Archive for the ‘Internet Blocking’ Category

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Poland flagThe Polish government is demanding that ISPs snitch on their customers who attempt to access websites it deems illegal.

The government wants to make the restrictions stricter for unauthorised online gambling sites and will require local ISPs to inform it about citizens’ attempts to access them. According to the Panoptykon Foundation, a digital rights watchdog, the government will compile a central registry of unauthorized websites to monitor.

According to the digital rights body, the government seeks to introduce a chief snooper that would compel data from ISPs disclosing which citizens tried to access unauthorised websites. In addition, the ISPs would have to keep the smooping requests secret from the customer.

Local organisations are unsurprisingly worried that the censorship’s expansion could turn out to be the first of many steps in an online limitation escalation.

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Old BaileyThe UK Supreme Court has today ruled that trade mark holders are not able to compel ISPs to bear the cost of implementing orders to block websites selling counterfeit goods.Jim, Alex and Myles at the Supreme CourtOpen Rights Group acted as an intervener in this case. We argued that Internet service providers (ISPs) as innocent parties should not bear the costs of website blocking, and that this was a long-standing principle of English law.

Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group said:

This case is important because if ISPs paid the costs of blocking websites, the result would be an increasing number of blocks for relatively trivial reasons and the costs would be passed to customers.

While rights holders may want websites blocked, it needs to be economically rational to ask for this.

Solicitor in the case David Allen Green said:

I am delighted to have acted, through my firm Preiskel, successfully for the Open Rights Group in their intervention.

We intervened to say that those enforcing private rights on internet should bear the costs of doing so, not others. This morning, the UK Supreme Court held unanimously that the rights holders should bear the costs.

The main party to the case was BT who opposed being forced to pay for costs incurred in blocking websites. Now rights-holders must reimburse ISPs for the costs of blocking rights-infringing material.

Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption, one of five n the panel, ruled:

There is no legal basis for requiring a party to shoulder the burden of remedying an injustice if he has no legal responsibility for the infringement and is not a volunteer but is acting under the compulsion of an order of the court.

It follows that in principle the rights-holders should indemnify the ISPs against their compliance costs. Section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 allows rights-holders to go to court and get a blocking order — the question in the current case is who stumps up for the costs of complying with that order?

Of course this no asks the question about who should pay for mass porn website blocking that will be needed when the BBFC porn censorship regime stats its work.

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telegram logoA demonstration in Moscow against the Russian government’s effort to block the messaging app Telegram quickly morphed on Monday into a protest against President Vladimir Putin, with thousands of participants chanting against the Kremlin’s increasingly restrictive censorship regime.The key demand of the rally, with the hashtag #DigitalResistance, was that the Russian internet remain free from government censorship.

One speaker, Sergei Smirnov, editor in chief of Mediazona, an online news service , asked the crowd. Is he to blame for blocking Telegram?  The crowd responded with a resounding Yes!

Telegram is just the first step, Smirnov continued. If they block Telegram, it will be worse later. They will block everything. They want to block our future and the future of our children.

Russian authorities blocked Telegram after not being provided with decryption keys. The censors also briefly blocked thousands other websites sharing hosting facilities with Telegram in the hop of pressurising the hosts into taking down Telegram.

The censorship effort has provoked anger and frustration far beyond the habitual supporters of the political opposition, especially in the business sector, where the collateral damage continues to hurt the bottom line. There has been a flood of complaints on Twitter and elsewhere that the government broke the internet.

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stop censorship in the guise of copyright logoDirective on copyright in the Digital Single Market destined to become a nightmare

OPEN LETTER IN LIGHT OF THE 27 APRIL 2018 COREPER I MEETING

Your Excellency Ambassador, cc. Deputy Ambassador,

We, the undersigned, are writing to you ahead of your COREPER discussion on the proposed Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market.

We are deeply concerned that the text proposed by the Bulgarian Presidency in no way reflects a balanced compromise, whether on substance or from the perspective of the many legitimate concerns that have been raised. Instead, it represents a major threat to the freedoms of European citizens and businesses and promises to severely harm Europe’s openness, competitiveness, innovation, science, research and education.

A broad spectrum of European stakeholders and experts, including academics, educators, NGOs representing human rights and media freedom, software developers and startups have repeatedly warned about the damage that the proposals would cause. However, these have been largely dismissed in rushed discussions taking place without national experts being present. This rushed process is all the more surprising when the European Parliament has already announced it would require more time (until June) to reach a position and is clearly adopting a more cautious approach.

