Archive for the ‘Dgital Economy Bill’ Category

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bannedThe BBFC currently cuts about 15% of all R18 porn films on their way to totally ordinary mainstream porn shops. These are not niche or speciality films, they are totally middle of the road porn, which represents the sort of content on all the world’s major porn sites. Most of the cuts are ludicrous but Murray Perkins, a senior examiner of the BBFC, points out that they are all considered either be to be harmful, or else are still prohibited by the police or the government for reasons that have long since past their sell by date.So about a sixth of all the world’s adult films are therefore considered prohibited by the British authorities, and so any website containing such films will have to be banned as there is to practical way to cut out the bits that wind up censors, police or government. And this mainstream but prohibited content appears on just about  all the world’s major porn sites, free or paid.

The main prohibitions that will cause a website to be blocked (even before considering whether they will set up strict age verification) are such mainstream content as female ejaculation, urine play, gagging during blow jobs, rough sex, incest story lines (which is a major genre of porn at the moment), use of the word ‘teen’ and verbal references to under 18’s.

Murray Perkins has picked up the job of explaining this catch all ban. He explains it well,  but he tries to throw readers off track by citing examples of prohibitions being justifiable because the apply to violent porn whilst not mentioning that they apply equally well to trivia such as female squirting.

Perkins writes in the Huffington Post:

BBFC logoRecent media reports highlighting what content will be defined as prohibited material under the terms of the Digital Economy Bill could have given an inaccurate impression of the serious nature of the harmful material that the BBFC generally refuses to classify. The BBFC works only to the BBFC Classification Guidelines and UK law, with guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and enforcement bodies, and not to any other lists.

The Digital Economy Bill aims to reduce the risk of children and young people accessing, or stumbling across, pornographic content online. It proposes that the BBFC check whether

(i) robust age verification is in place on websites containing pornographic content and

(ii) whether the website or app contains pornographic content that is prohibited.

An amendment to the Digital Economy Bill, passed in the House of Commons, would also permit the BBFC to ask Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block pornographic websites that refuse to offer effective age verification or contain prohibited material such as sexually violent pornography.

In making any assessment of content, the BBFC will apply the standards used to classify pornography that is distributed offline. Under the Video Recordings Act 1984 the BBFC is obliged to consider harm when classifying any content including 18 and R18 rated sex works. Examples of material that the BBFC refuses to classify include pornographic works that: depict and encourage rape, including gang rape; depict non-consensual violent abuse against women; promote an interest in incestuous behaviour; and promote an interest in sex with children. [Perkins misleadingly neglects to include, squirting, gagging, and urine play in his examples here]. The Digital Economy Bill defines this type of unclassifiable material as prohibited .-

Under its letters of designation the BBFC may not classify anything that may breach criminal law, including the Obscene Publications Act (OPA) as currently interpreted by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The CPS provides guidance on acts which are most commonly prosecuted under the OPA. The BBFC is required to follow this guidance when classifying content offline and will be required to do the same under the Digital Economy Bill. In 2015, 12% of all cuts made to pornographic works classified by the BBFC were compulsory cuts under the OPA. The majority of these cuts were to scenes involving urolagnia which is in breach of CPS guidance and could be subject to prosecution.

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Read more uk_internet_censors.htm at MelonFarmers.co.uk

BBIC Banned

It’s already been announced that the government are to press ahead with their controversial plans to create a huge database of the all the activities of every internet user in the UK . Every time you visit any website, the time and date and the name of the website will be recorded. There are no exemptions.

Such a system of blanket surveillance has not been used or proposed in any other country.

You might think then, that after such an announcement, they would have been a little muted for a short while in proposing yet more heavy handed legislation aimed at the internet. Not a bit of it. Now they really seem to have the bit between their teeth and are charging full steam ahead with, if possible, even more draconian powers.

