Archive for the ‘Internet Censorship’ Category

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bbfc appointed The DCMS has published a letter dated 21st February 2018 that officially appoints the BBFC as its internet porn censor. It euphemistically describes the role as an age verification regulator.Presumably a few press releases will follow and now the BBFC can at least be expected to comment on how the censorship will be implemented..

The enforcement has previously being noted as starting around late April or early May but this does not seem to give sufficient time for the required software to be implemented by websites.

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matt hancockThe UK’s digital and culture secretary, Matt Hancock, has ruled out creating a new internet censor targeting social media such as Facebook and Twitter.In an interview on the BBC’s Media Show , Hancock said he was not inclined in that direction and instead wanted to ensure existing regulation is fit for purpose. He said:

If you tried to bring in a new regulator you’d end up having to regulate everything. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to make sure that the regulations ensure that markets work properly and people are protected.

Meanwhile the Electoral Commission and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee are now investigating whether Russian groups used the platforms to interfere in the Brexit referendum in 2016. The DCMS select committee is in the US this week to grill tech executives about their role in spreading fake news. In a committee hearing in Washington yesterday, YouTube’s policy chief said the site had found no evidence of Russian-linked accounts purchasing ads to interfere in the Brexit referendum.

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government unacceptableGovernment outlines next steps to make the UK the safest place to be online

The Prime Minister has announced plans to review laws and make sure that what is illegal offline is illegal online as the Government marks Safer Internet Day.

The Law Commission will launch a review of current legislation on offensive online communications to ensure that laws are up to date with technology.

As set out in the Internet Safety Strategy Green Paper , the Government is clear that abusive and threatening behaviour online is totally unacceptable. This work will determine whether laws are effective enough in ensuring parity between the treatment of offensive behaviour that happens offline and online.

The Prime Minister has also announced:

  • That the Government will introduce a comprehensive new social media code of practice this year, setting out clearly the minimum expectations on social media companies

  • The introduction of an annual internet safety transparency report – providing UK data on offensive online content and what action is being taken to remove it.

Other announcements made today by Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Matt Hancock include:

  • A new online safety guide for those working with children, including school leaders and teachers, to prepare young people for digital life

  • A commitment from major online platforms including Google, Facebook and Twitter to put in place specific support during election campaigns to ensure abusive content can be dealt with quickly — and that they will provide advice and guidance to Parliamentary candidates on how to remain safe and secure online

DCMS Secretary of State Matt Hancock said:

We want to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online and having listened to the views of parents, communities and industry, we are delivering on the ambitions set out in our Internet Safety Strategy.

Not only are we seeing if the law needs updating to better tackle online harms, we are moving forward with our plans for online platforms to have tailored protections in place – giving the UK public standards of internet safety unparalleled anywhere else in the world.

Law Commissioner Professor David Ormerod QC said:

There are laws in place to stop abuse but we’ve moved on from the age of green ink and poison pens. The digital world throws up new questions and we need to make sure that the law is robust and flexible enough to answer them.

If we are to be safe both on and off line, the criminal law must offer appropriate protection in both spaces. By studying the law and identifying any problems we can give government the full picture as it works to make the UK the safest place to be online.

The latest announcements follow the publication of the Government’s Internet Safety Strategy Green Paper last year which outlined plans for a social media code of practice. The aim is to prevent abusive behaviour online, introduce more effective reporting mechanisms to tackle bullying or harmful content, and give better guidance for users to identify and report illegal content. The Government will be outlining further steps on the strategy, including more detail on the code of practice and transparency reports, in the spring.

To support this work, people working with children including teachers and school leaders will be given a new guide for online safety, to help educate young people in safe internet use. Developed by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety ( UKCCIS , the toolkit describes the knowledge and skills for staying safe online that children and young people should have at different stages of their lives.

Major online platforms including Google, Facebook and Twitter have also agreed to take forward a recommendation from the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) to provide specific support for Parliamentary candidates so that they can remain safe and secure while on these sites. during election campaigns. These are important steps in safeguarding the free and open elections which are a key part of our democracy.

