Facebook has announced a change in its policy whereby advertisements will no longer run on sections of the site with controversial content.
Starting on Monday, Facebook pledged to implement a new reviews process that will strip ads from Pages and Groups with certain types of content.
Some businesses have recently protested about Facebook advertising. They claim they pay good money to advertise on Facebook, and don't like having their brands displayed next to questionable, user-created pages, even if they don't run afoul of Facebook's
Specifically, the ad ban will apply to any violent, graphic or sexual content. Now, instead of a row of ads on the right-hand side of these pages, no ads will appear.
As Facebook doesn't pay out anything to the people who make pages, then one can't help but think that there will be an international chorus of: GOOD! Lets all share a few offensive jokes.
Google is struggling to persuade people running adult blogs on its Blogger network that it will not necessarily ban them, just starve them of
Google sent a letter this week to thousands of blog owners threatening to delete their blogs from Monday unless they delete their advertising.
In the letter, Google says it will prohibit the monetisation of Adult content on Blogger. After June 30th 2013, we will be enforcing this policy and will remove blogs which are adult in nature and are displaying advertisements to adult websites.
But the ambiguous nature of the first sentence -- which implies that any adult blog on Blogger that takes advertising will be wiped -- has outraged and infuriated free speech campaigners.
The move has already led to high-profile defections, including Zoe Margolis, author of the female erotic memoir Girl With A One-Track Mind . She told the Guardian that she is exporting her entire blog to a separate domain in case Google wipes it
without warning. She added,
Nine years I've been with them, but only four days' notice. Disgraceful. I only have three days to export/self-host my entire blog? Fuck you, Google.
Violet Blue, a writer on sex topics, noted on Twitter:
All those things you liked about the early internet ? Sexual expression/speech on public space blogs is a big one of those things. [Its] a vague new anti-sex policy purge. It's wrong
It is thought adult sites that use non-adult adverts would not be targeted. But of course as Facebook has found out, non-adult advertisers do not like to be seen on adult sites.
Google has declined to explain the reasons for the move.
Amelia Jane Rutherford/Ariel Anderssen blogs on bondage and spanking said:
I'm alarmed and disappointed in corporate society's apparent prejudice towards sexual diversity. I'm grateful that my blog has been granted free hosting space for all these years, but sad that it's being taken away for such a frightening reason.
I'm not part of a separate dangerous species of person who expresses their sexuality online and damages all the normal people. The people (like me) who do this are normal people too. Between us all, kinky and vanilla, pornographers, dentists,
politicians, nail technicians, astronauts or whoever; I think we create an internet that reflects our interests and needs. Kinky blogs form part of that reflection. Therefore, I feel they have the same rights to belong on the internet as a sci-fi
appreciation forum, online sewing-bee or whatever.
Labour leader Ed Miliband, addressing a meeting of the Women in Advertising and Communications group in London, called on advertisers to
do more to break down stereotypes:
Far too many of the images of women that we see in our society still don't reflect the realities of the lives we live together, don't reflect the contributions that women have made.
And we need to do something about that. I applaud the creativity, the freshness, the innovation that your industry displays often on this issue. But it is not always the case. We all know there are still too many images of women in our advertising that
reflect outdated ideas about the role of men and women, boys and girls.
There is a culture of increasingly sexualised images among young people: a culture that says that girls will only get on in life if they live up to the crudest of stereotypes; a culture where pornographic images, some violent, are available at a click on
a smartphone or a laptop.
He urged the Government to do more to ensure there were safer default settings on computers blocking access to pornographic content online and said schools should offer proper relationship education and encourage the aspirations of both
girls and boys.
Senior Labour sources expressed concern over recent advertisements including one promoting Weetabix which showed young girls playing with dolls while boys wanted to be superheroes. Commercials from Pot Noodles, the slag of all snacks , and a
Pamela Anderson advertisement for Crazydomains.com have also been highlighted.
The Bill passed it's first reading in the House of Lords on 14th May 2013.
The core or the bill is:
Online Safety Bill
Make provision about the promotion of online safety; to require internet service providers and mobile phone operators to provide a service that excludes adult content; to require electronic device manufacturers to provide a means of filtering content;
and for parents to be educated about online safety.
1 Duty to provide a service that excludes adult content
(1) Internet service providers must provide to subscribers an internet access service which excludes adult content unless all the conditions of subsection (3) have been fulfilled.
(2) Where mobile telephone network operators provide a telephone service to subscribers, which includes an internet access service, they must ensure this service excludes adult content unless all the conditions of subsection (3) have been fulfilled.
(3) The conditions are:
(a) the subscriber opts-in to subscribe to a service that includes adult content;
(b) the subscriber is aged 18 or over; and
(c) the provider of the service has an age verification policy which meets the standards set out by OFCOM and which has been used to confirm that the subscriber is aged 18 or over.
(4) In this section, internet service providers and mobile telephone network operators shall at all times be held harmless of any claims or proceedings, whether civil or criminal, providing that at the relevant time, the internet access provider or the
mobile telephone operator was:
(a) following the standards and code set out by OFCOM in section 2; and
(b) acting in good faith.
2 Role of OFCOM
(1) It shall be the duty of OFCOM to set, and from time to time to review and revise, standards for the:
(a) filtering of adult content in line with the standards set out in section 319 of the Communications Act 2003; and
(b) age verification policies to be used under section 1 of this Act.
(2) The standards set out by OFCOM under this section must be contained in one or more codes.
(3) Before setting standards under subsection (1), OFCOM must publish, in such a manner as they think fit, a draft of the proposed code containing those standards.
(4) After publishing the draft code and before setting the standards, OFCOM must consult relevant persons and organisations.
(5) It shall be the duty of OFCOM to establish procedures for the handling and resolution of complaints in a timely manner about the observance of standards set under this section.
