The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee has published a report covering a wide range of internet crime issues. This includes a couple of paragraphs calling for broad brush internet censorship:
We are deeply concerned that it is still too easy for people to access inappropriate online content, particularly indecent images of children, terrorism incitement and sites informing people how to commit online crime. There is no excuse for complacency.
We urge those responsible to take stronger action to remove such content. We reiterate our recommendation that the Government should draw up a mandatory code of conduct with internet companies to remove material which breaches acceptable behavioural
We note those companies that donate to the Internet Watch Foundation, and encourage them to increase their contributions. Additionally, we recommend that the Government should look at setting up a similar organisation focused on reporting and removing
online terrorist content.
We are concerned to note the Minister's assertion that off the shelf hacking software is increasingly available to untrained criminals and recommend the Government funds a law enforcement team which is focused on disrupting supply.
More than 1,700 cases involving supposedly abusive messages sent online or via text message reached Britain's courts in 2012, the BBC has learned
following a Freedom of Information request.
This is a 10% increase on the figures for 2011, according to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
Nearly 600 charges were brought between January and May 2013..
The revelations come as police say they are investigating abusive tweets sent to MP Stella Creasy. This has resulted in pressure 'to do something' about abusive messages sent via Twitter.
Del Harvey, Twitter's senior director of trust and safety, blogged that the micro-messaging platform would extend the report tweet function, already available on its iPhone app, to Android phones and desktops.
Andy Trotter, chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers' communications advisory group told BBC Radio 4's The World At One:
They need to take responsibility as do the other platforms to deal with this at source and make sure these things do not carry on. They need to make it easier for victims to report these matters and, from a police perspective, they need to know that they
can report these things to us.
A Change.org petition calling for Twitter to add a report abuse button to its service has attracted more than 71,000 supporters.
The question for Twitter is how, having made it easier for people to report abusive tweets, it will cope with the expected flood of reports.
Bradley Manning , the source of the massive WikiLeaks trove of secret disclosures, has been convicted of most charges on which he stood trial.
Colonel Denise Lind, the military judge presiding over the court martial of the US soldier, delivered her verdict in curt and pointed language. Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, she repeated over and over, as the reality of a prolonged prison
sentence for Manning dawned.
The one ray of light in an otherwise bleak outcome for Manning was that he was found not guilty of the single most serious charge against him, that he knowingly aided the enemy . the soldier was found guilty in their entirety of 17 out of the 22
counts against him, and of an amended version of four others.
WikiLeaks and Julian Assange were mentioned repeatedly during the trial by the US government which tried to prove that the anti-secrecy organisation had directly steered Manning in his leaking activities, an allegation strongly denied by the accused.
Prosecutors drew heavily on still classified web conversations between Manning and an individual going by the name of Press Association , whom the government alleges was Assange.
Reporters Without Borders condemned the 35-year prison sentence meted out today to U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning on charges including 10 counts of espionage and theft .
Reporters Without Borders expressed the hope that the sentence will be reversed on appeal. The press freedom organization said:
Following the targeting of Edward Snowden , the disproportionate sentence for Manning hits hard at whistleblowers and shows how vulnerable they are. The Army is sending a clear message to them and to all journalists who dare to report whistleblowers'
disclosures: the United States will strike back severely at anyone who uncovers information of public interest concerning the exercise of official powers.
The sentence strikes a blow against American democracy, in which the press must be free to report government abuses.
Russian Duma Deputy Yelena Mizulina intends to make further amendments to the censorship Law on the supposed Protection of Children.
The chairwoman of the Committee on Family, Women and Children put forward a proposal to punish people for using 'dirty language' in social networks.
According to politician, posts and messages containing swear words, will have to be blocked within 24 hours, if 'harmful' information is not deleted. This should apply to pages on social networks, websites, and various forums.
Mizulina claims that children can begin to see profanity as a norm. The proposal was up for discussion on July 30th.
Everyone agrees that we should try to protect children from harmful content. But asking everyone to sleepwalk into censorship does more harm than good.
Filters won't stop children seeing adult content and risks giving parents a false sense of security. It will stop people finding advice on sexual health, sexuality and relationships. This isn't just about pornography. Filters will block any site deemed
unsuitable for under 18s.
What are the problems with switching on adult filtering by default?
"Set it and forget it" is the wrong message to send to parents. Filters will not stop children seeing adult content.
Adult filters will not just block pornography. They also restrict access to sites deemed unsuitable for under 18s including information on alcohol and other drugs, forums, YouTube and controversial political views.
When adults filters are in place, mistakes are made. Adult filtering can stop people accessing crucial advice on sexual health, sexuality and relationships.
Adult filtering amounts to censoring legal content. The UK would be the only modern democratic society to do this. This sets a terrible example to other countries with interests in suppressing information.
Microsoft has introduced a pop-up warning on its Bing search engine that tells UK users that they are searching for illegal child abuse images. Yahoo will also introduce them in the coming weeks, but Google has no plans to.
Microsoft announced that anyone using its search engine to look for material that shows the sexual abuse of children will trigger the Bing Notification Platform message warning that tells them the content they are looking for is against the law. The
notification will provide a link to a counselling service.
A Microsoft spokesman said:
If someone in the UK tries to use search terms on Bing which can only indicate they are looking for illegal child abuse content, they will activate the Bing Notification Platform which will produce an on-screen notification telling them that child abuse
content is illegal. The notification will also contain a link to Stopitnow.org who will be able to provide them with counselling.
The Bing Notification Platform is triggered by search terms on a list provided by the The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).
Christian campaigner and Conservative MP Claire Perry has told the Church of England to pull its money out of Google in a bid to force the company
to take a stronger line over pornographic and child abuse images she claims are widely available through its search engine.
She told The Daily Telegraph:
It is quite clear that many companies, in particular British ISPs, are finally now taking a really responsible approach to this. They are seeing that we want a level of social responsibility. There are others out there who have not got that attitude.
They (the Church of England and other investors) have a role to play, they have questions to ask themselves. They are moral leaders.
