Posts Tagged ‘parliament’

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dcsm fake news Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee has been investigating disinformation and fake news following the Cambridge Analytica data scandal and is claiming that the UK faces a democratic crisis due to the spread of pernicious views and the manipulation of personal data.In its first report it will suggest social media companies should face tighter censorship. It also proposes measures to combat election interference.

The report claims that the relentless targeting of hyper-partisan views, which play to the fears and prejudices of people, in order to influence their voting plans is a threat to democracy.

The report was very critical of Facebook, which has been under increased scrutiny following the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.

Facebook has hampered our efforts to get information about their company throughout this inquiry. It is as if it thinks that the problem will go away if it does not share information about the problem, and reacts only when it is pressed, the report said.  It provided witnesses who have been unwilling or unable to give full answers to the committee’s questions.

The committee suggests:

1. Social media sites should be held responsible for harmful content on their services

Social media companies cannot hide behind the claim of being merely a ‘platform’, claiming that they are tech companies and have no role themselves in regulating the content of their sites, the committee said.

They continually change what is and is not seen on their sites, based on algorithms and human intervention.

They reward what is most engaging, because engagement is part of their business model and their growth strategy. They have profited greatly by using this model.

The committee suggested a new category of tech company should be created, which was not necessarily a platform or a publisher but something in between.

This should establish clear legal liability for the tech companies to act against harmful and illegal content on their platforms, the report said.

2. The rules on political campaigns should be made fit for the digital age

The committee said electoral law needed to be updated to reflect changes in campaigning techniques.

It suggested creating a public register for political advertising so that anybody can see what messages are being distributed online political advertisements should have a digital imprint stating who was responsible, as is required with printed leaflets and advertisements social media sites should be held responsible for interference in elections by malicious actors electoral fraud fines should be increased from a maximum of £20,000 to a percentage of organisations’ annual turnover

3. Technology companies should be taxed to fund education and regulation

Increased regulation of social media sites would result in more work for organisations such as the Electoral Commission and Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

The committee suggested a levy on tech companies should fund the expanded responsibilities of the regulators.

The money should also be spent on educational programmes and a public information campaign, to help people identify disinformation and fake news.

4. Social networks should be audited

The committee warned that fake accounts on sites such as Facebook and Twitter not only damage the user experience, but potentially defraud advertisers.

It suggested an independent authority such as the Competition and Markets Authority should audit the social networks.

It also said security mechanisms and algorithms used by social networks should be available for audit by a government regulator, to ensure they are operating responsibly.

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Read more uk_internet_censors.htm at MelonFarmers.co.uk

sky virgin logoSky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media would back the creation of an internet censor to set out a framework for internet companies in the UK, the House of Lords Communications Committee was told.The three major UK ISPs were reporting to a House of Lords’ ongoing inquiry into internet censorship. The companies’ policy heads pushed for a new censor, or the expansion of the responsibility of a current censor, to set the rules for content censorship and to better equip children using the internet amid safety concerns .

At the moment Information Commissioner’s Office has responsibility for data protection and privacy; Ofcom censors internet TV; the Advertising Standards Authority censors adverts; and the BBFC censors adult porn.

Citing a report by consultancy Communications Chambers, Sky’s Adam Kinsley said that websites and internet providers are making decisions but in a non structured way. Speaking about the current state of internet regulation, Kinsley said:

Companies are already policing their own platforms. There is no accountability of what they are doing and how they are doing it. The only bit of transparency is when they decide to do it on a global basis and at a time of their choosing. Policy makers need to understand what is happening, and at the moment they don’t have that.

The 13-strong House of Lords committee, chaired by Lord Gilbert of Panteg, launched an inquiry earlier this year to explore how the censorship of the internet should be improved. The committee will consider whether there is a need for new laws to govern internet companies. This inquiry will consider whether websites are sufficiently accountable and transparent, and whether they have adequate governance and provide behavioural standards for users.

The committee is hearing evidence from April to September 2018 and will launch a report at the end of the year.

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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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House of Commons logoThe Government has rejected for a second time amendments from peers seeking press cenorship.Solicitor General Robert Buckland insisted it would be simply not appropriate to include within the Investigatory Powers Bill changes designed to ensure costs are awarded against newspaper and media organisations in press censorship cases.

Pro-censorship peers have repeatedly sought to amend the Bill so it implements a key part of the Leveson Inquiry report forcing newspapers and the media to submit to censorship.

MPs voted to reject the latest Lords amendments by 295 votes to 245, a majority of 50.