Notes

Included in the Law Commission’s scope for their review will be the Malicious Communications Act and the Communications Act. It will consider whether difficult concepts need to be reconsidered in the light of technological change – for example, whether the definition of who a ‘sender’ is needs to be updated.

The Government will bring forward an Annual Internet Safety Transparency report, as proposed in our Internet Safety Strategy green paper. The reporting will show:

  • the amount of harmful content reported to companies

  • the volume and proportion of this material that is taken down

  • how social media companies are handling and responding to complaints

  • how each online platform moderates harmful and abusive behaviour and the policies they have in place to tackle it.

Annual reporting will help to set baselines against which to benchmark companies’ progress, and encourage the sharing of best practice between companies.

The new social media code of practice will outline standards and norms expected from online platforms. It will cover:

  • The development, enforcement and review of robust community guidelines for the content uploaded by users and their conduct online

  • The prevention of abusive behaviour online and the misuse of social media platforms — including action to identify and stop users who are persistently abusing services

  • The reporting mechanisms that companies have in place for inappropriate, bullying and harmful content, and ensuring they have clear policies and performance metrics for taking this content down

  • The guidance social media companies offer to help users identify illegal content and contact online, and advise them on how to report it to the authorities, to ensure this is as clear as possible

  • The policies and practices companies apply around privacy issues.

Comment: Preventing protest

7th February 2018. See  article from indexoncensorship.org

Index on Censorship logoThe UK Prime Minister’s proposals for possible new laws to stop intimidation against politicians have the potential to prevent legal protests and free speech that are at the core of our democracy, says Index on Censorship. One hundred years after the suffragette demonstrations won the right for women to have the vote for the first time, a law that potentially silences angry voices calling for change would be a retrograde step.

No one should be threatened with violence, or subjected to violence, for doing their job, said Index chief executive Jodie Ginsberg. However, the UK already has a host of laws dealing with harassment of individuals both off and online that cover the kind of abuse politicians receive on social media and elsewhere. A loosely defined offence of ‘intimidation’ could cover a raft of perfectly legitimate criticism of political candidates and politicians — including public protest.

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dcmd guidance age verification A few extracts from the documentIntroduction

  1. A person contravenes Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 if they make
    pornographic material available on the internet on a commercial basis to
    persons in the United Kingdom without ensuring that the material is not
    normally accessible to persons under the age of 18. Contravention could lead
    to a range of measures being taken by the age-verification regulator in
    relation to that person, including blocking by internet service providers (ISPs).
  2. Part 3 also gives the age-verification regulator powers to act where a person
    makes extreme pornographic material (as defined in section 22 of the Digital
    Economy Act 2017) available on the internet to persons in the United
    Kingdom.

Purpose

This guidance has been written to provide the framework for the operation of
the age-verification regulatory regime in the following areas:

● Regulator’s approach to the exercise of its powers;
● Age-verification arrangements;
● Appeals;
● Payment-services Providers and Ancillary Service Providers;
● Internet Service Provider blocking; and
● Reporting.

Enforcement principles

This guidance balances two overarching principles in the regulator’s application of its powers under sections 19, 21 and 23 – that it should apply its powers in the way which it thinks will be most effective in ensuring compliance on a case-by-case basis and that it should take a proportionate approach.

As set out in this guidance, it is expected that the regulator, in taking a proportionate approach, will first seek to engage with the non-compliant person to encourage them to comply, before considering issuing a notice under section 19, 21 or 23, unless there are reasons as to why the regulator does not think that is appropriate in a given case

Regulator’s approach to the exercise of its powers

The age-verification consultation Child Safety Online: Age verification for pornography identified that an extremely large number of websites contain pornographic content – circa 5 million sites or parts of sites. All providers of online pornography, who are making available pornographic material to persons in the United Kingdom on a commercial basis, will be required to comply with the age-verification requirement .

In exercising its powers, the regulator should take a proportionate approach. Section 26(1) specifically provides that the regulator may, if it thinks fit, choose to exercise its powers principally in relation to persons who, in the age-verification regulator’s opinion:

  • (a) make pornographic material or extreme pornographic material available on the internet on a commercial basis to a large number of persons, or a large number of persons under the age of 18, in the United Kingdom; or
  • (b) generate a large amount of turnover by doing so.

