Archive for the ‘UK Government Censorship’ Category

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internet regulation part ii b This report follows our research into current Internet content regulation efforts, which found a lack of accountable, balanced and independent procedures governing content removal, both formally and informally by the state.

There is a legacy of Internet regulation in the UK that does not comply with due process, fairness and fundamental rights requirements. This includes: bulk domain suspensions by Nominet at police request without prior authorisation; the lack of an independent legal authorisation process for Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) blocking at Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and in the future by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), as well as for Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU) notifications to platforms of illegal content for takedown. These were detailed in our previous report.

The UK government now proposes new controls on Internet content, claiming that it wants to ensure the same rules online as offline. It says it wants harmful content removed, while respecting human rights and protecting free expression.

Yet proposals in the DCMS/Home Office White Paper on Online Harms will create incentives for Internet platforms such as Google, Twitter and Facebook to remove content without legal processes. This is not the same rules online as offline. It instead implies a privatisation of justice online, with the assumption that corporate policing must replace public justice for reasons of convenience. This goes against the advice of human rights standards that government has itself agreed to and against the advice of UN Special Rapporteurs.

The government as yet has not proposed any means to define the harms it seeks to address, nor identified any objective evidence base to show what in fact needs to be addressed. It instead merely states that various harms exist in society. The harms it lists are often vague and general. The types of content specified may be harmful in certain circumstances, but even with an assumption that some content is genuinely harmful, there remains no attempt to show how any restriction on that content might work in law. Instead, it appears that platforms will be expected to remove swathes of legal-but-unwanted content, with as as-yet-unidentified regulator given a broad duty to decide if a risk of harm exists. Legal action would follow non-compliance by a platform. The result is the state proposing censorship and sanctions for actors publishing material that it is legal to publish.

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DCMS logo Advertisers have launched a scathing attack on the government’s plans to introduce further restrictions on junk food advertising, describing them as totally disproportionate and lacking in evidence.In submissions to a government consultation, seen exclusively by City A.M. , industry bodies Isba and the Advertising Association (AA) said the proposals would harm advertisers and consumers but would fail to tackle the issue of childhood obesity.

The government has laid out plans to introduce a 9pm watershed on adverts for products high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) on TV and online .

But the advertising groups have dismissed the policy options, which were previously rejected by media regulator Ofcom, as limited in nature and speculative in understanding.

The AA said current restrictions, which have been in place since 2008, have not prevented the rise of obesity, while children’s exposure to HFSS adverts has also fallen sharply over the last decade.

In addition, Isba argued a TV watershed would have a significant and overwhelming impact on adult viewers, who make up the majority of audiences before 9pm.

They also pointed to an impact assessment, published alongside the consultation, which admitted the proposed restrictions would cut just 1.7 calories per day from children’s diets.

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information commissioners office logo Elizabeth Denham, Information Commissioner Information Commissioner’s Office,

Dear Commissioner Denham,

Re: The Draft Age Appropriate Design Code for Online Services

We write to you as civil society organisations who work to promote human rights, both offline and online. As such, we are taking a keen interest in the ICO’s Age Appropriate Design Code. We are also engaging with the Government in its White Paper on Online Harms, and note the connection between these initiatives.

Whilst we recognise and support the ICO’s aims of protecting and upholding children’s rights online, we have severe concerns that as currently drafted the Code will not achieve these objectives. There is a real risk that implementation of the Code will result in widespread age verification across websites, apps and other online services, which will lead to increased data profiling of both children and adults, and restrictions on their freedom of expression and access to information.

The ICO contends that age verification is not a silver bullet for compliance with the Code, but it is difficult to conceive how online service providers could realistically fulfil the requirement to be age-appropriate without implementing some form of onboarding age verification process. The practical impact of the Code as it stands is that either all users will have to access online services via a sorting age-gate or adult users will have to access the lowest common denominator version of services with an option to age-gate up. This creates a de facto compulsory requirement for age-verification, which in turn puts in place a de facto restriction for both children and adults on access to online content.

Requiring all adults to verify they are over 18 in order to access everyday online services is a disproportionate response to the aim of protecting children online and violates fundamental rights. It carries significant risks of tracking, data breach and fraud. It creates digital exclusion for individuals unable to meet requirements to show formal identification documents. Where age-gating also applies to under-18s, this violation and exclusion is magnified. It will put an onerous burden on small-to-medium enterprises, which will ultimately entrench the market dominance of large tech companies and lessen choice and agency for both children and adults — this outcome would be the antithesis of encouraging diversity and innovation.

In its response to the June 2018 Call for Views on the Code, the ICO recognised that there are complexities surrounding age verification, yet the draft Code text fails to engage with any of these. It would be a poor outcome for fundamental rights and a poor message to children about the intrinsic value of these for all if children’s safeguarding was to come at the expense of free expression and equal privacy protection for adults, including adults in vulnerable positions for whom such protections have particular importance.

Mass age-gating will not solve the issues the ICO wishes to address with the Code and will instead create further problems. We urge you to drop this dangerous idea.

