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 2012: Jan-March

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31st March   

Update: Howe Censorial...

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Elspeth Howe introduces Lords private Members bill to mandatorily block adult content unless adults specifically ask otherwise
Link Here  full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

elspeth howeThe first legislative attempt to introduce an opt-in system for accessing adult internet content, has been introduced to the House of Lords. Of course private members bills have little chance of becoming law unless they capture a large consensus of support including the government.

The Online Safety Private Members Bill was introduced by Baroness Elspeth Howe, who wants to require ISPs and mobile phone companies to block adult content, unless an adult user specifically asks for it.

And the bill has predictably won the backing of the Christian  campaign group CARE, who claim it is important that the government look at providing a safe online environment for web savvy children.

The Private Members Bill is calling for ISPs and mobile phone operators to provide a service that allows adult customers to make decisions about what sort of content they want blocking on their home broadband or their children's mobile phones.

Howe's Bill is based on MP Claire Perry's campaign. The government said at the time that they are in favour of the proposals put forward, but would like the industry to self-regulate and bring about these changes without amending primary legislation. Last year the industry made the pledge to bring forward self-regulatory measures, but did not go as far as endorsing the requirement to have an opt-in to access pornography through a filter at network level.

Howe said:

Historically, most internet content has escaped regulation. A laudable industry-wide effort in the UK resulted in the Clean Feed system that blocks illegal child abuse imagery, but there has always been a reluctance to block, or limit access to, other forms of adult material due to the international nature of internet content.

 

31st March   

Update: Censored Skype Messages...

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Microsoft censors Messenger to remove pirate bay URLs
Link Here

Pirate Bay logoMicrosoft has confirmed that users of its instant messaging app will not be able to send each other links to popular torrent site The Pirate Bay.

We block instant messages if they contain malicious or spam URLs based on intelligence algorithms, third-party sources, and/or user complaints. Pirate Bay URLs were flagged by one or more of these and were consequently blocked, Redmond told The Register in an emailed statement.

Microsoft declined to give any more details for their censorship choice.

 

27th March   

Update: Internet Companies Asked to Pro-actively Censor Social Media...

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Government committee seems to envy Chinese censorship of the press and internet
Link Here

Houses of ParliamentIn a report published on 27th March 2012, Parliament's Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions says Parliament should not introduce any new privacy statute. It concludes that in weighing the competing rights to privacy and freedom of expression, each case must be judged on its own merits. The bar for limiting freedom of expression must be set high, but the Committee says that the courts are now striking a better balance in dealing with applications for privacy injunctions. It rejects criticism that privacy law has been judge-made , noting that it evolved from the Human Rights Act.

The Committee says the most important step towards improving protection of privacy is to provide for enhanced censorship of the media. The Press Complaints Commission lacked the power, sanctions or independence to be truly effective. Substantial changes to press regulation are needed to ensure that it encompasses all major news publishers including, in time, major bloggers.

The reformed media censor should:

Have access to a wider range of sanctions, including the power to fine; be cost-free to complainants be able to determine the size and location of a published apology, and the date of publication play a greater role in arbitrating and mediating privacy disputes

The body dealing with complaints should include representatives who have experience of working in the print media, but should not include any full-time employees of news publishers or individuals who have a demonstrable conflict of interest.

To make self-regulation work, all publishers must sign up to the new regulator. One possible mechanism the Committee suggests is for advertisers to agree to advertise only in publications that are members of the press regulator and subscribe to its rules.

A standing commission comprising members of both Houses of Parliament should be established to scrutinise industry-led press reforms and to report on them to Parliament. If the industry fails to establish an independent regulator which commands public confidence, the Government should seriously consider establishing some form of statutory oversight. This could involve giving Ofcom or another body overall statutory responsibility for press regulation, the day-to-day running of which it could then devolve to a self-regulatory body.

