Tech

  • Commission sends preliminary findings to X for DSA breach

    X logoToday the EU Commission has informed X – the declining social media platform formerly known as Twitter – of its preliminary view that the company is in breach of the Digital Services Act (DSA) in areas linked to dark patterns, advertising transparency and data access for researchers.

    Based on an in-depth investigation that included, inter alia, the analysis of internal company documents, interviews with experts, as well as cooperation with national Digital Services Coordinators, the Commission has issued preliminary findings of non-compliance with the DSA on three grievances:

    • First, X designs and operates its interface for the “verified accounts” with the “Blue checkmark” in a way that does not correspond to industry practice and deceives users. Since anyone can subscribe to obtain such a “verified” status, it negatively affects users’ ability to make free and informed decisions about the authenticity of the accounts and the content they interact with. There is evidence of motivated malicious actors abusing the “verified account” to deceive users.

    • Second, X does not comply with the required transparency on advertising, as it does not provide a searchable and reliable advertisement repository, but instead put in place design features and access barriers that make the repository unfit for its transparency purpose towards users. In particular, the design does not allow for the required supervision and research into emerging risks brought about by the distribution of advertising online.

    • Third, X fails to provide access to its public data to researchers in line with the conditions set out in the DSA. In particular, X prohibits eligible researchers from independently accessing its public data, such as by scraping, as stated in its terms of service. In addition, X’s process to grant eligible researchers access to its application programming interface (API) appears to dissuade researchers from carrying out their research projects or leave them with no other choice than to pay disproportionally high fees.

    If the Commission’s preliminary views were to be confirmed, the Commission would adopt a non-compliance decision finding that X is in breach of Articles 25, 39 and 40(12) of the DS, which could entail fines of up to 6% of X’s total worldwide annual turnover and order the provider to take measures to address the breach. A non-compliance decision may also trigger an enhanced supervision period to ensure compliance with the measures the provider intends to take to remedy the breach. The Commission can also impose periodic penalty payments to compel a platform to comply.

    Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market said:

    Back in the day, BlueChecks used to mean trustworthy sources of information. Now with X, our preliminary view is that they deceive users and infringe the DSA. We also consider that X’s ads repository and conditions for data access by researchers are not in line with the DSA transparency requirements. X has now the right of defence — but if our view is confirmed we will impose fines and require significant changes.
  • Scamming the scammer

    Behind its paywall, the Daily Telegraph carries a story about a scam to con the already gullible, Reform UK Party Ltd ‘members’. A non-paywalled version of the article can be read here.

    Headline Reform UK warns members over Nigel Farage online scam

    The pretend political party (it’s actually a limited company in which dodgy former MEP Nigel Farage is the majority shareholder. Ed.) issued an emergency email on Thursday evening after a fraudulent Telegram account bearing Mr Farage’s name told members to donate £200 to it to become a “VIP member” of the party.

    A spokesperson for the party company has said the following:
    At present we are only aware that this scammer is working on Telegram, however we are acutely aware that they could be operating on various other social media and messaging platforms.

    And.

    This is a criminal fraudulent endeavour and we are getting in touch with Telegram and the police to have it shut down.

    Your ‘umble scribe would add that anyone foolish enough to have handed money to a charlatan like Farage has already been scammed.

  • Microsoft in trouble with EU Commission… again

    EU Commission logoThe European Commission website has today published a press release stating that the Commission has informed Microsoft of its preliminary view that Microsoft has breached EU anti-competition regulations by tying its communication and collaboration product Teams to its popular productivity applications included in its Office 365 and Microsoft 365 business suites.

    Teams logoTeams is a cloud-based communication and collaboration tool. It offers functionalities such as messaging, calling, video meetings and file sharing; it brings together Microsoft’s and third-party workplace tools and other applications.

    In its investigation, the Commission found that Microsoft is dominant worldwide in the market for SaaS productivity applications for professional use. Since at least April 2019, Microsoft has been tying Teams with its core SaaS productivity applications, thereby restricting competition on the market for communication and collaboration products and defending its market position in productivity software and its suites-centric model from competing suppliers of individual software.

    In particular, the Commission is concerned that Microsoft may have granted Teams a distribution advantage by not giving customers the choice of whether or not to acquire access to Teams when they subscribe to MS’ SaaS productivity applications. This advantage may have been further exacerbated by interoperability limitations between Teams’ competitors and Microsoft’s offerings. The conduct may have prevented Teams’ rivals from competing, and in turn innovating, to the detriment of customers in the European Economic Area.

