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 Commented: Maybe more about asking why Google can't do the same...

The UK reveals a tool to detect uploads of jihadi videos


Link Here 15th February 2018  full story: Glorification of Censorship...Climate of fear caused by glorification of terrorsim

asi logoThe UK government has unveiled a tool it says can accurately detect jihadist content and block it from being viewed.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd told the BBC she would not rule out forcing technology companies to use it by law. Rudd is visiting the US to meet tech companies to discuss the idea, as well as other efforts to tackle extremism.

The government provided 600,000 of public funds towards the creation of the tool by an artificial intelligence company based in London.

Thousands of hours of content posted by the Islamic State group was run past the tool, in order to train it to automatically spot extremist material.

ASI Data Science said the software can be configured to detect 94% of IS video uploads. Anything the software identifies as potential IS material would be flagged up for a human decision to be taken.

The company said it typically flagged 0.005% of non-IS video uploads. But this figure is meaningless without an indication of how many contained any content that have any connection with jihadis.

In London, reporters were given an off-the-record briefing detailing how ASI's software worked, but were asked not to share its precise methodology. However, in simple terms, it is an algorithm that draws on characteristics typical of IS and its online activity.

It sounds like the tool is more about analysing data about the uploading account, geographical origin, time of day, name of poster etc rather than analysing the video itself.

Comment: Even extremist takedowns require accountability

15th February 2018. See  article from openrightsgroup.org

open rights group 2016 logo Can extremist material be identified at 99.99% certainty as Amber Rudd claims today? And how does she intend to ensure that there is legal accountability for content removal?

The Government is very keen to ensure that extremist material is removed from private platforms, like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. It has urged use of machine learning and algorithmic identification by the companies, and threatened fines for failing to remove content swiftly.

Today Amber Rudd claims to have developed a tool to identify extremist content, based on a database of known material. Such tools can have a role to play in identifying unwanted material, but we need to understand that there are some important caveats to what these tools are doing, with implications about how they are used, particularly around accountability. We list these below.

Before we proceed, we should also recognise that this is often about computers (bots) posting vast volumes of material with a very small audience. Amber Rudd's new machine may then potentially clean some of it up. It is in many ways a propaganda battle between extremists claiming to be internet savvy and exaggerating their impact, while our own government claims that they are going to clean up the internet. Both sides benefit from the apparent conflict.

The real world impact of all this activity may not be as great as is being claimed. We should be given much more information about what exactly is being posted and removed. For instance the UK police remove over 100,000 pieces of extremist content by notice to companies: we currently get just this headline figure only. We know nothing more about these takedowns. They might have never been viewed, except by the police, or they might have been very influential.

The results of the government's' campaign to remove extremist material may be to push them towards more private or censor-proof platforms. That may impact the ability of the authorities to surveil criminals and to remove material in the future. We may regret chasing extremists off major platforms, where their activities are in full view and easily used to identify activity and actors.

Whatever the wisdom of proceeding down this path, we need to be worried about the unwanted consequences of machine takedowns. Firstly, we are pushing companies to be the judges of legal and illegal. Secondly, all systems make mistakes and require accountability for them; mistakes need to be minimised, but also rectified.

Here is our list of questions that need to be resolved.

1 What really is the accuracy of this system?

Small error rates translate into very large numbers of errors at scale. We see this with more general internet filters in the UK, where our blocked.org.uk project regularly uncovers and reports errors.

How are the accuracy rates determined? Is there any external review of its decisions?

The government appears to recognise the technology has limitations. In order to claim a high accuracy rate, they say at least 6% of extremist video content has to be missed. On large platforms that would be a great deal of material needing human review. The government's own tool shows the limitations of their prior demands that technology "solve" this problem.

Islamic extremists are operating rather like spammers when they post their material. Just like spammers, their techniques change to avoid filtering. The system will need constant updating to keep a given level of accuracy.

