UK Internet Censorship


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Silencing the British people...

BuzzFeed News leaks UK government plans to set up an internet censor along the lines of Ofcom


Link Here 21st September 2018
The UK government is preparing to establish a new internet censor that would make tech firms liable for content published on their platforms and have the power to sanction companies that fail to take down illegal material and hate speech within hours.

Under legislation being drafted by the Home Office and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) due to be announced this winter, a new censorship framework for online social harms would be created.

BuzzFeed News has obtained details of the proposals, which would see the establishment of an internet censor similar to Ofcom.

Home secretary Sajid Javid and culture secretary Jeremy Wright are considering the introduction of a mandatory code of practice for social media platforms and strict new rules such as takedown times forcing websites to remove illegal hate speech within a set timeframe or face penalties. Ministers are also looking at implementing age verification for users of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The new proposals are still in the development stage and are due to be put out for consultation later this year. The new censor would also develop rules new regulations on controlling non-illegal content and online behaviour . The rules for what constitutes non-illegal content will be the subject of what is likely to be a hotly debated consultation.

BuzzFeed News has also been told ministers are looking at creating a second new censor for online advertising. Its powers would include a crackdown on online advertisements for food and soft drink products that are high in salt, fat, or sugar.

BuzzFeed News understands concerns have been raised in Whitehall that the regulation of non-illegal content will spark opposition from free speech campaigners and MPs. There are also fears internally that some of the measures being considered, including blocking websites that do not adhere to the new regulations, are so draconian that they will generate considerable opposition.

A government spokesperson confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the plans would be unveiled later this year.

 

 

Fake concerns, fake surveys about fake news...

Ofcom joins in the government's propaganda campaign, calling for the internet censorship to be as strict as TV censorship


Link Here 19th September 2018
Ofcom has published a prospectus angling for a role as the UK internet censor. It writes:

Ofcom has published a discussion document examining the area of harmful online content.

In the UK and around the world, a debate is underway about whether regulation is needed to address a range of problems that originate online, affecting people, businesses and markets.

The discussion document is intended as a contribution to that debate, drawing on Ofcom's experience of regulating the UK's communications sector, and broadcasting in particular. It draws out the key lessons from the regulation of content standards 203 for broadcast and on-demand video services 203 and the insights that these might provide to policy makers into the principles that could underpin any new models for addressing harmful online content.

The UK Government intends to legislate to improve online safety, and to publish a White Paper this winter. Any new legislation is a matter for Government and Parliament, and Ofcom has no view about the institutional arrangements that might follow.

Alongside the discussion paper, Ofcom has published joint research with the Information Commissioner's Office on people's perception, understanding and experience of online harm. The survey of 1,686 adult internet users finds that 79% have concerns about aspects of going online, and 45% have experienced some form of online harm. The study shows that protection of children is a primary concern, and reveals mixed levels of understanding around what types of media are regulated.

The sales pitch is more or less that Ofcom's TV censorship has 'benefited' viewers so would be a good basis for internet censorship.

Ofcom particularly makes a point of pushing the results of a survey of internet users and their 'concerns'. The survey is very dubious and ends up suggesting thet 79% of users have concerns about going on line.

And maybe this claim is actually true. After all, the Melon Farmers are amongst the 79% have concerns about going online: The Melon Farmers are concerned that:

  • There are vast amounts of scams and viruses waiting to be filtered out from Melon Farmers email inbox every day.
  • The authorities never seem interested in doing anything whatsoever about protecting people from being scammed out of their life savings. Have you EVER heard of the police investigating a phishing scam?
  • On the other hand the police devote vast resources to prosecuting internet insults and jokes, whilst never investigating scams that see old folks lose their life savings.

So yes, there is concern about the internet. BUT, it would be a lie to infer that these concerns mean support for Ofcom's proposals to censor websites along the lines of TV.

In fact looking at the figures, some of the larger categories of 'concern's are more about fears of real crime rather than concerns about issues like fake news.

Interestingly Ofcom has published how the 'concerns' were hyped up by prompting the surveyed a bit. For instance, Ofcom reports that 12% of internet users say they are 'concerned' about fake news without being prompted. With a little prompting by the interviewer, the number of people reporting being concerned about fake news magically increases to 29%.

It also has to be noted that there are NO reports in the survey of internet users concerned about a lack news balancing opinions, a lack of algorithm transparency, a lack of trust ratings for news sources, or indeed for most of the other suggestions that Ofcom addresses.

I've seen more fake inferences in the Ofcom discussion document than I have seen fake news items on the internet in the last ten years.

See also an article from vpncompare.co.uk which concurs with some of these concerns about the Ofcom survey.

 

 

Fake news, terrorism content and closed forums...

'Scattergun' approach to addressing online content risks damaging freedom of expression. A statement by Index on Censorship


Link Here 13th September 2018

Parliament needs to stop creating piecemeal laws to address content online -- or which make new forms of speech illegal.

Index is very concerned about the plethora of law-making initiatives related to online communications, the most recent being MP Lucy Powell's online forums regulation bill, which targets hate crime and "secret" Facebook groups.

Powell's bill purports to "tackle online hate, fake news and radicalisation" by making social media companies liable for what is published in large, closed online forms -- and is the latest in a series of poorly drafted attempts by parliamentarians to address communications online.

If only Powell's proposal were the worst piece of legislation parliament will consider this autumn. Yesterday, MPs debated the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill, which would make it a crime to view information online that is "likely to be useful" to a terrorist. No terrorist intent would be required -- but you would risk up to 15 years in prison if found guilty. This would make the work of journalists and academics very difficult or impossible.

Attempts to tackle online content are coming from all corners with little coordination -- although a factor common to all these proposals is that they utterly fail to safeguard freedom of expression.

Over the summer, the Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport issued a preliminary report on tackling fake news and the government launched a consultation on a possible new law to prevent "intimidation" of those standing for elections.

In addition, the government is expected to publish later this year a white paper on internet safety aimed " to make sure the UK is the safest place in the world to be online." The Law Commission, already tasked with publishing a report on offensive online communications , was last week asked to review whether misogyny should be considered a hate crime.

Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index, said:

"We're having to play whack-a-mole at the moment to prevent poorly drawn laws inadvertently stifling freedom of expression, especially online. The scattergun approach is no way to deal with concerns about online communications. Instead of paying lip service to freedom of expression as a British value, it needs to be front and centre when developing policies".

"We already have laws to deal with harassment, incitement to violence, and even incitement to hatred. International experience shows us that even well-intentioned laws meant to tackle hateful views online often end up hurting the minority groups they are meant to protect, stifle public debate, and limit the public's ability to hold the powerful to account."

 

 

Campaign: ResistAV...

Pandora Blake and Myles Jack launch a new campaigning website to raise funds for a challenge to the government's upcoming internet porn censorship regime


Link Here 11th September 2018
Full story: BBFC Internet Porn Censors...BBFC designated as the UK internet porn censor

Niche porn producer, Pandora Blake, Misha Mayfair, campaigning lawyer Myles Jackman and Backlash are campaigning to back a legal challenge to the upcoming internet porn censorship regime in the UK. They write on a new ResistAV.com website:

We are mounting a legal challenge.

Do you lock your door when you watch porn 203 or do you publish a notice in the paper? The new UK age verification law means you may soon have to upload a proof of age to visit adult sites. This would connect your legal identity to a database of all your adult browsing. Join us to prevent the damage to your privacy.

The UK Government is bringing in age verification for adults who want to view adult content online; yet have failed to provide privacy and security obligations to ensure your private information is securely protected.

The law does not currently limit age verification software to only hold data provided by you just in order to verify your age. Hence, other identifying data about you could include anything from your passport information to your credit card details, up to your full search history information. This is highly sensitive data.

What are the Privacy Risks?

Data Misuse - Since age verification providers are legally permitted to collect this information, what is to stop them from increasing revenue through targeting advertising at you, or even selling your personal data?

Data Breaches - No database is perfectly secure, despite good intentions. The leaking or hacking of your sensitive personal information could be truly devastating. The Ashley Madison hack led to suicides. Don't let the Government allow your private sexual preferences be leaked into the public domain.

What are we asking money for?

We're asking you to help us crowdfund legal fees so we can challenge the new age verification rules under the Digital Economy Act 2017. We re asking for 210,000 to cover the cost of initial legal advice, since it's a complicated area of law. Ultimately, we'd like to raise even more money, so we can send a message to Government that your personal privacy is of paramount importance.

 

 

Our echo chamber is better than yours...

Labour's Lucy Powell introduces bill to censor closed online Facebook groups


Link Here 11th September 2018
Lucy Powell writes in the Guardian, (presumably intended as an open comment):

Closed forums on Facebook allow hateful views to spread unchallenged among terrifyingly large groups. My bill would change that

You may wonder what could bring Nicky Morgan, Anna Soubry, David Lammy, Jacob Rees-Mogg and other senior MPs from across parliament together at the moment. Yet they are all sponsoring a bill I'm proposing that will tackle online hate, fake news and radicalisation. It's because, day-in day-out, whatever side of an argument we are on, we see the pervasive impact of abuse and hate online 203 and increasingly offline, too.

Social media has given extremists a new tool with which to recruit and radicalise. It is something we are frighteningly unequipped to deal with.

Worryingly, it is on Facebook, which most of us in Britain use, where people are being exposed to extremist material. Instead of small meetings in pubs or obscure websites in the darkest corners of the internet, our favourite social media site is increasingly where hate is cultivated. From hope to hate: how the early internet fed the far right Read more

Online echo chambers are normalising and allowing extremist views to go viral unchallenged. These views are spread as the cheap thrill of racking up Facebook likes drives behaviour and reinforces a binary worldview. Some people are being groomed unwittingly as unacceptable language is treated as the norm. Others have a more sinister motive.

While in the real world, alternative views would be challenged by voices of decency in the classroom, staffroom, or around the dining-room table, there are no societal norms in the dark crevices of the online world. The impact of these bubbles of hate can be seen, in extreme cases, in terror attacks from radicalised individuals. But we can also see it in the rise of the far right, with Tommy Robinson supporters rampaging through the streets this summer, or in increasing Islamophobia and antisemitism.

Through Facebook groups (essentially forums), extremists can build large audiences. There are many examples of groups that feature anti-Muslim or antisemitic content daily, in an environment which, because critics are removed from the groups, normalises these hateful views. If you see racist images, videos and articles in your feed but not the opposing argument, you might begin to think those views are acceptable and even correct. If you already agree with them, you might be motivated to act.

This is the thinking behind Russia's interference in the 2016 US presidential election. The Russian Internet Research Agency set up Facebook groups, amassed hundreds of thousands of members, and used them to spread hate and fake news, organise rallies, and attack Hillary Clinton. Most of its output was designed to stoke the country's racial tensions.

It's not only racism that is finding a home on Facebook. Marines United was a secret group of 30,000 current and former servicemen in the British armed forces and US Marines. Members posted nude photos of their fellow servicewomen, taken in secret. A whistleblower described the group as revenge porn, creepy stalker-like photos taken of girls in public, talk about rape. It is terrifying that the group grew so large before anyone spoke out, and that Facebook did nothing until someone informed the media.

Because these closed forums can be given a secret setting, they can be hidden away from everyone but their members. This locks out the police, intelligence services and charities that could otherwise engage with the groups and correct disinformation. This could be particularly crucial with groups where parents are told not to vaccinate their children against diseases. Internet warriors: inside the dark world of online haters Read more

Despite having the resources to solve the problem, Facebook lacks the will. In fact, at times it actively obstructs those who wish to tackle hate and disinformation. Of course, it is not just Facebook, and the proliferation of online platforms and forums means that the law has been much too slow to catch up with our digital world.

We should educate people to be more resilient and better able to spot fake news and recognise hate, but we must also ensure there are much stronger protections to spread decency and police our online communities. The responsibility to regulate these social media platforms falls on the government. It is past time to act. Advertisement

That's why I am introducing a bill in parliament which will do just that. By establishing legal accountability for what's published in large online forums, I believe we can force those who run these echo chambers to stamp out the evil that is currently so prominent. Social media can be a fantastic way of bringing people together 203 which is precisely why we need to prevent it being hijacked by those who instead wish to divide.

 

 

PortesCard...

Pornhub partners with anonymous system based on retailers verifying ages without recording ID


Link Here 8th September 2018
Full story: BBFC Internet Porn Censors...BBFC designated as the UK internet porn censor
Pornhub's Age verification system AgeID has announced an exclusive partnership with OCL and its Portes solution for providing anonymous face-to-face age verification solution where retailers OK the age of customers who buy a card enabling porn access. The similar AVSecure scheme allows over 25s to buy the access card without showing any ID but may require to see unrecorded ID from those appearing less than 25.

According to the company, the PortesCard is available to purchase from selected high street retailers and any of the U.K.'s 29,000 PayPoint outlets as a voucher. Each PortesCard will cost 4.99 for use on a single device, or 8.99 for use across multiple devices. This compares with 10 for the AVSecure card.

Once a card or voucher is purchased, its unique validation code must be activated via the Portes app within 24 hours before expiring. Once the user has been verified they will automatically be granted access to all adult sites using AgeID. Maybe this 24 hour limit is something to do with an attempt to restrict secondary sales of porn access codes by ensuring that they get tied to devices almost immediately. It all sounds a little hasslesome.

As an additional layer of protection, parents can quickly and simply block access on their children's devices to sites using Portes, so PortesCards cannot be associated with AgeID.

But note that an anonymously bought card is not quite a 100% safe solution. One has to consider whether if the authorities get hold of a device whether the can then see a complete history of all websites accessed using the app or access code. One also has to consider whether someone can remotely correlate an 'anonymous' access code with all the tracking cookies holding one's id.

 

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