US Censorship News

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30th June   Attacking TV Violence...
 

   
Senate building
US TV under fire in the Senate

From Broadcasting and Cable

"Cowardly, terrible, appalling, repulsive" were just some of the terms used by legislators to describe TV programmers and their violent TV programming during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the impact of media violence on kids. But many of those critics still weren't ready to start regulating it out of existence.

Virtually all of the Senators at the hearing agreed that there was much on TV that they did not want to watch and did not want their kids or grandkids to watch, but there was disagreement over whose responsibility it was to make sure they didn't.

There was no equivocation from Senator Jay Rockefeller who chaired the hearing. Rockefeller has tried to introduce legislation regulating TV violence before and said at the hearing he would introduce it again, while repeatedly bashing TV and its executives.

Big Media companies are putting more emphasis on profits than the well-being of kids, he said, while hiding behind ineffective Band-Aids of voluntary action. Rockefeller said he expected broadcasters to argue for parental responsibility and content-control tools, which they did, but said that has not worked and the government was going to need to step in. He didn't seem to have a lot of takers on the committee.

Rockefeller also called the $300 million TV Boss ratings/V-chip education campaign that had been spearheaded by the late Jack Valenti "farcical" and a joke.

Rockefeller called the industry "cowardly" for putting the onus on parents to control their kids TV viewing, saying it was not always possible. Then, saying he wasn't sure if his colleagues knew how violent TV had become, aired a video montage--put together by the Parents Television Council--to demonstrate.

It was that video, which included a now-famous forced oral sex scene from FX's The Shield, that prompted the legislators to register their general disgust. The video was cut short after Rockefeller and company appeared to have had their fill.

Senator Ted Stevens, ranking Republican, raised the Constitutional problems of regulating violent conent and suggested education and parental control as the better approach. He also pointed out that there were many other outlets for violent content, including iPods and computers.

 

28th June   Constitutional Games...
 

   
New York State seal
New York State agrees law to restrict games sales to minors

There is a worrying possibility that the Manhunt 2 publicity may add weight to the arguments for censorship.

From GamesIndustry.biz

The New York state Senate and Assembly have reached an agreement on proposed legislation making it a felony to rent or sell violent videogames with mature themes to minors.

The legislation also requires manufacturers to equip game consoles manufactured after September 1, 2009 with parental-control devices, requires retailers to label games that are violent and obscene, and requires the state to establish an advisory council to review the ESRB.

This bill is ill-conceived and unconstitutional, declared Bo Andersen, president of the EMA, a trade association for the retailers of DVDs, computer games, and console games: Nine similar proposals that have been enacted around the nation in recent years have all been blocked by federal courts on First Amendment grounds. For such an ill-conceived and unconstitutional law, ignorance is no excuse.

Although the legislators ran out of time for a final vote, the compromise bill is expected to receive formal approval when the legislature reconvenes in July. New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has signalled his intent to sign the bill into law.

 

23rd June   The Choice to have Less Choice...
 

   
FCC logo
Family and Consumer Choice Act

From AVN

House lawmakers Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) joined FCC chairman Kevin Martin to announce the introduction of a bipartisan federal legislation called the The Family and Consumer Choice Act.

According to a recent report, the conservative bill would force cable operators to create a family-friendly programming tier, comply with existing federal indecency rules, or rebate customers who have blocked channels in a tier.

The cable industry has argued that The Family and Consumer Choice Act would be an expensive burden on consumers and would be an infringement of operators' First Amendment rights.

 

20th June   Searching for Excuses...
 

   
Yahoo in China
Yahoo shareholders opt out of fighting censorship

From Linux World

Yahoo shareholders voted down a proposal that would have forced management to adopt stronger policies regarding government attempts to limit Internet access and to curtail freedom of speech in countries where Yahoo operates.

Yahoo's management had recommended that shareholders vote against this anticensorship proposal.

Yahoo, Google and other Internet companies are under pressure by shareholders and human rights groups to resist demands from governments to censor search-engine results that these governments find politically objectionable.

Critics also want Internet companies to refuse governments' requests to turn over members' information when the intention behind those requests is to persecute otherwise law-abiding journalists and dissidents.

The defeated proposal would have required Yahoo to implement a series of policies, such as not hosting individuals' data in countries where political dissent is considered a crime.

The proposal also called for Yahoo to not engage in self-censorship and to use all legal means to resist censorship demands, complying with them only if legally bound to do so.

Yahoo said it shares many of the proposals' concerns and objectives, but that its presence is a positive force toward reform in countries where speech and press freedom is limited. The company believes that there is only so much pressure that the private sector can apply to foreign governments, and that it's more powerful to establish bilateral and multilateral dialogues about political and human rights issues to bring about change.

 

9th June   Extreme Censorship...
 

   
Max Hardcore Extreme 12 DVDMax Hardcore indicted on obscenity charges

From AVN

The US Department of Justice has indicted adult producer/director Max Hardcore (aka Paul Little) on federal obscenity charges filed in Tampa, Florida. The ten-count indictment charges Max with transporting obscene matter via mail and computer.

The indictment states that Hardcore knowingly used an interactive computer service [...] in and affecting interstate commerce for the purpose of selling and distributing obscene matter, citing the transmission of five online video clips.

Hardcore is also charged with mailing DVD copies of Max Hardcore Extreme Vol. 20, Pure Max 19 Euro Edition, Fists of Fury 4 - Euro Edition, Planet Max 16 - Euro Edition to a post office box in Tampa on or about January 18, 2006.

