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October 19, 2017

Category: internet

July 6, 2017

Using Browser plugin to crowdsource against fake images

by viggy — Categories: internet, social, software, tech — Tags: , , , , Leave a comment

Recently we have seen an exponential increase in circulation of fake news and images. Fake images play a major role as with some simple image editting, a completely different context can be conveyed. This menace has been used by various political parties to spread their propaganda.
With Google Image search being so powerful, I propose that it should be possible to use a browser plugin to verify the originality of the image. We can use Google Image Search to find other sources where the image is used and hence get different contexts of the image. Once this is developed, a repository of responses from the users may be created where they can easily report images which they feel are being used in wrong context on a particular website. As this repository improves, what we will see is that most of the images can be captured in the repository so that for the same image, we do not have to depend on Google Image Search everytime but rather use the repository itself.

Let us now look at how a common user would use the plugin.
A user who has the plugin installed browses a webpage with different images on it. Suppose he/she is interested in understanding the source of the image, the user right clicks on the image and selects the option, “Search For Source”. Initially, this should cause a Google Image Search Query and the results along with the websource of the images found should be displayed in a dailog box. The user should be given an option of reporting the image as original or fake based on the results shown along with option of marking what the user thinks is the original source of the image along with some comments.
This usecase seems to be a good starting point to release the plugin as version 1.

In the next version, we should be able to first look at the repository of all the reported images and give a much better information about the image based on all previous reportings of the image. As the community grows, we would ofcourse want moderation of reportings to ensure that false reportings by the very people spreading false news is avoided. An open structure similar to Wikipedia would be needed to ensure a fair community is developed to keep the system unbiased and trustworthy.
An API of the repository can also be created so that social networking sites and messaging platforms can develop support in their platform so that when images are shared on their platform, users automatically get the information from the repository. For example, a simple bot for telegram messaging platform can be developed which can be asked to show the information from the repository based on a certain command when a image is shared in a group. Ofcourse we need to ensure that private images from people’s chat is not shared in the repository and necessary checks and balances are put in place for the same.

December 30, 2015

Let us not ignore GoogleWebLight, another walled garden in the name of faster web content

by viggy — Categories: internet, social — Tags: , , , Leave a comment

Free Basics is evil but let us not ignore GoogleWebLight. It is a new firewall to the internet, one which centralizes the entry to the internet, tries to capture all the data with user privacy completely sacrificed. All this with a sugar coating of fast access to web content.
On the evil side of the digital world, now there are two gaints competing against each other on who can raise to the supreme position of ‘read-everything, know-all’ gaint. The end goal is very simple, understanding the user very personally for successful targeted advertisement. The battle that netizens/hacktivists are fighting against Free Basics from Facebook to protect NetNeutrality has received lot of attention and clearly we will find its results in due course. The battle is intense with Facebook having put gone full force to the extent that it even started attacking the NetNeutrality supporters directly in its full page print media ads about Free Basics.

However, the other gaint has been playing the more silent battle and winning quiet remarkably. Seriously, in terms of capturing the market and looking at the long term goals, Facebook can easily learn some major lessons from Google. Let us look at how an average internet user browses internet in India. There are lot of studies which show that smartphones are the basic device with which majority of internet users in India browse internet. This market is completely captured by the Android Operating System controlled by Google. In this, Chrome and the default Android Browser seem to the major browser that the user uses to browse, again both of which are controlled by Google.

Now since this was not enough, Google has added the feature in Chrome which redirects user to its own site, GoogleWebLight if it detects that the user has a slow internet and then loads the webpage within GoogleWebLight. This it suggests is to improve the speed with which the site is loaded. It naturally tries to remove the Javascript and CSS, may be some heavy images. Whether the site loads faster, maybe debatable, the fact that now Google is now redirecting all the users to its own site, instead of sending the user directly to the site which the user clicked seems completely against privacy of the user, breaks the internet as all the hyperlinks are now modified to redirect user to GoogleWebLight and also kind of acts like a firewall to the internet.

There is no doubt that large section of internet users in India are using internet through a slow connection. Hence there is need for a solution which helps to load the content faster and also such that their data usage is limited. But is redirecting the user to some other site such that the site which user intended to visit is embedded in the new site is definitely not the best design, infact it seems to be a very bad design. One simpler suggestion could just have been using a Chrome browser addons which disables loading of certain type of web elements when loading a site on the browser. Another way could have been developing a standard which encourages website developers to also have a site for slow internet users.