Ministers are currently conducting a ten-week consultation which includes examining whether to implement legislation which would force newspapers to pay all of the costs of libel or privacy actions brought against them — even if they win their case. This injustice would not apply to publications which sign up to a new state-backed press censor.

Labour is inevitably supporting this censorship attempt with Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott saying:

Labour fully supports this set of amendments to the Investigatory Powers Bill and on this side of the House we have consistently and genuinely called for the Leveson recommendations to be implemented in full.

SNP justice spokeswoman Joanna Cherry also supported the injustice and censorship saying:

Those who have not hacked, do not hack phones and do not intend to hack telephones or indeed emails have nothing to fear from these provisions.

But Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said:

This is an absolutely dreadful amendment. It should be thrown out, rejected, sent back to the House of Lords. It is fundamentally wrong. It seeks to punish those who may be innocent, to fine them for telling the truth, for saying things that people in power do not like. It goes to the heart of our free press and it should be thrown in the bin.

Read more UK Internet Censorship at MelonFarmers.co.uk

House of Commons logo The current wording of the Digital Economy Bill punishes foreign adult websites who do not implement age verification by suffocating them from payments and advertising. It does not at the moment facilitate such websites by being blocked by ISPs. Open Rights Group reports on a clamour by censorial MPs to table amendment to give powers to block non-complying websites. I suspect that in reality the security services would not be very appreciative as maybe massive use of VPNs and the like would hinder surveillance of criminals and terrorists. The Open Rights Group reports:

Now we want censorship: porn controls in the Digital Economy Bill are running out of control

The government’s proposal for age verification to access pornography is running out of control. MPs have worked out that attempts to verify adult’s ages won’t stop children from accessing other pornographic websites: so their proposed answer is to start censoring these websites.

That’s right: in order to make age verification technologies “work”, some MPs want to block completely legal content from access by every UK citizen . It would have a massive impact on the free expression of adults across the UK. The impact for sexual minorities would be particularly severe.

This only serves to illustrate the problems with the AV proposal. Age verification was always likely to be accompanied by calls to block “non-compliant” overseas websites, and also to be extended to more and more categories of “unsuitable” material.

We have to draw a line. Child protection is very important, but let’s try to place this policy in some context:

  • 70% of UK households have no children

  • Take up of ISP filters is around 10-30% depending on ISP, so roughly in line with expectations and already restricting content in the majority of households with children (other measures may be restricting access in other cases).

  • Most adults access pornography , including a large proportion of women.

  • Less that 3% of children aged 9-12 are believed to have accessed inappropriate material

  • Pornography can and will be circulated by young people by email, portable media and private messaging systems

  • The most effective protective measures are likely to be to help young people understand and regulate their own behaviour through education, which the government refuses to make compulsory

MPs have to ask whether infringing on the right of the entire UK population to receive and impart legal material is a proportionate and effective response to the challenges they wish to address.

Censorship is an extreme response, that should be reserved for the very worst, most harmful kinds of unlawful material: it impacts not just the publisher, but the reader. Yet this is supposed to be a punishment targeted at the publishers, in order to persuade the sites to “comply”.

If website blocking was to be rolled out to enforce AV compliance, then the regulator would be forced to consider whether to block a handful of websites, and fail to “resolve” the accessibility of pornography, or else to try to censor thousands of websites, with the attendant administrative burden and increasing likelihood of errors.

You may ask: how likely is this to become law? Right now, Labour seem to be considering this approach as quite reasonable. If Labour did support these motions in a vote, together with a number of Conservative rebels, this amendment could easily be added to the Bill.

Another area where the Digital Economy Bill is running out of control is the measures to target services who “help” pornography publishers. The Bill tries to give duties to “ancillary services” such as card payment providers or advertising networks, to stop the services from making money from UK customers. However, the term is vague. They are defined as someone who:

provide[s], in the course of a business, services which enable or facilitate the making available of pornographic material or prohibited material on the internet by the [publisher]

Ancillary services could include website hosts, search engines, DNS services, web designers, hosted script libraries, furniture suppliers … this needs restriction just for the sake of some basic legal certainty.

Further problems are arising for services including Twitter, who operate on the assumption that adults can use them to circulate whatever they like, including pornography. It is unclear if or when they might be caught by the provisions. They are also potentially “ancillary providers” who could be forced to stop “supplying” their service to pornographers to UK customers. They might therefore be forced to block adult content accounts to UK adults, with or without age verification.