2 Machines are not determining meaning

Machines can only attempt to pattern match, with the assumption that content and form imply purpose and meaning. This explains how errors can occur, particularly in missing new material.

3 Context is everything

The same content can, in different circumstances, be legal or illegal. The law defines extremist material as promoting or glorifying terrorism. This is a vague concept. The same underlying material, with small changes, can become news, satire or commentary. Machines cannot easily determine the difference.

4 The learning is only as good as the underlying material

The underlying database is used to train machines to pattern match. Therefore the quality of the initial database is very important. It is unclear how the material in the database has been deemed illegal, but it is likely that these are police determinations rather than legal ones, meaning that inaccuracies or biases in police assumptions will be repeated in any machine learning.

5 Machines are making no legal judgment

The machines are not making a legal determination. This means a company's decision to act on what the machine says is absent of clear knowledge. At the very least, if material is "machine determined" to be illegal, the poster, and users who attempt to see the material, need to be told that a machine determination has been made.

6 Humans and courts need to be able to review complaints

Anyone who posts material must be able to get human review, and recourse to courts if necessary.

7 Whose decision is this exactly?

The government wants small companies to use the database to identify and remove material. If material is incorrectly removed, perhaps appealed, who is responsible for reviewing any mistake?

It may be too complicated for the small company. Since it is the database product making the mistake, the designers need to act to correct it so that it is less likely to be repeated elsewhere.

If the government want people to use their tool, there is a strong case that the government should review mistakes and ensure that there is an independent appeals process.

8 How do we know about errors?

Any takedown system tends towards overzealous takedowns. We hope the identification system is built for accuracy and prefers to miss material rather than remove the wrong things, however errors will often go unreported. There are strong incentives for legitimate posters of news, commentary, or satire to simply accept the removal of their content. To complain about a takedown would take serious nerve, given that you risk being flagged as a terrorist sympathiser, or perhaps having to enter formal legal proceedings.

We need a much stronger conversation about the accountability of these systems. So far, in every context, this is a question the government has ignored. If this is a fight for the rule of law and against tyranny, then we must not create arbitrary, unaccountable, extra-legal censorship systems.

 

  Fake blame...

Matt Hancock rules out creating a UK social media censor


Link Here 10th February 2018
matt hancockThe UK's digital and culture secretary, Matt Hancock, has ruled out creating a new internet censor targeting social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

In an interview on the BBC's Media Show , Hancock said he was not inclined in that direction and instead wanted to ensure existing regulation is fit for purpose. He said:

If you tried to bring in a new regulator you'd end up having to regulate everything. But that doesn't mean that we don't need to make sure that the regulations ensure that markets work properly and people are protected.

Meanwhile the Electoral Commission and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee are now investigating whether Russian groups used the platforms to interfere in the Brexit referendum in 2016. The DCMS select committee is in the US this week to grill tech executives about their role in spreading fake news. In a committee hearing in Washington yesterday, YouTube's policy chief said the site had found no evidence of Russian-linked accounts purchasing ads to interfere in the Brexit referendum.

 

  Unacceptable...

Government outlines next steps to make the UK the most censored place to be online


Link Here 7th February 2018

government unacceptableGovernment outlines next steps to make the UK the safest place to be online

The Prime Minister has announced plans to review laws and make sure that what is illegal offline is illegal online as the Government marks Safer Internet Day.

The Law Commission will launch a review of current legislation on offensive online communications to ensure that laws are up to date with technology.

As set out in the Internet Safety Strategy Green Paper , the Government is clear that abusive and threatening behaviour online is totally unacceptable. This work will determine whether laws are effective enough in ensuring parity between the treatment of offensive behaviour that happens offline and online.

The Prime Minister has also announced:

  • That the Government will introduce a comprehensive new social media code of practice this year, setting out clearly the minimum expectations on social media companies

  • The introduction of an annual internet safety transparency report - providing UK data on offensive online content and what action is being taken to remove it.

