The new guidelines for prosecuting social media postings were offered in draft form some months ago, but now they have been finalised.
The CPS explain the general principles:
Prosecutors may only start a prosecution if a case satisfies the test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors. This test has two stages: the first is the requirement of evidential sufficiency and the second involves consideration of the public
As far as the evidential stage is concerned, a prosecutor must be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction. This means that an objective, impartial and reasonable jury (or bench of magistrates or judge
sitting alone), properly directed and acting in accordance with the law, is more likely than not to convict. It is an objective test based upon the prosecutor's assessment of the evidence (including any information that he or she has about the defence).
A case which does not pass the evidential stage must not proceed, no matter how serious or sensitive it may be.
It has never been the rule that a prosecution will automatically take place once the evidential stage is satisfied. In every case where there is sufficient evidence to justify a prosecution, prosecutors must go on to consider whether a prosecution is
required in the public interest.
Every case must be considered on its own individual facts and merits. No prospective immunity from criminal prosecution can ever be given and nothing in these guidelines should be read as suggesting otherwise.
In the majority of cases, prosecutors should only decide whether to prosecute after the investigation has been completed. However, there will be cases occasionally where it is clear, prior to the collection and consideration of all the likely evidence,
that the public interest does not require a prosecution. In these cases, prosecutors may decide that the case should not proceed further.
Cases involving the sending of communications via social media are likely to benefit from early consultation between police and prosecutors, and the police are encouraged to contact the CPS at an early stage of the investigation.
Comment: The end of Britain's social media prosecutions?
Keir Starmer's new guidelines aim to minimise controversial criminal cases against Twitter and Facebook users. But will they work, asks
Will these guidelines result in fewer prosecutions? It's impossible to say. There are still issues; the test of whether something constitutes a grossly offensive communication is still discretionary, with the CPS quoting Lord Bingham:
There can be no yardstick of gross offensiveness otherwise than by the application of reasonably enlightened, but not perfectionist, contemporary standards to the particular message sent in its particular context. The test is whether a message is
couched in terms liable to cause gross offence to those to whom it relates.
Claire Perry, the Prime Minister's special adviser on preventing the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood , has three demands
which she claims will save the world from the horrors of porn. First, that internet service providers and other internet companies block child pornography at its source; second, that any sort of simulated rape pornography is banned; and third, that
pornography is banned from public WiFi.
Claire Perry isn't web-savvy enough to realise her own proposals are total nonsense. Her objections are based on beliefs, not on evidence or fact. It's shabby and embarrassing that we are blundering into making policy based on what Ms Perry feels might
work, rather than the truth.
Culture Secretary Maria Miller announced that the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) will be asked for the first time to actively seek out
illegal images of child abuse on the internet, working closely with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre. At a summit of major internet service providers (ISPs), search engines, mobile operators and social media companies, an
agreement was reached that the IWF should, for the first time, work with CEOP to search for and block child sexual abuse images.
The UK's leading ISPs -- Virgin Media, BSkyB, BT and TalkTalk -- committed to provide a further £1 million to help fund this new proactive approach and to help tackle the creation and distribution of child sexual abuse material online.
Additionally, all the companies present signed up to a zero tolerance pledge on child sexual abuse imagery.
This will be the first time the IWF has been asked to take on a proactive approach to detect and act against criminal material. The IWF, working alongside CEOP, and the wider internet industry, will ensure the UK leads the way in the global battle
against child sexual abuse. New funding will allow more to be done to actively search, block and remove more child sexual abuse images.
This is a fundamental change in the way that child sexual abuse content will be tackled. It is estimated that there are one million unique images of child abuse online yet only 40,000 reports are made to the IWF each year. The IWF will no longer have to
wait for illegal material to be reported before they can take action, but will work with CEOP to take the fight to those behind child sexual abuse images.
It was agreed at the summit that:
A new proactive role would be taken on by the IWF, working with CEOP -- industry funding will increase to reflect this new role with £1 million more provided by the four major ISPs over the next four years to tackle child sexual abuse material
Any relevant organisation which does not yet operate splash pages will introduce them by the end of the month so that when someone tries to access a page blocked by the IWF, they will see a warning message (a splash page') stating that the page
may contain indecent or illegal content;
All present would sign up to a 'zero tolerance pledge towards child sexual abuse content on the internet;
The industry will report to the Culture Secretary within a month on how they can work to support the new proactive approach being taken on this issue through the use of their technology and expertise.
The summit also reviewed the considerable progress that has been made to protect children from harmful or inappropriate content online, including:
The four main ISPs are now offering an active choice on parental controls to all new customers;
The main public Wi-Fi providers have pledged to offer family friendly Wi-Fi in public places where children are likely to be;
The main ISPs have committed to delivering home network parental controls by the end of the year allowing restrictions to be set - simply and quickly - on all devices in the home;
Internet providers are now regularly telling customers about parental controls through emails and their bills;
ISPs will email account holders when any filter settings are changed to ensure the change is approved by an adult.
The Culture Secretary will convene a further meeting, once the industry has reported on what more it can do to support this proactive approach, to ensure that real action is taking place. Notes to Editors
The companies attending the summit were Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, BT, BSkyB, Virgin Media, TalkTalk, Vodafone, O2, EE and Three. They were joined by CEOP and the IWF.
UK Ministry of Defence officials issued a confidential D notice to the BBC and other media groups in an attempt to censor coverage of surveillance
tactics employed by intelligence agencies in the UK and US.
Editors were asked not to publish information that may jeopardise both national security and possibly UK personnel in the warning issued on 7 June, a day after the Guardian first revealed details of the National Security Agency's (NSA) secret
Prism programme .
