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House of Commons logo The government has published Online Pornography (Commercial Basis) Regulations 2019 which defines which websites get caught up in upcoming internet porn censorship requirements and how social media websites are excused from the censorship.These new laws will come into force on the day that subsection (1) of section 14 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 comes fully into force. This is the section that introduces porn censorship and age verification requirements. This date has not yet been announced but the government has promised to give at least 3 months notice.

So now websites which are more than one-third pornographic content or else those that promote themselves as pornographic will be obliged to verify the age of UK visitors under. However the law does not provide any specific protection for porn viewers’ data beyond the GDPR requirements to obtain nominal consent before using the data obtained for any purpose the websites may desire.

The BBFC and ICO will initiate a voluntary kitemark scheme so that porn websites and age verification providers can be audited as holding porn browsing data and identity details responsibly. This scheme has not yet produced any audited providers so it seems a little unfair to demand that websites choose age verification technology before service providers are checked out.

It all seems extraordinarily dangerous for porn users to submit their identity to adult websites or age verification providers without any protection under law. The BBFC has offered worthless calls for these companies to handle data responsibly, but so many of the world’s major website companies have proven themselves to be untrustworthy, and hackers, spammers, scammers, blackmailers and identity thieves are hardly likely to take note of the BBFC’s fine words eg suggesting ‘best practice’ when implementing age verification.

Neil Brown, the MD of law firm decoded.legal told Sky News:

It is not clear how this age verification will be done, and whether it can be done without also have to prove identity, and there are concerns about the lack of specific privacy and security safeguards.

Even though this legislation has received quite a lot of attention, I doubt most internet users will be aware of what looks like an imminent requirement to obtain a ‘porn licence’ before watching pornography online.

The government’s own impact assessment recognises that it is not guaranteed to succeed, and I suspect we will see an increase in advertising from providers in the near future.

It would seem particularly stupid to open one up to the dangers of have browsing and identity tracked, so surely it is time to get oneself protected with a VPN, which enables one to continue accessing porn without having to hand over identity details.

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vilnius tourism poster A poster for Go Vilnius, a development agency for Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania, seen on 10 August 2018, stated in red text Nobody knows where it is, but when they find it – it’s amazing. VILNIUS THE G-SPOT OF EUROPE. The ad featured an image of a woman, visible from the upper part of her face. The woman was lying on material printed with a map of Europe, with her hair splayed out behind her head. Her eyes were closed and she had one arm raised above her head, gripping the material in her hand at the point on the map where Vilnius was located. Issue

A complainant, who believed the ad was overtly sexual and the image of the woman was unrelated to the product, challenged whether the ad was offensive.

ASA Assessment: Complaint not upheld

The ASA considered that the ad was risqu39 and sexually suggestive in tone, due to the reference to VILNIUS THE G-SPOT OF EUROPE, and the image of the woman gripping the map with her eyes closed. However, we considered the ad portrayed that suggestiveness in a light-hearted and humorous way, for example through the statement Nobody knows where it is, but when they find it – it’s amazing, and because the woman appeared in a surreal and unrealistic scenario, indicating the location of Vilnius on the map of Europe. We considered the ad did not contain anything which pointed to an exploitative or degrading scenario or tone.

While we acknowledged that some might find the ad distasteful, we considered, for the above reasons, the ad did not objectify the female character and we concluded it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.

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archive org 0274x0300 logo The BBFC has just published a very short list of adjudications responding to website blocking complaints to mobile ISPs during the last quarter of 2018.There are several cases where innocuous websites were erroneously blocked by ISPs for no apparent reason whatsoever and a quick check by a staff member would have sorted out without the need to waste the BBFC’s time. These sites should get compensation from the for grossly negligent and unfair blocking.

The only adjudication of note was that the general archive website archive.org which of course keeps a snapshot of a wide range of websites including some porn.

The BBFC noted that this was the second time that they have taken a look at the site::

The BBFC provided a further adjudication when we viewed the website on 10 October 2018. As in September 2015, we determined that the site was a digital archive which hosted a range of media including video, books and articles. We found a range of pornography across the archive which featured explicit images of sexual activity, in both animated and non-animated contexts. The site also contained repeated uses of very strong language. Additionally, out of copyright film and video material which the BBFC has passed 18 was also present on the site.

As such, we concluded that we would continue to classify the site 18.

It is interesting to note that the BBFC have never been asked to adjudicate about similarly broad websites where it would be totally untenable to come to the same 18 rated but correct conclusion, eg google.com, youtube.com, twitter.com. They would all have to be 18 rated and it would cause untold trouble for everybody. I wonder who decides ‘best not go there’?