In the 1980’s, as a result of the backlash against video nasties , the government handed complete censorship of all video media to the British Board of Film Censors, now renamed the British Board of Film Classification (because they don’t like to be thought of as censors). A bit like the ministry of propaganda preferred to be called the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s 1984. Appropriately enough, this bill was made law in 1984.

Now, the latest proposal is to effectively hand censorship of the entire internet over to the same people!

The argument is that if a website which is unsuitable for children does not have adequate checks in place to verify the users age, the BBFC will be able to block it. This might sound reasonable in theory but in practice it will culminate in a monstrous invasion of internet freedom and dangers for internet users. Here’s why:

  1. Most people know that such controls can be effectively by-passed with use of a proxy servers, or on a phone or tablet a simple app which redirects internet traffic through a secure unfiltered connection. The problem with this is that it introduces a whole new level of risk and exposure to criminality. Traffic can be routed, without the user knowing, via servers which are known to contain criminal content thus giving the appearance that the user has been accessing child pornography, terrorist information or other material which could incriminate them.

  2. Amongst the honest firms who run proxy servers there are con-men and criminals waiting to catch the unwary. Ransom demands and other criminal activity is often the actual business which is sitting behind a link for what appears to be a proxy server. If you don’t believe me, please do your own research.

  3. Identification will be a nightmare. Making porn or other websites take credit or debit card details as a check of age is preposterous. Very few people would want to trust giving their credit or debit card details to a website just to even see what is on it.

  4. It’s even been suggested that these websites could cross check the UK electoral roll. How’s that supposed to work? Presumably not so anybody can give the name and address of someone they dislike and that goes down on the government’s list of names and addresses of people who’ve visited dodgy websites?

  5. The BBFC can not just censor but entirely block any web site that contains anything they disagree with! For example if the site contains anything which they would not allow in a BBFC certificated video. They would argue that it was their duty . Since a website containing any nudity at all, or discussion of sex, or any other thing which is not suitable for children , should be behind an age protected barrier, this will allow them to block any web site they wish. If a site with discussion about something which is not suitable for a small child, say in the US or Canada, cannot be bothered to deal with the BBFC, it can simply be blocked completely in the UK if the owners do not cravenly submit to the demands of a government censor in another country! Not that the websites will probably care, having written off internet users in the UK the same way as they would people who are blocked from access by any other dictatorial government around the world.

  6. In addition to websites being blocked, if a server contains a small amount of anything which is unsuitable for children, the domain itself, containing many other web sites, can be blocked. Because most countries in the world are more broad minded and less adamant about state control of what people see than the UK, nobody else will have noticed that UK users are being blocked from access to perfectly normal information just because their domain has been blacklisted.

  7. Who is going to pay for this work to be done? The BBFC can currently pay for their video censorship work because the Video Recordings Act requires that by law firms in the UK have no option but to pay their fees ranging from several thousand pounds for each video submitted.

    How do you think the BBFC is going to get on with the owners of foreign websites?

    Ah, hello Mr Dirty Website Owner, this is the BBFC here, we want you to follow our regulations and pay us or fees or I’m afraid I’ll have to inform you that her majesty’s government will block UK users from access to your website.

    Mr Dirty Website Owner’s response is something which you can probably imagine yourself. It probably involves some rather colourful language telling the BBFC where they can stick their regulations and fees.

  8. The government has already required ISPs to provide filtered child friendly internet connections for anyone who wants it. However, since the population have generally been less than enthusiastic about uptake of filtered internet connections the government has decided that this is not good enough and so you *will* have a censored internet connection *and like it* even though 70% of households in the UK have no children.

  9. If this truly was a matter of protecting children, then the problem would lie with the 10 to 15 % of homes with children, where the adults have not switched on the filters. It would be far more sensible to amend the law to require homes where children are present to have the filters switched on. But this just proves that it *isn’t* just a matter of protecting children, what they really want is *total* control, and you don’t get that with a opt in scheme. The plan is to censor the internet to the extent that these filtered connections are no longer required.