Her demands follow the Archbishop of Canterbury's pledge to to review the Church's investment strategy, after very embarrassing revelations that it has holdings in firms that profit from payday lending.
In the name of pressurising organisations to do more about child abuse, then perhaps the church should also pull its investment from religious organisations too. And it's not as if political organisations are a paragon of virtue either. In fact it makes
one wonder if there is anything that passes muster as totally ethically correct.
Please give a big hand (up the arse, naturally) for Dave, the Gutter Press Glove Puppet.
It's astounding! All Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre has to do is wiggle his fingers and Dave obeys his every command!
The Daily Mail writer, Jan Moir, asks:
David Cameron has been mocked for his proposals that all households will have to opt out of automatic porn filters. From next year, the filters would come as standard with internet broadband and cover all devices in a home.
Those who want porn will have to tick the box marked naughty, very naughty and ouch, that's gotta hurt.
No doubt the family-friendly porn sifter will lead to some awkward discussions between husbands and wives making a joint decision. Shall we, shan't we, darling? You mean you didn't even realise that I did?
Possession of the most extreme forms of adult pornography will become an offence, while online content will have the same restrictions as DVDs sold in sex shops.
Something to cheer? A step in the right direction? You would think so.
Yet some, particularly on the Left, dismiss Cameron's plans as an example of the nanny state running wild, spoiling all the fun, taking away our porny freedoms. Others huff that the Prime Minister is a philistine and that his imbecilic plans will censor
The Guardian is continuing its quest to become the new Daily Mail. Deborah Orr takes inspiration from the Daily Mail's Jan Moir:
A roar of libertarian outrage greeted David Cameron's announcement this week that the government was going to talk to internet service providers about installing opt-in rather than opt-out filters for pornography , as if computer access to hot and cold
running arousal aids was some kind of basic human right. Is this really such a big deal?
Comment: Jan Moir's scaremongering about children and pornography makes things worse, not better
Meanwhile the Telegraph does a little fact checking on some of the 'evidence' offered by Jan Moir:.
I was shocked. No, scratch that... I was shocked and appalled to discover that 11-year-olds are addicted to internet porn and that an academic study has confirmed the epidemic. I was also grateful to Jan Moir for highlighting the issue in a column that
castigates those on the Left and Right who have criticised the Government's plans for internet filters. She writes: A study conducted last year by Plymouth University warned that 11-year-old boys were becoming addicted to internet porn. And after
regularly viewing hard-core pornography at an early age, children go on to develop unrealistic or warped expectations of sex... As impertinent as it may be for me to question such a respected expert in the field of public indignation, I decided to
seek out the study.
Reading the executive summary, I was shocked for a second time to discover that it said the exact opposite of what Moir had suggested.
The adult content blocking system championed by David Cameron is controlled by the controversial Chinese company Huawei, the BBC has learned.
UK-based employees at the firm are able to decide which sites TalkTalk's service blocks.
Politicians in both the UK and US have raised concerns about alleged close ties between Huawei and the Chinese government.
Even customers who do not want filtering still have their traffic routed through the system, but matches to Huawei's database are dismissed rather than acted upon.
One expert insisted that private companies should not hold power over blacklists, and that the responsibility should lie with an independent group. Dr Martyn Thomas, chair of the IT policy panel at the Institution of Engineering and Technology,
told the BBC:
It needs to be run by an organisation accountable to a minister so it can be challenged in Parliament,
There's certainly a concern about the process of how a web address gets added to a blacklist - who knows about it, and who has an opportunity to appeal against it.
You could easily imagine a commercial organisation finding itself on that blacklist wrongly, and where they actually lost a lot of web traffic completely silently and suffered commercial damage. The issue is who gets to choose who's on that blocking
list, and what accountability do they have? 'Policing themselves'
Huawei's position was recently the subject of an Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) report. It criticised the lack of ministerial oversight over the firm's rapid expansion in the UK. The committee said:
The alleged links between Huawei and the Chinese State are concerning, as they generate suspicion as to whether Huawei's intentions are strictly commercial or are more political.
In the US, intelligence committees have gone further, branding Huawei a threat to national security.
Initially, TalkTalk told the BBC that it was US security firm Symantec that was responsible for maintaining its blacklist, and that Huawei only provided the hardware, as previously reported. However, Symantec said that while it had been in a joint
venture with Huawei to run Homesafe in its early stages, it had not been involved for over a year.
TalkTalk later confirmed it is Huawei that monitors activity, checking requests against its blacklist of over 65 million web addresses, and denying access if there is a match.
The contents of this list are largely determined by an automated process, but both Huawei and TalkTalk employees are able to add or remove sites independently.
After brief conversations with some of the ISPs that will be implementing the UK's "pornwall" we've established a little bit about what it will be doing.
The essential detail is that they will assume you want filters enabled across a wide range of content, and unless you un-tick the option, network filters will be enabled. As we've said repeatedly, it's not just about hardcore pornography.
You'll encounter something like this:
(1) Screen one
Do you want to install / enable parental controls
[ticked box] yes
[unticked box] no
(2) Screen two [if you have left the box on screen 1 ticked]
Do you want to block
[ticked box] pornography
[ticked box] violent material
[ticked box] extremist and terrorist related content
[ticked box] anorexia and eating disorder websites
[ticked box] suicide related websites
[ticked box] alcohol
[ticked box] smoking
[ticked box] web forums
[ticked box] esoteric material
[ticked box] web blocking circumvention tools
You can opt back in at any time
The precise pre-ticked options may vary from service to service.
What's clear here is that David Cameron wants people to sleepwalk into censorship. We know that people stick with defaults: this is part of the idea behind 'nudge theory' and 'choice architecture' that is popular with Cameron.
The implication is that filtering is good, or at least harmless, for anyone, whether adult or child. Of course, this is not true; there's not just the question of false positives for web users, but the affect on a network economy of excluding a
proportion of a legitimate website's audience.
There comes a point that it is simply better to place your sales through Amazon and ebay, and circulate your news and promotions exclusively through Facebook and Twitter, as you know none of these will ever be filtered.