The D notice was made public on the Westminster gossip blog, Guido Fawkes . Although only advisory for editors, the censorship system is intended to prevent the media from making inadvertent public disclosure of information that would compromise UK
military and intelligence operations and methods .
Index on Censorship have also located an example of negligent blocking.
A reader has contacted Index on Censorship to point out that the website Transhumanity.net
has been blocked on his 02 phone.
We've checked, and he's right --- the site is blocked as pornography .
It's a little difficult to see why: there's certainly nothing I'd consider pornographic on the site.
Transhumanism is an essentially utopian concept, which believes in harnessing technology and theory to create better lives for humans, free from hunger and disease and the general biological decay to which, in the end, we all succumb.
Minister for Censorship Culture calls on BBC to review iPlayer parental controls. Meanwhile Vivienne Pattison admits to an alarming mental condition where she sees violence to women in every TV programme
Amid a moral panic about internet censorship, Culture Secretary Maria Miller will ask BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten to review
safeguards on iPlayer programmes.
Senior sources say the Culture Secretary is concerned about British shows aping a trend in US drama for extreme on-screen violence, as in Sky shows such as The Following and Hannibal. Apparently some campaigners want the dramas to be edited to be
suitable for children for iPlayer versions.
A BBC Trust spokeswoman said no changes were planned for controls on the iPlayer as the Trust felt current safeguards were adequate. Asked about the current iPlayer protections for children, Lord Patten said: It's quite difficult to do it any other
An IT consultant suggested: The BBC could simply mimic the system on Apple devices called iCloud which would allow parents to see what is being seen by their children, in real time.
Vivienne Pattison, director of pressure group MediaWatch-UK, admitted to alarming mental problems, seeing things in programmes that nobody else does:
It seems like there is violence against women in every programme now, with lingering shots of someone having something done to her.
I don't think any of us can dispute the quality of the filming, writing and acting in both Ripper Street and The Fall but it does seem gratuitous and gruesome violence has become mainstream.
I have been talking about the BBC having tougher safeguards for its iPlayer programmes for years but always get the same response: that it has to be something that seriously harms the mental or physical health of a child and nothing on the iPlayer will
do this. Actually with some of those dramas we are getting to the stage where if a young child watches it, yes it could do.
This week has seen a series of meetings seeking ideas and support for internet censorship in the name of child protection. There was a Sunday Times
sponsored session, followed by Westminster Media Forum discussion, and the culmination will be a government led meeting with ISPs and major internet companies on 17th June.
Here are a few of the ideas being discussed.
Scary messages on attempted access to banned websites
BT has announced that any of its customers attempting to access web pages on the Internet Watch Foundation's list of identified images of child sexual abuse will now see a message telling them the site is blocked and the reason why.
Under the current system, the site is blocked but internet users only see an Error 404 message. The move comes amid growing concern that internet companies need to do more to tackle online child abuse. BT's new message is believed to be the first
of its kind in the UK.
The message will read:
Access has been denied by your internet service provider because this page may contain indecent images of children as identified by the Internet Watch Foundation. If you think this page has been blocked in error please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Presumably the scare value is tied in with the government snooping and keeping records or websites visited.
Network censorship on by default
Parental filters for pornographic content will come as a default setting for all homes in the UK by the end of 2013, says Claire Perry, David Cameron's personal Mary Whitehouse. Speaking at a Westminster eForum on 14 June she explained:
Internet service providers (ISP) will be expected to provide filtering technology to new and existing customers, with an emphasis on opting out, rather than opting in: [In the UK] we will have filters where if you do nothing, the parental filters will
come pre-ticked .
Features such as time-limited deactivation of filtering and email updates when filter settings are changed are expected to become widespread. We will have automatic put on, so if you turn the filter off at 9pm, it turns on again at 7am
Public WiFi only suitable for kids
Perry confirmed that as expected, the government is pushing ahead with restricting all public Wi-Fi spots so that they are free from all adult content.
On Tuesday, Jim Killock of Open Rights Group spoke at an event organised by the Sunday Times and Policy Exchange about online pornography and child protection. This was in the run-up to the opposition debate that took place in Parliament on Wednesday on
these topics. He reports:
That this House deplores the growth in child abuse images online; deeply regrets that up to one and a half million people have seen such images; notes with alarm the lack of resources available to the police to tackle this problem; further notes the
correlation between viewing such images and further child abuse; notes with concern the Government's failure to implement the recommendations of the Bailey Review and the Independent Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection on ensuring
children's safe access to the internet; and calls on the Government to set a timetable for the introduction of safe search as a default, effective age verification and splash page warnings and to bring forward legislative proposals to ensure these
changes are speedily implemented.
The "1.5m" statistic has been debunked
elsewhere, but the alarming point here is the deliberate conflation of child abuse images and legal material, potentially accessed by children. The motion slips from talking about child abuse images, to 'safe searches' to protect children from seeing
adult material. Just as worrying is the adoption of a position in favour of default blocking by Labour. You can read a transcript of the debate on
This is a symptom of a wider problem with this debate - a failure to properly distinguish between different categories of content, and the different methods of dealing with them. That requires at least some understanding of the technology - the
A further problem is an unwillingness from some MPs to appreciate or even acknowledge the problems with technical solutions. In the debate on Tuesday, I tried to outline the problems with filtering, including the over and under-blocking of content.
Claire Perry helpfully described such problems as a load of cock . Helpfully, because such a comment would be very likely to be caught by a filter and cause it to be blocked, while not, of course being pornographic.
