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Reddit Deletes Surveillance 'Warrant Canary' In Transparency Report (reuters.com) 178

Arthur Dent '99 writes: Today, Reddit deleted wording in its transparency report that would normally indicate that they had not received any "national security letters" or "other classified requests for user information." Such "national security letters" contain penalties for telling others about the request, as the government wishes to keep the request secret. However, because Reddit had placed pre-existing wording in their transparency report in the event of such a letter, they were able to simply delete the existing wording to passively inform others that a request had been received, without actually saying anything at all. This usage of pre-existing wording is known as a "warrant canary" to indicate danger, such as real canaries were used in the past to indicate the presence of deadly gases in coal mines.
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Reddit Deletes Surveillance 'Warrant Canary' In Transparency Report

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  • Reddit (Score:5, Funny)

    by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Friday April 01, 2016 @07:33AM (#51821979) Homepage Journal
    Sounds like a cool progressive site. Anyone got a link?
    • Re:Reddit (Score:5, Funny)

      by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Friday April 01, 2016 @07:46AM (#51822037)

      It's a new Digg. It got more popular but realizing 15-30 year old males weren't profitable they're trying to pivot themselves into being the 'social media' site for stay at home moms. Popular stories now showing up on Today show. This did require them to go after their core base, deleting a lot of subreddits that didn't fit that image. Now it's just full of whiners that don't know how to type other addresses into the browser.

      Plus they have 'moderation' but it allows everyone to moderate meaning it's near useless.

      • Re: Reddit (Score:4, Funny)

        by SirSlud ( 67381 ) on Friday April 01, 2016 @07:53AM (#51822061) Homepage

        Full of whiners, you say.... bwuahahaha. Did you type all that with a straight face?

        • Re: Reddit (Score:5, Insightful)

          by brxndxn ( 461473 ) on Friday April 01, 2016 @07:58AM (#51822079)
          It is full of whiners. Anyone that's been on Reddit for the past 5 years can see that it went from genuine edgy discussion in all topics to an over-moderated propaganda safe space fest for any of the mainstream subreddits. Reddit was way better than it is. It will go the way of digg eventually.
          • Re: Reddit (Score:5, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 01, 2016 @08:07AM (#51822113)

            Lots of people migrated to voat.co after the great SJW mod censorshitting.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 01, 2016 @08:11AM (#51822133)

            Reddit isn't the only place that's an "over-moderated propaganda safe space". All of the major and minor discussion sites with public moderation systems are like that now. Hacker News, Stack Overflow, and even Slashdot to some extent exhibit this problem. That's because the problem isn't with the sites, it's with the thin-skinned hipsters and Millennials who abuse the moderation systems on those sites. As more hipster and Millennial types have started using these sites, the moderation abuse has ramped up, resulting in what we're faced with now. The type of moderation system doesn't even matter. If there's some way of censoring other users, then hipsters and Millennials will find a way to severely abuse it to suppress any and all discussion they disagree with.

            • then hipsters and Millennials will find a way to severely abuse it to suppress any and all discussion they disagree with.

              Implying they are the problem rather than the preceding generation which bubble wrapped their little preciouses while they were growing up?

              • then hipsters and Millennials will find a way to severely abuse it to suppress any and all discussion they disagree with.

                Implying they are the problem rather than the preceding generation which bubble wrapped their little preciouses while they were growing up?

                What generation would that be?
                I assume you're talking about the Boomers... [pewresearch.org]
                ...definitely not the Xers.

                • What does population size have to do with it?
                  And if you're tying to imply that Gen-X'ers don't bubble-wrap their kids, you're wrong. As a Gen-X'er, I have noticed a sharp contrast with how we were raised (by Boomers), which could be a style best described as 'free-range', and how members of my generation now raises their kids. I don't like what I see, and I doubt I would 'succeed' as a modern parent.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Funny how the single most awesome subreddit on all of reddit throughout all this history is /r/kerbalspaceprogram - and just so happens to be widely known as the nicest one.
            People being nice, being respectful to one another does not in any way diminish the capacity for meaningful debate or intelligent conversation or hamper any of the useful things about free speech at all. If anything it actually assists those things by inviting more people to participate.