Other announcements made today by Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Matt Hancock include:

  • A new online safety guide for those working with children, including school leaders and teachers, to prepare young people for digital life

  • A commitment from major online platforms including Google, Facebook and Twitter to put in place specific support during election campaigns to ensure abusive content can be dealt with quickly -- and that they will provide advice and guidance to Parliamentary candidates on how to remain safe and secure online

DCMS Secretary of State Matt Hancock said:

We want to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online and having listened to the views of parents, communities and industry, we are delivering on the ambitions set out in our Internet Safety Strategy.

Not only are we seeing if the law needs updating to better tackle online harms, we are moving forward with our plans for online platforms to have tailored protections in place - giving the UK public standards of internet safety unparalleled anywhere else in the world.

Law Commissioner Professor David Ormerod QC said:

There are laws in place to stop abuse but we've moved on from the age of green ink and poison pens. The digital world throws up new questions and we need to make sure that the law is robust and flexible enough to answer them.

If we are to be safe both on and off line, the criminal law must offer appropriate protection in both spaces. By studying the law and identifying any problems we can give government the full picture as it works to make the UK the safest place to be online.

The latest announcements follow the publication of the Government's Internet Safety Strategy Green Paper last year which outlined plans for a social media code of practice. The aim is to prevent abusive behaviour online, introduce more effective reporting mechanisms to tackle bullying or harmful content, and give better guidance for users to identify and report illegal content. The Government will be outlining further steps on the strategy, including more detail on the code of practice and transparency reports, in the spring.

To support this work, people working with children including teachers and school leaders will be given a new guide for online safety, to help educate young people in safe internet use. Developed by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety ( UKCCIS , the toolkit describes the knowledge and skills for staying safe online that children and young people should have at different stages of their lives.

Major online platforms including Google, Facebook and Twitter have also agreed to take forward a recommendation from the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) to provide specific support for Parliamentary candidates so that they can remain safe and secure while on these sites. during election campaigns. These are important steps in safeguarding the free and open elections which are a key part of our democracy.

Notes

Included in the Law Commission's scope for their review will be the Malicious Communications Act and the Communications Act. It will consider whether difficult concepts need to be reconsidered in the light of technological change - for example, whether the definition of who a 'sender' is needs to be updated.

The Government will bring forward an Annual Internet Safety Transparency report, as proposed in our Internet Safety Strategy green paper. The reporting will show:

  • the amount of harmful content reported to companies

  • the volume and proportion of this material that is taken down

  • how social media companies are handling and responding to complaints

  • how each online platform moderates harmful and abusive behaviour and the policies they have in place to tackle it.

Annual reporting will help to set baselines against which to benchmark companies' progress, and encourage the sharing of best practice between companies.

The new social media code of practice will outline standards and norms expected from online platforms. It will cover:

  • The development, enforcement and review of robust community guidelines for the content uploaded by users and their conduct online

  • The prevention of abusive behaviour online and the misuse of social media platforms -- including action to identify and stop users who are persistently abusing services

  • The reporting mechanisms that companies have in place for inappropriate, bullying and harmful content, and ensuring they have clear policies and performance metrics for taking this content down

  • The guidance social media companies offer to help users identify illegal content and contact online, and advise them on how to report it to the authorities, to ensure this is as clear as possible

  • The policies and practices companies apply around privacy issues.

Comment: Preventing protest

7th February 2018. See  article from indexoncensorship.org

Index on Censorship logoThe UK Prime Minister's proposals for possible new laws to stop intimidation against politicians have the potential to prevent legal protests and free speech that are at the core of our democracy, says Index on Censorship. One hundred years after the suffragette demonstrations won the right for women to have the vote for the first time, a law that potentially silences angry voices calling for change would be a retrograde step.