If no further thought is put in the discussion, the result will be a huge gap between stated intentions and the damage that the text will actually achieve if the actual language on the table remains:

  • Article 13 (user uploads) creates a liability regime for a vast area of online platforms that negates the E-commerce Directive, against the stated will of many Member States, and without any proper assessment of its impact. It creates a new notice and takedown regime that does not require a notice. It mandates the use of filtering technologies across the board.

  • Article 11 (press publisher’s right) only contemplates creating publisher rights despite the many voices opposing it and highlighting it flaws, despite the opposition of many Member States and despite such Member States proposing several alternatives including a “presumption of transfer”.

  • Article 3 (text and data mining) cannot be limited in terms of scope of beneficiaries or purposes if the EU wants to be at the forefront of innovations such as artificial intelligence. It can also not become a voluntary provision if we want to leverage the wealth of expertise of the EU’s research community across borders.

  • Articles 4 to 9 must create an environment that enables educators, researchers, students and cultural heritage professionals to embrace the digital environment and be able to preserve, create and share knowledge and European culture. It must be clearly stated that the proposed exceptions in these Articles cannot be overridden by contractual terms or technological protection measures.

  • The interaction of these various articles has not even been the subject of a single discussion. The filters of Article 13 will cover the snippets of Article 11 whilst the limitations of Article 3 will be amplified by the rights created through Article 11, yet none of these aspects have even been assessed.

With so many legal uncertainties and collateral damages still present, this legislation is currently destined to become a nightmare when it will have to be transposed into national legislation and face the test of its legality in terms of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Bern Convention.

We hence strongly encourage you to adopt a decision-making process that is evidence-based, focussed on producing copyright rules that are fit for purpose and on avoiding unintended, damaging side effects.

Yours sincerely,

The over 145 signatories of this open letter — European and global organisations, as well as national organisations from 28 EU Member States, represent human and digital rights, media freedom, publishers, journalists, libraries, scientific and research institutions, educational institutions including universities, creator representatives, consumers, software developers, start-ups, technology businesses and Internet service providers.

EUROPE  1. Access Info Europe. 2. Allied for Startups. 3. Association of European Research Libraries (LIBER). 4. Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties). 5. Copyright for Creativity (C4C). 6. Create Refresh Campaign. 7. DIGITALEUROPE. 8. EDiMA. 9. European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations (EBLIDA). 10. European Digital Learning Network (DLEARN). 11. European Digital Rights (EDRi). 12. European Internet Services Providers Association (EuroISPA). 13. European Network for Copyright in Support of Education and Science (ENCES). 14. European University Association (EUA). 15. Free Knowledge Advocacy Group EU 16. Lifelong Learning Platform. 17. Public Libraries 2020 (PL2020). 18. Science Europe. 19. South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO). 20. SPARC Europe.

AUSTRIA  21. Freischreiber Österreich. 22. Internet Service Providers Austria (ISPA Austria).

BELGIUM  23. Net Users’ Rights Protection Association (NURPA)

BULGARIA  24. BESCO — Bulgarian Startup Association. 25. BlueLink Foundation. 26. Bulgarian Association of Independent Artists and Animators (BAICAA). 27. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee. 28. Bulgarian Library and Information Association (BLIA). 29. Creative Commons Bulgaria. 30. DIBLA. 31. Digital Republic. 32. Hamalogika. 33. Init Lab. 34. ISOC Bulgaria. 35. LawsBG. 36. Obshtestvo.bg. 37. Open Project Foundation. 38. PHOTO Forum. 39. Wikimedians of Bulgaria.  C ROATIA  40. Code for Croatia

CYPRUS  41. Startup Cyprus

CZECH R EPUBLIC  42. Alliance pro otevrene vzdelavani (Alliance for Open Education)
43. Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic. 44. Czech Fintech Association. 45. Ecumenical Academy. 46. EDUin.

DENMARK  47. Danish Association of Independent Internet Media (Prauda) E STONIA. 48. Wikimedia Eesti

FINLAND  49. Creative Commons Finland. 50. Open Knowledge Finland. 51. Wikimedia Suomi.

FRANCE  52. Abilian. 53. Alliance Libre. 54. April. 55. Aquinetic. 56. Conseil National du Logiciel Libre (CNLL). 57. France Digitale. 58. l’ASIC. 59. Ploss Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (PLOSS-RA). 60. Renaissance Numérique. 61. Syntec Numérique. 62. Tech in France. 63. Wikimédia France.