Claire also got applause for suggesting that blocked websites were simply collateral damage necessary to protect children. This is the kind of woolly thinking that thankfully got rejected by her government, which recognised that economic harm stems from
blocking legitimate websites, for instance. After all, if you can protect children, and avoid blocking for adults, why not? Can some balance not be struck?
Unfortunately, in the eyes of many MPs, arguing for balance is betraying children. If any children can access more porn than we can technically prevent, then we have failed. Of course, filters don't always work and can be easily got round, but if our
solution helps a bit, surely that is better than nothing?
These kinds of position, once you examine them, are pretty incoherent. Filters that don't work well will probably get switched off. Defaults that block too much may encourage people to remove the filters. Parents may assume their children are safe when
filters are switched on. Software design is iterative not legislative; yet legislation is often favoured over industry engagement.
The child protection debate over the last two years has won Claire Perry many friends, who believe she has raised the profile of an issue and got results. Certainly, the fact that ISPs are building network level filters points to this, but I was
intrigued by a question at the debate on Tuesday. Apparently children are installing Chrome, because it was suggested that helps them access porn sites and gets round filters.
We did try to tell Claire this kind of thing would happen, before she persuaded ISPs to spend millions of pounds on network filters. Even with filters, if parents leave children with admin privileges, they will be able to use their computers to trivially
defeat any blocks. Some MPs in the debate in Parliament suggested only 'very clever' folk will be able to get round filtering. This isn't true -- most children will find this easy.
Which leaves us with the harms on all sides, to websites, adults and children, without the supposed benefits.
Labour have essentially made the same mistake as Culture Secretary Maria Miller's letter
to online companies, in which she invited Internet companies to a proposed 'summit':
Recent horrific events have again highlighted the widespread public concern over the proliferation of, and easy access to, harmful content on the internet. Whether these concerns focus on access to illegal pornographic content, the proliferation of
extremist material which might incite racial or religious hatred, or the ongoing battle against online copyright theft, a common question emerges: what more can be done to prevent offensive online content potentially causing harm?
It is clear that dangerous, highly offensive, unlawful and illegal material is available through basic search functions and I believe that many popular search engines, websites and ISPs could do more to prevent the dissemination of such material.
The debate and letter confuse legal, illegal and potentially harmful content, all of which require very different tactics to deal with. Without a greater commitment to evidence and rational debate, poor policy outcomes will be the likely result. There's
a pattern, much the same as the Digital Economy Act, or the Snooper's Charter.
Start with moral panic; dismiss evidence; legislate; and finally, watch the policy unravel, either delivering unintended harms, even to children in this case, or simply failing altogether.
ORG, Index on Censorship, English PEN and Big Brother Watch have written
to the Culture Secretary Maria Miller demanding that civil society be present at her 'summit', to make sure these issues are addressed. We have yet to receive a reply.
Naturists fear they will be forced to cover up under new laws designed to crack-down on yobs. New measures
supposedly designed to curb anti-social behaviour could be used by police and the courts to stop them stripping off in public.
The row centres on the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, which is currently being debated in the Commons.
It includes power for the courts to grant an injunction against someone who has engaged in, or is threatening to engage in, anti-social behaviour .
The law has been so widely drawn that police officers and magistrates courts could easily abuse their position to target people for just about anything.
Under the new rule, an injunction could be granted if a person has engaged in conduct which is capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to any person .
British Naturism warned that the new law:
Is so open ended that it could be used and abused to prohibit or require just about anything.
If history teaches us anything it is that if a power can be abused then it will be abused.
We have absolutely no doubt that if it becomes law as currently worded then it will be used to prohibit naturism in a wide range of places.
Beaches and gardens are a certainty and it may even include naturist events and clubs.
A Home Office spokesman said:
We want to give the police and other agencies the means to protect victims more effectively, not penalise certain behaviours.
The "nuisance and annoyance" test is clear and well-established in law, and it will ultimately be for the courts to decide whether it is proportionate to grant an injunction restricting an individual from acting in a certain way.
The Daily Mail is claiming that it has spoken with David Cameron and is speaking of measures to force Google to pro-actively seek out child porn (which
pretty much has already been driven off public facing sections of the net). However as usual, the piece does continually confuses by conflating child porn with 'other illegal porn'.
The Daily Mail writes:
David Cameron is to order Google to ban child pornography from the internet in a bid to prevent further murders like those of Tia Sharp and April Jones.
The Prime Minister last night said it was time for internet firms to stop making excuses for failing to crackdown on disgusting pornography. Google was urged to use the same effort it put into filming virtually every house and street for
Google Earth to help rid the internet of violent and obscene sexual images.
The Prime Minister told The Mail on Sunday last night:
I am sickened by the proliferation of child pornography. It pollutes the internet, twists minds and is quite simply a danger to children. No more excuses: Internet firms will be told to crackdown on vile porn
No more excuses: Internet firms will be told to crackdown on vile porn
Internet companies and search engines make their living by trawling and categorising the web. So I call on them to use their extraordinary technical abilities to do more to root out these disgusting images.
That is why the Government I lead is convening a round-table meeting of the major internet companies, and demanding that more is done.
There are encouraging signs that the industry is willing to step up -- increasing funding and technical support for organisations combating child sexual abuse imagery online. But I want more action.
The time for excuses and blame is over -- we must all work together. The safety of our children is at stake -- and nothing matters more than that.
Google and other internet companies will be told to set up teams of investigators whose sole job will be to trawl the internet 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in search of child pornography and other illegal obscene images -- and remove it.
Anglo-American intelligence scandals, such as the one that preceded the Iraq war, are usually smothered or buried in an endless,
unpublished inquiry. Normal service soon resumes and everyone gets to keep his job. But the issues thrown up by the Guardian's Prism revelations couldn't be more clear-cut. Did GCHQ make use of NSA 's Prism system to bypass British laws and spy on the
public through covert access to internet giants such as Google and Facebook?
