Porn-makers challenge Patreon’s crowdfunding ban

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The letter claims Patreon had helped prevent some porn creators from becoming homeless

Dozens of adult content creators have signed an open letter to Patreon challenging restrictions it has placed on the creation of pornography.

The crowdfunding service updated its rules last week to explicitly ban the sale of pornographic content and provision of sexual services.

It said at the time that it was clarifying an existing policy.

But the firm has been accused of betraying some of its members who say their activity is not illegal.

“We know people who would be homeless if it wasn’t for making porn on Patreon – and it’s not a small number,” the letter states.

“Your fuzzy position on ‘adult content’ versus ‘porn’ gives you the freedom to discriminate at will.

“And it makes content creators live in fear of that discrimination, itself leading to self-censorship of important viewpoints.”

Patreon’s chief executive has said he intends to issue a “thorough response” later this Wednesday.

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‘Fringe content’

Unlike most crowdfunding platforms – which focus on delivery of a single product or experience – Patreon provides its members with a way to charge a monthly subscription fee for an ongoing service, from which it takes a cut.

In many cases, this involves the delivery of podcasts, music, training videos and artistic performances.

But on 17 October, the site’s legal chief said he had become concerned that “a small number of creators” were involved in the creation of what he termed fringe adult content.

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Patreon says more than 50,000 creators use its platform to earn money

As a result, the San Francisco-based firm’s community guidelines were amended to state: “You can’t use Patreon to raise funds in order to produce pornographic material such as maintaining a website, funding the production of movies, or providing a private webcam session.”

Prior to this the wording was less detailed, stating instead that “Patreon is not for pornography, but some of the world’s most beautiful and historically significant art depicts nudity and sexual expression”. It had added that “suggestive imagery” was permitted if marked NSFW (not safe for work).

Billion dollar business

Although Patreon has indicated there has not been a major policy shift, the letter references a blogger who claims there has indeed been a “substantial change after a long period of stasis”.

“Porn is a multi-billion dollar industry mostly in the hands of well-heeled men,” the letter adds.

“You were helping us hold it in our own hands. We ask you to take a stand on behalf of the sex workers who use your platform, their fans, and everyone who supports freedom of expression.”

One academic said that Patreon might want to avoid the risk of being associated with “exploitation” but that censorship carried its own risks.

“There’s a lot of amateur work on Patreon that blurs the line, including people who draw erotic images that are likely to be affected by this,” commented Dr Bernie Hogan from the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute.

“And for some people, the notion that there is a strong distinction between porn that is bad and other expression that is good is not as tenable as it used to be.

“But it makes sense that [Patreon] would try to get more conservative as it tries to scale up. And I imagine there has been a particular use case… that has been trouble for it.”

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UK to help CES tech start-ups after expo chief’s criticism

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Doppel is one of the start-ups that will have space at the UK’s pavilion

The chief of the CES tech expo has revealed that the UK government is helping fund a selection of start-ups to attend its next event in January.

The funding of a “pavilion” within the show’s Eureka Park start-up zone represents a strategy shift for the UK.

Gary Shapiro had previously said it was “a source of embarrassment” that small UK companies had not received such support at the 2017 show.

Ministers had insisted that UK firms still had a “significant” presence.

TechUK – an industry group that has partnered with the government to run the stands – acknowledged that Mr Shapiro’s intervention had made a difference.

“It definitely helped,” Paul Hide, TechUK’s director of market engagement, told the BBC.

“We’ve been pushing the DIT [Department for International Trade] for some time to give us additional support.

“It gives us a stronger identity by having a hub of a number of UK companies and allows us to promote a central location.”

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Mr Shapiro has welcomed the UK’s decision to fund a start-up area

More than 4,000 exhibitors and 60,000 people attended this year’s CES expo.

The event attracts both the media and retail buyers from across the globe, allowing manufacturers to attract publicity and strike business deals at the week-long event.

Last time, 55 UK companies booked show floor space. France fielded 248 companies and mainland China 1,314.

The Great Britain and Northern Ireland Pavilion will provide pods to about a dozen start-ups. The spaces will be smaller than a separate stand, but help is being provided to design the area and attract visitors.