GERMANY  64. Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Medieneinrichtungen an Hochschulen e.V. (AMH). 65. Bundesverband Deutsche Startups. 66. Deutscher Bibliotheksverband e.V. (dbv). 67. eco — Association of the Internet Industry. 68. Factory Berlin. 69. Initiative gegen ein Leistungsschutzrecht (IGEL). 70. Jade Hochschule Wilhelmshaven/Oldenburg/Elsfleth. 71. Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). 72. Landesbibliothekszentrum Rheinland-Pfalz. 73. Silicon Allee. 74. Staatsbibliothek Bamberg. 75. Ubermetrics Technologies. 76. Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Sachsen-Anhalt (Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg). 77. University Library of Kaiserslautern (Technische Universität Kaiserslautern). 78. Verein Deutscher Bibliothekarinnen und Bibliothekare e.V. (VDB). 79. ZB MED — Information Centre for Life Sciences.

GREECE  80. Greek Free Open Source Software Society (GFOSS)

HUNGARY  81. Hungarian Civil Liberties Union. 82. ICT Association of Hungary — IVSZ. 83. K-Monitor

IRELAND  84. Technology Ireland

ITALY  85. Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights. 86. Istituto Italiano per la Privacy e la Valorizzazione dei Dati. 87. Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights (CILD). 88. National Online Printing Association (ANSO).

LATVIA  89. Startin.LV (Latvian Startup Association). 90. Wikimedians of Latvia User Group.

LITHUANIA  91. Aresi Labs.

LUXEMBOURG.   92. Frënn vun der Ënn.

MALTA
93. Commonwealth Centre for Connected Learning

NETHERLANDS  94. Dutch Association of Public Libraries (VOB) 95. Kennisland.

POLAND  96. Centrum Cyfrowe. 97. Coalition for Open Education (KOED). 98. Creative Commons Polska. 99. Elektroniczna BIBlioteka (EBIB Association). 100. ePan@stwo Foundation. 101. Fundacja Szkola z Klasa@ (School with Class Foundation).  102. Modern Poland Foundation.  103. Os@rodek Edukacji Informatycznej i Zastosowan@ Komputerów w Warszawie (OEIiZK). 104. Panoptykon Foundation. 105. Startup Poland. 106. ZIPSEE.

PORTUGAL  107. Associação D3 — Defesa dos Direitos Digitais (D3). 108. Associação Ensino Livre. 109. Associação Nacional para o Software Livre (ANSOL). 110. Associação para a Promoção e Desenvolvimento da Sociedade da Informação (APDSI).

ROMANIA  111. ActiveWatch. 112. APADOR-CH (Romanian Helsinki Committee). 113. Association for Technology and Internet (ApTI) 114. Association of Producers and Dealers of IT&C equipment (APDETIC). 115. Center for Public Innovation. 116. Digital Citizens Romania. 117. Kosson.ro Initiative. 118. Mediawise Society. 119. National Association of Public Librarians and Libraries in Romania (ANBPR).

SLOVAKIA  120. Creative Commons Slovakia. 121. Slovak Alliance for Innovation Economy (SAPIE).

SLOVENIA  122. Digitas Institute. 123. Forum za digitalno dru@bo (Digital Society Forum).

SPAIN  124. Asociación de Internautas. 125. Asociación Española de Startups (Spanish Startup Association)
126. MaadiX. 127. Sugus. 128. Xnet.

SWEDEN  129. Wikimedia Sverige

UK  130. Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance (LACA). 131. Open Rights Group (ORG). 132. techUK.

GLOBAL  133. ARTICLE 19. 134. Association for Progressive Communications (APC). 135. Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT). 136. COMMUNIA Association. 137. Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA). 138. Copy-Me. 139. Creative Commons. 140. Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). 141. Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL). 142. Index on Censorship. 143. International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR). 144. Media and Learning Association (MEDEA). 145. Open Knowledge International (OKI). 146. OpenMedia. 147. Software Heritage

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mindgeek ageid logoAs the introduction of age verification for websites approaches, it seems that the most likely outcome is that Mindgeek, the company behind most of the tube sites, is set to become the self appointed gatekeeper of porn. Its near monopoly on free porn means that it will be the first port of call for people wanting access, and people who register with them will be able to surf large numbers of porn sites with no verification hassle. And they are then not going to be very willing go through all the hassle again for a company not enrolled in the Mindgeek scheme. Mindgeek is therefore set to become the Amazon,eBay/Google/Facebook of porn.There is another very promising age verification system AVSecure, that sounds way better than Midgeek’s AgeID. AVSecure plans to offer age verification passes from supermarkets and post offices. They will give you a card with a code that requires no further identification whatsoever beyond looking obviously over 25.  18-25 yea olds will have to show ID but it need not be recorded in the system, Adult websites can then check the verification code that will reveal only that the holder is over 18. All website interactions will be further protected by blockchain encryption.

