Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

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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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twitter 2015 logoThere was plenty of strong language flying around on Twitter in response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Twitter got a bit confused about who was harassing who, and ended up suspending Weinstein critic Rose McGowan for harassment. Twitter ended up being boycotted over its wrong call, and so Twitter bosses have been banging their heads together to do something.Wired has got hold of an email outline an expansion of content liable to Twitter censorship and also for more severe sanctions for errant tweeters. Twitter’s head of safety policy wrote of new measures to rolled out in the coming weeks:

Non-consensual nudity

Our definition of “non-consensual nudity” is expanding to more broadly include content like upskirt imagery, “creep shots,” and hidden camera content. Given that people appearing in this content often do not know the material exists, we will not require a report from a target in order to remove it.

While we recognize there’s an entire genre of pornography dedicated to this type of content, it’s nearly impossible for us to distinguish when this content may/may not have been produced and distributed consensually. We would rather error on the side of protecting victims and removing this type of content when we become aware of it.

Unwanted sexual advances

Pornographic content is generally permitted on Twitter, and it’s challenging to know whether or not sexually charged conversations and/or the exchange of sexual media may be wanted. To help infer whether or not a conversation is consensual, we currently rely on and take enforcement action only if/when we receive a report from a participant in the conversation.

We are going to update the Twitter Rules to make it clear that this type of behavior is unacceptable. We will continue taking enforcement action when we receive a report from someone directly involved in the conversation.

Hate symbols and imagery (new)

We are still defining the exact scope of what will be covered by this policy. At a high level, hateful imagery, hate symbols, etc will now be considered sensitive media (similar to how we handle and enforce adult content and graphic violence). More details to come.

Violent groups (new)

We are still defining the exact scope of what will be covered by this policy. At a high level, we will take enforcement action against organizations that use/have historically used violence as a means to advance their cause. More details to come here as well

Tweets that glorify violence (new)

We already take enforcement action against direct violent threats (“I’m going to kill you”), vague violent threats (“Someone should kill you”) and wishes/hopes of serious physical harm, death, or disease (“I hope someone kills you”). Moving forward, we will also take action against content that glorifies (“Praise be to for shooting up. He’s a hero!”) and/or condones (“Murdering makes sense. That way they won’t be a drain on social services”). More details to come.

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EU flagArticle 13: Monitoring and filtering of internet content is unacceptable. Index on Censorship joined with 56 other NGOs to call for the deletion of Article 13 from the proposal on the Digital Single Market, which includes obligations on internet companies that would be impossible to respect without the imposition of excessive restrictions on citizens’ fundamental rights.

Dear President Juncker,
Dear President Tajani,
Dear President Tusk,
Dear Prime Minister Ratas,
Dear Prime Minister Borissov,
Dear Ministers,
Dear MEP Voss, MEP Boni

The undersigned stakeholders represent fundamental rights organisations.

Fundamental rights, justice and the rule of law are intrinsically linked and constitute core values on which the EU is founded. Any attempt to disregard these values undermines the mutual trust between member states required for the EU to function. Any such attempt would also undermine the commitments made by the European Union and national governments to their citizens.

Article 13 of the proposal on Copyright in the Digital Single Market include obligations on internet companies that would be impossible to respect without the imposition of excessive restrictions on citizens’ fundamental rights.

Article 13 introduces new obligations on internet service providers that share and store user-generated content, such as video or photo-sharing platforms or even creative writing websites, including obligations to filter uploads to their services. Article 13 appears to provoke such legal uncertainty that online services will have no other option than to monitor, filter and block EU citizens’ communications if they are to have any chance of staying in business.

Article 13 contradicts existing rules and the case law of the Court of Justice. The Directive of Electronic Commerce ( 2000/31/EC) regulates the liability for those internet companies that host content on behalf of their users. According to the existing rules, there is an obligation to remove any content that breaches copyright rules, once this has been notified to the provider.

Article 13 would force these companies to actively monitor their users’ content, which contradicts the ‘no general obligation to monitor’ rules in the Electronic Commerce Directive. The requirement to install a system for filtering electronic communications has twice been rejected by the Court of Justice, in the cases Scarlet Extended ( C 70/10) and Netlog/Sabam (C 360/10). Therefore, a legislative provision that requires internet companies to install a filtering system would almost certainly be rejected by the Court of Justice because it would contravene the requirement that a fair balance be struck between the right to intellectual property on the one hand, and the freedom to conduct business and the right to freedom of expression, such as to receive or impart information, on the other.

In particular, the requirement to filter content in this way would violate the freedom of expression set out in Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. If internet companies are required to apply filtering mechanisms in order to avoid possible liability, they will. This will lead to excessive filtering and deletion of content and limit the freedom to impart information on the one hand, and the freedom to receive information on the other.

