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 UK Government Watch

    2016: July-Sept

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10th September

  Ofcom press censors...

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The government and Ofcom discuss censorship powers for text based internet news
Link Here
bbc news website logo Under the BBC's new 11-year operating agreement, known as its royal charter, its governing body -- the BBC Trust -- will be axed next year and censorship powers will be handed to Ofcom.

But industry sources have told us that this has presented a dilemma around online news, which has become a focus of recent discussions between the BBC, government, and Ofcom.

Abolishing the BBC Trust will effectively create a loophole in censorship powers, meaning the BBC will not be accountable to an independent body for the text articles it publishes on bbc.co.uk/news. Ofcom does not have the power to regulate online news text and, in the case of the BBC, is reluctant to do so. It has no experience of regulating online text and is only set up to regulate video content.

Sources also said that Ofcom has made clear to the government that taking on this task for the BBC could set a tricky precedent. They expressed concern that if Ofcom begins regulating bbc.co.uk/news, the door is then open for these powers to be extended to other broadcasters and publishers. Would you end up with Ofcom regulating Mail Online? asked one person with knowledge of the matter.

Discussions are ongoing and no decisions have been made. An Ofcom spokesman said: We're still in discussions with the government on how the content of the white paper will be delivered.

A Department for Culture Media & Sport (DCMS) spokesman said the BBC's draft charter will make clear how we are addressing this issue when it is published later this month.

 

8th September

  More censors to solve Britain's terrorism problem...

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Government pushes for the likes of Facebook to employ thousands of censors to vet peoples posts before being published
Link Here  full story: Glorification of Censorship...Climate of fear caused by glorification of terrorsim

home affairs committee Government censors are struggling to stop the spread of extremist messages on the internet despite taking down 1,000 videos a week, the Home Secretary has admitted. Amber Rudd said she was in talks with social media websites about setting up a new industry standard board to agree the rules setting out when sites should be taken down.

The new home secretary was grilled by MPs on the House of Commons' Home Affairs committee about what more could be done to force US sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to take action. It is alarming that these companies have teams of only a few hundred employees to monitor networks of billions of accounts Home Affairs select committee report

Rudd said that major internet companies could take more responsibility:

Because the speed these damaging videos get put up and then we manage to take down -- at the moment we are taking down 1,000 a week of these sites -- is too slow compared to the speed at which they are communicated.

I do think more can be done and we are in discussions with industry to see what more they are prepared to do.

We would like to see a form of industry standard board that they could put together in order to have an agreement of oversight and to take action much more quickly on sites which will do such damage to people in terms of making them communicating terrorist information.

Rudd said the new industry standards board could be similar to an existing board which protects children from sexual exploitation, presumably referring to the IWF.

The committee's report said:

It is alarming that these companies have teams of only a few hundred employees to monitor networks of billions of accounts and that Twitter does not even proactively report extremist content to law enforcement agencies.

These companies are hiding behind their supranational legal status to pass the parcel of responsibility and refusing to act responsibly in case they damage their brands. If they continue to fail to tackle this issue and allow their platforms to become the 'Wild West' of the internet, then it will erode their reputation as responsible operators.

Internet companies should be required to co-operate with Britain's counter-extremism police and shut down accounts immediately.

 

20th August

 Offsite Article: Mass hacking questioned but mass communications snooping is ok...

Link Here  full story: Snooper's Charter Plus...2015 Cameron government expands the Snooper's Charter
gchq logoAn independent review finds that the UK's mass-surveillance draft law grants spies incredible powers for no real reason

See article from theregister.co.uk

 

4th August

 Offsite Article: The Tory government’s war on porn is doomed to fail, and here’s why...

Link Here  full story: UK Governments Consults on Age Checks for Porn...Government proposes censoring porn websites that are not age verified
ars technica logoToo much porn is in circulation and there are too many options to receive it. From Ars Technica

See article from arstechnica.co.uk

 

15th July

  New state censor...


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Karen Bradley appointed as Culture Secretary
Link Here
karen bradleyThe former Home Office minister Karen Bradley has been named as the new culture secretary in Theresa May's first cabinet, succeeding John Whittingdale.