The Committee says that major internet corporations should take active steps to limit the potential for breaches of court orders through use of their products and, if they fail to do so, legislation should be introduced to force them to. In addition, the Attorney General should be more willing to bring actions for civil contempt of court in respect of injunctions being breached online.

It also concludes that parliamentarians should ensure that material subject to an injunction is only revealed in Parliament when there is good reason to do so. Gratuitous or repeated revelation of such information could lead to new parliamentary rules to prevent it. The media must be legally protected when reporting Parliament, and so qualified privilege should apply to the reporting of all proceedings in Parliament.

 

27th March   

Blocking the Hidden Areas of the Internet...

IWF publish their Annual Report for 2011
Link Here

iwf annual report 2011The IWF press release leads on the new concept that child abuse images available on the internet are being hidden in secret portions of seemingly legitimate web sites.

The IWF explains the issue:

Criminals are disguising websites to appear as if they host only legal content. However, if an internet user follows a predetermined digital path which leads them to the website, they will see images and videos of children being sexually abused.

There are several reasons why this method is used. Firstly, it masks the criminal website from those who have not followed the correct digital path. Secondly, it means that a commercial child sexual abuse business may be able to acquire legitimate business services if the website appears to host legal content when accessed directly -- essentially tricking companies into providing their services for what is actually a criminal enterprise.

These disguised websites have not yet been encountered on UK servers but the IWF is working with its Members -- the online industry - and other Hotlines around the world to effectively tackle this trend.

In general the report shows a very laudable near 100% focus on the blocking and taking down of child related material, and doing so speedily.

A useful statistic from the IWF is the number of illegal domains detected. This has declined from a 2006 peak of 3077 domains down to 1595 in 2011. (although this is an increase from 1351 in 2010). Thankfully this seems a pretty low figure for a worldwide statistic. Presumably most of these have subsequently been taken down too.

On the subject of illegal adult material, the IWF received 2779 reports. Only 2 reports were about material hosted in the UK and therefore actionable by the IWF. One of these cases ended up in material being taken down, the other had already been removed prior to action. Most of the other reports involved material hosted abroad. The IWF do not take any action in this case (presumably because the material is probably legal where it is hosted).

There is no comment about whether the recent UK obscenity acquittal of fisting and urolagnia material has had any impact on the IWF definition of illegal adult material.

 

26th March   

Bangladesh Ignores the 'Day of No Outrage'...

Court orders the blocking of 'outrageous' web pages
Link Here

Bangladesh flagThe High Court in Bangladesh has ruled that five supposedly blasphemous Facebook pages and a website must be blocked.

The court heard the pages were deemed to have offended Muhammad and other religions.

The case was brought by two teachers from Dhaka University and Dhaka Centre for Law and Economics who claimed the pictures hurt the religious sentiment of Muslims. The lawyer making the petition, Muhammad Nawshad Zamir, claimed to the AFP news agency that some of the images were close to pornography. Zamir added that the pages also contained disparaging remarks about the holy book of the Koran, Jesus, Lord Buddha and Hindu gods . He declined to name the Bengali-language website.

This is the first time the country's High Court has intervened, although two years ago Facebook was blocked in Bangladesh for a short period until caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad and obnoxious images of the country's leaders were removed.

 

26th March   

Dangerous Technology...

Microsoft and NetClean provide PhotoDNA software to law enforcement agencies to enable fast matching of images against known child abuse images
Link Here

photo dnaMicrosoft and NetClean have announced a joint effort to combat the sexual exploitation of children by making Microsoft PhotoDNA technology available and accessible to law enforcement agencies worldwide to help enhance child sex abuse investigations.

As the UK Hotline for the public to report child sexual abuse content hosted anywhere in the world - the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) will be one of the first organisations to employ this technology. The technology will be provided to law enforcement agencies, at no charge.

