Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

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european commission logoThe European Commission has called on tech companies such as Twitter, Facebook, and other major names to implement more aggressively measures in order to censor online hate speech. The alternative is to face new EU legislation that would force the tech companies to censor more quickly.The Financial Times reports that a study commissioned by the EU justice commissioner, Vera Jourova, found that YouTube, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, and Facebook have struggled to comply with the hate speech voluntary code of conduct that was announced earlier this year. Amid national security concerns and heightened racial tensions, mostly resulting from unpopular EU refugee policies.

In Germany, the government-led effort has been particularly aggressive. Germany is one of the European nations where the ongoing refugee crisis has reinvigorated the far-right and sparked a backlash against government policy. Reuter reports that Heiko Maas, the German Justice Minister, recently said that Facebook should be made liable for any hate speech published on its social media platform and it should be treated as a media company.

According to The Verge, Google, Twitter, Facebook and Microsoft agreed in a code of conduct announced in May to review and respond within 24 hours to the majority of hate speech complaints. However, only 40% of the recorded incidents have been reviewed within 24 hours, according to the commission’s report. That figure rose to 80% after 48 hours.

According to PCMag, two advocacy groups have criticized those efforts in France. In May, the two rights groups announced their plans to sue Google, Twitter, and Facebook for failing to remove from their platforms homophobic, racist and other hateful posts. News articles have so far failed to point out that maybe some of these groups are making some false claims about  material being censorable. Perhaps the media companies were right to not remove all of the posts reported.

On Thursday, Dec. 8, EU justice ministers will meet to discuss the report’s findings. H

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Lib Dems logoThe Liberal Democrats are to oppose plans to censor internet porn sites in the name of ‘protecting the children’. Brian Paddick, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, said:

Liberal Democrats will do everything possible to ensure that our privacy is not further eroded by this Tory government.

Clamping down on perfectly legal material is something we would expect from the Russian or Chinese governments, not our own. Of course the internet cannot be an ungoverned space, but banning legal material for consenting adults is not the right approach.

The Internet Service Provider Association has also said moves to force providers to block adult sites that do not age verify has the potential to significantly harm the digital economy . ISPA chair James Blessing said:

The Digital Economy Bill is all about ensuing the UK continues to be a digital world leader, including in relation to internet safety. This is why ISPA supported the government’s original age verification policy for addressing the problem of underage access of adult sites at source.

Instead of rushing through this significant policy change, we are calling on government to pause and have a substantive discussion on how any legal and regulatory change will impact the UK’s dynamic digital economy and the expectations and rights of UK Internet users.

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tisa logoThe Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) is another reprehensible trade agreement seeking to put big corporations ahead of the people when it comes to the law of the land.Tisa’s latest wheeze is to suggest that censorship procedures adopted by social networks should be granted impunity from criticism, reproach or even legal control via the law of the land.

Under leaked proposals from TiSA, social networks and other online services could be granted legal immunity when censoring any content, as long as it’s deemed harmful or objectionable.

The measure is one of several internet-related proposals being advanced by TiSA, according to a leaked section of the agreement published by Greenpeace and the German digital rights blog Netzpolitik .

The draft proposal, which is dated September 16, 2013, effectively guarantees online services’ ability to censor such content in Europe without needing to accept any legal liability or public accountability–whether that curation is done by a human or an algorithm.

At a time when there is so much debate about whether Facebook over censors or under censors, or that it somehow controls the thought of zombie masses, gullible to a few lies, enabling the subversion of western democracy, it seems strange to consider granting the orgnisation impunity from law.

Of course our politicians rather prove how easy it is to overrule rational thinking with a few bullshit claims about how granting big corporations immense power, will magically right all the wrongs of our failing economies.

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mariano rajoySpain’s ruling Popular Party (PP) has presented a censorship proposal to Congress that could result in the banning of memes, social network users’ way of gaining comic revenge on the politicians that rule our lives.The censorship law will target the spreading of images that infringe the honour of a person , by demanding that the butt of the joke gives permission for their images to be used in that way

The proposal is a disgraceful attack against the sometimes irreverent humour and political expression in memes, many of which have poked fun at the PP’s leader and conservative prime minister, Mariano Rajoy.

Sources from the PP haves said that the proposal is merely an idea at this stage, and tries to deflect criticism by noting that it does not censor memes that are non-insulting.

So far the only impact of the reform proposal is to have sparked a fresh wave of memes aimed at Rajoy and the PP government, with dozens of social network users posting new gags accompanied by the hashtag #SinMemesNoHayDemocracia – no democracy without memes.

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media reform coalition 2016 logoThe Media Reform Coalition and National Union of Journalists are hoping to make Google and Facebook fund journalism in Britain.They are seeking to persuade politicians to include a new amendment to the digital economy bill, which is currently going through parliament. It will propose a 1% levy on the operations of the digital giants in order to pay for independent and non-profit journalism.

A statement issued by the Media Reform Coalition (MRC) argues that digital intermediaries such as Google and Facebook are not only amassing eye-watering profits and paying minimal tax in the UK, they are also bleeding the newspaper industry dry by sucking up advertising revenue . It continues:

As national and local newspapers try to cut their way out of trouble by slashing editorial budgets and shedding staff, journalistic quality is becoming a casualty.

Public interest journalism in particular has been hit the hardest as newspapers are being lured into a clickbait culture which favours the sensational and the trivial.

