News to know: Russian election botnet; Twitter's role in UK riots, Spy tech

Summary:News to know -- December 5-9: A look back at the news from London, the UK and wider Europe, on all the bits that were missed during the week's coverage.

This week has unearthed crucial evidence to support why rioters took to the streets of London and major UK cities during the summer. Also, Russia showed an interesting tactic in how it counteracts negative opinions of alleged election fraud.

But as always, we reach the end of the week and realise that there was so much more to cover, to take heed of, and to understand about our partners in London, the UK and wider Europe.

Botnet 'spammed Twitter' to drown out Russian election protests

A theory is emerging that suggests a botnet may have helped 'drown out' online chatter and conversation about Russian election protests.

Security firm Trend Micro said that hijacked PCs made up the botnet, which posted messages to Twitter to detract away from demonstrations that were taking place across Russia.

The protesters claim that the recent country's election may have been fraudulent.

It is thought that thousands of Twitter accounts were hijacked to drown out legitimate tweets based around protest-related hashtags.

The flood of 'distracting' tweets came after liberal websites were shut down by suspected denial-of-service attacks on the day of Russia's disputed parliamentary vote.

England riots: Twitter was a 'force for good'

A study funded by UK university research-backing body, the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), it was found that Twitter had an overall positive effect on the England riots.

Riots broke out in north London in August, and spread to other major UK cities including Nottingham, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool.

Out of 2.4 million tweets sent during the civil unrest, researchers found "no evidence" to suggest that Twitter should have been blocked during the unrest.

The vast majority of tweets were found to condemn the violence and assist in disseminating useful citizen-collected intelligence, rather than inciting the perpetuation of disorder.

This came as politicians, including British prime minister David Cameron called for a 'shutdown' of social media sites, as these were quickly thought to be the root of the problems.

European Union moves to support human rights through technology

Europe is expected to outline a strategy on Monday to support pro-democracy activists living under repressive regimes, who use technology to exercise their right to free speech.

Social networks, from Facebook to Twitter and others, helped spread the word to organise mass protests that led to the downfall of a number of right-infringing governments in North Africa and the Middle East.

Along with this, Europe is thought to include measures to prevent European-based or operating companies from selling 'spy technology' to authoritarian regimes.

The European Commission said that it could exert sanctions on companies that do exactly that. This comes only a week after Wikileaks released its latest batch of leaks, which outlines the global private intelligence community.

Topics: United Kingdom, EU, Government, Malware, PCs

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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