(6) OFCOM must prepare a report for the Secretary of State about the operation of this Act:
(a) every three years from the date of this Act coming into force; and
(b) at the direction of the Secretary of State
Google should not have to delete information from its search results when old information is pulled up that is damaging to individuals who claim
to be harmed by the content.
That's the early opinion of a special advisor to the European Union's highest court, who has apparently sided with Google in a case involving a man in Spain who argued that Google searches about him provide information about an arrest years before that
should be cleaned up to protect him.
An expert opinion requested by the European Court of Justice, which is based in Luxembourg, recommended that Google not be forced to expunge all links to a 15-year-old legal notice published in a Spanish newspaper documenting a failure to pay back taxes.
Instead, the European Union's highest court was advised to strike down a Spanish regulator's demand that the search engine grant citizens a broad digital 'right to be forgotten,' including the ability to delete previous arrests and other negative
publicity from Google's online search results.
A final decision in the case is expected before the end of this year.
Sky has suspended its marketing campaigns on Facebook after one of its advertisements appeared alongside what it found to be offensive content
earlier this week. In a statement, BSkyB said:
We have suspended our advertising on Facebook after one of our adverts was found adjacent to offensive material. Such content is clearly unacceptable to Sky and our customers.
We have asked Facebook to devise safeguards to ensure our content does not appear alongside inappropriate material in the future. We will review the situation in due course.
BSkyB declined to say what offensive content had prompted it to suspend advertising on the site, but it follows pressure on Facebook from women's organisations about supposedly sexist and degrading material.
Britain's spy agency GCHQ has secretly gained access to the network of cables which carry the world's phone calls and internet traffic and has
started to process vast streams of sensitive personal information which it is sharing with its American partner, the National Security Agency (NSA).
The sheer scale of the agency's ambition is reflected in the titles of its two principal components: Mastering the Internet and Global Telecoms Exploitation, aimed at scooping up as much online and telephone traffic as possible. This is all being carried
out without any form of public acknowledgement or debate.
One key innovation has been GCHQ's ability to tap into and store huge volumes of data drawn from fibre-optic cables for up to 30 days so that it can be sifted and analysed. That operation, codenamed Tempora, has been running for some 18 months.
GCHQ and the NSA are consequently able to access and process vast quantities of communications between entirely innocent people, as well as targeted suspects. This includes recordings of phone calls, the content of email messages, entries on Facebook and
the history of any internet user's access to websites, all of which is deemed legal, even though the warrant system was supposed to limit interception to a specified range of targets.
The existence of the programme has been disclosed in documents shown to the Guardian by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The US army has admitted to blocking access to parts of the Guardian website for thousands of defence personnel across the country.
The confirmation follows reports in the Monterey Herald that staff at the Presidio military base south of San Francisco had complained of not being able to access the Guardian's UK site at all, and had only partial access to the US site, following
publication of leaks from whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The new guidelines for prosecuting social media postings were offered in draft form some months ago, but now they have been finalised.
The CPS explain the general principles:
Prosecutors may only start a prosecution if a case satisfies the test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors. This test has two stages: the first is the requirement of evidential sufficiency and the second involves consideration of the public
As far as the evidential stage is concerned, a prosecutor must be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction. This means that an objective, impartial and reasonable jury (or bench of magistrates or judge
sitting alone), properly directed and acting in accordance with the law, is more likely than not to convict. It is an objective test based upon the prosecutor's assessment of the evidence (including any information that he or she has about the defence).
A case which does not pass the evidential stage must not proceed, no matter how serious or sensitive it may be.
It has never been the rule that a prosecution will automatically take place once the evidential stage is satisfied. In every case where there is sufficient evidence to justify a prosecution, prosecutors must go on to consider whether a prosecution is
required in the public interest.
Every case must be considered on its own individual facts and merits. No prospective immunity from criminal prosecution can ever be given and nothing in these guidelines should be read as suggesting otherwise.
In the majority of cases, prosecutors should only decide whether to prosecute after the investigation has been completed. However, there will be cases occasionally where it is clear, prior to the collection and consideration of all the likely evidence,
that the public interest does not require a prosecution. In these cases, prosecutors may decide that the case should not proceed further.
Cases involving the sending of communications via social media are likely to benefit from early consultation between police and prosecutors, and the police are encouraged to contact the CPS at an early stage of the investigation.
Comment: The end of Britain's social media prosecutions?
Keir Starmer's new guidelines aim to minimise controversial criminal cases against Twitter and Facebook users. But will they work, asks
Will these guidelines result in fewer prosecutions? It's impossible to say. There are still issues; the test of whether something constitutes a grossly offensive communication is still discretionary, with the CPS quoting Lord Bingham:
There can be no yardstick of gross offensiveness otherwise than by the application of reasonably enlightened, but not perfectionist, contemporary standards to the particular message sent in its particular context. The test is whether a message is
couched in terms liable to cause gross offence to those to whom it relates.
Claire Perry, the Prime Minister's special adviser on preventing the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood , has three demands
which she claims will save the world from the horrors of porn. First, that internet service providers and other internet companies block child pornography at its source; second, that any sort of simulated rape pornography is banned; and third, that
pornography is banned from public WiFi.
Claire Perry isn't web-savvy enough to realise her own proposals are total nonsense. Her objections are based on beliefs, not on evidence or fact. It's shabby and embarrassing that we are blundering into making policy based on what Ms Perry feels might
work, rather than the truth.
The government has rejected Labour calls for specially-trained teachers to be brought in to 'educate' children about the
dangers of internet pornography.
Labour peer Beverley Hughes claimed such a difficult issue could not be taught properly in computer science classes: it requires teachers trained in addressing these difficult personal and social issues and that won't happen in a computing
But Education Minister Lord Nash said the government trusted teachers to deliver the message. And he rejected the Labour peer's call for personal and social health education to be made part of the national curriculum.
