Trump’s Twitter tantrum may wreck the internet


Michael Douglas, University of Western Australia

US President Donald Trump, who tweeted more than 11,000 times in the first two years of his presidency, is very upset with Twitter.

Earlier this week Trump tweeted complaints about mail-in ballots, alleging voter fraud – a familiar Trump falsehood. Twitter attached a label to two of his tweets with links to sources that fact–checked the tweets, showing Trump’s claims were unsubstantiated.

Trump retaliated with the power of the presidency. On May 28 he made an “Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship”. The order focuses on an important piece of legislation: section 230 of the Communications Decency Act 1996.




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What is section 230?

Section 230 has been described as “the bedrock of the internet”.

It affects companies that host content on the internet. It provides in part:

(2) Civil liability. No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of

(A) any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected; or

(B) any action taken to enable or make available to information content providers or others the technical means to restrict access to material described in paragraph (1).

This means that, generally, the companies behind Google, Facebook, Twitter and other “internet intermediaries” are not liable for the content on their platforms.

For example, if something defamatory is written by a Twitter user, the company Twitter Inc will enjoy a shield from liability in the United States even if the author does not.




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Trump’s executive order

Within the US legal system, an executive order is a “signed, written, and published directive from the President of the United States that manages operations of the federal government”. It is not legislation. Under the Constitution of the United States, Congress – the equivalent of our Parliament – has the power to make legislation.

Trump’s executive order claims to protect free speech by narrowing the protection section 230 provides for social media companies.

The text of the order includes the following:

It is the policy of the United States that such a provider [who does not act in “good faith”, but stifles viewpoints with which they disagree] should properly lose the limited liability shield of subparagraph (c)(2)(A) and be exposed to liability like any traditional editor and publisher that is not an online provider …

To advance [this] policy … all executive departments and agencies should ensure that their application of section 230 (c) properly reflects the narrow purpose of the section and take all appropriate actions in this regard.

The order attempts to do a lot of other things too. For example, it calls for the creation of new regulations concerning section 230, and what “taken in good faith” means.

The reaction

Trump’s action has some support. Republican senator Marco Rubio said if social media companies “have now decided to exercise an editorial role like a publisher, then they should no longer be shielded from liability and treated as publishers under the law”.

Critics argue the order threatens, rather than protects, freedom of speech, thus threatening the internet itself.

The status of this order within the American legal system is an issue for American constitutional lawyers. Experts were quick to suggest the order is unconstitutional; it seems contrary to the separation of powers enshrined in the US Constitution (which partly inspired Australia’s Constitution).

Harvard Law School constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe has described the order as “totally absurd and legally illiterate”.

That may be so, but the constitutionality of the order is an issue for the US judiciary. Many judges in the United States were appointed by Trump or his ideological allies.

Even if the order is legally illiterate, it should not be assumed it will lack force.

What this means for Australia

Section 230 is part of US law. It is not in force in Australia. But its effects are felt around the globe.

Social media companies who would otherwise feel safe under section 230 may be more likely to remove content when threatened with legal action.

The order might cause these companies to change their internal policies and practices. If that happens, policy changes could be implemented at a global level.

Compare, for example, what happened when the European Union introduced its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Countless companies in Australia had to ensure they were meeting European standards. US-based tech companies such as Facebook changed their privacy policies and disclosures globally – they did not want to meet two different privacy standards.

If section 230 is diminished, it could also impact Australian litigation by providing another target for people who are hurt by damaging content on social media, or accessible by internet search. When your neighbour defames you on Facebook, for example, you can sue both the neighbour and Facebook.

That was already the law in Australia. But with a toothless section 230, if you win, the judgement could be enforceable in the US.

Currently, suing certain American tech companies is not always a good idea. Even if you win, you may not be able to enforce the Australian judgement overseas. Tech companies are aware of this.

In 2017 litigation, Twitter did not even bother sending anyone to respond to litigation in the Supreme Court of New South Wales involving leaks of confidential information by tweet. When tech companies like Google have responded to Aussie litigation, it might be understood as a weird brand of corporate social responsibility: a way of keeping up appearances in an economy that makes them money.

A big day for ‘social media and fairness’?

When Trump made his order, he called it a big day for “fairness”. This is standard Trump fare. But it should not be dismissed outright.

As our own Australian Competition and Consumer Commission recognised last year in its Digital Platforms Inquiry, companies such as Twitter have enormous market power. Their exercise of that power does not always benefit society.