If convicted of the charges, Hardcore is subject to forfeiture of merchandise, profits and property associated with the "obscene" matter, including his home. The government is also seeking forfeiture of the director's websites maxhardcore.com, pissedonpornstars,com and catalinaxxx.com.

A DOJ press release describes Max as a nationally-known director, producer, and star of films featuring acts such as anal penetration, urination, insertion of an entire hand into a vagina or anus, vomiting, and severe violence toward female performers.

Hardcore is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges on July 12. The director turned himself in to California authorities.

A statement issued by Hardcore's attorney Jeffrey J. Douglas called the director the most recent target of the Justice Dept's effort to suppress free speech. These are five movies depicting consensual acts between adults, exclusively for consenting adults, there is nothing criminal about these movies.

 

6th June   Fleeting Justification...
 

   
FCC logo
FCC taken to task over unjustified tightening of obscenity rules

From OfcomWatch

The Federal Communication Commission got a bit of a kicking yesterday when the Second Circuit Court of Appeals handed down its decision in Fox Television v. FCC

The case dealt with an appeal by Fox (and several other broadcasters) against the FCC’s expansion of its rules to deal with obscenity and indecency in Television (and the special addition of profanity as a separate category of proscribed speech under the law)

The Court decided the case on narrow ground, and ruled that the FCC’s new policy regarding “fleeting expletives” represents a significant departure from positions previously taken by the agency and relied on by the broadcast industry. We further find that the FCC has failed to articulate a reasoned basis for this change in policy. Accordingly, we hold that the FCC’s new policy regarding “fleeting expletives” is arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act. The petition for review is therefore granted, the order of the FCC is vacated, and the matter is remanded to the Commission for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

So what happens now? Well, the FCC just needs to re-write their order with a better explanation of their policy change. As the court concludes we are doubtful that by merely proffering a reasoned analysis for its new approach to indecency and profanity, the Commission can adequately respond to the constitutional and statutory challenges raised by the Networks… While we fully expect the Networks to raise the same arguments they have raised to this court if the Commission does nothing more on remand than provide additional explanation for its departure from prior precedent, we can go no further in this opinion.


12th June   Update: FCC Divorced from Reality...
 

   
FCC logo
FCC respond to judgement against them

From X Biz see full article

The chairman of the FCC asserted that a federal court of appeals is divorced from reality, following a decision in which it ruled that the FCC’s policy regarding the broadcast of “fleeting expletives” is unconstitutional.

Earlier this month, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Federal Communications Commission’s new policy regarding fleeting expletives is arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act,” and vacated the FCC’s order.

In response to the court's ruling, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin had a few choice words, including several indecent ones, for the court: I completely disagree with the court’s ruling and am disappointed for American families. I find it hard to believe that the New York court would tell American families that ‘shit’ and ‘fuck’ are fine to say on broadcast television during the hours when children are most likely to be in the audience.

Martin also took issue with statements the court made about the commission: The court even says the commission is ‘divorced from reality'. It is the New York court, not the commission, that is divorced from reality in concluding that the word ‘fuck’ does not invoke a sexual connotation.

Martin asserted that as a result of the court’s ruling, the airwaves will now be flooded with obscenities that the commission will be helpless to stop.

Attorney Jeffrey Douglas, 1st Amendment expert and chairman of the Free Speech Coalition, told XBIZ that Martin’s characterization of the court’s ruling was a gross distortion of what the court ruled.

Douglas noted that the court’s ruling pertains to the use of “fleeting expletives” only, will not result in the sort of flood of indecent language on broadcast TV that Martin envisioned. Douglas also observed that most broadcasters have not pushed the limit of the language they broadcast to the limit of the law, historically.

 

23rd May   Brokebank Mountain...
 

   
Brokebck Mountain DVDEducation authority sued over film shown in class

Note that the film is R rated in the US and 15 rated in the UK

From Digital Spy see full article

The family of a girl who was shown Brokeback Mountain at school is suing the education authority.

They say Jessica Turner, 12, was emotionally damaged by watching the movie, about two bisexual cowboys, and are claiming $400,000 in damages.

The claim alleges negligence, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Turner's family say she felt she could not leave her Ashburn Community Elementary School class and still needs counselling for the experience.

Papers filed by the Turners also say Ms Buford, a stand-in teacher, introduced the film by telling pupils: What happens in Ms Buford's class stays in Ms Buford's class.

 

19th May   Better Treatment in Cuba than the US...
 

   
Michael Moore's SickoMichael Moore film under duress

Based on an article from The Guardian see full article

Michael Moore's latest knock against the US administration, today receives its premiere at the Cannes film festival. Sicko is a documentary tackling the state of American healthcare, focuses on the pharmaceutical giants, and particularly on health insurers.

The film has already caused Moore to clash with the American authorities. Now, according to movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, the US government is attempting to impound the negative.

According to Weinstein, the US Treasury's moves meant we had to fly the movie to another country, he would not say to where. He added that he feared that if the film were impounded, there might be attempts to cut some footage, in particular the last 20 minutes, which related to a trip to Cuba.

In March, Moore travelled to Cuba with a group of emergency workers from New York's Ground Zero to see whether they would receive better care under the Castro regime than they had under George Bush. He had applied for permission to travel in October 2006 and received no reply.

In a letter dated May 2, the treasury department notified Moore that it was investigating him for unlicensed travel to Cuba.

