The number of people signing up to a ground-breaking new service to block children from accessing self-harm and pornography websites has slumped amid criticisms that it fails to achieve its aims, could breach privacy and employs technology
connected to the Chinese military.
TalkTalk ISP launched its free HomeSafe service to its 4 million internet subscribers in May, but the product has only attracted around 200,000 users despite signing up more than 100,000 in its first two months.
The slowing take-up follows HomeSafe featuring prominently in TalkTalk's recent advertising campaign which attempted to attract customers by plugging the UK's safest broadband .
Some technology blogs and websites have raised concerns that HomeSafe might be easily bypassed by dubious websites, while also querying whether the product could introduce worries about privacy.
On his blog, Dr Richard Clayton, a computer scientist at the University of Cambridge, wrote:
I doubt that malware distributors will see this [HomeSafe] as much of a challenge. The system is described as 'opt in', [but] that only applies to whether or not websites you visit might be blocked. What is not opt in is whether or not TalkTalk
learns the details of the URLs [websites] that all of their customers visit, whether they have opted in or not.
Earlier this week, TechCrunch writer MG Siegler's Google+ profile pic vanished without explanation. After thinking it may have been a bug, the photo was uploaded again, and once again removed -- this time with the following message from a Google:
As the first point of interaction with a user's profile, all profile photos on Google+ are reviewed to make sure they are in line with our User Content and Conduct Policy. Our policy page states, Your Profile Picture cannot include mature or
offensive content. Your profile photo was taken down as a violation of this policy.
Google also pointed out the Sexually Explicit Material section of their policy:
10. Sexually Explicit Material Do not distribute content that contains nudity, graphic sex acts, or sexually explicit material. Do not drive traffic to commercial pornography sites. Your Profile Picture cannot include mature or offensive
content. For example, do not use a photo that is a close-up of a person's buttocks or cleavage.
This censoring has created quite a stir, with people asking what exactly is offensive? Is the use of offensive language next? Will it impact the success of Google+ overall?
marketingland.com point out that maybe Google's sensitivity to supposed offense in profile pictures may be related to the fact the Google itself re-uses the profile pictures when displaying search results.
US Senator Joe Lieberman is heading up a movement in the US Congress that would like to see Twitter censor the Taliban's tweets, in order to eliminate violent Islamist extremism propaganda on social media.
The Taliban has been prolific on Twitter, but their account tweets a mixture of up-to-the-minute information about NATO attacks, as well as anti-Western propaganda.
Leslie Phillips, a spokesman for the senate homeland security committee, said:
Senator Lieberman's efforts to eliminate violent Islamist extremism propaganda from the internet and social media has been a campaign of persuasion.
He has written letters, for example to Google seeking the company to enforce more strongly its terms of service, which ban the sort of thing that we see from violent Islamist extremists.
Google is said to be resisting the demands that the accounts be closed. They are specifically citing the fact that, unlike Al Quaeda, the Taliban is not considered a terrorist group by the US government.
Facebook, Microsoft, YouTube, Google, and 21 others have been issued summons by the court, on grounds of carrying objectionable content.
They have now been charged with section 292 (sale of obscene books etc), 293 (sale of obscene objects to young person etc) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.
If these sites fail to clear derogatory content off their websites by February 6, 2012 they would be charged for contempt of court.
According to a statement from the court, the judge was deeply shocked by what he saw amongst the evidence presented to the court. Apparently unknown persons are selling, publicly exhibiting and have put into circulation obscene, lascivious
content which also appears to the prurient interests and tends to deprave and corrupt the persons who are likely to read, see or hear it. Such as images of women kissing men.
It is also evident that such contents are continuously openly and freely available to everyone who is using the said network irrespective of their age and even the persons under the age of 18 years have full and uncensored access to such obscene
contents, the court ruled.
It means that all the big names will either have to censor the internet or pull out of the lucrative Indian market. They are not likely to find much support from politicians either. The Indian government is furious that its citizens are
apparently able to go onto the Internet and say nasty things about the Gandhi family.
Websites targeting Olympics visitors have been closed down by police. For example sites purporting to sell luxury goods were using the events' signature image of five Olympic rings to make people believe they were endorsed.
Police from the UK's cyber crime unit have identified hundreds of websites that could be used to dupe visitors to next year's London Olympics. They have already closed around 2,000 sites set up by criminals and purporting to sell luxury goods,
and are monitoring hundreds of others that have popped up on the web with the games in mind.
We think there is some evidence to suggest they are waiting to commit fraud, Janet Williams, the deputy assistant commissioner at the Metropolitan police, said. These websites have been set up and are in a holding position, and we will
monitor them to see if they are used for criminal purposes.
Williams, the head of the e-crime unit, said ticket fraud was just one way criminals would try to exploit the games. We would be naive to think that it would be the only threat during the Olympics, she told the Guardian. Her unit, which
has a staff of 106, is working with other agencies, including the government communications headquarters GCHQ, to intercept traffic that might point to an attack on London's internet infrastructure, eg via denial of service attacks.
For the last four months, and despite repeated complaints, O2 has blocked the website of a Sheffield church, claiming it features adult content.
And as naff as O2's blocking algorithm turns out to be, their procedures for putting things right is even worse.
O2 customer and ORG Supporter Gervase Markham explains:
My wife and I just moved to Sheffield and joined a network of churches called
The Crowded House . I used my O2 Mobile Broadband to try and access their website, but it told me it was 18+ content ! When I contacted O2, my first email was rejected due to having insufficient information . I finally managed
to find a contact form which worked, and they told me that I could solve the problem by having my mobile enabled for 18+ content! I told them that this was definitely not what I wanted, and refused to go through their age verification
procedure. Fixing the censorship for me alone is not a proper fix.
The next thing I knew, a text arrived on my phone saying you can now access 18 rated content . I had to explain to my wife quite why I was getting a text saying that.
During the call, an O2 representative told me that he and his manager knew of no procedure for appealing against a block. He said that the block wasn't just for 18+ content, but it was also for things which might corrupt the morals of children.
I asked him if he was describing my church's website in that way, which he hastily denied. He told me they unblocked people's phones all the time because they couldn't access perfectly innocent websites. I suggested that perhaps that this
indicated that the system wasn't working very well.
ORG believes that innocent websites should not be censored by default, and clear mechanisms should exist to get innocent sites taken out of automatically generated censorship lists.
Just as importantly, people should provide their consent before having their Internet censored. They should be told what it means. And a customer should not be forced to label themselves a porn-fiend in order to remove censorship.
All the major UK mobile operators have Internet blocking schemes that block certain content from users. This is designed to protect children from accessing adult material. The filters are turned on by default when anybody signs up to a mobile
contract. Age verification, normally via a credit card, is required to turn them off.
We've heard a lot of anecdotal evidence of mistakes, over-blocking and the difficulty of pointing out when things go wrong.
Mobile Internet access is becoming more important as a means of getting online. According to Ofcom, 28% of UK adults said they accessed the internet on their mobile in the first three months of 2011. So we've started to look more closely at how
this blocking works.
It's clear that mobile operators could be much clearer about this. They tend to be pretty opaque as to exactly how their blocking works, and how they decide which Web pages are inappropriate for under 18s.
For example, Orange says that it is the Independent Mobile Classification Body (IMCB) that decides what is adult content or not. However this is not true. The IMCB only provides a framework for determining content from mobile phone companies that
is inappropriate for children and teenagers. But content from the Internet is out of IMCB's remit, as stated in its Classification Framework.
Mobile operators all declare that they are acting according to a code of conduct set by the Mobile Broadband Group. But this code does not provide for any kind of criteria for determining or defining blockable content. It simply points at
the IMCB framework.
It is most likely that lists from US companies like Blue Coat are used to decide what we are able to access. How the policies of these companies fit with the frameworks of the IMCB and the Mobile Broadband Group is another question we are looking
Transparency regarding how mobile operators decide what counts as blockable content is increasingly important. Customers should be able to ascertain how and why content is blocked, and have easier ways to point out when things are going
wrong. We'll be developing more work on this, including tools to help you point out when mobile operators are blocking sites, soon. Please let us know if you're interested in helping out.
The Indian government has asked Internet companies and social media sites like Facebook to prescreen user content from India and to remove disparaging, inflammatory or defamatory content before it goes online, three executives in the information
technology industry say.
Top officials from the Indian units of Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook are meeting with Kapil Sibal, India's acting telecommunications minister to discuss the issue.
About six weeks ago, Sibal called legal representatives from the top ISPs and Facebook into his New Delhi office, said an executives who was briefed on the meeting. At the meeting, Sibal showed attendees a Facebook page that maligned the Congress
Party's president, Sonia Gandhi. This is unacceptable, he told attendees, the executive said, and he asked them to find a way to monitor what is posted on their sites.
In the second meeting with the same executives in late November, Sibal told them that he expected them to use human beings to screen content, not technology.
The executives said representatives from these companies will tell Sibal that his demand is impossible, given the volume of user-generated content coming from India, and that they cannot be responsible for determining what is and isn't defamatory
or disparaging. If there's a law and there's a court order, we can follow up on it, said an executive from one of the companies attending the meeting. But these companies can't be in the business of deciding what is and isn't legal to
post, he said.
Indian Communications Minister Kapil Sibal met officials from Google, Facebook and other websites and he was not a happy bunny.
