UK Government Watch

 2014: July-Sept

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 Update: Religious ASBOs...

Theresa May responds to China's call to censor religious extremism on the internet


Link Here 30th September 2014
China flag China called on Saturday for a worldwide crackdown on the use of the Internet by religious extremists and terrorists to stamp out their ability to communicate their ideas and raise funds.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi made the remarks during the annual gathering of the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly in New York. he said:

As new developments emerge in the global fight against terrorism, the international community should take new measures to address them.

In particular, it should focus on combating religious extremism and cyber terrorism, resolutely eliminate the roots and block channels of spreading terrorism and extremism.

UK Government arms Theresa May responded on Tuesday for the British government.

She announced policies for new Extremist Disruption Orders. Extremists will have to get posts on Facebook and Twitter approved in advance by the police under sweeping rules planned by the Conservatives. They will also be barred from speaking at public events if they represent a threat to the functioning of democracy , under the new Extremist Disruption Orders.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, will lay out plans to allow judges to ban people from broadcasting or protesting in certain places, as well as associating with specific people.

The Home Secretary will also introduce banning orders for extremist groups, which would make it a criminal offence to be a member of or raise funds for a group that spreads or promotes hatred. The maximum sentence could be up to 10 years in prison.

 

 Update: The Video Recordings Act 1984 (Exempted Video Works) Regulations 2014...

Details of the new law that will come into force on 1st October 2014 requiring BBFC censorship for more music, sport, religion and documentary videos


Link Here 22nd August 2014
UK Government arms The new law modifies section 2 of the Video Records Act to become something like:

Section 2: Exempted Works

(1) Subject to subsections (2) and (3) below, a video work is for the purposes of this Act an exempted work if, taken as a whole--

(a) it is designed to inform, educate or instruct;

(b) it is concerned with sport, religion or music; or

(c) it is a video game.

(2) A video work other than a video game is not an exempted work for those purposes if it does one or more of the following:

(a) it depicts or promotes violence or threats of violence;

(b) it depicts the immediate aftermath of violence on human or animal characters;

(c) it depicts an imitable dangerous activity without also depicting that the activity may endanger the welfare or health of a human or animal character;

(d) it promotes an imitable dangerous activity;

(e) it depicts or promotes activities involving illegal drugs or the misuse of drugs;

(f) it promotes the use of alcohol or tobacco;

(g) it depicts or promotes suicide or attempted suicide, or depicts the immediate aftermath of such an event;

(h) it depicts or promotes any act of scarification or mutilation of a person, or of selfharm, or depicts the immediate aftermath of such an act;

(i) it depicts techniques likely to be useful in the commission of offences or, through its depiction of criminal activity, promotes the commission of offences;

(j) it includes words or images intended or likely to convey a sexual message (ignoring words or images depicting any mild sexual behaviour);

(k) it depicts human sexual activity (ignoring any depictions of mild sexual activity);

(l) it depicts or promotes acts of force or restraint associated with human sexual activity;

(m) it depicts human genital organs or human urinary or excretory functions (unless the depiction is for a medical, scientific or educational purpose);

(n) it includes swearing (ignoring any mild bad language); or

(o) it includes words or images that are intended or likely (to any extent) to cause offence, whether on the grounds of race, gender, disability, religion or belief or sexual orientation, or otherwise.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (2):

A video work promotes something if the work is likely (to any extent) to stimulate or encourage that thing.

Human or animal character means a character that is or whose appearance is similar to that of:

(a) a human being, or
(b) an animal that exists or has existed in real life, but does not include a simple stick character or any equally basic representation of a human being or animal;

Imitable dangerous activity means an activity which:

(a) if imitated by a person, may endanger the welfare or health of any person or animal, and
(b) may be easily imitated by a person; and violence does not include any violence that is:

(a) mild, or
(b) not directed towards human or animal characters, unless it is sexual violence. .

Note: the original definition of an exempted work is retained for video games.

