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paypal logo The UK education secretary Damian Hinds is calling on payments firms such as PayPal to block transactions for essay writing firms, in a bid to beat university cheats.Hinds says it is unethical for these companies to profit from this dishonest business.

A PayPal spokesman says an internal review is already under way into essay-writing services.

The Quality Assurance Agency wrote to PayPal in November calling on the firm to close down the payment facilities for the essay-writing companies that encourage students to cheat. But the university standards watchdog says there has not been any indication of any change in policy.

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springer opera house logo A popular, uncensored weekly performance event at the Springer Opera House in Columbus Georgia has been put on hold following a skit involving a joke with the line ‘fuck Jesus’. The Springer announced that it suspended indefinitely the No Shame Theatre event following the inevitable social media backlash. A statement said:

The incident that occurred at No Shame last night in no way represents the values or mission of the Springer Opera House. Management is investigating the situation. At this time, No Shame Theatre is suspended indefinitely. Our patrons are our No. 1 priority. Your happiness and comfort are key to our organization’s success. Thank you for patience as we further investigate this matter.

At the end of almost every show, the event ends with a segment called Sex with Me. Members of the audience suggest a person or item to use as a comparison. The host picks a topic, and other members of the audience create jokes. In Friday’s event, host Alli Kaman chose Jesus from the suggested topics.

Four people spoke with the Ledger-Enquirer about the event. One man claims the host of the event said ‘fuck Jesus’ ; another claims that it was a member of the audience who yelled the phrase; and another pair claimed they didn’t hear anyone yell the expletive.

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new filters An informal group of MPs, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Media and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing has published a report calling for the establishment of an internet censor. The report clams:

  • 80% of the UK public believe tighter regulation is needed to address the impact of social media on the health and wellbeing of young people.
  • 63% of young people reported social media to be a good source of health information.
  • However, children who spend more than three hours a day using social media are twice as likely to display symptoms of mental ill health.
  • Pressure to conform to beauty standards perpetuated and praised online can encourage harmful behaviours to achieve “results”, including body shame and disordered eating, with 46% of girls compared to 38% of all young people reporting social media has a negative impacted on their self-esteem.

The report titled, #NewFilters to manage the impact of social media on young people’s mental health and wellbeing , puts forward a number of policy recommendations, including:

  • Establish a duty of care on all social media companies with registered UK users aged 24 and under in the form of a statutory code of conduct, with Ofcom to act as regulator.
  • Create a Social Media Health Alliance, funded by a 0.5% levy on the profits of social media companies, to fund research, educational initiatives and establish clearer guidance for the public.
  • Review whether the “addictive” nature of social media is sufficient for official disease classification.
  • Urgently commission robust, longitudinal research, into understanding the extent to which the impact of social media on young people’s mental health and wellbeing is one of cause or correlation.

Chris Elmore MP, Chair of the APPG on Social Media on Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing said:

“I truly think our report is the wakeup call needed to ensure – finally – that meaningful action is taken to lessen the negative impact social media is having on young people’s mental health.

For far too long social media companies have been allowed to operate in an online Wild West. And it is in this lawless landscape that our children currently work and play online. This cannot continue. As the report makes clear, now is the time for the government to take action.

The recommendations from our Inquiry are both sensible and reasonable; they would make a huge difference to the current mental health crisis among our young people.

I hope to work constructively with the UK Government in the coming weeks and months to ensure we see real changes to tackle the issues highlighted in the report at the earliest opportunity.”

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BBFC logo The BBFC has launched an innovative new industry collaboration with Netflix to move towards classifying all content on the service using BBFC age ratings.

Netflix will produce BBFC age ratings for content using a manual tagging system along with an automated rating algorithm, with the BBFC taking up an auditing role. Netflix and the BBFC will work together to make sure Netflix’s classification process produces ratings which are consistent with the BBFC’s Classification Guidelines for the UK.

It comes as new research by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and the Video Standards Council Rating Board (VSC) has revealed that almost 80% of parents are concerned about children seeing inappropriate content on video on demand or online games platforms.

The BBFC and the VSC have joined forces to respond to calls from parents and are publishing a joint set of Best Practice Guidelines to help online services deliver what UK consumers want.

The Best Practice Guidelines will help online platforms work towards greater and more consistent use of trusted age ratings online. The move is supported by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport as part of the Government’s strategy to make the UK the safest place to be online.

This includes recommending the use of consistent and more comprehensive use of BBFC age labelling symbols across all Video On Demand (VOD) services, and PEGI symbols across online games services, including additional ratings info and mapping parental controls to BBFC age ratings and PEGI ratings.

