Archive for the ‘Ofcom Internet Censor’ Category

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Ofcom logo Ofcom has published a prospectus angling for a role as the UK internet censor. It writes:

Ofcom has published a discussion document examining the area of harmful online content.

In the UK and around the world, a debate is underway about whether regulation is needed to address a range of problems that originate online, affecting people, businesses and markets.

The discussion document is intended as a contribution to that debate, drawing on Ofcom’s experience of regulating the UK’s communications sector, and broadcasting in particular. It draws out the key lessons from the regulation of content standards 203 for broadcast and on-demand video services 203 and the insights that these might provide to policy makers into the principles that could underpin any new models for addressing harmful online content.

The UK Government intends to legislate to improve online safety, and to publish a White Paper this winter. Any new legislation is a matter for Government and Parliament, and Ofcom has no view about the institutional arrangements that might follow.

Alongside the discussion paper, Ofcom has published joint research with the Information Commissioner’s Office on people’s perception, understanding and experience of online harm. The survey of 1,686 adult internet users finds that 79% have concerns about aspects of going online, and 45% have experienced some form of online harm. The study shows that protection of children is a primary concern, and reveals mixed levels of understanding around what types of media are regulated.

The sales pitch is more or less that Ofcom’s TV censorship has ‘benefited’ viewers so would be a good basis for internet censorship.

Ofcom particularly makes a point of pushing the results of a survey of internet users and their ‘concerns’. The survey is very dubious and ends up suggesting thet 79% of users have concerns about going on line.

And maybe this claim is actually true. After all, the Melon Farmers are amongst the 79% have concerns about going online: The Melon Farmers are concerned that:

  • There are vast amounts of scams and viruses waiting to be filtered out from Melon Farmers email inbox every day.
  • The authorities never seem interested in doing anything whatsoever about protecting people from being scammed out of their life savings. Have you EVER heard of the police investigating a phishing scam?
  • On the other hand the police devote vast resources to prosecuting internet insults and jokes, whilst never investigating scams that see old folks lose their life savings.

So yes, there is concern about the internet. BUT, it would be a lie to infer that these concerns mean support for Ofcom’s proposals to censor websites along the lines of TV.

In fact looking at the figures, some of the larger categories of ‘concern’s are more about fears of real crime rather than concerns about issues like fake news.

Interestingly Ofcom has published how the ‘concerns’ were hyped up by prompting the surveyed a bit. For instance, Ofcom reports that 12% of internet users say they are ‘concerned’ about fake news without being prompted. With a little prompting by the interviewer, the number of people reporting being concerned about fake news magically increases to 29%.

It also has to be noted that there are NO reports in the survey of internet users concerned about a lack news balancing opinions, a lack of algorithm transparency, a lack of trust ratings for news sources, or indeed for most of the other suggestions that Ofcom addresses.

I’ve seen more fake inferences in the Ofcom discussion document than I have seen fake news items on the internet in the last ten years.

See also an article from vpncompare.co.uk which concurs with some of these concerns about the Ofcom survey.

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sharon whiteSharon White, the CEO of Ofcom has put her case to be the British internet news censor, disgracefully from behind the paywalled website of the The Times.White says Ofcom has done research showing how little users trust what they read on social media. She said that only 39% consider social media to be a trustworthy news source, compared with 63% for newspapers, and 70% for TV.

But then again many people don’t much trust the biased moralising from the politically correct mainstream media, including the likes of Ofcom.

White claims social media platforms need to be more accountable in how they curate and police content on their platforms, or face regulation.

In reality, Facebook’s algorithm seems pretty straightforward, it just gives readers more of what they have liked in the past. But of course the powers that be don’t like people choosing their own media sources, they would much prefer that the BBC, or the Guardian , or Ofcom do the choosing.

Sharon White, wrote in the Times:

The argument for independent regulatory oversight of [large online players] has never been stronger.

In practice, this would place much greater scrutiny on how effectively the online platforms respond to harmful content to protect consumers, with powers for a regulator to enforce standards, and act if these are not met.

She continued, disgracefully revealing her complete contempt of the British people:

Many people admit they simply don’t have the time or inclination to think critically when engaging with news, which has important implications for our democracy.

White joins a growing number of the establishment elite arguing that social media needs cenorship. The government has frequently suggested as much, with Matt Hancock, then digital, culture, media and sport secretary, telling Facebook in April:

Social media companies are not above the law and will not be allowed to shirk their responsibilities to our citizens.

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terry burnsTerry Burns is set to become the new chairman of Ofcom in January 2018. As part of the approval process he was asked to appear before parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee. And the topic of conversation was internet censorship, in particular censorship of social media.He was asked his thoughts on whether social media platforms such as Facebook should be recognised as publishers and therefore regulated. He responded:

I think it’s a very big issue. It’s becoming more and more difficult to distinguish between broadcasting and what one is capable of watching on the internet.

However, I think in many ways the main issue here is in terms of legislation and it is an issue for parliament rather than Ofcom.