All that is needed from William Hague and Theresa May, the ministers who oversee the intelligence agencies, and the head of GCHQ , Sir Iain Lobban, is straight answers about what they knew and who authorised an operation that generated 197 intelligence
reports last year. No obfuscation.
No cover-up. No inquiry yet.
That way, we will know that the proper checks and balances on Britain's intelligence agencies are finally being activated.
Nothing less will do. Assurances from Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the head of the compliant Commons intelligence and security committee, will not be enough, particularly as he has hinted at his support for the mass surveillance proposed in the communications
More than a hundred gender extremist groups and campaigners have written to the prime minister urging him to make it a criminal offence to possess
pornography depicting rape.
They claim that such material glorifies, trivialises and normalises the abuse of women and girls, and note that both Mark Bridger and Stuart Hazell viewed violent and misogynistic pornography .
Possession of such material is already an offence in Scotland and could be similarly outlawed in England and Wales if the government extended clauses of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, they claim.
Fiona Elvines, a Rape Crisis South London campaigner, claimed:
Permitting the possession of depictions of sexual violence as entertainment glorifies, trivialises and normalises such abuse at a time when government statistics estimate that 85,000 women and girls are raped each year
Professor Clare McGlynn, a campaigner working at Durham University's law school, met Ministry of Justice officials in November to press for the law to be extended. However, her call was not heeded by the ministry, which told her the legal change was not
appropriate or necessary .
A government spokesperson said:
Rape is an abhorrent crime and that is why this government has driven forward significant progress in tackling violence against women and girls. We share the public's concern about the availability of harmful content on the internet and have already
taken steps to ensure there are better online filters to protect children . But we want to look at what more can be done and so the culture secretary has invited internet providers to a summit this month. We will look closely at the issues raised in this
Dave Pearson, from the justice ministry's criminal policy unit, said that there is:
No evidence to show that the creation of staged rape images involves any harm to the participants or causes harm to society at large.
Pearson said that the ministry had asked the Internet Watch Foundation to investigate websites that depict or purport to depict actual rapes . The ministry said it was satisfied that the Internet Watch Foundation had checked a selection of the
hundreds of thousands of videos available online and believed all the content they examined to be staged .
Comment: Evidence-free academia
8th June 2013. Thanks to Alan
Is Professor Clare McGlynn the invention of a satirical genius? She appears to be a self-parody of a victim feminist . I don't have the Guardian
in front of me as I write, but if I remember correctly she insouciantly, if periphrastically, admits there's no evidence to link rape porn with actual rape. (In fact, the Japanese example - rape fantasy prominent in mainstream porn, compliant with mosaic
requirement, and a very low rate of rape - suggests the opposite.)
What sort of academic demands that people be flung in jail with no evidential basis to show their actions are harmful? (Note - PEOPLE, not just men. If Prof McGlynn gets her way, I await with lively interest the first prosecution of a woman, especially
if the rape porn is lesbian.)
What sort of academic whinges when a refereed journal is established to take a less biased look at porn because the editorial board isn't made up of anti-porners?
The message of the Dangerous Pictures Act so far is to be careful what you wish for. During its passage, the silence from gay men was deafening. What had they to fear from legislation to protect women from straight male fantasies? They certainly didn't
want to be associated with animal porn (even if until recently the most serious crime with which they could be charged, buggery, also included bestiality). Then the boys in blue arrest a prominent gay figure, an aide to Boris Johnson, over a flick with a
bit of fisting.
We are writing to you regarding news that you have summoned internet companies to a meeting about how they deal with illegal or extreme content online.
As representatives of civil society groups focused on freedoms in the digital age, we are very concerned about changes to the law or industry practices that involve restrictions on access to information online. The powers to make decisions about what
people are allowed to see and do on the Internet are significant and must be treated with extreme care. There are particular problems when governments expect or require companies to police online content.
An understandable desire to ensure a safer environment online can easily lead to overreaching or unaccountable powers or practices. Through mistakes or abuse these can quickly lead to restrictions on far too much content and undue infringements of
people's privacy. For example, mobile networks' Internet filtering in the UK routinely over blocks the websites of shops, political blogs or community sites. In Australia, it has emerged that 250,000 websites were accidentally blocked when a government
agency tried to take down sites allegedly involved with fraud. The UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression Frank La Rue highlighted his grave concerns about these problems in his 2011 report.
Poorly implemented fixes will not only inhibit freedoms in the UK. They will also set a very damaging precedent internationally, providing more cover for States whose interests in restricting access to information online or the surveillance of citizens
is more sinister. This was emphasised by the Foreign Secretary William Hague at the London Cyberspace Conference in 2011.
As representatives of leading UK civil society groups, we would therefore request that we are present at the forthcoming summit to ensure these concerns are addressed.
Jo Glanville, Director, English PEN
Kirsty Hughes, Chief Executive, Index on Censorship
Jim Killock, Executive Director, Open Rights Group
Nick Pickles, Executive Director, Big Brother Watch
The Telegraph has disclosed that several leading media firms, including telecom companies, have privately requested that responsibility
for policy in their area be returned to the Business Department.
Culture Secretary Maria Miller is apparently regarded as one of the Cabinet's weakest performers and is under investigation for abusing her expenses.
The Daily Mail also recently published a lengthy article questioning Miller's worth in the wake of the Government's botched handling of media regulation.
One Whitehall source said:
There is a growing feeling that the culture department is not looking fit for purpose. The creative industries are absolutely vital to the economy yet they are basically being let down. This is something which has been brought up by the Chancellor
several times in Cabinet.