The voluntary Guidelines are aimed at VOD services offering video content to UK consumers via subscription, purchase and rental, but exclude pure catch-up TV services like iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, My 5 and UKTV Player.

The research also shows that 90% of parents believe that it is important to display age ratings when downloading or streaming a film online, and 92% of parents think it’s important for video on demand platforms to show the same type of age ratings they would expect at the cinema or on DVD and Blu-ray 203 confirmed by 94% of parents saying it’s important to have consistent ratings across all video on demand platforms, rather than a variety of bespoke ratings systems.

With nine in 10 (94%) parents believing it is important to have consistent ratings across all online game platforms rather than a variety of bespoke systems, the VSC is encouraging services to join the likes of Microsoft, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo and Google in providing consumers with the nationally recognised PEGI ratings on games – bringing consistency between the offline and online worlds.

The Video Recordings Act requires that the majority of video works and video games released on physical media must be classified by the BBFC or the VSC prior to release. While there is no equivalent legal requirement that online releases must be classified, the BBFC has been working with VOD services since 2008, and the VSC has been working with online games platforms since 2003. The Best Practice Guidelines aim to build on the good work that is already happening, and both authorities are now calling for the online industry to work with them in 2019 and beyond to better protect children.

David Austin, Chief Executive of the BBFC, said:

Our research clearly shows a desire from the public to see the same trusted ratings they expect at the cinema, on DVD and on Blu-ray when they choose to watch material online. We know that it’s not just parents who want age ratings, teenagers want them too. We want to work with the industry to ensure that families are able to make the right decisions for them when watching content online.

Ian Rice, Director General of the VSC, said:

We have always believed that consumers wanted a clear, consistent and readily recognisable rating system for online video games and this research has certainly confirmed that view. While the vast majority of online game providers are compliant and apply PEGI ratings to their product, it is clear that more can be done to help consumers make an informed purchasing decision. To this end, the best practice recommendations will certainly make a valuable contribution in achieving this aim.

Digital Minister Margot James said:

Our ambition is for the UK to be the safest place to be online, which means having age ratings parents know and trust applied to all online films and video games. I welcome the innovative collaboration announced today by Netflix and the BBFC, but more needs to be done.

It is important that more of the industry takes this opportunity for voluntary action, and I encourage all video on demand and games platforms to adopt the new best practice standards set out by the BBFC and Video Standards Council.

The BBFC is looking at innovative ways to open up access to its classifications to ensure that more online video content goes live with a trusted age rating. Today the BBFC and Netflix announce a year-long self-ratings pilot which will see the online streaming service move towards in-house classification using BBFC age ratings, under licence.

Netflix will use an algorithm to apply BBFC Guideline standards to their own content, with the BBFC setting those standards and auditing ratings to ensure consistency. The goal is to work towards 100% coverage of BBFC age ratings across the platform.

Mike Hastings, Director of Editorial Creative at Netflix, said:

The BBFC is a trusted resource in the UK for providing classification information to parents and consumers and we are excited to expand our partnership with them. Our work with the BBFC allows us to ensure our members always press play on content that is right for them and their families.

David Austin added:

We are fully committed to helping families chose content that is right for them, and this partnership with Netflix will help us in our goal to do just that. By partnering with the biggest streaming service, we hope that others will follow Netflix’s lead and provide comprehensive, trusted, well understood age ratings and ratings info, consistent with film and DVD, on their UK platforms. The partnership shows how the industry are working with us to find new and innovative ways to deliver 100% age ratings for families.

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request a bet A TV ad for Sky Bet, seen on 30 August 2018, promoting their Request a Bet service. The football presenter Jeff Stelling said, Forget ‘anything can happen’, in sport anything does happen. But could it be better? With Request a Bet it could. Spark your sports brain and roll all the possibilities into one bet. Three red cards, seven corners, five goals: lets price that up. Or browse hundreds of request a bets on our app. The possibilities are humongous. How big is your sports noggin? Sky Bet, Britain’s most popular online bookmaker. When the fun stops, stop. A large screen behind the presenter featured various odds and statistics as well as a graphic of brain waves emanating from his head. Issue

Two complainants, who believed it implied that those with a good knowledge of sports were likely to experience gambling success, challenged whether the ad was irresponsible.