 

 Offsite Article: David Cameron, Porn Mogul...


Link Here 21st August 2014  full story: BBFC Online Music Censors...Scheme for UK music publishers to get BBFC rating for videos
wrecking ball Adam Handy points out that their may be unintended consequences of identifying the sexiest music movies with an 18 rating

See article from huffingtonpost.co.uk

 

  Empire Building...

DCMS formally informs the European Commission of a draft UK regulation to incorporate ATVOD's impractical age verification rules into UK law. (And then ludicrously claims that this will not have an impact on international trade).


Link Here 18th August 2014
DCMS logo On the 7th July 2014, the UK Government Department of Culture, Media, Sport and Censorship notified the European Commission of its draft regulation to incorporate ATVOD's impractical age verification rules for accessing hardcore porn on the internet into UK law.

The DCMS document states:

The Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014

Main Content

Part 4A of the Communications Act 2003 (inserted by the Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2009 and 2010) transpose the requirements of Directive 2010/13/EU in relation to on-demand programme services. Section 368E(2) provides that on-demand material that might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of eighteen must only be made available in a manner which secures that such persons will not normally see or hear it. This draft instrument amends section 368E in two ways. First, it provides that any material that the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has issued a R18 classification certificate in respect of (or any material that would have been issued such a certificate) (hard-core pornography) must not be included in an on-demand service unless it is behind effective access controls which verify that the user is aged eighteen or over. Secondly, it provides that any material that the BBFC has refused to give a classification certificate in respect of (or any material that would have been refused such a certificate) must not be included in an on-demand service at all.

Brief Statement of Grounds

In 2010 the Department wrote to Ofcom raising concerns about whether section 368E would in practice provide sufficient safeguards to protect children from sexually explicit material. Ofcom's report in 2011 recommended that the Government introduce new legislation to prohibit R18 material from being included in on-demand services unless mandatory restrictions are in place and prohibit altogether material whose content the BBFC would refuse to classify. The co-regulators, Ofcom and the Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD), were concerned that the evidence for children being caused harm by exposure to R18 material is inconclusive and the legislative protections currently in place were not sufficiently clear to provide certainty in this area. In the interim period pending legislative changes the co-regulators, adopting a precautionary approach, interpreted section 368E(2) as requiring R18 material to be behind access controls. This instrument has the effect of removing any uncertainty from the regulatory framework providing clarity to consumers and providers of on-demand services. It also provides the same level of protection that exists on the high street in relation to the sale of hard-copy DVDs to the provision of on-demand services. In a converging media world these provisions must be coherent. The BBFC classification regime established under the Video Recordings Act 1984 is a tried and tested system of what content is regarded as harmful for minors. This Act was notified as a technical standard - Notification No. 2009/495/UK.

Reference Documents

  • References of the Basic Texts: Part 4A of the Communications Act 2003
  • ATVOD Rules and Guidance and research report
  • Video Recordings Act 1984
  • BBFC Guidelines
  • Ofcom Report: Sexually Explicit Material and Video On Demand Services, 2011
  • Exploratory Memorandum

TBT aspect

No - The draft has no significant impact on international trade

 

  Political Twerking...

David Cameron announces that online music videos will carry age classifications from October


Link Here 18th August 2014  full story: BBFC Online Music Censors...Scheme for UK music publishers to get BBFC rating for videos
David Cameron Online music videos will carry an age classification from October as part of a pilot scheme by YouTube, music video service Vevo and the BBFC in the name of protecting children from graphic content , David Cameron has announced.

In a speech to the Relationships Alliance on Monday, the prime minister said the rules for online videos should be brought into line with content bought offline. Cameron said:

From October, we're going to help parents protect their children from some of the graphic content in online music videos by working with the British Board of Film Classification, Vevo and YouTube to pilot the age rating of these videos.

