Google has changed its mind about banning sexually explicit blogs on its Blogger platform.
After a ton of feedback the firm has decided to continue with its current policy instead, it says.
Explicit blogs must continue to identify themselves as adult . This means a warning page is shown before readers are transferred to the site. Google also reserves the right to add an adult tag to Blogger blogs if it feels the description is
The acceptable use policy link currently redirects users to a posted message which reads:
We've had a ton of feedback, in particular about the introduction of a retroactive change (some people have had accounts for 10+ years), but also about the negative impact on individuals who post sexually explicit content to express their identities.
So rather than implement this change, we've decided to step up enforcement around our existing policy prohibiting commercial porn.
As long as bloggers have correctly identified their adult blogs they need take no further action, the message adds.
Andrus Ansip, Europe's Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, wants to abolish geoblocking. Restricting user access to content based on their location,
which Netflix, YouTube and others do, is discrimination, he says. I want to pay -- but I am not allowed to. I lose out, they lose out, Ansip notes.
Due to complicated licensing agreements Netflix is only available in a few dozen countries, all of which have a different content library. The same is true for many other media services such as BBC iPlayer, Amazon Instant Video, and even YouTube.
These regional blockades are a thorn in the side of Andrus Ansip , Vice-President for the Digital Single Market in the European Commission. In a speech this week he explained why these roadblocks should be abolished.
Far too often, consumers find themselves redirected to a national website, or blocked. I know this from my own experience. You probably do as well. This is one of many barriers that needs to be removed so that everyone can enjoy the best Europe has to
offer online. It is a serious and common barrier, as well as extremely frustrating.
The EU is currently discussing how copyright legislation in Europe should be overhauled and the Vice-President for the Digital Single Market hopes that measures against geoblocking will be part of the new rules.
Internet users who look at copyrighted material online aren't breaking copyright by doing so, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)
has declared. This is a useful ruling that will now apply across the EU.
The declaration was part of the British Meltwater case. Meltwater is a Norway-founded media monitoring service that sent out daily digests including the headlines and the first bit of the article of the newspaper stories, together with links to the full
online articles. It did not pay for these snippets. The company found itself sued in the U.K. by the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA). The case was really about whether Meltwater could use headlines and portions of articles in a commercial service
without copyright holder's permission but a side issue arose about whether web surfers are allowed to view content without copyright permission.
The NLA claimed that when you look at online content, you're making 2 copies, one on the screen and one in your browser's cache. The agency claimed that this required the authorization of the copyright holders.
But the CJEU ruled:
Article 5 of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society must be interpreted as meaning that the copies on the user's
computer screen and the copies in the internet cache of that computer's hard disk, made by an end-user in the course of viewing a website, satisfy the conditions that those copies must be temporary, that they must be transient or incidental in
nature and that they must constitute an integral and essential part of a technological process, as well as the conditions laid down in Article 5(5) of that directive, and that they may therefore be made without the authorisation of the copyright holders.
Our new report Careless Whispers
has highlighted that 6,329 people have been charged or cautioned under out-of-date communications legislation. Focusing on the impact on communications made on social media, the report highlights an increase in cases.
The report features a foreword from John Cooper QC, Barrister for the defence in the 'Twitter joke trial', who warns that there is "a lack of training in many police forces and the CPS as to how this older law applies to
a very modern medium."
The figures, which were obtained under Freedom of Information law, show that there have been at least 355 social media cases brought under the legislation. Only 13 of the 42 police forces provided details of the number of social
media cases they have been involved with, so the figure is likely to be far higher.
The report focuses on two pieces of communications legislation which were both drafted before the existence of the most widely used social media platforms. Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003, which was created to deal with
public electronic messages that were either grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character and was most famously used in the Twitter joke trial .
And the Malicious Communications Act 1988 was first created to deal with poison pen letters or hate mail but was expanded in 2001 to cover electronic communications. The Act was used in the Poppy Burning case of 2012, when an
individual was arrested for posting an image of a burning poppy on a social network site on Remembrance Day.
Based on the figures contained in the report, Big Brother Watch calls for:
Section 127 of the Communications Act to be repealed, and for the words "grossly offensive" to be removed from the Malicious Communications Act.
A full review of the way communications legislation is being used to police social media.