Webcams should be covered when not in use because hackers could be using them to spy on people.
A BBC Radio 5 live investigation found sites where hackers exchanged pictures and videos of people captured on their own webcams without their knowledge. The team found a thriving black market where access to compromised computers was bought and sold for
a few pence.
Student Rachel Hyndman, 20, from Glasgow, who has a part-time job in a computer shop, believes she was the victim of webcam hacking. She spotted the camera on her laptop had switched itself on while she was watching a DVD in the bath. She says: I was
sitting in the bath, trying to relax, and suddenly someone potentially has access to me in this incredibly private moment and it's horrifying.
Hackers are able to gain access to victims' computers using a piece of malicious software (malware) spread in infected files or by tricking the victim into visiting a spiked webpage. Such victims are labelled slaves or bots.
A BBC Radio 5 live producer posing online as a computer security enthusiast made contact with several webcam hackers from the UK and around the world. At least one of them has since been arrested on suspicion of cyber-offences. The investigation
uncovered websites where hackers share pictures and videos of their victims. They include pages where hackers exchange photos of ugly slaves, and others where men swap pictures of female slaves.
For some reason the programme did not discuss whether national security services have similar capabilities. It will be interesting to see if computer manufacturers are allowed to fit a lens cap.
Laurie Penny identifies
the connection between fantasies and consensual adult pornography:
"I do not want to live in a world where the government and a select few conservative feminists get to decide what we may and may not masturbate to, and use the bodies of murdered women or children as emotional pawns in that debate."
Culture Secretary Maria Miller announced that the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) will be asked for the first time to actively seek out
illegal images of child abuse on the internet, working closely with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre. At a summit of major internet service providers (ISPs), search engines, mobile operators and social media companies, an
agreement was reached that the IWF should, for the first time, work with CEOP to search for and block child sexual abuse images.
The UK's leading ISPs -- Virgin Media, BSkyB, BT and TalkTalk -- committed to provide a further £1 million to help fund this new proactive approach and to help tackle the creation and distribution of child sexual abuse material online.
Additionally, all the companies present signed up to a zero tolerance pledge on child sexual abuse imagery.
This will be the first time the IWF has been asked to take on a proactive approach to detect and act against criminal material. The IWF, working alongside CEOP, and the wider internet industry, will ensure the UK leads the way in the global battle
against child sexual abuse. New funding will allow more to be done to actively search, block and remove more child sexual abuse images.
This is a fundamental change in the way that child sexual abuse content will be tackled. It is estimated that there are one million unique images of child abuse online yet only 40,000 reports are made to the IWF each year. The IWF will no longer have to
wait for illegal material to be reported before they can take action, but will work with CEOP to take the fight to those behind child sexual abuse images.
It was agreed at the summit that:
A new proactive role would be taken on by the IWF, working with CEOP -- industry funding will increase to reflect this new role with £1 million more provided by the four major ISPs over the next four years to tackle child sexual abuse material
Any relevant organisation which does not yet operate splash pages will introduce them by the end of the month so that when someone tries to access a page blocked by the IWF, they will see a warning message (a splash page') stating that the page
may contain indecent or illegal content;
All present would sign up to a 'zero tolerance pledge towards child sexual abuse content on the internet;
The industry will report to the Culture Secretary within a month on how they can work to support the new proactive approach being taken on this issue through the use of their technology and expertise.
The summit also reviewed the considerable progress that has been made to protect children from harmful or inappropriate content online, including:
The four main ISPs are now offering an active choice on parental controls to all new customers;
The main public Wi-Fi providers have pledged to offer family friendly Wi-Fi in public places where children are likely to be;
The main ISPs have committed to delivering home network parental controls by the end of the year allowing restrictions to be set - simply and quickly - on all devices in the home;
Internet providers are now regularly telling customers about parental controls through emails and their bills;
ISPs will email account holders when any filter settings are changed to ensure the change is approved by an adult.
The Culture Secretary will convene a further meeting, once the industry has reported on what more it can do to support this proactive approach, to ensure that real action is taking place. Notes to Editors
The companies attending the summit were Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, BT, BSkyB, Virgin Media, TalkTalk, Vodafone, O2, EE and Three. They were joined by CEOP and the IWF.
UK Ministry of Defence officials issued a confidential D notice to the BBC and other media groups in an attempt to censor coverage of surveillance
tactics employed by intelligence agencies in the UK and US.
Editors were asked not to publish information that may jeopardise both national security and possibly UK personnel in the warning issued on 7 June, a day after the Guardian first revealed details of the National Security Agency's (NSA) secret
Prism programme .
The D notice was made public on the Westminster gossip blog, Guido Fawkes . Although only advisory for editors, the censorship system is intended to prevent the media from making inadvertent public disclosure of information that would compromise UK
military and intelligence operations and methods .
Index on Censorship have also located an example of negligent blocking.
A reader has contacted Index on Censorship to point out that the website Transhumanity.net
has been blocked on his 02 phone.
We've checked, and he's right --- the site is blocked as pornography .
It's a little difficult to see why: there's certainly nothing I'd consider pornographic on the site.
Transhumanism is an essentially utopian concept, which believes in harnessing technology and theory to create better lives for humans, free from hunger and disease and the general biological decay to which, in the end, we all succumb.
Minister for Censorship Culture calls on BBC to review iPlayer parental controls. Meanwhile Vivienne Pattison admits to an alarming mental condition where she sees violence to women in every TV programme
Amid a moral panic about internet censorship, Culture Secretary Maria Miller will ask BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten to review
safeguards on iPlayer programmes.