Mr Shapiro revealed the initiative at a CES preview event in London.

He later told the BBC that the British government and TechUK had “stepped up, [by] having a presence that they did not have last year”.

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UK start-ups did not receive the support France gave to its tech firms at the last show

One beneficiary is Doppel, a five-person London-based firm that has created a wrist-based device designed to make wearers feel more alert or relaxed, depending on its setting.

The company, which will pay its own travel and accommodation costs, said it expected its total bill to come to about £2,100.

“Without this support we definitely wouldn’t have been able to exhibit,” said Doppel’s head of marketing, Georgina Orso.

“Saving thousands of pounds makes the difference between attending and not attending for a pre-revenue company like us.”

TechUK said that if the initiative was a success, it hoped to host an even bigger space in 2019.

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FBI failed to access 7,000 encrypted mobile devices

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Christopher Wray said more than half of the devices the FBI had tried to access in 11 months had been impenetrable

Agents at the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have been unable to extract data from nearly 7,000 mobile devices they have tried to access, the agency’s director has said.

Christopher Wray said encryption on devices was “a huge, huge problem” for FBI investigations.

The agency had failed to access more than half of the devices it targeted in an 11-month period, he said.

One cyber-security expert said such encryption was now a “fact of life”.

Many smartphones encrypt their contents when locked, as standard – a security feature that often prevents even the phones’ manufacturers from accessing data.

Such encryption is different to end-to-end encryption, which prevents interception of communications on a large scale.

Cyber-security expert Prof Alan Woodward at the University of Surrey said device encryption was clearly frustrating criminal investigations but it would be impractical and insecure to develop “back doors” or weakened security.


“Encryption that frustrates forensic investigations will be a fact of life from now on for law enforcement agencies,” he said.

“Even if the equipment manufacturers didn’t build in such encryption it would be possible to obtain software that encrypted data in the same way.”

Referring to the trade-off between cyber-security and investigative hacking, the FBI director said: “I get it, there’s a balance that needs to be struck between encryption and the importance of giving us the tools we need to keep the public safe.”

Mr Wray was speaking at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Philadelphia on Sunday.

In 2016, the FBI asked Apple to unlock an iPhone used by San Bernardino killer Syed Rizwan Farook.

Apple refused, explaining that its phones had been designed so that even their manufacturer could not access them once encrypted.

The FBI later said a third party firm had discovered a way of breaking into Farook’s device.

Earlier this month, a federal judge ruled that the FBI did not have to reveal the identity of the firm or how much the agency paid for its services.

The ruling followed freedom of information requests filed by journalists.

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Teenager’s life ‘ruined’ by and Twitter ‘trolls’

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Victoria was sent threatening messages online through her social media accounts

A teenager claims internet trolls “ruined her life” by superimposing her face on pornographic messages which were shared on social media.

Victoria, from Leeds, was told to “go kill yourself” on the streaming app and her home address was shared on Twitter as a “house to burgle”.

Figures obtained by the BBC show reports of malicious communication have almost doubled to more than 200 a day.

There were 79,372 offences recorded in 2016, up from 42,910 the year before.

Police forces in England and Wales were asked to provide the data, with 38 out of 43 responding.

‘Tip of the iceberg’

Victoria, 18, had open profiles on, Twitter and Instagram, where she had thousands of followers.

She said she was sent pornographic images that featured her face and had photographs of her house shared online, while another message to her simply said “die”.

“I’m on anxiety tablets now. It’s knocked my confidence. I don’t even go out of the house that much,” she said.

“There’s still that thought in the back of my mind, where you never know if they are going to be there while you are out.

“At the end of the day, this has legit just ruined my life. I used to be an outgoing person. I’m just trying to get back to my old self.”

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West Yorkshire Police said investigations into Victoria’s case were ongoing

Victoria went to the police about the malicious communication – defined as sending a letter or electronic communication with intent to cause distress or anxiety – but no arrests were made.

She said: “Sometimes I feel like it’s my fault. But it’s easier for people to get targeted because they’re putting themselves out there on the internet, which I thought was just fun, to make new friends.

“I never thought it would turn out like this.”

Supt Mat Davison said West Yorkshire Police was investigating Victoria’s case and new lines of inquiry would be acted on.