He ludicrously wanted social media companies to implement the vetting of user content before it was published. He said the firms had told him they were unable to take action
He said the government would now introduce guidelines to ensure blasphemous material did not appear on internet.
Addressing a press conference Sibal said companies would not be allowed to say, we throw up our hands, we can't do anything about this . My aim is that insulting material never gets uploaded. We will evolve guidelines and mechanisms to
deal with the issue. They will have to give us the data, where these images are being uploaded and who is doing it.
Before the press conference, Sibal showed reporters morphed photos of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, as well as pigs running through Islam's holy city of Mecca.
Sibal's nonsense hasn't gone down well with social media users. The hashtag #IdiotKapilSibal is currently seeing a lot of chatter. No doubt he will want that censored too.
Update: Out of his depth comms minister backtracks on Facebook pre-censorship
Indian Communications Minister Kapil Sibal has been on the receiving end of much international ridicule for his ludicrous suggestion requiring user content websites to pre-censor content before publication.
Google, owners of YouTube and Blogger, were forthright with their comments. In a statement issued by company spokesperson Google categorically said they will not censor content simply because it is controversial. The representative said:
We work really hard to make sure that people have as much access to information as possible, while also following the law. This means that when content is illegal, we abide by local law and take it down. And even where content is legal but
breaks or violates our own terms and conditions we take that down too, once we have been notified about it, but when content is legal and does not violate our policies, we will not remove it just because it is controversial, as we believe that
people's differing views, so long as they are legal, should be respected and protected.
Well now the beleaguered minister has back tracked on his proposal via denial. Sibal spoke on TV to NDTV:
There can be no pre-screening of content on the electronic media and on the social media... It would be madness to ask for it and I don't think any sane person would.
Meanwhile in Pakistan, defence minister A K Antony repsonded to Kapil Sibal's suggestion to censor social media platforms like Facebook, Orkut, Twitter and YouTube. He said the government had already given clarification that there was no such
Social media is a reality and has become the voice of young generation to express their feelings and opinion, and government would not curtail this freedom, he said, adding that social media is like any other media in the present world.
...BUT... the power of social media should not be misused and people should maintain some restraint in using the potential of social networking sites and Internet.
Kapil Sibal found an ally in Aditya Thackeray Aditya on censoring of social networking sites. At a press conference called by the political party Shiv Sena, Thackeray said government should put a mechanism in place to filter objectionable content
in sites like Facebook.
A lot of objectionable material is available on these sites. They are corrupting our youngsters and posing a threat to our culture, he said.
Even as the controversy over Indian IT minister Kapil Sibal urging social networking sites to censor offensive content rages on, a trial court has directed several sites, including Facebook, Google, Orkut and Youtube, to remove anti-religious
or anti-social content promoting hatred or communal disharmony .
Administrative civil judge Mukesh Kumar has directed the social networking sites to remove objectionable content in the form of photos, videos or text which might hurt religious sentiments. The court's order came on a civil suit filed by Mufti
Aijaz Arshad Qasmi who had submitted a CD and printouts of the supposedly offensive contents.
The judge said:
The defendants (websites) are hereby restrained from publishing defamatory articles shown by the plaintiff and contained in the CD filed by the plaintiff immediately on service of this order and notice. Defendants are further directed to remove
the same from the social networking sites.
The court has also issued summons to the sites and fixed the matter for hearing on December 24, 2011.
Sky Broadband has begun blocking Newzbin2 after receiving a court order telling it to do so.
The ISP is the second major internet provider to block access to the Usenet indexing website, after BT started doing so around the end of October. However, major rivals TalkTalk and Virgin Media said that they have received no such court order
themselves, and are not blocking the site.
We have received a court order requiring us to block access to this illegal website, which we did on 13 December, Sky said in a statement: Moving forward, as and when clear and legally robust evidence of copyright theft is presented, we
will take appropriate action in respect to site blocking, which will include complying with court orders.
The European branch of the Motion Picture Association (MPA) representing Walt Disney, Paramount, Sony, 20th Century Fox, Universal and Warner Brothers won a court order in July that forced BT to block access to Newzbin2. In early November,
shortly after BT began blocking Newzbin, the MPA sent letters to all the major ISPs, saying the organisation intended to seek similar court orders and asking whether the ISPs intended to fight against this move.
The MPA has also gone to BT to seek a block of the Pirate Bay file-sharing website, but BT has said it will not institute further blocks without a court order for each case.
Germany's lower house of Parliament has repealed a law enabling website blocking iof websites containing child pornography.
The Bundestag's 2009 law enabled a list of sites compiled by Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office to be blocked by ISPs.
However the law was denounced as soon as it was passed and the repeal process was put into effect.
The criticism was that internet blocks are easy to work round via proxies and that putting them on a blocked list rather lets such websites off the hook, as they have seemingly been dealt with. And of course the websites are effectively vanished
to decent folks, so there will be no further complaints for the authorities to act upon.
The only way to prevent such sites from being viewed is to delete them, Internet expert Jimmy Schulz said, by alerting the individual Internet service providers.
Nominet has been suspending domain names at the mere request of law enforcement agencies, without a fair trial. While most of these sites have been dodgy, some should not have been removed. This loophole in the justice system could be
exploited and mistakes are inevitable, leading to deliberate or accidental censorship.
Despite ORG's demands that transparency and evidence remain the foundation of any policy, law enforcement agencies have refused to budge. They say they lack the resources and powers to use the courts.
ORG, ISPA and LINX all announced that they were unable to support the initial Nominet Issue Group statement. It is incredibly important for justice to be transparent and open to all.
Nominet have asked the Issue group for a further meeting, where ORG will explain why using the courts is a vital safeguard.
Search engines asked to help with copyright censorship
In addition to the discussions about a new, faster website censorship plan, Ed Vaizey is now also hosting roundtables between copyright owners and search engines. The aim is to tell search engines to do more to stop infringement by
blocking, promoting or demoting certain sites.
Just like previous discussions about website censorship, these proposals have no basis in evidence, come seemingly at the say so of rights-holders, with no involvement from civil society. We're urgently looking to tell DCMS why private policing
of the Internet is a bad idea.
We have been invited to the next round of discussions: tomorrow, with minister Ed Vaizey. This is a big win for you and ORG. Now we can try to open the process up to everyone.
.xxx domains are now openly available to anyone that wants them. They are available at $60 each.
The ICM Registry says creating a .xxx domain is better for those who don't like porn, since it provides an easy way to filter out adult-entertainment sites. After all, if a site has the .xxx suffix, it's clear before you even go there what kind
of content will be there, and telling software to simply filter those sites out is an easy thing to do.
At the same time, .xxx domains provide better protections than other porn sites, and that benefits people who do want access to adult material. Since anyone who runs a .xxx site agrees to certain conditions --- among them a daily scan for
malware, dedicated servers for search, and access to a new micropayment system --- the sites will theoretically be safer and easier to use than other adult sites, which are sometimes breeding grounds for malware.
Operation In Our Sites, launched by the US Department of Homeland Security's ICE unit, continues with the seizure of 11 Korean domain names that were allegedly related to movie piracy.
Since Korean websites are becoming likely targets for the operations launched by US authorities, the well-known banner that declares a site illegal, alerting its visitors that it has been shut down by law enforcement agencies, now has a Korean
translation of the warning.
007disk.com, 007disk.net, 82movie.com, 82movie.net, 82us.com, bzserv.info, itvwmg.com, ktvwmg.com ,wmgitv.com, wmgus.com and wmgus.net were domains that offered download links to the latest movies in return for a small fee.
Many of the seized domains belong to a US company, even if they were clearly designed to target Korean speakers.
So far, 350 domains have been taken into custody by the US federal government and these operations will not stop too soon.
A Limerick woman is leading the battle to have her home village of Effin recognized by social network site Facebook.
Ann Marie Kennedy is taking on the giant corporation which has deemed the village name of Effin to be offensive.
She has also failed in an attempt to launch a Facebook campaign based on a Please get my hometown Effin recognised page on the website. It came back with an error message saying 'offensive,' Kennedy told the Irish Independent.
I would like to be able to put Effin on my profile page and so would many other Effin people around the world to proudly say that they are from Effin, Co Limerick, but it won't recognize that. It keeps coming up as Effingham, Illinois;
Effingham, New Hampshire; and it gives suggestions of other places.
Kennedy has vowed to carry on her battle until Effin gains official status on Facebook.
After a series of one-sided hearings, luxury goods maker Chanel has won recent court orders against hundreds of websites trafficking in counterfeit luxury goods. A federal judge in Nevada has agreed that Chanel can seize the domain names in
question and transfer them all to US-based registrar GoDaddy. The judge also ordered all Internet search engines and all social media websites ---explicitly naming Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Bing, Yahoo, and Google---to de-index
the domain names and to remove them from any search results.
The case has been a remarkable one. Concerned about counterfeiting, Chanel has filed a joint suit in Nevada against nearly 700 domain names that appear to have nothing in common. When Chanel finds more names, it simply uses the same case and
files new requests for more seizures. (A recent November 14 order went after an additional 228 sites; none had a chance to contest the request until after it was approved and the names had been seized.)
How were the sites investigated? For the most recent batch of names, Chanel hired a Nevada investigator to order from three of the 228 sites in question. When the orders arrived, they were reviewed by a Chanel official and declared counterfeit.