Meanwhile ISPs face the unenviable customer relations threat of increased complaints as customers who hadn't paid much attention find websites unexpectedly blocked.
Just as bad, filters installed with no thought cannot be expected to set appropriately for children of different ages.
A new ASA survey commissioned to find out what ads young people see and engage with online, and whether those ads stick to the UK
advertising rules, suggests that the majority of young people are registering on sites using false ages.
Our research set out to help us understand better what ads children see when they use social media. It shows that advertisers are acting in good faith by taking account of the registered age of social media account holders when
delivering their ads. However, as a result of registering under a false age, many of the children in our survey were presented with ads for age-restricted products including for gambling, alcohol, slimming aids and overtly sexual dating services.
In summary, our survey reveals that:
All but four of the 24 children aged between 11 and 15 who participated registered on a social media site using a false age.
10 participants (42% of children) were falsely registered as aged 18 or over
Of the 218 ads served to those registered as over 18, 24 (11%) were for products that must not be directed at people under 18 through the selection of media or the context in which they appear
Nine participants were aged below the permitted age of registration on at least one social media site
Of the 427 ads the children saw in total, 420, or 98.4%, stuck to the rules
None of the age-restricted ads contained content that set out to appeal particularly to children.
We'll be presenting these findings to our Council with a view to exploring whether we need to take a tighter line on age-restricted ads in social media or if further research in this area would be helpful. We're also drawing this to
the attention of the Advertising Code writing body, the Committee of Advertising Practice, and asking whether new guidance for advertisers on targeting ads online is needed.
Our report clearly asks questions of social media owners around the effectiveness of age-verification and whether enough is being done to prevent children from accessing age-restricted content on social media sites. We will be
raising these issues with social media companies.
Claire Perry acts as David Cameron's Mary Whitehouse, pushing for internet censorship in the name of 'protecting the children'.
Well her website was recently hacked and defaced with links to pornographic images.
When Guido Fawkes, a reporter and blogger, wrote about it on his website, Perry took to Twitter to ludicrously accuse him of sponsoring the hack, and publicly announced that she would be speaking to his editor at the Sun (Fawkes has a column with
the tabloid) to punish him for writing about her embarrassment.
She was way out of her depth in speaking about technical details of the hack that it makes her appointment as internet censorship adviser seem very dodgy.
The accusations that Guido Fawkes had something to do with the hacking has led the blogger to consider taking her to court.
Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing noted of her conduct:
When a powerful politician threatens to get journalists fired for reporting inconvenient news, she abuses her office and acts as a public bully. Perry is perfectly awful in every single way, and has committed a major ethical breach, as well as likely
violating Britain's (ridiculous) libel laws.
Offsite Comment: I'm Sorry to Have to Say This, But It Should Not Be a Crime to Fantasise About Raping a Woman
In a civilised society, we recognise that a distinction must be made between what people think and what people do. We insist that while it is very often legitimate to punish people for their actions - particularly their violent actions - it is
unacceptable to punish them for their thoughts and their fantasies, however perverse they might be.
Offsite Comment: Please, Prime Minister, do your porn research
David Cameron is using a legitimate crusade against child abuse images to infiltrate policy on adult content per se, while demonstrating that he doesn't understand either what porn is, or how the internet works.
On the Jeremy Vine show this lunchtime, the PM demonstrated just how ignorant he is. Vine quite simply asked Cameron to define pornography. He couldn't -- or wouldn't -- and told Vine that that was up to the internet service providers to decide .
So the Prime Minister wants to block access to something he can't even relay in layman's terms, and expects global businesses and millions of adults up and down the country to agree to this undemocratic, miasmic proposal. (Did we really democratically
elect this man? Well, I didn't -- but someone must have).
Daily Mail Dave is facing criticisms and serious questions over how his plan for automatic internet porn filters in every
British home would work.
The former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre (CEOP), Jim Gamble, said Cameron's plan to tackle child abuse images by removing results from search engines like Google would be laughed at by paedophiles:
There are 50,000 predators...downloading abusive images on peer-to-peer, not from Google. Yet from CEOP intelligence only 192 were arrested last year. That's simply not good enough.
We've got to attack the root cause, invest with new money, real investment in child protection teams, victim support and policing on the ground. Let's create a real deterrent. Not a pop-up that paedophiles will laugh at.
In interviews after his speech, Cameron seemed unclear of exactly which legal sites should be banned by the new filters - and accepted that the technology still had weaknesses. Speaking on the BBC's Jeremy Vine programme, Cameron said what would be
included in the filters would evolve over time:
The companies themselves are going to design what is automatically blocked, but the assumption is they will start with blocking pornographic sites and also perhaps self-harming sites
It will depend on how the companies choose how to do it. It doesn't mean, for instance, it will block access to a newspaper like The Sun, it wouldn't block that - but it would block pornography.
Cameron said he did not believe written pornography, such as erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey, would be blocked under the plans. But he added: It will depend on how the filters work.
He also admitted it could lead to some interesting conversations in families. Asked if the opt in system meant a husband would have to fess up to his partner if he wanted to look at porn, he finally said: Yes, it does. He then added:
I'm not saying we've thought of everything and there will be many problems down the line as we deal with this, but we're trying to crunch through these problems and work out what you can do and can't do.
Cameron was even attacked by one of his former female MPs, Louise Mensch, for attempting to ban video containing rape simulation. She suggested such fantasies were common in more than half of all women. She wrote on Twitter:
It is not for our government to police consensual simulation, between adults, of one of women's most common fantasies,
Padraig Reidy, of the Index on Censorship, said people should not have to opt out of the filters:
If we have, as the Prime Minister is suggesting, an opt-out filter we have a kind of default censorship in place.
Families should be able to choose if they want to opt in to censorship. If a filter is set up as a default then it can really restrict what people can see legitimately. Sites about sexual health, about sexuality and so on, will get caught up in the same
filters as pornography. It will really restrict people's experience on the web, including children's.
