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Google logoGoogle News is limiting the reach of two Russian media outlets, RT and Sputnik, according to Alphabet executive chairman Eric Schmidt.Schmidt said Google is de-ranking sites it claims have been spreading Russian state-sponsored propaganda. We’re trying to engineer the systems to prevent it.

However, Schmidt added that he isn’t in favor of censorship …BUT.. his company also has a responsibility to stop the misinformation.

In response of teh censorship, Sputnik quoted research psychologist Robert Epstein:

Google is deciding what people see, which is very dangerous since they are legally a tech company and do not adhere to any type of editorial standards our guidelines

What we’re talking about here is a means of mind control on a massive scale that there is no precedent for in human history, he said at the time. Research participants spent a much larger percentage of web browsing time visiting search results that were higher up. According to Epstein, biased Google results could have provided an extra 2.6 million votes in support of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race.

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bypass censorship logo A group of international broadcasters have come together to support a new website that aims to help internet users around the world access news and information.The Broadcasting Board of Governors (US), the BBC (UK), Deutsche Welle (Germany) and France M39dias Monde (France) have co-sponsored the Bypass Censorship website: bypasscensorship.org

Bypass Censorship provides internet users information on how to access and download security-conscious tools which will enable them to access news websites and social media blocked by governments.

When governments try to block these circumvention tools, the site is updated with information to help users stay ahead of the censors and maintain access to news sites.

BBG CEO, John F. Lansing said:

The right to seek, and impart, facts and ideas is a universal human right which many repressive governments seek to control. This website presents an incredible opportunity to provide citizens around the world with the resources they need to access a free and open internet for uncensored news and information essential to making informed decisions about their lives and communities.

The broadcasters supporting the Bypass Censorship site are part of the DG7 group of media organisations which are consistent supporters of UN resolutions on media freedom and the safety of journalists.

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poland nationalists marchOn 11th November, thousands of people marched in the streets of Warsaw, Poland, to celebrate the country’s Independence Day. The march attracted massive numbers of people from the nationalist or far right end of the political spectrum.The march proved very photogenic, with images showing the scale of the march and also the stylised symbology proved very powerful and thought provoking.

But the images caused problems for the likes of Facebook, on what should be censored and what should not.

Once could argue that the world needs to see what is going on amongst large segments of the population in Poland, and indeed across Europe. Perhaps if they see the popularity of the far right then maybe communities and politicians can be spurred into addressing some of the fundamental societal break downs leading to this mass movement.

On the other hand, there will be those that consider the images to be something that could attract and inspire others to join the cause.

But from just looking at news pictures, it would be hard to know what to think. And that dilemma is exactly what caused confusion amongst censors at Facebook.

Quartz (qz.com ) reports on a collection of such images, published on Facebook by a renowned photojournalist in Poland, that was taken down by the social media’s content censors. Chris Niedenthal attended the march to practice his craft, not to participate, and posted his photos on Nov. 12, the day after the march. Facebook took them down. He posted them again the next day. Facebook took them down again on Nov. 14. Niedenthal himself was also blocked from Facebook for 24 hours. The author concludes that a legitimate professional journalist or photojournalist should not be ‘punished’ for doing his duty.

Facebook told Quartz that the photos, because they contained hate speech symbols, were taken down for violating the platform’s community standards policy barring content that shows support for hate groups. The captions on the photos were neutral, so Facebook’s moderators could not tell if the person posting them supported, opposed, or was indifferent about hate groups, a spokesperson said. Content shared that condemns or merely documents events can remain up. But that which is interpreted to show support for hate groups is banned and will be removed.

Eventually Facebook allowed the photos to remain on the platform. Facebook apologized for the error, in a message, and in a personal phone call.

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EU flagThe European Union is in the process of creating an authority to monitor and censor so-called fake news. It is setting up a High-Level ‘Expert’ Group. The EU is currently consulting media professionals and the public to decide what powers to give to this EU body, which is to begin operation next spring.The World Socialist Web Site has its own colourful view on the intentions of the body, but I don’t suppose it is too far from the truth:

An examination of the EU’s announcement shows that it is preparing mass state censorship aimed not at false information, but at news reports or political views that encourage popular opposition to the European ruling class.

It aims to create conditions where unelected authorities control what people can read or say online.

EU Vice-President Frans Timmermans explained the move in ominous tersm

We live in an era where the flow of information and misinformation has become almost overwhelming. The EU’s task is to protect its citizens from fake news and to manage the information they receive.

According to an EU press release, the EU Commission, another unelected body, will select the High-Level Expert Group, which is to start in January 2018 and will work over several months. It will discuss possible future actions to strengthen citizens’ access to reliable and verified information and prevent the spread of disinformation online.

Who will decide what views are verified, who is reliable and whose views are disinformation to be deleted from Facebook or removed from Google search results? The EU, of course.

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EU flagThe European Union voted on November 14, to pass the new internet censorship regulation nominally in the name of consumer protection. But of course censorship often hides behind consumer protection, eg the UK’s upcoming internet porn ban is enacted in the name of protecting under 18 internet consumers.The new EU-wide law gives extra power to national consumer protection agencies, but which also contains a vaguely worded clause that also grants them the power to block and take down websites without judicial oversight.