The other 225 sites were seized based on a Chanel anti-counterfeiting specialist browsing the Web.
Facebook is facing a European crackdown on how it exploits vast amounts of its users' most personal information to create bespoke advertising.
The European Commission is planning to stop the way the website eavesdrops on its users to gather information about their political opinions, sexuality, religious beliefs, and even their whereabouts.
Using sophisticated software, the firm harvests information from people's activities on the social networking site, whatever their individual privacy settings, and make it available to advertisers.
However, following concerns over the privacy implications of the practice, a new EC Directive, to be introduced in January, will ban such targeted advertising unless users specifically allow it.
Even though Facebook is US based, if it fails to comply with the new legislation it could face European legal action or a massive fine.
Viviane Reding, the vice president of European Commission, said the Directive would amend current European data protection laws in the light of technological advances and ensure consistency in how offending firms are dealt with across the EU. She
I call on service providers -- especially social media sites -- to be more transparent about how they operate. Users must know what data is collected and further processed (and) for what purposes.
Consumers in Europe should see their data strongly protected, regardless of the EU country they live in and regardless of the country in which companies which process their personal data are established.
Facebook has agreed to a settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over charges that the social network had deceived its users about privacy.
The FTC had accused Facebook in an eight-count complaint of not living up to its own promises. Among them: sharing users' personal information with third parties without their knowledge or consent, changing privacy practices without informing
users, and claiming to have a program to verify the security of apps when it didn't.
The terms of the settlement bar Facebook from making any further deceptive privacy claims. Facebook also agrees to obtain users' permission before making any changes to the way the service shares their information. And in a condition
similar to the FTC settlement with Google over Google Buzz, Facebook also must submit to regular assessments from privacy auditors for a no less than 20 years.
The FTC complaints about Facebook are:
In December 2009, Facebook changed its website so certain information that users may have designated as private --- such as their Friends List --- was made public. They didn't warn users that this change was coming, or get their approval in
Facebook represented that third-party apps that users' installed would have access only to user information that they needed to operate. In fact, the apps could access nearly all of users' personal data --- data the apps didn't need
Facebook told users they could restrict sharing of data to limited audiences --- for example with Friends Only. In fact, selecting Friends Only did not prevent their information from being shared with third-party applications
their friends used.
Facebook had a Verified Apps program & claimed it certified the security of participating apps. It didn't.
Facebook promised users that it would not share their personal information with advertisers. It did.
Facebook claimed that when users deactivated or deleted their accounts, their photos and videos would be inaccessible. But Facebook allowed access to the content, even after users had deactivated or deleted their accounts.
Facebook claimed that it complied with the U.S.- EU Safe Harbor Framework that governs data transfer between the U.S. and the European Union. It didn't.
US Senator Joe Lieberman is calling on Google to censor more content on its blog platform.
Lieberman apparently believes that censorship of anti-West and violent jihadist content will keep people from wanting to attack America. At least that's what it sounds like when you read the senator's formal letter to Google CEO Larry Page -
asking Mountain View to censor content on its blogs.
Lieberman thinks that Google's primary mission should be to keep the Internet free of radical ideology and help the government fight its war on terror. Lieberman references the blog of recent lone wolf terrorist suspect Jose Pimentel as a
reason to police content on Google's blogger platform. Pimentel allegedly used the Internet to access instructions to make bombs and share his support for violent Islamic extremism, writes Lieberman.
Lieberman ends his letter claiming that Google is getting in the way of the government's fight against terrorists. I strongly believe that Google should expand that standard to include your other platforms. The private sector plays an
important role in protecting our homeland from the preeminent threat of violent Islamic extremism, and Google's inconsistent standards are adversely affecting our ability to counter violent Islamic extremism online, Lieberman said.
Max Mosley's legal attempt to force Google in France and Germany to act as a self-appointed censor and remove controversial material ahead of any formal court order, would fundamentally alter the web , according to a leading free-speech
Mosley won a £ 60,000 privacy action against the News of the World following a libellous story that wrongly alleged a Nazi-themed orgy with five prostitutes, is suing the leading internet search company
in Germany and France, and is legally active in 20 other jurisdictions. All actions aim to remove any link to the NOTW article and video.
The Index on Censorship claimed the legal action by Mosley showed a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of search engines. Padraig O'Reilly, news editor, said: Search engines are not publishers and cannot be held responsible for
everything on the web.
Google has already delisted hundreds of links to the NOTW article.
US authorities have initiated the largest round of domain name seizures yet as part of their continued crackdown on counterfeit and piracy-related websites. 131 domain names have been taken over by the feds to protect the commercial interests of
US companies. The seizures are disputable, as the SOPA bill which aims to specifically legitimize such actions is still pending in Congress.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have resumed Operation In Our Sites , their domain name seizing initiative.
TorrentFreak has identified 131 domains taken over by the government during the last 24 hours (See
article for list),.
This time the action appears to be mostly sites selling sports kit, football jerseys etc, but there are also DVD and software sellers.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it has seized 70 domain names of websites accused of selling counterfeit products. During the operation, federal law enforcement officers purchased sports jerseys, baby carriers and luxury goods from
the sites. Many of the goods purchased from the sites were shipped from outside the United States.
Federal authorities have seized a total of 839 domain names, including the latest round of seizures, according to ICE. Of that number, 229 domain names have been forfeited to the U.S. government.
In the cat-and-mouse game between Chinese censors and Internet users, the government seems to be testing a new mousetrap--one that may be designed to detect and block tunnels through its Great Firewall even when the data in those tunnels is aimed
at a little-known computers and obscured by encryption.
In recent months, administrators of services with encrypted connections designed to allow users secure remote access say they've seen strange activity coming from China: When a user from within the country attempts to reach a server abroad, a
string of seemingly random data hits the destination computer before he or she can connect, sometimes followed by that user's communication being mysteriously dropped.
The anti-censorship and anonymity service Tor, for instance, has found that many of its bridge nodes --privately-placed servers around the world designed to connect users to the rest of Tor's public network of traffic re-routing
computers--have become inaccessible to Chinese users within hours or even minutes of being set up, according to Andrew Lewman, the project's executive director. Users have told him that other censorship circumvention services like Ultrasurf and
Freegate have seen similar problems, he says. Someone will try to connect, then there's a weird scan, and the bridge stops working, says Lewman. We see weird things all the time, but this is a semi-consistent weird thing, and it's only
coming from China.
Lewman believes that China's internet service providers may be testing a new system that, rather than merely block IP addresses or certain Web pages, attempts to identify censorship circumvention tools by preceding a user's connection to an
encrypted service with a probe designed to reveal something about what sort of service the user is accessing. It's like if I tell my wife I'm going bowling with my friends, and she calls the bowling alley ahead of time to see if that's what
I'm really doing, says Lewman. It's verifying that you're asking for what you seem to be asking for.
The major Belgian ISP Scarlet can't be forced by a national court to block users from illegally sharing music and video files, the European Union's highest court has said.
EU law precludes the imposition of an injunction by a national court which requires an internet service provider to install a filtering system with a view to preventing the illegal downloading of files, the EU Court of Justice in
Luxembourg said in a statement.
The court ruled that the filtering could infringe the rights of customers and their right to protect their own data. It could also mean that legal content was blocked.
Such an injunction could potentially undermine freedom of information since that system might not distinguish adequately between unlawful content and lawful content with the result that its introduction could lead to the blocking of lawful
communications, the court said.
A Belgian court last year sought the EU top tribunal's guidance on whether forcing an ISP to stop illegal file sharing on its network is in line with the 27-nation bloc's rules. Belgian music-copyright group Sabam, started the legal fight over
the use of so-called peer-to-peer software for file sharing.
In Belgium Scarlet is appealing a June 2007 Belgian court order to make it impossible for users to violate copyright laws, saying it would entail breaching customers' privacy rights.
Users of the social news and community site Reddit don't like the way the US government seems to be muscling in on the Internet. So they plan to build a new one.
Redditors have flocked over the last week to a new subgroup on Reddit.com they're calling the Darknet Plan or Meshnet with the aim of building a mesh-based version of the Internet that wouldn't be subject to the control of any corporation or
government, with a focus on anonymity, peer-to-peer architecture and strong resistance to censorship.
In the last few days, about 10,000 users have joined the group, and about 200,000 have visited, according to Chris Bresee, the 17-year old Vermonter who founded the project. He attributes the sudden spike in interest to the Stop Online Piracy Act
and the awareness of the possibilities of government censorship that the bill has created: If passed in its current form, SOPA would use Domain Name System filtering to effectively disappear infringing sites from the Internet.
Mesh networks are designed to allow users to connect to one another directly instead of to a centralized Internet service provider. Bresee says Meshnet would start by aiming to create local clusters of users and connect them with the traditional
Internet. We would piggyback on the current infrastructure to connect these islands of meshes, he says. But as the mesh networks grow, less and less dependence on the ISPs would be needed.
Two of the internet's biggest pornography firms are suing the net's address regulator, Icann, over its introduction of the .xxx suffix.
Manwin Licensing, which runs websites for Playboy, and Digital Playground have filed lawsuits against Icann and ICM Registry, which is running the new top-level domain name, .xxx
The firms claimed that the decision to create .xxx had been flawed and that ICM had abused its position.
