How to identify a fake Facebook profile. Not.

Sri Lanka Watch reports that,

According to intelligence reports, a massive fake facebook scam is underway by certain individuals to collect personal photos and information of people for commercial and other purposes. This is the latest Internet scam that is common in Colombo and Kandy areas.

Sri Lanka Watch, in a remarkable display of sheer genius, goes on to tell us four key characteristics of fake Facebook profiles.

How to identify a fake profile
1)      Many wall messages in the fake profile claiming “ thanks for the add”
2)      Fake profiles usually have one or two profile photos
3)      A fake profile photo is usually of a very attractive female/male
4)      Fake profiles have sexual overtones all ove
  1. Many wall messages in the fake profile claiming “ thanks for the add”
  2. Fake profiles usually have one or two profile photos
  3. A fake profile photo is usually of a very attractive female/male
  4. Fake profiles have sexual overtones all over

Based on 2 – 4 alone, I fear everyone I thought were friends on my Facebook account are actually fake profiles. More seriously, this is a prime example of inconsequential, web illiterate journalists furnishing pedestrian piffle in the hope that they are noticed and taken seriously.

The operator of the LTTE’s computer and database revealed

xmt
Cray XMT - The LTTE's computer and database server?

Palitha Kohona, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sri Lanka had this to say in a recent interview about the LTTE’s ICT infrastructure published in Himal,

Himal: If there were entire villages that had nothing to do with LTTE, they can just be let go. But for the others, it’s a massive job of identification that you would have to do.

Yes, we are likely to make mistakes. There was a senior person, 74 years of age, who was released because of his age. And then he promptly went abroad to Singapore. And he was the one who controlled the LTTE computer, the database. So we missed out on this fellow.

Emphasis mine. So gramps controlled THE computer and THE database of the LTTE, wherever and whatever they were. Lucky bugger. Surely, he must have played around with the Cray XMT? Seriously, what other computer could be THE one used by the LTTE’s for its database?

Here’s a novel idea for ICTA – urgently provide, nay force basic IT literacy education for these chowderheads in government. This alone would justify the Year of IT.

More websites including ghs.google.com blocked in Sri Lanka?

Reports online and which I received through email indicate that more sites are being deliberately or inadvertently blocked in Sri Lanka, with most of the disruptions occurring on Sri Lanka Telecom ADSL broadband connections.

Some reports claim that domains hosted on blogger.com are being blocked, and other reports indicate that this is now a matter that is resolved. Other reports confirm that sites resolving to ghs.google.com were blocked and that ISPs have now removed the block. It is not clear why ghs.google.com was blocked.

Several organisations with their emails hosted on Google Apps reported severe problems with logging into their web mail, though POP / IMAP access worked fine.

Lanka News Web, itself blocked in Sri Lanka, now reports that another news website, Sri Lanka Guardian, is also blocked.

Coming soon after the IGP’s directive to all ISPs to “suspend licenses” of porn websites in Sri Lanka, it is worrying whether these are the first stabs at a more pervasive web filtering system in Sri Lanka.

IGP now wants to “suspend licenses” of porn websites in Sri Lanka

An order by the Inspector General of Police in Sri Lanka, the same chowderhead who once said women could record themselves getting raped through mobile phones, now wants to the Director General of Telecommunication Regulatory Commission to suspend the licenses of 12 websites which were exhibiting nude photographs.

Firstly, none of the websites the IGP has got all hot and bothered about are registered in Sri Lanka, but a simple whois search would be as alien to the Police in Sri Lanka as peacebuilding is to the incumbent government.

Secondly, why this sudden love for the rule of law? Websites in Sri Lanka are arbitrarily banned and blocked without warning or any due process, despite flat denials by government when asked about their censorship regime in place for web media. Tamilnet remains blocked on all ISPs in Sri Lanka. Recently, another website was blocked in Sri Lanka for showing images of the President’s son, which was very conveniently on the same day the site reported the egregious public statement of a highly placed goon in government and close friend of the President. Subsequent reports circulated over email that these photos were doctored and the report on the President’s son was false is reason to hold the journalists accountable for libel or conduct investigations into their false reporting, not shutdown an entire site.

The Island notes the CID started the investigation into the pornographic sites following a written complaint lodged by the IGP Jayantha Wickramaratne. While it’s heartening the IGP is concerned about our morals, I would much rather judge for myself the content I view on the web. There’s a real danger here of setting a precedent of blocking and banning website for website defined and seen as unsuitable by the incumbent regime’s set of puritan values, as noted by Foreign Policy with examples from China and Bahrain. In August 2008, there were news reports of an even wider, more intrusive net filtering regime proposed by the President. A the time, it was reported that the TRC had gone to the extent of demanding ISPs to ”filter the websites featuring Obscene/phonographic (sic) /sexually explicit materials”.

As Lirneasia notes tongue in the cheek,

Criminal Investigation Department, working on a complaint by the IGP revealed these sites contain pornographic images and video clips of men and women, possibly Sri Lankan. They also suspected an international conspiracy to tarnish the image of the country, reported, Divaina. One may term the act anti-protectionist, because while the local production is blocked the vast majority of international porn sites still remain open.

Post-war Sri Lanka needs to worry more, at the very least, about the abysmal freedom of expression in the country than strengthening, widening and worsening existing informal and formal censorship of media. Honestly, shouldn’t the Police be far more concerned about the dozens of dormant investigations into acts of murderous violence against journalists since this President took office?