If EU legislation conflicts with the Charter of Fundamental Rights, national constitutional courts are likely to be tempted to disapply it and we can expect such a rule to be annulled by the Court of Justice. This is what happened with the Data Retention Directive (2006/24/EC), when EU legislators ignored compatibility problems with the Charter of Fundamental Rights. In 2014, the Court of Justice declared the Data Retention Directive invalid because it violated the Charter.

Taking into consideration these arguments, we ask the relevant policy-makers to delete Article 13.

European Digital Rights (EDRi)
Access Info
ActiveWatch
Article 19
Associação D3 — Defesa dos Direitos Digitais
Associação Nacional para o Software Livre (ANSOL)
Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
Association for Technology and Internet (ApTI)
Association of the Defence of Human Rights in Romania (APADOR)
Associazione Antigone
Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC)
Bits of Freedom (BoF)
BlueLink Foundation
Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT)
Centre for Peace Studies
Centrum Cyfrowe
Coalizione Italiana Liberta@ e Diritti Civili (CILD)
Code for Croatia
COMMUNIA
Culture Action Europe
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
epicenter.works
Estonian Human Rights Centre
Freedom of the Press Foundation
Frënn vun der Ënn
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights
Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights
Human Rights Monitoring Institute
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Without Frontiers
Hungarian Civil Liberties Union
Index on Censorship
International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR)
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
Internautas
JUMEN
Justice & Peace
La Quadrature du Net
Media Development Centre
Miklos Haraszti (Former OSCE Media Representative)
Modern Poland Foundation
Netherlands Helsinki Committee
One World Platform
Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI)
Open Rights Group (ORG)
OpenMedia
Panoptykon
Plataforma en Defensa de la Libertad de Información (PDLI)
Reporters without Borders (RSF)
Rights International Spain
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
South East European Network for Professionalization of Media (SEENPM)
Statewatch
The Right to Know Coalition of Nova Scotia (RTKNS)
Xnet

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patricia hodgsonThe chairman of the media censor Ofcom has said she believes internet businesses such as Google and Facebook are publishers, and so should be regulated by the state.Patricia Hodgson also revealed that the board of Ofcom discussed how the internet could be regulated in the future at a strategy day last week, although she said this was ultimately a matter for the government.

Hodgson was speaking to MPs at a hearing of the digital, culture, media and sport committee. Asked about the rise of fake news and whether internet companies should face greater regulation, Hodgson said:

Those particular distribution systems [Facebook, Google, Twitter etc] are not within Ofcom’s responsibility but we feel very strongly about the integrity of news in this country and we are totally supportive of steps that should and need to be taken to improve matters.

My personal view is I see this as an issue that is finally being grasped — certainly within the EU, certainly within this country — and to my amazement and interest, being asked in the United States as a result of the potential Russian scandals. My personal view is that they are publishers but that is only my personal view, that is not an Ofcom view. As I said, Ofcom is simply concerned about the integrity of news and very supportive of the debate and the steps that are being taken.

Theresa May’s spokesman said Hodgson’s comments were a matter for her as an independent regulator, but indicated that ministers were sympathetic.

Sharon White, the chief executive of Ofcom, said she was wary of regulating internet companies. We feel strongly that the platforms as publishers have got more responsibility to ensure the right content, she said. I don’t think it’s a question of regulation, which I think has a fuzzy boundary with censorship, but I think we feel strongly that the platforms ought to be doing more to ensure their content can be trusted.

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Germany flagGermany’s new internet censorship law came into force on 1st October. The law nominally targets ‘hate speech’, but massively high penalties coupled with ridiculously short time scales allowed to consider the issues, mean that the law ensures that anything the authorities don’t like will have to be immediately censored…just in case.Passed earlier this summer, the law will financially penalize social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, if they don’t remove hate speech, as per its definition in Germany’s current criminal code within 24 hours. They will be allowed up to a week to decide for comments that don’t fall into the blatant hate speech category. The top fine for not deleting hate speech within 24 hours is 50 million euro though that would be for repeatedly breaking the law, not for individual cases.

Journalists, lawyers, and free-speech advocates have been voicing their concerns about the new law for months. They say that, to avoid fines, Facebook and others will err on the side of caution and just delete swathes of comments, including ones that are not illegal. They worry that social media platforms are being given the power to police and effectively shut down people’s right to free opinion and free speech in Germany.

The German Journalists Association (DJV) is calling on journalists and media organizations to start documenting all deletions of their posts on social media as of today. The borders of free speech must not be allowed to be drawn by profit-driven businesses, said DJV chairman Frank 3cberall in a recent statement.

Reporters Without Borders also expressed their strong opposition to the law when it was drafted in May, saying it would contribute to the trend to privatize censorship by delegating the duties of judges to commercial online platforms — as if the internet giants can replace independent and impartial courts.