We shouldn't cede the internet as some sort of lawless space where the normal rules of life shouldn't apply. So, in as far as it is possible, we should try to make sure that the rules that exist offline exist online. So if you want to go and buy a music video offline there are age restrictions on it. We should try and recreate that system on the internet.

 

  Council Censors Thwarted...

A rare piece of good news from the Government. Eric Pickles announces a right to film and report on local council meetings


Link Here 9th August 2014

dept of communities logo In a boost for local democracy and the independent free press, councils in England were brought into the 21st century after Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles, signed a Parliamentary order allowing press and public to film and digitally report from all public meetings of local government bodies. This 'right to report' updates a law passed by Margaret Thatcher as a backbench MP.

Following the passage of both primary and secondary legislation, the move opens councils' digital doors, covering broadcasters, national press, local press, bloggers and hyper-local journalists and the wider public. The new law aims to end active resistance amongst some councils to greater openness. Councils have even called the police to arrest people who tried to report, tweet or film council meetings, or claimed spurious 'health and safety' or 'reputational risks' to digital reporting.

This new law builds on Margaret Thatcher's successful Private Members' Bill from 1960 which allowed for the written reporting of council meetings by the press. The new rules will apply to all public meetings, including town and parish councils and fire and rescue authorities.

Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles, said:

Half a century ago, Margaret Thatcher championed a new law to allow the press to make written reports of council meetings. We have updated her analogue law for a digital age.

Local democracy needs local journalists and bloggers to report and scrutinise the work of their council, and increasingly, people read their news via digital media. The new 'right to report' goes hand in hand with our work to stop unfair state competition from municipal newspapers - together defending the independent free press.

There is now no excuse for any council not to allow these new rights. Parliament has changed the law, to allow a robust and healthy local democracy. This will change the way people see local government, and allow them to view close up the good work that councillors do.

Further information New rights

The government has published a plain English guide of practical information on how the public can exercise their new rights, and what they should expect from their local government bodies.

The Openness of Local Government Regulations 2014 , which apply to England, give rights to members of the press and public to:

  • use modern technology and communication methods such as filming, audio-recording, blogging and tweeting to report the proceedings of the meetings of their councils and other local government bodies

  • see information relating to significant decisions made outside meetings by officers acting under a general or specific delegated power

 

  What Could Possibly Go Wrong?...

Government proposes to connect up state databases to facilitate the analysis of people's worth and behaviour


Link Here 4th August 2014
Big Brothers Clegg and Cameron Details of the financial history, qualifications and property wealth of millions of Britons could be shared across Whitehall for the first time without their consent, the Telegraph has disclosed.

Information including voters' driving licences, criminal records, energy use and even whether they use a bus pass could be shared under a radical blueprint to link up thousands of state databases used by schools, councils, police and civil servants.

The proposals are likely to ignite privacy concerns when officials are granted unprecedented access to citizens' private data.

Ministers claim the ability to aggregate and mine citizens' data under a new legal framework will allow them to better monitor economic growth and population movements, identify troubled families and elderly people in need of support, and cut fraud. They want to use sophisticated customer analysis techniques developed by retailers such as Amazon and Tesco.

The proposals are contained in a discussion document produced by the Cabinet Office Data Sharing Policy Team in April. The proposals, drawn up by Francis Maude, will be contained in a White Paper published in the Autumn. It may feature draft legislation for introduction after the 2015 election, according to sources.

Under the most wide-ranging option being considered, private data could be shared by all bodies providing public services - permitting private companies to receive unprecedented amounts of citizens' data.

 

 Update: More expensive red tape...

Previously exempt music, sport and documentary DVDs will require a BBFC certificate from 1st October 2014


Link Here 31st July 2014
Miley Cyrus Reinvention DVD

   currently exempt

Music videos released on DVD and Blu-ray that might contain content unsuitable for children will soon be required to be submitted to the BBFC for certification.

The new measures will be introduced from October 1 to cover Blu-ray, DVD and CD formats - but will not apply to online digital works.

