Posts Tagged ‘Internet Censorship’

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tumblr 2012 logo Image hosting service Tumblr is banning all adult images of sex and nudity from 17th December 2018. This seems to have been sparked by the app being banned from Apple Store after a child porn image was detected being hosted by Tumblr. Tumblr explained the censorship process in a blog post:

Starting Dec 17, adult content will not be allowed on Tumblr, regardless of how old you are. You can read more about what kinds of content are not allowed on Tumblr in our Community Guidelines. If you spot a post that you don’t think belongs on Tumblr, period, you can report it: From the dashboard or in search results, tap or click the share menu (paper airplane) at the bottom of the post, and hit Report.

Adult content primarily includes photos, videos, or GIFs that show real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples, and any content204including photos, videos, GIFs and illustrations204that depicts sex acts.

Examples of exceptions that are still permitted are exposed female-presenting nipples in connection with breastfeeding, birth or after-birth moments, and health-related situations, such as post-mastectomy or gender confirmation surgery. Written content such as erotica, nudity related to political or newsworthy speech, and nudity found in art, such as sculptures and illustrations, are also stuff that can be freely posted on Tumblr.

Any images identified as adult will be set as unviewable by anyone except the poster. There will be an appeals process to contest decisions held to be incorrect.

Inevitably Tumblr algorithms are not exactly accurate when it comes to detecting sex and nudity. The Guardian noted that ballet dancers, superheroes and a picture of Christ have all fallen foul of Tumblr’s new pornography ban, after the images were flagged up as explicit content by the blogging site’s artificial intelligence (AI) tools.

The actor and Tumblr user Wil Wheaton posted one example:

An image search for beautiful men kissing, which was flagged as explicit within 30 seconds of me posting it.

These images are not explicit. These pictures show two adults, engaging in consensual kissing. That’s it. It isn’t violent, it isn’t pornographic. It’s literally just two adult humans sharing a kiss.

Other users chronicled flagged posts, including historical images of (clothed) women of colour, a photoset of the actor Sebastian Stan wearing a selection of suits with no socks on, an oil painting of Christ wearing a loincloth, a still of ballet dancers and a drawing of Wonder Woman carrying fellow superhero Harley Quinn. None of the images violate Tumblr’s stated policy.

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home affairs committee Age Verification and adult internet censorship was discussed by the Commons Science and Technology Committee on 13th November 2018.

Carol Monaghan Committee Member: The Digital Economy Act made it compulsory for commercial pornography sites to undertake age verification, but implementation has been subject to ongoing delays. When do we expect it to go live?

Margot James MP, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries: We can expect it to be in force by Easter next year. I make that timetable in the knowledge that we have laid the necessary secondary legislation before Parliament. I am hopeful of getting a slot to debate it before Christmas, before the end of the year. We have always said that we will permit the industry three months to get up to speed with the practicalities and delivering the age verification that it will be required to deliver by law. We have also had to set up the regulator–well, not to set it up, but to establish with the British Board of Film Classification , which has been the regulator, exactly how it will work. It has had to consult on the methods of age verification, so it has taken longer than I would have liked, but I would balance that with a confidence that we have got it right.

Carol Monaghan: Are you confident that the commercial pornography companies are going to engage fully and will implement the law as you hope?

Margot James: I am certainly confident on the majority of large commercial pornography websites and platforms being compliant with the law. They have engaged well with the BBFC and the Department , and want to be on the right side of the law. I have confidence, but I am wary of being 100% confident, because there are always smaller and more underground platforms and sites that will seek ways around the law. At least, that is usually the case. We will be on the lookout for that, and so will the BBFC. But the vast majority of organisations have indicated that they are keen to comply with the legislation.

Carol Monaghan: One concern that we all have is that children can stumble across pornography. We know that on social media platforms, where children are often active, up to a third of their content can be pornographic, but they fall outside the age verification regulation because it is only a third and not the majority. Is that likely to undermine the law? Ultimately the law, as it stands, is there to safeguard our children.

Margot James: I acknowledge that that is a weakness in the legislative solution. I do not think that for many mainstream social media platforms as much of a third of their content is pornographic, but it is well known that certain social media platforms that many people use regularly have pornography freely available. We have decided to start with the commercial operations while we bring in the age verification techniques that have not been widely used to date. But we will keep a watching brief on how effective those age verification procedures turn out to be with commercial providers and will keep a close eye on how social media platforms develop in terms of the extent of pornographic material, particularly if they are platforms that appeal to children–not all are. You point to a legitimate weakness, on which we have a close eye.

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house of lords red logo Pornographic Websites: Age Verification – Question

House of Lords on 5th November 2018 .

Baroness Benjamin Liberal Democrat

To ask Her Majesty ‘s Government what will be the commencement date for their plans to ensure that age-verification to prevent children accessing pornographic websites is implemented by the British Board of Film Classification .