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regulatory policy commitee logo Parliament’s Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC) has reported that the government’s approach to internet porn censorship and age verification is fit for purpose, but asks a few important questions about how safe it is for porn viewers.The RPC was originally set up a decade ago to help cut red tape by independently checking government estimates of how much complying with new laws and regulations would cost the private sector. Of curse all it has achieved is to watch the western world suffocate itself in accelerating red tape to such a point that the west seems to be on a permanent course to diminishing wealth and popular unrest. One has to ask if the committee itself is fit for purpose?

Anyway in the subject of endangering porn users by setting them up for identity thieves, blackmailers and scammers, the authors write:

Risks and wider impacts. The Impact Assessment (IA) makes only limited reference to risks and wider impacts of the measure. These include the risk that adults and children may be pushed towards the dark web or related systems to avoid AV, where they could be exposed to illegal activities and extreme material that they otherwise would never have come into contact with. The IA also recognises numerous other wider impacts, including privacy/fraud concerns linked to inputting ID data into sites and apps.

Given the potential severity of such risks and wider impacts, the RPC believes that a more thorough consideration of each, and of the potential means to mitigate them, would have been appropriate. The RPC therefore recommends that the Department ensures that it robustly monitors these risks and wider impacts, post-implementation.

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emirates
er….no!, not on Emirates Airlines

Killing Eve, the acclaimed TV hit is among the content being censored by Emirates airline due to its LGBT scenes.Emirates, the world’s fourth largest airline, offers films and television programmes with edited-out footage of same-sex kisses. They include Oscar-nominated Ladybird , and at least one episode of BBC drama Killing Eve, In the original programme, one scene saw psychopathic assassin Villanelle seduce a woman. A kiss between them is removed. In Ladybird, the censored scene saw Ronan’s protagonist burst into a toilet cubicle to find her boyfriend kissing another boy from their drama group. In the edited version, the kiss is cut out and the film skips straight to the aftermath. A spokesperson for Emirates claimed:

Emirates acquires mostly theatrical unedited versions of content, but as a family friendly airline serving an international audience, where there is excessive violence, sex, nudity or language, we opt to license the edited versions created by the studios/distributors.

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FBI logo A US federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit that Google’s non-consensual use of facial recognition technology violated users’ privacy rights, allowing the tech giant to continue to scan and store their biometric data.The lawsuit, filed in 2016, alleged that Google violated Illinois state law by collecting biometric data without their consent. The data was harvested from their pictures stored on Google Photos.

The plaintiffs wanted more than $5 million in damages for hundreds of thousands of users affected, arguing that the unauthorized scanning of their faces was a violation of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, which completely outlaws the gathering of biometric information without consent.

Google countered claiming that the plaintiffs were not entitled to any compensation, as they had not been harmed by the data collection. On Saturday, US District Judge Edmond E. Chang sided with the tech giant, ruling that the plaintiffs had not suffered any concrete harm, and dismissing the suit.

As well as allowing Google to continue the practice, the ruling could have implications for other cases pending against Facebook and Snapchat. Both companies are currently being sued for violating the Illinois act.

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major Newly-released government papers reveal that prime minister John Major considered abrogating from the European Convention on Human Rights if it ruled against Britain in a case involving the film Visions of Ecstasy being banned for blasphemy — Visions of Ecstasy. Documents also revealed that Major was an admirer of Mary Whitehouse.Nigel Wingrove’s 18-minute film depicted Carmelite nun St Teresa’s sexual fantasies about Jesus on the cross, and it was banned by the BBFC, making it the first and only film to be banned in the UK for blasphemy.

When film director Wingrove applied to challenge the ban at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), arguing it breached his freedom of expression, Major responded in a document dated August 1994 sent to senior government figures. Major wrote:

I must make it clear that I would not tolerate a position which required the Government or the BBFC to grant a certificate to this film or to others of a similar type.

This is a matter on which I feel sufficiently strongly to be prepared to consider a derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights if that were to be necessary in the final analysis. I must say I find the position in which we find ourselves wholly unacceptable.

In a reply, then Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd warned about doing anything likely to weaken the fabric of the convention, adding that:

We cannot, in practice, derogate from it except in cases of war or threats to the life of the nation.

Actually it turned out that the UK’s blasphemy laws were backed by the ECHR when it threw out Wingate’s challenge two years later.

Visions of Ecstacy was finally given an 18-rated certificate in 2012 after the common law offence of blasphemous libel was abolished in England and Wales in 2008.