  10. Going back to proxy servers again, since this is such an easy way to avoid the censorship, and since, unfortunately, proxy servers allow access to anything, even stuff 99.9% of people really don’t want to see, this will give the government a *perfect excuse* to ban proxy servers as well. And there you have it: TOTAL INTERNET CENSORSHIP. You could probably still download and install a proxy server, but if you are detected using it you could be marched down to the local police station for questioning, and since there is no excuse to be using a proxy server as they will be illegal, they can assume you were planning a terrorist attack or watching child pornography and throw you in jail. Sorry, I mean detain you in a cell pending trial, for the public good.

WAKE UP BRITAIN! Please don’t allow the control freaks to take over your county. Print this article out, send it to your MP – don’t let MPs simply be carried along by misguided nanny state meddling in basic democratic freedom under the guise of protecting the children . The onus should be on parents to switch on the filters that have already been provided, not treat every adult in the UK as a child.

This proposed legislation is a continuation of the very slippery slope towards total state surveillance and control which has already been approved. If you don’t stand up to this next level of state control, what will they think they can get away with next?

Don’t take this warning lightly, unless enough people object they will steamroller ahead with it and you will loose your freedom. Unless you want your internet to be suitable for a pre school toddler with a vast number of other harmless pages and websites blocked as a result, send this article to your MP now and ask for his or her comments.

Read more parl.htm at MelonFarmers.co.uk

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.

Read more UK Internet Censorship at MelonFarmers.co.uk

House of Commons logo The current wording of the Digital Economy Bill punishes foreign adult websites who do not implement age verification by suffocating them from payments and advertising. It does not at the moment facilitate such websites by being blocked by ISPs. Open Rights Group reports on a clamour by censorial MPs to table amendment to give powers to block non-complying websites. I suspect that in reality the security services would not be very appreciative as maybe massive use of VPNs and the like would hinder surveillance of criminals and terrorists. The Open Rights Group reports:

Now we want censorship: porn controls in the Digital Economy Bill are running out of control

The government’s proposal for age verification to access pornography is running out of control. MPs have worked out that attempts to verify adult’s ages won’t stop children from accessing other pornographic websites: so their proposed answer is to start censoring these websites.

That’s right: in order to make age verification technologies “work”, some MPs want to block completely legal content from access by every UK citizen . It would have a massive impact on the free expression of adults across the UK. The impact for sexual minorities would be particularly severe.

This only serves to illustrate the problems with the AV proposal. Age verification was always likely to be accompanied by calls to block “non-compliant” overseas websites, and also to be extended to more and more categories of “unsuitable” material.

We have to draw a line. Child protection is very important, but let’s try to place this policy in some context:

  • 70% of UK households have no children

  • Take up of ISP filters is around 10-30% depending on ISP, so roughly in line with expectations and already restricting content in the majority of households with children (other measures may be restricting access in other cases).

  • Most adults access pornography , including a large proportion of women.

  • Less that 3% of children aged 9-12 are believed to have accessed inappropriate material

  • Pornography can and will be circulated by young people by email, portable media and private messaging systems

  • The most effective protective measures are likely to be to help young people understand and regulate their own behaviour through education, which the government refuses to make compulsory

MPs have to ask whether infringing on the right of the entire UK population to receive and impart legal material is a proportionate and effective response to the challenges they wish to address.

Censorship is an extreme response, that should be reserved for the very worst, most harmful kinds of unlawful material: it impacts not just the publisher, but the reader. Yet this is supposed to be a punishment targeted at the publishers, in order to persuade the sites to “comply”.

If website blocking was to be rolled out to enforce AV compliance, then the regulator would be forced to consider whether to block a handful of websites, and fail to “resolve” the accessibility of pornography, or else to try to censor thousands of websites, with the attendant administrative burden and increasing likelihood of errors.

You may ask: how likely is this to become law? Right now, Labour seem to be considering this approach as quite reasonable. If Labour did support these motions in a vote, together with a number of Conservative rebels, this amendment could easily be added to the Bill.