I’ve been following this issue about platforms versus publishers… There must be a question of how sustainable that is.  I don’t want to take a position on that at this stage. As far as I’m concerned the rules under which we are working at the moment is that they are defined as platforms.

There will be an ongoing debate about that, for the moment that’s where they are. I find it difficult to believe that over time there isn’t going to be further examination of this issue.

Asked whether there was a role for Ofcom to monitor and check social media, Lord Burns said:

I don’t see any reason why if parliament wanted Ofcom to do that it shouldn’t [do so]… I’m not quite sure who else would do it.

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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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Ofcom logoOn 1 January 2016, Video on Demand censor ATVOD was sacked and Ofcom became the sole regulator for on-demand programme services ( ODPS ) under Part 4A of the Communications Act 2003 (the Act ).In this document, we are consulting on a new regulatory fees regime under section 368NA of the Act, to apply from the 2017/18 financial year onwards. Our preferred proposal is to adopt a fees structure that shares the costs of regulating ODPS only between the largest providers.

We have also provided an estimate of the 2017/18 fee that would be sufficient to meet, but not exceed, the likely cost of Ofcom carrying out the relevant functions in the financial year 2017/18.

Ofcom sets out what VoD companies had to pay under the year of ATVOD:

  • (a) ATVOD’s estimated costs for the year were just over £487,000 and the fees collected were just over £488,000.
  • (b) The 40 largest ODPS providers each paid over £5,000 and accounted for over 93% of fees.
  • (c) ATVOD differentiated between those in the largest group, with the largest Super A providers paying £10,893 each for single outlet services and £14,135 for multiple outlet services (with a group cap available where there were multiple providers in one corporate group). A Rate providers paid £5,010 for single outlet services and £6,502 for multiple outlet services.
  • (d) None of the remaining 77 providers (the long tail ) paid more than £815, and 40 of these paid £204 or less. These providers accounted, in total, for under 7% of fees.

By contrast, Ofcom’s estimate of estimated costs is £114,000 and this will be raised from Video on Demand companies as follows:

  • Companies with total turnover greater than 50 million: £4146
  • Companies with total turnover 10 to 50 million: £2073
  • Companies with total turnover less than 10 million: no charge

Ofcom noted that a proportionally smaller charge for the small companies may not be cost effective to collect and may discourage companies from registering for censorship either by illegal avoidance or by moving offshore.

A consultation on this preferred option and several others is open until 29th March 2017.

Ofcom press censors…The government and Ofcom discuss censorship powers for text based internet news

Read more UK Government Watch at MelonFarmers.co.uk

bbc news website logo Under the BBC’s new 11-year operating agreement, known as its royal charter, its governing body — the BBC Trust — will be axed next year and censorship powers will be handed to Ofcom.But industry sources have told us that this has presented a dilemma around online news, which has become a focus of recent discussions between the BBC, government, and Ofcom.

Abolishing the BBC Trust will effectively create a loophole in censorship powers, meaning the BBC will not be accountable to an independent body for the text articles it publishes on bbc.co.uk/news. Ofcom does not have the power to regulate online news text and, in the case of the BBC, is reluctant to do so. It has no experience of regulating online text and is only set up to regulate video content.

Sources also said that Ofcom has made clear to the government that taking on this task for the BBC could set a tricky precedent. They expressed concern that if Ofcom begins regulating bbc.co.uk/news, the door is then open for these powers to be extended to other broadcasters and publishers. Would you end up with Ofcom regulating Mail Online? asked one person with knowledge of the matter.

Discussions are ongoing and no decisions have been made. An Ofcom spokesman said: We’re still in discussions with the government on how the content of the white paper will be delivered.

A Department for Culture Media & Sport (DCMS) spokesman said the BBC’s draft charter will make clear how we are addressing this issue when it is published later this month.

Read more Ofcom Watch at MelonFarmers.co.uk

Ofcom logo Ofcom regulates on-demand programme services (ODPS) that are notified and based in the UK, to ensure that providers apply the relevant standards. Ofcom also has a duty to advise the Government on the need for protection of consumers and citizens in their consumption of audio-visual services, and in particular the need to protect children.

Ofcom seeks to understand people’s use of, and concerns about, notified ODPS in the broader context of all on-demand and online audio-visual services in the UK, and has therefore carried out quantitative consumer research for this purpose. A

. Comparisons are made to the 2014 data throughout this report where relevant.

This survey covers the full range of audio-visual content that is available on demand and online: sourced either directly via the internet, via an app, or via a provider of a service; for example, programmes on BBC iPlayer, clips on YouTube and films provided by ondemand services from Netflix.

In this report we examine online and on-demand consumption of audio-visual content among adults and teens, and their concerns regarding that content.

The report adds about viewer ‘concerns’

The top mentions in 2015 among all concerned adults include: violence (50%), welfare of children/young people (32%), bullying/victimising (31%), racism (30%), discrimination (29%), bad language (28%) and pornography (24%). Concerns regarding violence, bullying and racism have significantly increased among adults since 2014, while concerns regarding sexually explicit content have decreased.