The Telegraph has learnt that under plans being discussed in Whitehall, responsibility for media policy may be returned to the Business Department. The move would prove controversial as it would leave the Culture department so small that there would be
little point in it remaining -- and the Cabinet would lose one of its few female ministers. Some senior Conservatives are privately arguing that her entire department should be disbanded and its duties handed to other, better-rated ministers.
TalkTalk - it would seem - has blazed an unlikely trail for Britain's big name ISPs by being the first telco to switch on network level
filtering of web content. Now, after many months resisting the urge to apply such controls to their services, the other major providers - BSkyB, Virgin Media and BT - have all decided to follow suit.
Your correspondent recently chaired an Internet Service Providers' Association event at which the panel and audience discussed how effective current measures were in protecting children online. The confab proved revealing - with BT and Virgin Media
publicly stating for the first time that they too would be introducing network-level filters on their services later this year.
The culture secretary, Maria Miller, has summoned the big internet companies to discuss the proliferation of, and easy access to,
pornographic and politically extremist content on the web.
Miller has invited companies, including Google and Facebook, to a meeting on 17 June to hear what they are doing to police content and to push for a co-ordinated approach.
The culture secretary's aides said she was acting in response to concern over the Woolwich killing and the discovery of child abuse images on the computer of Mark Bridge.
In a letter to the internet companies, Miller cites concerns, seemingly based on the bollox claims by Amanda Platell in the Daily Mail:
Access to illegal pornographic content, the proliferation of extremist material which might incite racial or religious hatred, or the ongoing battle against online copyright theft.
It is clear that dangerous, highly offensive, unlawful and illegal material is available through basic search functions and I believe that many popular search engines, websites and ISPs could do more to prevent the dissemination of such material. Greater
efforts need to be made to prevent the uploading, downloading and sharing of harmful material. Effective technological solutions have to be developed -- and deployed -- to minimise the harm done to businesses and consumers.
Your organisation plays a key role in terms of how individuals access online content -- and has serious public responsibilities as a result of this position. A relatively small number of organisations wield a great deal of online power -- and I believe
that with that power comes a great responsibility.
A communications white paper is due to be published shortly and it is clear that Miller is willing to use legal backstops to force the internet companies to do more.
The Department for Censorship, Media and Sport writes:
Adverts shown in cinemas will no longer have to be reviewed by the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) under plans announced today.
At the moment all cinema advertisements are subject to the Advertising Standard Authority's (ASA) Committee on Advertising Practice Code, but also have to be reviewed by the BBFC as well.
Following a public consultation, in which the majority of responses favoured removing the BBFC requirement, we believe deregulation is fully justified. We think that the application of the ASA's code provides the right levels of
consumer advice and protection.
We are now looking at the best way to bring about the planned changes, and we will make an announcement in due course.
But don't worry about the BBFC... They have picked up a new job of censoring pop videos and other currently exempt videos.
Hate preachers will be banned from British television, Theresa May signalled last night.
The Home Secretary condemned the BBC and other broadcasters for interviewing disgusting extremist cleric Anjem Choudary after the murder of soldier Lee Rigby. May said she will ask TV censor Ofcom to step in.
Under plans to be drawn up by a new task force on extremism, Ofcom is expected to be given powers to stop hate preachers appearing on television. At the moment the censor has the power to intervene only after an inappropriate broadcast has been made.
The move is the most dramatic attempt to gag extremist views since the Thatcher government's 1988 ban on IRA spokesmen being heard on television, which led to the words of Gerry Adams being read out by an actor.
The government announces that more DVDs are to carry an age rating, more is to be done on online age ratings and WiFi will be family friendly. placeholder
Age ratings will be given to a range of video content that is currently exempt - such as some music and sports DVDs - so that those unsuitable for younger children will have to carry a British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) age rating in future.
Video Recordings Act
The government is publishing the response to its recent consultation on the Video Recordings Act which addresses concerns about the exemptions from age rating that are currently given to a range of music, sports, religious and educational DVDs and
The Video Recordings Act will now be changed so that any of these products that are unsuitable for younger children will have to carry the familiar 12 , 15 and 18 BBFC age ratings in future. The changes are expected to come into
force in 2014.
Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said:
Government realises that the world has moved on since these exemptions were written into the Video Recordings Act some 30 years ago.
The changes we've announced today will help ensure children are better protected, and that parents are provided with the information necessary for them to make informed choices about what their children view.
In order to help ensure parents can make more informed decisions about the material their children watch online, ministers are also calling on industry to develop solutions so that more online videos - particularly those that are likely to be sought out
by children and young people - carry advice about their age suitability in future.
The Office of the Children's Commissioner for England is calling for urgent action to develop children's resilience to pornography following a research report it commissioned which found that: a significant number of children access pornography; it
influences their attitudes towards relationships and sex; it is linked to risky behaviour such as having sex at a younger age; and there is a correlation between holding violent attitudes and accessing more violent media.
The report published today by the Office of the Children's Commissioner, Basically... porn is everywhere: A Rapid Evidence Assessment on the Effects that Access and Exposure to Pornography has on Children and Young People also found that:
Children and young people's exposure and access to pornography occurs both on and offline but in recent years the most common method of access is via internet enabled technology Exposure and access to pornography increases with age Accidental exposure to
pornography is more prevalent than deliberate access There are gender differences in exposure and access to pornography with boys more likely to be exposed to and deliberately access, seek or use pornography than girls.
It concludes that there are still many unanswered questions about the affect exposure to pornography has on children: a situation the Office of the Children's Commissioner considers requires urgent action in an age where extreme violent and sadistic
imagery is two clicks away.
