The governments invasive mass snooping laws will be used to bring online bullies and trolls to justice, the Home Secretary says.
Theresa May reportedly says that surveillance powers, unveiled under the Investigatory Powers Bill last month, will be used by police and spooks to track down and identify anonymous cyberbullies. The Times reports that 'officials' will be able to
unmask users going by various aliases.
Previously the government has maintained that the far reaching Snooper's Charter would be restricted to tracking serious crimes such as terrorism and child abuse.
Offsite Article: Theresa May wants to see your internet history, so we thought it was only fair to ask for hers
Teenagers under the age of 16 could be banned from Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and email if they don't have parental permission, under ludicrous last-minute
changes to EU laws.
The European Union is on the verge of pushing through new censorship laws that would raise the age of consent for websites to use personal data from 13 to 16.
It would mean that millions of teenagers under 16 would be forced to seek permission from parents whenever signing up to a social media account, downloading an app or even using search engines. No doubt this will either lead to a ludicrously expensive
rubber stamping exercise that won't get taken seriously or otherwise kids will be forced to lie about their age. Inevitable tantrums and family tensions will surely do more harm than good.
The law, due to be negotiated between member states on Tuesday, would cause a major headache for social media companies. Almost all major social media services, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and Google, currently have a minimum age of
13, in compliance with European and American laws.
Once laws are agreed, they are due to be voted on by the European parliament's civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee on Thursday before being ratified by the parliament itself in the New Year. Countries would then have two years to
implement the law. Failing to comply with the new legislation would mean fines of up to 4pc of a company's turnover - tens of millions of pounds for the biggest internet firms.
The EU has dropped its ridiculous idea to require 15 year olds to get parental permission before being allowed to access social media.
The EU lawmakers were bombarded with criticism of the incompetent idea.
Anti-bullying charity The Diana Award last night criticised the move. In a letter to MEPs, the charity wrote:
Children aged 13 and above have long accessed online services; an artificial and sudden change to this threshold will likely result in many children between the ages of 13 and 15 lying about their ages in order to continue accessing online services --
rather than asking their parents to consent.
This development would make it far more difficult for online services to offer children age-appropriate guidance and tools to ensure a safe and privacy-protective experience online.
It seems that the ludicrous EU idea for 15 year olds to get parental permission to join Facebook etc was not quite dropped as previously reported.
In fact negotiations ultimately maintained the concept of 16 as a digital age of consent, but allows member states to opt-out from the requirement to raise the digital age of consent from 13 to 16. Of course this now has potential to cause
confusion due to the way the internet functions across borders. Would a 15-year-old in one country find that his use of social media became illegal as he crossed the border into another?
Apple has called for changes to the UK government's investigatory powers bill, over fears it would weaken the security of personal data of millions of
law-abiding citizens .
In a submission to the bill committee the company expressed major concerns and called for wholesale changes before the bill is passed. It siad:
We believe it would be wrong to weaken security for hundreds of millions of law-abiding customers so that it will also be weaker for the very few who pose a threat. In this rapidly evolving cyber-threat environment, companies should remain free to
implement strong encryption to protect customers
Apple highlighted the main areas of the bill that it wants to see changed. It told the committee that passages in the bill could give the government the power to demand Apple alters the way its messaging service, iMessage, works. The company said this
would weaken encryption and enable the security services to eavesdrop on iMessage for the first time. In its submission, Apple said:
The creation of backdoors and intercept capabilities would weaken the protections built into Apple products and endanger all our customers. A key left under the doormat would not just be there for the good guys. The bad guys would find it too.
Apple said it was worried about the scope of the bill as many of the provisions in the bill apply to companies regardless of where they are based, giving the bill international scope, despite being a purely domestic piece of legislation. It also runs the
risk of placing companies in a damned if they do, damned if they don't position. The company said:
Those businesses affected will have to cope with a set of overlapping foreign and domestic laws. When these laws inevitably conflict, the businesses will be left having to arbitrate between them, knowing that in doing so they might risk sanctions. That
is an unreasonable position to be placed in.
An Egyptian man has been jailed for three years after posting a photo-shopped image of the country's president
Abdel Fattah El Sisi with an inane grin and Mickey Mouse ears on Facebook.
Amr Nohan, a law graduate, was serving as a military conscript when he was tried by a military court for sharing satirical posts on social media sites.
He was sentenced to three years behind bars for posting pictures and other anti-establishment messages which were considered inappropriate for a member of the armed forces. These included including trivial insults such as: Down with Sisi , Morsi and
Mubarak , which was branded an insult to national figures .
The victim's brother told IBTimes:
We are truly in a Mickey Mouse state. Satire is a way for any people that have a mind of their own to express themselves, be that in a democratic country or not.