A common approach to enforcing the legislation by police forces, including introducing a standardised approach to recording social media offences.
US and UK spies hacked into the internal computer network of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, stealing encryption keys used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the globe
The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) poses massive threats to users in a dizzying number of ways. It will force other
TPP signatories to accept the United States' excessive copyright terms of a minimum of life of the author plus 70 years, while locking the US to the same lengths so it will be harder to shorten them in the future. It contains extreme DRM
anti-circumvention provisions that will make it a crime to tinker with, hack, re-sell, preserve, and otherwise control any number of digital files and devices that you own. The TPP will encourage ISPs to monitor and police their users , likely leading to
more censorship measures such as the blockage and filtering of content online in the name of copyright enforcement. And in the most recent leak of the TPP's Intellectual Property chapter, we found an even more alarming provision on trade secrets that
could be used to crackdown on journalists and whistleblowers who report on corporate wrongdoing.
Here, we'd like to explore yet another set of rules in TPP that will chill users' rights. Those are the criminal enforcement provisions, which based upon the latest leak from May 2014 is still a contested and unresolved issue. It's about whether users
could be jailed or hit with debilitating fines over allegations of copyright infringement.
Dangerously Low Threshold of Criminality
The US is pushing for a dangerously broad definition of a criminal violation of copyright, where even noncommercial activities could get people convicted of a crime. The leak also shows that Canada has opposed this definition. Canada supports language in
which criminal remedies would only apply to cases where someone infringed explicitly for commercial purposes.
This distinction is crucial. Commercial infringement, where an infringer sells unauthorized copies of content for financial gain, is and should be a crime. But that's not what the US is pushing for--it's trying to get language passed in TPP that would
make a criminal out of anyone who simply shares or otherwise makes available copyrighted works on a commercial scale.
As anyone who has ever had a meme go viral knows, it is very easy to distribute content on a commercial scale online, even without it being a money-making operation. That means fans who distribute subtitles to foreign movies or anime, or archivists and
librarians who preserve and upload old books, videos, games, or music, could go to jail or face huge fines for their work. Someone who makes a remix film and puts it online could be under threat. Such a broad definition is ripe for abuse, and we've seen
such abuse happen many times before.
Fair use, and other copyright exceptions and limitations frameworks like fair dealing, have been under constant attack by rightsholder groups who try to undermine and chip away at our rights as users to do things with copyrighted content. Given this
reality, these criminal enforcement rules could go further to intimidate and discourage users from exercising their rights to use and share content for purposes such as parody, education, and access for the disabled.
Penalties That Must be Sufficiently High
The penalties themselves could be enough to intimidate and punish users in a way that is grossly disproportionate to the crime. Based upon the leak, which showed no opposition in key sections, it seems TPP negotiators have already agreed to more vague
provisions that would oblige countries to enact prison sentences and monetary fines that are sufficiently high to deter people from infringing again. Here is the text :
penalties that include sentences of imprisonment as well as monetary fines sufficiently high to provide a deterrent to future acts of infringement, consistently with the level of penalties applied for crimes of a corresponding gravity;
Already in many countries , criminal punishments for copyright grossly outweigh penalties for acts that are comparatively more harmful to others. So the question as to what crimes copyright infringement corresponds to in gravity is obscure. What's
more alarming is that countries without existing criminal penalties or whose penalties are not sufficiently high to satisfy the US government, may be forced to enact harsher rules. The US Trade Representative (USTR) could use the certification
process , at the behest of rightsholder groups, to arm-twist nations into passing more severe penalties, even after the TPP is signed and ratified. The USTR has had a long history of pressuring other nations into enacting extreme IP policies , so it
would not be out of the realm of possibility.
Property Seizure and Asset Forfeiture
The TPP's copyright provisions even require countries to enable judges to unilaterally order the seizure, destruction, or forfeiture of anything that can be traceable to infringing activity , has been used in the creation of pirated copyright
goods , or is documentary evidence relevant to the alleged offense . Under such obligations, law enforcement could become ever more empowered to seize laptops, servers, or even domain names.
Domain name seizure in the name of copyright enforcement is not new to us in the US , nor to people running websites from abroad . But these provisions open the door to the passage of ever more oppressive measures to enable governments to get an order
from a judge to seize websites and devices. The provision also says that the government can act even without a formal complaint from the copyright holder. So in places where the government chooses to use the force of copyright to censor its critics ,
this could be even more disastrous.