Dr Paul Bernal, from the University of East Anglia's law school, suggested Cameron's crackdown on child abuse images was also inadequate:
Plans like these, worthy though they may appear, do not, to me, seem likely to be in any way effective. The real 'bad guys' will find ways around them, the material will still exist, will keep being created, and we'll pretend to have solved the problem
-- and at the same time put in a structure to allow censorship, create a deeply vulnerable database of 'untrustworthy people', and potentially alienate many of the most important companies on the internet. I'm not convinced it's a good idea.
A meeting to discuss supposedly blasphemous material and the ban on YouTube turned into an exchange of abuse as the Pakistan Telecom Authority lobbed
the issue in the court of parliament, asking legislators to pass a new law and create a new set-up to decide what is blasphemous.
After witnessing nasty scenes in the official meeting, the PTA proposed to the government to enact new laws through parliament for establishing an independent department having the mandate as well as the authority to block access of such links on the
The PTA feel pressure from all sides as the Government pushes for an end to the ban even though supposed blasphemy continues to be available. They clearly do not like being asked to make the decisions about the impasse and would rather someone else did
it. Official sources explained:
No one is ready to take responsibility for opening up of YouTube as the PTA is just executing the orders of the Inter-Ministerial Committee and orders of other top officials. We have proposed to the government to table a bill in parliament and establish
an independent forum having the authority to define the blasphemy material and then impose ban on it.
There is nothing in the PTA act authorising a ban on YouTube and it has been done so far on the directives of the inter-ministerial committee or the court orders. Without introducing a dedicated censor, the issue of blasphemous material on the internet
cannot be resolved, they added.
Official sources who attended the meeting told The News that representatives of an NGO, Bytes for All, accused the top officials of the PTA in the presence of several stakeholders saying you are a liar and threatened to fix them. I have never
seen such a disgusting attitude during an official meeting in my whole life, a participant of the meeting said.
The year-long saga of the Pakistan government's YouTube ban has just taken another twist, as a case to unblock the website has been referred to a panel of Lahore High Court justices who will now decide whether the country's haphazard internet censorship
regime is unconstitutional. It's another reprieve for the government's IT minister Anusha Rehman , who has overseen an increasingly oppressive online censorship regime in Pakistan.
Back on May, following up the conviction of Stuart Hazell for the murder of 12 year old Tia Sharp, Amanda Platell of the
Daily Mail wrote a piece
claiming that child porn could be readily found using Google search terms that were noted in the trial.
Of course it was all bollox and the 'child porn' noted by Platell was found
to be a commercial adult video. The supposed 'child' was either 18 or 19 depending on which month her birthday fell. Her age was properly recorded and is available for checking as required by US law.
But the damage was already done and Daily Mail readers and campaigners were easily convinced by Platell's bollox piece. And so a new evil was born, easy to find child porn just waiting to be revealed by a few search terms in Google.
And now it appears that David Cameron was one of those who believes everything he reads in the Daily Mail.
In a press release David Cameron announced a series of censorship measures to placate the Daily Mail and its readers.
All internet users will be contacted by their service providers and given an unavoidable choice on whether to use website blocking. The changes will be introduced by the end of next year. As a first step, the system will be mandated for new
customers by the end of 2013. The subscriber making the choices will be subject to age verification and further updates to the blocking options may only be made by the account holder.
Website blocking to be applied to all new mobile phones
Prohibited possession of extreme pornography will be extended to scenes of simulated rape.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) is to draw up a blacklist of 'abhorrent' internet search terms to supposedly prevent paedophiles searching for illegal material.
All police forces will work with a single secure database of illegal images of children.
Videos streamed online are to be subject to the same R18 censorship rules as those sold in shops.
There will be stronger powers for watchdogs to investigate the hidden internet -- heavily encrypted forums and pages that allow abusers to cover their tracks
Adult content will be banned on public WiFi
Ofcom to oversee this implementation of these measures.
In a separate move, Twitter is to use Microsoft's PhotoDNA system to check all uploaded pictures against a database of known child abuse images.
Cameron will say:
There are certain types of pornography that can only be described as 'extreme' ... that is violent, and that depicts simulated rape. These images normalise sexual violence against women -- and they are quite simply poisonous to the young people who see
The government today has made a significant step forward in preventing rapists using rape pornography to legitimise and strategise their crimes and, more broadly, in challenging the eroticisation of violence against women and girls.
I have a very clear message for Google, Bing, Yahoo and the rest. You have a duty to act on this -- and it is a moral duty. If there are technical obstacles to acting on [search engines], don't just stand by and say nothing can be done; use your great
brains to help overcome them.
You're the people who have worked out how to map almost every inch of the Earth from space; who have developed algorithms that make sense of vast quantities of information. Set your greatest brains to work on this. You are not separate from our society,
you are part of our society, and you must play a responsible role in it.
We are already looking at the legislative options we have. This is quite simply about obliterating this disgusting material from the net -- and we will do whatever it takes.'
Offsite Comment: Cameron becomes a bit of an embarrassment on the world stage
Cameron's Bizarre Warning To Google, Bing and Yahoo Over Child Pornography
There are times when I'm not sure that the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, actually understands this technology stuff. An example is this threat in a TV interview in England today. He's huffing and puffing that if the search engine companies don't
do what they're told then they'll be forced to by law.
The Norwegian 'Justice' Ministry is preparing to ban all forms of advertising of sexual services on websites. The ministry is working on the censorship law
with the aim to promote a bill to the Parliament in the autumn.
Police inspector Vegard Munthe Ommdal claimed on TV2:
We primarily want to prevent human trafficking and pimping. And online advertising is a very important part of the business,
Ommdal thinks advertising on the internet must be seen as promoting someone else's prostitution.
Dr Julian Huppert MP saw off his party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg MP to win the Internet Hero Award at the 15th ISPA
The winner was decided by ISPA Council, who wanted to commend Dr Huppert for his tireless campaigning against the Communications Data Bill and for being one of the few MPs who truly understands the internet. As well as the Deputy Prime Minister, he beat
PRISM whistle-blower Edward Snowden and cyber-security experts Spamhaus to claim the prize.