In recent years, social media has advanced the goals of terrorists and undermined democracy. So if social media companies can be held legally liable for some of what they cause, it may do some good.

As for Twitter, the inclusion of the fact check links was a good thing. It’s not like they deleted Trump’s tweets. Also, they’re a private company, and Trump is not compelled to use Twitter.

We should support Twitter’s recognition of its moral responsibility for the dissemination of information (and misinformation), while still leaving room for free speech.

Trump’s executive order is legally illiterate spite, but it should prompt us to consider how free we want the internet to be. And we should take that issue more seriously than we take Trump’s order.The Conversation

Michael Douglas, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Western Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Internet traffic is growing 25% each year. We created a fingernail-sized chip that can help the NBN keep up


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This tiny micro-comb chip produces a precision rainbow of light that can support transmission of 40 terabits of data per second in standard optic fibres.
Corcoran et al., N.Comms., 2020, CC BY-SA

Bill Corcoran, Monash University

Our internet connections have never been more important to us, nor have they been under such strain. As the COVID-19 pandemic has made remote working, remote socialisation, and online entertainment the norm, we have seen an unprecedented spike in society’s demand for data.

Singapore’s prime minister declared broadband to be essential infrastructure. The European Union asked streaming services to limit their traffic. Video conferencing service Zoom was suddenly unavoidable. Even my parents have grown used to reading to my four-year-old over Skype.

In Australia telecommunications companies have supported this growth, with Telstra removing data caps on users and the National Broadband Network (NBN) enabling ISPs to expand their network capacity. In fact, the NBN saw its highest ever peak capacity of 13.8 terabits per second (or Tbps) on April 8 this year. A terabit is one trillion bits, and 1 Tbps is the equivalent of about 40,000 standard NBN connections.




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This has given us a glimpse of the capacity crunch we could be facing in the near future, as high-speed 5G wireless connections, self-driving cars and the internet of things put more stress on our networks. Internet traffic is growing by 25% each year as society becomes increasingly connected.

We need new technological solutions to expand data infrastructure, without breaking the bank. The key to this is making devices that can transmit and receive massive amounts of data using the optical fibre infrastructure we have already spent time and money putting into the ground.

A high-speed rainbow

Fortunately, such a device is at hand. My colleagues and I have demonstrated a new fingernail-sized chip that can transmit data at 40 Tbps through a single optical fibre connection of the same kind used in the NBN. That’s about three times the record data rate for the entire NBN network and about 100 times the speed of any single device currently used in Australian fibre networks.

The chip uses an “optical micro-comb” to create a rainbow of infrared light that allows data to be transmitted with many frequencies of light at the same time. Our results are published in Nature Communications today.

This collaboration, between Monash, RMIT and Swinburne universities in Melbourne, and international partners (INRS, CIOPM Xi’an, CityU Hong Kong), is the first “field-trial” of an optical micro-comb system, and a record capacity for such a device.

The internet runs on light

Optical fibres have formed the backbone of our communication systems since the late 1980s. The fibres that link the world together carry light signals that are periodically boosted by optical amplifiers which can transmit light with a huge range of wavelengths.

To make the most of this range of wavelengths, different information is sent using signals of different infrared “colours” of light. If you’ve ever seen a prism split up white light into separate colours, you’ve got an insight into how this works – we can add a bunch of these colours together, send the combined signal through a single optical fibre, then split it back up again into the original colours at the other end.




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Making powerful rainbows from tiny chips

Optical micro-combs are tiny gadgets that in essence use a single laser, a temperature-controlled chip, and a tiny ring called an optical resonator to send out signals using many different wavelengths of light.

(left) Micrograph of the optical ring resonator on the chip. Launching light from a single laser into this chip generates over 100 new laser lines (right). We use 80 lines in the optical C-band (right, green shaded) for our communications system demonstration.
Corcoran et al, N.Comms, 2020

Optical combs have had a major impact on a massive range of research in optics and photonics. Optical microcombs are miniature devices that can produce optical combs, and have been used in a wide range of exciting demonstrations, including optical communications.

The key to micro-combs are optical resonator structures, tiny rings (see picture above) that when hit with enough light convert the incoming single wavelength into a precise rainbow of wavelengths.

The demonstration

The test was carried out on a 75-km optical fibre loop in Melbourne.