    If confirmed, these practices would infringe Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (‘TFEU’), which prohibits the abuse of a dominant market position.

    After the Commission opened proceedings in July 2023, Microsoft introduced changes in the way it distributes Teams, particularly by starting to offer some suites without Teams. The Commission preliminarily finds that these changes are insufficient to address its concerns and that more changes to Microsoft’s conduct are necessary to restore competition.

    Speaking about the Commission’s decision, Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President in charge of competition policy, said:

    We are concerned that Microsoft may be giving its own communication product Teams an undue advantage over competitors, by tying it to its popular productivity suites for businesses. And preserving competition for remote communication and collaboration tools is essential as it also fosters innovation on these markets. If confirmed, Microsoft’s conduct would be illegal under our competition rules. Microsoft now has the opportunity to reply to our concerns.

    In 2007 the Commission initiated legal proceedings against Microsoft for abuse of its dominant position in the market. The case started as a complaint from Sun Microsystems over Microsoft’s licensing practices in 1993 and eventually resulted in the EU ordering Microsoft to divulge certain information about its server products and release a version of Microsoft Windows without Windows Media Player. The European Commission focused especially on interoperability – characteristic of a product or system to work with other products or systems.

  • LibreOffice Impress 24.2 guide released

    The blog of The Document Foundation reports that a new guide has been released for the Impress presentation component of LibreOffice 24.2, the latest release of this popular free and open source office suite.

    The updated guide itself was co-ordinated by Peter Schofield, with assistance of Olivier Hallot and B. Antonio Fernandez. It is based on the Impress Guide 7.6, the last release under the old version numbering system.

    LibreOffice 24.2 guides for Writer, Calc and Impress

    The guide is available for immediate download in PDF format. It is also available in HTML format for reading online, as well as in source format (OpenDocument Format). The Impress guide will also be available from LuLu Inc as a printed book.

    The Impress guide can be downloaded from the documentation websites at documentation.libreoffice.org and the bookshelf at books.libreoffice.org.

  • X Man: thin skin meets humour

    The excessively wealthy man-baby commonly known as Elon Musk is a well-known egotist.

    However, Musk, who has recently been awarded a massive and unwarranted boost to his already considerable riches by Tesla shareholders, has another asset that is less well-known, namely an excessively thin skin.

    Whilst Musk is a deeply unpleasant character who will not hesitate to insult others, once famously calling one of the rescuers of a boys football team trapped in a Thai cave “pedo guy as he felt slighted by his the person he insulted, Musk can’t handle the mildest of mocking, as the following exchange on Twitter/X shows.

    Elon Musk tweets Legalize humor! The response from Liam Nissan reaads Says the guy who banned me for calling him Sissy SpaceX.
    Think before you tweet…

    It is often said that with the wealthy the most sensitive part of their anatomy is the bank balance. Be that as it may, the above exchange proves this is not necessarily a default position for all plutocrats. In the case of Musk the ego is clearly his most delicate organ.

  • LibreOffice 24.2.4 now released

    Last week the blog of The Document Foundation (TDF) announced the release of LibreOffice 24.2.4, the latest point release of the office suite since its switch to the new version numbering system.

    LibreOffice logo

    The updated release is available for immediate download for all major operating systems, GNU/Linux, MacOS and Windows. It includes over 70 bug and regression fixes compared with LibreOffice 24.2.3 to improve the software’s stability.

    LibreOffice is the only office suite with a feature set comparable to – if not better* than – the ubiquitous and overpriced Microsoft Office suite.. It also offers a range of interface options to suit all user habits, from traditional to modern, and makes the most of different screen form factors by optimising the space available on the desktop to put the maximum number of features just a click or two away.

    See the LibreOffice wiki for the bug fixes implemented in RC1 and RC2.

    Finally, those who wish to support the work of The Document Foundation are invited to make a donation.

    * = Like direct export in the epub e-book file format, for example.

  • Deep sea life using robots – exclusive

    This blog has often drawn attention to the inability of modern journalists (or should that be media employees? Ed.) to understand ambiguity, i.e. the quality of a statement being open to more than one interpretation, and how to avoid it by using language as a precision, not a blunt instrument.

    The example below dates back to 2022, comes from India’s Republic and dives beneath the waves to the bottom of the sea. It arrived in your ‘umble scribe’s social medial timeline late last week, so apologies if you’ve already seen the howler below.