This year's Internet Villain is Recep Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister . In recent unrest he called social media a menace to society and has an extensive record of censorship, online surveillance and blocking. ISPA Council recognised
many states do this, however Turkey should set an example in the region.
Both the Hero and Villain shortlists were dominated by state surveillance, a huge issue for the internet industry and society over the last year. The Home Secretary Rt Hon Theresa May MP was nominated for the overly broad draft Communications Data Bill,
also known as the snooper's charter and the American PRISM programme also featuring. Bluecoat who have been selling surveillance software to unfavourable regimes were also nominated.
ISPA Secretary General Nicholas Lansman said:
The Hero & Villain Awards have been part of the ISPAs since the first awards in 1999, and Julian Huppert is a worthy Hero, being sometimes a lone voice advocating the importance of the internet in parliament. Recep Erdogan also deserves his
award for the way he has prevented his citizens expressing themselves online he continued.
Over the past few weeks the Government has held meetings with Internet companies about child protection online. These are designed to prompt more more action to protect children, on the assumption that these companies could and should be doing more.
Sadly the Government has seemed keen to appear as if they are taking tough action, and not so keen on thinking carefully about what their action should be.
Policy makers who are pushing for more Internet filtering for child protection do not take the related practical and technical questions seriously. They tend to throw about ideas for technical interventions such as internet filtering without considering
how these would work, or what unintended consequences they might have.
They simply want more done. What that more is, or what it will achieve, seems to be an irrelevant detail. This is despite the Government having run a consultation last year, after which they settled on a fairly reasonable policy of helping
parents make the right choices about filtering. They seem determined to edge towards a stricter default on regime.
We have seen no evidence that during the meetings with internet companies the Government has taken account of any of the broader public policy questions related to the implementation of Internet filtering systems. Along with Index on Censorship, English
PEN and Big Brother Watch, we wrote to the Culture Secretary Maria Miller asking her to invite us to the discussions so these issues could be raised. The Department has subsequently set up a meeting between us and the Minister Ed Vaizey MP.
The details are very important. Internet filtering can easily block more content than it is designed to -- for example, if people do not understand what is being blocked and why, or if sites are incorrectly categorised. People may also easily get around
blocking. It can give people a false sense of security. Making Internet filtering fit multiple devices, ages or beliefs within a household or other setting is almost impossible. And there are other consequences, such as the speed of access or an impact
on privacy where traffic or blocking events are logged.
That's why we are putting these questions to ISPs. We will be sending the questions and replies to the relevant policy makers, and will hope to explain to them why we think these are important questions.
Twenty questions for ISPs on Internet filtering systems
A. On how the technology works
Under the Internet filtering system set up following discussions with the Government about online safety and child protection:
1. Is any traffic of users who are not opted in to filtering inspected and / or logged? If so, is it logged in a way that links the traffic to a subscriber? What logging will there be of blocking events? How does this work?
2. Is filtering applied to all forms of connection offered by the ISP (dialup, ADSL, cable, fast fibre connections etc)?
3. Have you estimated the impact of the through-put of filtering technology on the speed of users' internet access (both for those who are opted in and opted out)?
4. We are concerned about the impact on Internet applications in general as well as web traffic. Does filtering take place only of HTTP traffic on port 80, or will other traffic be affected? What steps will be taken to avoid interfering with non-HTTP
traffic on port 80, for example non-HTTP applications that use this port in order to bypass firewall restrictions?
5. What impact does the filtering have on end-to-end security measures such as SSL or DNSSEC?
6. Can you guarantee that your networks will not be susceptible to mistaken blocking as a result of using specific IP addresses for forwarding filtered traffic, for example as seemed to happen in a case involving Wikipedia ?
7. Have you made any estimates on the impact of filtering systems on infrastructure upgrades?
B. On setting up the filtering
8. Are users faced with pre-ticked boxes when choosing to activate filtering? What is the impact on customers who do not have access to or who do not use a web browsers on a network such as a home broadband connection that is only used for Smart TV video
on demand applications? (ie who will not be presented with a web-based set up screen?)
9. How granular are the available choices? Will a household be able to cater for:
a. Multiple ages or a variety of beliefs? b. Can specific sites be unblocked by a user?
10. Have you done user-testing for your opt-in systems?
11. What information about the filtering is available at the point of sign up? Does it include:
a. Detailed information about what types of content are blocked, with examples? b. The providers of their filtering tools, if a third party is involved? c. Information about the possible problems with and limitations of blocking, with information about
how to report problems?
12. What age-verification processes will be in place? How will this work?
13. Is a customer's decision not to activate filtering a one-off decision, or will it have to be periodically repeated?
C. On managing problems and mistakes
14. When a site is blocked, what information is supplied to the end-user about why and how it has been blocked?
15. Are there easy ways to report mistaken blocks, either over-blocking or under-blocking? Are these clear when users encounter a block?
16. Are there easy ways for people to check if URLs are blocked, and will this include a reporting tool for requesting corrections and reclassifications?
17. How will complaints, from both your subscribers and from owners of sites that are blocked, be dealt with?
a. Are there plans in place to train customer service staff for dealing with these reports? b. Are there targets for dealing with mistakes in a timely manner, or estimates of how long responding to and correcting mistakes will take? c. Will you share
error reports and corrections with other ISPs?
18. Have you specified acceptable error rates to suppliers of filtering services? If so, what are they?
19. Have you sought legal opinions relating to liability for incorrect blocks, including both false positives and false negatives? Do you have plans to offer compensation for businesses harmed by blocking errors, for example when potential customers are
unable to access the site?
20. Are there or will there be systematic reviews of the effectiveness and quality of filtering, including reporting on problems and complaints? Is there a process for review and improvement? Is there or will there be an ombudsman or other oversight body
to handle disputes and review performance?
The UK High Court has been handing out website blocking injunctions regularly in recent months but despite the supposed transparency of the legal system,
obtaining copies of the injunctions has proved impossible.
Now the Open Rights Group is putting pressure on the Court in the hope of being able to publish the content of injunctions for open analysis.