For our demonstration transmitting data at 40 Tbps, we used a novel kind of micro-comb called a “soliton crystal” that produces 80 separate wavelengths of light that can carry different signals at the same time. To prove the micro-comb could be used in a real-world environment, we transmitted the data through installed optical fibres in Melbourne (provided by AARNet) between RMIT’s City campus and Monash’s Clayton campus and back, for a round trip of 75 kilometres.

This shows that the optical fibres we have in the ground today can handle huge capacity growth, simply by changing what we plug into those fibres.

What’s next?

There is more work to do! Monash and RMIT are working together to make the micro-comb devices more flexible and simpler to run.

Putting not only the micro-comb, but also the modulators that turn an electrical signal into an optical signal, on a single chip is a tremendous technical challenge.

There are new frontiers of optical communications to explore with these micro-combs, looking at using parallel paths in space, improving data rates for satellite communications, and in making “light that thinks”: artificial optical neural networks. The future is bright for these tiny rainbows.


We gratefully acknowledge support from Australia’s Academic Research Network (AARNet) for supporting our access to the field-trial cabling through the Australian Lightwave Infrastructure Research Testbed (ALIRT), and in particular Tim Rayner, John Nicholls, Anna Van, Jodie O’Donohoe and Stuart Robinson.The Conversation

Bill Corcoran, Lecturer & Research Fellow, Monash Photonic Communications Lab & InPAC, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The darknet – a wild west for fake coronavirus ‘cures’? The reality is more complicated (and regulated)



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James Martin, Swinburne University of Technology

The coronavirus pandemic has spawned reports of unregulated health products and fake cures being sold on the dark web. These include black market PPE, illicit medications such as the widely touted “miracle” drug chloroquine, and fake COVID-19 “cures” including blood supposedly from recovered coronavirus patients.

These dealings have once again focused public attention on this little-understood section of the internet. Nearly a decade since it started being used on a significant scale, the dark web continues to be a lucrative safe haven for traders in a range of illegal goods and services, especially illicit drugs.

Black market trading on the dark web is carried out primarily through darknet marketplaces or cryptomarkets. These are anonymised trading platforms that directly connect buyers and sellers of a range of illegal goods and services – similar to legitimate trading websites such as eBay.

So how do darknet marketplaces work? And how much illegal trading of COVID-19-related products is happening via these online spaces?




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Not a free-for-all

There are currently more than a dozen darknet marketplaces in operation. Protected by powerful encryption technology, authorities around the world have largely failed to contain their growth. A steadily increasing proportion of illicit drug users around the world report sourcing their drugs online. In Australia, we have one of the world’s highest concentrations of darknet drug vendors per capita.

Contrary to popular belief, cryptomarkets are not the “lawless spaces” they’re often presented as in the news. Market prohibitions exist on all mainstream cryptomarkets. Universally prohibited goods and services include: hitman services, trafficked human organs and snuff movies.

Although cryptomarkets lie outside the realm of state regulation, each one is set up and maintained by a central administrator who, along with employees or associates, is responsible for the market’s security, dispute resolution between buyers and sellers, and the charging of commissions on transactions.

Administrators are also ultimately responsible for determining what can and can’t be sold on their cryptomarket. These decisions are likely informed by:

  • the attitudes of the surrounding community comprising buyers and sellers
  • the extent of consumer demand and supply for certain products
  • the revenues a site makes from commissions charged on transactions
  • and the perceived “heat” that may be attracted from law enforcement in the trading of particularly dangerous illegal goods and services.



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Illuminating the ‘dark web’


Experts delve into the dark web

A report from the Australian National University published last week looks at several hundred coronavirus-related products for sale across a dozen cryptomarkets, including supposed vaccines and antidotes.

While the study confirms some unscrupulous dark web traders are indeed exploiting the pandemic and seeking to defraud naïve customers, this information should be contextualised with a couple of important caveats.

Firstly, the number of dodgy covid-related products for sale on the dark web is relatively small. According to this research, they account for about 0.2% of all listed items. The overwhelming majority of products were those we are already familiar with – particularly illicit drugs such as cannabis and MDMA.

Also, while the study focused on products listed for sale, these are most likely listings for products that either do no exist or are listed with the specific intention to defraud a customer.

Thus, the actual sale of fake coronavirus “cures” on the dark web is likely minimal, at best.

A self-regulating entity

By far the most commonly traded products on cryptomarkets are illicit drugs. Smaller sub-markets exist for other products such as stolen credit card information and fraudulent identity documents.