Lord Ashton of Hyde The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

My Lords, we are now in the final stages of the process, and we have laid the BBFC ‘s draft guidance and the Online Pornography (Commercial Basis) Regulations before Parliament for approval. We will ensure that there is a sufficient period following parliamentary approval for the public and the industry to prepare for age verification. Once parliamentary proceedings have concluded, we will set a date by which commercial pornography websites will need to be compliant, following an implementation window. We expect that this date will be early in the new year.

Baroness Benjamin

I thank the Minister for his Answer. I cannot wait for that date to happen, but does he share my disgust and horror that social media companies such as Twitter state that their minimum age for membership is 13 yet make no attempt to restrict some of the most gross forms of pornography being exchanged via their platforms? Unfortunately, the Digital Economy Act does not affect these companies because they are not predominantly commercial porn publishers. Does he agree that the BBFC needs to develop mechanisms to evaluate the effectiveness of the legislation for restricting children’s access to pornography via social media sites and put a stop to this unacceptable behaviour?

Lord Ashton of Hyde

My Lords, I agree that there are areas of concern on social media sites. As the noble Baroness rightly says, they are not covered by the Digital Economy Act . We had many hours of discussion about that in this House. However, she will be aware that we are producing an online harms White Paper in the winter in which some of these issues will be considered. If necessary, legislation will be brought forward to address these, and not only these but other harms too. I agree that the BBFC should find out about the effectiveness of the limited amount that age verification can do; it will commission research on that. Also, the Digital Economy Act itself made sure that the Secretary of State must review its effectiveness within 12 to 18 months.

Lord Griffiths of Burry Port Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Wales)

My Lords, once again I find this issue raising a dynamic that we became familiar with in the only too recent past. The Government are to be congratulated on getting the Act on to the statute book and, indeed, on taking measures to identify a regulator as well as to indicate that secondary legislation will be brought forward to implement a number of the provisions of the Act. My worry is that, under one section of the Digital Economy Act , financial penalties can be imposed on those who infringe this need; the Government seem to have decided not to bring that provision into force at this time. I believe I can anticipate the Minister ‘s answer but–in view of the little drama we had last week over fixed-odds betting machines–we would not want the Government, having won our applause in this way, to slip back into putting things off or modifying things away from the position that we had all agreed we wanted.

Lord Ashton of Hyde

My Lords, I completely understand where the noble Lord is coming from but what he said is not quite right. The Digital Economy Act included a power that the Government could bring enforcement with financial penalties through a regulator. However, they decided–and this House decided–not to use that for the time being. For the moment, the regulator will act in a different way. But later on, if necessary, the Secretary of State could exercise that power. On timing and FOBTs, we thought carefully–as noble Lords can imagine–before we said that we expect the date will be early in the new year,

Lord Addington Liberal Democrat

My Lords, does the Minister agree that good health and sex education might be a way to counter some of the damaging effects? Can the Government make sure that is in place as soon as possible, so that this strange fantasy world is made slightly more real?

Lord Ashton of Hyde

The noble Lord is of course right that age verification itself is not the only answer. It does not cover every possibility of getting on to a pornography site. However, it is the first attempt of its kind in the world, which is why not only we but many other countries are looking at it. I agree that sex education in schools is very important and I believe it is being brought into the national curriculum already.

The Earl of Erroll Crossbench

Why is there so much wriggle room in section 6 of the guidance from the DCMS to the AV regulator? The ISP blocking probably will not work, because everyone will just get out of it. If we bring this into disrepute then the good guys, who would like to comply, probably will not; they will not be able to do so economically. All that was covered in British Standard PAS 1296, which was developed over three years. It seems to have been totally ignored by the DCMS. You have spent an awful lot of time getting there, but you have not got there.

Lord Ashton of Hyde

One of the reasons this has taken so long is that it is complicated. We in the DCMS , and many others, not least in this House, have spent a long time discussing the best way of achieving this. I am not immediately familiar with exactly what section 6 says, but when the statutory instrument comes before this House–it is an affirmative one to be discussed–I will have the answer ready for the noble Earl.

Lord West of Spithead Labour

My Lords, does the Minister not agree that the possession of a biometric card by the population would make the implementation of things such as this very much easier?

Lord Ashton of Hyde

In some ways it would, but there are problems with people who either do not want to or cannot have biometric cards.

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UKCCIS logo The Government has announced the organisations that will sit on the Executive Board of a new national body to tackle online harms in the UK. The UK Council for Internet Safety (UKCIS) is the successor to the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), with an expanded scope to improve online safety for everyone in the UK.

The Executive Board brings together expertise from a range of organisations in the tech industry, civil society and public sector.

