Posts Tagged ‘Internet Censorship’

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uncovering pakistan Pakistan has officially objected to a news article appearing on the BBC news website. Pakistan claimed that the report, Uncovering Pakistan’s secret human rights abuses, was defamatory, called for the article to be taken down, and also demand an apology from the BBC. The news report is available in English and Urdu.The official letter has been written by the Director General External Publicity Samina Waqar to the Ofcom, UK, and the BBC, against the report. The letter claimed the story not only presented a fabricated theme, but also violated journalistic ethos. The letter goes on:

The story also violates BBC’s editorial policy by not incorporating the point of view of all stakeholders/citing credible sources/quoting authentic evidence etc,, adding that it amounted to indicting the state of Pakistan for so-called ‘secret human rights abuses’ without any cogent evidence.

We demand that the BBC remove this defamatory and malicious story and issue a clear-cut apology. We also expect the BBC to ensure that in the future such fake stories specifically targeting Pakistan will not be disseminated.

The complaint explains that the Pakistan government expects the BBC to abide by its editorial policy and journalists’ ethos in the future, asking that Ofcom look into the content of the mala-fide, incorrect and misleading story and take measures as per the BBC’s editorial guidelines 1.2.11 — (Accountability: We will be open in acknowledging mistakes when they are made and encourage a culture of willingness to learn from them.)

Pakistan has warned that the government has the right to pursue all legal options in Pakistan or the UK if BBC authorities fail to retract the libellous and defamatory story and take action against its writer, with the letter saying the content of this story reflects bias, spin and the angling of facts, and that there are judgemental expressions that are a clear violation of journalistic norms of impartiality and objectivity.

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internet regulation part ii b This report follows our research into current Internet content regulation efforts, which found a lack of accountable, balanced and independent procedures governing content removal, both formally and informally by the state.

There is a legacy of Internet regulation in the UK that does not comply with due process, fairness and fundamental rights requirements. This includes: bulk domain suspensions by Nominet at police request without prior authorisation; the lack of an independent legal authorisation process for Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) blocking at Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and in the future by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), as well as for Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU) notifications to platforms of illegal content for takedown. These were detailed in our previous report.

The UK government now proposes new controls on Internet content, claiming that it wants to ensure the same rules online as offline. It says it wants harmful content removed, while respecting human rights and protecting free expression.

Yet proposals in the DCMS/Home Office White Paper on Online Harms will create incentives for Internet platforms such as Google, Twitter and Facebook to remove content without legal processes. This is not the same rules online as offline. It instead implies a privatisation of justice online, with the assumption that corporate policing must replace public justice for reasons of convenience. This goes against the advice of human rights standards that government has itself agreed to and against the advice of UN Special Rapporteurs.

The government as yet has not proposed any means to define the harms it seeks to address, nor identified any objective evidence base to show what in fact needs to be addressed. It instead merely states that various harms exist in society. The harms it lists are often vague and general. The types of content specified may be harmful in certain circumstances, but even with an assumption that some content is genuinely harmful, there remains no attempt to show how any restriction on that content might work in law. Instead, it appears that platforms will be expected to remove swathes of legal-but-unwanted content, with as as-yet-unidentified regulator given a broad duty to decide if a risk of harm exists. Legal action would follow non-compliance by a platform. The result is the state proposing censorship and sanctions for actors publishing material that it is legal to publish.

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information commissioners office logo The Information Commissioner’s Office has for some bizarre reason have been given immense powers to censor the internet.And in an early opportunity to exert its power it has proposed a ‘regulation’ that would require strict age verification for nearly all mainstream websites that may have a few child readers and some material that may be deemed harmful for very young children. Eg news websites that my have glamour articles or perhaps violent news images.

In a mockery of ‘data protection’ such websites would have to implement strict age verification requiring people to hand over identity data to most of the websites in the world.

Unsurprisingly much of the internet content industry is unimpressed. A six weerk consultation on the new censorship rules has just closed and according to the Financial Times:

Companies and industry groups have loudly pushed back on the plans, cautioning that they could unintentionally quash start-ups and endanger people’s personal data. Google and Facebook are also expected to submit critical responses to the consultation.

Tim Scott, head of policy and public affairs at Ukie, the games industry body, said it was an inherent contradiction that the ICO would require individuals to give away their personal data to every digital service.

Dom Hallas, executive director at the Coalition for a Digital Economy (Coadec), which represents digital start-ups in the UK, said the proposals would result in a withdrawal of online services for under-18s by smaller companies:

The code is seen as especially onerous because it would require companies to provide up to six different versions of their websites to serve different age groups of children under 18.

This means an internet for kids largely designed by tech giants who can afford to build two completely different products. A child could access YouTube Kids, but not a start-up competitor.

Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association — which represents companies including Amazon, Sky, Twitter and Microsoft — said the ICO needed to conduct a full technical and economic impact study, as well as a feasibility study. He said the changes would have a wide and unintended negative impact on the online advertising ecosystem, reducing spend from advertisers and so revenue for many areas of the UK media.

An ICO spokesperson said:

We are aware of various industry concerns about the code. We’ll be considering all the responses we’ve had, as well as engaging further where necessary, once the consultation has finished.

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IWF logo A recent internet protocol allows for websites to be located without using the traditional approach of asking your ISP’s DNS server, and so evading website blocks implemented by the ISP. Because the new protocol is encrypted then the ISP is restricted in its ability to monitor websites being accessed.This very much impacts the ISPs ability to block illegal child abuse as identified in a block list maintained by the IWF. Over the years the IWF have been very good at sticking to its universally supported remit. Presumably it has realised that extending its blocking capabilities to other less critical areas may degrade its effectiveness as it would then lose that universal support.