The Guardian took a look at her CV to date but there is little that shows much relevance to censorship. Perhaps that is a good thing.

 

15th July

 Offsite Article: UK government are still intent on banning strong encryption...

Link Here  full story: Snooper's Charter Plus...2015 Cameron government expands the Snooper's Charter
house of lords red logoBut continue to spout double-speak to try and hide this

See article from theregister.co.uk

 

12th July

 Offsite Article: Theresa May, the new PM, is a grave threat to freedom...

Link Here
Theresa MayBeneath the managerial exterior beats the heart of an authoritarian. By Blair Spowart of Spiked

See article from spiked-online.com

 

6th July

 Update: You have 9 months to amass a collection of free porn before the government bans it...

UK Government sets out new law to create an internet porn censor
Link Here  full story: UK Governments Consults on Age Checks for Porn...Government proposes censoring porn websites that are not age verified

Result of Government Consultation

child safety onlineThe Government has published a document summarising responses to its proposals to mandate restrictive age validation requirements for porn websites. 48% of responses opposed the proposals whilst 44% agreed with the proposals. However the government made clear that they will proceed with the proposed censorship law. The consultation document reads:

It is clear from our analysis of the consultation responses that this is an issue which tends to polarise opinion, with strongly held views on either side. Overall, there was a roughly even split between those supporting age verification (44%) and those not in favour (48%). Responses from individuals made up the vast majority of those which were submitted via our online questionnaire (94%). Over half of the individuals were men, the majority of whom were between 18 and 34 years old.

Crucially, however, many of the key organisations we work with in the online child protection sphere children's charities, support and advice groups, the BBFC, internet service providers, and payment service firms and credit card companies indicated their support for the proposals, and the overriding policy goal of protecting children online.

Over a quarter (26%) of the individuals who responded indicated that they are parents or carers, and 23% of individuals said that they work with children (in the education and health sectors, working in or with churches, in voluntary roles, mentoring, and as researchers). In both groups, a majority supported the Government's approach.

Notably, pornography providers who responded to the consultation also stated their support for the protection of children online, and (with caveats) the introduction of age verification controls to protect children from content which is not appropriate for them.

As was set out in our consultation, the Government's preferred approach to delivering this commitment is to establish a new law, requiring age verification (AV) controls for online pornography this was the manifesto commitment, and following consideration of the consultation responses, remains the Government's intention.

To underpin this, we will also establish a new regulatory framework, and we will ensure a proportionate approach by enabling the regulator to act in a sufficiently flexible and targeted way.

Following analysis of the responses to the consultation, Government will now take several next steps. We will:

  1. Bring forward legislation, in the Digital Economy Bill, to establish a new law requiring age verification for commercial pornographic websites and applications containing still and moving images, and a new regulatory framework to underpin it

  2. Continue to work with payments firms and ancillary companies to ensure that the business models and profits of companies that do not comply with the new regulations can be undermined

  3. Maintain ongoing engagement with pornography providers, age verification providers, and other parts of the industry, to ensure that the regulatory framework is targeted and proportionate, to achieve maximum impact and to enable compliance

  4. Continue to work on broader internet safety issues, including work led by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), and raising awareness and resilience

Digital Economy Bill

See Digital Economy Bill progress page from services.parliament.uk
See Digital Economy Bill [pdf] from publications.parliament.uk

House of Commons logoAnd indeed the new censorship law is included in the Digital Economy Bill introduced on 5th July 2016. Section 3 outlines the setting up of an internet porn censor and the remainder sets out website censorship options and financial penalties for contravening websites, their payment providers and advertisers.

The government is planning on passing the bill into law in spring 2017.

Section 3

  • 15 Internet pornography: requirement to prevent access by persons under the age of 18
  • 16 Meaning of pornographic material
  • 17 The age-verification regulator: designation and funding
  • 18 Parliamentary procedure for designation of age-verification regulator
  • 19 Age-verification regulator's power to require information
  • 20 Enforcement of sections 15 and 19
  • 21 Financial penalties
  • 22 Age-verification regulator's power to give notice of contravention to payment service providers and ancillary service providers
  • 23 Exercise of functions by the age-verification regulator
  • 24 Requirements for notices given by regulator under this
  • 25 Interpretation of this Part