In taking a proportionate approach, the regulator should have regard to the following:

a. As set out in section 19, before making a determination that a person is contravening section 14(1), the regulator must allow that person an opportunity to make representations about why the determination should not be made. To ensure clarity and discourage evasion, the regulator should specify a prompt timeframe for compliance and, if it considers it appropriate, set out the steps that it considers that the person needs to take to comply.

b. When considering whether to exercise its powers (whether under section 19, 21 or 23), including considering what type of notice to issue, the regulator should consider, in any given case, which intervention will be most effective in encouraging compliance, while balancing this against the need to act in a proportionate manner.

c. Before issuing a notice to require internet service providers to block access to material, the regulator must always first consider whether issuing civil proceedings or giving notice to ancillary service providers and payment-services providers might have a sufficient effect on the non-complying person’s behaviour.

To help ensure transparency, the regulator should publish on its website details of any notices under sections 19, 21 and 23.

Age-verification arrangements

Section 25(1) provides that the regulator must publish guidance about the types of arrangements for making pornographic material available that the regulator will treat as complying with section 14(1). This guidance is subject to a Parliamentary procedure

A person making pornographic material available on a commercial basis to persons in the United Kingdom must have an effective process in place to verify a user is 18 or over. There are various methods for verifying whether someone is 18 or over (and it is expected that new age-verification technologies will develop over time). As such, the Secretary of State considers that rather than setting out a closed list of age-verification arrangements, the regulator’s guidance should specify the criteria by which it will assess, in any given case, that a person has met with this requirement. The regulator’s guidance should also outline good practice in relation to age verification to encourage consumer choice and the use of mechanisms which confirm age, rather than identity.

The regulator is not required to approve individual age-verification solutions. There are various ways to age verify online and the industry is developing at pace. Providers are innovating and providing choice to consumers.

The process of verifying age for adults should be concerned only with the need to establish that the user is aged 18 or above. The privacy of adult users of pornographic sites should be maintained and the potential for fraud or misuse of personal data should be safeguarded. The key focus of many age-verification providers is on privacy and specifically providing verification, rather than identification of the individual.

Payment-services providers and ancillary service providers

There is no requirement in the Digital Economy Act for payment-services providers or ancillary service providers to take any action on receipt of such a notice. However, Government expects that responsible companies will wish to withdraw services from those who are in breach of UK legislation by making pornographic material accessible online to children or by making extreme pornographic material available.

The regulator should consider on a case-by-case basis the effectiveness of notifying different ancillary service providers (and payment-services providers).

There are a wide-range of providers whose services may be used by pornography providers to enable or facilitate making pornography available online and who may therefore fall under the definition of ancillary service provider in section 21(5)(a) . Such a service is not limited to where a direct financial relationship is in place between the service and the pornography provider. Section 21(5)(b) identifies those who advertise commercially on such sites as ancillary service providers. In addition, others include, but are not limited to:

  • a. Platforms which enable pornographic content or extreme pornographic material to be uploaded;
  • b. Search engines which facilitate access to pornographic content or extreme pornographic material;
  • c. Discussion for a and communities in which users post links;
  • d. Cyberlockers’ and cloud storage services on which pornographic content or extreme pornographic material may be stored;
  • e. Services including websites and App marketplaces that enable users to download Apps;
  • f. Hosting services which enable access to websites, Apps or App marketplaces; that enable users to download apps
  • g. Domain name registrars.
  • h. Set-top boxes, mobile applications and other devices that can connect directly to streaming servers

Internet Service Provider blocking

The regulator should only issue a notice to an internet service provider having had regard to Chapter 2 of this guidance. The regulator should take a proportionate approach and consider all actions (Chapter 2.4) before issuing a notice to internet service providers.

In determining those ISPs that will be subject to notification, the regulator should take into consideration the number and the nature of customers, with a focus on suppliers of home and mobile broadband services. The regulator should consider any ISP that promotes its services on the basis of pornography being accessible without age verification irrespective of other considerations.

