Archive for the ‘Internet Blocking’ Category

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House of Commons logo The government has published Online Pornography (Commercial Basis) Regulations 2019 which defines which websites get caught up in upcoming internet porn censorship requirements and how social media websites are excused from the censorship.These new laws will come into force on the day that subsection (1) of section 14 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 comes fully into force. This is the section that introduces porn censorship and age verification requirements. This date has not yet been announced but the government has promised to give at least 3 months notice.

So now websites which are more than one-third pornographic content or else those that promote themselves as pornographic will be obliged to verify the age of UK visitors under. However the law does not provide any specific protection for porn viewers’ data beyond the GDPR requirements to obtain nominal consent before using the data obtained for any purpose the websites may desire.

The BBFC and ICO will initiate a voluntary kitemark scheme so that porn websites and age verification providers can be audited as holding porn browsing data and identity details responsibly. This scheme has not yet produced any audited providers so it seems a little unfair to demand that websites choose age verification technology before service providers are checked out.

It all seems extraordinarily dangerous for porn users to submit their identity to adult websites or age verification providers without any protection under law. The BBFC has offered worthless calls for these companies to handle data responsibly, but so many of the world’s major website companies have proven themselves to be untrustworthy, and hackers, spammers, scammers, blackmailers and identity thieves are hardly likely to take note of the BBFC’s fine words eg suggesting ‘best practice’ when implementing age verification.

Neil Brown, the MD of law firm decoded.legal told Sky News:

It is not clear how this age verification will be done, and whether it can be done without also have to prove identity, and there are concerns about the lack of specific privacy and security safeguards.

Even though this legislation has received quite a lot of attention, I doubt most internet users will be aware of what looks like an imminent requirement to obtain a ‘porn licence’ before watching pornography online.

The government’s own impact assessment recognises that it is not guaranteed to succeed, and I suspect we will see an increase in advertising from providers in the near future.

It would seem particularly stupid to open one up to the dangers of have browsing and identity tracked, so surely it is time to get oneself protected with a VPN, which enables one to continue accessing porn without having to hand over identity details.

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archive org 0274x0300 logo The BBFC has just published a very short list of adjudications responding to website blocking complaints to mobile ISPs during the last quarter of 2018.There are several cases where innocuous websites were erroneously blocked by ISPs for no apparent reason whatsoever and a quick check by a staff member would have sorted out without the need to waste the BBFC’s time. These sites should get compensation from the for grossly negligent and unfair blocking.

The only adjudication of note was that the general archive website archive.org which of course keeps a snapshot of a wide range of websites including some porn.

The BBFC noted that this was the second time that they have taken a look at the site::

The BBFC provided a further adjudication when we viewed the website on 10 October 2018. As in September 2015, we determined that the site was a digital archive which hosted a range of media including video, books and articles. We found a range of pornography across the archive which featured explicit images of sexual activity, in both animated and non-animated contexts. The site also contained repeated uses of very strong language. Additionally, out of copyright film and video material which the BBFC has passed 18 was also present on the site.

As such, we concluded that we would continue to classify the site 18.

It is interesting to note that the BBFC have never been asked to adjudicate about similarly broad websites where it would be totally untenable to come to the same 18 rated but correct conclusion, eg google.com, youtube.com, twitter.com. They would all have to be 18 rated and it would cause untold trouble for everybody. I wonder who decides ‘best not go there’?

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regulatory policy commitee logo Parliament’s Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC) has reported that the government’s approach to internet porn censorship and age verification is fit for purpose, but asks a few important questions about how safe it is for porn viewers.The RPC was originally set up a decade ago to help cut red tape by independently checking government estimates of how much complying with new laws and regulations would cost the private sector. Of curse all it has achieved is to watch the western world suffocate itself in accelerating red tape to such a point that the west seems to be on a permanent course to diminishing wealth and popular unrest. One has to ask if the committee itself is fit for purpose?

Anyway in the subject of endangering porn users by setting them up for identity thieves, blackmailers and scammers, the authors write:

Risks and wider impacts. The Impact Assessment (IA) makes only limited reference to risks and wider impacts of the measure. These include the risk that adults and children may be pushed towards the dark web or related systems to avoid AV, where they could be exposed to illegal activities and extreme material that they otherwise would never have come into contact with. The IA also recognises numerous other wider impacts, including privacy/fraud concerns linked to inputting ID data into sites and apps.

Given the potential severity of such risks and wider impacts, the RPC believes that a more thorough consideration of each, and of the potential means to mitigate them, would have been appropriate. The RPC therefore recommends that the Department ensures that it robustly monitors these risks and wider impacts, post-implementation.

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vodafone 0300x0300 logo ISP Vodafone has begun blocking a pair of illicit streaming portals in unusual circumstances. Burning Series and Serial Stream were rendered inaccessible on Tuesday, but not as the result of a specific blocking injunction. The ISP says that following a decision by the Federal Court of Justice in the summer, it felt compelled to block the sites following a request from a copyright holder.

The fact that ISPs around the world are blocking pirate sites to prevent copyright infringement is nothing new. Aside from voluntary arrangements, such as the one currently playing out in Portugal, ISPs tend to wait for courts to hand down an injunction before blocking a site. In Germany, however, a new situation has raised its head.

