Happy Star Wars day! Here is a quick round-up of this week’s technology headlines and related stories you may have missed:
1. Sir, I am fluent in six million forms of communication. This signal is not used by the Alliance. It's been a rough few weeks for encrypted messaging apps in the Middle East. First, on the heels of Russia's ban of Telegram last month, Iran's government decided to do the same this week. The Iranian ban is likely to be more consequential than Russia's. Only about 4 percent of Russians have a Telegram account, whereas half of Iranians use it to access to news, communicate, buy and sell goods, watch videos, or find a date. Iran also represents roughly 20 percent of Telegram's entire user base. As an alternative, Tehran is recommending that Telegram users migrate to Soroush, an indigenous and government-backed competitor. Second, Amazon informed Signal that it will follow in Google's footsteps and ban a practice called domain fronting, which allowed Signal to operate in countries where it has been outlawed, like Egypt, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. After Google announced that it would no longer permit the technique two weeks ago, Signal switched to using Amazon's CloudFront service as an alternative. Amazon got wind of the plan and sent Signal developers a note threatening to ban their account.
2. I have you now. The owner of France.com is suing the government of France, its foreign minister, and Verisign--the registry for all .com domains--over the country's digital annexation of France.com. French-born U.S. citizen Jean-Noël Frydman bought France.com in 1994 as a portal for francophile Americans with all of trappings of the early web. Over time, he turned the website into a travel agency, offering tours to Paris, the D-Day landing beaches, and more. For twenty years, the French government had no objections to Frydman running the site, even collaborating with him according to Ars Technica. However, in 2015, the French government intervened in a French court case between Frydman and a competing travel agency who were arguing over who could own the trademark to France.com. The French government argued that neither could, and the court eventually sided with it in 2017. Paris then used the French court judgement to get Web.com, the U.S.-based company who sold France.com to Frydman, to transfer management of the domain to the French state. France.com now redirects to the official French tourism agency at france.fr. The French government has yet to publicly comment on the suit.
3. The time has come. Execute order 66. When Chinese censors were instructed to “unsheathe the sword” in order to regain control of online public opinion, few probably suspected that Peppa Pig, a kids' cartoon character, would end up as a casualty. This week Chinese censors on the popular short video app Douyin removed all mention of the seemingly innocuous animated pig. In recent months, Peppa has become a meme-able expression of anti-mainstream values for young people in China that identify as ‘shehuiren’ (litterally ‘society people’), which Chinese state-media defined as “unruly slackers roaming around and the antithesis of the young generation the Party tries to cultivate.” In January, the Global Times blasted these online punks for turning Peppa into an online icon associated with violence and pornography. This is not the first time Chinese censors have targeted lovable cartoon characters, though it’s unclear if censors can tame internet culture simply by blocking memes.