The report is based on a review of published evidence led by Middlesex University in partnership with the University of Bedfordshire, Canterbury Christ Church University and University of Kent, supplemented by a focus group of young people. The
researchers identified 41,000 items of academic literature about pornography undertaking an in-depth analysis of 276 to draw its conclusions.
The report welcomes the work being done by Claire Perry, MP on internet controls, in her role as advisor to the Prime Minister. It makes a series of recommendations in addition to carrying out further research as follows:
The Department for Education should ensure that all schools understand the importance of, and deliver, effective relationship and sex education which must include safe use of the internet. A strong and unambiguous message to this effect should be sent to
all education providers including: all state funded schools including academies; maintained schools; independent schools; faith schools; and further education colleges.
The Department for Education should ensure curriculum content on relationships and sex education covers access and exposure to pornography, and sexual practices that are relevant to young people's lives and experiences, as a means of building young
people's resilience. This is sensitive, specialist work that must be undertaken by suitably qualified professionals, for example, specialist teachers, youth workers or sexual health practitioners.
The Department for Education should rename sex and relationship education (SRE) to relationship and sex education (RSE) to place emphasis on the importance of developing healthy, positive, respectful relationships.
The Government, in partnership with internet service providers, should embark on a national awareness-raising campaign, underpinned by further research, to better inform parents, professionals and the public at large about the content of pornography and
young people's access of, and exposure to such content. This should include a message to parents about their responsibilities affording both children and young people greater protection and generating a wider debate about the nature of pornography in the
21st century and its potential impact.
Through the commitments made to better protect girls and young women from gender-based violence in the ending violence against women and girls action plan, the Home Office and the Department for Education should commission further research into the
safeguarding implications of exposure and/or access to pornography on children and young people, particularly in relation to their experiences of teenage relationship abuse and peer exploitation.
The Home Office should incorporate the findings of this report into the ongoing teen abuse campaign. Future activity on this workstream should reflect young people's exposure to violent sexualised imagery within their peer groups and relationships.
The Youth Justice Board should include questions on exposure and access to pornography within the revised ASSET assessment tool, to better inform understanding of possible associations with attitudes and behaviour and improve the targeting of
interventions for young people displaying violent, or sexually harmful, behaviours.
This session's Queen's speech did not contain any explicit mention of the Communications Data Bill, but did make reference to proposals aimed at making it easier for law enforcement to match IP addresses to individuals.
My government will continue to reduce crime and protect national security. Legislation will be introduced to reform the way in which offenders are rehabilitated in England and Wales.
Legislation will be brought forward to introduce new powers to tackle anti-social behaviour, cut crime and further reform the police.
In relation to the problem of matching internet protocol addresses, my government will bring forward proposals to enable the protection of the public and the investigation of crime in cyberspace.
The government provides more details in the briefing notes on the Queen's Speech:
[IP] addresses are generally shared between a number of people. In order to know who has actually sent an email or made a Skype call, the police need to know who used a certain IP address at a given point in time. Without this, if a suspect used the
internet to communicate instead of making a phone call, it may not be possible for the police to identify them.
The Government is looking at ways of addressing this issue with CSPs. It may involve legislation.
Commentators have linked these proposals to comments made by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in April, suggesting that the government could be considering some sort of intervention relating to IPv6 adoption.
Right now, there are not enough IP addresses to go round for all of the devices being used. Temporary addresses are attached to computers and phones while they are online, but the records of these are patchy, which means they cannot easily be matched
back to individuals.
The police say a clearer picture would be a huge help in their investigations and we should explore how that can be done. --- Nick Clegg, writing in The Telegraph
Anything judged to be adult content is to be banned from public wi-fi networks by the end of the year, according to David Cameron's Mary Whitehouse.
Claire Perry said the move was supposedly to prevent children from stumbling across adult material when using wireless internet networks in places such as cafes and railway stations, or seeing others who may be looking at it.
But one of the country's largest internet providers has threatened to throw a spanner in the works by warning that ministers' plans to block porn from public wi-fi could be against the law. BT says that blocking adult material from stores which use BT
public wi-fi could breach 2000 legislation which bans the interception of electronic communications.
Anne Heal, the representative from BT Openreach, said: There is considerable nervousness that filtering content could be regarded as intercepting data, and which could put providers in breach of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. The
Act allows certain public bodies to intercept data for national security reasons, but bans everyone else from doing so. BT's argument is that filtering web use without the user's express permission could be regarded as the interception of data.
However the six largest providers of public wi-fi have agreed to put adult content block in place. High Street companies offering free wi-fi from one of the six companies will be 'encouraged' to put the block in place to restrict browsing by children
using mobile phones and tablets like iPads. These shops would be able to display a kid's internet logo so parents know their children will be safe.
I'm really pleased that the internet industry is committed to providing public wi-fi that is free of adult content. It is entirely appropriate and means that children can surf the web safely in thousands of different places.
Now we need to move fast in introducing family-friendly home internet filtering to make sure that our young people are not accessing violent and pornographic images.
The Government's proposal for a Royal Charter on the future of news censorship has been put on hold after newspaper editors put forward an alternative plan.
The Royal Charter was due to be signed by the Queen when she chaired the next meeting of the Privy Council on May 15, but it has now been taken off the agenda for the meeting so the Government can hold more talks with editors.
Editors are unhappy with an element of statutory underpinning in the Government's proposal, and last month they published their own proposal for a Royal Charter, which would remove Parliament's proposed power to make changes to the regulatory system
without the agreement of the industry.