From the perspective of a website developer, GoogleWebLight is evil because now I have no idea how my website will be shown to the user. It seems you can add a meta tag to disable loading of the site through GoogleWebLight but then Chrome shows a warning to the user that ‘This page is slow to load’ or something to that effect. Definitely not something which I want my user to see while waiting for my page to load.

Overall, it is important for us to be careful on how GoogleWebLight evolves and as hacktivists, we need to come up with better ways to ensure that people with slow internet connection get better experience browsing internet.

April 13, 2015

Wikipedia(0) – free first dose of the drugs

by viggy — Categories: FOSS, FSMK, internet — Tags: , , , , Leave a comment

Free First Dose of the drugs

Free First Dose of the drugs

Access to knowledge is one of the crucial factors for growth of a human being and internet has ensured that access to knowledge to any human across the globe is possible. However lot of the knowledge is still blocked behind artifical economic blockade. Wikipedia is one of the best example of how Internet has helped liberate knowledge from clutches of a few priviliged with resources to make it available for the commons. What makes this possible over internet which was not possible by traditional means of communication is the peer to peer nature of the internet along with free flow of data across different entities over the network without any discrimination. If a user intends to access Wikipedia site, the fact that his request to the server will be treated in the same way as millions of other request travelling over the internet ensures that he gets the same level of service like anyone else over the internet.

However sadly this is not the same anymore. The very essence of internet that “All Bits are Equal” is now being broken and sadly Wikipedia is in the forefront of breaking it. In their blog explaining their stand and viewpoint on NetNeutrality, they try to make a stand that since their agreement with Telecos is not a commercial program, they can be excused for breaking NetNeutrality.

One of the fundamental problem in the Wikipedia’s approach in this case is the idea that Wikipedia is knowledge as an independent entity and hence giving access to it in places very there is lot of scarcity of the same is atleast some improvement. This is true only partially. Yes, Wikipedia is a great source of knowledge but it is also a small source of knowledge as compared to the whole internet and wikipedia alone cannot suffice. It is good to start with but can hardly be the sufficient enough. Wikipedia themselves ask users not to rely on their information and ask users to verify it by going through the references and looking at other sources also. This is why I believe Wikipedia Zero is the free first dose of the drug which is very convinient for the telecos, not so much for the users. There is no doubt that Wikipedia has real impact but so is also access to social networking site and messaging apps. In this case, being non-commercial does not necessarily matter. Imagine a class of students having free access to Whatsapp so that they can now all interact with class mates and teachers anytime. Imagine thousands of students interacting with each other across the world over Facebook and organizing a MOOC over it. Wonderful things are possible with access to different platforms but at the heart of it is access to internet, not one site, not few sites but all sites.

Infact Wikipedia Zero breaks Wikipedia itself as it sees its users only as readers and not as editors. The blog did give an example of a Nepali editor but how can someone edit Wikipedia articles without proper references pointing to other sites. If so, how does he access other sites on Wikipedia Zero? I am not clear on this.

Again heart of all this is the issue with access to internet and by leaving it in hands of for-profit entities, both government and private, we have just put one of the best creation of mankind into the merciless competition market. In my opinion, what Wikipedia actually needs to do is strive for more community owned infrastructure, either as community owned mesh networks like or as community owned fiber-network like Chattanooga. It is time Wikipedia works on liberating internet itself by making use of the power of the community like it did for the knowledge and this is something it is already good at.

Even if it wants to work with Telecos, the emphasize and the discussion has to be on giving limited access to whole of internet rather than unlimited access to few sites.

I understand that since I am not the student in far fledged town in Africa or someone with very poor internet penetration like in Nepal, I may not be able to appreciate what they would when they get even basic access to Wikipedia free of cost. However the fact that their understanding of internet will be very limited and restricted is also dangerous. It sets a very dangerous pathway in such regions as the logical next step to exploit the user is to start offering access to other limited services at very basic charges and so on. Hence the title I use here that Wikipedia Zero is the free first dose of the drugs.

March 30, 2015

My mail to TRAI about NetNeutrality

by viggy — Categories: discussion, FSMK, internet — Tags: , , 1 Comment
Following is the content of that mail that I sent to TRAI( with my views on NetNeutrality.
I would encourage people to copy/paste and send the same content or improvise it and send it to TRAI and express their support for NetNeutrality.

Last two-three decades have shown us the power of people communicating
to each other independently, peer to peer over the internet. The world
of Free Software, Wikipedia, Khanacademy, MOOCs(Massive Open Online
Courses),, to name a few would not have been possible had
people not been able to express, share, and spread their views over
internet. Internet has made it possible to decentralize knowledge and
make it accessible to people across the world.