“Officers have been in regular contact with the victim and members of her family and provided them with updates on the progress of the investigation,” he added.

The Times recently reported nine people are arrested each day for posting offensive material online, sparking criticism from human rights groups about “over-policing” of the internet.

But Essex Police Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh said the rise in malicious communication was “the tip of the iceberg”.

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Twitter plans to impose new restrictions on pornographic and hateful imagery to tackle abuse

The chairman of the Digital Policing Board, which deals with digital crime nationally, said social network providers should do more to protect online users.

“I think as policing and society changes in to the digital age this is only going to increase,” Mr Kavanagh said.

“Providers, government, law enforcers and users all need to get ready how we protect people more effectively, and how we bring criminals to justice.”

Dr Michelle Newberry, senior lecturer in forensic psychology at Sheffield Hallam University, said there was a correlation between how much we use social media and the increase in trolling.

She said: “It is very unusual for people not to have their phone with them. We just have that instant access these days.”

Twitter previously said it plans to impose new restrictions on pornographic and hateful imagery to tackle abuse. has been contacted for comment.

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How games firm made Destiny 2

“Absolutely we took criticisms of the original Destiny to heart,” Jason Jones, co-founder of Bungie, tells Newsbeat.

“We knew it had amazing parts… but we also saw the real mistakes we made.”

In a rare interview inside their Seattle offices, in the US, he says the experience shaped how they tackled Destiny 2.

“It was stuff we already knew but it was a sharp and clear message from our community – they expected better.”

Walking around the high-tech studios, where few journalists have seen the inner workings, it’s clear there’s a focus on righting those wrongs.

Jason tells us: “The story for example, that was one of the big sources of negative reviews for Destiny.

“We weren’t surprised by that feedback because, when you’re a creator immersed in that work, you feel it.”

The narrative drew criticism for being dull and repetitive.

However, the online-only science fiction game was still seen by some as ground-breaking – establishing the new genre of MMO shooter and winning a Bafta for Game of the Year in 2014.

Staff at the Bungie studios

Jason says the studio have learnt their lessons, and judging by the reaction to the new title and the positive reviews he might just be right.

The challenge now is keeping the players coming back for more.

Speaking to Newsbeat, the game director of Destiny 2, Luke Smith, says: “For our game, quantity is a part of quality.

“Especially for our players who’ll consume our content faster than we can build it. It takes months to make a cool adventure and players will go through it in 20 minutes!”

Since being founded in the 1990s, Bungie has become one of the most influential games developers in the industry.

It first became famous for making the early titles of the award-winning Halo franchise.

Actor in motion capture suit

Despite the console version of Destiny 2 being out since September, the studio is still a hive of activity.

Many of the studio’s 700 employees are busy keeping the game’s online living universe going, working on extra content and developing a PC version.

The franchise has never been playable off console before and adapting the game is the job of David Shaw.

He tells us: “Making the mouse and keyboard really feel like Destiny has been one of the challenges.

“On consoles when you’re firing certain weapons they’ll kick and rise up quickly.

“That recoil is a integral part of making that experience feel good and heavy like you’re actually there.

“But on keyboard and mouse it meant you were just chasing the barrel of the gun the whole time, just dragging the mouse.”

Behind the scenes at the studio

The team made a big effort to make sure it pushes the technical capabilities of expensive PCs.

David says: “When someone spends several thousand pounds on a gaming rig, you want to make sure you’re honouring that investment.”

Everything the team needs to make the game and all the upcoming extra content is all under one roof, from motion capture rooms to sound design studios.

Award-winning composer Michael Salvatore tells us: “We had to make over 900 minutes of music for this game, that’s 15 hours!

“We released the soundtrack a day before the game came out and it became the number one seller on Amazon, we knocked Taylor Swift from first place.

“I love Taylor Swift but enough is enough!”

Newsbeat gaming reporter Steffan Powell with Jason Jones

Keeping Desitny fans happy is the main job for people in the studio at the moment but Jason tells us that they have started thinking about what’s next.

He says: “We’re starting in a small way to look at what’s beyond Destiny.

“Every time you do a new thing to surprise and delight people you risk being ignored.