Now team Moore is hitting back. Weinstein has hired an attorney, David Boies, who has lodged a request under the US freedom of information act to find out what motivated the treasury to begin its investigation: They have to tell us why they did it and what they did. And they are not too happy about it.

Weinstein believes the investigation has a political agenda: We want to find out who motivated this. We suspect there may be interference from another office. Otherwise, I don't understand why this would have come about.

Moore has hired Al Gore's former press secretary, Chris Lehane, to help him to deal with the forces I'm up against.

 

18th May   Energy to Censor...
 

   
Cocaine energy drink
Cocaine drink renamed Censored

From News.com.au

An energy drink that was barred by the US government from going on the market with the name Cocaine will re-emerge under the tongue-in-cheek moniker Censored.

We love the Censored name because it has the same rebellious and fun spirit that our original name did, said Redux Beverages founder Jamey Kirby.

The company announced earlier this week it was going to change the name of the Cocaine beverage in the face of pressure from officials and others who said it glamourised illegal drug use.

The Las Vegas-based firm said it took the action about the title of its caffeine-loaded drink - which contains no cocaine despite the name - in the face of "threats" by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Nevada state officials.

Legal troubles for the firm began on April 4, when the FDA issued a warning to Redux that it considered the drink illegal, saying it was being marketed as an alternative to an illegal street drug and making claims to treat or cure disease.

 

16th May   Nutters Dry Up...
 

   
FCC logo
Complaints about US TV decline

Based on an article from AVN

The FCC's Quarterly Report on Informal Consumer Inquiries and Complaintsrevealed that there were just 30,962 consumer complaints about obscenity/indecency on the airwaves received by the FCC in the last quarter of 2006, 29,821 of which were received in October alone, leaving just 1,141 for November and December.

This figure is down from the 162,170 complaints the agency had received in the previous quarter, a mere shadow of the obscenity/indecency complaints it received in the first half of '06 ... and miniscule compared to the flood of 1,405,419 complaints largely attributable to the Janet Jackson split-second tit exposure the agency got in 2004.

It was revealed that more than 99% of the 2004 complaints originated with one source: The ultra-conservative Parents Television Council (PTC), which provides ready-made forms with which to file such complaints right on its website, and which had been very vocal in its own newsletters and in the mass media about the "dangers" of "indecent speech" on TV and radio.

Once the PTC media blitz had been exposed, however, the FCC announced that it would be giving less weight to such blast-fax and blast-email campaigns, and the PTC's influence over FCC indecency/obscenity investigations and the fines that were eventually levied began to wane.

 

11th May   Smokes R US...
 

   
MPAA logo
Smoking may trigger an R Rating

Yes but if one starts awarding R ratings for innocuous films then parents will start to ignore the ratings as worthess.

From New York Post

The US film censor, the MPAA announced a new tobacco taboo yesterday - and said “pervasive” or “glamorized” smoking in a film could lead to an R-rating.

In effect, lighting up will now be viewed the same as sex, nudity, violence, cursing and drug use.

Now, all smoking will be a consideration in the rating process, said Dan Glickman, chairman of the MPAA

The MPAA stopped short of an automatic R, but Glickman said smoking will be reviewed among many other factors, including violence, sexual situations and language, in the rating of films.

The association will also consider whether it's artistically necessary to have characters smoke.

New film-rating descriptions will include the phrases "glamorized smoking" or "pervasive smoking."

Christopher Buckley, who wrote the novel that inspired the satirical film Thank You for Smoking said, I can only hope this means that the MPAA will strip such films as Casablanca . . . of their G ratings and relabel them for what they were: insidious works of prosmoking propaganda that led to millions of . . . deaths.

 

26th April   Nutter Taxes California...
 

   
California seal
Bill introduced to tax porn sales

From X Biz

A California Assembly bill introduced by Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Whittier, is seeking to tax the sale, storage, use, or other consumption of adult materials, the percentage of which has yet to be determined.

Assembly Bill 1551 would levy a tax on adult products and on adult bookstores’ gross receipts from the retail sale of adult materials in an effort to combat supposed secondary effects. The bill alleges that the presence of brick-and-mortar adult retailers have negative effects on the community.

Funds from the tax would go to four places: local law enforcement to combat criminal activity in the vicinity of adult stores; programs to address decreased property values resulting in losses in property tax; provision of funding to address increased educational costs and funding to address related health issues including disease transmission and mental health treatment.

According to FSC attorneys, this bill is fraught with constitutional problems, said Matt Gray, FSC’s California lobbyist: and unfairly singles out the industry, while falsely promoting myths about adult entertainment.

 

24th April   Bitching about Hip-Hop Lyrics...
 

   
The N Word DVD coverRecord industry executive suggests voluntary restrictions

From The Sydney Morning Herald see full article

Hip-hop executive Russell Simmons recommended eliminating the words "bitch," "ho" and "nigger" from the recording industry, considering them "extreme curse words."

The call comes less than two weeks after radio personality Don Imus' nationally syndicated and televised radio show was cancelled amid public outcry over Imus calling a women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos."

Simmons, co-founder of the Def Jam label and a driving force behind hip-hop's huge commercial success, called for voluntary restrictions on the words and setting up an industry watchdog to recommend guidelines for lyrical and visual standards.

We recommend that the recording and broadcast industries voluntarily remove/bleep/delete the misogynistic words 'bitch' and 'ho' and the racially offensive word 'nigger', Simmons said in a statement.

 

19th April   Fending Off Blame...
 

