Madrid's International Contemporary Art Fair (ARCO) has pulled a photo exhibition called Political
Prisoners in Contemporary Spain amid controversy because it includes images of Catalan politicians that are currently in jail.
The decision to remove the exhibition within hours of the art fair opening to the press has been attributed to censorship. The exhibition space is government funded so sensitivities have to be observed.
The polemic exhibit contained 24 black and white portraits by Spanish conceptual artist Santiago Sierra, displayed in the stand assigned to the Helga de Alvear gallery.
Gallery organisers were asked to remove the exhibit on Wednesday just hours after a press preview ahead of the art fair opening to the public.
The Spanish Supreme Court has upheld a decision to jail a rapper for three and a half years for a song deemed to have glorified terrorism and insulted the crown, sparking a debate about freedom of expression in the country.
The court rejected arguments by little-known rapper Jose Miguel Arenas Beltran, stage name Valtonyc, that his songs were protected by freedom of expression laws, when ratifying a sentence handed down last February.
Among the lyrics deemed criminal were: Let them be as frightened as a police officer in the Basque Country, a reference to violence against police officers in the region by the now-disarmed Basque separatist group ETA.
Valtonyc went on to fantasize about the king having a rendez-vous at the village square, with a noose around his neck. In another track Valtonyc referenced a Spanish politician and aristocrat involved in a corruption scandal about forcing
her to see how her son lives among rats.
The new German law that compels social media companies to remove hate speech and other illegal content can lead to unaccountable, overbroad censorship and should be promptly reversed, Human Rights Watch said today. The law sets a dangerous
precedent for other governments looking to restrict speech online by forcing companies to censor on the government's behalf. Wenzel Michalski, Germany director at Human Rights Watch said:
Governments and the public have valid concerns about the proliferation of illegal or abusive content online, but the new German law is fundamentally flawed. It is vague, overbroad, and turns private companies into overzealous censors to avoid
steep fines, leaving users with no judicial oversight or right to appeal.
Parliament approved the Network Enforcement Act , commonly known as NetzDG, on June 30, 2017, and it took full effect on January 1, 2018. The law requires large social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, to promptly
remove "illegal content," as defined in 22 provisions of the criminal code , ranging widely from insult of public office to actual threats of violence. Faced with fines up to 50 million euro, companies are already removing content to
comply with the law.
At least three countries -- Russia, Singapore, and the Philippines -- have directly cited the German law as a positive example as they contemplate or propose legislation to remove "illegal" content online. The Russian draft law,
currently before the Duma, could apply to larger social media platforms as well as online messaging services.
Two key aspects of the law violate Germany's obligation to respect free speech, Human Rights Watch said. First, the law places the burden on companies that host third-party content to make difficult determinations of when user speech violates the
law, under conditions that encourage suppression of arguably lawful speech. Even courts can find these determinations challenging, as they require a nuanced understanding of context, culture, and law. Faced with short review periods and the risk
of steep fines, companies have little incentive to err on the side of free expression.
Second, the law fails to provide either judicial oversight or a judicial remedy should a cautious corporate decision violate a person's right to speak or access information. In this way, the largest platforms for online expression become "no
accountability" zones, where government pressure to censor evades judicial scrutiny.
At the same time, social media companies operating in Germany and elsewhere have human rights responsibilities toward their users, and they should act to protect them from abuse by others, Human Rights Watch said. This includes stating in user
agreements what content the company will prohibit, providing a mechanism to report objectionable content, investing adequate resources to conduct reviews with relevant regional and language expertise, and offering an appeals process for users who
believe their content was improperly blocked or removed. Threats of violence, invasions of privacy, and severe harassment are often directed against women and minorities and can drive people off the internet or lead to physical attacks.
Irish book censors have not banned a single magazine and have blocked just one book in the last ten years. Now a member of
the Irish Parliament has called for the Censorship of Publications Board to be shut down.
Fianna Fail Arts and Culture Spokesperson Niamh Smyth said: This is one quango that should be whacked. She was referring to a political campaign slogan whack a quango, to shut down quangos. Smyth added:
The ongoing existence of a Censorship Board that doesn't censor anything is bringing the concept of censorship into disrepute at a time where we need it more than ever.