ASA Assessment: Complaints upheldd

The ad contained a number of references to the role of sports knowledge in betting, such as spark your sports brain and how big is your sports noggin. It also included a well-known sports presenter, who viewers would recognise as having a particular expertise in sports, and on-screen graphics used to depict brain waves and various odds. The ASA considered that, taking all those elements into account, the ad placed strong emphasis on the role of sports knowledge in determining betting success. We acknowledged it was the case that those with knowledge of a particular sport may be more likely to experience success when betting. However, we considered that the ad gave an erroneous perception of the extent of a gambler’s control over betting success, by placing undue emphasis on the role of sports knowledge. We considered that this gave consumers an unrealistic and exaggerated perception of the level of control they would have over the outcome of a bet and that could lead to irresponsible gambling behaviour. We therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code.

The ad must not be broadcast again in the form complained of. We told Bonne Terre t/a Sky Bet to ensure in future that their ads did not condone or encourage gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible, for example by creating an unrealistic perception of the level of control consumers would have over betting success.

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regulating in a digital world The House of Lords Communications Committee has called for a new, overarching censorship framework so that the services in the digital world are held accountable to an enforceable set of government rules.The Lords Communications Committee writes:

Background

In its report ‘Regulating in a digital world’ the committee notes that over a dozen UK regulators have a remit covering the digital world but there is no body which has complete oversight. As a result, regulation of the digital environment is fragmented, with gaps and overlaps. Big tech companies have failed to adequately tackle online harms.

Responses to growing public concern have been piecemeal and inadequate. The Committee recommends a new Digital Authority, guided by 10 principles to inform regulation of the digital world.

Chairman’s Comments

The chairman of the committee, Lord Gilbert of Panteg , said:

“The Government should not just be responding to news headlines but looking ahead so that the services that constitute the digital world can be held accountable to an agreed set of principles.

Self-regulation by online platforms is clearly failing. The current regulatory framework is out of date. The evidence we heard made a compelling and urgent case for a new approach to regulation. Without intervention, the largest tech companies are likely to gain ever more control of technologies which extract personal data and make decisions affecting people’s lives. Our proposals will ensure that rights are protected online as they are offline while keeping the internet open to innovation and creativity, with a new culture of ethical behaviour embedded in the design of service.”

Recommendations for a new regulatory approach Digital Authority

A new ‘Digital Authority’ should be established to co-ordinate regulators, continually assess regulation and make recommendations on which additional powers are necessary to fill gaps. The Digital Authority should play a key role in providing the public, the Government and Parliament with the latest information. It should report to a new joint committee of both Houses of Parliament, whose remit would be to consider all matters related to the digital world.

10 principles for regulation

The 10 principles identified in the committee’s report should guide all regulation of the internet. They include accountability, transparency, respect for privacy and freedom of expression. The principles will help the industry, regulators, the Government and users work towards a common goal of making the internet a better, more respectful environment which is beneficial to all. If rights are infringed, those responsible should be held accountable in a fair and transparent way.

Recommendations for specific action Online harms and a duty of care

  • A duty of care should be imposed on online services which host and curate content which can openly be uploaded and accessed by the public. Given the urgent need to address online harms, Ofcom’s remit should expand to include responsibility for enforcing the duty of care.

  • Online platforms should make community standards clearer through a new classification framework akin to that of the British Board of Film Classification. Major platforms should invest in more effective moderation systems to uphold their community standards.

Ethical technology

  • Users should have greater control over the collection of personal data. Maximum privacy and safety settings should be the default.

  • Data controllers and data processors should be required to publish an annual data transparency statement detailing which forms of behavioural data they generate or purchase from third parties, how they are stored, for how long, and how they are used and transferred.

  • The Government should empower the Information Commissioner’s Office to conduct impact-based audits where risks associated with using algorithms are greatest. Businesses should be required to explain how they use personal data and what their algorithms do.

Market concentration

  • The modern internet is characterised by the concentration of market power in a small number of companies which operate online platforms. Greater use of data portability might help, but this will require more interoperability.

  • The Government should consider creating a public-interest test for data-driven mergers and acquisitions.

  • Regulation should recognise the inherent power of intermediaries.

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butchered meat sensitivity A chef has criticised Instagram after it decided that a photograph she posted of two pigs’ trotters and a pair of ears needed to be protected from ‘sensitive’ readers.Olia Hercules, a writer and chef who regularly appears on Saturday Kitchen and Sunday Brunch , shared the photo alongside a caption in which she praised the quality and affordability of the ears and trotters before asking why the cuts had fallen out of favour with people in the UK.

However Hercules later discovered that the image had been censored by the photo-sharing app with a warning that read: Sensitive content. This photo contains sensitive content which some people may find offensive or disturbing.

Hercules hit back at the decision on Twitter, condemning Instagram and the general public for becoming detached from reality.