No one should be threatened with violence, or subjected to violence, for doing their job, said Index chief executive Jodie Ginsberg. However, the UK already has a host of laws dealing with harassment of individuals both off and online that cover the kind of abuse politicians receive on social media and elsewhere. A loosely defined offence of 'intimidation' could cover a raft of perfectly legitimate criticism of political candidates and politicians -- including public protest.

 

  Government abusers...

Appeals court finds that the Government's snooping law is an abuse of rights


Link Here 31st January 2018  full story: Snooper's Charter Plus...2015 Cameron government expands the Snooper's Charter
Old BaileyThe UK's mass digital surveillance regime preceding the snoopers charter has been found to be illegal by an appeals court.

The case was brought by the Labour deputy leader, Tom Watson in conjunction with Liberty, the human rights campaign group.

The three judges said Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 (Dripa), which paved the way for the snooper's charter legislation, did not restrict the accessing of confidential personal phone and web browsing records to investigations of serious crime, and allowed police and other public bodies to authorise their own access without adequate oversight. The judges said Dripa was inconsistent with EU law because of this lack of safeguards, including the absence of prior review by a court or independent administrative authority.

Responding to the ruling, Watson said:

This legislation was flawed from the start. It was rushed through parliament just before recess without proper parliamentary scrutiny. The government must now bring forward changes to the Investigatory Powers Act to ensure that hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom are innocent victims or witnesses to crime, are protected by a system of independent approval for access to communications data. I'm proud to have played my part in safeguarding citizens' fundamental rights.

Martha Spurrier, the director of Liberty, said:

Yet again a UK court has ruled the government's extreme mass surveillance regime unlawful. This judgement tells ministers in crystal clear terms that they are breaching the public's human rights. She said no politician was above the law. When will the government stop bartering with judges and start drawing up a surveillance law that upholds our democratic freedoms?

Matthew Rice of the Open Rights Group responded:

Once again, another UK court has found another piece of Government surveillance legislation to be unlawful. The Government needs to admit their legislation is flawed and make the necessary changes to the Investigatory Powers Act to protect the public's fundamental rights.

The Investigatory Powers Act carves a gaping hole in the public's rights. Public bodies able to access data without proper oversight, and access to that data for reasons other than fighting serious crime. These practices must stop, the courts have now confirmed it. The ball is firmly in the Government's court to set it right.

 

 Updated: Considered fake news by the UK...

Government sets up propaganda and fake news unit to counter Russian propaganda


Link Here 25th January 2018

uk ministry of truth logoTheresa May is creating a new national security unit to counter supposed fake news and disinformation spread by Russia and other foreign powers, Downing Street has announced.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said the new national security communications unit would build on existing capabilities and would be tasked with combating disinformation by state actors and others. The spokesman said:

We are living in an era of fake news and competing narratives. The government will respond with more and better use of national security communications to tackle these interconnected, complex challenges.

To do this we will build on existing capabilities by creating a dedicated national security communications unit. This will be tasked with combating disinformation by state actors and others.

Update:

The new unit has already been dubbed the Ministry of Truth.

 

  World internet censors...

The government publishes it guidance to the new UK porn censor about notifying websites that they are to be censored, asking payment providers and advertisers to end their service, recourse to ISP blocks and an appeals process


Link Here 22nd January 2018  full story: UK Porn Censorship...Digital Economy Bill introduces censorship for porn websites
dcmd guidance age verification A few extracts from the document

Introduction

  1. A person contravenes Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 if they make
    pornographic material available on the internet on a commercial basis to
    persons in the United Kingdom without ensuring that the material is not
    normally accessible to persons under the age of 18. Contravention could lead
    to a range of measures being taken by the age-verification regulator in
    relation to that person, including blocking by internet service providers (ISPs).
  2. Part 3 also gives the age-verification regulator powers to act where a person
    makes extreme pornographic material (as defined in section 22 of the Digital
    Economy Act 2017) available on the internet to persons in the United
    Kingdom.