PhotoDNA is an image-matching technology developed by Microsoft Research in collaboration with Dartmouth College that creates a unique signature for a digital image, something like a fingerprint, that can be compared with the signatures of other images to find copies of that image. NCMEC and online service providers such as Microsoft and other online service providers currently use PhotoDNA to help find, report and eliminate some of the worst-known images of child sexual abuse.

Presumably it works on the geometrics within the picture, perhaps like facial recognition and wireframe modelling of pose, and so it can match pictures regardless of encoding, compression, size and, to some extent, cropping.

The technology will allow faster review of the massive number of seized images so investigators and prosecutors can tackle more cases whilst limiting the exposure of investigators to the images.

No doubt the technology will be equally effective in detecting rude pictures of heads of state, celebrity sex and cartoons of Mohammed, or whatever other pictures the authorities would like to put people in prison for.

 

25th March   

Extract: Crap Internet Blocking...

Monitoring T-Mobile USA's Web Guard
Link Here

web guard logoT-Mobile USA offers a feature to censor access to certain kinds of content. This is called Web Guard. Supposedly Web Guard is supposed to inhibit access to content that falls under the following categories: Alcohol, Mature Content, Violence, Drugs, Pornography, Weapons, Gambling, Suicide, Guns, Hate, Tobacco, Ammunition.

We were able to extract part of the list of censored content and discovered that sites that do not fall under these categories were also censored. This feature is enabled by default on all prepaid accounts and although it can be disabled by customers who wish to do so (if over 18 years of age), it is not clearly stated in the error page how to do so.

While most of the censored sites are legitimately categorized, there are certain ones that do not fall under the categories of the block. Here is a list of sites that we found to be censored, but that we don't believe belong to any of the banned categories.

...Read the full article

 

25th March   

Updated: The People's Patois...

Chinese internet users develop coded language to work around banned words
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in China...All pervading Chinese internet censorship

Kikkoman Soy Sauce 1L

Don't look at me..
I was just out getting soy sauce

Scaling the wall. Buying soy sauce. Fifty cents. A mild collision. May 35. Mayor Lymph. River crab.

These words --- mild, silly, inoffensive --- are part of the subversive lexicon being used by Chinese bloggers to ridicule the government, poke fun at Communist Party leaders and circumvent the heavily censored Internet in China. A popular blog that tracks online political vocabulary, China Digital Times, calls them part of the resistance discourse on the mainland.

...

Perry Link, the author of Liu Xiaobo's Empty Chair , described the use of code words and Aesopian allegory by Mr. Liu and other popular bloggers like Han Han: Harmony, for example, is a key word used in the government's rhetoric, and Internet writers use hexie, or river crab, which is a near-homonym of the Chinese word for harmony, to mean repression.

To be harmonized, these days, is to be censored.

Officials are aware, of course, of its barbed meaning on the Internet, said the Chinese writer Yu Ha in an essay in the IHT Magazine, but they can hardly ban it, because to do so would outlaw the 'harmonious society' they are plugging. Harmony has been hijacked by the public.

...Read the full article

Offsite: Naming the Unnameable

25th March 2012.  See  article from  watoday.com.au

Teletubbies Happy Birthday DVD[A few] days ago, Beijing was hosting an innovative tug-of-war for the elderly; this game has nine contestants in all, wrote one internet user, in a thinly veiled reference to the nine members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the country's top political body.

The first round of the contest is still intense. The teletubby team noticeably has the advantage and, relatively, the Master Kong team is obviously falling short.

Teletubby is code for Wen Jiabao, who chided Bo publicly before his ousting - the Chinese version of the children's TV show, Tianxianbaobao, shares a character with the Premier's name. The popular instant noodle brand Master Kong is known as Kang Shifu in Chinese and stands in for Zhou Yongkang, who is reportedly supportive of Bo.

...Read the full article

 

25th March

 Offsite Article: Privacy court injunctions to be addressed to Twitter, Facebook and the like...

