TripAdvisor Blocks Google

First there was the Google-Yelp dispute over reviews in Places (which was resolved). Now TripAdvisor appears to be preventing Google from showing its reviews on Place Pages. The first to report this yesterday was Tnooz. According to the article:

Google is no longer able to stream in reviews from TripAdvisor to Places pages after the user review giant blocked it. TripAdvisor confirmed the move today in an email, stating that while it continues to evaluate recent changes to Google Places it believes the user does not benefit with the “experience of selecting the right hotel”. “As a result, we have currently limited TripAdvisor content available on those pages,” an official says.

TripAdvisor Blocks GoogleGoogle had previously said the absence of TripAdvisor reviews was related to a technical issue.

Like Yelp it could be that the matter will be soon resolved and the reviews return. But it’s not entirely clear because TripAdvisor may be taking the position that the delivery of its content to Places is ultimately destructive of its direct traffic and brand. That’s pure speculation by me.

TripAdvisor is one of the group of travel sites opposing the Google acquisition of travel software company ITA but it’s unlikely that this removal or blocking of reviews is directly related to that. Travelocity, also an opponent, continues to be among the review sources being shown on Places. An interesting question to consider is whether all the attention and effort that Google is putting on local will cause other local or review sites to consider blocking Places from showing their content.

However there’s a bit of a “prisoner’s dilemma” for these sites. If they block, traffic will potentially go elsewhere to competitors. It’s a bet on the strength of the brand and direct traffic.

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WikiLeaks chief Assange behind bars in Britain

WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange was refused bail by a British judge over alleged sex crimes in Sweden, dealing a fresh blow to the website which vowed to stay online and reveal more secrets. The elusive 39-year-old Australian said he would fight an extradition request by Swedish authorities as he appeared in court in London just hours after he emerged from a month in hiding and surrendered to police.

wikileaks bars in BritainFilmmaker Ken Loach, socialite Jemima Khan and campaigning journalist John Pilger each offered to put up part of his bail but a judge in London refused, saying a court would review the situation at a hearing on December 14. “I am satisfied that there are substantial grounds to believe that if granted bail, he would fail to surrender,” district judge Howard Riddle said at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court. The judge said the Swedish arrest warrant contains “extremely serious allegations” and that Assange had the “means and ability to abscond if he wants to.”

The court heard Assange is accused of unlawfully coercing and sexually molesting a woman on August 14, and of deliberately molesting her on August 18.

A fourth allegation claims Assange had sex with a second woman on August 17 while she was asleep at her Stockholm home, and without using a condom.

The WikiLeaks founder, who has denied the allegations, seemed calm as he appeared in court. Wearing a navy blue suit and a white shirt without a tie, he spoke to confirm his name and address in Australia. British police said earlier that officers had arrested Assange on a European warrant “by appointment at a London police station” at 0930 GMT. WikiLeaks criticised the court decision to hold Assange as “bizarre”, and said it would continue to release documents from a cache of 250,000 confidential US diplomatic cables that it started to publish on November 28.

“Let down by the UK justice system’s bizarre decision to refuse bail to Julian Assange. But Cablegate releases continue as planned,” it said on Twitter. Assange’s lawyer Mark Stephens told journalists outside the court that the allegations were “politically motivated”, adding that he expected a “viral campaign” on the Internet on his client’s behalf. “We have heard the judge say he wishes to see the evidence himself. I think he was impressed by the fact that a number of people were prepared to stand up on behalf of Mr Assange and declare his innocence,” he said.

Loach, Khan — former wife of Pakistan cricket great Imran Khan and one-time girlfriend of film star Hugh Grant — and Pilger each offered 20,000 pounds (23,600 euros, 31,400 dollars) towards bail. Another three donors offered 120,000 pounds between them. WikiLeaks is battling to stay afloat after infuriating Washington with the release of the cables, which have resulted in a string of diplomatic embarrassments.

In one of the latest, cables released Tuesday showed Saudi Arabia proposed setting up an Arab force to fight Hezbollah militants in Lebanon with the help of the United States, UN and NATO. WikiLeaks has hopped from server to server as various countries tried to close it down and hackers attacked the site, though its supporters have responded by setting up hundreds of “mirror” sites to keep it online. The website is coming under increased financial pressure, with Visa following in the footsteps of MasterCard and PayPal Tuesday by announcing it was suspending all payments to WikiLeaks.