Manwin issued a press release alongside the lawsuit claiming that ICM was charging annual registration fees of about $60 per address. It claimed that was 10 times the fee charged for other comparable top-level domain names. It said costs mounted
up because website owners had to register mis-spelt versions of their addresses to prevent cybersquatters exploiting them.
Manwin has also filed papers with Icann complaining that the body never sought competitive bids for the .xxx registry, and failed to conduct proper economic studies to support its creation.
UK users of the popular Fileserve file-hosting service are currently unable to download any files as the site is being blocked by ISPs acting on a block list provided by the Internet Watch Foundation.
Since early this week the blacklist, which aims to disable access to sexual child abuse content, has been preventing users from accessing their personal files and downloading those uploaded by others. Fileserve expects the issue to persist for at
least a couple of days.
With hundreds of millions of page views each month, Fileserve is listed among the 10 most-visited file-sharing sites on the Internet. The site allows users to store files in the cloud for personal use or subsequent sharing with the rest of the
Update: IWF demonstrate to cloud computer users just how easy it is to pull the plug on all of their data
The UK's Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has now lifted a block imposed on a major cloud computing data host.
The target of the block was Fileserve, one of the top most-visited sites on the web, allowing users to store files, documents, music etc.
The IWF caused major inconvenience in an attempt to block what is understood to be a single file hosted on the site. But this blocked access to all of the sites' download servers.
Many inconvenienced users had taken to their web providers' support forums to complain about the move, with many believing their ISPs were blocking downloads. Subsequently, an updated message on the Fileserve site revealed in cringeworthy
language that the: IWF recently implemented changes that may affect your download ability on the site .
Nominet is consulting and developing its procedures for taking down internet .uk domains when presented with claims of them being used illegally.
Under the latest changes, Nominet will be able to deny a site suspension request unless police provide a court order or the site is accused of putting the public at serious risk.
Early draft recommendations came in for criticism because police would be able to instruct Nominet to take down unlimited numbers of domains without a court order. Following previous coverage, many El Reg readers were outraged that the proposals
didn't seem to do enough to protect ordinary .uk owners from over-zealous cops.
The new draft recommendations state that should a suspension notice be objected to by a domain's registrant, Nominet would be able to consult an independent expert , likely an outside lawyer, before deciding whether to ask police for a
A new revision also draws a distinction between serious cases of botnets, phishing and fake pharmaceuticals sales, which pose an imminent risk to internet users, and cases of counterfeiting, which are perhaps not as risky.
Nominet would draw a distinction between the two scenarios. If it received a suspension request relating to a low risk crime, such as alleged counterfeiting, it would have to inform the registrant, giving them an opportunity to object
and/or rectify the problem, before it suspended the domain name.
The policy has stated in all drafts that it would not be applicable to private complainants, such as intellectual property interests, and that hasn't changed. We're excluding all civil disputes, Blowers said. If the MPAA [for example]
wanted to bring down 25,000 domains associated with online piracy, that would fall outside of this process.
The policy has also been tweaked with respect to free speech issues. To take down an overtly racist or egregiously pornographic site, Nominet would not suspend the domain name without a court order.
The recommendations are still in draft form but it is intended that the final version will be implemented early in 2012.
A spokesperson for LINX, representing ISPs said that the organisation fears social networks, online auction houses and similar sites could be unfairly taken down by cops if their users upload dodgy material. Its statement reads:
A domain owner should be allowed to defend themselves in court. We are also concerned that the law enforcement agencies' proposal does not limit suspension to domains where the domain owner had criminal intent itself: this could place at risk
any domain with user-generated content, such as auction sites and social networking.
LINX members are committed to helping the police combat criminal behaviour online, but all such action needs to be balanced and proportionate, and respect the property rights of legitimate businesses. We would welcome suspension of domains held
by criminal enterprises, but to protect the innocent suspension should be ordered by a court.
Nominet will conduct a further round of public consultation before implementing a policy for dealing with domains associated with criminal activity. The Nominet Board communique states:
Further research and legal advice was presented in relation to the ongoing policy development for dealing with domain names associated with criminal activity. The Board agreed to conduct a public consultation prior to implementing the final
The European Parliament has adopted a resolution which criticizes domain name seizures of infringing websites by US authorities.
According to the resolution these measures need to be countered as they endanger the integrity of the global internet and freedom of communication. With this stance the European Parliament joins an ever-growing list of opposition to the
proposed US law called Stop Online Piracy Act .
Starting in 2010, US authorities have used domain name seizures as a standard tool to take down websites that are deemed to facilitate copyright infringement.
Despite fierce criticism from the public, legal experts and civil liberties groups, taking control of domain names is now one of the measures included in the pending Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), legislation designed to give copyright holders
more tools to protect their rights against foreign sites.
Opposition to SOPA has been swelling in recent days, and today the European Parliament adds its voice by heavily criticizing the domain seizures that are part of it. A resolution on the EU-US Summit that will be held later this month stresses the need to protect the integrity of the global internet and freedom of communication by refraining from unilateral measures to revoke IP addresses or domain names.
If SOPA does indeed become law the US would be able to shut down domains worldwide, as long as they are somehow managed by US companies. This includes the popular .com, .org and .net domains, and thus has the potential to affect many large
websites belonging to companies in EU member states.
BT has started blocking Newzbin 2 as ordered by a UK court.
Newzbin 2 is a members-only site which indexes material shared in Usenet discussion forums. The site is being blocked via legal actions of the Motion Picture Association, who managed to get the UK court to block the site.
We've heard that the British Telecom censorship of the free web has begun, the group behind Newzbin 2 told the BBC. It also said that 93.5% of its active UK users have downloaded workaround software developed by them to bypass the block.
The group would not divulge how it worked.
Newzbin2 shall go on, its users shall continue to access the site and its facilities, the Newzbin team told the BBC. Nothing has changed and they [the MPA] have no change after paying millions of dollars in legal fees.
The Motion Picture Association (MPA) has asked two UK internet service providers (ISPs) to consent to a court order that would force them to block their customers' access to a copyright-infringing website.
A ZDNet report said the MPA told it that it had sent letters to Virgin Media and TalkTalk referring to the recent order by Mr Justice Arnold and asked the major UK ISPs whether they would consent to a court order requiring them to impede
subscriber access to the Newzbin2 website .
TalkTalk said in a statement: We are considering our position since there are some objectionable elements to the proposed injunction. We will only block access to a website if ordered to do so by a court. .
Virgin Media also confirmed that it had received MPA's letter and that it would only act on receipt of a court order. A Virgin Media spokesperson said in a statement: As a responsible ISP, we will comply with any court order addressed to us
but strongly believe such deterrents need to be accompanied by compelling legal alternatives, such as our agreement with Spotify, which give consumers access to content at the right price.
As the UK prepares to raise awareness of bullying during Anti-Bullying Week, 14-18 November, latest research reveals that cyber-bullying amongst teenagers is on the increase with 38% affected. A staggering 78% of young people fear cyber-bullying
will continue to rise. 46% of young people feel that current initiatives are insufficient in targeting their protection, prevention and needs, perhaps partly explaining why 28% of cyber-bullying victims have not informed anyone of their
The research, Young People's voices on Cyber-bullying, was commissioned by the Diana Award, with the support of the Children's Research Centre, Open University. The Diana Award run a peer led bullying prevention programme, Anti-Bullying
Ambassadors, in 200 schools and youth organisations throughout England.
The research will be discussed at the Diana Award National Anti-Bullying Conference on Monday 14th November in London.
This week campaigners will use a conference in London to call for social networking websites to stop bullies sending messages anonymously, saying that it is particularly damaging to children and teenagers. They will say that new websites
which make use of Facebook - by far the most popular social networking medium - are encouraging the anonymous posting by making it easy and accessible to under-18s.
The report, by campaigning group Diana Award questioned 1,512 children aged 11 to 16 across England and found that 38% had suffered abuse online at lease once, and that 28% of victims have not told anyone about their experience. Nearly half of
youngsters feel current attempts to prevent online bullying are inadequate.
Beatbullying said it was particularly concerned about the growth of trolling . One website, Formspring, has been particularly linked to anonymous cyberbullying. Formspring allows its 25 million members to send unmoderated questions or
messages to each other anonymously. Many are drawn into it through Facebook, which itself prevents anonymous messages.
Richard Piggin, the deputy chief executive of Beatbullying, said:
Users should not have the option of remaining anonymous on sites such as Formspring and other social networking platforms. Anonymity encourages people to act in a way they might well not in real life or if they were named online.
Whatever sites like Formspring say about anonymity allowing people to express themselves, it is clear that it is being used in a negative way by allowing children to hide behind it in order to abuse others.
Other social networking sites encourage you to use your real identity, which is a positive thing. Formspring needs to make changes.
Ending anonymity is one of a series of reforms campaigners now want from the websites. Charities want internet and mobile phone networks to provide stronger safeguards against bullying, including better safety features, more regulation and codes
Scottish comedian Limmy has backtracked over a series of aggressive Tweets against Margaret Thatcher and the Royal Family, after they sparked calls for him to be sacked by the BBC.
The comic, real name Brian Limond, said: I have deleted my tweets, and I'd like to apologise for any offence caused. It is never my intention to offend.
