Archive for the ‘UK Parliament’ Category

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rsph logoA survey commissioned by the Royal Society for Public Health has claimed that four in five people want social media firms to be regulated to ensure they do more to protect kids’ mental health. Presumably the questions were somewhat designed to favour the wished of the campaigners.Some 45% say the sites should be self-regulated with a code of conduct but 36% want rules enforced by Government.

The Royal Society for Public Health, which surveyed 2,000 adults, warned social media can cause significant problems if left unchecked.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has previously claimed that social media could pose as great a threat to children’s health as smoking and obesity. And he has accused them of developing seductive products aimed at ever younger children.

The survey comes as MPs and Peers today launch an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) that will probe the effect of social media on young people’ mental health. It will hear evidence over the coming year from users, experts and industry, with the aim of drawing up practical solutions, including a proposed industry Code of Conduct. Labour MP Chris Elmore, who will chair the APPG.

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home affairs committeeThe UK’s parliamentary Communications Committee has announced a new inquiry into internet censorship. It writes:

The Committee wishes to explore how the regulation of the internet should be improved, including through better self-regulation and governance, and whether a new regulatory framework for the internet is necessary or whether the general law of the UK is adequate. This inquiry will consider whether online platforms which mediate individuals’ use of the internet have sufficient accountability and transparency, adequate governance and provide effective behavioural standards for users.

The committee is now accepting submissions from the public and those likely to be impacted by internet censorship decisions and policy,

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fans against criminalisation logoFans Against Criminalisation campaigner Paul Quigley is celebrating momentous victory for the group which has lobbied for the repeal of the disgraceful Offensive Behaviour at Football Act for the last seven years.The act was a knee jerk reaction to Celtic vs Rangers game where Celtic manager Neil Lennon was attacked on field and letter bombs were later sent to Lennon, Paul McBride QC and Trish Godman MSP.

The resulting legislation was nominally about tackling sectarianism but in reality gave the police carte-blanche powers to arrest fans for whatever they wished under the catch-all guise of offensiveness.

Paul Quigley explained:

A decision was taken to form a campaign to fight this, partly due to a deeply held collective ideological belief in the right to freedom of expression and equality before law, and partly due to the simple notion of self defence.

Fans of all clubs would be welcome to join our organisation and that we would help and campaign for all football fans who we deemed to be the subject of unjust treatment.

Fans Against Criminalisation was able to count on the support of thousands of passionate supporters of the campaign, as was evidenced by a demonstration at George Square which drew thousands of people in late 2011. In spite of this, the government seemed to assume that this would all die down in due course, and that the fan campaign would not have the capability or endurance required to give them real cause to reconsider their position.

The treatment that football fans have had to endure ever since has been appalling. The human cost of this legislation is often lost amid the political rabble rousing, among the doctored statistics and the nauseatingly disingenuous moral grandstanding. The reality of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act is this; it has ruined lives and caused serious damage in our communities.

In the face of all of this, football fans endured. In the years that followed, an incredible campaign challenged this treatment of supporters and lobbied for the repeal of this ill advised and illiberal piece of legislation. Today, the Scottish Parliament finally voted on this very question.

The Repeal Bill has passed, and this is the first time in the history of devolution that the Scottish Parliament has repealed its own legislation. This victory is historic not just for football fans, but for the country.

As a follow up. James Dornan, the MSP for Glasgow Cathcart and a candidate for deputy leader of the Scottish National Party, has decided to quit Twitter. He describes it as a cesspit of hate and bile, saying he has received abuse from football fans over his defence of the Offence Behaviour at Football Act (OBFA). His disgraceful ‘defence’ of the legislation was to try and suggest that the campaign was some sort Labour party political effort. The fans were not impressed and clearly gave him the slagging off he deserved. See more on this in article from spiked-online.com

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House of Commons logoHouse of Commons

Delegated Legislation Committee

Proposal for Designation of Age-verification Regulator

Thursday 1 February 2018

The Minister of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Margot James)

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the Proposal for Designation of Age-verification Regulator.

The Digital Economy Act 2017 introduced a requirement for commercial providers of online pornography to have robust age-verification controls in place to prevent children and young people under the age of 18 from accessing pornographic material. Section 16 of the Act states that the Secretary of State may designate by notice the age-verification regulator and may specify which functions under the Act the age-verification regulator should hold. The debate will focus on two issues. I am seeking Parliament’s approval to designate the British Board of Film Classification as the age-verification regulator and approval for the BBFC to hold in this role specific functions under the Act.

Liam Byrne (Birmingham, Hodge Hill) (Lab)

At this stage, I would normally preface my remarks with a lacerating attack on how the Government are acquiescing in our place in the world as a cyber also-ran, and I would attack them for their rather desultory position and attitude to delivering a world-class digital trust regime. However, I am very fortunate that this morning the Secretary of State has made the arguments for me. This morning, before the Minister arrived, the Secretary of State launched his new app, Matt Hancock MP. It does not require email verification, so people are already posting hardcore pornography on it. When the Minister winds up, she might just tell us whether the age-verification regulator that she has proposed, and that we will approve this morning, will oversee the app of the Secretary of State as well.