Link Here
Telegraph pre-announces some of the findings of the UK parliament's privacy and injunctions committee

See article from telegraph.co.uk

 

24th March   

Le Knee Jerks...

Sarkozy proposes law to ban people accessing the websites of terrorist or hate groups
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in France...Web blocking in the name of child protection
Nicolas SarkozyThe terrorist attacks by an Al Qaeda-influenced gunman may signal a new wave of Internet surveillance in France.

President Nicolas Sarkozy used a televised address to propose a new set of laws that criminalize accessing websites affiliated with terrorist sympathizers and hate groups. He said:

From now on, any person who habitually consults Web sites that advocate terrorism or that call for hatred and violence will be criminally punished,

Don't tell me it's not possible. What is possible for pedophiles should be possible for trainee terrorists and their supporters, too.

Sarkozy was referencing French laws that criminalize access to Internet sites with child pornography.

Comment: Not everyone who accesses such sites supports terrorism or hate

1st April 2012. See  article from  en.rsf.org

France's National Digital Council requested in a letter to the president on 23 March voicing concern about the proposal and stressing that fundamental freedoms should not be sacrificed in order to combat cyber-crime and defend national security.

Your proposal raises several questions as regards, for example, the method of identifying the person who commits this offence, existing legislation (such as the eCommerce directive) and the fact that Internet service providers are not obliged to keep a user's browsing history, the council's letter said. Furthermore, use of these sites by certain professions (such as journalists and university academics) and their ability to look at them regularly could raise legitimate difficulties when it comes to enforcing this offence.

 

24th March

 Offsite Article: Big Boss Big Brother...

Link Here
Campaign against employers demanding access to the Facebook accounts of their employees

See article from aclu.org

 

23rd March   

Updated: Deleting our Thoughts, our Voices and our Culture...

Google boss comments on censorship being one of the 3 obstacles the internet faces in the next decade
Link Here

eric schmidtGoogle boss Eric Schmidt has been speaking of three of the biggest obstacles the Internet (and the companies and people using that Internet) face in the next decade:

  1. Hackers and cybercriminals
  2. Privacy. While remarking on the difficult in public policy in balancing the public's right to know with individuals' right to privacy, he subtly implied that regulation may not be the best way to address privacy issues. He added: I certainly hope that ranking and other such things will emerge that can distinguish between truth and falsehood.
  3. Censorship. This is a fight near and dear to Google's heart, as those seeking to censor the Internet often point to search engines as culprits in pointing the way to the material they find objectionable. With governments building walled gardens and filtering the information they fear, people don't know what's censored, said Schmidt. We face the very real possibility of a future where software silently deletes our thoughts, our voices and our culture.

But he ended on a hopeful note. The Internet and technology are like water. They always find a way to break through.

 

22nd March   

Updated: Blocking to Excess...

Pakistan orders up internet censorship system that can block 50 million URLs
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in Pakistan...internet website blocking

Pakistan flagLast month, Pakistan's government put out requests for proposals for a massive, centralized, Internet censorship system. Explaining that ISPs and backbone providers have expressed their inability to block millions of undesirable web sites using current manual blocking systems, the state-run National Information Communications Technology Research and Development Fund said it therefore requires a national URL filtering and blocking system.

The new system would need to handle up to 50 million [blacklisted] URLs, and would operate across the entire Pakistani Internet.

The research fund intends the system to be designed and built within the country, by companies, vendors, academia and/or research organizations with proven track record.

Fifty million URLs is quite a tall order, but not, sadly, for the demands of an Internet censorware device. Censorship, managed by routers and software built by a number of companies, scales rather easily to such demands. Companies like McAfee sell blocking systems for corporate intranets with databases in excess of 25 million web addresses. Such databases have been re-purposed for national firewalls in countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for many years.

Update: Order Cancelled?