    Headline - UK researchers discover over 30 potential new species at ocean's bottom using robots. Byline - In what can be considered to be a breakthrough scientific development, over 30 potentially new species have been discovered by UK scientists at ocean&'s bottom.

    The story was originally published in The Guardian. Republic’s reporter Anwesha Majumdar does not disclose in the rewrite why aquatic life in the deep oceans is using robots.

  • Schleswig-Holstein moves towards digital sovereignty

    The region of Schleswig-Holstein on the Jutland Peninsula is no stranger where matters of sovereignty are concerned.

    In the nineteenth century there was the Schleswig-Holstein Question, was a complex set of diplomatic and other issues arising in the 19th century from the relations of two duchies, Schleswig (Sønderjylland/Slesvig) and Holstein (Holsten), to the Danish Crown, to the German Confederation, and to each other.

    Coat of arms of Schleswig-HolsteinIn the twenty-first century digital sovereignty has become a matter of political importance to the north German federal state of Schleswig-Holstein.

    The blog of The Document Foundation reports today that, following a successful pilot project, the state has decided to move from Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office to Linux and LibreOffice (and other free and open source software) on the 30,000 PCs used by the state government.

    According to a statement by the Premier of Schleswig-Holstein, the components of its digitally sovereign workplaces are being based on a total of six project pillars:

    • Switching from Microsoft Office to LibreOffice;
    • Switching the operating system from Microsoft Windows to Linux;
    • Collaboration within the state government and with third parties: use of the open source products Nextcloud, Open Xchange/Thunderbird in conjunction with the Univention AD connector to replace Microsoft Sharepoint and Microsoft Exchange/Outlook;
    • Design of an open source-based directory service to replace Microsoft Active Directory;
    • Appraising specialist procedures with regard to compatibility and interoperability with LibreOffice and Linux; and
    • Development of an open source-based solution to replace Telekom-Flexport.

    The decision to switch office suites follows on from the finding by the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) that the European Commission’s use of Microsoft 365 breaches European data protection law.

    According to Schleswig-Holstein’s Digitalisation Minister Dirk Schrödter, digital sovereignty is an integral part of the state government’s digital strategy and work programme. “This cannot be achieved with the current standard IT workstation products. We take digital sovereignty seriously and are moving forward: the decision to change office software is a milestone, but only the beginning of the change: the change to free software for the operating system, the collaboration platform, the directory service, specialist procedures and telephony will follow.”

  • Joint release of LibreOffice versions 24.2.2 & 7.6.6

    Yesterday the blog of The Document Foundation (TDF) announced the simultaneous release of two versions – 23.2.2 and 7.6.6 respectively of the LibreOffice productivity suite. Both releases bugs and regressions to improve quality and interoperability for individual productivity.

    LibreOffice 24.2 banner

    As usual LibreOffice 7.6.6 is an update to a release not at the project’s cutting edge, but is designed for more conservative users who don’t necessarily want – or need – the suite’s latest features.

    Both versions are now available for download. All LibreOffice users are encouraged to update their current version as soon as possible to take advantage of the improvements and bug fixes in the new releases. For those using proprietary operating systems, the minimum requirements are Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 and Apple MacOS 10.15.

    For business use, TDF strongly recommends the LibreOffice Enterprise family of applications from its partners with a wide range of dedicated value-added features and other benefits such as SLAs. Details here.

    LibreOffice users, free software advocates and community members can support the work of The Document Foundation by making a donation to it.

  • Today is Document Freedom Day

    Today, 27th March is Document Freedom Day, which every year publicises and raises awareness of how open standards and open document formats enable us to read and write as we so wish.

    Document Freedom Day graphic

    Was there ever a time you were sent an important file that the software onyour computer couldn’t read properly? Do you remember having to purchase or download a new application just so you could open an attachment you needed for your work? The same thing happens tens of thousands of times every day. Can you imagine how much knowledge sharing doesn’t happen just because the sender and receiver – either intentionally or unintentionally – use different file formats? Incompatibilities like these are typically caused by secret (“closed”) and privately held (“proprietary”) file formats.

    Document Freedom Day is a chance to inform the world about open standards, which are crucial for the exchange of information, independence from software suppliers like the Beast of Redmond and to ensure long-term access to our data. LibreOffice – the office suite used and recommended by your ‘umble scribe – is a fine example of how to use open standards such as Open Document Format (ODF).

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