Swiss authorities shut down one of Assange’s bank accounts on Monday, while a major WikiLeaks donor in Germany is in trouble for not filing its accounts on time. In an opinion piece for The Australian newspaper after his arrest, Assange said the website was “fearlessly” pursuing facts in the public interest. Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd vowed the country’s diplomats would support Assange, even after the whistleblower accused Canberra of “disgraceful pandering” to his foes.

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Google vows quicker, tougher copyright enforcement

Google Inc. is promising to do a better job of weeding out copyright violations on the Internet.

Google vows quicker, tougher copyright enforcement

As part of a crackdown announced Thursday, the Internet search leader said it will respond to complaints about pirated material posted on its YouTube video site and other services within 24 hours. Google didn’t specify what its average response time is now, but many copyright holders have griped in the past about the company taking too long to remove videos or other content posted illegally.

Under federal laws, websites aren’t held liable for hosting unauthorized copyright content, as long as they remove the pirated material after being notified of the problem. That can be a daunting task given that Google’s search engine indexes more than 1 trillion unique Web links and about 35 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube per minute. YouTube was swamped with pirated video in its early days, outraging television broadcasters and movie studios. The rampant violations prompted Viacom Inc. to sue Google and YouTube for $1 billion in damages, but a federal judge concluded Google and YouTube had followed the law in a ruling earlier this year. Viacom plans to appeal that decision Friday.

Google has tried to prevent pirated video and music from appearing on YouTube by introducing technology that automatically detects unauthorized content. Without providing specifics, Google said it will be introducing more tools to make it easier and quicker to flag copyright violations. The changes that will be rolled out during the next month will include countermeasures to allow people to challenge copyright complaints.

Google also plans to police the websites in its online advertising network more closely. Sites that repeatedly try to make money by improperly hosting copyrighted content will be banned from the Internet’s largest ad network more quickly. The increased vigilance, in theory, could encourage more websites to avoid becoming piracy havens.

Publishers, broadcasters and movie studios contend they would have made far more money from online advertising and licensing during the past year if not for rampant copyright abuses. Google frequently is a focal point of the copyright complaints because its search engine serves as the springboard for so much Internet traffic.

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WikiLeaks website kicked off Amazon’s servers

Amazon.com Inc. forced WikiLeaks to stop using the U.S. company’s computers to distribute embarrassing State Department communications and other documents, WikiLeaks said Wednesday.

The ouster came after congressional staff questioned Amazon about its relationship with WikiLeaks, said Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut. WikiLeaks confirmed it hours after The Associated Press reported that Amazon’s servers had stopped hosting WikiLeaks’ site. The site was unavailable for several hours before it moved back to its previous Swedish host, Bahnhof AB.

WikiLeaks released a trove of sensitive diplomatic documents on Sunday. Just before the release, its website came under an Internet-based attack that made it unavailable for hours at a time. WikiLeaks reacted by moving the website from computers in Sweden to those of Amazon Web Services. Amazon has vast banks of computers that can be rented on a self-service basis to meet surges in traffic.

But that move exposed WikiLeaks to legal and political pressure. “WikiLeaks servers at Amazon ousted. Free speech the land of the free–fine our $ are now spent to employ people in Europe,” the organization said Wednesday in a posting on the Twitter messaging service.

“If Amazon are so uncomfortable with the first amendment, they should get out of the business of selling books,” WikiLeaks said in another tweet. Seattle-based Amazon.com would not comment on its relationship with WikiLeaks. “The company’s decision to cut off WikiLeaks now is the right decision and should set the standard for other companies WikiLeaks is using to distribute its illegally seized material,” Lieberman said in a statement. He added that he would have further questions for Amazon about the affair.

As an organization, WikiLeaks has no firm geographic base, but founder Julian Assange sought to establish residency in Sweden to take advantage of laws protecting those who funnel information to the media. However, authorities rejected his application for a residency permit. Swedish police are now seeking to arrest Australian-born Assange based on allegations of sexual assault stemming from his stay in the country. Assange has denied the charges.

Swedish police issued an international arrest warrant on Wednesday, though they haven’t filed formal charges. Assange’s whereabouts are unknown.

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