“So you could make your hand very tired writing down all the risks going into a new game project, but unless you’re taking risks then you’re not going to do something people care about.”

You can watch our behind the scenes at Bungie film on BBC Click on Saturday 21 October.

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Players ‘applaud’ Xi Jinping in Tencent game

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Users “clap” for Mr Xi by tapping their phone screen

A smartphone game in which players can “applaud” Chinese president Xi Jinping has gone viral.

The app, released in the week of the Communist Party Congress, lets users clap for Mr Xi by tapping their phone screen as many times as possible in 19 seconds.

The game, from Tencent, has racked up 1.2 billion plays in three days.

Public displays of loyalty to the president are commonplace in China and have intensified ahead of the congress.

The closed-door summit, which ends on Tuesday, will determine who rules China and the country’s political direction.

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President Xi gave a speech lasting three and a half hours to the Communist Party Congress

Mr Xi, who is widely expected to be re-appointed as leader, opened the summit with a speech lasting three and a half hours, in which he said China had entered a “new era” and should “take centre stage in the world”.

In the Tencent game, users are shown extracts of the speech on topics such as regulating the housing market to protect young homebuyers, or improving the lives of poor farmers.

They are then encouraged to tap the screen to see how fast they can “applaud”.

Many have challenged friends to compete and shared their scores on social media.

On Thursday, Tencent said players had clapped over a billion times in total so far.

‘Cult of personality’

It is not the first time apps have been used to encourage political loyalty in China.

The Communist Party has released more than 100 for its members, featuring quizzes and classes that promote its values.

Public displays of loyalty to the president are also commonplace in China, with Mr Xi’s face appearing prominently on billboards and souvenirs sold in tourist areas.

Top officials also often publicly praise his ideology – although this has led some to warn that Mr Xi is creating a cult of personality around himself to entrench his position.

Since taking office in 2012, Mr Xi has taken steps to cement his leadership including a wide-reaching corruption crackdown, likened by some to a political purge.

The Communist Party is widely expected to rewrite its constitution next week to enshrine his political ideology – dubbed “Xi Jinping Thought”.

The move would elevate him to the level of previous leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

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Mobile companies overcharging customers after contracts end

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The government thinks mobile operators need to inform customers once the handset is paid off

Vodafone, EE and Three are continuing to charge customers for the mobile phones they buy as part of a contract, even after the cost of the handset has been paid off, research suggests.

Citizens Advice found that customers who do not take out a new contract are paying an average £22 extra a month.

The government said the mobile firms needed to inform customers when they had paid for their handsets.

The operators said that their billing systems were fair.

Minister for Digital Matt Hancock said: “It’s only right that mobile customers should be notified when they have paid off the price of their handset, and that their future bills should reflect this.

“I welcome Citizens Advice’s call for better billing information for consumers, and hope that providers will now take the initiative by clearly separating the cost of handsets and tariffs in mobile contracts.”

Vodafone told the BBC it strives to give customers “the price plan that best suits them”.

Who’s affected and what can you do?

  • Anyone who purchased a mobile deal with the operators Three, Vodafone or EE, which included a handset, is being overcharged when their contract comes to an end
  • Users can ask their phone company to swap them to a cheaper sim-only deal, or they can end the contract and find another provider
  • No-one is automatically entitled to compensation – consumers can only make a claim if it wasn’t made clear in their contract that the deal would continue at the same price

Source: Citizens Advice

The consumers who were overcharged

“Wherever possible, we contact customers nearing the end of their contract to offer them a range of options. These include being able to upgrade their handset, receiving an extra allowance to enhance their existing plan or, if they choose, a sim-only plan,” the firm said in a statement.

Three said: “Whenever a new customer signs with us, we make the end-date of the contract term very clear. We also let them know that they can contact us at any time to discuss the range of options available should they wish to change their plan with us.”

And EE commented: “Separating phone and tariff doesn’t always represent the best deal for consumers, it can sometimes result in them paying more.”

