Archive for the ‘Internet Blocking’ Category

European Court if Human Rights fuinds that Russian internet censors were wrong to block information about TOR and VPNs.

Read more eu.htm at MelonFarmers.co.uk

echr In 2015, a a human rights organization that monitors web-censorship and pirate site blockades in Russia was itself ordered to be blocked by a local court for offering advice on how to use tools including Tor and VPNs.

The European Court of Human Rights has now ruled that the order to disable access to that advice was illegal and a violation of the freedom to receive and impart information.

ECHR Russsia-based project RosComSvoboda advocates human rights and freedoms on the Internet. Part of that work involves monitoring and publishing data on website blockades and providing assistance to Internet users and site operators who are wrongfully subjected to restrictions.

In 2015, it found itself in a battle of its own when a local court ordered its advice portal to be blocked by local ISPs. RosComSvoboda’s crime was to provide information on tools that can circumvent censorship. While it didn’t offer any for direct download, the resource offered advice on VPNs , proxies, TOR, The Pirate Bay’s Pirate Browser, I2P and Opera’s turbo mode.

According to the ruling by the Anapa Town Court, the resource allowed people to access content banned in Russia so it too became prohibited content. Subsequently, telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor contacted RosComSvoboda with an order to remove its anti-censorship tools information page or face being completely blocked.

The site’s operator complied and filed an appeal against the decision, arguing that providing information about such tools isn’t illegal under Russian law. The Krasnodar Regional Court rejected the appeal without addressing this defense so in 2016, RosComSvoboda’s operator, German national Gregory Engels, took his case to the European Court of Human Rights.

This week the ECHR handed down its decision, siding with Engels’ assertion that the order for him to remove the content from his site was in breach of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers, the Article reads.

The ECHR found that the action against Engels breached Article 10. It also declared a breach of Article 13 due to a failure by the Russian court to involve him in the blocking action or consider the merits of his arguments on appeal. The Russian state was ordered to pay 10,000 euros in damages to Engels plus interest.

Read more me_internet.htm at MelonFarmers.co.uk

firefox logo Firefox has begun the rollout of encrypted DNS over HTTPS (DoH) by default for US-based users. The rollout will continue over the next few weeks to confirm no major issues are discovered as this new protocol is enabled for Firefox’s US-based users.

A little over two years ago, we began work to help update and secure one of the oldest parts of the internet, the Domain Name System (DNS). To put this change into context, we need to briefly describe how the system worked before DoH. DNS is a database that links a human-friendly name, such as http://www.mozilla.org, to a computer-friendly series of numbers, called an IP address (e.g. 192.0.2.1). By performing a lookup in this database, your web browser is able to find websites on your behalf. Because of how DNS was originally designed decades ago, browsers doing DNS lookups for websites — even encrypted https:// sites — had to perform these lookups without encryption. We described the impact of insecure DNS on our privacy:

Because there is no encryption, other devices along the way might collect (or even block or change) this data too. DNS lookups are sent to servers that can spy on your website browsing history without either informing you or publishing a policy about what they do with that information.

At the creation of the internet, these kinds of threats to people’s privacy and security were known, but not being exploited yet. Today, we know that unencrypted DNS is not only vulnerable to spying but is being exploited, and so we are helping the internet to make the shift to more secure alternatives. We do this by performing DNS lookups in an encrypted HTTPS connection. This helps hide your browsing history from attackers on the network, helps prevent data collection by third parties on the network that ties your computer to websites you visit.

We’re enabling DoH by default only in the US. If you’re outside of the US and would like to enable DoH, you’re welcome to do so by going to Settings, then General, then scroll down to Networking Settings and click the Settings button on the right. Here you can enable DNS over HTTPS by clicking, and a checkbox will appear. By default, this change will send your encrypted DNS requests to Cloudflare.Users have the option to choose between two providers 204 Cloudflare and NextDNS — both of which are trusted resolvers.