        • Re: Reddit (Score:5, Insightful)

          by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Friday April 01, 2016 @08:24AM (#51822213)

          Yep. The worst thing you can do about someone complaining about the direction the site is going is suggest to them that they type another URL. You'll get nothing but push back from 20 somethings olds that have been on Reddit since it launched. They lose their shit about how they're being 'censored' despite every other website still working.

          I'm sitting here watching Good Morning America & The Today Show and they're getting live Twitter feedback. You can't have wild card unsafe spaces view-able to the mainstream. "Twitter is censoring me!", "Stop using it", "BUT I CAN'T NOT USE TWITTER MAKE THEM STOP CENSORING ME".

          When Slashdot went down the tubes I found Reddit. Now that Slashdot is under new ownership and they seem to care about the 'core base' I'm back. I never got over the Fark redesign and new moderation. (They also tried to pander to the same crowd, getting rid of Foobies on the main page). There are thousands of forums, websites, IRC channels, etc out there. If you disagree with one there's no reason not to move on.

          • Re: Reddit (Score:4, Interesting)

            by KGIII ( 973947 ) <uninvolved@outlook.com> on Friday April 01, 2016 @10:45AM (#51823215) Journal

            > If you disagree with one there's no reason not to move on.

            I can do that. You can do that. They probably can't (easily) do that. They have a vested, emotional, interest in their "internet home." Me? I've been online, in one form or another, since the mid-1980s. I've seen communities come and go. I've left more sites than I can count. It's reached the point where I don't even bother to voice my displeasure, I just wander off and stop visiting entirely one day.

            I, and probably you, grew up when our site, or even the internet, were't ubiquitous things or even consistent things. How many forums have you seen come and go? How many have you, yourself, owned? Me? Dozens... Hell, if we want to count the BBS' then... Wow... (I was leet, baby - not just one but TWO 40 MB HDDs, backups AND a spare system.)

            I've got an address bar and I know how to use it. Them? They've set it as default and have spent eight hours a day there since they were 14. They've been molded by it and molded it in return. They have a sense of ownership. They have a sense of being.

            Really, it's a transient thing (this internet) so they're foolish for doing so but it's how it is - I'm pretty sure.

            • I as well. I keep telling them to put on their big cisgendered they pronouned pants and venture out but it's scary.

              I still do hang out there. It's not terrible for some things but /r/technology never quite replaced slashdot. Arduino isn't that bad nor is 'askscience' or 'askhistorians' since they're closely watched. But actual discussion is a shit show echo chamber. Watching them try to game Slashdot's moderation (For the Brianna Wu 'AMA') was absolutely hilarious. "I don't understand, why can't I vote up s

              • by KGIII ( 973947 )

                Yeah, I've never actually posted there. There's a KGIII there but they're not me. I have no idea why they use the moniker or who they are but, I assure you, they are not me. They appear to like basketball. I did notice that. (I was curious. They're not the only "kgiii" out there but I've been using the username for 30+ years now.)

        • Re: Reddit (Score:4, Funny)

          by FatdogHaiku ( 978357 ) on Friday April 01, 2016 @11:27AM (#51823533)

          Full of whiners, you say.... bwuahahaha. Did you type all that with a straight face?

          Odds are he used fingers...

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The original wording will be back tomorrow.
    • It was posted yesterday. March 31.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Happy Beltaine for all the Wickers and Irish people.

  • It's April 1st and this is slashdot. Fool me once, blah blah blah. i'm just removing the bookmark for this site for the next 24 hours.
    • Re:It's April 1st (Score:5, Informative)

      by Zak3056 ( 69287 ) on Friday April 01, 2016 @07:47AM (#51822039) Journal

      FWIW, the date on TFA is yesterday.

    • Re:It's April 1st (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RobinH ( 124750 ) on Friday April 01, 2016 @07:59AM (#51822085) Homepage
      Only thing I've seen so far is that the scores and user IDs are appearing in binary. Better than the flood of stupid april fools stories, in my opinion.
      • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Friday April 01, 2016 @08:59AM (#51822401) Homepage

        Better than the flood of stupid april fools stories, in my opinion.

        Having been traumatized by the "OMG! Ponies" theme years ago, I always cringe when I first load Slashdot on April 1st, since I have no idea what to expect.