Question put and agreed to.

House of Lords

See article from hansard.parliament.uk

house of lords red logoParticulars of Proposed Designation of Age-Verification Regulator

01 February 2018

Motion to Approve moved by Lord Ashton of Hyde

Section 16 of the Digital Economy Act states that the Secretary of State may designate by notice the age-verification regulator, and may specify which functions under the Act the age-verification regulator should hold. I am therefore seeking this House’s approval to designate the British Board of Film Classification as the age-verification regulator. We believe that the BBFC is best placed to carry out this important role, because it has unparalleled expertise in this area.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab)

I still argue, and I will continue to argue, that it is not appropriate for the Government to give statutory powers to a body that is essentially a private company. The BBFC is, as I have said before204I do not want to go into any detail — a company limited by guarantee. It is therefore a profit-seeking organisation. It is not a charity or body that is there for the public good. It was set up purely as a protectionist measure to try to make sure that people responsible for producing films that were covered by a licensing regime in local authorities that was aggressive towards certain types of films204it was variable and therefore not good for business204could be protected by a system that was largely undertaken voluntarily. It was run by the motion picture production industry for itself.

 L ord Ashton of Hyde

I will just say that the BBFC is set up as an independent non-governmental body with a corporate structure, but it is a not-for-profit corporate structure. We have agreed funding arrangements for the BBFC for the purposes of the age-verification regulator. The funding is ring-fenced for this function. We have agreed a set-up cost of just under £1 million and a running cost of £800,000 for the first year. No other sources of funding will be required to carry out this work, so there is absolutely no question of influence from industry organisations, as there is for its existing work—it will be ring-fenced.

Motion agreed.

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Culture, Media and Sport select committeeA parliamentary committee is trying to get heavy with Facebook and Twitter over the release of details about Russian elections interference.Damian Collins, chair of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport select committee, which is looking into so-called fake news, has given the companies until 18 January to correct their failure to hand over information he requested about Russian misinformation campaigns on their platforms. He said:

There has to be a way of scrutinising the procedures that companies like Facebook put in place to help them identify known sources of disinformation, particularly when it’s politically motivated and coming from another country.

They need to be able to tell us what they can do about it. And what we need to be able to do is say to the companies: we recognise that you are best placed to monitor what is going on your own site and to get the balance right in taking action against it but also safeguarding the privacy of users.

But what there has to be then is some mechanism of saying: if you fail to do that, if you ignore requests to act, if you fail to police the site effectively and deal with highly problematic content, then there has to be some sort of sanction against you.

In a letter to Twitter this month, Collins wrote:

The information you have now shared with us is completely inadequate … It seems odd that so far we have received more information about activities that have taken place on your platform from journalists and academics than from you.

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terry burnsTerry Burns is set to become the new chairman of Ofcom in January 2018. As part of the approval process he was asked to appear before parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee. And the topic of conversation was internet censorship, in particular censorship of social media.He was asked his thoughts on whether social media platforms such as Facebook should be recognised as publishers and therefore regulated. He responded:

I think it’s a very big issue. It’s becoming more and more difficult to distinguish between broadcasting and what one is capable of watching on the internet.

However, I think in many ways the main issue here is in terms of legislation and it is an issue for parliament rather than Ofcom.

I’ve been following this issue about platforms versus publishers… There must be a question of how sustainable that is.  I don’t want to take a position on that at this stage. As far as I’m concerned the rules under which we are working at the moment is that they are defined as platforms.

There will be an ongoing debate about that, for the moment that’s where they are. I find it difficult to believe that over time there isn’t going to be further examination of this issue.

Asked whether there was a role for Ofcom to monitor and check social media, Lord Burns said:

I don’t see any reason why if parliament wanted Ofcom to do that it shouldn’t [do so]… I’m not quite sure who else would do it.

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house of lords red logoThe Daily Mail explains that criminals and corrupt politicians and businessmen could escape exposure under a new attempt to restrict Press freedom.A fresh bid to restrict the rights of journalists and the media to inquire into crime and corruption involves attempts to change a data law that is going through Parliament.

One Labour amendment to the Data Protection Bill would mean that the Information Commissioner would have powers to decide whether codes of conduct under which journalists work should be recognised by the new law.

A second amendment would rewrite the new law so that the unjust censorship powers suggested in the second half of the Leveson inquiry into Press standards would go ahead.

Currently the proposed legislation provides an exemption for journalists who access and store personal information without consent when exposing wrongdoing. This means that individuals under investigation by journalists would not be able to interfere with their inquiries or block publication of stories that would bring to light wrongdoing.

However a series of attempts have been made to introduce changes to the Bill which would remove safeguards for freedom of expression, bind journalists and make their inquiries either difficult or impossible.