On similar lines, Facebook, Gmail, Whatsapp, are just few examples of
how corporates have made use of internet and made available platforms to
enable people to communicate easily with very little technical
knowledge. They have come up with own business models across this also.

But though all these are the major and well known players in the
internet world, they just form a very small part of the actual internet
world. Internet comprises of millions of websites, each trying to
communicate some idea to its viewers. Like Facebook provides a platform
to communicate with your friends, a blogger like Avijit Roy may use his
blog as a platform to spread his views on religion. Like Gmail provides
mailing service, may provide mailing list services to
activists organizations. Whatsapp may provide services for people to
chat using their mobile, where as TOR may be used by people to browse
internet anonymously.

All of these wide range of
entities(individuals/organizations/corporates) are making use of
internet in their own way. Calling only a few of them OTT(Over The Top)
Service would definitely be wrong as each entity provides some or other
service. Some may make money over donations, some others by displaying
ads and some by selling ads. However that should not be a reason to
differentiate their content or service over the internet.

All of the content over internet should be treated equally irrespective
of how they are accessed, used or monetized. I would request government
of India not to take steps towards breaking fundamental aspects of
internet which is one of the humanity's greatest invention. Net
Neutrality is a must for future of Internet.


Vignesh Prabhu
Student, UVCE,
Volunteer, FSMK

August 21, 2014

The Boat that rocked and the people who didnt stand up to it

by viggy — Categories: experience, FSMK, internet, social — Tags: , , , , Leave a comment

The boat that rocked is a great movie and Philip Seymour Hoffman has acted wonderfully in the same. What got my interest mainly in the movie is how few politicians who were against the concept of Pop and Rock music were able to come up with legislation that made the boat illegal and yet people instead of standing against it, were just feeling sad and disgusted about the government. The movie at starting states how more than half of the population were interested in Pop and Rock Music and how the Pirate Radio helped to cater to their interest. If you go by market rules, it would mean that this was tremendous market and it would mean many companies would be competing for the same market. However it doesnt seem so. The Pirate Radio was the only one in the market to cater to such a large audience and more importantly it was due to some reason an underground activity. Listening to Pop and Rock music seemed to be something bad even though more than half of the population was doing it. Sounds absurd right?

What is more absurd is that all the politicians in the government decide that this should be stopped and they come up with some bad legislation to put an end to the Pirate Radio by making it illegal and announce the date since it will be applied. So what is the most logical thing to do when government comes up with absurd laws which you do not agree with? Stand up against it? In this movie, The Pirate Radio tries to escape from running away because they felt that there was some brilliant and easy way to do it. Not only that, people also keep crying in front of their radio, trying to justify to themselves that Pirate Radio very soon will be gone. Why didnt anybody go to street and fight against it? Well this was in around 1966.

Come to 2014, close to 50 years later. We are told about Mass Surveillance on Internet. We are told government is doing it. We are told there are absurd laws made by government to justify it. And yet people are not coming to streets? Almost everybody uses internet nowadays. Most of your intimate stuff is online, shared with others. Yet nobody seems to care that few politicians are coming up with absurd laws to govern internet and make things illegal just because they cant control it.

Take for example, the state of Karnataka in India. Our Legislators just passed an amendment to an Act which says that if you are a digital offender who causes public disorder, then you are liable for preventive detention under Goonda Act, a draconian act which our constitution allows to ensure public order. This is the definition of “digital offender” as per the amendment. “’Digital Offenders’ means “any person who knowingly or deliberately violates, for commercial purposes, any copyright law in relation to any book, music, film, software, artistic or scientific work and also includes any person who illegally enters through the identity of another user and illegally uses any computer or digital network for pecuniary gain for himself or any other person or commits any of the offences specified under sections 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74 and 75 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.””

Right, so if you download a movie from torrent, ebook from internet or a photo from flickr and use it for your commercial purpose, you are the Goonda and hence you can be taken into custody. Not only that, you wont be able to fight a case for 90 days which can be extended upto 1 year. Icing on the cake is that Bangalore, which is the capital city of the state of Karnataka is called the IT Capital of India. With the growth of cheap smartphones in the market, almost everybody has phones which are used to listen to songs. Hearing to a bollywood song while moving in a BMTC bus which is being played loudly by a passenger’s phone is a very common thing. So everybody actually breaks copyright law, it is almost taken for granted and yet nobody seem to find it absurd to bring it under something as draconian as Goonda Act. We at FSMK along with other likeminded organizations like PUCL, ALF are planning some activities to sensitize public around this topic. Hopefuly unlike in the movie, our people will stand up against such absurd laws and force the government to revert it.