Senior sources say the Culture Secretary is concerned about British shows aping a trend in US drama for extreme on-screen violence, as in Sky shows such as The Following and Hannibal. Apparently some campaigners want the dramas to be edited to be
suitable for children for iPlayer versions.
A BBC Trust spokeswoman said no changes were planned for controls on the iPlayer as the Trust felt current safeguards were adequate. Asked about the current iPlayer protections for children, Lord Patten said: It's quite difficult to do it any other
An IT consultant suggested: The BBC could simply mimic the system on Apple devices called iCloud which would allow parents to see what is being seen by their children, in real time.
Vivienne Pattison, director of pressure group MediaWatch-UK, admitted to alarming mental problems, seeing things in programmes that nobody else does:
It seems like there is violence against women in every programme now, with lingering shots of someone having something done to her.
I don't think any of us can dispute the quality of the filming, writing and acting in both Ripper Street and The Fall but it does seem gratuitous and gruesome violence has become mainstream.
I have been talking about the BBC having tougher safeguards for its iPlayer programmes for years but always get the same response: that it has to be something that seriously harms the mental or physical health of a child and nothing on the iPlayer will
do this. Actually with some of those dramas we are getting to the stage where if a young child watches it, yes it could do.
Film censors in three countries including UK are to pilot a program in which amateur video-makers can self-classify their
Under the traffic light system, green footage would be suitable for all, amber for 12 year-olds and up, and red for adults only.
The project, developed by the British Board of Film Classification in collaboration with partners in Italy and the Netherlands, could also allow powerful internet service providers and search engines a new path through the current controversy about their
Amateur film-makers will be able to rate the films they put online according to national ratings categories, and the whole process could then be further policed by users of the site. Participating websites would have the option of letting viewers comment
on the way that each film has been rated, alerting both users and the relevant national authorities to any serious transgressions.
The idea of offering a do-it-yourself rating service for user-generated content came out of international discussions with the parallel bodies in charge of film censorship and classification.
David Austin, assistant director of policy and public affairs at the BBFC said:
We already classify some 10,000 videos and films that are submitted to us for release every year and we will be using much the same classification model in the pilot for user-generated content.
The sheer amount of private video footage uploaded on popular sites such as YouTube means there is no way any board could tackle it. The volume is so great that it became clear the answer was to get those who are making and posting the films to rate them
Consultation with the Dutch film regulator led to the idea that an online questionnaire comprising simple questions about the nature of the content could be made to apply across international boundaries. Austin explained the procedure:
We will not be asking people to make value judgments about their films. They just have to answer simple questions about the content, such as 'Does this video contain X, Y or Z, and if so, how long is the scene?'
In Britain the usual six ratings categories for films will be reduced to three:
We felt that six would be too complicated, said Austin, so we have conflated U, which means suitable for all, with PG, parental guidance, and then the age category 12 with 15, and finally 18, suitable only for adults, with R18, which covers those adult
works intended for licensed premises only.
We will represent these three categories with the traffic light symbols green, amber and red.
The scheme will be voluntary and service providers and search engines will be able to decide how their users want to see the ratings displayed.
At this stage a lot of it depends on how much the search engines buy into the scheme. We want to help them look after their sites, and if some of the big ones get involved, then they can make the age-rating option available for everything.
The crowdsource monitoring option would then allow users to judge the chosen rating and to spot abuses of the system. If there is a serious problem, such as an example of hate speech or of child abuse, it can be reported.
The 'conflation' of 12 and 15 seems to be devil in the detail. 12 is very much the new PG and the current guidelines define it as more or less suitable for kids over 8, albeit with parental discretion. All modern family blockbusters fit into this
Surely you cannot have currently 15 rated strong language, horror films, and sex scenes noted as suitable for 12 year olds. So the lack of separate 15 rating means that anything with more than couple of swearwords, or bit violent, or even a bit sexy, has
got nowhere to go, except an 18 rating.
So it appears that the ratings scheme only offers 3 choices, suitable for kids under 8, suitable for kids over 8, and adults only. Sounds like the powers that be are working towards a cheap and easy to implement, kids or adults internet censorship
Facebook and Microsoft have revealed limited information about the US government orders they have received to turn over user data to security
Ted Ullyot, Facebook's general counsel, said in a statement that they had between 9,000 and 10,000 requests from all government entities, from local to federal, in the last six months of 2012. The orders involved the accounts of between 18,000 and 19,000
Facebook users on a broad range of surveillance topics.
Microsoft said they had between 6,000 and 7,000 orders, affecting between 31,000 and 32,000 accounts, but downplayed how much they had revealed.
The announcements come at the end of a week when Facebook, Microsoft and Google, normally rivals, had jointly pressured the Obama administration to loosen their legal gag on national security orders.
The companies are still not allowed to make public how many orders they received from a particular agency or on a particular subject. But the numbers do include all national security related requests including those submitted via national security
letters and under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, which companies had not previously been allowed to reveal.
This week has seen a series of meetings seeking ideas and support for internet censorship in the name of child protection. There was a Sunday Times
sponsored session, followed by Westminster Media Forum discussion, and the culmination will be a government led meeting with ISPs and major internet companies on 17th June.
Here are a few of the ideas being discussed.
Scary messages on attempted access to banned websites
BT has announced that any of its customers attempting to access web pages on the Internet Watch Foundation's list of identified images of child sexual abuse will now see a message telling them the site is blocked and the reason why.
Under the current system, the site is blocked but internet users only see an Error 404 message. The move comes amid growing concern that internet companies need to do more to tackle online child abuse. BT's new message is believed to be the first
of its kind in the UK.
The message will read:
Access has been denied by your internet service provider because this page may contain indecent images of children as identified by the Internet Watch Foundation. If you think this page has been blocked in error please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Presumably the scare value is tied in with the government snooping and keeping records or websites visited.