If it is judged that content in a video would typically attract an age rating of 12, 15, 18 or R18, the BBFC will issue a certification. The turnaround for certification currently stands at up to seven days. Of course the DVD producer has to foot the expensive bills. There are also labelling requirements around the display of the rating on packaging and products.

 

  The Department of Culture, Media and Censorship...

ATVOD provide a few clues to a cunning government plan to censor adult porn in the name of child protection


Link Here 25th July 2014
DCMS logo ATVOD has published brief minutes from its May 2014 board meeting. This includes a short report on what the government is up to in its plans to censor adult porn on the internet in the name of child protection.

ATVOD board meeting minutes report:

Public policy on R18 and unclassified material

An updating report was tabled and the Board DISCUSSED the issue at length.

The Board NOTED the current position on the initiative to reduce children's access to pornography online, with:

  • the introduction of legislation for UK based services to keep adult material out of reach of children;

  • the EU Commission encouraged to tighten up the AVMS Directive to have age verification measures for European based adult services; and

  • consideration of legislation which would enable the payments industry to prevent payments to services outside Europe which allowed under 18s to view R18 equivalent material.

Recommendations for further actions had been presented to DCMS and ATVOD had had received undertakings from the Creative Industries Minister immediately prior to the publication of the ATVOD research report For Adults Only? . Since publication of ATVOD's research, DCMS had followed up on the undertakings given. In particular, the draft Statutory Instrument relating to UK based services had been developed and it was hoped that it would be in force by the end of 2014. It would put beyond doubt that R18 material can only be provided on an ODPS if persons under 18 will not usually see or access it.

As the Statutory Instrument would define material according to standards set by the BBFC, it was anticipated that Ofcom, BBFC and ATVOD would agree a Memorandum of Understanding. Any additional activity for ATVOD as a result of these changes will be reflected in revisions to ATVOD's Rules and Guidance, which will require consultation.

The position on overseas providers based outside the EU had been discussed at a meeting between ATVOD, DCMS, Home Office, Ministry Of Justice, Crown Prosecution Service and the payments industry. As a result of that meeting, DCMS had agreed to consider the feasibility of introducing a licensing regime for foreign pornographic websites (similar to that being introduced for foreign gambling websites). A timetable had not been provided.

The Board AGREED that ATVOD should offer assistance to DCMS in its efforts.

The Board NOTED that the proposal had been taken up by a number of high profile third parties and that the Opposition had tabled an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill which would establish a licensing regime for foreign porn services.

Note that the licensing provisions in Lords amendment of Criminal Justice and Courts Bill were in fact withdrawn but it is interesting to note the devious plan being hatched by the government.

It sounds ludicrous to expect foreign companies to submit to UK licensing when it would be very unlikely that the provisions could be enforced by prosecutions launched from Britain. However this is clearly not the point of the licensing. It is so that unlicensed foreign companies can deemed to be nominally breaking UK law (even if this can't be enforced) so as to give the banks and payment services a legal excuse to deny payment services for at least the UK portion of the website's trade.

 

 Update: Dear Theresa, see you in court...

Open Rights Group looks to legal action against mass snooping


Link Here 18th July 2014  full story: Internet Snooping in the US...Prism and secret internet snooping
Open Rights Group logo Open Rights Group rights:

Parliament has a done a terrible thing. They've ignored a court judgment and shoved complex law through a legislative mincer in just three days.

But in doing so they won't have had the final word. You've already shown them the growing public opposition to mass surveillance. There was incredible action from supporters: 4458 of you wrote to your MPs with even more phoning up on the day of the vote. Together we helped 49 MPs rebel against the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill. It may have passed, but thanks to you they know that we do not agree.

Whilst Parliament swallowed Theresa May's tired arguments that terrorist plots will go undetected and these are powers and capabilities that exist today , she failed to make a compelling argument that holding everyone's data is necessary and proportionate. Frankly, the Government was evasive and duplicitous, and they were in a hurry to cover their tracks.