This isn’t to say extraordinarily dangerous and disturbing content, such as child exploitation material, can’t be found on the dark web. Rather, the sites that trade in such “products” are segregated from mainstream cryptomarkets, in much the same way convicted paedophiles are segregated from mainstream prison populations.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, dark web journalist and author Eileen Ormsby reported some cryptomarkets have quickly imposed bans on vendors seeking to profit from the pandemic. For instance, the following was tweeted by one cryptomarket administrator:

Any vendor caught flogging goods as a “cure” to coronavirus will not only be permanently removed from this market but should be avoided like the Spanish Flu. You are about to ingest drugs from a stranger on the internet –- under no circumstances should you trust any vendor that is using COVID-19 as a marketing tool to peddle tangible/already questionable goods. I highly doubt many of you would fall for that shit to begin with but you know, dishonest practice is never a good sign and a sure sign to stay away.

So it seems, despite the activities of a few dodgy operators, the vast majority of dark web traders are steering clear of exploiting the pandemic for their own profit. Instead, they are sticking to trading in products they can genuinely supply, such as illicit drugs.




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What is the dark web and how does it work?


The Conversation


James Martin, Associate Professor in Criminology, Swinburne University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coronavirus Update: Australia


General

Australia

So you’re going to school online – here are 6 ways to make the most of it



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Claire Brown, Victoria University and Rannah Scamporlino, Victoria University

Effective learning is a two-way process between the teacher and students, meaning both need to engage.

If a student simply sits and listens to new information without engaging or applying it, it’s called passive learning. Active learning is where students engage with new learning making connections to concepts they have learned previously.

According to one of the world’s leading university educators, Harvard University’s Professor Eric Mazur, “interactive learning triples students’ gains in knowledge”.

Here are six things students can do while studying online to ensure they are learning actively and and making gains.

1. Organise a learning space and dress for learning

Balancing a laptop on your knees on your bed, or with the television on in the background, is not the best way to study. Students learn best when their learning space minimises distractions.

A good learning space has a table and chair, good lighting, good air flow, is away from distractions like television and noise, has good connectivity for digital devices, and is organised with the usual things students have at school such as pens, paper, calculator and others study materials.

Learning online is like being at school in that you need to be physically and mentally prepared to learn. One study suggests what you wear can affect your attention to a task. So it might help not to be in your pyjamas even if your study space is in your bedroom.

2. Organise your learning time

Students with good time management skills tend to do better academically.

There is no easy answer to how long students should be studying at home each day. Students should plan a study timetable dividing their day into learning, revision and rest blocks.

“Zoom fatigue” has been identified as an emerging problem with online studying and meetings caused by the different ways our brains process information delivered online. One suggestion is an online session should be no longer than 45 minutes with a 15-minute break.




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Back-to-back sessions should be avoided and the time between sessions should be used to step away from the computer to rest your brain, body and eyes. It is important to stand up and move around every 30 minutes.

Students should work with teachers to revise their schedule each day and stick to what works for them.

3. Manage distractions

Because students will be studying in an different space, they may get distracted by what other people are doing. If you can, share your study timetable with others in the house, and ask for their help to keep focused.

When you’re in a learning block of time, turn off social media and close browser tabs you don’t need. If you’re using the Google Chrome browser, it has an extension called Stay Focusd. Students can use this to set the period of time to block potential distractions like notifications from Instagram, Snapchat and other applications.

If you are sharing a digital device with other family members, try to agree on a roster that fits with everyone’s timetables. Work out who needs the device at specific times and put that time on a master timetable that is shared by everyone.

4. Take notes

Our memories are not stable and we frequently overestimate how much we can remember. We forget at least 40% of new information within the first 24 hours of first reading or hearing it. That’s why it’s important to take notes.

Use different-colour markers to make connections between concepts.
Shutterstock

Research is unclear about whether it is better to take notes digitally or by hand. Some researchers think it is a matter of preference.

The most important thing is to follow a good note-taking process. This involves:

  • writing an essential question that captures the key learning points of the topic

  • revising your notes. Use different colours and highlighters to make connections between chunks of information; add new ideas and write study questions in the margin. Compare notes with a study buddy to improve and learn from each other

  • writing a summary that links all the information together and answers the essential question you wrote down initially

  • revising your notes within 24 hours, seven days, and then each month until you are tested on that knowledge.