        Honestly, it might be one of my more productive days, because I've learned to stay the hell away from the interwebs due to the sheer amount of crap which happens. :-P

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          I gave Whipslash a suggestion but he didn't follow up on it. I was hoping he'd announce that Slashdot was transferring to Facebook and would use a forum there and then he'd spend all day posting the stories to Facebook and have this site redirect to there.

          I'm partially disappointed that he didn't do it. Gotta admit, it would have been very attention-getting.

      • Only thing I've seen so far is that the scores and user IDs are appearing in binary.

        I'm disappointed "scores" wan't translated to "10100s"

      • by houghi ( 78078 )

        They missed to put the time in Unix time.

      • Only thing I've seen so far is that the scores and user IDs are appearing in binary. Better than the flood of stupid april fools stories, in my opinion.

        Yes, and thank the FSM for that! Slashdot imitating The Onion for one day per year just meant that I lost one stream of potentially important news for the day.

        The timing of Reddit's warrant-canary dying is unfortunate (more than usual). It was reported today, at 4:00 am, not March 31.

        I would suggest the timing to be a conspired attempt to keep this out of the news-cycle, but that would be giving the NSA and FISA courts wa-a-a-a-a-ay too much credit for being clever. Or capable of such.

    • Jeff Bezos' shop is offering the new Star Wars today on HD, if you need something else to do.

      Most reviews on Slashdot have been highly favorable!

  • Warrant canary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Friday April 01, 2016 @07:50AM (#51822047) Journal
    The most troublesome facet of these surveillance requests is the shroud of secrecy the NSL operates under. No questions, no information releases..

    If you need to legitimately collect information, consider that behaving like the Stasi probably sends the wrong message.

    Folks are growing tired of the if you have nothing to hide ruse.

    • by guises ( 2423402 )
      The trouble with these canaries is that they disappear. The Reddit canary is now gone and all that this tells us is that they've been served a national security letter. So now what? It briefly inspires some discussion, but it can't do that a second time - it's gone. People will forget soon enough, there's no chance that Reddit's user base will stop using Reddit over this, and... that's it. Reddit can now be served with up to 999 national security letters (that's as specific as companies are allowed to get)
      • Here's the Reddit thread. [reddit.com]

        You're absolutely correct: the first time a recipient of a National Security Letter can reveal is technically within the allowable classification of 1-1000 NSL requests.

        This allowable action does give you a leg to stand on, legally, if the acronym people contest the warrant canary.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          They just need to replace it with "In 2015 we received 1-1000" NSLs. So far in 2016, we have received zero." Drop it down to monthly resolution if needed.

          • Very clever.

            These people are apparently quite frightening, though, as evidenced by the reditor's reluctance to comment further in the thread.

            One thing the reditor would say is that they were dancing on a thin line with the warrant canary, as it was.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        or you could not discuss illegal stuff on the fucking internet. That's always an option.
      • Re:Warrant canary (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Agent0013 ( 828350 ) on Friday April 01, 2016 @10:01AM (#51822861) Journal
        Why can't they put a recurring canary out there. Each month, quarter, or year, whichever suits the timing best, the canary is put back in saying that you have not received a NSL in the last month (quarter, year, etc.). Once you get one you remove the current canary until you can put the new one in. It would be like the real canaries, I'm pretty sure if your canary died you would get another one for the next time you went down into the mine.
    • No they're not. Most normal folks don't really care. They already share their whole lives in "selfies" and post continually updates to their geo-tagged Tweetbookgram pages.
  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Friday April 01, 2016 @08:08AM (#51822119)

    When we get a President who tells them to stop spying on the American people and prosecute every Saudi state proselytizer for sedition. 2/3 of the threat of terrorism could be stopped by heavily building up the Border Patrol and Coast Guard and ordering the FBI to unleash Hell on every Wahhabi and Salafist preacher in the US. Lock up the preachers for preaching terrorism and jihad. Use asset forfeiture to seize the state funds coming from the royal family.

    But then again, we are at war with ISIS despite the fact that our own "allies" are funding it and transferring American weapons to it. I am at times tempted to vote for Trump simply because he's the only guy who's enough of an asshole to gently pull the Saudi king's ear close to him and whisper "I cannot be responsible if the CIA puts a 0.50 round in your head if the funds to ISIS don't dry up."

