrace a law-abiding life in society.
The first is accomplished largely within the closed ranks of the legal system, through courts, convictions, punishments, and time served, either behind bars or under community supervision.
The second can only take place within the broader system of society and the community.
When it comes to those whose convictions have been for a sexual crime, why are we so good at accomplishing the former and so lacking in bringing about the later?
Our society has been conditioned to regard those who have committed a sexual crime as irredeemable. This is largely, if not totally, due to the proliferation of public sex offender registries. There is something about putting one’s name on such a registry that sets them aside and marks them as belonging outside – outside of redemption, outside of consideration, outside of civilized society.
But they are not. The clear majority of registered sexual offenders living in the community are law-abiding, decent human beings. They are no more a threat to their fellow citizens than those citizens are to each other. Yet, even when this is shown by decades of their living law-abiding, productive lives, and despite decades of evidence attesting to it, the prejudice against our registered citizens is overwhelming.
A political candidate or legislator who dares to support legislation that is based solidly on research but is seen to “make life easier” for sexual offenders does so at the risk of being pilloried by his or her opponent, even when such legislation is clearly shown to make society safer.
A political candidate who dares to employ a person listed on a sexual offense registry risks the same.
Chantal Eldridge, a challenger for the judicial seat in the 331st District Court in Travis County, in 2016 hired a person as her legal assistant. She is so satisfied with his work ethic and job performance that she intends to keep him as her judicial assistant if her bid for the seat is successful.
Thirty years ago, he had a conviction for a sexual offense and remains on Texas’ sex offender registry. Eldridge has said she believes that refusing employment to a past felon would run counter to her faith in criminal justice rehabilitation. As Eldridge has said publicly, if she were not willing to offer an ex-felon a second chance — an opportunity to show he was rehabilitated — then she would be a hypocrite.
This is a stance that requires courage, integrity and commitment. These are qualities that are desirable for every person. They are especially to be valued in those we elect as our public officials.
Rather than condemning Eldridge for her faith in the system she has sworn to uphold — and for having the courage to stand by her convictions — we need to closely examine the motives of those who attack her for that faith and that courage.
Rozek, of Houston, is with the National Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws.
HotSpot Shield, one of the most popular VPNs in the country, saw more downloads in 2017 than ever before
The company’s CEO says this is due to high-profile hacks and the FCC’s crackdown on net neutrality.
The U.S. is now HotSpot Shield’s largest market.
The FCC’s repeal of net neutrality has infuriated internet users across the country. But it’s been great for business if you’re VPN provider.
According to the CEO of AnchorFree, a provider of a popular virtual private networking product, the company had its best year ever in 2017. HotSpot Shield, the company’s VPN product, saw more than 100 million downloads in 2017 alone, bringing the company’s total user base up to 600 million worldwide.
A VPN, or a virtual private network, is a service that masks internet traffic by rerouting it through a third-party server. It’s a popular tool in places like China, allowing users to circumvent the government firewall that blocks certain sites.
David Gorodyansky, CEO of Anchor Free, told Business Insider he saw enormous — and unprecedented — spikes in new users immediately after the U.S. Federal Communications Commission rolled back net neutrality regulations.
There were similar spikes following Congress’s vote to allow Internet Service Providers to sell user data and after the massive Equifax hack, Gorodyansky says.
These recent high-profile events have caused users to lose trust in both private companies and the government to safeguard their data, he says.
“Over the last 18 months, people are starting to realize that the government won’t protect them and that Google and Facebook want to use their data as currency. People are realizing that they need to take this into their own hands,” Gorodyansky says.
A major surge in US customers
Before 2017, nearly 80% of HotSpot Shield’s users were located outside of the U.S., mostly in countries where internet usage is restricted or moderated. All of that changed in the past year. Now, users in the U.S. outnumber users abroad, which Gorodyansky said was unexpected because VPNs typically appeal to international users.
“Americans are starting to realize that security and privacy are important,” he said.
Gorodyansky said he first noticed a big spike in U.S. users in March after Congress voted to allow internet service providers, like Comcast and AT&T, to sell web and app usage to third parties without getting permission from the user.
Later that year Equifax got hacked, exposing the personal information of millions, and Gorodyansky said even more users flocked to HotSpot Shield.
“HotSpot Shield doesnt protect Equifax from getting hacked, but Equifax raised public awareness and people were like ‘I don’t want my identity being stolen over public WiFi,'” he added.
The final surge in users happened in December after the Republican-controlled FCC rolled back net neutrality regulations, which mandated that ISPs treat all internet traffic equally. A VPN product prevents an internet service provider from seeing which websites a user is visiting, so there’s less likelihood that the provider can block or slow down their connection to any given site.
“If the FCC doesn’t want to regulate net neutrality. That’s fine. We wish they did, but they don’t want to, that’s OK,” Gorodyansky said. “We’re basically going to solve this from a technology point of view.”
HotSpot Shield has climbed the App Store rankings and is now the top grossing productivity app for iPhones, according to App Annie, an app market research company. In fact, half of the top 10 grossing iOS productivity apps are VPNs – perhaps a testament to how users are increasingly looking to security products.
“I think there’s been this transition where people are starting to trust big corporations and the government less with their information,” Gorodyansky said. “Whether it’s Equifax or Target or Comcast, people don’t want them owning their data.”
Actor Brendan Fraser said in a recent interview with GQ that he was groped in 2003 by Philip Berk, a former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press.