Yours sincerely,

Open Rights Group
Index on Censorship
Article19
Big Brother Watch
Global Partners Digital

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firefox logo Age verification for porn is pushing internet users into areas of the internet that provide more privacy, security and resistance to censorship.I’d have thought that security services would prefer that internet users to remain in the more open areas of the internet for easier snooping.

So I wonder if it protecting kids from stumbling across porn is worth the increased difficulty in monitoring terrorists and the like? Or perhaps GCHQ can already see through the encrypted internet.

RQ12: Privacy & Security for Firefox

Mozilla has an interest in potentially integrating more of Tor into Firefox, for the purposes of providing a Super Private Browsing (SPB) mode for our users.

Tor offers privacy and anonymity on the Web, features which are sorely needed in the modern era of mass surveillance, tracking and fingerprinting. However, enabling a large number of additional users to make use of the Tor network requires solving for inefficiencies currently present in Tor so as to make the protocol optimal to deploy at scale. Academic research is just getting started with regards to investigating alternative protocol architectures and route selection protocols, such as Tor-over-QUIC, employing DTLS, and Walking Onions.

What alternative protocol architectures and route selection protocols would offer acceptable gains in Tor performance? And would they preserve Tor properties? Is it truly possible to deploy Tor at scale? And what would the full integration of Tor and Firefox look like?

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channel islands government logo As of 15 July, people in the UK who try to access porn on the internet will be required to verify their age or identity online.

The new UK Online Pornography (Commercial Basis) Regulations 2018 law does not affect the Channel Islands but the States have not ruled out introducing their own regulations.

The UK Department for Censorship, Media and Sport said it was working closely with the Crown Dependencies to make the necessary arrangements for the extension of this legislation to the Channel Islands.

A spokeswoman for the States said they were monitoring the situation in the UK to inform our own policy development in this area.

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russia today international logo Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt declared that the Russian government-owned propaganda channel RT to be a weapon of disinformation in a speech to mark World Press Freedom Day.The UK government is particularly annoyed at the channel for repeatedly deflecting blame from Russia for the poisoning attack in Salisbury.

Hunt noted that the Kremlin came up with over 40 separate narratives to explain that incident which RT broadcast to the world.

The foreign secretary said it remained a matter for Ofcom to independently decide whether the station should be closed down. At the end of last year RT was found guilty of seven breaches of the British broadcasting code in relation to programmes broadcast in the aftermath of the Salisbury novichok poisoning .

TV censor Ofcom has yet to announce sanctions for the breaches of the code.

It seems bizarre that the government should let the TV censor determine sanctions when these could have serious diplomatic consequences. Surely it is the government that should be leading the censorship of interference by a foreign power.

Hunt seems to have been doing a bit of anti-British propaganda himself. In a press release ahead of the speech he seemed to suggest that Britain and the west have fragile democracies. In the news release Hunt states:

Russia in the last decade very disappointingly seemed to have embarked on a foreign policy where their principal aim is to sow confusion and division and destabilise fragile democracies.

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firefox logo A DNS server translates the text name of a website into the numerical IP address. At the moment ISPs provide the DNS servers and they use this facility to block websites. If you want to access bannedwebsite.com the ISP simply refuses to tell your browser the IP address of the website you are seeking. The ISPs use this capability to implement blocks on terrorist/child abuse, copyright infringing websites, porn websites with out age verification, network level parental control blocking and many more things envisaged in the Government’s Online Harms white paper.At the moment DNS requests are transmitted in the clear so even if you chose another DNS server the ISP can see what you are up to, intercept the message and apply its own censorship rules anyway.

This is all about to change, as the internet authorities have introduced a change meaning that DNS requests can now be encrypted using the web standard encryption as used by https. The new protocol option is known is DNS Over HTTPS or DOH.

There’s nothing to stop users from sticking with their ISPs DNS and submitting to all the familiar censorship policies. However if your browser allows, you can ask the browser to ask to use a non censorial DNS server over HTTPS. There are already plenty of servers out there to choose from, but it is down to the browser to define the choice available to you. Firefox already allows you to select their own encrypted DNS server. Google is not far behind with its Chrome Browser.

At the moment Firefox already allows those with techie bent to opt for the Firefox DOH, but Firefox recently made waves by suggesting that it would soon default to using its own server and make it a techie change to opt out and revert to ISP DNS. Perhaps this sounds a little unlikely.

The Government have got well wound up by the fear of losing censorship control over UK internet users  so no doubt will becalling in people from Firefox and Chrome to try to get them to enforce state censorship. However it may not be quite so easy. The new protocol allows for anyone to offer non censorial (or even censorial) DOH servers. If Firefox can be persuaded to toe the government line then other browsers can step in instead.

The UK Government broadband ISPs and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) are now set to meet on the 8th May 2019 in order to discuss Google’s forthcoming implementation of encrypted DOH. It should be an interesting meeting but I bet they’ll never publish the minutes.

I rather suspect that the Government has shot itself in the foot over this with its requirements for porn users to identify themselves before being able to access porn. Suddenly they have will have spurred millions of users to take an interest in censorship circumvention to avoid endangering themselves, and probably a couple of million more who will be wanting to avoid the blocks because they are too young. DNS, DOH, VPNs, Tor and the likes will soon become everyday jargon.