Another area where the Digital Economy Bill is running out of control is the measures to target services who “help” pornography publishers. The Bill tries to give duties to “ancillary services” such as card payment providers or advertising networks, to stop the services from making money from UK customers. However, the term is vague. They are defined as someone who:

provide[s], in the course of a business, services which enable or facilitate the making available of pornographic material or prohibited material on the internet by the [publisher]

Ancillary services could include website hosts, search engines, DNS services, web designers, hosted script libraries, furniture suppliers … this needs restriction just for the sake of some basic legal certainty.

Further problems are arising for services including Twitter, who operate on the assumption that adults can use them to circulate whatever they like, including pornography. It is unclear if or when they might be caught by the provisions. They are also potentially “ancillary providers” who could be forced to stop “supplying” their service to pornographers to UK customers. They might therefore be forced to block adult content accounts to UK adults, with or without age verification.

The underlying problem starts with the strategy to control access to widely used and legal content through legislative measures. This is not a sane way to proceed. It has and will lead to further calls for control and censorship as the first steps fail. More calls to “fix” the holes proceed, and the UK ends up on a ratchet of increasing control. Nothing quite works, so more fixes are needed. The measures get increasingly disproportionate.

Website blocking needs to be opposed, and kept out of the Bill.

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.

Read more UK Government Censorship News at MelonFarmers.co.uk

Based on article from openrightsgroup.org
See also Response to working paper from consumerfocus.org.uk

The Open Rights Group has learnt that detailed website blocking proposals have been presented by rights holder groups to Ed Vaizey.

The paper was submitted by the Football Association Premier League; the Publishers Association; BPI (British Recorded Music Industry); the Motion Picture Association; and the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television.

The paper itself has not been published or circulated, despite requests to rights holder groups. The meeting on 15 June, where the paper was presented, was closed to ORG or any other rights group. Consumer Focus did attend, as the official consumer watchdog.

However, it is unclear if Consumer Focus or anyone else is able to show us the proposal. In essence, we have a secret website blocking proposal tabled by rights holders, that may become a self-regulatory, privatised, censorship platform for the UK.

It is unacceptable for trade groups and government to conduct policy in this way. Censorship proposals must be made and discussed in public. Many of us will oppose any censorship that impacts directly and widely on free expression.

UPDATE: Consumer Focus have published a response to the secret paper. This says the core of the proposal is that:

The trade associations are proposing that the Applications Court of the High Court issues permanent injunctions on the basis that a Council and expert body have come to the view that the evidence submitted by copyright owners is valid and the blocking access to the website is appropriate.

Read more UK News at MelonFarmers.co.uk

Thanks to Nick
Based on article from guardian.co.uk

Google logoGoogle’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, has warned that government plans to block access to illicit filesharing websites could set a disastrous precedent for freedom of speech.

Speaking to journalists at Google’s Big Tent conference in London, Schmidt said the online search giant would challenge attempts to restrict access to the Pirate Bay and other so-called cyberlocker sites,  part of government plans to fight online piracy through controversial measures included in the Digital Economy Act.

Schmidt described website blocking as akin to China’s restrictive internet regime:

I would be very, very careful if I were a government about arbitrarily [implementing] simple solutions to complex problems, he said. So, ‘let’s whack off the DNS’. Okay, that seems like an appealing solution but it sets a very bad precedent because now another country will say ‘I don’t like free speech so I’ll whack off all those DNSs’ — that country would be China.

It doesn’t seem right. I would be very, very careful about that stuff. If [the UK government] do it the wrong way it could have disastrous precedent setting in other areas.

Speaking at the same conference, the culture minister, Jeremy Hunt, said plans to block access to illicit filesharing websites were on schedule. He admitted that a challenge of the controversial measure is deciding which sites get blocked.

Ofcom is due to present its report on the practicability of the site-blocking measures included in the DEA to Hunt in the coming weeks.