U.S. regulators on Thursday will begin to review the specifics of a new set of so-called "net neutrality" rules aimed at making certain that broadband providers do not slow down or block consumers' access to legal Internet content or applications. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler on Wednesday said he plans to circulate his new proposal for the rules, expected to ensure that network operators disclose exactly how they manage Internet traffic and do not restrict consumers as they surf the Web. Wheeler has in the past indicated that the new net neutrality rules were not expected to address the issue of interconnectivity, or agreements in which content companies pay network providers for faster access to their sites or services. The issue of interconnectivity was recently brought into the spotlight by a tussle between video streaming service Netflix Inc and cable company Comcast Corp. The five-member regulatory commission may vote as soon as May to formally propose the rules and collect public comment on them.
Amazon will begin streaming some HBO shows to its premium customers next month, the companies said on Wednesday, in a move that could lure subscribers away from Netflix Inc, a company they both compete with. The companies said this was the first time HBO, the premium cable channel owned by Time Warner Inc, had licensed its programming to an online subscription streaming service. HBO shows are not available through Netflix. Netflix shares fell 4.9 percent to $354.54.
By Esteban Israel SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff praised the United States on Wednesday for its decision to ease control over the Internet and called for a more democratic, transparent network following the U.S. National Security Agency spying scandal. Rousseff spoke at a global conference she convened on how to govern a safer, less U.S.-centered Internet after revelations that she and other world leaders had been spied upon by the NSA. "I salute the U.S. government's recently announced plan to replace its links to IANA and ICANN with a global management of those institutions," she added, referring to the U.S.-based bodies in charge of assigning Internet domains or addresses. Revelations last year by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden that the United States spied on Internet users with secret programs prompted worldwide calls for reduced U.S. control over the network now connecting one-third of the world's population.
By Chris Francescani NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York Police Department campaign to burnish its image via social media instead produced a flood of pictures of police brutality and tweets critical of the force being shared at a rate of thousands an hour. The department on Tuesday afternoon invited Twitter users to submit pictures of themselves with NYPD cops using the hashtag #mynypd, promising some would be posted to the NYPD Facebook page. Within hours, a torrent of images depicting police brutality, violence and controversial tactics, most of which occurred under former New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, deluged Twitter. At 7 a.m. Wednesday, the #mynypd hashtag was still pinballing through cyberspace at a rate of 3,400 an hour, according to hashtags.org, a Twitter analytics website.
By Anthony Boadle BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's Senate unanimously approved groundbreaking legislation on Tuesday that guarantees equal access to the Internet and protects the privacy of Brazilian users in the wake of U.S. spying revelations. President Dilma Rousseff, who was the target of U.S. espionage according to documents leaked by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden, plans to sign the bill into law. The legislation, dubbed Brazil's "Internet Constitution," has been hailed by experts, such as the British physicist and World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, for balancing the rights and duties of users, governments and corporations while ensuring the Internet continues to be an open and decentralized network. To guarantee passage of the bill, Rousseff´s government had to drop a contentious provision that would have forced global Internet companies to store data on their Brazilian users on data center servers inside the country.
By Esteban Israel and Anthony Boadle SAO PAULO/BRASILIA (Reuters) - A global conference in Brazil on the future of the Internet in the wake of U.S. spying revelations might be much less anti-American than first thought after Washington said it was willing to loosen its control over the Web. Bowing to the demands of Brazil and other nations following revelations last year of its massive electronic surveillance of Internet users, the United States has agreed to relinquish oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned of Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit group based in California that assigns Internet domain names or addresses. "The focus has changed from a political reaction to the NSA allegations to one of more constructive criticism and talk about the future of the Internet," said William Beer, a cyber security expert based in Sao Paulo.
By Marina Lopes NEW YORK (Reuters) - AT&T Inc said Tuesday it would partner with The Chernin Group media holding company to invest $500 million in a joint venture for web-based video services, making it the latest company aiming to tap the growing consumer demand for online video. The move follows announcements by Verizon Communications, Disney and Dish Network Corp which have plans to roll out video products outside a traditional TV subscription. Chernin Group, former News Corp president Peter Chernin's holding company, produces films and TV shows, and has a stake in Crunchyroll, a subscription and video-on-demand service. "AT&T's massive reach on those platforms across mobile and broadband and their commitment to the online video space make them the perfect fit for this venture with us," Chernin said.
After several months of rumors and reports of setbacks due to local regulations, plans to launch in France and Germany were indirectly confirmed by a Netflix executive. On an investor's call regarding Netflix's quarterly financial results, the company's Chief Content Officer and Vice President Ted Sarandos was questioned by JPMorgan analyst Doug Anmuth on whether Netflix would consider launching in new markets, "for example, France and Germany," if the company did not have the rights to all of its original content there. "And we will also have shows that we are premiering in France and Germany and other markets around Europe that we won't necessarily have in the United States." Rumors suggest that Netflix could arrive in the two countries as soon as this fall.