The underlying problem starts with the strategy to control access to widely used and legal content through legislative measures. This is not a sane way to proceed. It has and will lead to further calls for control and censorship as the first steps fail. More calls to “fix” the holes proceed, and the UK ends up on a ratchet of increasing control. Nothing quite works, so more fixes are needed. The measures get increasingly disproportionate.

Website blocking needs to be opposed, and kept out of the Bill.

Read more UK Parliament Watch at MelonFarmers.co.uk

House of Commons logo MPs have voted in the final Commons stage of the Investigatory Powers Bill. They voted in favour of the bill by 444 to 69.Some MPs – particularly Joanna Cherry, David Davis, Alistair Carmichael and Stephen McPartland – did a great job in putting the Government under pressure. SNP, Lib Dem and Green MPs voted against.

The Bill will now be debated in the House of Lords

The Open Rights Group have highlighted the Filter as the nastiest part of the bill which unifies website history and communication records into a single searchable database. The group explains:

The bill is very long and complex, and hundreds of amendments have been proposed. However, the Request Filter in particular is receiving far too little attention . With a huge range of issues to deal with, the Request Filter has been absent from the discussions from the front benches, despite being the one of two completely new developments in the Bill. As the IPB enters report stage we need to ensure that the Filter gets the attention it deserves from MPs.

The Request Filter is described by the Home Office as a safeguard designed to reduce the collateral intrusion produced in searching for small, specific information in a large dataset. In reality, the Request Filter would allow automated complex searches across the retained data from all telecommunications operators.

This has the potential for population profiling, composite fishing trips and the unaccountable generation of new insights. It is bulk data surveillance without the bulk label, and without any judicial authorisation at all. The Food Standards Agency will be able to self-authorise itself to cross reference your internet history with your mobile phone location and landline phone calls–and search and compare millions of other people’s records too.

Queries can be made across datasets. Location data – which pub you were in – can be compared with who you phoned, or which websites you visit. All with great convenience, through automated search. The searches will be increasingly focused on events, such as a website visited , or place people have gathered, rather than the suspects. This is the reverse of the position today, which requires the police to focus on suspects, and work outwards. In the future, with the Filter, any query can examine the data of thousands of innocent persons – to check that they don’t fit the police’s search criteria.

The idea of passive retained records, that lie unexamined until someone comes to the attention of the authorities, will lie dead. The data becomes an actively checked resource, allowing everyone’s potential guilt to be assessed as needed.

The Filter creates convenience for law enforcement queries, and pushes practice towards the use of intrusive capabilities. It lowers the practical level on which they are employed. Techniques that today would be used only in the most serious crimes, because they require thought and care, tomorrow may be employed in run of the mill criminal activity, public order, or even food standards, as the bill stands.

The Filter was at the centre of debates when the original Snooper’s Charter was first introduced in 2012. Parliament described the Request Filter at the time as essentially a federated database of all UK citizens’ communications data .

This dystopian surveillance tool should be stopped, and next week MPs will have the chance to do it. There are several amendments presented by the Lib-Dem MP Alistair Carmichael that aim to remove the filter.

Another MP, the Conservative Stephen McPartland , who was part of the Science and Technology Committee and understands the implications of the Filter, has tabled a series of amendments with measures designed to constrain the power. These include restricting the Filter to exceptional circumstances, putting it under the control of the Judicial Commissioner as other bulk powers, and bringing it into the statute book as formal Regulations – so it is subjected to the normal transparency and processes of judicial review.

It is important that all those amendments get debated. We want the complete removal of the filter. McPartland’s amendments describe the minimum requirements even a proponent should be seeking, but more importantly give MPs an opportunity to be told what the filter is, what it is capable of, and why the government plans so little oversight for it.

The nature of the Filter must be discussed to expose the Orwellian doublespeak characterisation by the Home Office of this surveillance tools as a safeguard to improve privacy.

Read more UK Parliament Watch at MelonFarmers.co.uk

john mcdonnell Last week there was a parliamentary debate where Labour amendments tocriminalise people who buy sexwere dropped. A Labour MP, John McDonnell made a fine contribution that is well worth recording for posterity on Melon Farmers.

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): To turn briefly to the new clauses and the amendment tabled in relation to prostitution, I apologise to all Members of the House for inundating them with briefings over the past 48 hours. I am very sorry, but this debate came up in a hurry, and it was important to give people the chance to express their views. I have always respected my hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart), who is very well intentioned. I support new clause 7 because developing a strategy is critical, and amendment 1, which is the decriminalisation amendment, but I am fundamentally opposed to new clause 6, because it is worrying, counter-productive and dangerous. New clause 22 would give us the opportunity and enough time to undertake a proper review.