The regulator should take into account the child safety impact that will be achieved by notifying a supplier with a small number of subscribers and ensure a proportionate approach. Additionally, it is not anticipated that ISPs will be expected to block services to business customers, unless a specific need is identified.

Reporting

In order to assist with the ongoing review of the effectiveness of the new regime and the regulator’s functions, the Secretary of State considers that it would be good practice for the regulator to submit to the Secretary of State an annual report on the exercise of its functions and their effectiveness.

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dcms age verification risk assessment The UK government slipped out its impact assessment of the upcoming porn censorship law during the Christmas break. The new law requires porn websites to be blocked in the UK when they don’t implement age verification.The measures are currently due to come into force in May but it seems a tight schedule as even the rules for acceptable age verification systems have not yet been published.

The report contains some interesting costings and assessment of the expected harms to be inflicted on porn viewers and British adult businesses.

The document notes the unpopularity of the age verification requirements with a public consultation finding that 54% of respondents did not support the introduction of a law to require age verification.

However, the government has forged ahead, with the aim of stopping kids accessing porn on the grounds that such content could distress them or harm their development.

The governments censorship rules will be enforced by the BBFC, in its new role as the UK porn censor although it prefers the descriptor: age-verification regulator . The government states that the censorship job will initially be funded by the government, and the government is assuming this will cost £4.5 million based upon a range of estimates from 1 million to 8 million.

The government has bizarrely assumed that the BBFC will ban just 1 to 60 sites in a year. The additional work for ISPs to block these sites is estimated £100,000 to £500,000 for each ISP. Probably to be absorbed by larger companies, but will be an expensive problem for smaller companies who do not currently implement any blocking systems.

Interestingly the government notes that there wont be any impact on UK adult businesses notionally because they should have already implemented age verification under ATVOD and Ofcom censorship rules. In reality it will have little impact on UK businesses because they have already been decimated by the ATVOD and Ofcom rules and have mostly closed down or moved abroad.

Te key section of the document summarising expected harms is as follows.

The policy option set out above also gives rise to the following risks:

  • Deterring adults from consuming content as a result of privacy/ fraud concerns linked to inputting ID data into sites and apps, also some adults may not be able to prove their age online;
  • Development of alternative payment systems and technological work-arounds could mean porn providers do not comply with new law, and enforcement is impossible as they are based overseas, so the policy goal would not be achieved;
  • The assumption that ISPs will comply with the direction of the regulator;
  • Reputational risks including Government censorship, over-regulation, freedom of speech and freedom of expression.
  • The potential for online fraud could raise significantly, as criminals adapt approaches in order to make use of false AV systems / spoof websites and access user data;
  • The potential ability of children, particularly older children, to bypass age verification controls is a risk. However, whilst no system will be perfect, and alternative routes such as virtual private networks and peer-to-peer sharing of content may enable some under-18s to see this content, Ofcom research indicates that the numbers of children bypassing network level filters, for example, is very low (ca. 1%).
  • Adults (and some children) may be pushed towards using ToR and related systems to avoid AV where they could be exposed to illegal and extreme material that they otherwise would never have come into contact with.

The list does not seem to include the potential for blackmail from user data sold by porn firms, or else stolen by hackers. And mischievously, politicians could be one of the groups most open to blackmail for money or favours.

Another notable omission, is that the government does not seem overly concerned about mass VPN usage. I would have thought that the secret services wanting to monitor terrorists would not be pleased if a couple of million people stared to use encrypted VPNs. Perhaps it shows that the likes of GCHQ can already see into what goes on behind VPNs.

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ben wallaceBritain’s security minister Ben Wallace has threatened technology firms such as Facebook, YouTube and Google with punitive taxation if they fail to cooperate with the government on fighting online extremism.Ben Wallace said that Britain was spending hundreds of millions of pounds on human surveillance and de-radicalisation programmes because tech giants were failing to remove extremist content online quick enough.