Now of course the government has stepped in and will use the same mechanism as used for the IWF blocks to block legal and very popular adult porn websites. The inevitable interest in circumvention options will very much diminish the IWF’s ability to block child abuse. So the IWF has taken to campaign to supports its capabilities. Fred Langford, the deputy CEO of IWF, told Techworld about the implementation of encrypted DNS:

Everything would be encrypted; everything would be dark. For the last 15 years, the IWF have worked with many providers on our URL list of illegal sites. There’s the counterterrorism list as well and the copyright infringed list of works that they all have to block. None of those would work.

We put the entries onto our list until we can work with our international stakeholders and partners to get the content removed in their country, said Langford. Sometimes that will only be on the list for a day. Other times it could be months or years. It just depends on the regime at the other end, wherever it’s physically located.

The IWF realises the benefit of universal support so generally acknowledged the benefits of the protocol on privacy and security and focusing on the needs for it to be deployed with the appropriate safeguards in place. It is calling for the government to insert a censorship rule that includes the IWF URL List in the forthcoming online harms regulatory framework to ensure that the service providers comply with current UK laws and security measures. Presumably the IWF would like its block list t be implemented by encrypted DNS servers worldwide. IWF’s Fred Langford said:

The technology is not bad; it’s how you implement it. Make sure your policies are in place, and make sure there’s some way that if there is an internet service provider that is providing parental controls and blocking illegal material that the DNS over HTTPS server can somehow communicate with them to redirect the traffic on their behalf.

Given the IWF’s respect, then this could be a possibility, but if the government then step in and demand adult porn sites be blocked too, then this approach would surely stumble as every world dictator and international moralist campaigner would expect the same.

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information commissioners office logo Elizabeth Denham, Information Commissioner Information Commissioner’s Office,

Dear Commissioner Denham,

Re: The Draft Age Appropriate Design Code for Online Services

We write to you as civil society organisations who work to promote human rights, both offline and online. As such, we are taking a keen interest in the ICO’s Age Appropriate Design Code. We are also engaging with the Government in its White Paper on Online Harms, and note the connection between these initiatives.

Whilst we recognise and support the ICO’s aims of protecting and upholding children’s rights online, we have severe concerns that as currently drafted the Code will not achieve these objectives. There is a real risk that implementation of the Code will result in widespread age verification across websites, apps and other online services, which will lead to increased data profiling of both children and adults, and restrictions on their freedom of expression and access to information.

The ICO contends that age verification is not a silver bullet for compliance with the Code, but it is difficult to conceive how online service providers could realistically fulfil the requirement to be age-appropriate without implementing some form of onboarding age verification process. The practical impact of the Code as it stands is that either all users will have to access online services via a sorting age-gate or adult users will have to access the lowest common denominator version of services with an option to age-gate up. This creates a de facto compulsory requirement for age-verification, which in turn puts in place a de facto restriction for both children and adults on access to online content.

Requiring all adults to verify they are over 18 in order to access everyday online services is a disproportionate response to the aim of protecting children online and violates fundamental rights. It carries significant risks of tracking, data breach and fraud. It creates digital exclusion for individuals unable to meet requirements to show formal identification documents. Where age-gating also applies to under-18s, this violation and exclusion is magnified. It will put an onerous burden on small-to-medium enterprises, which will ultimately entrench the market dominance of large tech companies and lessen choice and agency for both children and adults — this outcome would be the antithesis of encouraging diversity and innovation.

In its response to the June 2018 Call for Views on the Code, the ICO recognised that there are complexities surrounding age verification, yet the draft Code text fails to engage with any of these. It would be a poor outcome for fundamental rights and a poor message to children about the intrinsic value of these for all if children’s safeguarding was to come at the expense of free expression and equal privacy protection for adults, including adults in vulnerable positions for whom such protections have particular importance.

Mass age-gating will not solve the issues the ICO wishes to address with the Code and will instead create further problems. We urge you to drop this dangerous idea.

Yours sincerely,

Open Rights Group
Index on Censorship
Article19
Big Brother Watch
Global Partners Digital

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Texas state seal The Texas State Legislature has passed a bill criminalizing the electronic transmission of unrequested erotic material, including images of any person engaging in sexual conduct or with the person’s intimate parts exposed or covered genitals of a male person that are in a discernibly turgid state.The bill, H.B. 2789 , was unanimously passed 31-0 by state senators from both parties. It is to take effect, after the governor signs it, on September 1, 2019.

The unprecedented legislation, called An act relating to the creation of the criminal offense of unlawful electronic transmission of sexually explicit visual material creates an offence:

if a person knowingly transmits by electronic means visual material that:

  • (1) depicts:
    (a) any person engaging in sexual conduct or with the person’s intimate parts exposed; or
    (b) covered genitals of a male person that are in a discernibly turgid state; and

  • (2) is not sent at the request of or with the express consent of the recipient.

The bill classifies the offense as a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500.

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poland government logo Poland is challenging the EU’s copyright directive in the EU Court of Justice (CJEU) on grounds of its threats to freedom of speech on the internet, Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said on Friday.

The complaint especially addresses a mechanism obliging online services to run preventive checks on user content even without suspicion of copyright infringement. Czaputowicz explained at a press conference in Warsaw:

Poland has charged the copyright directive to the CJEU, because in our opinion it creates a fundamental threat to freedom of speech on the internet. Such censorship is forbidden both by the Polish constitution and EU law. The Charter of Fundamental Rights (of the European Union – PAP) guarantees freedom of speech.

The directive is to change the way online content is published and monitored. EU members have two years to introduce the new regulations. Against the directive are Poland, Holland, Italy, Finland and Luxembourg.