   
Oldboy DD coverEven before the fallout from the Virginia Tech tragedy

From 1P Start

It's no surprise that Jack Thompson has stepped up in the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy to push his rhetoric. Regardless of the details of this attack, video games are sure to be pushed to the forefront as a primary cause. Some gamers have set it upon themselves to fight Jack Thompson and all those who would use this horrible event to their own ends.

Empire Arcadia (A website devoted to cultural development through gaming) has set up an event called Fellowship of the Gamers. Here is what the organization says about the pending event:

This demonstration is to show that gamers will not take the blame of this tragic matter but we will do what we can to help put an end to terrible events like this. We reiterate and urge that all leaders of gaming communities, organizations down to the last gamer to set aside 10 hours of this day to pay respect and come together not just as gamers but as HUMAN BEINGS for peace.

Fellowship of the Gamers will take place on May 5th, 2007 in New York City at Bryant Park. The event starts at 1pm EST.


20th April   Update: The Virginia Tech Blame Sweepstakes...
 

   
Oldboy DD coverThe inevitable tragic aftermath

Thanks to Dan who suggested the following runners

  • Violent movies 6/4 Evens
  • Video games  3/1 6/1
  • Marilyn Manson 10/1
  • Rap music 10/1
  • TV programmes 12/1
  • Pornography 15/1
  • The actual killer himself 100/1
  • Guns 100/1
  • US gun laws 100/1
  • Mental Illness - 500/1
  • Bullying Classmates - 1000/1

From The Times

An ultra-violent South Korean revenge thriller may have partly inspired the massacre. In videos that he posted to NBC in New York on the day of the killings, Cho Heung Sui imitates two distinctive images from Oldboy.

The South Korean-born student depicts himself wielding a hammer in imitation of the film’s hero, who embarks on a murderous rampage against the people who held him captive for 15 years and destroyed his life. Elsewhere in the videos, filmed over six days, he holds a gun to his head, copying another scene from the film.

Unhappy schooldays play a role in the plot. Oldboy was the second film in Park’s acclaimed Vengeance trilogy. In an interview with The Times in 2004, its star, Min Sik Choi, described his character as the loneliest, most miserable character on Earth . . . like a dry wooden block with only revenge on his mind and nothing else, not even emotion.

Nick James, editor of Sight and Sound, the film magazine, said: Oldboy is a very, very distinctive film and the most highly regarded of the films now labelled Asian Extreme cinema but it is also so ludicrously over the top that no sane person could mistake it for reality.

Other cultural clues to Cho’s state of mind were being debated on the internet yesterday. Another pose in the NBC videos shows him holding guns in both hands. It recalls the films of the Hong Kong action director John Woo and a publicity shot of the actor Laurence Fishburne, used to promote The Matrix Reloaded in 2003.

From The Telegraph see full article by Gerald Kaufman

The most chilling aspect of the Virginia Tech massacre is that its perpetrator, Cho Heung-sui, a South Korean, was directly inspired by a recent South Korean splatter movie, Oldboy as well as by the Columbine high school massacre in 1999.

However, even after the Virginia Tech bloodbath there is no sign that those in power in America have drawn the lesson that one way of diminishing the possibility of such lethal events is by removing the apparently God-given right of every American to carry a lethal weapon and facilitate a situation in which 11,000 people a year die as the result of gun violence.

But another issue that demands urgent consideration is the apparent God-given right of every film-maker to depict what was described in the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange as "lashings of the old ultra-violence." In fact, the so-called ultra-violence in that movie, though deeply unsettling, was as nothing compared to the sanguinary content of Oldboy or of the John Woo murder movie Face/Off, which Cho seems also to have seen and, Heaven help us, been inspired by.

Now of course the makers of Oldboy and Face/Off were in no way minded to seek to have the bloodshed in their films motivate real-life killings. Yet, in a world where the boundaries between film/video/DVD and real life are wearing thin almost to non-existence, with the ghastliest events filmed on mobile phones and then immediately beamed around the world, it may be that the time has come for film-makers to exercise at least a modicum of self-censorship, now that institutional censorship of films has vanished pretty well to the point of total evaporation.

I am not saying that all copies of Oldboy or Face/Off, or other such movies, made in the Far East, Hollywood, or elsewhere, should be destroyed. I am saying that all movie-makers, whether they regard themselves as artists or simply manufacturers of conveyor-belt would-be entertainment, should accept that they have a wider responsibility than simply to enable aimless people to pass the time until their next visual fix.

 

21st April   Update: Gamers Off the Hook...
 

   
Oldboy DD coverGames not involved in Virginia Tech killings

From CNET News

In the rush to explain massacres like the one at Virginia Tech, experts including popular TV psychologist Dr Phil McGraw dusted off a familiar scapegoat, violent video games, movies and other media.

The mass murderers of tomorrow are the children of today that are being programmed with this massive violence overdose, McGraw said on CNN's Larry King Live.

Common sense tells you that if these kids are playing video games, where they're on a mass killing spree in a video game, (or where) it's glamorized on the big screen, it's become part of the fiber of our society.

You take that and mix it with a psychopath, a sociopath or someone suffering from mental illness and add in a dose of rage, the suggestibility is too high.

From Slashdot see full article

I imagine it's been a hard week for a lot of people; gamers in particular have been jumping to defend their hobby from the likes of Dr. Phil and Jack Thompson, both of whom were quick to link gaming and the tragedy in Virginia. Despite their vigor, it seems like game enthusiasts can breathe easily this week. As far as most people can tell, gaming was in no way involved. Even the mainstream media is coming to realize that gaming isn't always the right place to turn when youth violence grabs the headlines.