    • by Alomex ( 148003 )

      LMFTFY

      Trump simply because he's the only guy who's enough of an asshole to gently pull the Saudi king's ear close to him and whisper "I have penthouses for sale in the new Dubai Trump tower, and it's going to be YUGE. Do I write you down for two units?"

    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

      But then again, we are at war with ISIS despite the fact that our own "allies" are funding it and transferring American weapons to it. I am at times tempted to vote for Trump simply because he's the only guy who's enough of an asshole to gently pull the Saudi king's ear close to him and whisper "I cannot be responsible if the CIA puts a 0.50 round in your head if the funds to ISIS don't dry up."

      So....you are actually advocating for US intelligence organizations to undertake covert military action on US soil? Of all the times I can think of in recent memory where a government has done this I can't remember it working out too well for the citizens of that country.

      • If I understand him correctly, what he's saying is that the only way to avoid the war on terrorism from turning this country into a totalitarian state is to pre-emptively turn our country into a totalitarian state by electing a despot.

        You can't fault his logic. Checkmate liberals!

    • We're at war with the low profit margins of defense companies. Eternal war and being the world's policeman benefits nobody else but the makers of military equipment and providers of military services.

      Or did you think the F-35 was actually supposed to work one day?

  • I guess it's time (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WormholeFiend ( 674934 ) on Friday April 01, 2016 @08:32AM (#51822255)

    to go back to Usenet?

  • by MitchDev ( 2526834 ) on Friday April 01, 2016 @08:51AM (#51822335)

    ... these "national security letters" is garbage and is a prime example how far into a totalitarian state america has fallen...

    • ... these "national security letters" is garbage and is a prime example how far into a totalitarian state america has fallen...

      The 'Totalitarian' term is a bit strong to be used (just yet).
      'Overly authoritarian' is inadequate, though.
      It is technically still a 'semi-socialized representative republic', but that is slipping away.
      It's slipping closer to 'fascism', but is not there just yet.

      Any sociologists want to chime in on the most appropriate term for current-day USA?

  • If I wanted to undermine canaries, I would find popular sites and NSL them for NSL's sake. I don't even have to have a real target user. Just use a NSL to kill the canary. Then later (a month from now, a year from now .. whenever the need arises), I can NSL again for whoever I'm really investigating.

    Indeed, if I had that power, it would be irresponsible of me to not do it.

    • I am wondering if a "dead man's toggle" would work for this situation?

      Say you post to your blog once a week. You get an NSA letter that "gags" you so you don't post anything that week.

      You are not informing anyone, you are just not posting anything for that week. Then, the next week you post again. By this method, one could gather a list of weeks that the system was failed open and thereby determine those weeks that letters were received.

      Though, it would be simple enough to change the verbiage of the letter

  • by kimvette ( 919543 ) on Friday April 01, 2016 @11:06AM (#51823381) Homepage Journal

    They could add a new one "Reddit has not received any reequests from these government agencies since MONTH DD, YYYY: CIA, NSA, TSA (etc). We are not allowed to comment on whether or not we have received any such requests from the FBI however we can tell you we have not received any requests for information from them between Month, DD, YYYY and now."

    Or they should just say fuck it, exercise freedom of the press as it is an inalienable right reinforced by the first amendment and announce that there was an inquiry received, because we do not live under an oppressive regime.

    • You'd have to leave out the word "since" because that's fairly explicit in acknowledging that it has happened in the past on a specific date. Instead, you'd have to do a date range - "Reddit has not received any requests from these government agencies in Q2 2016" or next year " "Reddit has not received any requests from these government agencies in 2017..."

  • They are truly idiotic for releasing this on April first, if they want people to take them seriously.

  • Suppose Reddit set up a whole suite of warrant canary warning pages:
    "Reddit has not received any NSL requests during January 2016 for people with a last name beginning in A."
    "Reddit has not received any NSL requests during January 2016 for people with a last name beginning in B."
    "Reddit has not received any NSL requests during January 2016 for people with a last name beginning in C." ...
    "Reddit has not received any NSL requests during December 2016 for people with a last name beginning in X."
    "Reddit has not

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