O2 does separate airtime and device costs and chief marketing officer Nina Bibby said: “Forcing customers to continue to pay for a phone they already own not only hits their pockets but undermines trust and the reputation of the industry.”


average monthly cost if customers do not buy a new contract

  • 36% of customers failed to change after their deal

  • 23% of over-65s stayed on after their deal

  • £38 average extra monthly cost of contracts with handsets like the Galaxy S8 or the iPhone 8

  • £46 potential monthly over-charge for customers with a 256GB iPhone 8

Exploiting customers

The majority of those who take out a mobile phone contract with the cost of the new handset included in the price will have paid off the price of phone over a period of two years, the study found.

The research suggested that users paying out for handsets such as the iPhone 7, the Galaxy S and Xperia XZ Premium, paid £38 extra a month, after the two-year period.

According to the study, people aged over 65 were the most likely to be stung – with 23% staying on their contract past the end of the fixed deal period.

Overall, 36% of people with a handset-inclusive contract failed to change it after the end of the fixed deal period.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The cost of handsets are hidden within some mobile phone contracts giving phone providers a way to exploit their customers.

“It is clearly unfair that some phone providers are charging loyal customers for handsets that they have already paid for. It’s especially concerning that older customers are more likely to be stung by this sharp practice.”

She called on the phone providers to make sure that any customers staying on a contract past the end of the fixed deal have their monthly bill reduced to reflect the fact they have paid for the handset.

“Providers could make it much easier for consumers to compare prices by separating out the cost of handsets from the cost of services like data and minutes for all contracts; that way it would be much clearer what they’re paying for,” she added.

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Middlesbrough modified Kodi box trader gets suspended jail term

Brian Thompson pictured after a previous court hearing

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Brian Thompson had previously said he wanted to know whether he was doing anything illegal

A trader who sold TV boxes which allowed viewers to watch subscription films and football for free has been given a suspended jail term.

Brian Thompson had denied breaking the law by selling the Kodi boxes, setting up the prospect of a landmark trial.

But appearing at Teesside Crown Court he changed his plea to guilty.

The 55-year-old, who runs Cut Price Tomo’s TV store in Middlesbrough, was given an 18-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.

Thompson, of Barnaby Avenue, Middlesbrough, admitted one count of selling and one count of advertising devices “designed, produced or adapted for the purpose of enabling or facilitating the circumvention of effective technological measures”.

The court heard Thompson had been selling “fully loaded” Kodi boxes – ones that had been installed with third-party add-ons that can access pirated content.

He had previously claimed the law was a “grey area” and said he wanted to know whether he was “doing anything illegal”.

‘No doubt’

Thompson had sold an estimated 400 boxes, earning him about £40,000, and losses to Sky were an estimated £200,000 in subscriptions, the court heard.

Judge Peter Armstrong said there could be no doubt now about the legality of the fully loaded boxes.

“Those who lawfully have to pay £50 a month or more on Sky or BT subscriptions, are done a disservice by people like you and those who buy these devices,” he said.

He said he was suspending Thompson’s jail sentence but others in the future may not be so fortunate.

Cameron Crowe, prosecuting, said streaming devices were not illegal if they were used to access free content.

But he added: “If they are designed, produced or adapted for gaining unauthorised access to copyright content or subscription services – such as Sky and BT Sports – they become illegal.”

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Kodi turns compatible devices into a “media centre”

What are Kodi boxes?

Some shops sell ready-to-use set-top boxes or television sticks preloaded with the Kodi software.

The developers behind Kodi say their software does not contain any content of its own and is designed to play legally owned media or content “freely available” on the internet.

However the software can be modified with third-party add-ons that provide access to illegal copies of films and TV series, or provide free access to subscription television channels.

Some traders sell Kodi boxes preloaded with third-party add-ons that can access pirated content. It is the sale of these “fully-loaded” boxes which was the subject of the case against Mr Thompson.

Trading Standards officers made a test purchase from Thompson’s Dundas shopping centre outlet in 2015 and a raid was carried out.

He moved premises after the raid and advertised on Facebook claiming to have “every film and box set ever made, even ones at the cinema”.

Paul Fleming, defending, said his client was a hard worker who had succeeded and failed in businesses over the years.

Kieron Sharp, the chief executive of Fact (formerly the Federation Against Copyright Theft), said one million illegal Kodi TV boxes had been sold in the UK in the past two years.

He said the perpetrators were not “Robin Hood characters”, but criminals.