 

28th April   Update: Hollywood Films to be Shelved...
 

   
Oldboy DD coverDistributor interest massacred

From The Times

Two Hollywood productions face being shelved indefinitely because their stories echo last week’s massacre on a university campus.

Distributors are refusing to touch the films Dark Matter, starring Meryl Streep, which is about an alienated Asian student who shoots fellow students and professors, or The Killer Within, about an American student who goes on a similar rampage.

One British distributor, who declined to be named, said: These films are too close to the knuckle.

Pam Rodi, an executive at Myriad Pictures, which produced Dark Matter, said: We still believe in the movie and the story that it's telling. Hopefully a film like Dark Matter gets inside the mind of someone with these kinds of issues without glorifying them.

The films’ makers will be hoping to stimulate interest by promoting it at the Cannes Film Festival next month.


1st May  Update: Trigger Sensitive...
 

   
Oldboy DD coverTypical over reaction to student essay

From The Times

An 18-year-old student at an Illinois school is facing disorderly conduct charges for writing an essay that the authorities described as violent and disturbing.

Allen Lee, a student at Cary-Grove High School, was arrested after completing the essay. At the very last sentence, I said that this teacher’s method of teaching could lead to a school shooting, Lee said. He said that he had intended the essay as a joke.

After reading the piece his teacher alerted the school’s head, and district officials reported it to the police.

The writing assignment depicted violence, was disturbing and inappropriate Ron Delelio, the Cary police chief, said. The police have declined to release a copy of the essay.

Lee has been removed from the school and now faces disciplinary action.


6th May  Update: Graduating in Over Reaction...
 

   
Oldboy DD coverArrested essayist can return to school

From The Times

A high-school senior arrested for writing a violent essay for an English class can return to school and will be allowed to graduate with his class, his attorney says.

Allen Lee wrote the essay April 23 at Cary-Grove High and was arrested the next day on two misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct.

The decision to readmit Lee, an honors student with a 4.2 grade-point average, followed negotiations with school-district officials. Attorney Dane Loizzo said: We all reached the same conclusion, which is that he's not a threat and never was a threat and he should be treated as such.

Loizzo contended the charges were a product of paranoia, born of the April 16 massacre of 32 students at Virginia Tech.

Lee's essay read, in part: Blood, sex and booze. Drugs, drugs, drugs are fun. Stab, stab stab, stab, stab, s... t... a... b... puke. So I had this dream last night where I went into a building, pulled out two P90s and started shooting everyone, then had sex with the dead bodies. Well, not really, but it would be funny if I did.

Loizzo said the teacher had told students: Be creative; there will be no judgment and no censorship.

Lee had planned to enlist in the Marine Corps after graduation, but he was dropped from the enlistment program. Marine officials said he could reapply if the charges were dropped.

Loizzo said he will ask McHenry County prosecutors Monday to drop the charges.

 

5th April   Searching for Censorship...
 

   
Chinese Google logo
And finding it at Google

The anti-censorship proposal is very laudable but surely the US government would demand/expect that Google assist US authorities to track people involved in serious crimes. The Government would probably get very uppity if Google were to say that they would not store data to track US searches.

From Market Watch see full article

Google Inc.'s board of directors recommended Wednesday that the company's shareholders vote against a proposal to bar the company from any "proactive" censorship efforts.

Google did not explain why its board recommends shareholders vote down the anticensorship proposal from the Office of the Comptroller of New York City, which is a trustee of pension funds that have invested in 486,000 Google shares.

The proposal would prohibit Google from storing user information it collects in countries that restrict Internet access, making it harder for local authorities to get at the information.

The proposal also calls for Google to inform its users when it does cede to government requests to censor its search results or other features.

To a large degree, the Google board's stance illustrates the complicated position on censorship the company has as it expands worldwide. On the one hand, censoring Internet search results runs afoul of Google's core goal of organizing and disseminating all of the world's information. Yet in order to do so, it says it must abide by varying degrees of censorship worldwide.

Perhaps the best known example of this tightrope Google's walking occurred in China, where Google abided by a government request to censor information to get a business license.


11th May   Update: Googling for Proactive Censorship...
 

   
Chinese Google logo
And shareholders approve at Google

And Google then immediately said they would remove the videos insulting the Thai king

From CNET News

Google shareholders rejected a proposal to require the search giant to set policies to protect freedom of access to the Internet and not self-censor.

Google must make special efforts to avoid being seen as complicit in human rights abuses...and not be proactive in censorship, said Patrick Doherty, a representative of the New York City Pension Fund, which submitted the resolution. When it created its Web search site for China, Google said it would remove results from its www.google.cn Web site that would likely offend the Chinese government.

Before the shareholder vote, Google chief legal counsel David Drummond said the board opposed the measure because it would do more harm than good: We appreciate the spirit of this proposa. However we oppose the proposal because we don't think that at the end of the day it advances the causes of free expression and access to information...Pulling out of China, shutting down google.cn is, to us, not the right thing to do at this point and is not the answer to the Internet censorship problem.

 

28th March   American Censor...
 

   
Jack Valenti
Jack Valenti suffers a stroke

From Press Telegram

Jack Valenti has been hospitalized after suffering a stroke.

Valenti, 85, had the stroke last week and remains at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center in Baltimore. He is said to be making good progress.

Valenti is the former president of the Motion Picture Association of America, where he devised the ratings system for films. In 1968, in the wake of cries for movie censorship, he abolished the outdated Hays Code and instituted the voluntary ratings system.