Margot James, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries said:

Only through collaborative action will the UK be the safest place to be online. By bringing together a wealth of expertise from a wide range of fields, UKCIS can be an example to the world on how we can work together to face the challenges of the digital revolution in an effective and responsible way.

UKCIS has been established to allow these organisations to collaborate and coordinate a UK-wide approach to online safety.

It will contribute to the Government’s commitment to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online, and will help to inform the development of the forthcoming Online Harms White Paper.

Priority areas of focus will include online harms experienced by children such as cyberbullying and sexual exploitation; radicalisation and extremism; violence against women and girls; hate crime and hate speech; and forms of discrimination against groups protected under the Equality Act, for example on the basis of disability or race.

CEO of Internet Matters Carolyn Bunting said:

We are delighted to sit on the Executive Board of UKCIS where we are able to represent parents needs in keeping their children safe online.

Online safety demands a collaborative approach and by bringing industry together we hope we can bring about real change and help everyone benefit from the opportunities the digital world has to offer.

The UKCIS Executive Board consists of the following organisations:

  • Apple
  • BBC
  • Childnet
  • Children’s Commissioner
  • Commission for Countering Extremism
  • End Violence Against Women Coalition
  • Facebook
  • GCHQ
  • Google
  • ICO
  • Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime
  • Internet Matters
  • Internet Watch Foundation
  • Internet Service Providers and Mobile Operators (rotating between BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Three, Virgin Media, Vodafone)
  • Microsoft
  • National Police Chiefs’ Council
  • National Crime Agency – CEOP Command
  • Northern Ireland Executive
  • NSPCC
  • Ofcom
  • Parentzone
  • Scottish Government
  • TechUK
  • Twitter
  • UKCIS Evidence Group Chair
  • UKIE
  • Welsh Assembly

The UKCIS Executive Board is jointly chaired by Margot James, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport); Victoria Atkins, Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability (Home Office); and Nadeem Zahawi, Minister for Children and Families (Department for Education). It also includes representatives from the Devolved Administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Board membership will be kept under periodic review, to ensure it represents the full range of online harms that the government seeks to tackle.

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US Supreme Court After the recent censorship purge of over 800 independent media outlets on Facebook, the Supreme Court is now hearing a case that could have ramifications for any future attempts at similar purges.The United States Supreme Court has agreed to take a case that could change free speech on the Internet. Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck, No. 17-702, the case that it has agreed to take, will decide if the private operator of a public access network is considered a state actor.

The case could affect how companies like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google and YouTube are governed. If the Court were to issue a far-reaching ruling it could subject such companies to First Amendment lawsuits and force them to allow a much broader scope of free speech from its users.

DeeDee Halleck and Jesus Melendez claimed that they were fired from Manhattan Neighborhood Network for speaking critically of the network. And, though the case does not involve the Internet giants, it could create a ruling that expands the First Amendment beyond the government.

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Facebook logo The recent Fosta law in the US forces internet companies to censor anything to do with legal, adult and consensual sex work. It holds them liable for abetting sex traffickers even when they can’t possibly distinguish the trafficking from the legal sex work. The only solution is therefore to ban the use of their platforms for any personal hook ups. So indeed adult sex work websites have been duly cleansed from the US internet.But now a woman is claiming that Facebook facilitated trafficking when of course its nigh on impossible for Facebook to detect such use of their networking systems. But of course that’s no excuse under the FOSTA.

According to a new lawsuit by an unnamed woman in Houston, Texas, Facebook’s morally bankrupt corporate culture for permitting a sex trafficker to force her into prostitution after beating and raping her. She claims Facebook should be held responsible when a user on the social media platform sexually exploits another Facebook user. The lawsuit says that Facebook should have warned the woman, who was 15 years old at the time she was victimized, that its platform could be used by sex traffickers to recruit and groom victims, including children.

The lawsuit also names Backpage.com, which according to a Reuters report , hosted pictures of the woman taken by the man who victimized her after he uploaded them to the site.

The classified advertising site Backpage has already been shut down by federal prosecutors in April of this year.

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european commission logo Tech companies that fail to remove terrorist content quickly could soon face massive fines. The European Commission proposed new rules on Wednesday that would require internet platforms to remove illegal terror content within an hour of it being flagged by national authorities. Firms could be fined up to 4% of global annual revenue if they repeatedly fail to comply.Facebook (FB), Twitter (TWTR) and YouTube owner Google (GOOGL) had already agreed to work with the European Union on a voluntary basis to tackle the problem. But the Commission said that progress has not been sufficient.

A penalty of 4% of annual revenue for 2017 would translate to $4.4 billion for Google parent Alphabet and $1.6 billion for Facebook.

The proposal is the latest in a series of European efforts to control the activities of tech companies.

The terror content proposal needs to be approved by the European Parliament and EU member states before becoming law.