In the light of this, we propose a 1% levy on the operations of the largest digital intermediaries with the resulting funds redistributed to non-profit ventures with a mandate to produce original local or investigative news reporting.

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Facebook logo Facebook’s VPs Joel Kaplan and Justin Osofsky wrote in a blog:

In recent weeks, we have gotten continued feedback from our community and partners about our Community Standards and the kinds of images and stories permitted on Facebook. We are grateful for the input, and want to share an update on our approach.

Observing global standards for our community is complex. Whether an image is newsworthy or historically significant is highly subjective. Images of nudity or violence that are acceptable in one part of the world may be offensive — or even illegal — in another. Respecting local norms and upholding global practices often come into conflict. And people often disagree about what standards should be in place to ensure a community that is both safe and open to expression.

In the weeks ahead, we’re going to begin allowing more items that people find newsworthy, significant, or important to the public interest — even if they might otherwise violate our standards. We will work with our community and partners to explore exactly how to do this, both through new tools and approaches to enforcement. Our intent is to allow more images and stories without posing safety risks or showing graphic images to minors and others who do not want to see them.

As always, our goal is to channel our community’s values, and to make sure our policies reflect our community’s interests. We’re looking forward to working closely with experts, publishers, journalists, photographers, law enforcement officials and safety advocates about how to do better when it comes to the kinds of items we allow. And we’re grateful for the counsel of so many people who are helping us try to get this right.

Read more UK Internet Censorship at MelonFarmers.co.uk

open rights group 2016 logo The Digital Economy Bill mandates that pornographic websites must verify the age of their customers. Are there any powers to protect user privacy?Yesterday we published a blog detailing the lack of privacy safeguards for Age Verification systems mandated in the Digital Economy Bill. Since then, we have been offered two explanations as to why the regulator designate , the BBFC, may think that privacy can be regulated.

The first and most important claim is that Clause 15 may allow the regulation of AV services, in an open-ended and non-specific way:

15 Internet pornography: requirement to prevent access by persons under the age of 18

  1. A person must not make pornographic material available on the internet on a commercial basis to persons in the United Kingdom except in a way that secures that, at any given time, the material is not normally accessible by persons under the age of 18
  2. [snip]
  3. The age-verification regulator (see section 17) must publish guidance about–(a) types of arrangements for making pornographic material available that the regulator will treat as complying with subsection (1);

However, this clause seems to regulate publishers who “make pornography material available on the internet” and what is regulated in 15 (3) (a) is the “arrangements for making pornography available”. They do not mention age verification systems, which is not really an “arrangement for making pornography available” except inasmuch as it is used by the publisher to verify age correctly.

AV systems are not “making pornography available”.

The argument however runs that the BBFC could under 15 (3) (a) tell websites what kind of AV systems with which privacy standards they can use.

If the BBFC sought to regulate providers of age verification systems via this means, we could expect them to be subject to legal challenge for exceeding their powers. It may seem unfair to a court for the BBFC to start imposing new privacy and security requirements on AV providers or website publishers that are not spelled out and when they are subject to separate legal regimes such as data protection and e-privacy.

This clause does not provide the BBFC with enough power to guarantee a high standard of privacy for end users, as any potential requirements are undefined. The bill should spell out what the standards are, in order to meet an ‘accordance with the law’ test for intrusions on the fundamental right to privacy.

The second fig leaf towards privacy is the draft standard for age verification technologies drafted by the Digital Policy Alliance. This is being edited by the British Standards Institution, as PAS 1296 . It has been touted as the means by which commercial outlets will produce a workable system.

The government may believe that PAS 1296 could, via Clause 15 (3) (a), be stipulated as a standard that Age Verifcation providers abide by in order to supply publishers, thereby giving a higher standard of protection than data protection law alone.

PAS 1296 provides general guidance and has no means of strong enforcement towards companies that adopt it. It is a soft design guide that provides broad principles to adopt when producing these systems.

Contrast this, for instance, with the hard and fast contractual arrangements the government’s Verify system has in place with its providers, alongside firmly specified protocols. Or card payment processors, who must abide by strict terms and conditions set by the card companies, where bad actors rapidly get switched off.

The result is that PAS 1296 says little about security requirements , data protection standards, or anything else we are concerned about. It stipulates that the age verification systems cannot be sued for losing your data. Rather, you must sue the website owner, i.e. the porn site which contracted with the age verifier.

There are also several terminological gaffes such as referring to PII (personally identifying information) which is a US legal concept, rather than EU and UK’s ‘personal data’; this suggests that PAS 1296 is very much a draft, in fact appears to have been hastily cobbled-together

However you look at it, the proposed PAS 1296 standard is very generic, lacks meaningful enforcement and is designed to tackle situations where the user has some control and choice, and can provide meaningful consent. This is not the case with this duty for pornographic publishers. Users have no choice but to use age verification to access the content, and the publishers are forced to provide such tools.

Pornography companies meanwhile have every reason to do age verification as cheaply as possible, and possibly to harvest as much user data as they can, to track and profile users, especially where that data may in future, at the slip of a switch, be used for other purposes such as advertising-tracking. This combination of poor incentives has plenty of potential for disastrous consequences.

What is needed is clear, spelt out, legally binding duties for the regulator to provide security, privacy and anonymity protections for end users. To be clear, the AV Regulator, or BBFC, does not need to be the organisation that enforces these standards. There are powers in the Bill for it to delegate the regulator’s responsbilties. But we have a very dangerous situation if these duties do not exist.