Update: Back Home

26th April

Jack Valenti has now been released from hospital but there have been no further comments about his condition.


28th April   Update: Well Rated...
 

   
Jack Valenti
Jack Valenti bows out

From INS News

Jack Valenti, a colorful former White House aide who became Hollywood's top lobbyist in Washington for four decades and created the modern movie rating system, died Thursday.

Valenti, who was 85 died of complications from the stroke at his Washington, D.C., home.

Dan Glickman, a former congressman from Kansas who succeeded Valenti as head of the MPAA after his retirement in 2004, called Valenti a giant who loomed large over two of the world's most glittering stages: Washington and Hollywood.

President Bush said Valenti helped transform the motion picture industry. He leaves a powerful legacy in Washington, in Hollywood, and across our nation.

Valenti's introduction of a national movie ratings system in 1968 -- G, PG, R and X -- helped stave off calls for government censorship while allowing filmmakers and studios freedom to embrace complex and mature themes.

PG-13 was added in the mid-1980s in response to gruesome elements of otherwise kid-friendly movies such as Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. X, which had largely become linked to hard-core pornographic films, became NC-17 (no one under 17 admitted) in the 1990s.

 

4th April   Update: Violent Struggle...
 

   
FCC logo
FCC moving to regulate violent TV content

Based on an article from National Journal

All five FCC members will vote to approve a report to Congress that could pave the way for regulating violent television content, government sources confirmed. The commissioners are tentatively scheduled to approve the document this week, though the timeframe could slip. The report could come as early as Friday, but is more likely to be issued the week of April 9.

Television outlets vehemently oppose such regulation, arguing that it violates their First Amendment rights and amounts to government censorship. But 'cracking down' on the blood and gore that is supposedly a nightly viewing staple is gaining political traction, with Sen. John (Jay) Rockefeller, D-WVa., poised to reintroduce legislation to clean up the airwaves. The bill will be introduced in late April or early May, with the Senate Commerce Committee expected to hold a hearing next month.

The report, requested by Congress in 2004, has been the focus of negotiations for months. It states that graphic images must be curbed and that there is a constitutional way to achieve that goal. Republican Chairman Kevin Martin and Democrat Michael Copps are the chief proponents, and at Martin's insistence, the document recommends that Congress require cable operators to offer per channel pricing, known as a la carte. The cable industry says that option would result in higher consumer costs and hurt emerging channels that have survived by being bundled with other content.


25th April   Update: FCC Recommends More Regulation...
 

   
FCC logo
Timed to exploit a Virginia Technicality?

Based on an article from the Washington Post
See also Horror movies don't cause violence by John Carpenter

Federal regulators, supposedly concerned about the effect of television violence on children, will recommend that Congress enact legislation to give the government unprecedented powers to curb violence in entertainment programming.

The Federal Communications Commission has concluded that regulating TV violence is in the public interest, particularly during times when children are likely to be viewers -- typically between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

The agency's recommendations -- which will be released in a report to Congress within the next week, agency officials say -- could set up a legal battle between Washington and the television industry.

For decades, the FCC has penalized over-the-air broadcasters for airing sexually suggestive, or "indecent," speech and images, but it has never had the authority to fine TV stations and networks for violent programming.

The report commissioned by members of Congress in 2004 concludes that Congress has the authority to regulate "excessive violence" and to extend its reach for the first time into basic-cable TV channels that consumers pay to receive.

First Amendment experts and television industry executives, however, say that any attempt to regulate TV violence faces high constitutional hurdles, particularly regarding cable, because consumers choose to buy its programming.

Further, any laws governing TV violence would have to define what violence is. The FCC report contains broad guidelines but leaves the details up to Congress.

Parents are always the first and last line of defense in protecting their children, but legislation could give parents more tools, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said yesterday regarding the report. I think it would be better if the industry addressed this on its own, but we can also give parents" help through regulation.

The FCC's conclusions probably will form the basis of legislation being drafted by Sen. Jay Rockefeller who is a Commerce Committee member.

The FCC is finishing its recommendations amid heightened sensitivity to the issue, given the round-the-clock TV news coverage of the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech.

 

22nd April   Sharia in Missouri...
 

   
Missouri sealAlcohol to be banned from all adult entertainment

Based on an article from AVN

According to the conservative nutters Concerned Women of America, Missouri lawmakers will soon consider a sweeping bill designed to curtail adult businesses by imposing severe restrictions on hours of operation, alcohol licenses and age of employees.

Mike Mears, CWA's director of state legislative relations, reported that the bill, HB300, goes as far as he's seen a bill go, in terms of restricting sexually-oriented businesses.

Under the proposed measure, sexually-oriented business (including strip clubs and adult bookstores) would be required to close on Sundays, with business hours during the rest of the week to end at 10 p.m. Alcohol would not be served on the premises and employees of the businesses would have to be at least twenty-one years of age.

Mears said that, though no firm timeline is set, he thinks that lawmakers will try and pass the whole bill, rather than putting it through piece by piece: However, if this Bill does not pass, you will surely see it broken up into pieces, and attempted to pass that way.

 

21st April   Playing Commercial Censorship...
 

   
Playboy: The mansion game
Shops & consoles makers keep sex games at bay

From GamesIndustry.biz

Scour the shelves at your local games store, and chances are you won't find many games about sex. That doesn't mean they don't exist, though. Sex-based games are actually on the rise.