Purpose

This guidance has been written to provide the framework for the operation of
the age-verification regulatory regime in the following areas:

● Regulator's approach to the exercise of its powers;
● Age-verification arrangements;
● Appeals;
● Payment-services Providers and Ancillary Service Providers;
● Internet Service Provider blocking; and
● Reporting.

Enforcement principles

This guidance balances two overarching principles in the regulator's application of its powers under sections 19, 21 and 23 - that it should apply its powers in the way which it thinks will be most effective in ensuring compliance on a case-by-case basis and that it should take a proportionate approach.

As set out in this guidance, it is expected that the regulator, in taking a proportionate approach, will first seek to engage with the non-compliant person to encourage them to comply, before considering issuing a notice under section 19, 21 or 23, unless there are reasons as to why the regulator does not think that is appropriate in a given case

Regulator's approach to the exercise of its powers

The age-verification consultation Child Safety Online: Age verification for pornography identified that an extremely large number of websites contain pornographic content - circa 5 million sites or parts of sites. All providers of online pornography, who are making available pornographic material to persons in the United Kingdom on a commercial basis, will be required to comply with the age-verification requirement .

In exercising its powers, the regulator should take a proportionate approach. Section 26(1) specifically provides that the regulator may, if it thinks fit, choose to exercise its powers principally in relation to persons who, in the age-verification regulator's opinion:

  • (a) make pornographic material or extreme pornographic material available on the internet on a commercial basis to a large number of persons, or a large number of persons under the age of 18, in the United Kingdom; or
  • (b) generate a large amount of turnover by doing so.

In taking a proportionate approach, the regulator should have regard to the following:

a. As set out in section 19, before making a determination that a person is contravening section 14(1), the regulator must allow that person an opportunity to make representations about why the determination should not be made. To ensure clarity and discourage evasion, the regulator should specify a prompt timeframe for compliance and, if it considers it appropriate, set out the steps that it considers that the person needs to take to comply.

b. When considering whether to exercise its powers (whether under section 19, 21 or 23), including considering what type of notice to issue, the regulator should consider, in any given case, which intervention will be most effective in encouraging compliance, while balancing this against the need to act in a proportionate manner.

c. Before issuing a notice to require internet service providers to block access to material, the regulator must always first consider whether issuing civil proceedings or giving notice to ancillary service providers and payment-services providers might have a sufficient effect on the non-complying person's behaviour.

To help ensure transparency, the regulator should publish on its website details of any notices under sections 19, 21 and 23.

Age-verification arrangements

Section 25(1) provides that the regulator must publish guidance about the types of arrangements for making pornographic material available that the regulator will treat as complying with section 14(1). This guidance is subject to a Parliamentary procedure

A person making pornographic material available on a commercial basis to persons in the United Kingdom must have an effective process in place to verify a user is 18 or over. There are various methods for verifying whether someone is 18 or over (and it is expected that new age-verification technologies will develop over time). As such, the Secretary of State considers that rather than setting out a closed list of age-verification arrangements, the regulator's guidance should specify the criteria by which it will assess, in any given case, that a person has met with this requirement. The regulator's guidance should also outline good practice in relation to age verification to encourage consumer choice and the use of mechanisms which confirm age, rather than identity.

The regulator is not required to approve individual age-verification solutions. There are various ways to age verify online and the industry is developing at pace. Providers are innovating and providing choice to consumers.

The process of verifying age for adults should be concerned only with the need to establish that the user is aged 18 or above. The privacy of adult users of pornographic sites should be maintained and the potential for fraud or misuse of personal data should be safeguarded. The key focus of many age-verification providers is on privacy and specifically providing verification, rather than identification of the individual.

Payment-services providers and ancillary service providers

There is no requirement in the Digital Economy Act for payment-services providers or ancillary service providers to take any action on receipt of such a notice. However, Government expects that responsible companies will wish to withdraw services from those who are in breach of UK legislation by making pornographic material accessible online to children or by making extreme pornographic material available.