(Reuters) - Netflix Inc's planned price hikes will allow it to spend more to produce more original content that will help it attract more customers globally, analysts said, as many of them raised their price targets on the stock. Netflix's shares rose more than 9 percent in early trading on Tuesday after the company unveiled plans to increase prices and reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit. At least seven brokerages raised their price targets on the stock. Raymond James and Cantor Fitzgerald upgraded the stock to their equivalent of a "buy" rating, citing strong growth prospects from international markets.
(This story changes Mandalah description in the 30th paragraph, company name in the 31st paragraph) By Sophie Knight TOKYO (Reuters) - In June 2011, when customers of now-bankrupt bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox agitated for proof that the Tokyo-based firm was still solvent after a hacking attack, CEO Mark Karpeles turned to the comedy science fiction novel "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy". During an online chat, Karpeles moved the equivalent of $170 million in bitcoin at today's market rates - the virtual equivalent of a bank manager flashing a wad of cash in a wallet to establish credit. The gesture - with a sly wink to the "geek" culture Karpeles believed he shared with many of his 50,000 customers at the time, including an interest in coding, Japanese manga comics and science fiction - succeeded. By moving 424,242 bitcoins, Karpeles, then 26, evoked the random number, 42, described as the "meaning of life" in Douglas Adams' sci-fi novel.
By Joseph Menn SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Hacking for espionage purposes is sharply increasing, with groups or national governments from Eastern Europe playing a growing role, according to one of the most comprehensive annual studies of computer intrusions. Spying intrusions traced back to any country in 2013 were blamed on residents of China and other East Asian nations 49 percent of the time, but Eastern European countries, especially Russian-speaking nations, were the suspected launching site for 21 percent of breaches, Verizon Communications Inc's said in its annual Data Breach Investigations Report. Though the overall number of spying incidents studied tripled to 511 from total in the 2013 Verizon report, most of that increase is due to the addition of new data sources. Even looking at just the same contributors as before, however, espionage cases grew, said Verizon investigator Bryan Sartin.
By Lisa Richwine LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Video streaming service Netflix Inc said it intends to raise the monthly subscription price for new customers by $1 or $2 a month to help the company buy more movies and TV shows and improve service for its 48 million global subscribers. Investors welcomed the announcement by Netflix, which had suffered from a consumer exodus and stock plunge after it announced an unpopular price increase in July 2011. Chief Executive Reed Hastings said Netflix had improved its selection of TV shows and movies and added original series like critically acclaimed Kevin Spacey thriller "House of Cards." With added revenue from higher prices, "we will be able to license much more content and deliver it in very high quality video," Hastings said on a webcast. Netflix has "room to raise prices," FBN Securities analyst Shebly Seyrafi said, because "they're still seeing a lot of demand" for the service.
By Marina Lopes NEW YORK (Reuters) - Netflix Inc, the video streaming service, on Monday criticized AT&T's high-speed fiber network as inadequate and slow, while renewing its call for AT&T to interconnect directly with Netflix. Netflix made the remarks in a letter to shareholders on its first-quarter results. The company has been calling for greater protections for open Internet rules, also known as net neutrality, which require Internet service providers to give consumers equal access to all lawful content without restrictions or tiered charges. Netflix, in a letter signed by its chief executive, Reed Hastings, and chief financial officer, David Wells, said AT&T's fiber-based U-verse service has "lower performance than many DSL" Internet service providers.
By Curtis Skinner NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two-thirds of the New York City listings on Airbnb, a popular online home rental marketplace, could be illegal, the state attorney general said on Monday in his latest move investigating the venture. State law forbids subletting apartments for fewer than 30 days if residents are not present, yet 64 percent of Airbnb listings offer entire apartments and nearly all have minimum stays of less than a month, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office said in a court filing. Schneiderman opened an investigation last year into Airbnb, a Silicon Valley venture capital-backed website that lets people put up spare rooms or couches for rent. "Airbnb is simply looking out for its bottom line at the expense of a law that protects quality of life for building residents and safety for tourists," Attorney General spokesman Matt Mittenthal said in an emailed statement.