The majority of the newspaper industry, made up of five of the country's largest press groups, have rejected cross-party plans for
newspaper censorship and launched a bid to set up their own royal charter-backed body.
News International, the publisher of the Sun and Times, the Telegraph Media Group, the Daily Mail's publisher Associated Newspapers, Trinity Mirror and Express Newspapers published a draft royal charter saying they rejected the stitch-up put
together by the three political parties.
The newspapers said the original government royal charter unveiled on 15 March and endorsed by parliament:
Has no support within the press. A number of its recommendations are unworkable and it gives politicians an unacceptable degree of interference in the regulation of the press.
David Cameron said he was very happy to look at the proposals and his aides said he needed time to examine the gaps between what the parties had agreed and the industry was proposing.
But a spokesman for the culture department stood firm by the original plans endorsed by the Commons and Lords:
We want to see a tough, independent self-regulator implemented swiftly. The royal charter published on 18 March followed 21 weeks of discussion and has cross-party agreement.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has just announced that the Communications Data Bill is dead. He said on LBC:
What people dub the snoopers' charter, that's not going to happen -- certainly with Lib Dems in government.
Big Brother Watch commented:
Nick Clegg has made the right decision for our economy, for internet security and for our freedom.
Recording the websites we look at and who we email would not have made us safer, as some of the country's leading cyber security academics argued this week. It would have made Britain a less attractive place to start a company and put British companies
in the position of being paid by the Government to spy on their customers, something that oppressive regimes around the world would have quickly copied.
Rather than spending billions on another Whitehall IT disaster that tramples over our civil liberties and privacy on an unprecedented scale, we should focus on ensuring the police have the skills and training to make use of the huge volume of data that
is available. If small, technical changes to existing legislation are required, then they should be properly thought through before being subject to the widespread consultation and comprehensive assessment this plan sorely lacked.
Dr Julian Huppert MP, Lib Dem spokesperson for Home Affairs and a member of the Joint Committee on the draft Communications data Bill, said:
I am delighted that Nick Clegg has stood up for the British public on this. He was right to demand that these proposals be published as a draft, which gave us all a chance to see just how badly thought through the Home Office proposals were. And he is
now right to say that what the Home Office propose is unacceptable. Spending billions of pounds to keep track of every website we go to, and what we do on facebook or google, is simply wrong. If we want to actually cut crime, spend the extra money on the
The Prime Minister is to announce a Government-backed censorship rules which will mean that all adult themed content is blocked in public spaces such as
cafes and railway stations where children are likely to be present.
We are promoting good, clean, WiFi in local cafes and elsewhere to make sure that people have confidence in public WiFi systems so that they are not going to see things they shouldn't.
Talks have been taking place for months between ISPs and government officials over the new censorship rules. It is not clear whether the internet firms will automatically impose the restrictions on access -- or whether it will be the duty of shops and
other public areas used by children to bar adult content.
Industry sources said that the decision on whether to automatically restrict access in hotels could prove a more contentious issue.
Neil Berkett, Virgin Media
Jeremy Darroch, Sky
Dido Harding, TalkTalk
Warren Buckley, BT
Jeremy Woodrow, Royal Mail
Ronan Dunne, O2
Richard Tang, Zen Internet
One year ago, it became public knowledge that the Government intends to introduce legislation relating to communications data. We did not learn of this in Parliament, but in media leaks.
It has become clear that a critical component of the Communications Data Bill is that UK communication service providers will be required by law to create data they currently do not have any business purpose for, and store it for a period of 12 months.
Plainly, this crosses a line no democratic country has yet crossed -- paying private companies to record what their customers are doing solely for the purposes of the state.
These proposals are not fit for purpose, which possibly explains why the Home Office is so keen to ensure they are not aired publicly.
There has been no public consultation, while on none of your websites is there any reference to these discussions. Meetings have been held behind closed doors as policy has been developed in secret, seemingly the same policy formulated several years ago
despite widespread warnings from technical experts.
That your businesses appear willing to be co-opted as an arm of the state to monitor every single one of your customers is a dangerous step, exacerbated by your silence
Consumers are increasingly concerned about their privacy, both in terms of how much data is collected about them and how securely that data is kept. Many businesses have made a virtue of respecting consumer privacy and ensuring safe and secure internet
Sadly, your customers have not had the opportunity to comment on these proposals. Indeed, were it not for civil society groups and the media, they would have no idea such a policy was being considered.
We believe this is a critical failure not only of Government, but a betrayal of your customers' interests. You appear to be engaged in a conspiracy of silence with the Home Office, the only concern being whether or not you will be able to recover your
We urge you to withdraw your participation in a process that in our view is deeply flawed, pursuing a pre-determined solution that puts competition, security and privacy at risk in an unprecedented way.
With best wishes,
Jim Killock, Executive Director, Open Rights Group
Nick Pickles, Director, Big Brother Watch
Sam Smith, Technologist, Privacy International
Responding to the letter, ISPA UK pointed out the active role of ISPs in criticising the draft Bill.
ISPs have been open in their approach, with a number of ISPs and ISPA giving evidence publicly to the Joint Committee that criticised the draft bill. It is for the government to publish its proposals, and when it does, we will examine the new draft bill
closely alongside our members, parliamentarians and other stakeholders as part of the open parliamentary scrutiny the bill will receive. ISPA members recognise the needs of law enforcement, however want to see a bill that is workable and proportionate
and takes into account the recommendations of the joint committee.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has so far declined to explain a proposed snooping system that would allow officials to trawl
through the public's private emails, text messages and other messages sent through the internet.
The Information Commissioner has now ordered the Home Office to publish advice ministers received on the design, cost and risks of the new snooping system by May 11.