Network censorship on by default
Parental filters for pornographic content will come as a default setting for all homes in the UK by the end of 2013, says Claire Perry, David Cameron's personal Mary Whitehouse. Speaking at a Westminster eForum on 14 June she explained:
Internet service providers (ISP) will be expected to provide filtering technology to new and existing customers, with an emphasis on opting out, rather than opting in: [In the UK] we will have filters where if you do nothing, the parental filters will
come pre-ticked .
Features such as time-limited deactivation of filtering and email updates when filter settings are changed are expected to become widespread. We will have automatic put on, so if you turn the filter off at 9pm, it turns on again at 7am
Public WiFi only suitable for kids
Perry confirmed that as expected, the government is pushing ahead with restricting all public Wi-Fi spots so that they are free from all adult content.
On Tuesday, Jim Killock of Open Rights Group spoke at an event organised by the Sunday Times and Policy Exchange about online pornography and child protection. This was in the run-up to the opposition debate that took place in Parliament on Wednesday on
these topics. He reports:
That this House deplores the growth in child abuse images online; deeply regrets that up to one and a half million people have seen such images; notes with alarm the lack of resources available to the police to tackle this problem; further notes the
correlation between viewing such images and further child abuse; notes with concern the Government's failure to implement the recommendations of the Bailey Review and the Independent Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection on ensuring
children's safe access to the internet; and calls on the Government to set a timetable for the introduction of safe search as a default, effective age verification and splash page warnings and to bring forward legislative proposals to ensure these
changes are speedily implemented.
The "1.5m" statistic has been debunked
elsewhere, but the alarming point here is the deliberate conflation of child abuse images and legal material, potentially accessed by children. The motion slips from talking about child abuse images, to 'safe searches' to protect children from seeing
adult material. Just as worrying is the adoption of a position in favour of default blocking by Labour. You can read a transcript of the debate on
This is a symptom of a wider problem with this debate - a failure to properly distinguish between different categories of content, and the different methods of dealing with them. That requires at least some understanding of the technology - the
A further problem is an unwillingness from some MPs to appreciate or even acknowledge the problems with technical solutions. In the debate on Tuesday, I tried to outline the problems with filtering, including the over and under-blocking of content.
Claire Perry helpfully described such problems as a load of cock . Helpfully, because such a comment would be very likely to be caught by a filter and cause it to be blocked, while not, of course being pornographic.
Claire also got applause for suggesting that blocked websites were simply collateral damage necessary to protect children. This is the kind of woolly thinking that thankfully got rejected by her government, which recognised that economic harm stems from
blocking legitimate websites, for instance. After all, if you can protect children, and avoid blocking for adults, why not? Can some balance not be struck?
Unfortunately, in the eyes of many MPs, arguing for balance is betraying children. If any children can access more porn than we can technically prevent, then we have failed. Of course, filters don't always work and can be easily got round, but if our
solution helps a bit, surely that is better than nothing?
These kinds of position, once you examine them, are pretty incoherent. Filters that don't work well will probably get switched off. Defaults that block too much may encourage people to remove the filters. Parents may assume their children are safe when
filters are switched on. Software design is iterative not legislative; yet legislation is often favoured over industry engagement.
The child protection debate over the last two years has won Claire Perry many friends, who believe she has raised the profile of an issue and got results. Certainly, the fact that ISPs are building network level filters points to this, but I was
intrigued by a question at the debate on Tuesday. Apparently children are installing Chrome, because it was suggested that helps them access porn sites and gets round filters.
We did try to tell Claire this kind of thing would happen, before she persuaded ISPs to spend millions of pounds on network filters. Even with filters, if parents leave children with admin privileges, they will be able to use their computers to trivially
defeat any blocks. Some MPs in the debate in Parliament suggested only 'very clever' folk will be able to get round filtering. This isn't true -- most children will find this easy.
Which leaves us with the harms on all sides, to websites, adults and children, without the supposed benefits.
Labour have essentially made the same mistake as Culture Secretary Maria Miller's letter
to online companies, in which she invited Internet companies to a proposed 'summit':
Recent horrific events have again highlighted the widespread public concern over the proliferation of, and easy access to, harmful content on the internet. Whether these concerns focus on access to illegal pornographic content, the proliferation of
extremist material which might incite racial or religious hatred, or the ongoing battle against online copyright theft, a common question emerges: what more can be done to prevent offensive online content potentially causing harm?
It is clear that dangerous, highly offensive, unlawful and illegal material is available through basic search functions and I believe that many popular search engines, websites and ISPs could do more to prevent the dissemination of such material.
The debate and letter confuse legal, illegal and potentially harmful content, all of which require very different tactics to deal with. Without a greater commitment to evidence and rational debate, poor policy outcomes will be the likely result. There's
a pattern, much the same as the Digital Economy Act, or the Snooper's Charter.
Start with moral panic; dismiss evidence; legislate; and finally, watch the policy unravel, either delivering unintended harms, even to children in this case, or simply failing altogether.
ORG, Index on Censorship, English PEN and Big Brother Watch have written
to the Culture Secretary Maria Miller demanding that civil society be present at her 'summit', to make sure these issues are addressed. We have yet to receive a reply.
China has censored an image of Winnie the Pooh strolling with Tigger, after it went viral on popular Chinese microblogging site, Sina Weibo.
The image was circulated after bloggers noticed the similarities between a photo snapped this week of President Barack Obama and Chinese premier Xi Jinping and an illustration of the cartoon characters.
Mediawatch-UK gloats about the almost daily meetings to discuss internet censorship. But how come the nutters are getting away with bollox about child porn being readily available via a trivial google search?
Bangladesh's telecommunication authorities have unblocked YouTube in Bangladesh after 260 days of restricting access within the country to the video
The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) blocked YouTube on September 17, 2012 to ban people from watching a trailer of a US film titled Innocence of Muslims , which mocks Islam and the religious character Muhammad. The
telecoms censor claimed that it contacted Google prior to the ban asking them to remove the video, but Google reportedly refused to oblige.
