Archive for the ‘Internet 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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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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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.

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bbfc av graphic logo The UK will become the first country in the world to bring in age-verification for online pornography when the measures come into force on 15 July 2019.It means that commercial providers of online pornography will be required by law to carry out robust age-verification checks on users, to ensure that they are 18 or over.

Websites that fail to implement age-verification technology face having payment services withdrawn or being blocked for UK users.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the new laws. They have confirmed that they will begin enforcement on 15 July, following an implementation period to allow websites time to comply with the new standards.

Minister for Digital Margot James said that she wanted the UK to be the most censored place in the world to b eonline:

Adult content is currently far too easy for children to access online. The introduction of mandatory age-verification is a world-first, and we’ve taken the time to balance privacy concerns with the need to protect children from inappropriate content. We want the UK to be the safest place in the world to be online, and these new laws will help us achieve this.

Government has listened carefully to privacy concerns and is clear that age-verification arrangements should only be concerned with verifying age, not identity. In addition to the requirement for all age-verification providers to comply with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) standards, the BBFC have created a voluntary certification scheme, the Age-verification Certificate (AVC), which will assess the data security standards of AV providers. The AVC has been developed in cooperation with industry, with input from government.

Certified age-verification solutions which offer these robust data protection conditions will be certified following an independent assessment and will carry the BBFC’s new green ‘AV’ symbol. Details will also be published on the BBFC’s age-verification website, ageverificationregulator.com so consumers can make an informed choice between age-verification providers.

BBFC Chief Executive David Austin said:

The introduction of age-verification to restrict access to commercial pornographic websites to adults is a ground breaking child protection measure. Age-verification will help prevent children from accessing pornographic content online and means the UK is leading the way in internet safety.

On entry into force, consumers will be able to identify that an age-verification provider has met rigorous security and data checks if they carry the BBFC’s new green ‘AV’ symbol.

The change in law is part of the Government’s commitment to making the UK the safest place in the world to be online, especially for children. It follows last week’s publication of the Online Harms White Paper which set out clear responsibilities for tech companies to keep UK citizens safe online, how these responsibilities should be met and what would happen if they are not.

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ico censorship proposal This is the biggest censorship event of the year. It is going destroy the livelihoods of many. It is framed as if it were targeted at Facebook and the like, to sort out their abuse of user data, particularly for kids.However the kicker is that the regulations will equally apply to all UK accessed websites that earn at least earn some money and process user data in some way or other.  Even small websites will then be required to default to treating all their readers as children and only allow more meaningful interaction with them if they verify themselves as adults. The default kids-only mode bans likes, comments, suggestions, targeted advertising etc, even for non adult content.

Furthermore the ICO expects websites to formally comply with the censorship rules using market researchers, lawyers, data protection officers, expert consultants, risk assessors and all the sort of people that cost a grand a day.

Of course only the biggest players will be able to afford the required level of red tape and instead of hitting back at Facebook, Google, Amazon and co for misusing data, they will further add to their monopoly position as they will be the only companies big enough to jump over the government’s child protection hurdles.

Another dark day for British internet users and businesses.

The ICO write in a press release

Today we’re setting out the standards expected of those responsible for designing, developing or providing online services likely to be accessed by children, when they process their personal data.

Parents worry about a lot of things. Are their children eating too much sugar, getting enough exercise or doing well at school. Are they happy?

In this digital age, they also worry about whether their children are protected online. You can log on to any news story, any day to see just how children are being affected by what they can access from the tiny computers in their pockets.

Last week the Government published its white paper covering online harms.

Its proposals reflect people’s growing mistrust of social media and online services. While we can all benefit from these services, we are also increasingly questioning how much control we have over what we see and how our information is used.

There has to be a balancing act: protecting people online while embracing the opportunities that digital innovation brings.

And when it comes to children, that’s more important than ever. In an age when children learn how to use a tablet before they can ride a bike, making sure they have the freedom to play, learn and explore in the digital world is of paramount importance.

The answer is not to protect children from the digital world, but to protect them within it.

So today we’re setting out the standards expected of those responsible for designing, developing or providing online services likely to be accessed by children, when they process their personal data. Age appropriate design: a code of practice for online services has been published for consultation.

When finalised, it will be the first of its kind and set an international benchmark.

It will leave online service providers in no doubt about what is expected of them when it comes to looking after children’s personal data. It will help create an open, transparent and protected place for children when they are online.

Organisations should follow the code and demonstrate that their services use children’s data fairly and in compliance with data protection law. Those that don’t, could face enforcement action including a fine or an order to stop processing data.

Introduced by the Data Protection Act 2018, the code sets out 16 standards of age appropriate design for online services like apps, connected toys, social media platforms, online games, educational websites and streaming services, when they process children’s personal data. It’s not restricted to services specifically directed at children.

The code says that the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration when designing and developing online services. It says that privacy must be built in and not bolted on.

Settings must be “high privacy” by default (unless there’s a compelling reason not to); only the minimum amount of personal data should be collected and retained; children’s data should not usually be shared; geolocation services should be switched off by default. Nudge techniques should not be used to encourage children to provide unnecessary personal data, weaken or turn off their privacy settings or keep on using the service. It also addresses issues of parental control and profiling.

The code is out for consultation until 31 May. We will draft a final version to be laid before Parliament and we expect it to come into effect before the end of the year.

Our Code of Practice is a significant step, but it’s just part of the solution to online harms. We see our work as complementary to the current initiatives on online harms, and look forward to participating in discussions regarding the Government’s white paper.

The proposals are now open for public consultation:

The Information Commissioner is seeking feedback on her draft code of practice Age appropriate design — a code of practice for online services likely to be accessed by children (the code).

The code will provide guidance on the design standards that the Commissioner will expect providers of online ‘Information Society Services’ (ISS), which process personal data and are likely to be accessed by children, to meet.

The code is now out for public consultation and will remain open until 31 May 2019. The Information Commissioner welcomes feedback on the specific questions set out below.

You can respond to this consultation via our online survey , or you can download the document below and email to ageappropriatedesign@ico.org.uk .

lternatively, print off the document and post to:

Age appropriate design code consultation
Policy Engagement Department
Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

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web user The legislators behind the Digital Economy Act couldn’t be bothered to include any provisions for websites and age verifiers to keep the identity and browsing history of porn users safe. It has now started to dawn on the authorities that this was a mistake. They are currently implementing a voluntary kitemark scheme to try and assure users that porn website’s and age verifier’s claims of keeping data safe can be borne out.It is hardly surprising that significant numbers of people are likely to be interested in avoiding having to register their identity details before being able to access porn.

It seems obvious that information about VPNs and Tor will therefore be readily circulated amongst any online community with an interest in keeping safe. But perhaps it is a little bit of a shock to see it is such large letters in a mainstream magazine on the shelves of supermarkets and newsagents.

And perhaps anther thought is that once the BBFC starting ISPs to block non-compliant websites then circumvention will be the only way see your blocked favourite websites. So people stupidly signing up to age verification will have less access to porn and a worse service than those that circumvent it.