The regulator should consider on a case-by-case basis the effectiveness of notifying different ancillary service providers (and payment-services providers).

There are a wide-range of providers whose services may be used by pornography providers to enable or facilitate making pornography available online and who may therefore fall under the definition of ancillary service provider in section 21(5)(a) . Such a service is not limited to where a direct financial relationship is in place between the service and the pornography provider. Section 21(5)(b) identifies those who advertise commercially on such sites as ancillary service providers. In addition, others include, but are not limited to:

  • a. Platforms which enable pornographic content or extreme pornographic material to be uploaded;
  • b. Search engines which facilitate access to pornographic content or extreme pornographic material;
  • c. Discussion for a and communities in which users post links;
  • d. Cyberlockers' and cloud storage services on which pornographic content or extreme pornographic material may be stored;
  • e. Services including websites and App marketplaces that enable users to download Apps;
  • f. Hosting services which enable access to websites, Apps or App marketplaces; that enable users to download apps
  • g. Domain name registrars.
  • h. Set-top boxes, mobile applications and other devices that can connect directly to streaming servers

Internet Service Provider blocking

The regulator should only issue a notice to an internet service provider having had regard to Chapter 2 of this guidance. The regulator should take a proportionate approach and consider all actions (Chapter 2.4) before issuing a notice to internet service providers.

In determining those ISPs that will be subject to notification, the regulator should take into consideration the number and the nature of customers, with a focus on suppliers of home and mobile broadband services. The regulator should consider any ISP that promotes its services on the basis of pornography being accessible without age verification irrespective of other considerations.

The regulator should take into account the child safety impact that will be achieved by notifying a supplier with a small number of subscribers and ensure a proportionate approach. Additionally, it is not anticipated that ISPs will be expected to block services to business customers, unless a specific need is identified.

Reporting

In order to assist with the ongoing review of the effectiveness of the new regime and the regulator's functions, the Secretary of State considers that it would be good practice for the regulator to submit to the Secretary of State an annual report on the exercise of its functions and their effectiveness.

 

  Empire of the Censors...

Murray Perkins of the BBFC travels the world to inform the rest of the world how it will have to comply with UK internet censorship


Link Here 22nd January 2018  full story: UK Porn Censorship...Digital Economy Bill introduces censorship for porn websites
murray perkins roadshowThe US adult trade group, Free Speech Coalition  at its inaugural Leadership Conference on Thursday introduced Murray Perkins, who leads efforts for the UK's new age-verification censorship regime under the Digital Economy Act.

Perkins is the principal adviser for the BBFC, which last year signed on to assume the role of internet porn censor.

Perkins traveled to the XBIZ Show on an informational trip specifically to offer education on the Digital Economy Act's regulatory powers; he continues on to Las Vegas next week and Australia the following week to speak with online adult entertainment operators.

Pekins said:

The reason why I am here is to be visible, to give people an opportunity to ask questions about what is happening. I firmly believe that the only way to make this work is to with and not against the adult entertainment industry.

This is a challenge; there is no template, but we will figure it out. I am reasonably optimistic [the legislation] will work.

A team of classification examiners will start screening content for potential violations starting in the spring. (In a separate discussion with XBIZ, Perkins said that his army of examiners will total 15.)

Perkins showed himself to be a bit naive, a bit insensitive, or a bit of an idiot when he spouted:

The Digital Economy Act will affect everyone in this room, one way or the other, Perkins said. However, the Digital Economy Act is not anti-porn -- it is not intended to disrupt an adult's journey or access to their content. [...BUT... it is likely to totally devastate the UK adult industry and hand over all remaining business to the foreign internet giant Mindgeek, who will become the Facebook/Google/Amazon of porn. Not to mention the Brits served on a platter to scammers, blackmailers and identity thieves].

 

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