The problem is, games like this don't get sold in stores, especially not with the negative sex-and-violence rap the industry already has.

So where can developers sell them? It's a big issue, sex special interest group chair Brenda Brathwaite brought up at a GDC sex and games round table.

It's a tricky situation, says Brathwaite. Console manufacturers won't allow Adults Only-rated games on their systems. This takes out a huge part of any potential market that your game has.

At the same time, If you decide to go PC-only, no EMA member stores will stock AO-rated material. So this leaves out most of the big box stores and smaller, but still powerful, chains.

Brathwaite is now a professor of game design at Savanna College of Art and Design, but she worked on a sex-based title of her own a few years ago - Playboy: The Mansion. While it's about as mainstream as a sex game gets, Brathwaite says even Playboy never made it into big-box stores. I'd bet the sales were hurt because of that.

Despite her frustration with conventional retail, Brathwaite is sure things are looking up pointing to the alternative sales method most sex-game developers have turned to: online distribution.

 

16th April   An Unrated Report...
 

   
Hills Have Eyes Unrated DVD coverFederal report into marketing violent entertainment to children

From Video Business
See also report: Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children

It looks like unrated DVDs, which made a cause celebre at ShoWest last month when NATO called them “a cheap shot at the ratings system,” are going to enjoy—or endure—that status for awhile.

No less than the federal government has seen to it, lumping unrated discs together with R-rated movie tickets, R-rated DVDs, music labeled for explicit content and M-rated videogames in its latest report on the marketing and sales of violent entertainment to children.

While the concerned opponents of unrated DVDs look at them as exploiting a loophole in the ratings system, it should be noted that the edgier versions generally include only minor amounts of content not submitted for the rated version. Funnier, sexier, more gory marketing aside, in most cases, the unrated version would receive the exact same rating as the film got in its theatrical release if it were submitted to the MPAA ratings board.

The report makes the following recommendations:

  • The movie and electronic game industries should consider placing all of the rating information prominently on the front of product packaging to make that information more visible for parents at the point of purchase.
  • The music industry should consider providing more information on product packaging and in advertising as to why a particular recording has been labeled with a Parental Advisory, which would require industry members to more thoroughly review recordings for different types of explicit content.
  • The music industry should do a better job of displaying the Parental Advisory Label in television and online advertising.
  • Retailers should further implement and enforce point-of-sale policies restricting the sale of R-rated movie DVDs, explicit-content labeled music, and M-rated games to children.
  • The movie industry should examine whether the current methods of marketing and selling unrated or “Director’s Cut” versions of R-rated movies undermines the self-regulatory system and undercuts efforts to provide accurate and useful rating information to consumers and to retailers trying to set store sales policies.
  •  The ESRB should consider conducting targeted research into the reasons why a significant minority of parents believe the system could do a better job of informing them about the level of violence, sex, or profanity in some games.

 

14th April   Dreaming of Internet Censorship...
 

   
Keep your kids safe on the internetDemanding age verified secure login

From AVN

Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) introduced a new bill aimed at curtailing minors' access to sexually explicit content online.

The Cyber Safety for Kids Act of 2007 would require all adult websites to incorporate secure login mechanisms that include age verification, "clean" homepages, and some sort of electronic flag to facilitate filtering. The U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunication & Information Administration would oversee enforcement of the act, and failure to comply could be punished by fines or the removal of offending websites from cyberspace.

The senators' bill also would direct the DOC to report to Congress about the feasibility of instituting two content-specific domains, one for child-safe material and another for adults-only material.

I wish the solution to protecting kids on the Internet was as easy as shutting every one of these [sexually explicit] sites down, but it's not, Pryor said in a prepared statement. However, government can and should be a better partner to parents by providing basic protections.

Pryor also took the U.S. government to task for turning a blind eye to online pornography, saying that has allowed the adult industry to expand rapidly and put children's innocence at risk. He said the number of sexually explicit Web pages grew from 14 million in 1998 to more than 400 million in 2005, and many of [them] aggressively target children as their audience, according to the prepared statement.

Baucus and Pryor admitted the U.S. cannot force websites based in other countries to comply with U.S. law. In addition, there is no guarantee age-verification mechanisms would weed out all underage website visitors.

The bill's next stop is a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee.

 

11th April   Scientists Muzzled by Bush...
 

   
TJ Centre logoBush dishonoured by freedom of speech awards

From The Thomas Jefferson Centre

For its unprecedented efforts of discouraging, changing, and sometimes censoring the reports and studies of government scientists in order to make them more supportive of political policies, a 2007 Jefferson Muzzle goes to… the Bush Administration.

Unfortunately, under the Bush administration examples of political interference in science no longer appear to be to isolated incidents but “a system-wide epidemic,” says Dr. Francesca Grifo, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Scientific Integrity Program.

For selectively imposing a policy prohibiting the use by collegiate teams of Native American names, mascots and symbols, a 2007 Jefferson Muzzle goes to… The National Collegiate Athletic Association.

For expelling four students who created a video that featured evil stuffed animals unsuccessfully dispatched to kill a teacher, a 2007 Jefferson Muzzle goes to… the Charles A. Beard Memorial School Board of Knightstown, Indiana.

In the video movie The Teddy Bear Master, a character with the power to control stuffed animals orders a number of the usually inanimate objects to kill a former teacher who had embarrassed him when he was a student. The evil plan of the “Master” is thwarted, however, by several fellow students who battle the teddy bears and thereby save the teacher’s life.