The ban was lifted on June 5, 2013, making the site accessible to Bangladeshi netizens once again.
The block actually incurred a loss for the Bangladeshi economy, according to Fahim Mashroor, the ex-Secretary of the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services. He said in an interview with German radio Deutsche Welle that the
outsourcing industry suffered due to the ban. Last year, Bangladeshis earned 57 million US dollars working for the online outsourcing industry.
A teacher in Kuwait has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for tweets that insulted the country's ruler and encouraged his overthrow.
Huda al-Ajmi received the longest known sentence for online dissent in the Gulf state, according to Kuwaiti opposition groups.
She reportedly faced three separate charges that included insulting the Emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, which carries a one-year sentence in itself. The other two five-year prison terms were given for inciting rebellion against the regime and
violating laws on public discussions.
Kuwait has not seen the same scale of pro-democracy uprisings as other Arab states but dozens of people across the Gulf region have been sentenced to jail for Twitter and blog posts in the past year.
Ms al-Ajmi will be able to appeal her three sentences.
Pakistan's new Information and Technology minister has warned that Google could be blocked in the country if the company fails to remove supposedly
blasphemous and objectionable material from its video-sharing website YouTube.
Minister of State for IT and Telecommunication Anusha Rahman Khan made the remarks on her first day in office while talking about Pakistan's efforts to end a nine-month ban on YouTube for hosting clips from the film Innocence of Muslims . Khan was
quoted as saying by The News daily:
It all depends on our negotiation clout. If they persist with their stance, we can block Google in Pakistan as a last resort as there are many alternative search engines available on the Web.
We will pump in extra money if needed and do whatever is in our capacity to bring YouTube back to Pakistan without compromising our ethical values.
She said she will request Google to remove objectionable material from YouTube or at least ensure that access to it is blocked in Pakistan.
Pakistani religious groups responded violently to the film Innocence of Muslims, leading to YouTube being blocked from September 17 last year. The ban was lifted for a few hours in December before being reinstated following protests from religious
Spy chiefs may have been operating a secret snoopers charter' to track people's internet use in the UK, a senior Government
minister has admitted.
Business Secretary Vince Cable made the claim after it emerged GCHQ trawled through private information, including emails, photographs and social networking pages, harvested by a secret U.S. surveillance programme.
Critics accused agents at the listening post of attempting to bypass British law by sending requests for intercepts to American authorities. Foreign Secretary William Hague responded with the fanciful nonsense that the critics fears were fanciful nonsense.
Only terrorists, criminals and spies should fear secret activities of the British and US intelligence agencies, the Foreign Secretary has claimed. However large numbers of people getting in trouble with the authorities for jokey tweets and the
like may think otherwise. People downloading porn may also consider it a bit fearful to watched by the state, considering the clamour for men to be jailed should they download a dangerous byte or two.
William Hague is due to appear before the House of Commons on Monday in an attempt to play down concerns about the US National Security Agency's snooping scheme, codenamed Prism, which allows it to mine data from Facebook and other internet companies.
While he will offer reassuring words, it is unlikely that Mr Hague will offer MPs much by way of hard information. In an interview on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Hague refused to say whether the British government knew of the existence of Prism
before it emerged last week. H e said:
I can't confirm or deny in public what Britain knows about and what Britain doesn't, for obvious reasons
Major-General Jonathan Shaw, the former Ministry of Defence head of cyber security, said yesterday that there was no such thing as total security or total freedom. He said:
What we're seeing is an incredibly difficult job of getting the balance right between security and freedom.
When politicians speak of 'balance' then you know rights are being taken away, and that the balance will end up in favour of the state.
Edward Snowden has been revealed as the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations. The 29-year-old source behind the biggest intelligence leak in the NSA's history explains his motives, his uncertain future and why he never intended on hiding
in the shadows
What's most troubling about PRISM isn't that it collects data. It's the type of data it collects. According to the Washington Post report, that includes:
...audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs... [Skype] can be monitored for audio when one end of the call is a conventional telephone, and for any combination of audio, video, chat, and file transfers when Skype
users connect by computer alone. Google's offerings include Gmail, voice and video chat, Google Drive files, photo libraries, and live surveillance of search terms.
The US has filed charges against National Security Agency ( NSA ) whistleblower Edward Snowden in a sealed criminal complaint dated 14 June, according to a court document made public on Friday.
Snowden was charged with theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorised person, the document said.
The Daily Mail is claiming that it has spoken with David Cameron and is speaking of measures to force Google to pro-actively seek out child porn (which
pretty much has already been driven off public facing sections of the net). However as usual, the piece does continually confuses by conflating child porn with 'other illegal porn'.
The Daily Mail writes:
David Cameron is to order Google to ban child pornography from the internet in a bid to prevent further murders like those of Tia Sharp and April Jones.
The Prime Minister last night said it was time for internet firms to stop making excuses for failing to crackdown on disgusting pornography. Google was urged to use the same effort it put into filming virtually every house and street for
Google Earth to help rid the internet of violent and obscene sexual images.
The Prime Minister told The Mail on Sunday last night:
I am sickened by the proliferation of child pornography. It pollutes the internet, twists minds and is quite simply a danger to children. No more excuses: Internet firms will be told to crackdown on vile porn
No more excuses: Internet firms will be told to crackdown on vile porn
Internet companies and search engines make their living by trawling and categorising the web. So I call on them to use their extraordinary technical abilities to do more to root out these disgusting images.
That is why the Government I lead is convening a round-table meeting of the major internet companies, and demanding that more is done.
There are encouraging signs that the industry is willing to step up -- increasing funding and technical support for organisations combating child sexual abuse imagery online. But I want more action.