His Twitter rant started with a comment on William urging FIFA to relax its ban on the England football team wearing Remembrance Day Poppies. He tweeted: Would Prince William write to FIFA on behalf of the Scotland team wearing poppies? No.
Cos he thinks ENGLAND won the war.
That was followed by: I'd love to slide a samurai sword up Prince William's arse to the hilt, then yank it towards me like a door that won't fucking open.;
Of the Tories, Limmy wrote: 'England voted in the Tories KNOWING what would happen, just like Germany voted in the Nazis KNOWING what would happen.
After that attracted the attention of Tories he said: This is fucking excellent, I've got a shower of Tory cunts coming after me, retweeting everything. COME INTAE ME, TORY SCUM, COME INTAE ME!!!!
When criticised over this, he changed his avatar to Stalin, and then to a picture of Thatcher with Die Now written in red over it.'
Tory MP Louise Mensch took up the rebuke. She tweeted: How is it possible for a working comedian to put up an avatar of an old woman w/ red line over her throat & DIE NOW written across her face? Violence against an old woman totally
beyond "free speech".
She then enquired about Limmy's employment with the BBC... and Limmy reverted his avatar back to the photograph of himself, and issued the apology.
After more than a decade of debate, rejections and legal challenges, the Internet's governing body began accepting applications for .xxx websites from the adult entertainment industry on Tuesday, 8th November 2011.
The so-called landrush phase signifies the true launch of .xxx websites.
ICM Registry had already began accepting some .xxx applications from trademarked companies looking to use a .xxx address and those seeking to prevent their company from appearing on a .xxx website on September 7.
Adult entertainment producers without trademarks can apply for .xxx website names for the next 17 days, with their general availability following on December 6.
The chief executive of ICM Registry, Stuart Lawley, said his company had received 80,000 applications in this early phase. Presumably most of these were defensive, to prevent other people from creating an xxx variant of an existing website, so
won't actually become websites in their own right.
Facebook have removed pages dedicated to bad taste jokes about rape and sexual violence.
Change.org has been campaigning against the pages for 2 months, and raised a petition of 186,000 signatures against the pages. In addition they ran a twitter campaign and a Facebook page of their own.
One of the target pages, now removed was called : You know she's playing hard to get when... and featured wisecracks such as:
Don't You Hate it When You Punch a Slut in the Mouth and They Suck It
After removing the pages, Facebook's rep told AllFacebook that they take things seriously, and reminded everyone that reporting a Page is how to get offending content reviewed and also said that they've made the social reporting tool totally much
more awesome because they care and stuff.
Facebook has removed several rape joke pages from its social network. However, controversial postings may remain if administrators add a tag stating they are humorous or satire.
Facebook told the BBC:
We take reports of questionable and offensive content very seriously. However, we also want Facebook to be a place where people can openly discuss issues and express their views, while respecting the rights and feelings of others.
Groups or pages that express an opinion on a state, institution, or set of beliefs - even if that opinion is outrageous or offensive to some - do not by themselves violate our policies. These online discussions are a reflection of those
happening offline, where conversations happen freely.
The statement's formal language contrasts with the firm's previous comments. In August it said: Just as telling a rude joke won't get you thrown out of your local pub, it won't get you thrown off Facebook.
More than two-thirds of adults support the shutdown of social networks during periods of social unrest such as the riots in England this summer, new research has revealed.
A poll of 973 adults carried out for the online security firm Unisys found 70% of adults supported the shutdown of Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), while only 27% disagreed.
However analysis by the Guardian of 2.5m tweets relating to the riots, part of its Reading the Riots study in conjunction with the London School of Economics, found little evidence to support claims the network had been used to instigate
unrest. However, the BBM network was believed to have played a role in organising disturbances.
Freedom of expression campaigners said they were worried that Britons were sanctioning draconian measures as ever more services shift online. Padraig Reidy, news editor of Index on Censorship said:
It's very worrying that people would believe shutting down social networks would be in any way desirable. The vast majority of social network use during the unrest was people sreading information and helping each other get home safely. These
kinds of actions would weaken the UK's position against authoritarian regimes who censor internet access. As we live more of our lives online, people should be conscious of the amount of power they're potentially handing over to government.
Crude insults, aggressive threats and unstinting ridicule: it's business as usual in the world of website news commentary -- at least for the women who regularly contribute to the national debate.
The frequency of the violent online invective -- or trolling -- levelled at female commentators and columnists is now causing some of the best known names in journalism to hesitate before publishing their opinions. As a result, women
writers across the political spectrum are joining to call for a stop to the largely anonymous name-calling.
The columnist Laurie Penny, who writes for the Guardian, New Statesman and Independent, has decided to reveal the amount of abuse she receives in an effort to persuade online discussion forums to police threatening comments more effectively.
I believe the time for silence is over, Penny wrote on Friday, detailing a series of anonymous attacks on her appearance, her past and her family. The writer sees this new epidemic of misogynist abuse as tapping an old vein in British
public life. Irrelevant personal attacks on women writers and thinkers go back at least to the late 18th century, she says. The implication that a woman must be sexually appealing to be taken seriously as a thinker did not start with the
internet: it's a charge that has been used to shame and dismiss women's ideas since long before Mary Wollstonecraft was called a hyena in petticoats . The net, however, makes it easier for boys in lonely bedrooms to become bullies.
Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have slammed Facebook for threatening to terminate the account of a French weekly whose offices were firebombed after publishing images of the Prophet Mohammed.
RSF noted with irony that Charlie Hebdo's staff could no longer edit comments on its Facebook wall , including those inciting violence, while the enemies of freedom of expression could continue to post hate messages.
Apparently Facebook sent a warning messgae to Charlie Hebdo:
Facebook has just discovered opportunely that Charlie Hebdo 'is not a real person', something that breaks the site's rules.
The content that you have published on Facebook has been deleted for breaking (Facebook) rules. Postings with graphic, sexually explicit or excessively revealing content are banned.
This message is a warning. Another infraction will result in the account being terminated.
Charlie Hebdo journalist Valerie Manteau said that the newspaper has now taken down its Facebook page voluntarily and as a temporary measure because it could not edit the comments.
It is extremely worrying to notice that the social network seems to fall on the side of censorship and restricting the freedom to inform, said RSF, noting that Facebook had already closed the pages of several dissidents.
A recent decision by Lebanon's National Audiovisual Media Council (NAMC) is catching a lot of flak. The council called for all news websites to register with it starting November 1, prompting fears the move is both illegal and a move to
In an interview with NOW Lebanon, Abdel-Hadi Mahfouz, head of the 10-member NAMC, claimed the council merely wants to get an idea of the electronic media landscape in the country prior to passing a new law that would extend media control to
include online publications.
Mahfouz told NOW Lebanon that both news websites and blogs should register, after which details would be hammered out on how the two should be regulated in the future. He added that failure to register could result in the site being banned.
Ayman Mhanna, executive director of the press-freedom-promoting SKEyes Center, said he feared censorship was the main goal of the initiative and lamented what he called the council's past dismal record of speaking up when journalists were beaten
or intimidated as well as the council's lack of explanation for its recent decision. Mhanna said:
Also, there are deep flaws in the decision . There's absolutely no clarity in terms of what they mean by 'news websites.' I really think that they themselves don't know the difference between official news websites, blogs, citizen
journalism platforms [and the like].
Change and Reform bloc MP Ghassan Moukheiber, who authored a new media law that would address electronic media and is currently under review in parliament, also questioned the decision, highlighting what he called its complete illegality.
Moukheiber and Mhanna said that the current 1994 law does not mention electronic media at all, and therefore it, and the council it created, has no legal authority to regulate websites.
Moukheiber said: This decision is not only [legally incorrect] but dangerous. Although it looks benign, legally [registration would be] a de facto recognition that electronic media are subject to the  law.
Ellen Gondola had breast cancer. One day, years later, she stood topless in an artist's studio and allowed her chest to be covered in paint, her cancer scars blanketed with bamboo and butterflies. She'd never felt so beautiful.
Twenty-four other breast cancer survivors have posed topless like she did. Most of their images have been taken down, too, creator and photographer Michael Colanero said, citing puritanical resistance from Facebook users who flagged the
images as inappropriate.
Gondola had joined a cause, the Fort Lauderdale-based Breast Cancer Awareness Body Painting Project, which has a group page on Facebook. Now she's part of a second cause, the Facebook
Malaysia will call on the international community to embark on a campaign to save the younger generation as well as the next generations from moral degradation arising from exposure to negative elements on the Internet.
Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said the matter would be conveyed at the current London Conference on Cyberspace which..
He said Malaysia would also articulate its view on the enforcement of the law either domestically or internationally, which he said, should not be regarded as an act of Internet censorship.
There should also be a commonly accepted stand to deal with child pornography and pornography in general, he told Bernama and RTM after visiting the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (OCIS).
In Malaysia, Rais said, cyberspace matters should be seen from the point of view of how the Internet, through its social media, can be used responsibly within the perimeters of the country's law. But when we say this, let it not mean that the
Internet or the social media is subject to censorship. The law is the law and should be respected, he said, adding that the conference would galvanise understanding among the international community on 'proper' Internet utilisation.
Governments must not clamp down on Internet and mobile phone networks at times of social unrest, the British government said weeks after suggesting police should do just that during riots. Foreign Secretary William Hague said the fact that
criminals and terrorists can exploit digital networks is not justification for states to censor their citizens.