But if the IGP really is serious about eradicating pornography on the web like dengue, he should ban Google too. A simple search brings up over 800,000 pages and a couple of hundred sites in addition to those above that if the Divaina is to be believed, is are all part of an international conspiracy to tarnish the image of the country.

Sunday Times in Sri Lanka “hosts” Twitter!

Not satisfied with such pathbreaking initiatives in the “professional” print media industry in Sri Lanka such as using Wikipedia to defame and plagiarising content from Flickr, the Sunday Times in Sri Lanka proudly announces today that it has “linked up” with Twitter and will be “hosting” the service to boot!

Journalist Surekha, understandably a little light headed at her epiphanic discovery of Twitter notes that, “by simply following the right people and publication on Twitter, users can find the finest information available on the Internet catered to their tastes all in one place.” After such a gushy verdict, one shudders to contemplate what Surekha might write after she discovers RSS aggregation. But not stopping at the banal, the article ventures into nonsense, noting that “as more people join Twitter, its ability to measure what issues garner the most attention will increase in accuracy”.

Tellingly though, anyone keen to follow Twitter “hosted” by the Sunday Times were greeted with this message.

ST on Twitter - Small

Unsurprising under an Editor who cannot even begin to comprehend proper online sourcing or citizen journalism (see responses by bloggers here and here), its fascinating to watch these bungling attempts of traditional print media in Sri Lanka to leverage social networking, mobiles and the web.

Groundviews, progressive youth initiatives like Beyond Borders along with others on Facebook and a range of independent, compelling voices on the web have used new media for years to publish and disseminate critical content and engage local and international audiences, even at the height of war.

One hopes that wiser counsel prevails and the Sunday Times only asks journalists of a higher calibre like Smriti Daniel to cover their forays into new media in the future.

Citizens.lk introduces state of the art security to Sri Lanka

This one is really hard to explain without expletives, but here goes.

The Sri Lankan state wants citizens to register online on a website for their own security. Super idea, never mind that the Sri Lankan State is about as illiberal and undemocratic as they get today.

The first version of http://www.citizens.lk was shoved to a hapless public sometime in early 2009. It turns out to be, quite unexpectedly in light of the UNIX prowess of our interprid Defence Secretary, a monumental disaster and creates more controversy than it helps solve.

Undeterred and in the interests of ‘national security’, the boffins at the Ministry of Defence, in line with the Mahinda Chintanaya, went back to the drawing boards and released the new and improved Version 2.0.

Unfortunately, if you use Firefox, you can’t even log into the site. Try it.

ff-on-citizenslk

Annoyed that Firefox had turned terra and working in league with the CIA and other Western agents hell bent on discrediting the Rajapakse regime, I switched to Safari on my Mac.

Lo and behold, the reason for the barred entry was evident.

citizenslk

Under the Mahinda Chintanaya, the boffins at the MoD have taken a wholly endogenous approach to security certificates, signing them with completely generic information that is guaranteed to be only accepted by MoD and Police data entry operators trained to bypass security that keeps ordinary, law abiding citizens out of the system.

The mind struggles to comprehend what the MoD and Police were thinking when they deployed this system, for the second time, in such a manner. Then again, maybe they weren’t thinking, since the Mahinda Chintanaya does not require this and frowns down upon too much of it in government.

I guess with http://www.citizens.lk 2.0 and an Inspector General of Police who in all seriousness thinks women can use mobile phones to record themselves being raped, we are really in safe, secure hands and guaranteed a future free of terrorism.

Can’t wait.

Gagging the web and Internet: Implications of the proposed Private TV Broadcasting Regulations in Sri Lanka

Censorship of media in Sri Lanka isn’t a new phenomenon, but the Rajapakse regime took it a step further recently when it recently promulgated a new set of regulations through a gazette notification, called the Private Television Broadcasting Station Regulations. The over broad and ill-defined regulations, in parts copied and pasted verbatim from Indian Cable TV and IP TV regulations, were a measure to further undermine independent media in Sri Lanka.

On 14th November 2008, the Supreme Court, issuing a stay order suspending the operation of these regulations, granted a case lodged by the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association and others who opposed the proposed regulations as an affront to the freedom of expression leave to proceed. The case is to be heard on 26 January 2009.

Disturbingly, the proposed regulations are a significant challenge to all bloggers in Sri Lanka, since they seek to hold accountable all ISPs for the qualitative nature of the content transmitted, accessed and produced using their networks and further, makes no distinction between IP TV (e.g. SLT’s PeoTV) and TV / televisual content over the web and Internet (e.g. YouTube, Vimeo).

To discuss the implications of these proposed regulations, I’ll facilitate a roundtable discussion together with Beyond Borders on the 22nd November, from 3.45pm to 6pm at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute (SLFI). I hope this discussion will animate youth activists and bloggers in Sri Lanka to take individual and collective action against these regulations which particularly under the Rajapakse regime and also future governments can be used to censor, at will, (video) content on the web and Internet.

Read the agenda for the discussion here. Read the background briefing for the discussion, written from the perspective of a new media producer / blogger / web activist critiquing the proposed regulations as a PDF here.

The participation I have in mind are youth activists, new media producers and bloggers, NOT mainstream media journalists, or senior staff / heads of the communications units of of NGOs, INGOs or CSOs. There’s no real cut off age, but I want to target this discussion at compelling new voices, who may not agree with each other, but are passionate about self-expression using web and online media on the Internet. We already have the confirmed participation of some of Sri Lanka’s most recognised and respected voices in the blogosphere.

Please confirm your participation with Beyond Borders or myself, since seats are limited at the venue.