An Ofcom report on Internet Safety Measures provides an update on the steps taken by the UK's four largest fixed-line internet service providers (ISPs) - BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media - to offer an unavoidable choice, both to new and to
existing customers, whether or not to activate a family-friendly network-level filtering service. This followed an agreement between the Government and the ISPs, under which the ISPs committed to present the unavoidable choice to all new and existing
internet customers by the end of December 2014.
The Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) asked Ofcom to report on internet filters and online safety, including the measures put in place by the ISPs. This fourth report focuses on recent research, the progress made by the ISPs, and other
developments during the past year.
Perhaps the most interesting stats in the report are the takeup of the ISP's web blocking systems. A decision on whether on not to turn on the blocking was made mandatory for all users in 2015.
% Existing customers opting for blocking
% New customers opting for blocking
% All customers opting for blocking
The 62% of existing customers for Sky who have apparently accepted website blocking seems a little strange given that all ISPs have prompted all users to make a choice.
The subtle difference is that Sky went a little further and turned the blocking on for all subscribers who did not respond, whereas the others set their systems to require a selection whenever there was an attempt to use the system, but did not turn it
on fro none responders. The inference is that the discrepancy is explained by a large amount of Sky subscribers that never use their broadband have been included in the 62% figure. Presumably the broadband is offered in packages with Sky TV when perhaps
a significant number of customers don't use the service for browsing the internet.
Assuming that is the case then perhaps the 6% for new customers is a better estimate of Sky users who have turned on blocking. As a rough estimate, incorrectly assuming all ISPs are similar sized, the average uptake of network level website blocking is
Elspeth Howe's Online Safety Bill has passed its committee stage in the House of Lords.
The Bill to impose the ISP filtering on all UK ISPS, to require robust age verification for adult websites and to extended this to overseas sites, was widely praised by peers. However the government noted that it would be introducing its own bill to
cover these areas next year and would not therefore be supporting Howe's bill.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Joanna Shields) summarised the government's position:
I thank all noble Lords for their contributions, and I state one more time that there is no ambiguity about the Government's commitment to launch the consultation shortly after the new year, and to provide for a robust age verification system to ensure
that no one under the age of 18 can access pornographic material in the UK. It is a process that has been going on. We have been seeking advice from experts since the manifesto commitment was announced and we are consulting early in the new year. We are
100% committed to that.
I thank the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, for his contributions and for his extraordinary work in leading the development of solutions that will in fact achieve our goal. Many elements of the Bill are incredibly well thought-out and well intentioned, and they
will be taken on board in the resulting legislative approach that we take in the new year. This is about timing. This clause requires that the Secretary of State must identify a licensing authority for non UK-based pornographic services, and the noble
Baroness's amendment to the clause specifies that the Secretary of State needs a second independent body to conduct appeals. It is a very good suggestion, but it is a bit premature until we finish the consultation.
Regarding the Ofcom/ATVOD role, there is some confusion about the function of ATVOD continuing, but following an Ofcom review, it was publicly announced in October that from January next year Ofcom will take sole responsibility for regulating video
on-demand programme services. As a result, it will not continue its co-regulatory arrangement with ATVOD. Let us be clear on this: it is continuing with the function and the obligation of ATVOD, but that is being brought into the Ofcom portfolio.
Earlier in the debate, The Earl of Erroll made an interesting contribution by that privacy implications mean that the age verification approach used by the gambling industry is not applicable to porn sites.
I am sorry to keep picking the noble Earl's brain, but for the purposes of today's debate, is there any intrinsic difference between the gambling industry and the pornography industry?
The Earl of Erroll:
Yes, there is, interestingly enough. It is to do with the law. Because of anti-money laundering, the gambling industry has to do client checks; it has to behave almost as if it were a bank. As a result, companies have to be able to prove the identity of
the person. For various social reasons, it is felt that it is unfair for people to have to declare their identity publicly if they are looking at adult content which it is perfectly legal to watch, or buying alcohol and so on. For instance, if a Muslim
buys alcohol and the mosque gets to know about it because their identity had to be declared and retained publicly, they might suffer greatly. Equally, if a Cabinet Minister happens to view some pornography or adult material, that is perfectly legal but,
if certain newspapers were to find out, the Minister's career would be destroyed overnight. This is the challenge and the difference. We have to remember that this stuff is legal for the over-18s, but there are social pressures and public opinion, which
we may or may not agree with, so I think that we have to protect people's privacy.
I am sorry to ask again. The example that has been given mentions embarrassment, but it is not technically illegal.
The Earl of Erroll:
The example I have given is one that is career-destroying. The knock-on effect of that could involve all sorts of family repercussions to do with children in school because Daddy or Mummy has just had their career destroyed. We sometimes forget the
effect on a family as the result of something that, while it may be regarded by some as socially unacceptable, is perfectly legal. We need to think about that at the parliamentary level.