The time for excuses and blame is over -- we must all work together. The safety of our children is at stake -- and nothing matters more than that.
Google and other internet companies will be told to set up teams of investigators whose sole job will be to trawl the internet 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in search of child pornography and other illegal obscene images -- and remove it.
Anglo-American intelligence scandals, such as the one that preceded the Iraq war, are usually smothered or buried in an endless,
unpublished inquiry. Normal service soon resumes and everyone gets to keep his job. But the issues thrown up by the Guardian's Prism revelations couldn't be more clear-cut. Did GCHQ make use of NSA 's Prism system to bypass British laws and spy on the
public through covert access to internet giants such as Google and Facebook?
All that is needed from William Hague and Theresa May, the ministers who oversee the intelligence agencies, and the head of GCHQ , Sir Iain Lobban, is straight answers about what they knew and who authorised an operation that generated 197 intelligence
reports last year. No obfuscation.
No cover-up. No inquiry yet.
That way, we will know that the proper checks and balances on Britain's intelligence agencies are finally being activated.
Nothing less will do. Assurances from Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the head of the compliant Commons intelligence and security committee, will not be enough, particularly as he has hinted at his support for the mass surveillance proposed in the communications
The Singapore government's plan to register online news sites for state censorship has drawn opposition from online
A group called Free My Internet has organised an online blackout to protest against the Media Development Authority (MDA) requirement for news sites reporting on Singapore at least once a week and with an audience of 50,000, to be licensed .
More than 130 sites consisting of blogs and alternative news outlets are participating in the blackout. Users who access the sites will see nothing but a link to the Free My Internet site and also a message for an actual protest that's set to happen on
June 8 at Singapore's Speakers' Corner .
The Free My Internet group wants the Singapore government to withdraw the Licensing Regime and for the Ministry of Communication and Information (MICA) to undertake a complete review of all media regulation in Singapore, with the aim of
ensuring that the constitutional rights of Singaporeans are not violated .
About 1000 Singaporeans rallied Saturday to protest a new government censorship policy that requires some news websites to obtain licenses. A crowd that gathered at the Speakers' Corner free speech area of a Singapore park listened to bloggers and other
speakers denounce the censorship. One man held a poster that read, Internet censorship: Worst idea ever, while many booed when the names of government officials were spoken.
The rally's chief organizer, Howard Lee, said the demonstrators hope to draw attention to a petition that has more than 4000 signatures demanding the withdrawal of the policy.
Human Rights Watch said in a statement that the new requirement:
casts a chill over the city-state's robust and free-wheeling online communities, and will clearly limit Singaporeans' access to independent media. Singapore is placing its status as a world-class financial center at clear risk by extending its record of
draconian media censorship to the digital world.
A student who tweeted that people wearing Help for Heroes t-shirts deserved to be beheaded after soldier Lee Rigby was killed was arrested after
complaining to police about getting threatening replies, a court heard.
Deyka Ayan Hassan contacted officers after receiving hundreds of vitriolic responses to the message on May 22, including threats to rape her and kill her by burning down her home, Hendon Magistrates' Court heard.
But she was herself later arrested at home after admitting to police she had tweeted as a joke about the design of the item of clothing:
To be honest, if you wear a Help for Heroes t-shirt you deserve to be beheaded
Hassan was ordered to do 250 hours of unpaid work by magistrates, having admitted a charge of sending a malicious electronic message at an earlier hearing.
Chairman of the bench Nigel Orton told her she could have been jailed for what she did but that magistrates accepted she hadn't known it was a soldier who had been killed when she posted it.
More than a hundred gender extremist groups and campaigners have written to the prime minister urging him to make it a criminal offence to possess
pornography depicting rape.
They claim that such material glorifies, trivialises and normalises the abuse of women and girls, and note that both Mark Bridger and Stuart Hazell viewed violent and misogynistic pornography .
Possession of such material is already an offence in Scotland and could be similarly outlawed in England and Wales if the government extended clauses of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, they claim.
Fiona Elvines, a Rape Crisis South London campaigner, claimed:
Permitting the possession of depictions of sexual violence as entertainment glorifies, trivialises and normalises such abuse at a time when government statistics estimate that 85,000 women and girls are raped each year
Professor Clare McGlynn, a campaigner working at Durham University's law school, met Ministry of Justice officials in November to press for the law to be extended. However, her call was not heeded by the ministry, which told her the legal change was not
appropriate or necessary .
A government spokesperson said:
Rape is an abhorrent crime and that is why this government has driven forward significant progress in tackling violence against women and girls. We share the public's concern about the availability of harmful content on the internet and have already
taken steps to ensure there are better online filters to protect children . But we want to look at what more can be done and so the culture secretary has invited internet providers to a summit this month. We will look closely at the issues raised in this
Dave Pearson, from the justice ministry's criminal policy unit, said that there is:
No evidence to show that the creation of staged rape images involves any harm to the participants or causes harm to society at large.
Pearson said that the ministry had asked the Internet Watch Foundation to investigate websites that depict or purport to depict actual rapes . The ministry said it was satisfied that the Internet Watch Foundation had checked a selection of the
hundreds of thousands of videos available online and believed all the content they examined to be staged .
Comment: Evidence-free academia
8th June 2013. Thanks to Alan
Is Professor Clare McGlynn the invention of a satirical genius? She appears to be a self-parody of a victim feminist . I don't have the Guardian
in front of me as I write, but if I remember correctly she insouciantly, if periphrastically, admits there's no evidence to link rape porn with actual rape. (In fact, the Japanese example - rape fantasy prominent in mainstream porn, compliant with mosaic
requirement, and a very low rate of rape - suggests the opposite.)