“Selling pre-configured streaming devices that allow access to content you normally would have to pay for is illegal,” he added.

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Bitcoin boom prompts growth of coin-mining malware

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Generating crypto-currencies involves lots of computer hardware

The booming price of Bitcoin and other crypto-coins has kicked off a gold rush among malicious hackers keen to cash in, warn security firms.

Many sites are now harbouring code that secretly uses a visitors’ computer to mine the valuable e-cash coins.

The code is inserted by hackers who exploit poor site security or web software bugs.

The problem has led Google engineers to consider putting protections against mining in the Chrome browser.

Freshly minted

Earlier this month, hundreds of websites were found to be running code created by the Coin-Hive project. This let the web domains generate coins for the Monero crypto-currency by using the processing power of visitors’ computers.

While some sites had put the Coin-Hive code on their site themselves, many others had been hacked to host the short script.

Bitcoin, and almost every other crypto-coin, works by using lots of different computers to log and verify who has done what with the electronic coins. In return for carrying out these computational tasks, called mining, users are regularly rewarded with new coins.

Palo Alto Networks said it had found Coin-Hive on almost 150 separate domains. The most popular locations for the code were porn, video and file-sharing sites.

“The use of Coin-Hive or similar mining services is itself not a malicious activity,” said Yuchen Zhou and colleagues at security company Palo Alto. “It is how they are used that makes the sites malicious.”

The wide uptake of Coin-Hive and the surging price of Bitcoin, now worth about $5,630 (£4,288) per coin, has led to the creation of many “copycat” coin-mining systems.

Security news website Bleeping Computer has now found 10 separate “clones” of Coin-Hive that mine different types of coins for their creators.

“Most are behaving like malware, intruding on users’ computers and using resources without permission,” wrote Catalin Cimpanu on the Bleeping Computer site. On portable devices, the code can drain batteries very quickly.

Some of the copycat coin-mining programs specifically target popular website creation and admin systems such as WordPress. Others, said Mr Cimpanu, are written in Javascript and their creators try to insert them wherever they can.

Many anti-virus firms have updated their software so they now spot and disable mining software.

Also, Coin-Hive has now launched an authorised version of its software which only mines coins if users give their explicit permission.

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Many people are looking to cash in on Bitcoin’s growing value

The growing number of coin miners kicked off a discussion among Google engineers working on the firm’s Chrome browser about how to tackle it.

“Yes, we should do something about it,” wrote Ojan Vafai, a Chrome engineer on the forums where browser changes are debated.

Mr Vafai suggested getting the browser to watch for situations when mining software grabs lots of processing power from a computer or portable device.

If the browser spots this activity it would “aggressively throttle” browser activity to limit how much number-crunching power can be grabbed. Users would also be warned about what was happening.

The change would let users see when their browser was being used for mining and let them choose if it continued. Blocking the activity any other way would be difficult, he said.

“I’m effectively suggesting we add a permission here, but it would have unusual triggering conditions,” he wrote. “It only triggers when the page is doing a likely bad thing.”

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Tech firms to remove extremist posts within hours

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IS militants have used social media to spread propaganda

Tech giants Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter and Google have agreed to do more to remove extremist content within hours of it being posted.

The accord was decided at a two-day meeting between the G7 nations and the tech firms, hosted on the Italian island of Ischia.

The aim, according to officials, is to remove jihadist content from the internet within two hours.

In a tweet, Twitter said the talks had been “important and productive”.

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Twitter and Google declined to give further comment.

Italy’s interior minister Marco Minniti said they were “important first steps”.

In a statement issued after the meeting, the G7 said: “We underscore the challenge to industry and we urge it… to develop solutions to identify and remove terrorist content within one to two hours of upload, to the extent it is technically feasible, without compromising human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

It also urged the companies to develop better detection tools and to ensure all removed material is reported to authorities.

In September, UK prime minister Theresa May said technology companies must go “further and faster” in removing extremist content. She said then that she wanted such content removed within two hours.

MI5 head Andrew Parker said that allowing extremists “safe spaces online” made threats harder to detect.

It is the first time that representatives from Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter have taken part in G7 talks.

The G7 consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US.

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