Wallace said the companies were ruthless profiteers, despite sitting on beanbags in T-shirts, who sold on details of its users to loan companies but would fail to give the same information to the government.

Because of encryption and because of radicalisation, the cost of that is heaped on law enforcement agencies, Wallace told the Sunday Times. I have to have more human surveillance. It’s costing hundreds of millions of pounds. If they [tech firms] continue to be less than co-operative, we should look at things like tax as a way of incentivising them or compensating for their inaction.

Because content is not taken down as quickly as they could do, we’re having to de-radicalise people who have been radicalised. That’s costing millions. They [the firms] can’t get away with that and we should look at all options, including tax.

Maybe its a good idea to extract a significantly higher tax take from the vast sums of money being siphoned out of the UK economy straight into the hands of American big business. But it seems a little hopeful to claim that quicker blocking of terrorist related material will ‘solve’ the UK’s terrorism problem.One suspects that terrorism is a little more entrenched in society, and that terrorism will continue pretty much unabated even if the government get its way with quicker takedowns. There might even be a scope for some very expensive legal bluff calling, should expensive censorship measures get taken, and it turns out that the government blame conjecture is provably wrong.

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amber ruddHome secretary Amber Rudd used her keynote speech at the Conservative party conference in Manchester to announce new laws, which would see anyone caught repeatedly watching extremist content on the internet to face up to 15 years jail.At present laws prohibiting material that could be useful to terrorists only apply to hardcopy or downloaded material . They do not apply to material that is not actually in one’s possession.

Security and digital rights experts have dumped on the home secretary’s proposal for the new laws, calling the move incredibly dangerous. Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group, said:

This is incredibly dangerous. Journalists, anti-terror campaigns and others may need to view extremist content, regularly and frequently.

People tempted towards extremism may fear discussing what they have read or seen with anyone in authority. Even potential informants may be dissuaded from coming forward because they are already criminalised.

Martha Spurrier, director of Liberty, said:

This shocking proposal would make thoughtcrime a reality in the UK. Blurring the boundary between thought and action like this undermines the bedrock principles of our criminal justice system and will criminalise journalists, academics and many other innocent people.

We have a vast number of laws to tackle terror. The Government’s own reviewer of terror legislation Max Hill QC has said repeatedly that we need fewer, not more. A responsible Home Secretary would listen to the evidence — not grandstand for cheap political points at the expense of our fundamental freedoms.

In terms of how people would be identified — it’s hard for us to say without seeing more detail about the proposals. It’s likely identifying people would mean intrusive surveillance measures like those in the Investigatory Powers Act. In terms of enforceability — it’s likely to be really difficult because so many people will be caught up who have a legitimate reason and will then run that defence.

Shashank Joshi, a research fellow at the security think tank RUSI, told BuzzFeed News that Rudd’s proposal lacked specific detail and ran the risk of criminalising parts of some newspapers:

The risk is that [Rudd] runs into the same problems as her predecessor, Theresa May, did in 2015, when she sought to ban ‘extremism’, Joshi said. These are broad and nebulous terms, and they require very careful definition in order to avoid curbing legitimate free speech.

Otherwise we would risk criminalising some of the material that appears in certain mainstream newspaper columns.

Amber Rudd also decided to bang on about prohibiting encryption, even rather haplessly admitting that she did not understand who it worked.

Again campaigners were not impressed. Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group, noted:

Amber Rudd needs to be realistic and clear about what she wants. It is no better saying she wishes to deny criminals the use of encryption than to say she wishes to deny them access to gravity. And if she succeeds in pushing them off major platforms, terrorists may end up being harder to detect.

Lib Dem Ed Davey also weighed in:

Encryption keeps us all secure online. It allows businesses to operate and thrive securely. Any weakening of encryption will ultimately make us all less safe. For if you weaken encryption, you run the risk of letting in the bad guys

But this Conservative government can only see things in black and white — ignoring the realities of technology. The Home Secretary’s key note speech called on tech giants to work together and, with government, to take down extremist content faster than ever before. My party completely support her in that mission. The only way we will defeat this scourge is to band together — exchange information, invest in new technologies and present a united front.