Member of the European Parliament Julia Reda said in a speech in the European Parliament Plenary during a last ditch effort to amend the law:

The new law establishes overreaching Internet blocking measures that are neither proportionate nor suitable for the goal of protecting consumers and come without mandatory judicial oversight,

According to the new rules, national consumer protection authorities can order any unspecified third party to block access to websites without requiring judicial authorization, Reda added later in the day on her blog .

This new law is an EU regulation and not a directive, meaning its obligatory for all EU states.

The new law proposal started out with good intentions, but sometimes in the spring of 2017, the proposed regulation received a series of amendments that watered down some consumer protections but kept intact the provisions that ensured national consumer protection agencies can go after and block or take down websites.

Presumably multinational companies had been lobbying for new weapons n their battle against copyright infringement. For instance, the new law gives national consumer protection agencies the legal power to inquire and obtain information about domain owners from registrars and Internet Service Providers.

Besides the website blocking clause, authorities will also be able to request information from banks to detect the identity of the responsible trader, to freeze assets, and to carry out mystery shopping to check geographical discrimination or after-sales conditions.

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royal mail heist video A paid-for video ad on Twitter and a Video On Demand (VOD) ad for Royal Mail:

a. The video ad on Twitter, seen on 27 July 2017, featured a scene with customers and staff in a bank. A short while later a gang of men in balaclavas with baseball bats entered the bank and shouted, This is a robbery. The staff and customers in the bank were made to get on their knees with their hands held up and were threatened with the baseball bats. One female member of staff was grabbed repeatedly by the shoulder and the wrist and asked her full name and date of birth by one of the assailants. Other customers were asked similar questions about their personal identity, passwords and log-in details, while a member of the gang appeared to type the information on a hand-held electronic tablet. One customer offered a gang member money to which he said, We don’t want your money. Throughout the scene the members of the public, which included a child, were shouted at aggressively by the assailants, appeared scared and some were crying. One gang member asked another, Got it? they replied, Got it all, after which the gang left the bank. On-screen text stated Your identity is now your most valuable possession. Text at the end of the ad stated, LET’S BEAT IDENTITY FRAUD followed by text that stated Visit our ID Fraud Centre for help and advice, accompanied by the Royal Mail logo and the text, The future in safe hands.

b. The VOD ad, seen on ITV Player on 9 August 2017 at approximately 9.00 pm during an episode of Coronation Street, was the same as ad (a).

Seven complainants challenged whether ads (a) and (b) were likely to cause fear and distress without justifiable reason, particularly for those who had been victims of violence, and whether ad (b) was inappropriately placed at a time when children could have been viewing.

ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld

The ASA noted that Royal Mail had sought and followed advice regarding the ad’s placement from Clearcast and CAP’s Copy Advice team, and acknowledged that the ad had not been shown on VOD before 9 pm. We concluded therefore, that it was unlikely that children had seen ad (b).

We acknowledged that identity fraud was a growing problem and it was important that steps were taken to inform the general public about how serious it was and how they could protect themselves. While we understood that the scenario of a bank robbery was chosen to emphasise the seriousness of the crime, we noted that this was not among the common scenarios in which identity fraud was perpetrated. As a result, we considered that consumers would not be able to clearly see from the ad how they could protect themselves, for example by avoiding certain actions that could make them potentially vulnerable to identity fraud. We noted the ads’ reference to the Royal Mail’s ID fraud centre, but it did not appear until the very end of the ad, during which time the scenario was presented without explanation or context.

Furthermore, because the setting of the ad was recognisable and showed ordinary people, including a child, being shouted at aggressively by criminals, lying on the floor and trying to hide behind furniture, and looking visibly frightened, the impact was heightened and there was an added sense of threat. Because of this, we considered it to be reminiscent of other crimes or situations that people may have experienced that extends beyond the bank robbery depicted and therefore could trigger negative emotions for those who had been victims of violence. We did not consider that the use of baseball bats made the ad less violent than if knives and guns had been used, as the bats were often shown held in a threatening manner by the criminals or positioned next to customers heads.

We understood Royal Mail and ITV’s view that the ad served to highlight a serious and growing crime and to assist customers to find information to protect themselves. We noted from the results of the test sample of viewers that the ad may have increased ID fraud awareness for those who had seen it. We also noted that Royal Mail had amended the Twitter ad so that a warning appeared accompanying the video and that they did not intend to use the ad again. However, we considered that the overall presentation of the ads, as seen by the complainants, was excessively threatening and distressing to the extent that it overshadowed the message the ad intended to convey. We concluded the ad was likely to cause fear and distress to viewers, in particular to victims of violence, without a justifiable reason.

We told Royal Mail to ensure that in future their ads did not cause fear or distress without justifiable reason.

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"Lady Chatterley's Lover" Trial: Regina Versus Penguin Books, Ltd. For a quarter of a century, from 1960 until 1985, Jeremy Hutchinson, Lord Hutchinson of Lullington, who has died aged 102, was the finest silk in practice at the criminal bar. He defended Lady Chatterley , Fanny Hill and Christine Keeler (Keeler in the flesh), the atom spy George Blake, and then Brian Roberts, the editor of the Daily Telegraph, and later the journalist Duncan Campbell in two cases that led to reform of the Official Secrets Act.He added a service to the arts by ending the cultural vandalism of Mary Whitehouse, whose attempt in 1982 to prosecute the National Theatre for staging Howard Brenton’s The Romans in Britain collapsed after his (and the Old Bailey’s) most remarkable cross-examination.

… see an excellent article from theguardian.com outlining some of Hutchinson major successes.