Fraser said that the incident made him “retreat” from the Hollywood spotlight.
Berk, who previously described the incident in a memoir as being done in jest, told GQ that Fraser’s version of the incident was a “total fabrication.” He also admitted to writing an “apology” letter to Fraser.
The HFPA said on Friday that it was “previously unaware” of the incident as Fraser alleged it, and that it is currently investigating the matter.
Actor Brendan Fraser said in a recent interview with GQ that he was groped by a former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Philip Berk, after an HFPA luncheon in 2003. Fraser said that the incident played a part in his decision to “retreat” from the Hollywood spotlight.
Fraser, who starred in a number of leading roles in successful movies throughout the 1990s, including “The Mummy,” has been largely absent from the same leading film roles since the early 2000s.
The 49-year-old actor told GQ that the incident was one of the sources of his career’s standstill. Fraser recounted the incident in detail, which GQ reported that Berk had previously described in a memoir as being done in jest.
“His left hand reaches around, grabs my ass cheek, and one of his fingers touches me in the taint. And he starts moving it around,” Fraser said. “I felt ill. I felt like a little kid. I felt like there was a ball in my throat. I thought I was going to cry.”
Fraser said the experience “made me retreat. It made me feel reclusive.” He said that he wondered if the HFPA had blacklisted him, as he was rarely invited to the Golden Globe Awards after the incident.
Berk responded to GQ in an email, saying that Fraser’s account of the incident was “a total fabrication.”
Fraser also said that his representatives asked the HFPA for a written apology. Berk acknowledged to GQ that he wrote an “apology” letter to Fraser, but said that it “admitted no wrongdoing, the usual ‘If I’ve done anything that upset Mr. Fraser, it was not intended and I apologize.'”
The HFPA responded to the story in a statement to Deadline on Friday, saying that it was “ppreviously unaware” of the incident as Fraser alleged it, and is currently “investigating further details surrounding the incident.”
Dutch anti-smoking activists vowed to fight on Thursday after prosecutors rejected their call for a criminal investigation into four major tobacco companies on charges including attempted murder or manslaughter, on the grounds that such a case would be unlikely to lead to a conviction.
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The decision was a blow to what Dutch anti-smoking organizations had hoped would be a new legal front in their battle against the tobacco industry, which they argue is criminally liable because it knowingly sells products that can cause deadly disease.
Benedicte Ficq , the lawyer who filed the criminal complaint against the tobacco giants, said she will now petition an appeals court to order prosecutors to investigate.
“We won’t give up the fight,” said Anne Marie van Veen, a lung cancer patient who is one of the complainants.
Van Veen said she might not survive long enough to see the outcome of the appeal, but that she would “keep fighting for my children and I hope many will do that with me.”
Ficq filed what she called a world’s-first criminal complaint in 2016 seeking a prosecution on behalf of Van Veen, another ex-smoker and a youth smoking prevention organization. Hospitals, doctors and other groups later joined the call.
Ficq had called for the prosecution of Philip Morris, British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International and Imperial Tobacco Benelux.
The complaint alleged that the tobacco companies were liable because of “the large-scale, decades-long and ongoing production and sale of addictive tobacco products in the Netherlands.” It also alleged that tobacco companies deliberately misled laboratory tests to gauge levels of tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide.
But the Dutch Public Prosecution Service, or DPPS, said in a written statement that they see no prospect within current laws of a conviction.
“Smoking is deadly and the design of cigarettes does add to this but according to the DPPS, the tobacco manufacturers have not acted in violation of either the law or the current regulatory framework,” the service said in an English-language statement.
Prosecutors added that tobacco companies cannot be held criminally liable for the deaths or ill health of smokers because smokers knowingly expose themselves to health risks.
“Not everyone starts to smoke and there are people who do manage to stop,” the DPPS said. “This element of freedom of choice in the chain of cause and effect means that the negative consequences of smoking cannot be attributed to the tobacco manufacturers under criminal law.”
An Amsterdam hospital that was among those calling for a prosecution said 55 people die each day in the Netherlands as a result of smoking.
Rene Medema, chairman of the board of the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek hospital, said the hospital also would discuss the option of asking a judge to order prosecutors to launch an investigation.
“We see the damaging consequences of smoking every day in our patients,” Medema said in a statement. “We have to make clear to the tobacco industry that their way of working is unacceptable.”
When Ficq filed her request, the Dutch association of cigarette and tobacco makers labeled it a publicity stunt and said it was confident that “the sale of a legal, heavily regulated product is not a crime in the Netherlands.”
Abe Brandsma, a Dutch spokesman for British American Tobacco, said the company agreed with the prosecutors’ decision.
“Our products comply with all applicable regulations and are brought to the market in a completely legal manner,” he said.
Philip Morris, the company behind the Marlboro brand, also said it welcomed the decision, adding that it hoped substitute products will soon replace cigarettes entirely.
“We agree that smoking causes diseases and believe that addressing the harm of smoking is better served by giving the millions of consumers smoke-free products that are a much better choice than cigarette smoking,” it said in a statement.
The Dutch case was being monitored by other anti-tobacco groups looking at similar action.
British group Action on Smoking and Health, known as ASH, is also looking at a criminal case against cigarette makers.
Van Veen said that the case had already won a key victory: “That is that an unprecedented discussion has started in society.”