Australian government consults on its upcoming internet censorship plans

Read more inau.htm at MelonFarmers.co.uk

australia government communications logo The Australian government writes:

We are seeking feedback on proposals for a new Online Safety Act to improve Australia’s online safety regulatory framework.

The proposed reforms follow a 2018 review of online safety legislation which recommended the replacement of the existing framework with a single Online Safety Act.

Key proposals include:

  • A set of basic online safety expectations for industry (initially social media platforms), clearly stating community expectations, with associated reporting requirements.

  • An enhanced cyberbullying scheme for Australian children to capture a range of online services, not just social media platforms.

  • A new cyber abuse scheme for Australian adults to facilitate the removal of serious online abuse and harassment and introduce a new end user take-down and civil penalty regime.

  • Consistent take-down requirements for image-based abuse, cyber abuse, cyberbullying and seriously harmful online content, requiring online service providers to remove such material within 24 hours of receiving an eSafety Commissioner request.

  • A reformed online content scheme requiring the Australian technology industry to be proactive in addressing access to harmful online content. The scheme would also expand the eSafety Commissioner’s powers to address illegal and harmful content on websites hosted overseas.

  • An ancillary service provider scheme to provide the eSafety Commissioner with the capacity to disrupt access to seriously harmful online material made available via search engines, app stores and other ancillary service providers.

  • An additional power for the eSafety Commissioner to respond rapidly to an online crisis event (such as the Christchurch terrorist attacks) by requesting internet service providers block access to sites hosting seriously harmful content.

The consultation runs to 5pm 19th February 2020

Work longer, pay more fuel tax, get maimed by rubber bullets, and now have your porn blocked…

Read more eu.htm at MelonFarmers.co.uk

emmanuel macron French President Emmanuel Macron has said that he will legislate if necessary to get parental controls in place to block kids from porn. He said in a speech to UNESCO:

We do not take a 13-year-old boy to a sex-shop, not anything goes in the digital world.

We will clarify in the penal code that the simple fact of declaring one’s age online is not a strong enough protection against access to pornography by minors.

The measure will give the websites a period of six months to set up parental control by default . I know it hurts a lot of platforms, a lot of digital operators, but if in six months we have no solution, we will pass a law for automatic parental control,

Macron’s reference to age 13 is not casual, because that is reportedly the average age of access to erotic content for the first time in France.

Read more parl.htm at MelonFarmers.co.uk

house of lords red logo A few unelected members of the House of Lords are introducing their own internet censorship law because they think it is unreasonable to wait a year for the government to work through the issues.Tom McNally, previously involved in TV censorship law has challenged the Government to back his proposed new law. This is set to be introduced in the House or Lord on January 14.

The bill gives Ofcom censorship powers requiring that internet companies accept a duty of care with provisions to be enforced by Ofcom.

McNally told The Daily Telegraph:

We are in danger of losing a whole year on this. The Government’s commitment to develop safer internet legislation in the Queen’s Speech, though welcome, did not go far enough.

The Government has yet to reveal the findings from its consultation on its White Paper which was published in the Summer. The results had been expected before the end of this year but have been delayed by the general election.McNally is drafting the bill with the Carnegie Trust who campaign for internet censorship in the name of thinking of the children. Lord Puttnam and Baroness Kidron, the film director and children’s internet rights campaigner are being canvassed as sponsors of the bill.

Read more inau.htm at MelonFarmers.co.uk

australia esafety commissioner logoA radical overhaul of Australia’s censorship and classification laws alongside reforms to the Privacy Act have been revealed.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher confirmed that Australia’s eSafety Commissioner will be handed significant censorship powers.

The new government regime includes the development of a uniform classification framework across all media platforms that would replace the current system of Refused Classification, X, R, MA15 etc.The legal basis was introduced via the hasty introduction of the Criminal Code Amendment (Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material) Act 2019 in the wake of the Christchurch Mosque attacks. The law compelled ISPs, content service providers and hosting service providers to block such content if called upon to do so by the Australian Federal Police.