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5. Adopt a growth mindset

In the 1990s, American psychologist Carol Dweck developed the theory of the growth mindset.

It grew out of studies in which primary school children were engaged in a task, and then praised either for their existing capacities, such as intelligence, or the effort they invested in the task.

The students who were praised for their effort were more likely to persist with finding a solution to the task. They were also more likely to seek feedback about how to improve. Those praised for their intelligence were less likely to persist with the more difficult tasks and to seek feedback on how their peers did on the task.




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The growth mindset assumes capacities can be developed or “grown” through learning and effort. So if you don’t understand something straight away, working at it will help you get there.

If you are engaging in negative self-talk, change the words. For example, instead of saying, “This is too hard”, try saying, “What haven’t I tried yet to figure this out?”

6. Ask questions and collaborate

Ask teachers questions about anything that is unclear as soon as possible. Give teachers frequent feedback. Teachers appreciate suggestions that help improve student learning.

Set up online study groups. Learning is a social activity. We learn best by learning with others, and when learning is fun. Studying with friends helps clarify new concepts and language, and stay connected.The Conversation

Claire Brown, National Director, AVID Australia, Victoria University and Rannah Scamporlino, Education Coordinator, AVID Australia, Victoria University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The coronavirus lockdown is forcing us to view ‘screen time’ differently. That’s a good thing



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Karl Sebire, University of New England

“How would we have coped before the internet?” is a quandary likely posed by someone you know.

Beyond being a whimsical hypothetical, this question is relevant at a time when the digital age is ridiculed as the end of social skills as we know them. COVID-19 has seen society pivot, almost overnight, from real world interactions to the online space.

We have gone from mingling with colleagues, classmates and friends to being told to move our social interactions safely behind a webcam and sanitised keyboard. Internet providers and servers around the globe are being pushed to the limit as kitchen tables become boardrooms and laps become school desks.




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Thus, it is cause to reframe our views on screen time – an activity that consumes, now more than ever, a significant proportion of our day.

COVID-19’s impact on screen time

With more than 90% of Australians having a smartphone, our often pilloried devices are now more essential to daily life than ever. As people fulfil their civic duty by staying home, platforms and internet providers are facing an unprecedented surge in online activity.

Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN) has seen a daytime usage increase of 70-80%, compared to figures in February.

Demand for streaming sites across the globe has intensified, with Amazon and Netflix having to reduce video quality in some countries to handle the strain.

In March, Zoom knocked Facebook and Netflix down the Apple and Google mobile app store rankings in the US, as people sought video chat options.

Social media and video/online gaming are also flourishing.

If we’re to take anything away from the significant increase in screen time caused by this pandemic, it is that human connection in the digital age comes in many forms.




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Think of screen time as calories

We must acknowledge the umbrella term “screen time” can denote both positive and negative interactions with technology.

Think of screen time as consuming calories. All humans require calories to function. This unit of energy provides nutritional information relating to the contents of a food item, such as chocolate bar, or a carrot.

Whereas both foods contain calories, we know the carrot is a healthier source. While professionals might offer advice about which provides the most beneficial nutrition, the individual should still have agency over what they consume.

Similarly, people should be able to choose to partake in online activities not normally deemed “productive” – but which may help them through their day.
Like calories, screen time is about moderation, making responsible choices and exercising self-control.

Lockdown and locked screens

Just as there are good and bad calories, so too exist good and bad examples of screen time. It is therefore not helpful to use the overarching term “screen time” when discussing how technology use should be moderated.

An hour spent researching for an assignment is not tantamount to an hour spent watching cat videos, as the former is contributing to learning.

Also, an hour on social media chatting with friends is productive if it allows you to socialise at a time when important social interactions can’t otherwise take place (such as during lockdown). In this way, the current pandemic is not only helping shift our views on screen time – but has subtly rewritten them, too.

The coronavirus crisis may be an exercise in self-control for many of us, as we reach for our smartphones to bide idle time.
Shutterstock

Screen time does not necessarily need to be objectively “beneficial”, nor does it need to have arbitrary time limits associated with it to prevent it from being detrimental.

Appropriate use is contextual. This fact should determine how parents, teachers and policymakers moderate its use, as opposed to mandating a certain number of hours per day, and not specifying how these hours should be spent.

We must steer clear of blanket statements when it comes to critiquing screen time. Our digital diets vary significantly, just as our real diets do. Consequently, screen time should be approached with a level of flexibility.