On Tuesday, subscribers to Vodafone discovered that they could no longer access streaming portals Burning Series (BS.to) and Serial Stream (S.to). Rather than accessing the thousands of TV shows usually on offer, they were instead met by a blocking message presented by their ISP.

Both sites currently have messages on their main pages, explaining that Vodafone has chosen to block their platforms.

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House of Commons logo The House of Commons approved the upcoming internet porn censorship scheme to be implemented by the BBFC from about Easter 2019.The debate was set for 3 sections to approve each of the 3 documents defining the BBFC censorship guidelines. Each was allotted 90 minutes for a detailed debate on how the BBFC would proceed. However following a Brexit debate the debate was curtailed to a single 90 minute session covering all 3 sections.

It didn’t matter much as the debate consisted only of MPs with a feminist agenda saying how the scope of the censorship didn’t go far enough. Even the government spokeswoman leading the debate didn’t understand why the rules didn’t go further in extending sites being censored to social media; and why the range of porn to be banned outright wasn’t more extensive.

Hardly a word said was relevant to the topic of examining the BBFC guidelines.  Issues of practicality, privacy, the endangerment of porn viewers from fraud, outing and blackmail are clearly of no interest to MPs.

The MPs duly nodded their approval of the BBFC regime and so it will soon be announced when the censorship will commence.

The age verification service provider was quick to follow up with a press release extolling the virtues of its porn viewing card approach. Several newspapers obliging published articles using it, eg  See  Porn sites ‘will all require proof of age from April 2019’ — here’s how it’ll work from metro.co.uk

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house of lords red logo On Tuesday the House of Lords approved the BBFC’s scheme to implement internet porn censorship in the UK. Approval will now be sought from the House of Commons.

The debate in the Lords mentioned a few issues in passing but they seemed to be avoiding taking about some of the horrors of the scheme.

The Digital Economy Act defining the law behind the scheme offers no legal requirement for age verification providers to restrict how they can use porn viewers data. Lords mentioned that it is protected under the GDPR rules but these rules still let companies do whatever they like with data, just with the proviso that they ask for consent. But of course the consent is pretty mandatory to sign up for age verification, and some of the biggest internet companies in the world have set the precedent they can explain wide ranging usage of the data claiming it will be used say to improve customer experience.

Even if the lords didn’t push very hard, people at the DCMS or BBFC have been considering this deficiency, and have come up with the idea that data use should be voluntarily restricted according to a kite mark scheme. Age verification schemes will have their privacy protections audited by some independent group and if they pass they can display a gold star. Porn viewers are then expected to trust age verification schemes with a gold star. But unfortunately it sounds a little like the sort of process that decided that cladding was safe for high rise blocks of flats.

The lords were much more concerned about the age verification requirements for social media and search engines, notably Twitter and Google Images. Clearly age verification schemes required for checking that users are 13 or 18 will be very different from an 18 only check, and will be technically very different. So the Government explained that these wider issues will be addressed in a new censorship white paper to be published in 2019.

The lords were also a bit perturbed that the definition of banned material wasn’t wide enough for their own preferences. Under the current scheme the BBFC will be expected to ban totally any websites with child porn or extreme porn. The lords wondered why this wasn’t extended to cartoon porn and beyond R18 porn, presumably thinking of fisting, golden showers and the like. However in reality if the definition of bannable porn was extended, then every major porn website in the word would have to be banned by the BBFC. And anyway the government is changing its censorship rules such that fisting and golden showers are, or will soon be, allowable at R18 anyway.

The debate revealed that the banks and payment providers have already agreed to ban payments to websites banned by the BBFC. The government also confirmed its intention to get the scheme up and running by April. Saying that, it would seem a little unfair for the website’s 3 month implementation period to be set running before their age verification options are accredited with their gold stars. Otherwise some websites would waste time and money implementing schemes that may later be declared unacceptable.

Next a motion to approve draft legislation over the UK’s age-verification regulations will be debated in the House of Commons. Stephen Winyard, AVSecure s chief marketing officer, told XBIZ:

We are particularly pleased that the prime minister is set to approve the draft guidance for the age-verification law on Monday. From this, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will issue the effective start date and that will be around Easter.

But maybe the prime minister has a few more urgent issues on her mind at the moment.

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knesset logo A bill that would force ISPs in Israel to censor pornographic sites by default has been amended after heavy criticism from lawmakers over privacy concerns.AN earlier version of the bill that was unanimously approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation in late Octoberr but now a new version of the legislation has been passed which was sponsored by Likud MK Miki Zohar and Jewish Home MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli. The differences seem subtle and are whether customers opt in or opt out of network level website blocking.

Customers will have to confirm their preferences for website blocking  every 3 months but may change their settings at  any time.

The bill will incentivize internet companies to actively market existing website blocking software to families. ISPs will receive NIS 0.50 ($0.13 cents) for every subscriber who opts to block adult sites.

In a refreshing divergence from UK internet censorship, ISPs will be legally required to delete all data related to their users’ surfing habits, to prevent creating de facto — and easily leaked — black lists of pornography consumers.

In comparison, internet companies are allowed to use or sell UK customer data for any purpose they so desire as long as customers tick a consent box with some woolly text about improving the customer’s experience.