And now it seems that this will provide the basis for the eSafety Commissioner to coordinate internet censorship in Australia.A key problem to date has been people haven’t been sure who they can complain to and who enforces action. Censorable content has been divided into 2 categories.

Class 1 seriously harmful content will be able to be reported directly the eSafety Commissioner. The Commissioner will investigate the content and will be able to issue a takedown notice for seriously harmful content, regardless of where it is hosted, and refer it to law enforcement and international networks if it is sufficiently serious, the government’s fact sheet says. Where takedown notices are not effective, the ancillary service provider notice scheme will be able to be used request the delisting or de-ranking of material or services.

Class 2 content will be defined as content that would otherwise be classified as RC, X18+, R18+ and MA15+ under the National Classification Code. This includes high impact material like sexually explicit, high impact, realistically stimulated violent content, through to content that is unlikely to disturb most adults but is still not suitable for children, like coarse language, or less explicit violence. The most appropriate response to this kind of content will depend on its nature. eSafety would have graduated sanctions available to address breaches of industry codes under the online content scheme, including warnings, notices, undertakings, remedial directions and civil penalties, the government fact sheet says.

You’ll be safer from snoopers, scammers and censors on public WiFi, but you’ll still be easy prey to government snoopers and censors.

Read more sstech.htm at MelonFarmers.co.uk

BT logo The UK ISP BT has become the first of the major broadband providers to trial their own DNS over HTTPS resolver, which encrypts Domain Name System (DNS) requests.This is response to Firefox offering its own choice of encrypted DNS resolver that would effectively evade BT’s current unencrypted DNS resolver which allows the UK government to monitor and log people’s internet use, block websites that are considered ‘harmful’; snitch people up to the police for politically incorrrect comments; and snitch people up to copyright trolls over dodgy file sharing.

However BT’s new service will allow people to continue using website blocking for parental control whilst being a lot safer from 3rd party snoopers on their networks.

BT have made the following statement about its experimental new service:

BT are currently investigating roadmap options to uplift our broadband DNS platform to support improvements in DNS security — DNSSEC, DNS over TLS (DoT) and DNS over HTTPS (DoH). To aid this activity and in particular gain operation deployment insights, we have enabled an experimental DoH trial capability.

We are initially experimenting with an open resolver, but our plan is to move a closed resolver only available to BT customers.

The BT DoH trial recursive resolver can be reached at https://doh.bt.com/dns-query/

Read more eu.htm at MelonFarmers.co.uk

tsunami democratic logo The Spanish government has quietly begun censoring the entirety of GitHub in response to mounting Catalan protests, causing problems for those developers that use the Microsoft-owned service for their work projects.While the issue is easily remedied by using a VPN, the fact that the Spanish government has been quick to try to censor such a valuable tool speaks volumes for the increasingly prominent but authoritarian idea that mass censorship is the best way to crush dissent.

One new pro-independence group, Tsunami Democratic, organizes digitally online and is known for the mass occupation of Barcelona’s El Prat airport by an estimated 10,000 protesters. In addition to other social media it has a website hosted on Github as well as an encrypted communication app that’s also available on Github.

The Android app uses geolocation and end-to-end protocols to make sure that only trusted and verified users have access. Verification takes place through the scanning of a QR code of an already-verified member. The app isn’t available via Playstore so the APK file containing the app needs to be downloaded and manually installed on a phone.

It’s for this reason that the Spanish government has begun to block GitHub in the country, cutting off access to all users. Over the last week, several Spanish internet service providers have blocked access to the service.

Read more uk_internet_censors.htm at MelonFarmers.co.uk

DCMS logoMore than £2m of taxpayers’ money was spent preparing for the age verification for porn censorship regime before the policy was dropped in early October, the government has revealed.

The bulk of the spending, £2.2m, was paid to the BBFC to do the detailed work on the policy from 2016 onwards. Before then, additional costs were borne by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, where civil servants were tasked with developing the proposals as part of their normal work.