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Fear fuels stigma

Some of the derision and concern associated with time spent on digital devices can be attributed to a fear of the new.

Swiss scientist Conrad Gessner was among the first to raise alarm over information overload, claiming an overabundance of data was “confusing and harmful” to the mind. If you’re not familiar with Gessner’s theory, it may be because he exclaimed it back in 1565, in response to the printing press.

Gessner’s warnings referred to the seemingly unmanageable flood of information unleashed by Johannes Gutenberg’s contraption. Fear of the new has permeated the debate on emerging technologies for generations.

And Gessner is not alone. From the New York Times warning in the late 1800s the telephone would invade our privacy, to concerns in the 1970s the rapid pacing of children’s shows such as Sesame Street led to distractibility – it is inherent human behaviour to be cautious about what we don’t fully understand.

Yet, many of these proclamations seem almost absurd in retrospect. What will later generations look back upon as statements fuelled by paranoia and fear, just because a new technology had disrupted the status quo?The Conversation

Karl Sebire, Researcher (Technology and education), University of New England

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coronavirus: as culture moves online, regional organisations need help bridging the digital divide


Indigo Holcombe-James, RMIT University

Museums, galleries and artist collectives around the world are shutting their doors and moving online in response to coronavirus. But engaging with audiences online requires access, skills and investment.

My research with remote Aboriginal art centres in the Northern Territory and community museums in Victoria shows moving to digital can widen the gap between urban and regional organisations.

Local spaces are vital. They ensure our national story is about more than the metropolitan, allowing artists to create – and audiences to engage with – local art and history. These art centres and museums bring communities together.

This cannot be replicated online.

Australia’s digital divide influences the ability of museums and galleries to move online, and the ability of audiences to find them there.

Cultural organisations that cannot produce digital content risk getting left behind. If we don’t support regional and rural organisations in their move online – or relieve them from this pressure entirely – we run the risk of losing them.

More than metropolitan

Community museums are critical in collecting, preserving and enabling access to local history. Across Victoria, these community organisations hold around 10 million items.

Aboriginal art centres produce some of Australia’s best contemporary art, generating A$53 million in sales between 2008 and 2012.




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Digital platforms can make these contributions to our cultural life more accessible – particularly in these times of physical distancing. But artists in remote Aboriginal art centres and volunteer retirees running community museums are the most likely to experience digital disadvantage and the most likely to be left behind.

A digital divide

Australians are more likely to be digitally excluded when Indigenous, living in remote areas, or over the age of 65.

Community collecting is under-resourced and so regional museums rely on retiree volunteers.

Over 30% of Indigenous artists practising out of art centres are over 55, and are most likely to be earning from their art over 65. These remote centres have poor access to web-capable devices and have low-quality internet connections.




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The digital divide also exists for local audiences with access issues of their own.

Although most art centres and community museums have active websites and social media accounts, these are unlikely to be truly engaging or interactive.

Art centres tend to focus their digital platforms outside the community on commercial sales. Community museums focus on information about opening hours and events. They rarely have the expertise or capacity to create detailed online catalogues for audiences.

Exclusionary consequences

Cultural participation is fragmented along demographic and geographic lines. Cities house the majority of our major institutions, with city dwellers dominating visitation.

Digital inequality ensures barriers remain even for online collections. Regional and rural organisations are unlikely to have the specific skills, resourcing and devices to move fully online.

Under social distancing, cultural organisations that cannot produce digital content risk being left behind. This will disproportionately impact regional and rural organisations.

These organisations are critical for preserving the diversity of Australian stories. Aboriginal art centres and community museums provide spaces where the local is solidified. Communities are formed, documented, responded to and shared.

If these organisations cannot host the same web presence as major metropolitan institutions, even local audiences could divert their attention to the cities. Our local cultural organisations might go the way of our disappearing regional newspapers.

To survive the coming months, these organisations need targeted support to move online. Or a reprieve from the pressure to be completely digitally accessible: not all cultural consumption can happen online.

These physical community spaces will be more important than ever once social isolation rules are lifted.The Conversation

Indigo Holcombe-James, Sessional academic, School of Media and Communications, RMIT University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

‘Click for urgent coronavirus update’: how working from home may be exposing us to cybercrime


Craig Valli, Edith Cowan University

Apart from the obvious health and economic impacts, the coronavirus also presents a major opportunity for cybercriminals.

