Archive for the ‘Internet Censorship’ Category

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Crown Prosecution ServiceThe Crown Prosecution Service has just published proposals to end obscenity prosecutions of images and videos of fisting, golden showers, squirting and bondage.The key proposed prosecution policy update:

When considering whether the content of an article is “obscene”, prosecutors
should distinguish between:

  • Content showing or realistically depicting criminal conduct (whether
    non-consensual activity, or consensual activity where serious harm is
    caused), which is likely to be obscene;
  • Content showing or realistically depicting other conduct which is lawful,
    which is unlikely to be obscene.

And there is a consultation question to ask about this new policy

Question 2 Do consultees agree or disagree with the guidance that prosecutors must exercise real caution when dealing with the moral nature of acts not criminalized by law, and that the showing or realistic depiction of sexual activity / pornography which does not constitute acts or conduct contrary to the criminal law is unlikely to be obscene?

16. The following conduct (notwithstanding previous guidance indicating otherwise) will not likely fall to be prosecuted under the Act:

  • Fisting
  • Activity involving bodily substances (including urine, vomit, blood and faeces)
  • Infliction of pain / torture
  • Bondage / restraint
  • Placing objects into the urethra
  • Any other sexual activity not prohibited by law

provided that:

  • It is consensual;
  • No serious harm is caused;
  • It is not otherwise inextricably linked with other criminality; and
  • The likely audience is not under 18 or otherwise vulnerable.

More to follow after reading the document but the new policy seems to expand on the concept of obscenity to incorporate modern issues such as revenge porn, or non consensual publications eg upskirting.

Maybe this change of heart is related to a delay in age verification guidelines for the new BBFC internet porn censorship regime. It would seem very closely related.

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internet strategy Who is liable if a user posts copyrighted music to YouTube without authority? Is it the user or is it YouTube? The answer is of course that it is the user who would be held liable should copyright holders seek compensation. YouTube would be held responsible only if they were informed of the infringement and refused to take it down.This is the practical compromise that lets the internet work.

So what would happen if the government changed the liability laws so that YouTube was held liable for unauthorised music as soon as it was posted. There maybe millions of views before it was spotted. If YouTube were immediately liable they may have to pay millions in court judgements against them.

There is lot of blather about YouTube having magic Artificial Intelligence that can detect copyrighted music and block it before it us uploaded. But this is nonsense, music is copyrighted by default, even a piece that has never been published and is not held in any computer database.

YouTube does not have a database that contains all the licensing and authorisation, and who exactly is allowed to post copyrighted material. Even big companies lie, so how could YouTube really know what could be posted and what could not.

If the law were to be changed, and YouTube were held responsible for the copyright infringement of their posters, then the only possible outcome would be for YouTube to use its AI to detect any music at all and block all videos which contain music. The only music allowed to be published would be from the music companies themselves, and even then after providing YouTube with paperwork to prove that they had the necessary authorisation.

So when the government speaks of changes to liability law they are speaking of a massive step up in internet censorship as the likely outcome.

In fact the censorship power of such liability tweaks has been proven in the US. The recently passed FOSTA law changed liability law so that internet companies are now held liable for user posts  facilitating sex trafficking. The law was sold as a ‘tweak’ just to take action against trafficking. But it resulted in the immediate and almost total internet censorship of all user postings facilitating adult consensual sex work, and a fair amount of personal small ads and dating services as well.

The rub was that sex traffickers do not in any way specify that their sex workers have been trafficked, their adverts are exactly the same as for adult consensual sex workers. With all the artificial intelligence in the world, there is no way that internet companies can distinguish between the two.

When they are told they are liable for sex trafficking adverts, then the only possible way to comply is to ban all adverts or services that feature anything to do with sex or personal hook ups. Which is of course exactly what happened.

So when UK politicians speak of  internet liability changes and sex trafficking then they are talking about big time, large scale internet censorship.

And Theresa May said today via a government press release as reported in the Daily Mail:

Web giants such as Facebook and Twitter must automatically remove vile abuse aimed at women, Theresa May will demand today.

The Prime Minister will urge companies to utilise the same technology used to take down terrorist propaganda to remove rape threats and harassment.

Speaking at the G7 summit in Quebec, Mrs May will call on firms to do more to tackle content promoting and depicting violence against women and girls, including illegal violent pornography.

She will also demand the automatic removal of adverts that are linked to people-trafficking.

May will argue they must ensure women can use the web without fear of online rape threats, harassment, cyberstalking, blackmail or vile comments.

She will say: We know that technology plays a crucial part in advancing gender equality and empowering women and girls, but these benefits are being undermined by vile forms of online violence, abuse and harassment.

What is illegal offline is illegal online and I am calling on world leaders to take serious action to deal with this, just like we are doing in the UK with our commitment to legislate on online harms such as cyber-stalking and harassment.

In a world that is being ripped apart by identitarian intolerance of everyone else, its seems particularly unfair that men should be expected to happily put up with the fear of online threats, harassment, cyberstalking, blackmail or vile comments. Surely laws should be written so that all people are treated totally equally.

Theresa May did not say to much about liability law directly in her press release, but it is laid out pretty clearly in the government document just published, titled Government response to the internet strategy green paper [pdf]:

Taking responsibility

Platform liability and illegal harms

Online platforms need to take responsibility for the content they host. They need to proactively tackle harmful behaviours and content. Progress has been made in removing illegal content, particularly terrorist material, but more needs to be done to reduce the amount of damaging content online, legal and illegal.