Answering a written question fromthe shadow DCMS secretary, Tom Watson, Matt Warman for the government added: Building on that work, we are now establishing how the objectives of part three of the Digital Economy Act can be delivered through our online harms regime.

It is not just government funds that were wasted on the abortive scheme. Multiple private companies had developed systems that they were hoping to provide age verification services.

The bizarre thing was all this money was spent when the government knew that it wouldn’t even prevent determined viewers from getting access to porn. It was only was only considered as effective from blocking kids from stumbling on porn.

So all that expense, and all that potential danger for adults stupidly submitting to age verification, and all for what?

Well at least next time round the  government may consider that they should put a least a modicum of thought about people’s privacy.

It’s not ALL about the kids. Surely the government has a duty of care for adults too. We need a Government Harms bill requiring a duty of care for ALL citizens. Now that would be a first!

Read more uk_internet_censors.htm at MelonFarmers.co.uk

nicky morgan Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, issued a written statement cancelling the government’s current plans to require age verification for porn. She wrote:

The government published the Online Harms White Paper in April this year. It proposed the establishment of a duty of care on companies to improve online safety, overseen by an independent regulator with strong enforcement powers to deal with non-compliance. Since the White Paper’s publication, the government’s proposals have continued to develop at pace. The government announced as part of the Queen’s Speech that we will publish draft legislation for pre-legislative scrutiny. It is important that our policy aims and our overall policy on protecting children from online harms are developed coherently in view of these developments with the aim of bringing forward the most comprehensive approach possible to protecting children.

The government has concluded that this objective of coherence will be best achieved through our wider online harms proposals and, as a consequence, will not be commencing Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 concerning age verification for online pornography. The Digital Economy Act objectives will therefore be delivered through our proposed online harms regulatory regime. This course of action will give the regulator discretion on the most effective means for companies to meet their duty of care. As currently drafted, the Digital Economy Act does not cover social media platforms.

The government’s commitment to protecting children online is unwavering. Adult content is too easily accessed online and more needs to be done to protect children from harm. We want to deliver the most comprehensive approach to keeping children safe online and recognised in the Online Harms White Paper the role that technology can play in keeping all users, particularly children, safe. We are committed to the UK becoming a world-leader in the development of online safety technology and to ensure companies of all sizes have access to, and adopt, innovative solutions to improve the safety of their users. This includes age verification tools and we expect them to continue to play a key role in protecting children online.

The BBFC sounded a bit miffed about losing the internet censor gig. The BBFC posted on its website:

BBFC logo The introduction of age-verification on pornographic websites in the UK is a necessary and important child protection measure. The BBFC was designated as the Age-verification Regulator under the Digital Economy Act 2017 (DEA) in February 2018, and has since worked on the implementation of age-verification, developing a robust standard of age-verification designed to stop children from stumbling across or accessing pornography online. The BBFC had all systems in place to undertake the role of AV Regulator, to ensure that all commercial pornographic websites accessible from the UK would have age gates in place or face swift enforcement action.

The BBFC understands the Government’s decision, announced today, to implement age-verification as part of the broader online harms strategy. We will bring our expertise and work closely with government to ensure that the child protection goals of the DEA are achieved.

I don suppose we will ever hear the real reasons why the law was ditched, but I suspect that there were serious problems with it. The amount of time and effort put into this, and the serious ramifications for the BBFC and age verification companies that must now be facing hard times must surely make this cancelling a big decision.

It is my guess that a very troublesome issue for the authorities is how both age verification and website blocking would have encouraged a significant number of people to work around government surveillance of the internet. It is probably more important to keep tabs on terrorists and child abusers rather than to lose this capability for the sake of a kids stumbling on porn.

Although the news of the cancellation was reported today, Rowland Manthorpe, a reporter for Sky News suggested on Twitter that maybe the idea had already been shelved back in the summer. He tweeted:

When @AJMartinSky and I broke the news that the porn block was being delayed again, we reported that it was on hold indefinitely. It was. Then our story broke. Inside DCMS a sudden panic ensued. Quickly, they drafted a statement saying it was delayed for 6 months