As staff across sectors and university students shift to working and studying from home, large organisations are at increased risk of being targeted. With defences down, companies should go the extra mile to protect their business networks and employees at such a precarious time.

Reports suggest hackers are already exploiting remote workers, luring them into online scams masquerading as important information related to the pandemic.

On Friday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch reported that since January 1 it had received 94 reports of coronavirus-related scams, and this figure could rise.

As COVID-19 causes a spike in telework, teleheath and online education, cybercriminals have fewer hurdles to jump in gaining access to networks.

High-speed access theft

The National Broadband Network’s infrastructure has afforded many Australians access to higher-speed internet, compared with DSL connections. Unfortunately this also gives cybercriminals high-speed access to Australian homes, letting them rapidly extract personal and financial details from victims.

The shift to working from home means many people are using home computers, instead of more secure corporate-supplied devices. This provides criminals relatively easy access to corporate documents, trade secrets and financial information.




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Instead of attacking a corporation’s network, which would likely be secured with advanced cybersecurity countermeasures and tracking, they now simply have to locate and attack the employee’s home network. This means less chance of discovery.

Beware cryptolocker attacks

Cryptolocker-based attacks are an advanced cyberattack that can bypass many traditional countermeasures, including antivirus software. This is because they’re designed and built by advanced cybercriminals.

Most infections from a cryptolocker virus happen when people open unknown attachments, sent in malicious emails.

In some cases, the attack can be traced to nation state actors. One example is the infamous WannaCry cyberattack, which deployed malware (software designed to cause harm) that encrypted computers in more than 150 countries. The hackers, supposedly from North Korea, demanded cryptocurrency in exchange for unlocking them.

If an employee working from home accidentally activates cryptolocker malware while browsing the internet or reading an email, this could first take out the home network, then spread to the corporate network, and to other attached home networks.

This can happen if their device is connected to the workplace network via a Virtual Private Network (VPN). This makes the home device an extension of the corporate network, and the virus can bypass any advanced barriers the corporate network may have.




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If devices are attached to a network that has been infected and not completely cleaned, the contaminant can rapidly spread again and again. In fact, a single device that isn’t cleaned properly can cause millions of dollars in damage. This happened during the 2016 Petya and NotPetya malware attack.

Encryption: not a cryptic concept

On the bright side, there are some steps organisations and employees can take to protect their digital assets from opportunistic criminal activity.

Encryption is a key weapon in this fight. This security method protects files and network communications by methodically “scrambling” the contents using an algorithm. The receiving party is given a key to unscramble, or “decrypt”, the information.

With remote work booming, encryption should be enabled for files on hard drives and USB sticks that contain sensitive information.

Enabling encryption on a Windows or Apple device is also simple. And don’t forget to backup your encryption keys when prompted onto a USB drive, and store them in a safe place such as a locked cabinet, or off site.

VPNs help close the loop

A VPN should be used at all times when connected to WiFi, even at home. This tool helps mask your online activity and location, by routing outgoing and incoming data through a secure “virtual tunnel” between your computer and the VPN server.

Existing WiFi access protocols (WEP, WPA, WPA2) are insecure when being used to transmit sensitive data. Without a VPN, cybercriminals can more easily intercept and retrieve data.

VPN is already functional in Windows and Apple devices. Most reputable antivirus internet protection suites incorporate them.

It’s also important that businesses and organisations encourage remote employees to use the best malware and antiviral protections on their home systems, even if this comes at the organisation’s expense.

Backup, backup, backup

People often backup their files on a home computer, personal phone or tablet. There is significant risk in doing this with corporate documents and sensitive digital files.

When working from home, sensitive material can be stored in a location unknown to the organisation. This could be a cloud location (such as iCloud, Google Cloud, or Dropbox), or via backup software the user owns or uses. Files stored in these locations may not protected under Australian laws.




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Businesses choosing to save files on the cloud, on an external hard drive or on a home computer need to identify backup regimes that fit the risk profile of their business. Essentially, if you don’t allow files to be saved on a computer’s hard drive at work, and use the cloud exclusively, the same level of protection should apply when working from home.

Appropriate backups must observed by all remote workers, along with standard cybersecurity measures such as firewall, encryption, VPN and antivirus software. Only then can we rely on some level of protection at a time when cybercriminals are desperate to profit.The Conversation

Craig Valli, Director of ECU Security Research Institute, Edith Cowan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.