Although controversial, the reasons why sites such as The Pirate Bay, KickassTorrents and Movie2K are being blocked are now clear. Once ISPs have actual knowledge that their services are being used by their subscribers to infringe copyright, they
are put on notice by the High Court to block the sites in question.
However, it has become somewhat tiresome to learn that when injunctions are handed down by the High Court to ISPs, they appear to fall into some kind of informational black hole -- fitting perhaps for a document authorizing censorship.
To try and find out what these injunctions contain TorrentFreak previously spoke with one of the leading ISPs who assured us that the documents aren't actually secret. However, when we requested a copy we were told that they couldn't send us one and we
would have to go to the Court instead. No luck there -- and the BPI weren't exactly forthcoming either.
Now the Open Rights Group is reporting that it too has been trying to get to the bottom of the website injunction blackout. ORG's Jim Killock says everyone could benefit from their publication. Accountability, fewer errors and less confusion about
what is happening should be the result, he says.
Killock reveals that ORG has also asked ISPs to cooperate but they too have been met with reluctance. Possibly [the ISPs] feel that copyright owners asking for the orders may find publication by an ISP provocative. This means we are obliged to ask the
courts for the documents, in order that we can publish and analyse their contents, he explains.
But ORG found that the courts didn't want to help either, turning down the group's requests to view the injunctions. They have done this because, they say, 'judgement has not been entered' or 'service has not been acknowledged'. At present the rules
governing access to court documents only permit access to these orders as of right once the litigation has finished, Killock explains. The courts seem to be treating blocking injunctions as if they were like temporary injunctions made while
proceedings are still going on. In fact the injunctions are the end of the section 97A process. Nothing more is intended to happen.
With this in mind, ORG have applied to have a procedural judge review the group's requests in order to gain access, at least in the first instance, to the injunctions issued to the ISPs against Fenopy, H33t and KickassTorrents.
Yes, but there are a few things we need you to consider. Tumblr welcomes and encourages all forms of expression. However, we have to be sensitive to the millions of readers and bloggers from different locations, cultures, and backgrounds with different
points of view concerning mature or adult-oriented content. There are a lot of people in our community who would rather not see this stuff and could even get in trouble if they did!
What should I do if my blog contains adult-oriented content?
Please respect the choices of people in our community and flag your blog as NSFW or Adult from your blog Settings page.
NSFW blogs contain occasional nudity or mature/adult-oriented content.
Adult blogs contain substantial nudity or mature/adult-oriented content.
If you're not sure how you should flag your blog you can leave it unflagged, but keep in mind that it may be flagged automatically.
Adult sites will be hidden from Tumblr search and 3rd party searches
Well the idea of totally ejecting adult sites from searches, both internal to Tumblir and on Google, is a disaster for bloggers and they soon let Tumblr know.
Tumblr, seemingly admitting to woeful foresight of their announcement have rapidly backtracked. The answer seems to be to scrap the 'adult' option (except for spammy sites designated by Tumblr). So all adult sites can now be designated as NSFW. Searches
are then blocked only to those using 'safe' search.
Of course given two rapid policy changes already, then nothing can be taken for sure.
Ireland's overnment will not ask local ISPs to block pornography on home broadband connections, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte has said. This is
despite support for the British position from some child-welfare campaigners in Ireland. Rabbitte said:
This isn't something that's being prioritised by the Government here.
Illegality is different and if we see an effective strategy against that on our neighbouring island then we might look at that. But as it is, it's not something we're focusing on as a priority.
His view has been welcomed by Irish Internet Service Provider (ISP) firms and their representatives.
Happy Breaking Fast with Bak Kut Teh (a pork dish), aromatic, tasty and appetizing
Bloggers Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee have been charged and imprisoned without bail in Malaysia after they posted a photo joke for ramadan on their Facebook page. They face up to eight years in prison.
The photo in question featured the duo eating pork stew, bah kuh teh, while greeting fasting Muslims for Ramadan. Inevitably easy offence was taken and the might of the state was invoked to exact retribution.
The couple have a bit of history of hassles as they run an erotic blog and a Youtube channel called Sexcussions with Alvivi .
Malaysian authorities have thrown the book at Tan and Lee who have been charged under:
a) Section 5 of the Film Censorship Act 2002 for publishing indecent photographs online.
b) 298A Penal Code for promoting enmity between different groups of religion or race and doing acts prejudicial to maintaining harmony by publishing an offensive Ramadan greeting.
c) Section 4(1) (c) of the 1948 Sedition Act for posting seditious material through the offensive greeting.
Tan and Lee pleaded not guilty to the charges, but will be jailed without bail until their next court date on August 23.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said:
The insolent and impudent act by the young couple who insulted Islam showed that freedom of expression and irresponsible opinion can jeopardise the community.
PayPal has apologized for blocking sales of a photojournalism book because it had the word Iranian in the title, saying its sanctions compliance mechanisms aren't supposed to pick up on written materials.
The book, entitled Iranian Living Room , is a product of the Benetton Group's Italian Fabrica facility. A project there saw 15 young Iranian photographers document domestic life at the time of the recent Iranian elections, in order to
provide a counterpoint to the street imagery used by most international media organizations.
Fabrica's Dan Hill posted an irate account of Fabrica's abortive efforts to sell the book online. Orders appeared blocked, and it turned out that this was a result of PayPal's internal blacklist -- the word Iranian is on that list, due to
the U.S. economic embargo against Iran, so sales couldn't go through. The book has now been whitelisted so that it is not picked up by a somewhat less than sophisticated censorship system based on banned product names.
The Fabrica episode is, it must be said, a fairly minor incident as these things go, and quickly rectified at that. However, it does serve as a reminder of of the various choke points that can be activated in everyday online activity, whether
deliberately or not, in the name of automated compliance.
A letter sent to the UK's four leading ISPs from the government has made them very cross indeed. So cross that someone in the industry has passed it to
the Rory Cellan-Jones of the BBC.