And Prime Minister David Cameron said governments must not use cybersecurity as an excuse for censorship or to deny their people the opportunities that the Internet represents. The prime minister told the conference that:
governments cannot leave cyberspace open to the criminals and the terrorists that threaten our security and our prosperity but at the same time we cannot just go down the heavy-handed route. The balance we have got to strike is between freedom
and a free-for-all.
Cameron and Hague spoke as a two-day international cybersecurity conference opened Tuesday in London. Their stance contrasts with calls by Russia and China for tighter regulation of the Internet through binding international treaties.
Britain supports the less proscriptive idea of internationally agreed online norms of behavior. That approach was backed by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who warned against imposing a repressive global code for the Internet.
John Kampfner, chief executive of Index on Censorship:
It's very easy to defend the case of black and white, human rights against dictatorships around the world, said But as soon as our own Western-style stability of the state is called into question, well then freedom of expression is
expendable. There should be one rule for all, including Western governments.
The EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, has called for all Internet-connected devices to be produced with parental controls installed by default.
In a speech to the Safer Internet Forum in Luxembourg, Kroes praised existing self-regulation initiatives but put forward a list of measures for industry to implement in the next 18 months:
children should be able to easily report abusive content, cyber-bullying or grooming using a single-click system;
children's profiles on services like social networking sites should be set to privacy by default;
Internet-connected devices should have parental controls installed also by default;
age-rating and content classification systems need expansion and improvement
It is not yet clear whether installed by default is intended to mean installed and activated by default . It is also unclear what sort of parental controls Kroes has in mind, whether parental control software installed on home
computers and under the complete control of the user, or internet blocking implemented at the network level.
YouTube employees are still debating where to draw the censorship line between titillating content that may or may not be acceptable.
Victoria Grand, YouTube's director for global communications and policy, said:
Recently we had the issue of man boobs. Do man boobs need to be age-restricted or not?
Man boobs, is an unlikely but popular category on YouTube, in part because mischievous uploaders may imply the exposed bosoms are actually, well, female. One gentlemen who goes by the name of Mr. Pregnant has uploaded over 1,000 videos (one,
aptly titled manboobs and featuring his ample chest, has been viewed nearly 2 million times).
Literally, these are the things that we debate ferociously to the point that we don't sleep at night, Grand said during a panel discussion about free speech at a human rights conference in San Francisco: We try to take into account user
safety versus age appropriateness versus what a general community of kids 13 and up can see.
YouTube censors pornography. Its policies do, however, allow partial nudity and non-sexual nudity as long as those videos are placed behind a warning screen that requires users to say they're 18 years or older. What falls into the age-restricted
category is highly context-dependent: YouTube policies refer to the length of time an image appears in the video, the lighting, and the camera angle and focus.
YouTube appears to have resolved the debate over buxom men in favor of Mr. Pregnant and free speech: his videos have not been not age-restricted.
The UK Government passed the Criminal Justice & Immigration Act 2008 criminalising the possession of adult, staged, consensual violent pornography with draconian penalties of up to 3 years in prison. The law also bans images of bestiality and
Since that time the law has achieved:
Numerous paedophilia cases have been pepped up with lesser charges of extreme porn that is found when computers are searched.
The authorities have been able to persecute people when no evidence of their suspected original crime has been found. The resulting computer search has turned up some extreme porn 'so at least they can be done for something'.
A few innocent people have got into trouble about jokey bad taste video clips found on their phones and computers.
Zero reports of dangerous sex criminals being detected from their extreme porn use.
Following the disclosure that Jo Yeates's killer Vincent Tabak was obsessed with websites showing sexual violence, bondage and strangulation, campaigners are inevitably claiming that an unstoppable flood of hard-core and violent pornography is
corroding the very fabric of society.
This has been put down to the apparent failure of laws introduced in 2009 to outlaw images of rape, torture and extreme sexual violence as well as bestiality and necrophilia. Anyone caught visiting such websites to view violent and extreme
pornography was threatened with up to 3 years in jail and an unlimited fine.
But officials admitted they expected to see only a small number of prosecutions and no extra funding was made available for a proactive police response. The policy contrasts with proactive inquiries into the use of child-abuse images which are
the responsibility of specially trained teams.
Liz Longhurst, who led the fight for a new law after her daughter Jane was murdered, said she was disappointed that there have been few prosecutions and attacked the recklessness of internet companies. She claimed:
The internet service providers have so much to answer for. They go on about freedom, but for goodness sake where was Jane's freedom?
The police should make it routine that if somebody is accused of murder or a serious attack they should investigate if this stuff is on their computer.
The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) said that last year they have investigated 2700 complaints from the public claiming llegal adult porn but these resulted in only 12 cases that were judged as potentially criminal and 8 take down notices were
issued. The other 4 presumably been hosted abroad and not liable to IWF intervention. 49 take down notices have been issued in the last 3 years.
IWF chief executive Susie Hargreaves said: The IWF is able to act on any public reports of online obscene adult content where it is hosted in the UK and contravenes UK Law. However, we receive very few reports of this type of content which
satisfies these criteria.
Former Labour MP Martin Salter, who campaigned for the new laws, said he wants to see police using them and sending out a clear message.
There are some people so evil and so depraved that nothing will deter them. But it was hoped that by tightening these laws we might prevent some unbalanced individuals from being tipped over the edge.
Quite frankly, every time the police use these powers and there is more publicity about their existence, the greater the deterrent factor in these cases.
The Church of England is threatening to use its financial power to inflict internet censorship on Britain. It is considering withdrawing the millions it has invested in ISPs unless they take action.
The Church of England, which wields significant financial clout on the markets, is reviewing investments worth tens of millions. It refuses to invest in firms which fuel the very problems Christians are trying to tackle and has already leaned
heavily on supermarkets to be more responsible in the way they sell alcohol.
A Church spokesman said members of its ethical investment advisory group are considering new guidelines on pornography which take into account how easy it is to access with modern media.
The Church of England's stance on porn was welcomed by the Reverend Nutter Richard Moy, who works with young people in Lichfield, Staffordshire. He spouted without a grain of justification:
It is not surprising that people go from soft porn to progressively more hard-core porn to the point where they are so depraved that they do things that they would never imagine doing.
I think that if people start using mild porn to gratify a need rather than looking at why they need that gratification then they will eventually move on to more disturbing things.
[On the other hand, if people don't gratify their needs, eg priests trying to be celibate, then they may eventually move on to even more disturbing things].
Vincent Tabak, who was sentenced last Friday to at least 20 years in prison for the murder of Joanna Yeates, was obsessed with violent pornography on the internet. Rightly or wrongly, the trial judge had ruled that the jury should not be told
about his extreme predilections.
But there can be little doubt that the images which Tabak found online literally corrupted his imagination, and influenced his behaviour. In the words of the prosecution, he moved from observer to participator as a result of his
relentless trawling of hard-core sites.
Offsite: Daily Mail Editorial: In Joanna's name, close these vile sites
We already have a law that bans possession of the most extreme kinds of pornography yet it has resulted in only a handful of prosecutions.
But as Stephen Glover argues powerfully on this page, defeatism on this issue is not an option. Other countries police the internet. With determination, so can Britain.
Opponents of censorship argue that we should not interfere with the free viewing choices of grown-ups. But this freedom comes at too high a price if it means that potentially violent individuals such as Vincent Tabak become violent in reality.
Offsite: Inciting hatred of men by claiming they are all easily led to violence
There is, whatever the libertarians and porn apologists say, a direct link between violence against women and pornography.
I am not advocating the state censorship of pornography, ... [BUT] ...just that we bring in legislation akin to that which criminalises racial hatred. We should introduce a crime of incitement to sexual hatred in order to sanction
those who produce and consume images of females being tortured and violated because of their gender.
Tabak is an extreme example of how pornography can feed sadistic fantasy to the point of where it is no longer enough to be a passive viewer.
Media industry copyright representatives returned to court to hammer out the final details in the pioneering web-blocking case against Usenet indexing site Newzbin2.
Although BT had already lost their case opposing the action, there was a last-minute development when a Newzbin2 and BT user stepped up to intervene in the proceedings.
The individual, known only as DM , had already come under legal pressure from the Motion Picture Association (MPA) trying to prevent the intervention.
TorrentFreak understands that DM asked that the full block on Newzbin2 should be avoided, and the MPA should specifically identify which URLs point to infringing material and have those removed instead.
The judge felt that DM's submission should be aired and he allowed that to go ahead. Whether it has made any difference is yet to be seen. And because he won his submission he won't have to pay the costs of the MPA opposing him.
The court has reserved its judgement on details considered in this latest hearing.
Britain's largest ISP, BT, is being forced to use its Cleanfeed blocking capability to stop users from accessing a website enabling movie piracy.
Bloomberg Businessweek reported that as a result of a case won by Twentieth Century Fox and five other studios last July, a judge told BT that it had to use the Cleanfeed content-blocking system to block Newzbin. This is a website that
indexes Usenet content that is commonly posted without copyright consent.
BT has argued against the court order saying it would be inappropriate because Newzbin isn't a customer of the company.