The makers of this 78-minute opus come not from Hollywood, but from Knightstown, Indiana. From the fall of 2005 until the summer of 2006, four sophomores at Knightstown High School wrote, directed, acted, and video taped the movie on their own time, off school grounds. The last name of the teacher / victim in the obviously fictional work was the same as the last name of an actual teacher at Knightstown Intermediate School, a school which several of the students had previously attended. A DVD copy of the video briefly was available for sale on the popular MySpace website for $5.00 but was removed when school officials became aware of it.

For filing a discrimination complaint against Geno’s Steaks solely on the basis of the public display of a sign reading “This is America . . . When Ordering, Speak English,” a 2007 Jefferson Muzzle goes to… the Philadelphia (PA) Commission on Human Relations.

For launching and sustaining a program, ostensibly aimed at counter-terrorists, that gathered and stored extensive information about lawful anti-war demonstrators and other citizen groups that posed no national security threat, a 2007 Jefferson Muzzle goes to the… United States Department of Defense.

Late in 2005, reports surfaced that a covert branch of the Department of Defense had been compiling and maintaining dossiers on peaceful protests within the United States, and on some of the advocacy groups that organized and took part in those protests. Despite the publicity and the concern expressed by some sectors, Congress took no action.

For denying a beer distributor’s application to sell three beers in the state because it disapproved of the artwork on the beers’ labels, a 2007 Jefferson Muzzle goes to… the Maine Bureau of Liquor Enforcement.

For broadening substantially the scope of broadcast material that may constitute forbidden “indecency” and for targeting alleged “profanity” as well, a 2007 Jefferson Muzzle goes to… the Federal Communications Commission.

In 1927, Congress adopted the first law that regulated the content of material aired by federally licensed broadcasters. Since then “indecent” and “profane” utterances have been subject to sanctions by the Federal Communications Commission, along with material that is “obscene.” Until recently, the Committee declined to classify all uses of vulgar and taboo four-letter words on licensed broadcast stations as violations of this law and its successors. Several years ago, however, following widespread criticism of the infamous “Wardrobe Malfunction” during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, and other widely publicized linguistic challenges, the FCC has adopted a markedly tougher stance on suggestive language and imagery. Specifically, use of the “f-word” regardless of context has now been deemed “to have an inherently sexual connotation.”

For suspending students for wearing black armbands to school in protest of a new school dress code policy, a 2007 Muzzle goes to… Watson Chapel (Arkansas) School District.

For calling upon the Justice Department to seek criminal sanctions against a newspaper and its staff for disclosing publicly the existence and extent of covert, warrantless surveillance by the National Security Administration, a 2007 Jefferson Muzzle goes to… U. S. Representative Peter King (R., N.Y.)

For canceling the contract with the owner of a public access television station because he criticized City Council policies on air, a 2007 Jefferson Muzzle goes to… the City Council of East St. Louis, Illinois.

For attempting to remove children picture books from school libraries because the books were not sufficiently critical of life in Cuba under the Castro regime, a 2007 Jefferson Muzzle goes to… the Miami-Dade County (Florida) School Board.

For selectively blocking the workplace access of Kentucky state employees to certain political blogs and other Internet sites that had posted statements critical of the governor and his administration, a 2007 Jefferson Muzzle goes to… the Administration of Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher.

For three separate but remarkably similar acts of censoring the content of high school publications, a joint 2007 Jefferson Muzzle is awarded to the administrations of… Ben Davis High School (Indianapolis, IN), Princeton High School (Cincinnati, OH) and Wyoming Valley West High School (Kingston, PA).

For requiring, under the Ohio PATRIOT Act, that all applicants for employment with the State of Ohio or any of its agencies, must answer satisfactorily six intrusive and ambiguous questions pertaining to political beliefs and activities, a 2007 Jefferson Muzzle goes to… the Ohio General Assembly.

 

 

 

5th April   Stark Choices...
 

   
Starkville signNutter town opts out of adult entertainment

From AVN

Bookstores and gas stations in the conservative town of Starkville have voluntarily removed all adult material from their shelves, according to a Mississippi State University report.

The town's adult entertainment ordinance, drafted in 2001, outlaws strip clubs as well as adult video and bookstores, but does not specifically regulate the sale of adult materials in certain venues.

I am not aware of any ordinance that would regulate the sale of those materials, Starkville Alderman Matt Cox told The Reflector, Mississippi State University's student newspaper. It is the business owner's choice. The city is not involved in that one way or another.

Business owner Rex Sharp, who is in charge of vending for B-Quicks, completely pulled the store's adult section during the last two weeks. Sharp told The Reflector that it was strictly "a business decision," and he does not cite any community pressure.

According to the report, video rental chain Movie Gallery removed adult videos from its local retail store in 2005. De Werks La Rey Gentleman's Club, once the nearest strip club to Starkville, closed in 2006 after six years of business.

 

1st April   Publicity Games...
 

   
Grand Theft Auto IV posterContributing to the Hype for Grand Theft Auto IV

From Silive.com

The latest version of the popular, murder-your-way-to-victory video game Grand Theft Auto IV unleashes its violence in a city with an uncanny resemblance to New York, and city officials are upset.

The mayor does not support any video game where you earn points for injuring or killing police officers, said Jason Post, a spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Trailers of the latest game, released on the Internet, show the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge and Coney Island's Cyclone.

Political leaders say New York and Grand Theft Auto IV have little in common beyond visuals.

It's despicable to glamorize violence in games like these, regardless of how far-fetched the setting may be, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters.

The game will hit stores in October.

 

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