The letter comes from the Department for Education but it sets out a list of demands from Downing Street, with the stated aim of allowing the prime minister to make an announcement shortly. The companies are asked, among other things, for a commitment to
fund an awareness campaign for parents. They're not particularly happy about promising cash for what the letter concedes is an unknown campaign
But it also asks them to change the language they are using to describe the website censoring options they will be offering to internet users. Instead of talking of active choice + , they are urged to use the term default-on.
A person at one ISP told Cellan-Jones the request was staggering - asking us to market active choice as default-on is both misleading and potentially harmful .
The letter reads:
I am emailing to ask for some specific action which the prime minister plans to announce shortly. This follows a meeting yesterday at No 10 yesterday to discuss a range of child internet safety issues including parental controls and filters. The prime
minister would like to make some further specific requests of industry and his office have asked us to ask you when you could deliver the following actions.
1. Implementing browser intercept
I understand that Talk Talk will be trialling a browser intercept to force existing customers to choose either to proceed with parental controls (pre-ticked), choose their own settings or turn them off completely. The prime minister wants to
announce that by the end of the year, every household with a broadband internet connection will have had to make a decision to opt-out of installing filters. Will the other three ISPs consider making a commitment to adopting this approach - even
before it has been trialled?
2. Age-verification systems/closed-loop
The prime minister expects customers to be required to prove their age/identity before any changes to the filters are made. I understand that you will all be implementing closed-loop systems which will notify account holders of any changes that
are made to the filters and that you have robust systems in place but please could you all confirm the precise information that is required to enable customer to access, set-up and change their filters?
3. Awareness campaign for parents
I understand that it was agreed at Claire Perry's meeting a few weeks ago that Talk Talk, BT and others would undertake some further research to establish what the focus of the campaign should be. The prime minister would like to be able to announce a
collective financial commitment from industry to fund this campaign. I know that it will be challenging for you to commit to an unknown campaign but please can you indicate what sum you will pledge to this work that the PM can announce.
4. Using the phrase default-on instead of active-choice +
The prime minister believes that there is much more that we can all do to improve how we communicate the current position on parental internet controls and that there is a need for a simplified message to reassure parents and the public more generally.
Without changing what you will be offering (ie active-choice +), the prime minister would like to be able to refer to your solutions are default-on as people will have to make a choice not to have the filters (by unticking the box). Can you
consider how to include this language (or similar) in the screens that begin the set-up process? For example, this connection includes family-friendly filters as default [or as standard] - if you do not want to install this protection please un-tick
the box (obviously not intended to be drafting). Would you be able to commit to including default-on or similar language both in the set-up screen and public messaging?
We are all aware of the really excellent work that you are doing and but there are a number of specific areas that the prime minister thinks need further immediate action. You are likely to receive a further message from colleagues in DCMS and the Home
Office regarding tackling illegal images but given the short deadline for this work we thought it better to give you some time to work on these issues in the meantime. I need to report back to No 10 by the end of the week on these points so I would be
grateful if you could consider this request as a matter of urgency and respond by midday Friday.
Apologies for the very tight deadline and grateful for your help with this work.
An Indian parliamentary committee has decided to look into banning cyber porn amid complaints that it is supposedly distorting and distressing the
The Committee on Petitions is seeking a ban on cyber pornography by amending the IT Act, 2000. The committee has sought opinion from stakeholders and public to help formulate its view.
Jain priest Vijayratna Sunder Suri and MP Vijay J Darda petitioned that the free sex culture through cyber pornography is distorting and distressing society:
More than two-third of India's population is below 35 years. This large section of the population, which is the hope for the country's future, is getting digressed, distorted and distressed due to the growing free sex culture through cyber pornography.
The petitioners have blamed cyber porn for what they claim growing problems of psycho-physical nature, including sexually transmitted diseases and sexual deformities among others. The petition has demanded an amendment to the IT Act so as to make
pornography on computer or mobile a crime, attracting severe punishment to the producers, distributors and viewers of such sites.
Blackberry is ready to provide the Indian authorities with a way to intercept consumers' messages sent and received on its platform.
The news was revealed by the Times of India, which published part of a leaked government document. It said officials appeared to have dropped demands that the firm also made it possible to access business emails sent over Blackberry Enterprise Server.
The authorities will then be able to:
track email and email attachments sent over the consumer-version of Blackberry Internet Service (BIS)
see when chats sent over Blackberry Messenger (BBM) were delivered and read
monitor which websites were visited
Blackberry has issued a statement confirming its co-operation.
This would bring an end to a long-running dispute between the two sides.
The European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee is to hold an inquiry into claims that the United States has been engaged in
surveillance of European citizens and diplomats. The inquiry is to report by the end of 2013.
The parliament also passed a resolution expressing serious concern over US surveillance programmes, and condemned spying on EU representations.
The parliament also declared its support for the rights of whistleblowers.
France's foreign intelligence service intercepts computer and telephone data on a vast scale, like the controversial US Prism programme, according to the
French daily Le Monde.
It is not clear however whether the DGSE surveillance goes as far as Prism. So far French officials have not commented on Le Monde's allegations.
The DGSE allegedly analyses the metadata - not the contents of e-mails and other communications, but the data revealing who is speaking to whom, when and where. Other French intelligence agencies allegedly access the data secretly. Connections
inside France and between France and other countries are all monitored, Le Monde reports.
The operation is outside the law, and beyond any proper supervision , Le Monde says.
Justin Timberlake's new video was yanked from YouTube for violating no nudity policies.
The singer earlier posted a message on Twitter announcing the debut of the video for his single Tunnel Vision and warned of its nature:
Check out the new video for Tunnel Vision and be ready...it's explicit. -teamJT
The sparsely shot video featured Justin dressed head to toe in sober grey and black outfits from British brand AllSaints. Justin and long-term collaborator Timbaland are seen ogling a trio of models prancing around topless in nude-coloured thongs.
The Daily Mail printed plenty of not quite nudes to get in on the act...And of course you can see the video
for yourself on... er...YouTube.
Following the introduction of restrictions against file-sharing services, Mastercard and Visa have now started to take action against VPN
This week, Swedish payment provider Payson cut access to anonymizing services after being ordered to do so by the credit card companies.