The UK's four major Internet Service Providers have published a Code of Practice, putting the decision on what to block in parents' hands. Virgin Media, BT, TalkTalk and Sky, said they believed parents are best-placed to decide whether to turn
controls on, and to decide what types of content and applications to block, rather than having those decisions made for them by internet firms.
The Code commits them to educating parents about content controls but does not require them to provide ISP level blocking. Instead the code commits its signatory ISPs to teaching parents about the availability of parental controls, providing
tools free of charge to filter access to the internet at the point of purchase and reminding customers of the blocking tools at their disposal at least once a year.
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said he was pleased to see the industry taking action to help parents protect their children online . He said:
The new code of conduct is a real, practical step to ensure households make a choice about parental controls when opening a new internet account.
The Children's Minister Tim Loughton added:
Parents are quite rightly concerned about their children accessing harmful or inappropriate content online. But many parents don't always know how to activate parental controls at home. That's why it's important they are asked to make a choice
at the point of purchase over whether they want parental controls switched on or off.
Swedish security service Sapo and national police investigators want to see new legislation that will make it easier for them to snoop on the internet.
Both Sapo and the National Bureau of Investigation (Rikskriminalpolisen) claim they want to be better able to reveal terror plans and other 'serious' crimes.
Options under discussion are the ability to infiltrate discussion groups and carry out surveillance using false identities, the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper reports. Sapo head Anders Danielsson said:
After Anders Behring Breivik's and Taimour Abdulwahab's terror attacks, we have to ask the question if the virtual world can trigger people to commit heinous crimes. If it can, we have to be there. We have to patrol the net.
Should the police be on Facebook so that people can turn there in the same way they can approach a police officer on the street? Someone may want to say something about talk of strange or unpleasant things in a Facebook group. How can we create
that possibility? Should we infiltrate the internet? Then we're into legal questions? Can we do that?
Both attacks have prompted Swedish police and Sapo to review their surveillance methods so they can more easily identify individuals who lack an economic motive and have no criminal history, yet are nevertheless prepared to commit violent acts.
An inquiry into possible changes is expected to be completed by the end of the year and may result in Sapo asking the government to update Swedish legislation.
Parliamentary task force examines hate speech on the internet
See article from computeractive.co.uk
A UK Government Task Force is meeting to discuss ways of combating the growing supposed problem of people publishing bigoted statements on websites.
The Internet Hate Speech Task Force hearing follows a meeting attended by MPs and ISPs. At that discussion, Israel's Minister of Public Affairs and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein claimed: The issue of hate on the internet needs greater
attention given its scope and potential for harm.!
The task force is hosted by John Mann MP and was set up by the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism (ICCA). It will look at the nature and scope of internet hate. This will include racism, religious hate speech, misogyny and
The types of hate speech that are appearing on the internet will be examined as will the various online media through which it appears. The hearing will also highlight the impact that internet hate can have, including its role in fostering hate
crimes, and it will include testimonies from experts and witnesses.
Further hearings will be scheduled by the Task Force and a report containing recommendations is due in late 2012
Google have revealed the number of requests for them to remove content, mostly from YouTube and to hide content from searches. The figures cover the period January to June 2011.
Google received 7 UK court orders to remove 43 items from searches. 14 on grounds of defamation and 28 on grounds of privacy or security.
Google received 1 UK court order and 52 letters from the likes of police and government requesting removal of a total of 220 YouTube videos. 61 for privacy and security, 135 for national security, 3 for violence and 1 for hate speech.
Google received 24 US court orders and 3 government/police requests to remove 198 items from searches. 188 of these on grounds of defamation
Google received 6 US court order and 26 letters from the likes of police and government requesting removal of a total of 113 YouTube videos. 62 for privacy and security, and 16 for defamation.
Google also received 5 court orders to remove 379 Google Groups on grounds of defamation. Also 18 requests to remove 47 items from Blogger blogs.
The US requests are a 70% increase over the previous 6 month.
In a show of good faith, Google touted the fact that it has refused to cooperate with law enforcement agencies in the U.S. who requested the removal of YouTube videos of police brutality and criticisms of law enforcement officials.
Google cited its transparency report from the first half of this year, but to mention it with violent crackdowns at Occupy Oakland this week, is telling. Google said:
We received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove YouTube videos of police brutality, which we did not remove. Separately, we received requests from a different local law enforcement agency for removal of
videos allegedly defaming law enforcement officials. We did not comply with those requests, which we have categorized in this Report as defamation requests.
Adrian Smith, a Christian, posted in his own time a response to a news story on the Government's plans to allow gay weddings in church. The posting, which was only available to his friends, questioned whether the plans were an equality too far
He was then found guilty of supposed gross misconduct by the Trafford Housing Trust, a publicly funded housing association, and has been demoted from his £ 35,000 a year managerial post to a more junior
£ 21,000 position.
The Trust said the comments, posted on a page which identified the user as a housing association employee, were against equal opportunities policy.
Smith is threatening to take the housing association to court claiming damages equivalent to his lost pay.
Update: Peter Tatchell correctly defends Adrian Smith
A leading gay rights campaigner has backed a Christian housing worker demoted for posting comments on Facebook about gay marriage. Political campaigner Peter Tatchell described the Trafford Housing Trust (THT) response as excessive and
Human rights organisation the Peter Tatchell Foundation issued a statement saying it was not a particularly homophobic viewpoint :
Adrian Smith's opposition to churches being compelled to hold gay marriages is shared by much of the population, including many equality and human rights organisations. In a democratic society, he has a right to express his point of view, even
if it is misguided and wrong.
Freedom of speech should only be limited or penalised in extreme circumstances, such as when a person incites violence against others. Mr Smith's words did not cross this threshold.
Instead of taking disciplinary action, the Trust should have simply warned Smith about making remarks in forums where he is identified as their employee, added Tatchell: I urge Trafford Housing Trust to revoke his demotion and salary cut.
A Christian who was demoted for posting his opposition to gay marriage on Facebook has won a High Court case against his employer for breach of contract.
Adrian Smith lost his managerial job, his pay was cut by 40 per cent and he got a final written warning from Trafford Housing Trust after posting that gay weddings in church were an equality too far .
The comments were not visible to the general public and were posted outside work time, but the trust claimed he broke its code of conduct by expressing religious or political views which might upset co-workers.
However, Mr Justice Briggs found the postings did not amount to misconduct, and that viewed objectively, they were not judgmental, disrespectful or liable to cause upset or offence, and were expressed in moderate language. The judge said:
Mr Smith was taken to task for doing nothing wrong, suspended and subjected to a disciplinary procedure which wrongly found him guilty of gross misconduct. The breach of contract was serious and repudiatory.
However the damages were limited to a very small amount due to the actual financial loss turning out to be small for the period covered by the case.
Ricky Gervais has refused to apologise after disability groups and fellow comedians condemned him for repeatedly using the word 'mong' on Twitter and posting photos of himself pulling monged-up faces. In the past month Gervais's
Twitter followers have leapt from 68,000 to more than 440,000 as the comedian became embroiled in an online row about the use of the term.
In a statement Gervais said that the term was completely different to mongol , a derogatory term for people with Down's syndrome. I have never used the word 'mongol'. I have used the word 'mong', he said. I have never used that
word to mean Down's syndrome and never would. The modern use of the word 'mong' means 'dopey' or 'ignorant'. It's even in modern slang and urban dictionaries.
Mong is short for mongoloid , which was originally an anachronistic term for a Down's Syndrome sufferer. The modern Mong however is a total fuckwit, who deserves nothing less than complete humiliation for their
The controversy began after Gervais returned to Twitter on 29 September. He made a string of tweets involving variations on the word mong . Phrases included What a fucking useless Mong I really am , two mongs don't make a right
and good monging .
Gervais had already responded to criticism earlier this month, tweeting: Just to clarify for uptight people stuck in the past. The word Mong means Downs syndrome about as much as the word Gay means happy.
The tirade has now come to the attention of the press. Frank Buckley, of Down Syndrome Education International, told the Sun: Most would consider it as offensive as comparable terms of abuse referring to racial background or sexual
orientation. A Mencap spokesman, Mark Gale, said that the comedian's behaviour was very disappointing , adding that such language can perpetuate discriminatory attitudes .
Gervais remains unrepentant, bullishly posting another gurning self-portrait of himself on Twitter with the caption: The police just came round and confiscated all my awards. Gutted.
Dick Costolo, Twitter's chief, has stood by the company's decision not to suspend the service during the UK riots or disclose user identities to authorities.
Speaking at the annual Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, Costolo referred specifically to the UK riots when talking about the need to ensure Twitter remains a platform upon which freedom of speech is prioritised , even during times of civil
One of our core values is respect and the need to defend the user's voice, he explained. In the case of the London riots...the majority of the tweets were more about organising cleans ups [rather than inciting violence].
It was thought that after a number of executives from Twitter, Facebook and Blackberry were summoned to a meeting with Theresa May, the Home Secretary, after their services were used to coordinate and encourage looting during the UK riots, the
Government would try to temporarily suspend the digital networks. However, Costolo revealed that instead of engaging in shut down talks in such meetings, it told government officials that the hope is the majority of tweets around a hot
topic such as the riots, will be geared at trying to help matters, rather than incite more violence.