Tom Watson MP described the process as democratic banditry, resonant of a rogue state. The people who put this shady deal together should be ashamed.

And the European Court's decision was very clear: blanket data retention is unlawful and violates the right to privacy.  The courts will have the final say on whether DRIP breaches human rights. And no matter what David Cameron believes, the UK has international obligations. The European Convention on Human Rights, the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and our own Human Rights Act -- all exist to defend our rights and are where we will be able to challenge DRIP.

We're already meeting with lawyers and taking Counsel's advice to work out the best way to take the Government to court. We will work with every other group who is willing to help. But a major legal battle like this is going to be tough. The more resources we have, the more we'll be able to do to stand up to DRIP.

ORG ask people to join their campaign against mass snooping.

Offsite Article: Peers criticise government over emergency data laws

21st July 2014. See  article from  bbc.co.uk

 

 Updated: Data Retention and Investigatory Powers...

Analysing the emergency bill to enable further mass snooping


Link Here 16th July 2014

Big Brothers Clegg and Cameron Dissecting DRIP - the emergency Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill


14th July 2014. See  article from  cyberleagle.blogspot.co.uk

What does DRIP do? With so much material appearing at such short notice, considered analysis is difficult. Here are some first impressions. DRIP, now with its accompanying provisional draft regulations which appeared on the Home Office website yesterday afternoon, has to square a circle.  Ideally it should make a plausible attempt to address the 15 or so fundamental rights grounds on which the ECJ held that the Data Retention Directive was invalid.

In reality DRIP cannot square the circle. Indeed the newly published Impact Assessment recognises that the legislation does not overcome all the ECJ stumbling blocks, claiming only to address the ECJ judgment "where possible" and "to the extent practicable".  It also acknowledges the "Risk of being perceived as ignoring the ECJ judgment".

We should recognise that DRIP does far more than replace the 2009 Data Retention Regulations.  It makes substantive changes to the interception warrants, interception capability and communications data access provisions of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).  The Home Secretary has justified these amendments on a different basis from the data retention legislation: an urgent need to clarify, in particular, the territorial scope of RIPA's interception and communications data acquisition provisions. These are the non-data retention aspects of DRIP.

  • Clause 4 addresses the government's concern that it should be able to apply RIPA to non-UK companies that provide communications services to the UK public.

  • Clause 5 broadens the RIPA definition of telecommunications services. The Explanatory Note says this is so that webmail providers are clearly caught.  The change will also have implications for data retention because of crossover into DRIP.

  • Clause 3 places a further restriction on the general purposes for which interception warrants and communications data acquisition notices can be issued.  This will bring RIPA into line with the existing codes of practice.

Whatever the merits of the non-data retention amendments (more on that below), it is debatable why any of them requires emergency legislation to be fast-tracked through Parliament at such breakneck speed.

...Read the full article

Liberty, Privacy International, Open Rights Group, Big Brother Watch, Article 19 and English PEN briefing on the fast-track Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill

See  Briefiing Paper [pdf] from  bigbrotherwatch.org.uk

Update: Bill passed in the House of Commons

16th July 2014. See  article from  telegraph.co.uk

House of Commons logo Controversial emergency legislation enabling continued mass snooping has cleared the Commons after an extended sitting and angry exchanges alleging an abuse of Parliament.

56 heroic MPs stood against the massed ranks of three main parties after the front benches agreed on the supposed urgent need for new laws.

The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill was agreed at third reading by an overwhelming majority of 416, after MPs voted 449 to 33 in favour.

Earlier, Labour MP Tom Watson's cross-party bid to force the legislation to expire by the end of the year was defeated 454 vote to 56, majority 398. Watson said:

Parliament has been insulted... (This is) democratic banditry resonant of a rogue state.