What sort of academic demands that people be flung in jail with no evidential basis to show their actions are harmful? (Note - PEOPLE, not just men. If Prof McGlynn gets her way, I await with lively interest the first prosecution of a woman, especially
if the rape porn is lesbian.)
What sort of academic whinges when a refereed journal is established to take a less biased look at porn because the editorial board isn't made up of anti-porners?
The message of the Dangerous Pictures Act so far is to be careful what you wish for. During its passage, the silence from gay men was deafening. What had they to fear from legislation to protect women from straight male fantasies? They certainly didn't
want to be associated with animal porn (even if until recently the most serious crime with which they could be charged, buggery, also included bestiality). Then the boys in blue arrest a prominent gay figure, an aide to Boris Johnson, over a flick with a
bit of fisting.
We are writing to you regarding news that you have summoned internet companies to a meeting about how they deal with illegal or extreme content online.
As representatives of civil society groups focused on freedoms in the digital age, we are very concerned about changes to the law or industry practices that involve restrictions on access to information online. The powers to make decisions about what
people are allowed to see and do on the Internet are significant and must be treated with extreme care. There are particular problems when governments expect or require companies to police online content.
An understandable desire to ensure a safer environment online can easily lead to overreaching or unaccountable powers or practices. Through mistakes or abuse these can quickly lead to restrictions on far too much content and undue infringements of
people's privacy. For example, mobile networks' Internet filtering in the UK routinely over blocks the websites of shops, political blogs or community sites. In Australia, it has emerged that 250,000 websites were accidentally blocked when a government
agency tried to take down sites allegedly involved with fraud. The UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression Frank La Rue highlighted his grave concerns about these problems in his 2011 report.
Poorly implemented fixes will not only inhibit freedoms in the UK. They will also set a very damaging precedent internationally, providing more cover for States whose interests in restricting access to information online or the surveillance of citizens
is more sinister. This was emphasised by the Foreign Secretary William Hague at the London Cyberspace Conference in 2011.
As representatives of leading UK civil society groups, we would therefore request that we are present at the forthcoming summit to ensure these concerns are addressed.
Jo Glanville, Director, English PEN
Kirsty Hughes, Chief Executive, Index on Censorship
Jim Killock, Executive Director, Open Rights Group
Nick Pickles, Executive Director, Big Brother Watch
The Telegraph has disclosed that several leading media firms, including telecom companies, have privately requested that responsibility
for policy in their area be returned to the Business Department.
Culture Secretary Maria Miller is apparently regarded as one of the Cabinet's weakest performers and is under investigation for abusing her expenses.
The Daily Mail also recently published a lengthy article questioning Miller's worth in the wake of the Government's botched handling of media regulation.
One Whitehall source said:
There is a growing feeling that the culture department is not looking fit for purpose. The creative industries are absolutely vital to the economy yet they are basically being let down. This is something which has been brought up by the Chancellor
several times in Cabinet.
The Telegraph has learnt that under plans being discussed in Whitehall, responsibility for media policy may be returned to the Business Department. The move would prove controversial as it would leave the Culture department so small that there would be
little point in it remaining -- and the Cabinet would lose one of its few female ministers. Some senior Conservatives are privately arguing that her entire department should be disbanded and its duties handed to other, better-rated ministers.
TalkTalk - it would seem - has blazed an unlikely trail for Britain's big name ISPs by being the first telco to switch on network level
filtering of web content. Now, after many months resisting the urge to apply such controls to their services, the other major providers - BSkyB, Virgin Media and BT - have all decided to follow suit.
Your correspondent recently chaired an Internet Service Providers' Association event at which the panel and audience discussed how effective current measures were in protecting children online. The confab proved revealing - with BT and Virgin Media
publicly stating for the first time that they too would be introducing network-level filters on their services later this year.
The culture secretary, Maria Miller, has summoned the big internet companies to discuss the proliferation of, and easy access to,
pornographic and politically extremist content on the web.
Miller has invited companies, including Google and Facebook, to a meeting on 17 June to hear what they are doing to police content and to push for a co-ordinated approach.
The culture secretary's aides said she was acting in response to concern over the Woolwich killing and the discovery of child abuse images on the computer of Mark Bridge.
In a letter to the internet companies, Miller cites concerns, seemingly based on the bollox claims by Amanda Platell in the Daily Mail:
Access to illegal pornographic content, the proliferation of extremist material which might incite racial or religious hatred, or the ongoing battle against online copyright theft.
It is clear that dangerous, highly offensive, unlawful and illegal material is available through basic search functions and I believe that many popular search engines, websites and ISPs could do more to prevent the dissemination of such material. Greater
efforts need to be made to prevent the uploading, downloading and sharing of harmful material. Effective technological solutions have to be developed -- and deployed -- to minimise the harm done to businesses and consumers.
Your organisation plays a key role in terms of how individuals access online content -- and has serious public responsibilities as a result of this position. A relatively small number of organisations wield a great deal of online power -- and I believe
that with that power comes a great responsibility.
A communications white paper is due to be published shortly and it is clear that Miller is willing to use legal backstops to force the internet companies to do more.
China is reported to be trying to be more subtle in its internet censorship and is trying to hide it a bit.
In the past, a search for keywords in China related to the events of June 4, 1989 at Tiananmen Square, came up with a message saying:
According to relevant laws, regulations and policies, search results for Tiananmen Square can not be displayed.
GreatFire.org said in the lead up to the anniversary of the massacre certain searches, such as June 4 incident , had been intermittently returning a series of carefully selected results , though it was impossible to click through to the
actual webpages. GreatFire.org said searches for Tiananmen incident returned links to an unrelated happening in the square from 1976.
The organisation said this was an example of censorship at its worst , with users duped into believing the keyword they were searching for was not a sensitive topic. It said the changes were not applied consistently, concluding that the
authorities were conducting tests on the new approach.