I know that sex work is abhorrent for some Members. I must say that in the years since I convened some of the first meetings of the Ipswich Safety First campaign in this House, after five women were killed there, I have met a number of men and women who were not coerced into sex work and do not want their livelihoods to be curtailed by the proposed criminalisation of their clients. It is true that I have met many others who entered prostitution to overcome economic disadvantage—they suffered in poverty to enable them to pay the rent and put food on the table for their children—but that has been made worse by welfare benefit cuts, escalating housing costs and energy bills. The answer is not to criminalise any of their activities, but to tackle the underlying cause by not cutting welfare benefits and ensuring people have an affordable roof over their heads and giving them access to decent, paid employment.

The whole issue has focused on the idea that by stopping the supply of clients, prostitution will somehow disappear, as will all the exploitation, trafficking and violent abuse. The Swedish model has been suggested as an example, but there was absolutely overwhelming opposition to it in the briefings that I have circulated. Those briefings have come from charities such as Scot-Pep—the Scottish Prostitutes Education Project—which is funded by the state; the Royal College of Nursing, the nurses themselves; and the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, which is another Government-funded organisation to get women and others off the game, that nevertheless says that the Swedish model would be counter-productive.

The Home Office has commissioned academic research, and I have circulated a letter from 30 academics from universities around the country that basically says that the proposed legislation is dangerous. We must listen to sex workers: the English Collective of Prostitutes, the Sex Worker Open University, the Harlots collective, the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe—flamboyant names, but they represent sex workers, and all are opposed to the criminalisation of clients.

Michael Connarty: Could my hon. Friend quote some sources from Sweden? I understand that in Sweden they do not take that view.

John McDonnell: I will come straight to that point, but let me go through the other organisations we have listened to: lawyers, human rights bodies such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and UN Aid, and even the women’s institute down in Hampshire—I warn hon. Members never to cross the women’s institute anywhere—as well as members of the Ipswich Safety First coalition who dealt with the deaths those years ago.

What is the consensus? It is that there is no evidence that criminalising clients as in the Swedish legislation reduces the number of either clients or sex workers. I could quote at length—time we have not got—from the Swedish Government’s report that demonstrates that there is no correlation between the legislation they introduced and a reduction in numbers of clients or sex workers.

Fiona Mactaggart: My hon. Friend said that the Swedish Government have no evidence for that, which is true, but they did have evidence that the number of men who pay for sex in Sweden has gone down significantly.

John McDonnell: That was one survey where men who were asked, Do you pay for sex, because you could be prosecuted for it? naturally said no. The evidence has been challenged. The other part of the consensus concerns the argument that other Governments are now acting and following the Swedish model, but South Africa has rejected it, and Scotland rejected it because measures on kerb crawling were introduced. In France, the Senate has rejected that model on the basis that sex workers will be put at risk. There are even threats of legal action in Canada on the issue of the safety and security of sex workers.

The other consensus that has come from these organisations is that not only do such measures not work, they actually cause harm. We know that because we undertook research through the Home Office in 2005-06. What did it say? Sex workers themselves were saying, It means that we never have time to check out the clients in advance. We are rushed and pushed to the margins of society as a result, which does us harm.

There are alternatives. I do not recognise the view on the implementation of decriminalisation in New Zealand mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Slough, because all the research says that it is working. Who says that we should look at decriminalisation? The World Health Organisation, UN Women and UNAIDS. I circulated a letter from Nigel Richardson, who is not just a lawyer who represents sex workers but also acts as a judge. He says that we can tackle abuse and sexual exploitation with existing laws.

I appeal to the House not to rush to legislate on such a contested issue where there is such conflicting research, evidence and views. New clause 22 would provide a way through as it would enable us to undertake the necessary research, consult, bring forward proposals, and legislate if necessary. I want to include in that consultation the New Zealand model and full decriminalisation. I am not in favour of legalisation; I am in favour of full decriminalisation. On that basis we should listen to those with experience. I convened some meetings with the Safety First coalition to brief Members on what it had done. It invested money in the individuals—£7,000 a prostitute—and it got people out of prostitution by investing money, not by decriminalising them.

Reverend Andrew Dotchin was a founder member of the Safety First coalition. He states:

I strongly oppose clauses on prostitution in the Modern Slavery Bill, which would make the purchase of sex illegal. Criminalising clients does not stop prostitution, nor does it stop the criminalisation of women. It drives prostitution further underground, making it more dangerous and stigmatising for women.

I fully support the Reverend Andrew Dotchin in his views.