Former Tory leadership contender David Davis said:

My understanding is there was an argument inside Government between the two halves of the Coalition and that argument has gone on for three months so what the Coalition cannot decide in three months this House has to decide in one day.

The House of Lords will look at the Bill on Wednesday and Thursday as ministers aim to have it sent for Royal Assent before the end of the week.

 

 Update: Big Brothers want to Continue Listening...

Government moves to enable continued mass snooping after threat from European Court


Link Here 10th July 2014  full story: Internet Snooping in the US...Prism and secret internet snooping
Big Brothers Clegg and Cameron Emergency legislation will be brought in next week to force phone and internet companies to continuing logging customer calls, texts and internet use.

Ministers claim it is necessary so police and security services can access the data they need after a legal ruling which declared existing powers invalid. The proposed law has the backing of Labour and the coalition parties.

A recent ruling of the European Court of Justice has removed the obligation on telecoms companies to retain records of when and who their customers have called, texted and emailed, and which websites they visit.

 

 Offsite Article: When is the right to be forgotten not a right to be forgotten?...


Link Here 10th July 2014  full story: The Right to be Forgotten...Bureaucratic censorship in the EU
simon hughes When government minister Simon Hughes tries to spin that it's not

See article from dailymail.co.uk

 

 Update: Serious Discussion...

Ministry of Justice consider legislation against revenge porn


Link Here 4th July 2014  full story: Rowan Atkinson...Offending the easily offended
Ministry of Justice logo The law could be changed to protect people from ex-partners who put explicit revenge pornography pictures of them on the internet, a minister has said.

Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, said that that there will be a serious discussion in Government about the practice,.

Maria Miller, the former Cabinet minister, has called for a change in the law to tackle the appalling practice.

Victims often find that the images are impossible to remove once they are posted online as they are reproduced on a host of other sites within minutes.

Grayling told the Commons:

What I'd say to you today is the Government is very open to having a serious discussion about this with a view to taking appropriate action in the autumn if we can identify the best way of doing so.

The Ministry of Justice is expected to now look at how existing sexual offences laws could be amended to outlaw the distribution of sexual images without the person's consent.

Comment: Acquitted

4th July  2014. See article from bigbrotherwatch.org.uk

Big Brother Watch logo A debate has erupted around revenge pornography and whether new legislation is required to tackle the problem of jilted lovers posting sexually explicit photographs online. Whilst there is no doubt that these occurrences are deeply damaging and upsetting for the individuals involved, the Government must ensure that any new laws created to police what is posted on the internet is done so with a clear head and not in the heat of the moment.

...Read the full article

 

 Update: Jury Delivers Damning Verdict...

Government abandon's its ideas to censor newspaper archives for information pertinent to court trials


Link Here 1st July 2014
dominic grieve The government has abandoned plans to give itself powers to order media organisations to remove articles from their online archives. A clause in the criminal justice and courts bill would have enabled the attorney general, currently Dominic Grieve QC, to order newspapers and other publishers to take down past articles on the grounds that their continued presence would create a danger of contempt if jurors in a court case searched for information on the internet.

Media organisations, including the Guardian, had opposed the move. In written evidence to MPs last year, they said:

We fear that the introduction of statutory powers could lead to the use of notices becoming standard practice leading to the courts and media becoming inundated with requests to take down material.

This has serious practical implications for the resourcing and maintenance of and public access to the archives of both national and regional media.

The plan originated in a proposal from the Law Commission two years ago which argued that courts should be armed with powers compelling media organisations to take down old stories from electronic archives in order to remove potentially prejudicial material.

A statement from the attorney general's office confirmed the decision to abandon the proposal. It said:

The governmen recognises the disquiet surrounding the proposal. Given that this measure was designed to assist the media, it is significant that representatives of the media consider that this provision does not do so.

Whilst the government considers that the notice provision would be an improvement for the media, courts and attorneys general alike, it is satisfied that the existing law will continue to provide satisfactory protection to the integrity of legal proceedings.

 

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