The bill now moves on to the House of Lords report stage which has not yet been scheduled.
China's chief internet censor has ludicrously claimed that the country's oppressive censorship of th einternet is merely 'management' of the
The comments by Lu Wei, head of the Cyberspace Administration of China, came ahead of next week's state-sponsored World Internet Conference in the town of Wuzhen. Lu claimed that China does not censor but manages Internet content, the Hong
Kong Free Press reports:
Lu said: It is a misuse of words if you say 'content censorship. But no censorship does not mean there is no management. The Chinese government learnt how to manage the internet from Western developed countries, we have not learnt enough yet.
During the briefing, Lu defended the blocking of some websites and censoring of online posts, according to Reuters . He said that if the Chinese government were being too restrictive with the Internet, China's online market would not be experiencing such
Google's chairman Eric Schmidt has said that technology companies should work on tools to disrupt terrorism - such as creating a
hate speech spell-checker . Writing in the New York Times, Schmidt said using technology to automatically filter-out extremist material would de-escalate tensions on social media and remove videos before they spread .
In the wake of the Paris attacks, companies and governments have clashed over how to handle the terrorism threat. Many tech firms, buoyed by the fallout from the Edward Snowden leaks, have stood firm on encryption - with the likes of Apple and others
making it near-impossible to access a locked smartphone without the password, a move that has frustrated some politicians.
So Schmidt's editorial appears to be an attempt to ease these tensions and show a willingness from technology companies to help. Schmidt wrote:
As with all great advances in technology, expanded Web access has also brought with it some serious challenges, like threats to free speech, qualms about surveillance and fears of online terrorist activity.
For all the good people can do with new tools and new inventions, there are always some who will seek to do harm. Ever since there's been fire, there's been arson.
We should build tools to help de-escalate tensions on social media - sort of like spell-checkers, but for hate and harassment. We should target social accounts for terrorist groups like the Islamic State, and remove videos before they spread, or help
those countering terrorist messages to find their voice.
Without this type of leadership from government, from citizens, from tech companies, the Internet could become a vehicle for further disaggregation of poorly built societies, and the empowerment of the wrong people, and the wrong voices.
And of course there will plenty of interest from many others seeking to censor, for many other reasons less laudable than trying to prevent terrorism.
The French government is looking towards some of the powers enabled by the current state of emergency and is proposing several ideas to increase
state surveillance, including blocks on encrypted Internet connections and a ban on public Wi-Fi networks.
According to the newspaper, Le Monde, the extension of the state of emergency could also stretch to requiring all rental cars to carry GPS, expansion of public video surveillance, two-year telecommunications data retention, and approval for police to use
IMSI-catchers (like the Stingray devices used in America to intercept mobile communications).
French news site Numerama.com adds that the matters under debate also include forced provision of messaging encryption keys. The proposals could be up for enacting in law as soon as January, Numerama says.
The proposals stretch beyond shutting off the Wi-Fi at Parisian cafes to banning shared connections with criminal sanctions as enforcement. It would seem that the French authorities want to be better able to correlate individuals with their
internet communications by making sure that knowledge of an IP address ties down the communication to known and identified individual.
The proposals also indicate a desire to snoop on VoIP conversations, again with encryption keys to be given to the police.
Australian Senators Bullock, Lindgren and Madigan have obtained agreement to a motion calling for the Environment and
Communications Legislation Committee to report on Harm being done to Australian children through access to pornography on the Internet. The report is due in December 2016.
The motion submitted and passed reads:
(1) That the Senate notes that:
(a) in today's culture, children's use of smart phones, tablets and computers has increased markedly;
(b) online pornography is easily accessed, and a growing number of children are viewing it at an early age;
(c) recent studies have shown that exposure to pornography has measurable negative effects on brain development and behavioural outcomes;
(d) online pornography is increasingly violent in its content, particularly against women, and exposure correlates with children's acceptance of violent attitudes and beliefs;
(e) violence against women is often linked back to early and repeated exposure to pornography;
(f) violence towards, and abuse of, children is often linked to early and repeated exposure to pornography;
(g) children increasingly access the Internet outside their home environment; and
(h) previous inquiries in Australia have not adequately addressed the question of children's (those under 18 years-of-age) exposure to online pornography and the harm caused because of that access.
(2) That the following matter be referred to the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by the first sitting day in December 2016:
Harm being done to Australian children through access to pornography on the Internet, with particular reference to:
(a) trends of online consumption of pornography by children and their impact on the development of healthy and respectful relationships;
(b) current methods taken towards harm minimisation in other jurisdictions, and the effectiveness of those methods;
(c) the identification of any measures with the potential for implementation in Australia; and