By Jonathan Stempel NEW YORK (Reuters) - Twitter Inc has won the dismissal of an unusual lawsuit accusing the social media company of fraudulently arranging a private stock sale it never intended to complete, with a goal of stoking interest in its November 2013 initial public offering. U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan said Precedo Capital Group Inc and Continental Advisors SA failed to show that Twitter was responsible for the cancellation of a secondary market offering they had been arranging with another firm, GSV Asset Management Inc. Filed one week before Twitter went public, the $124 million lawsuit accused the company of using GSV as its agent to arrange the aborted offering as a means to raise more money in its eagerly awaited IPO and justify a $10 billion market valuation. Noting the plaintiffs dealt directly with GSV and never with Twitter, however, Scheindlin said the complaint "does not plausibly allege that Twitter granted GSV Asset express authority to act as its agent for any purpose.
Not sure if friends would want to venture to a new cafe or bar? Superb, an iPhone app that launched last week, lets users create lists of popular places they would like to visit and shows them a list of other people who would also like to go there. "It's all about hanging out in the real world and getting offline, and the best way to do that is to know where people want to go," said Eddy Lu, co-founder and chief executive of Venice, California-based Superb. It also reveals friends who would like to visit a venue.
By Sophie Knight TOKYO (Reuters) - In June 2011, when customers of now-bankrupt bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox agitated for proof that the Tokyo-based firm was still solvent after a hacking attack, CEO Mark Karpeles turned to the comedy science fiction novel "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy". During an online chat, Karpeles moved the equivalent of $170 million in bitcoin at today's market rates - the virtual equivalent of a bank manager flashing a wad of cash in a wallet to establish credit. The gesture - with a sly wink to the "geek" culture Karpeles believed he shared with many of his 50,000 customers at the time, including an interest in coding, Japanese manga comics and science fiction - succeeded. By moving 424,242 bitcoins, Karpeles, then 26, evoked the random number, 42, described as the "meaning of life" in Douglas Adams' sci-fi novel.
China has shut down more than 100 websites carrying pornography and closed thousands of accounts on social media sites in an re-newed effort to clean up the internet, state media reported. The campaign, named "Cleaning the Web 2014", was launched in response to the spread of online pornography despite repeated bans, according to a circular issued by the National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications. Pornography is illegal in China, but some overseas critics are concerned that the crackdown on material deemed obscene is the latest government attempt to tighten its grip on the internet and will be used in broader censorship of websites. In the latest drive, authorities have closed 110 websites and more than 3,300 accounts on China-based social networking services, and deleted more than 200,000 items containing pornography since January, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday.
By Orhan Coskun ANKARA (Reuters) - Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan applied to Turkey's constitutional court on Friday to challenge the alleged violation of his and his family's rights by social media, a senior official in his office told Reuters. Erdogan's government blocked Twitter and YouTube in March, drawing international condemnation, after audio recordings, purportedly showing corruption in his inner circle, were leaked on their sites. The Twitter block was lifted earlier this month after the constitutional court ruled that it breached freedom of expression, a decision Erdogan has since said was wrong and should be overturned. YouTube remains blocked in Turkey.
The trailer for the second season of "Orange is the New Black" is released, Robert Pattinson sheds his Hollywood hearthtrob image for gritty new Australian thriller "The Rover," and viewers learn 10 things they never knew about Sonic the Hedgehog.
The uproar surrounding the National Security Agency's Prism program, in which the US government collected data from citizens' webmail and social network accounts, has led to the development of encrypted alternatives to Gmail, Hotmail and other popular messaging services. Known only to a small set of users in the past, solutions for enhanced data security are now beginning to hit the mainstream. But ever since Edward Snowden's revelations on the NSA's Prism surveillance program, a wider set of users are looking for more confidential communication services than the ones that have already proven vulnerable to the US government's prying eyes (Yahoo!, Gmail, Hotmail, etc.). Lavaboom, a new free webmail service out of Germany, guarantees that all a users' emails are encrypted and that accounts are impenetrable to spying by any organization.
Facebook on Thursday began rolling out a feature allowing users of its mobile app to use smartphone location to discover friends near them. The optional "nearby friends" feature "helps you discover which friends are nearby or on the go," said product manager Andrea Vaccari in a blog announcement. "If you turn on Nearby Friends, you'll occasionally be notified when friends are nearby, so you can get in touch with them and meet up," Vaccari said. "For example, when you're headed to the movies, Nearby Friends will let you know if friends are nearby so you can see the movie together or meet up afterward."
By Dan Levine SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Thursday rejected a request by patent consortium Rockstar to transfer patent litigation from Google Inc's home turf in California to Texas, according to a court ruling. Rockstar, which counts Apple Inc as an investor, outbid Google and paid $4.5 billion for thousands of former Nortel Network Corp patents as the networking products supplier went bankrupt in 2011. Last year, the consortium sued several handset manufacturers whose phones operate on Google's Android operating system, which fiercely competes with Apple mobile products.