The Mindgeek scheme is the most well promoted for the moment and so is seem as the favourite to prevail. TheDaily Mail is now having doubts about the merits of trusting a porn company with age verification on the grounds that the primary motivation is to make money. The Daily Mail has also spotted that the vast swathes of worldwide porn is nominally held to be illegal by the government under the Obscene Publications Act. Notably female ejaculation is held to be obscene as the government claims it to be illegal because the ejaculate contains urine. I think the government is on a hiding to nothing if it persists in its silly claims of obscenity, they are simply years out of date and the world has move on.

Anyway the Daily Mail spouts:

The moguls behind the world’s biggest pornography websites have been entrusted by the Government with policing the internet to keep it safe for children. MindGeek staff have held a series of meetings with officials in preparation for the new age verification system which is designed to ensure that under-18s cannot view adult material.

Tens of millions of British adults are expected to have to entrust their private details to MindGeek, which owns the PornHub and YouPorn websites.

Critics have likened the company’s involvement to entrusting the cigarette industry with stopping underage smoking and want an independent body to create the system instead.

A Mail on Sunday investigation has found that material on the company’s porn websites could be in breach of the Obscene Publications Act. A search for one sexual act, which would be considered illegal to publish videos of under the Obscene Publications Act, returned nearly 20,000 hits on PornHub. The Mail on Sunday did not watch any of the videos.

Shadow Culture Minister Liam Byrne said:

It is alarming that a company given the job of checking whether viewers of pornography are over 18 can’t even police publication of illegal material on its own platform.

A DCMS spokesman said:

The Government will not be endorsing individual age-verification solutions but they will need to abide by data protection laws to be compliant.

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dcms age verification risk assessment The UK government slipped out its impact assessment of the upcoming porn censorship law during the Christmas break. The new law requires porn websites to be blocked in the UK when they don’t implement age verification.The measures are currently due to come into force in May but it seems a tight schedule as even the rules for acceptable age verification systems have not yet been published.

The report contains some interesting costings and assessment of the expected harms to be inflicted on porn viewers and British adult businesses.

The document notes the unpopularity of the age verification requirements with a public consultation finding that 54% of respondents did not support the introduction of a law to require age verification.

However, the government has forged ahead, with the aim of stopping kids accessing porn on the grounds that such content could distress them or harm their development.

The governments censorship rules will be enforced by the BBFC, in its new role as the UK porn censor although it prefers the descriptor: age-verification regulator . The government states that the censorship job will initially be funded by the government, and the government is assuming this will cost £4.5 million based upon a range of estimates from 1 million to 8 million.

The government has bizarrely assumed that the BBFC will ban just 1 to 60 sites in a year. The additional work for ISPs to block these sites is estimated £100,000 to £500,000 for each ISP. Probably to be absorbed by larger companies, but will be an expensive problem for smaller companies who do not currently implement any blocking systems.

Interestingly the government notes that there wont be any impact on UK adult businesses notionally because they should have already implemented age verification under ATVOD and Ofcom censorship rules. In reality it will have little impact on UK businesses because they have already been decimated by the ATVOD and Ofcom rules and have mostly closed down or moved abroad.

Te key section of the document summarising expected harms is as follows.

The policy option set out above also gives rise to the following risks:

  • Deterring adults from consuming content as a result of privacy/ fraud concerns linked to inputting ID data into sites and apps, also some adults may not be able to prove their age online;
  • Development of alternative payment systems and technological work-arounds could mean porn providers do not comply with new law, and enforcement is impossible as they are based overseas, so the policy goal would not be achieved;
  • The assumption that ISPs will comply with the direction of the regulator;
  • Reputational risks including Government censorship, over-regulation, freedom of speech and freedom of expression.
  • The potential for online fraud could raise significantly, as criminals adapt approaches in order to make use of false AV systems / spoof websites and access user data;
  • The potential ability of children, particularly older children, to bypass age verification controls is a risk. However, whilst no system will be perfect, and alternative routes such as virtual private networks and peer-to-peer sharing of content may enable some under-18s to see this content, Ofcom research indicates that the numbers of children bypassing network level filters, for example, is very low (ca. 1%).
  • Adults (and some children) may be pushed towards using ToR and related systems to avoid AV where they could be exposed to illegal and extreme material that they otherwise would never have come into contact with.

The list does not seem to include the potential for blackmail from user data sold by porn firms, or else stolen by hackers. And mischievously, politicians could be one of the groups most open to blackmail for money or favours.

Another notable omission, is that the government does not seem overly concerned about mass VPN usage. I would have thought that the secret services wanting to monitor terrorists would not be pleased if a couple of million people stared to use encrypted VPNs. Perhaps it shows that the likes of GCHQ can already see into what goes on behind VPNs.

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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.