The only time the board has been heard of in ten years was the ludicrous submission of Alan Shatter's novel Laura over something to do with abortion.
Illegal content and terrorist propaganda are still spreading rapidly online in the European Union -- just not on mainstream platforms, new analysis shows.
Twitter, Google and Facebook all play by EU rules when it comes to illegal content, namely hate speech and terrorist propaganda, policing their sites voluntarily.
But with increased scrutiny on mainstream sites, alt-right and terrorist sympathizers are flocking to niche platforms where illegal content is shared freely, security experts and anti-extremism activists say.
Germany is looking into imposing
restrictions on loot boxes in videogames, according to Welt. A study by the University of Hamburg has found that elements of gambling are becoming increasingly common in videogames. It's an important part of the game industry's business model, but
the chairman of the Youth Protection Commission of the State Media Authorities warned that it may violate laws against promoting gambling to children and adolescents.
The Youth Protection Commission will render its decision on loot boxes in March.
Ardalan Shekarabi, the nation's minister of civil affairs, is concerned about making sure Swedish consumer protection laws apply across the board when it comes to gaming. Shekrabi admits that loot boxes are like gambling, but has asked Swedish
authorities to consider whether that's what they should actually be classified as. The idea is to have legislation ready by January of next year to ensure Swedish gamers don't have to worry about a transaction falling outside of the nation's
consumer protection laws in the event something goes south.
Frederic Durand-Baissas, a primary school teacher in Paris, has sued Facebook in French court for violating his freedom of
speech in 2011 by abruptly removing his profile.
Durand-Baissas' account was suspended after he posted a photo of Gustave Courbet's The Origin of the World , a painting from 1866 that depicts female genitalia.
The case was heard on Thursday. His lawyers have asked a Paris civil court to order Facebook Inc. to reactivate the account and to pay Durand-Baissas 20,000 euros ($23,500) in damages. Durand-Baissas also wants Facebook to explain why his account
Lawyers for Facebook argued the lawsuit should be dismissed on a technicality, that Durand-Baissas didn't sue the right Facebook entity. The teacher should have sued Facebook Ireland, the web host for its service in France, and not the
California-based parent company, Facebook Inc., they claimed. Facebook Inc. can't explain why Facebook Ireland deactivated Mr. Durand-Baissas' account, lawyer Caroline Lyannaz said in court.
Facebook's current policy appears to allow postings such as a photo of the Courbet painting. Its standards page now explicitly states: We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures.
The civil court's ruling in Durand-Baissas' case is expected on March 15.
Last week, Polish lawmakers granted initial approval to a law that aims to make it illegal to suggest that Poland bore any responsibility for
atrocities committed by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
Under the new legislation, individuals could face fines and up to three years in jail for using phrases like Polish death camps (rather than Nazi death camps).
The so-called death camp bill was passed overwhelmingly by Poland's lower legislature.
News of the lower legislature's vote has provoked an international outcry. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet that they will under no circumstances accept any attempt to rewrite history, alluding to the fact that although
Poland was occupied by the Nazis, Poles were caught up in the day to day running of the camps. The Smithsonian Museum explained:
During World War II, the Poles suffered a brutal occupation at the hands of the Nazis, who saw the Poles as racially inferior. At least 2.5 million non-Jewish civilians and soldiers died before the war's end, according to the United States
Holocaust Museum. However, the Nazis also drew upon some Polish agencies, such as Polish police forces and railroad personnel, in the guarding of ghettos and the deportation of Jews to the killing centers. Individual Poles often helped in the
identification, denunciation, and hunting down of Jews in hiding, often profiting from the associated blackmail, and actively participated in the plunder of Jewish property.
Poland has long resisted acknowledging its complicity in the Holocaust. Polish lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to pass the controversial bill back in 2013, after then-President Barack Obama referred to Polish death camps during a speech honoring
Polish resistance fighter Jan Karski.
Poland's Senate have approved a controversial bill which makes it illegal to say 'Polish death camps' when meaning Nazi death camps located in Poland, or more generally to infer that Poland had responsibility for Holocaust related operations
within the occupied country.
The bill sets fines or a maximum three-year jail term as punishment. The bill must now be signed off by the president before entering into law. It passed in the upper house of the Polish parliament with 57 votes to 23.