We are developing options for increasing the liability online platforms have for illegal content on their services. This includes examining how we can make existing frameworks and definitions work better, as well as what the liability regime should look like in the long-run.

Terms and Conditions

Platforms use their terms and conditions to set out key information about who can use the service, what content is acceptable and what action can be taken if users don’t comply with the terms. We know that users frequently break these rules. In such circumstances, the platforms’ terms state that they can take action, for example they can remove the offending content or stop providing services to the user. However, we do not see companies proactively doing this on a routine basis. Too often companies simply do not enforce their own terms and conditions.

Government wants companies to set out clear expectations of what is acceptable on their platforms in their terms, and then enforce these rules using sanctions when necessary. By doing so, companies will be helping users understand what is and isn’t acceptable.

Clear Standards

We believe that it is right for Government to set out clear standards for social media platforms, and to hold them to account if they fail to live up to these. DCMS and Home Office will jointly work on the White Paper which will set out our proposals for forthcoming legislation. We will focus on proposals which will bring into force real protections for users that will cover both harmful and illegal content and behaviours. In parallel, we are currently
assessing legislative options to modify the online liability regime in the UK, including both the smaller changes consistent with the EU’s eCommerce directive, and the larger changes that may be possible when we leave the EU.

Worrying or what?

 

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matt hancockCulture Secretary Matt Hancock has issued to the following press release from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport:

New laws to make social media safer

New laws will be created to make sure that the UK is the safest place in the world to be online, Digital Secretary Matt Hancock has announced.

The move is part of a series of measures included in the government’s response to the Internet Safety Strategy green paper, published today.

The Government has been clear that much more needs to be done to tackle the full range of online harm.

Our consultation revealed users feel powerless to address safety issues online and that technology companies operate without sufficient oversight or transparency. Six in ten people said they had witnessed inappropriate or harmful content online.

The Government is already working with social media companies to protect users and while several of the tech giants have taken important and positive steps, the performance of the industry overall has been mixed.

The UK Government will therefore take the lead, working collaboratively with tech companies, children’s charities and other stakeholders to develop the detail of the new legislation.

Matt Hancock, DCMS Secretary of State said:

Internet Safety StrategyDigital technology is overwhelmingly a force for good across the world and we must always champion innovation and change for the better. At the same time I have been clear that we have to address the Wild West elements of the Internet through legislation, in a way that supports innovation. We strongly support technology companies to start up and grow, and we want to work with them to keep our citizens safe.

People increasingly live their lives through online platforms so it’s more important than ever that people are safe and parents can have confidence they can keep their children from harm. The measures we’re taking forward today will help make sure children are protected online and balance the need for safety with the great freedoms the internet brings just as we have to strike this balance offline.

DCMS and Home Office will jointly work on a White Paper with other government departments, to be published later this year. This will set out legislation to be brought forward that tackles a range of both legal and illegal harms, from cyberbullying to online child sexual exploitation. The Government will continue to collaborate closely with industry on this work, to ensure it builds on progress already made.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said:

Criminals are using the internet to further their exploitation and abuse of children, while terrorists are abusing these platforms to recruit people and incite atrocities. We need to protect our communities from these heinous crimes and vile propaganda and that is why this Government has been taking the lead on this issue.

But more needs to be done and this is why we will continue to work with the companies and the public to do everything we can to stop the misuse of these platforms. Only by working together can we defeat those who seek to do us harm.

The Government will be considering where legislation will have the strongest impact, for example whether transparency or a code of practice should be underwritten by legislation, but also a range of other options to address both legal and illegal harms.

We will work closely with industry to provide clarity on the roles and responsibilities of companies that operate online in the UK to keep users safe.

The Government will also work with regulators, platforms and advertising companies to ensure that the principles that govern advertising in traditional media — such as preventing companies targeting unsuitable advertisements at children — also apply and are enforced online.

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DCMS logoIn a press release the DCMS describes its digital strategy including a delayed introduction of internet porn censorship. The press release states:

The Strategy also reflects the Government’s ambition to make the internet safer for children by requiring age verification for access to commercial pornographic websites in the UK. In February, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) was formally designated as the age verification regulator.

Our priority is to make the internet safer for children and we believe this is best achieved by taking time to get the implementation of the policy right. We will therefore allow time for the BBFC as regulator to undertake a public consultation on its draft guidance which will be launched later this month.

For the public and the industry to prepare for and comply with age verification, the Government will also ensure a period of up to three months after the BBFC guidance has been cleared by Parliament before the law comes into force. It is anticipated age verification will be enforceable by the end of the year.

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facebook-ads-small-businessGoogle and Facebook accused of supposedly profiting from pop-up brothels and sex clubs sweeping Britain

Ministers are reportedly considering new laws to make internet giants liable when sex workers use their sites to organise business.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) are supporting the propaganda and claim Google and Facebook are making profits from sex trafficking, according to the Times.

Pop up sex clubs have been discovered in Cornwall, Cambridge, Swindon and holiday cottages in the Peak District. Will Kerr, the NCA’s ‘head of vulnerabilities’, claimed:

People are using the internet and social media sites to enable sexual exploitation and trafficking. It is clear that the internet platforms which host and make a profit out of this type of material need to do more to identify and stop these forms of exploitation.

Government figures want internet giants like Facebook to be held accountable, eying new US laws that are set to overturn more than 20 years of blanket immunity for sites for content posted by users. It will make firms liable if they knowingly assist, support or facilitate content that leads to trafficking.

Downing Street and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said they are looking at whether and how to replicate the action in the UK.

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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.