Criminalization of Getting Around DRM
We've continued to raise this issue, but it's always worth mentioning--the TPP exports the United States' criminal laws on digital rights management , or DRM. The TPP could lead to policies where users will be charged with crimes for circumventing, or
sharing knowledge or tools on how to circumvent DRM for financial gain as long as they have reasonable ground to know that it's illegal to do so. Chile, however, opposes this vague language because it could lead to criminal penalties for innocent
The most recent leak of the Intellectual Property chapter revealed new exceptions that would let public interest organizations--such as libraries and educational institutions--get around DRM to access copyrighted content for uses protected by fair use or
fair dealing, or content that may simply be in the public domain. But even if it's legal, it would be difficult for them to get around DRM since they may not be equipped with the knowledge to do it on their own. If someone else tries to do a public
service for them by creating these tools for legally-protected purposes, they could still be put in jail or face huge fines.
Like the various other digital copyright enforcement provisions in TPP, the criminal enforcement language loosely reflects the United States' DMCA but is abstracted enough that the US can pressure other nations to enact rules that are much worse for
users. It's therefore far from comforting when the White House claims that the TPP's copyright rules would not change US law --we're still exporting bad rules to other nations, while binding ourselves to obligations that may prevent US lawmakers
from reforming it for the better. These rules were passed in the US through cycles of corrupt policy laundering. Now, the TPP is the latest step in this trend of increasingly draconian copyright rules passing through opaque, corporate-captured processes.
These excessive criminal copyright rules are what we get when Big Content has access to powerful, secretive rule-making institutions. We get rules that would send users to prison, force them to pay debilitating fines, or have their property seized or
destroyed in the name of copyright enforcement. This is yet another reason why we need to stop the TPP--to put an end to this seemingly endless progression towards ever more chilling copyright restrictions and enforcement.
If you're in the US, please call on your representatives to oppose Fast Track for TPP and other undemocratic trade deals with harmful digital policies.
'Justice' Secretary Chris Grayling has been speaking of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which was expected to get Royal Assent today,
This bill extends the definition of extreme pornography to include the depiction of rape with vague definitions that will surely see hundreds of people likely to become victims when police make commonplace and routine computer searches.
The government has also increased the maximum penalty to 2 years for those who send internet insults that the authorities deem to be abusive.
Four lords who champion the surveillance state have been defeated for a 2nd time in reviving the Snooper's Charter.
Former Tory defence secretary Toim King finally withdrew the massive amendment in the face of defeat by the combined vote of Labour/Tory and LibDem peers.
The amendment would have required every phone and internet company to store for 12 months the entire personal online history or communications data of all their customers, in such a manner as to facilitate invasive database searches for information by
the police and secret services.
Tom King said:
Our failure to take this exceptional opportunity which could have sent this to another place [the Commons] means that the risk to fill this gap will be longer than it need be. We just have to pray that we do not pay too high a price for that.
King was backed by three other senior peers, Labour's Alan West, the Liberal Democrat Alex Carlile and crossbencher Ian Blair, a former Metropolitan commissioner.
David McLean, who chaired the parliamentary joint committee examining the bill, said they had spent six months going through the same proposals in the draft communications bill in detail in 2012 and came to a unanimous verdict. They reported it was too
sweeping in scope, that it failed to address the issue of blogs, that it needed safeguards against fishing expeditions , and that it needed to be substantially redrafted to prevent it being a snooper's charter.
Four members of the House of Lords have attempted to bring back from the dead the Communications Data Bill --
otherwise known as the Snoopers' Charter. The entirety of the bill that had previously been rejected (or at least put on hold) by Parliament -- some 18 pages in all -- was added as a late amendment to the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill
currently passing through the Lords. This is utterly cynical at best, and a total abuse of parliamentary procedure at worst.
The Communications Data Bill is the one which required ISPs (or any telecommunications provider') to keep a log of all activity associated with an individual or IP address. Whilst ostensibly requested for 'security reasons (being played up again
in the light of the Charlie Hebdo murders in France) -- this mass retention of data is nothing less than oppressive, unwarranted, mass surveillance of the entire populace.