VPN provider iPredator is one of the affected customers and founder Peter Sunde says that they are considering legal action to get the service unblocked.
Payment providers are increasingly taking action against sites and services that are linked to copyright infringement. There's an unwritten rule that Mastercard and Visa don't accept file-hosting sites that have an affiliate program and PayPal has thrown
out nearly all cyberlockers in recent months. It now turns out that these policies have carried over to VPN providers and other anonymizing services.
Before the weekend customers of the popular Swedish payment service provider Payson received an email stating that VPN services are no longer allowed to accept Visa and Mastercard payments due to a recent policy change:
Payson has restrictions against anonymization (including VPN services). As a result Payson can unfortunately no longer give your customers the option to finance payments via their cards (VISA or MasterCard).
The new policy went into effect on Monday, leaving customers with a two-day window to find a solution.
Iran's president-elect Hassan Rouhani has expressed relatively progressive views about civil liberties, freedom of expression and the internet .
In an interview in the Iranian media, Rouhani told youth magazine Chelcheragh that he is opposed to segregation of sexes in society, would work to minimise censorship and believes internet filtering is futile.
In the age of digital revolution, one cannot live or govern in a quarantine, he said as he made clear he is opposed to the authorities' harsh crackdown on Iranians owning satellite dishes.
Of internet filtering, Rouhani said some of the measures taken by the authorities to restrict users' access online was not done in good faith and was instead politically motivated:
There are political reasons. They have fears of the freedom people have in online atmosphere, this is why they seek to restrict information. But filtering is incapable of producing any [useful] results.
Supporters of internet filtering should explain whether they've successfully restricted access to information? Which important piece of news has filtering been able to black out in recent years?
Filtering has not even stopped people from accessing unethical [a reference to pornographic] websites. Widespread online filtering will only increase distrust between people and the state.
Rouhani also pledged to minimise censorship of artistic and cultural works. In his interview, Rouhani said he opposed segregation of men and women, including at universities, and criticised the politicians who are against allowing women to enter stadiums
to watch football matches along with men. He also explained that he opposed the religious police acting as fashion police by enforcing islamic dress codes. He also said that a women without a hijab is not necessarily without virtue.
A judge has issued a temporary restraining order blocking a dangerous a provision of a recently-passed New Jersey statute that would have left
online service providers legally on the hook for user-generated content. The restraining order blocks enforcement of the new law until the court hears additional arguments in support of a permanent injunction in early August.
EFF represents the Internet Archive in this legal challenge to the law, which aims to make online service providers criminally liable for publishing or disseminating certain third party materials. Backpage.com separately filed suit against the law.
The New Jersey law is the latest in well-intentioned but shortsighted attempts to combat online ads for child prostitution with overbroad and vague laws that could seriously constrict the free flow of information online. This statue of the Human
Trafficking Prevention, Protection, and Treatment Act ) could impose stiff penalties, up to 20 years in prison and steep fines, on ISPs, Internet cafes, and libraries that indirectly cause the publication, dissemination, or display of content
that contains even an implicit offer of a commercial sex act if the content includes an image of a minor.
One consequence of such vague language is that service providers would feel enormous pressure to block access to broad swaths of otherwise protected material in order to minimize the risk of such harsh penalties. The Internet Archive, which currently
maintains an archive of over 300 billion documents in support of its mission is to archive the World Wide Web and other digital materials, has particular reason to be concerned if online providers could be pressured in this way.
What a strange, half-hearted anti-censorship piece by Nick Cohen!
Whyever should we hate porn ? Is Cohen the only man on the planet never to have enjoyed a wank?
While he reaches the right, anti-censorship conclusion, Cohen really engages in churnalism , rehashing pro-censorship facts that are at best questionable. Most obviously, the making of rape movies in Britain is not itself illegal. The
censorship issues arise around the unwillingness of the BBFC to pass pornographic representations of rape, and the consequent ilegality of selling them because of the VRA 1984, and possibly with the OPA 1959. In citing figures for the massive number of
prosecutions under the Dangerous Pictures Act, Cohen doesn't seem to have had the intellectual curiosity to look at the debate around its introduction and the anticipated thirty prosecutions a year. Nor does he seem to have registered the widely reported
recent case (covered in his own paper) of a gay man persecuted under this women-protecting legislation.
The revelations about the National Security Agency's surveillance apparatus, if true, represent a stunning abuse of our basic rights. We demand the U.S. Congress reveal the full extent of the NSA's spying programs.
We write to express our concern about recent reports published in the Guardian and the Washington Post, and acknowledged by the Obama Administration, which reveal secret spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) on phone records
and Internet activity of people in the United States.
The Washington Post and the Guardian recently published reports based on information provided by an intelligence contractor showing how the NSA and the FBI are gaining broad access to data collected by nine of the leading U.S.
Internet companies and sharing this information with foreign governments. As reported, the U.S. government is extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person's movements and contacts
over time. As a result, the contents of communications of people both abroad and in the U.S. can be swept in without any suspicion of crime or association with a terrorist organization.
Leaked reports also published by the Guardian and confirmed by the Administration reveal that the NSA is also abusing a controversial section of the PATRIOT Act to collect the call records of millions of Verizon customers. The data
collected by the NSA includes every call made, the time of the call, the duration of the call, and other "identifying information" for millions of Verizon customers, including entirely domestic calls, regardless of whether those customers have
ever been suspected of a crime. The Wall Street Journal has reported that other major carriers, including AT&T and Sprint, are subject to similar secret orders.
This type of blanket data collection by the government strikes at bedrock American values of freedom and privacy. This dragnet surveillance violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which protect citizens'
right to speak and associate anonymously, guard against unreasonable searches and seizures, and protect their right to privacy.
We are calling on Congress to take immediate action to halt this surveillance and provide a full public accounting of the NSA's and the FBI's data collection programs. We call on Congress to immediately and publicly:
Enact reform this Congress to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity and phone records of any person residing in
the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court;
Create a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying. This committee should create specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end unconstitutional
Hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance.