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Testing old ideas...

Italy introduces network level blocking for SIM cards registered to under 18s


Link Here19th November 2023
Full story: Internet Censorship in Italy...Censorship affecting bloogers and the press in Italy
Italy will begin enforcing a new, experimental directive from the countries internet censor requiring all phone providers to install a default filter for all adult content, on SIM cards registered to minors.

The directive from the Italian Communications Regulatory Authority (AGCOM) was approved in January and published on Feb. 21, allowing telecom companies nine months for full implementation.

AGCOM Commissioner Massimiliano Capitanio told Italian media that the measure is a testing ground to verify the real desire of adults to take an active part in the digital education of their children.

Adult content categorized for filtering includes all websites for an adult audience, showing full or partial nudity in a pornographic sexual context, sexual accessories, sexually oriented activities, and sites that support the online purchase of such goods and services.

Besides adult content, other material designated for filtering includes sites related to gambling, weapons sales, violence, self-injury or suicide; sites that display scenes of gratuitous, sustained or brutal violence; and sites promoting hatred or intolerance toward any individual or group, or promoting practices that can damage health, like anorexia or bulimia, or the use of drugs, alcohol or tobacco.

Another blocked category is sites that provide tools and methods to make online activity untraceable, including VPNs.

 

 

EU snoopers foiled...

European Parliament votes against an EU Commission proposal for mass scanning of all internet communication


Link Here16th November 2023
Full story: Internet Encryption in the EU...Encryption is legal for the moment but the authorites are seeking to end this

On 14th November, Members of the European Parliament's Civil Liberties committee voted against attempts from EU Home Affairs officials to roll out mass scanning of private and encrypted messages across Europe. It was a clear-cut vote, with a significant majority of MEPs supporting the proposed position.

A political deal struck by the Parliament's seven political groups at the end of October meant that this outcome was expected. Nevertheless, this is an important and welcome milestone, as Parliamentarians demand that EU laws are based in objective evidence, scientific reality and with respect for human rights law.

This vote signals major improvements compared to the Commission's original draft law (coined Chat Control'), which has courted controversy. The process around the legislation has faced allegations of conflicts of interest and illegal advert micro-targeting, and rulings of "maladministration". The proposal has also been widely criticised for failing to meet EU requirements of proportionality -- with lawyers for the EU member states making the unprecedented critique that the proposal likely violates the essence of the right to privacy.

In particular, the vote shows the strong political will of the Parliament to remove the most dangerous parts of this law -- mass scanning, undermining digital security and mandating widespread age verification. Parliamentarians have recognised that no matter how important the aim of a law, it must be pursued using only lawful and legitimate measures.

At the same time, there are parts of their position which still concern us, and which would need to be addressed if any final law were to be acceptable from a digital rights point of view. Coupled with mass surveillance plans from the Council of member states and attempts from the Commission to manipulate the process, we remain sceptical about the chances of a good final outcome.

Civil liberties MEPs also voted for this position to become the official position of the European Parliament. On 20 th November, the rest of the house will be notified about the intention to permit negotiators to move forward without an additional vote. Only after that point will the position voted on today be confirmed as the European Parliament's mandate for the CSA Regulation.

Mass scanning (detection orders)

The European Parliament's position firmly rejects the premise that in order to search for child sexual abuse material (CSAM), all people's messages may be scanned (Articles 7-11). Instead, MEPs require that specific suspicion must be required -- a similar principle to warrants. This is a vital change which would resolve one of the most notorious parts of the law. The position also introduces judicial oversight of hash lists (Article 44.3), which we welcome. However, it unfortunately does not distinguish between basic hashing (which is generally seen as more robust) and perceptual hashing (which is less reliable).

At the same time, the wording also needs improvement to ensure legal certainty. The Parliament position rightly confirms that scanning must be "targeted and specified and limited to individual users, [or] a specific group of users" (Article 7.1). This means that there must be "reasonable grounds of suspicion a link [...] with child sexual abuse material" (Articles 7.1. and 7.2.(a)). However, despite attempts in Recital (21) to interpret the "specific group of users" narrowly, we are concerned that the phrasing "as subscribers to a specific channel of communications"(Article 7.1.) is too broad and too open to interpretation. he concept of "an indirect link" is also ambiguous in the context of private messages, and should be deleted or clarified.

The Parliament's position deletes solicitation (grooming) detection from the scope of detection orders, recognising the unreliability of such tools. However, the fact that solicitation remains in the scope of risk assessment (Articles 3 and 4) still poses a risk of incentivising overly-restrictive measures.

End-to-end encryption

The European Parliament's position states that end-to-end encrypted private message services -- like WhatsApp, Signal or ProtonMail -- are not subject to scanning technologies (Articles 7.1 and 10.3). This is a strong and clear protection to stop encrypted message services from being weakened in a way that could harm everyone that relies on them -- a key demand of civil society and technologists.

Several other provisions throughout the text, such as a horizontal protection of encrypted services (Article 1.3a and Recital 9a), give further confirmation of the Parliament's will to protect one of the only ways we all have to keep our digital information safe.

There is a potential (likely unintended) loophole in the Parliament's position on end-to-end encryption, however, which must be addressed in future negotiations. This is the fact that whilst encrypted 'interpersonal communications services (private messages) are protected, there is not an explicit protecting for other kinds of encrypted services ('hosting services').

It would therefore be important to amend Article 1.3a. to ensure that hosting providers, such as of personal cloud backups, cannot be required to circumvent the security and confidentiality of their services with methods that are designed to access encrypted information, and that Article 7.1. is amended so that it is not limited to interpersonal communications.

Age verification & other risk mitigation measures

The European Parliament's position is mixed when it comes to age verification and other risk mitigation measures. EDRi has been clear that mandatory age verification at EU level would be very risky -- and we are glad to see that these concerns have been acted upon. The European Parliament's position protects people's anonymity online by removing mandatory age verification for private message services and app stores, and adds a series of strong safeguards for its optional use (Article 4.3.a.(a)-(k)). This is a positive and important set of measures.

On the other hand, we are disappointed that the Parliament's position makes age verification mandatory for porn platforms (Article 4a.) -- a step that is not coherent with the overall intention of the law. What's more, the cumulative nature of the risk mitigation measures for services directly targeting children in the Parliament's position (Article 4.1.(aa)) need further attention.

This is because there is no exception given for cases where the measures might not be right for a particular service, and could instead risk platforms or services deciding to exclude young people from their services to avoid these requirements.

We recommend that there should not be mandatory age verification for porn platforms, and that risk mitigation measures should oblige providers to achieve a specific outcome, rather than creating overly-detailed (and sometimes misguided) service design requirements. We also warn that the overall CSA Regulation framework should not incentivise the use of age verification tools.

Voluntary scanning

The European Parliament's position does not include a permanent voluntary scanning regime, despite some MEPs calling for such an addition. This is an important legal point: if co-legislators agree that targeted scanning measures are a necessary and proportionate limitation on people's fundamental human rights, then they cannot leave such measures to the discretion of private entities. The Parliament's position does -- however, extend the currently-in-force interim derogation by nine months (Article 88.2).

 

 

Federal censorship...

US senator introduces national internet censorship bill requiring age/ID verification for porn sites


Link Here16th November 2023
Full story: Age Verification in USA...Requiring age verification for porn and social media
US Senator Mike Lee, R-UT, has reintroduced a bill in the U.S. Senate that would make it federal law for all adult websites to verify their users' ages.

The bizarrely titled Shielding Children's Retinas from Egregious Exposure on the Net (SCREEN) Act would require all pornography and adult entertainment websites with users in the United States to deploy reasonable age verification methods from third-party providers.

Supporters of the bill include software company Envoc, which provides ID verification software and anti-porn groups, such as the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, National Decency Coalition, Enough Is Enough, and Culture Reframed.

House Representative Mary Miller, R-Ill., introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives.

The SCREEN Act requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforce elements of the bill that would require a porn site, like Pornhub, xHamster, and Xvideos, to verify ages. FTC is also required to conduct regular audits of the parent companies affected by the act to ensure compliance and to promulgate rules based on the statutes of the bill if it were to become law.

The SCREEN Act competes with the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA). This requires an expansive overhaul of trust and safety protocols for web platforms. If adopted into law, KOSA would require Congress to coordinate with the executive branch, namely the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to review the benefits and shortcomings of nationwide age verification requirements for websites.

 

 

Hamster baiting...

Germany considers more comprehensive internet censorship to target porn websites


Link Here16th November 2023
Full story: Age Verification in Germany...Requiring age verification for adult websites
German authorities have introduced a proposal to block adult websites deemed to have inadequate age verification systems, and also to prohibit financial institutions from providing payment services to those sites.

Germany's Broadcasting Commission of the Federal States released its draft proposal to reform the State Youth Media Treaty (JMStV).

The proposal is now open for consultation until Dec. 7.

The new proposal would allow the media regulator to turn off the money supply to targeted adult sites, explained NetzPolitik reporter Sebastian Meineck, who has been covering German efforts to censor the internet. Meineck told XBIZ that there is a regulation in German media law concerning online gambling, which has a similar structure to the JMStV and includes a similar authorization to prohibit payment transactions in objectionable cases.

The proposal also simplifies the process for the state to order network blocks. The media regulator, Meineck wrote, is already allowed to issue network blocks for porn sites that resist the mandatory age controls. A network block means that Internet providers such as Vodafone, 1&1 or Telekom must prevent customers from accessing a website as usual. In order to achieve such a block, the supervisory authority currently has to carry out time-consuming administrative procedures, some of which are ineffective.

The proposed change would make it easier for the government to more easily target mirror websites that host content similar or identical to sites that have already been ordered blocked, without another complex procedure, as the draft comments clarify.



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