Reforms to England's libel laws will not do enough to protect free speech. A powerful parliamentary committee believes further steps are needed to prevent big corporations using their financial muscle to gag opponents by threatening legal
It also wants extra measures to protect scientists and academics who are publishing legitimate research, and to prevent trivial claims ever reaching court.
The committee has been scrutinising the Coalition's proposals to end the international embarrassment that sees rich and powerful foreigners flocking to our courts to silence critics.
The report from the joint committee on the draft Defamation Bill says many of the Government's proposals, particularly a move to end trial by jury except in the most serious cases, are worthwhile . But it says the plans are modest and do not address the key problem in defamation law, the
unacceptably high costs associated with defending cases.
Recommendation that websites be held responsible for anonymous comments
Websites should have protection from defamation cases if they act quickly to remove anonymous postings which prompt a complaint, a report says. A joint parliamentary committee tasked with examining libel reform says it wants a cultural
shift so that posts under pseudonyms are not considered true, reliable or trustworthy , But it says websites which identify authors and publish complaints alongside comments should get legal protection.
The committee proposes a new notice and takedown procedure for defamatory online comments - aimed at providing a quick remedy for those who are defamed and to give websites which use the procedure more legal protection.
It recommends that where complaints are made about comments from identified authors - the website should promptly publish a notice of the complaint alongside it. The complainant can then apply to a court for a takedown order - which if
granted, should result in the comment being removed, if the website is to avoid the risk of a defamation claim.
But where potentially defamatory comments are anonymous, the website should immediately remove them on receipt of a complaint, unless the author agrees to identify themselves, the report says. The author of the comment can then be sued for
defamation but if a website refuses to take down an anonymous remark it should be treated as its publisher and face the risk of libel proceedings .
The report also says a website could apply to a court for a leave-up order, if it (is rich enough and) considers the anonymous comment to be on a matter of significant public interest.
But Mumsnet, a parenting website, says many of its members rely on the ability to ask questions or post comments anonymously. Many of the women posting messages do so under a user name , rather than their real name - and the site is
worried the proposal will mean more people demanding messages be taken down.
Its co-founder, Justine Roberts, said while it was right to stop people from assassinating the character of others from behind the cloak of anonymity the report did not recognise how useful anonymous postings were in allowing people to
speak honestly about difficult real-life situations . The recommendations could have a chilling effect on sites like Mumsnet where many thousands of people use anonymity to confidentially seek and give advice about sensitive real-life
Under the current law, websites are liable for defamatory statements made by their users. If they fail to take down a post when they receive a complaint, they risk being treated as the primary publisher of the statement.
So how is a website to know if users correctly identify themselves anyway?
The government's proposed web controls are too simplistic when it comes to understanding and filtering adult material
Last week's announcement of a national scheme to block adult content at the point of subscription (as the BBC's website had it) was a moment of mass credulity on the part of the nation's media, and an example of how complex technical
questions and hot-button save-the-children political pandering are a marriage made in hell when it comes to critical analysis in the press.
Under No 10's proposal, the UK's major ISPs, BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin, will invite new subscribers to opt in or out of an adult content filter. But for all the splashy reporting on this that dominated the news cycle, no one seemed to
be asking exactly what adult content is, and how the filters' operators will be able to find and block it.
Adult content covers a lot of ground. While the media of the day kept mentioning pornography in this context, existing adult filters often block gambling sites and dating sites (both subjects that are generally considered adult but
aren't anything like pornography), while others block information about reproductive health and counselling services aimed at GBLT teens (gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender).
Then there's the problem of sites that have a wide variety of content, such as the venerable LiveJournal, which contains millions of personal and shared diaries. Some of these have material that children, especially small children, shouldn't see,
but others don't. Is LiveJournal an adult site? It is, at least according to some filters.
McAfee creates blacklists of online content, categorising sites in order to let ISPs block them. BT and Sky use McAfee's lists for their parental controls, which a new Government-sponsored code of conduct requires them to offer to all
The overall process is mostly automated, with McAfee's system looking for keywords on a site to classify it. Toralv Dirro, a security strategist at McAfee's Avert labs told PC Pro. If there's any doubt, we do have a team of people that take a
look at a website and correct a classification if it's necessary. The team responsible for covering McAfee's customers worldwide is made up of between five to ten people. I think it's a fairly popular job for students, Dirro said.
However, he admits the very sites the small team is asked to judge are those that are the most subjective. Drawing the line between erotic and hardcore pornography is probably the most difficult, he said. Another thing is websites that
go into extreme left or right side [politically], but still do news or something like that.
Dirro admitted there can be difficulties when a mainstream site features material that could be deemed pornographic to some people. Maybe they had pornographic or erotic stuff on their site, which for example could happen with a newspaper
site, if they have the 'Page 3' picture of a woman on the front page. Normally, the entire site would be banned, not only the offending page. However larger sites such as The Sun have markers to prevent them from being slotted into a
category and subsequently blocked.
There's no way you can obtain the complete list from us, Dirro said, adding McAfee would never publish the full list for intellectual property reasons. If you published that list, anyone could just take it and use it and create their
If a site has been wrongly categorised, which Dirro admitted does happen, the site owner can open a ticket with support to get it changed. If McAfee refuses to change it, there's not really much that a site can do, Dirro admitted.
EFF Criticises UK Government over Gambling Filter Plans
From bingosupermarket.com by Mark Bennett
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is criticising the UK government for its plans on internet filtering. In conjunction with the Christian organization Mothers' Union, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has enacted a plan with four of
Britain's major ISPs, BT, TalkTalk, Virgin, and Sky, to block access to pornography, gambling, self-harm, and other blacklisted websites.
The EFF claims that the plan lacks transparency. The blocked categories are vague in nature, and the list's origins unknown. Not only do the categories contain legal content in some cases, but there is significant room for overblocking.
The EFF also suggests opt-in services create privacy concerns. Users who choose to opt out of the bad content filter are then on one list. The plan does not in include privacy protections for the people who choose to opt out. The list
could potentially be made public, shaming users who would prefer their Internet with its pornography, gambling, and self-harm websites intact.
As widely reported yesterday the four biggest ISPs said they have come up with a code of practice re website blocking and parental controls.
However this does not quite mean that ISPs are automatically blocking pornographic sites, and customers who wish to see such content do not have to ask their provider for permission to do so.
In fact what the ISPs said is something a little different. For example BT said in a statement:
The ISPs have committed to improve the way they communicate to customers, enabling parents to make simple and well-informed choices about installing and activating parental controls and other measures to protect children online. The four ISPs
are working with parents' groups and children's charities on this important initiative and will continue to do so.
The ISPs are offering a wider range of services, not just the automatic blocking facility that has caught the attention.
All four ISPs already offer controls, and some of their users already have the feature turned on. The only change is that new customers can no longer sidestep the activation decision. A spokesperson for TalkTalk said: This is called 'active
choice' rather than an opt-in or opt-out.
In the cases of BT, Sky and Virgin Media, the parental control software is PC-based rather than network-based, and comes on the CD new customers need to set up their connection. BT said it plans to remind existing customers that they can activate
the parental controls if they wish. This will be PC software provided by the security company McAfee.
TalkTalk goes a step further, in that it uses a network-level blocking system called HomeSafe, which has already raised the ire of anti-censorship campaigners. HomeSafe has blocked one million websites since its introduction in May,
TalkTalk said in a statement, adding it hopes to see other ISPs follow its lead with network-level measures.
However, a spokesman for BT said the company is not convinced these screen material as effectively as PC-based controls, at this time . They could prove irritating and end up being unused, because they are inflexible and do not offer
the versatility of PC-based controls, the spokesman told ZDNet UK.
The band Jane's Addiction posted the cover for their 1988 album Nothing's Shocking on their official Facebook page, along with a few other classic images from their history. But Facebook apparently took offence to the Nothing's
Shocking cover, which features two naked ladies, and removed it.
The band quickly reposted the image, albeit an edited version with Facebook logos covering the girls' modesties, along with a post that said:
In 1988, nine of the 11 leading record chains refused to carry Nothing's Shocking because of its cover. (In 2011, Facebook joined them.)
Visits to any site that has Facebook features such as 'like buttons' will be recorded on your own page unless you take positive action to turn it off, somewhere in the complex labyrinth of Facebook options.
Fake names are the latest ruse among teenagers who wish to get around monitoring by parents and schools
Are you a parent who keeps an eye on who posts what on your child's Facebook account? Perhaps you know their password and sneak a look at their messages from time to time? You may even enjoy the trusted privilege of being a friend .
Whatever the situation, social networking sites are a source of anxiety for parents, and now the latest trend will only add to their alarm. Children are staying way ahead of attempts by parents and schools to police their online activity And the
latest ruse is a secret, fake-name Facebook account.
Some kids will have two or even three, says Dr Barbie Clarke, of the youth research agency Family Kids and Youth, who monitors online trends among schoolchildren in the UK.
Their habits change and we're seeing them progress from the obvious lie about their age -- allowing them to use Facebook in the first place -- to this second or third identity. It's usually driven by Mum picking up on something from their page
and raising it with them. They want privacy and they want a secret world. She is very relaxed about Facebook use by children, saying she thinks they are generally more sensible and supportive of each other than they get credit for. A
second identity can be used for nastiness, to anonymously bully, but generally it's about secrecy -- like a secret diary, or dialogue they can have away from parents and other family members.