We know all too well from the Snowden revelations that power is abused by those who hold it -- and that there is mission creep in the data retained and the uses to which it can be put. There is no reason to think that this would be any different.
Previously the bill had been rejected in scrutiny by a joint committee of the Lords and Commons for a variety of reasons - amongst them the fact that the Home Office had totally underestimated the cost involved as well as the lack of any evidence that
there is any benefit to be had by requiring ISPs to hold this data. It was also requested that the Independent reviewer on Terrorism legislation, David Anderson, reviewed and commented on the bill and Parliament is still waiting for his response to the
Given all that, it is shocking and simply unacceptable that four unelected Lords are attempting to pass this draconian legislation, not in its own right, but as a late amendment to a current bill. It is a total abuse of parliamentary procedure and means
that this legislation will not suffer the intense scrutiny that a new bill would, but instead would be passed in a backhanded fashion without review and consideration by both Houses.
The House of Lords is intended in our parliamentary system to be a revising chamber -- adding a totally new bill as an amendment to an existing one completely goes against that entire principle. The very fact that they feel it is necessary to
bring the bill in this underhand manner shows that they clearly don't have any faith in the ability of the legislation to stand up to proper scrutiny.
The rushed passing of the #DRIP legislation set the worrying precedent for this kind of action by parliament when seeking to pass contentious legislation that avoids scrutiny. As a party we warned of the dangers of Parliament passing controversial and
oppressive surveillance laws without appropriate time or scrutiny. Despite the calls of both ourselves and others, that bill passed into law.
The House of Lords has rejected amendments to the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill which would have introduced substantial parts of the Communications Data Bill, more commonly known as the Snoopers' Charter .
The amendments were withdrawn at the request of Lord Bates, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Home Office, who argued that including the amendments at such a late stage could jeopardise the entire Bill.
Lord Bates promised to investigate the possibility of sharing more widely a redrafted version of the draft Communications Data Bill, apparently written to take into account the Joint Committee's recommendations , but which has so far been kept
under wraps by the Home Office.
China is blocking VPN services that let users skirt online censorship of popular websites such as Google and Facebook.
The virtual private network provider Golden Frog wrote on its blog that the controls have hit a wide swath of VPN services. The popular provider Astrill informed its users this week that the controls have started hitting iPhone access to services such as
Gmail this year.
China-based entrepreneur Richard Robinson said the controls have particularly hurt small- and medium-sized foreign companies that depend on VPNs. Many larger companies can afford direct connections to servers outside the country, he said.
Over the past weeks, Chinese censors have already blocked what remaining access there is to Gmail and other Google products. Google services have been periodically blocked or limited since 2010 when the company said it would no longer co-operate with
China's censors. Robinson explained:
These smaller businesses, they're dependent on Gmail. And it's all in the Google services that people are really screwed.
Xiao Qiang, a professor with UC Berkeley's School of Information gave a little insight into the stepped up censorship.
We all know that China is in the middle of a very ferocious power struggle or political cleansing under the name of an anti-corruption campaign, Xiao said. That to me is a very clearly related fact with the amount of political rumours and information
related to China's high politics showing up in websites outside of China.
And while the controls hurt businesses that depend on online information and tools, Chinese censors are more worried about restricting political information
Not all hope is lost for Chinese users trying to get around the Great Firewall. In fact, the block has affected only popular, commercial VPNs such as Astrill, StrongVPN and Golden Frog. Other alternative, less widespread tools, such as Psiphon, Lantern,
Tor, and other VPN services, in fact, remain active. Moreover, on Friday, two of the affected VPNs announced that they were able to fight back and restore their services, at least partially.
China has always had the ability to block at least some VPN traffic, according to experts consulted by Mashable, so the reasons behind this latest crackdown might be political. And perhaps it was something to do with the VPNs getting a little cocky.
Astrill, a service that suffered disruptions, seemed to mock China's censorship system just last week.
Perhaps, this was all just a warning to VPNs operating in China, just a way for the Chinese government to assert its power and show that, if they want, they can block some of these services. Tools like Psiphon and Lantern were perhaps spared by
obfuscation techniques, which makes it harder for censors to detect the use of these tools. Other VPNs, if they haven't already, will have to follow suit in a seemingly never-ending cat and mouse game.