If the Home Office does not comply with the Information Notice issued by the Commissioner last week it will be judged as being in contempt of court .
Dominic Raab, a Tory MP with an interest in human rights, requested the advice in a Freedom of Information request last summer, but May's department has refused to publish the guidance citing supposed national security concerns. Raab said:
This far-reaching scheme could drain the swamp of every email, text message and phone call made by every citizen, a tectonic shift in the relationship between the citizen and the state.
So, it's astonishing that Home Office bureaucrats are risking contempt of court by trying to cover up the most basic information on how the scheme will operate in practice.
The Government writes about the need for bloggers and small media companies having to sign up to the proposed news censor:
Following the initial debate in Parliament, we have refined the clauses to make it absolutely clear that small blogs are outside of the scheme.
The amendments, which have cross-party agreement, make clear that small blogs will not be classed as relevant publishers , and be considered by the House of Commons on Monday April 22.
The provisions in the Crime and Courts Bill clauses detail the four tests that must be met to be considered a relevant publisher, which are:
publish news-related material
publish in the course of a business
written by different authors
subject to editorial controls
The amendments clarify the government's position on small blogs by further defining the exemption for blogs that are classed as micro-businesses - business with fewer than 10 employees and an annual turnover below £
2 million. This is the definition used by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Despite not falling under the definition of relevant publisher, any publication that is exempt as a micro-business as a result of these amendments could still choose to join a regulator and receive the legal benefits otherwise only available to relevant
publishers in the regulator. That means protection from exemplary damages. It also means that use of the arbitral arm in the regulator will be taken into account by the court when awarding costs.
The clauses also list certain categories of publications which are exempt, even when those tests are met. These exemptions include special interest titles, scientific or academic journals, broadcasters and book publishers as as well as a public body,
charity or company that publishes news about their activities.
At a debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday 16 April 2013 the Government rejected attempts to reform the libel laws to limit companies'
ability to use sue individuals. The reform would have asked companies to show they had been harmed before they would be allowed to take it case. It would also have put the Derbyshire principle, which prevents public bodies from suing individuals
for libel into law, and would have extended this principle to private companies performing public functions. Labour pushed the Government on this clause and forced a vote which the Government won 298 to 230.
But Minister for Justice Helen Grant MP said the Government would "actively consider" amendments to the Defamation Bill that would require corporations to show financial loss before they can sue for libel, following pressure from Shadow
Minister for Justice Sadiq Khan MP. The Defamation Bill will be debated in the House of Lords on Tuesday 23 April.
Tracey Brown, Sense About Science:
We are pleased that so many MPs recognise the need for corporations to show actual financial harm and grateful to the MPs who worked for this. While it is deeply disappointing that the corporations' clause has been removed, their efforts have at least
led the Government to concede that this should be revisited in the Lords. It cannot be right that the court is not asked to consider whether companies have faced loss, or are likely to, before a case can go ahead. It cannot be right that citizens can't
criticise delivery of public services whether by private companies or by the Government.
Kirsty Hughes, Chief Executive, Index on Censorship:
It is a very unwelcome blot on an important bill that the Government voted to allow corporations to continue to pressurise and sue in ways that chill free speech
Jo Glanville, Director, English PEN :
The Government needs to do more than "actively consider" amendments. Ministers in the House of Lords should now table an early amendment, requiring corporations to show financial loss before they sue. We're depending on the Lords
now to deliver the reform that all the parties signed up to. It's essential that companies are no longer allowed to exploit libel law to bully whistleblowers into silence. This has always been a key demand for the campaign.
Simon Singh, defendant in British Chiropractic Association v Singh:
The majority of the cases that galvanized public support for libel reform involved corporations, so the final Defamation Bill must include a clause that limits the powers for corporations to bully their critics into silence. The proposal on the table is
reasonable, modest and fair. Ignoring this proposal on corporations would leave the door open to further abuses of libel law by those who want to block the public's access to information concerning everything from consumer issues to medical treatments.
The Media Reform Coalition has launched a consultation for small publishers, online bloggers and journalists to speak up on the new press regulation deal.
On April 15 the House of Commons will return from Easter recess, and soon after that will consider the Crime and Courts Bill -- a crucial part of the statutory backing to the new Royal Charter which provides for independent media self-regulation.
But the Bill as currently drafted has some big problems
: it doesn't adequately protect small publishers from punishments intended for media moguls and it doesn't provide the legal backing for them to join or form a regulator further down the line.
The House of Lords has shown clear intention to solve these issues by adding a holding amendment excluding "small-scale bloggers", but we need to lobby the Commons to transform this into something clear, versatile and workable. That's why we
want your input.
Maria Miller, the relevant Secretary of State, has made noises about consulting with the 'newspaper industry' over the Easter recess. She has said nothing about engaging with other kinds of news organisations -- hence this consultation.
We hope to rally small publishers, online news sites and bloggers behind a set of proposal so that we can collectively lobby all three parties to make sure the C&C Bill does the job it should.
The survey focuses primarily on who you think should be liable for exemplary damages and cost penalties, and who you think should get the benefits It lists several options for the protection of small publishers, such as excluding non-profit organisations
or setting an income threshold for inclusion as a "relevant publisher".
It also asks whether the costs benefits of joining a recognised self-regulator should be available to anyone who joins, regardless of whether they are a "relevant publisher" -- and whether respondents would join an affordable regulator if it
made costs protection available to them.
The responses to the consultation will be used to provide the political parties with input on the clauses going through Parliament after the Easter recess that will affect small news organisations.
If you are a small publisher, online writer, or blogger of any kind, we want to hear from you. Please do look over our documents and take our survey -- and spread it around to as many people as you can!