22nd March 2012. See  article from  publicaffairs.linx.net
See also Netizen Report: Resistance Edition  from  advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org
See also Index on Censorship joins a global coalition of NGO’s to call for the withdrawal of censorship plans in Pakistan from  indexoncensorship.org

The Pakistan Ministry of Information Technology (MoIT) is to withdraw plans to install a national level URL Filtering and Blocking System , according to the Express Tribune.

Secretary IT Farooq Ahmed Awan was reported to have said that the URL project has been withdrawn due to the concern shown by various stakeholders.

The MoIT has yet to confirm the reports.

 

22nd March

 Offsite Article: Google to be criticised by MPs over links to controversial content...

Link Here
Guardian pre-announces some of the findings of the UK parliament's privacy and injunctions committee

See article from guardian.co.uk

 

21st March

 Offsite Article: Confusion Follows China Real Name Policy Deadline for Microblogs...

Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in China...All pervading Chinese internet censorship
Early days as China removes anonymity options from Twitter like microblogs

See article from voanews.com

 

18th March   

High Stakes in Bulgaria...

A sure bet that blocking gambling websites will lead to wider internet censorship
Link Here
Bulgaria flagBulgarian ISPs and campaigners have asked newly-inaugurated President Rosen Plevneliev to veto the Gambling Act and return it to the Parliament.

The Parliament have just decided to mandate ISPs to ban access to sites that offer unlicensed online gambling.

In an open letter to Plevneliev, the civic initiative No to ACTA and Internet Control, Internet Society Bulgaria, and the Association of Independent Internet Providers, note that the veto would allow a larger and deeper debate on alternatives for effective fight against unlicensed gambling sites - alternatives that do not violate citizens' rights.

The organizations point out that more and more countries are tempted to censor and limit access to internet sites and the new Act makes filtering a fact in Bulgaria. They stress that filtering internet traffic is an extremely dangerous precedent because instead of prevention and prosecution of the owners of unlicensed gambling sites that violate the law, the authorities will punish consumers by limiting their access to sites. The declaration adds:

Global experience shows that the appetite of governments to control internet is not going down; to the contrary -- it is on the rise. Tomorrow, those who want to control internet for the right content can decide to limit access to Facebook and Twitter.

 

17th March   

Update: Nastygrams...

US ISPs will start sending file sharing warning letters from July
Link Here  full story: International 3 Strikes Laws...File sharers threatened with loss of internet access
US flagThe record industry in July will start sending ISPs offending IP addresses for graduated responses in piracy cases.

Cary Sherman, CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, said most of the participating ISPs are on track to begin implementing the program by July 1. The ISPs that have joined up with the RIAA are Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon, AT&T, Cablevision and Comcast.

The program requires that ISPs send out one or two educational notices to those customers who are accused of downloading copyrighted content illegally. If the customer doesn't put a halt to the practice, the ISP is then asked to send out confirmation notices asking that they confirm they have received notice.

Legal expert Doug Lichtman, a UCLA law professor spoke to an adult industry seminar about these copyright alerts. Calling them warm 'nastygrams,' Lichtman told the adult industry that they should adopt the system, and that file sharers could be persuaded to be come paying consumers.

 

17th March   

Update: India Shares MPAA Concerns...

Court orders a mass block of file sharing websites in India
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in India...India considers blanket ban on internet porn
India flagAn Indian court has ordered all of the country's ISPs to block 104 web sites that it claims offer illegal music downloads.

The Indian court's ruling came in the week that MPAA chairman and CEO Chris Dodd told the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry conference, We encourage the Indian film industry to reject as we have, the false argument that you cannot be pro-technology and pro-copyright at the same time.

The ISPs must block the web sites using both DNS and IP address blocking with deep packet inspection to reinforce the ban. Indian ISPs will implement the block by doing much more than just poisoning DNS servers, including IP address blocks and deep packet inspection (DPI). While DPI cannot see within SSH tunnels it can detect whether traffic is being tunnelled and can in theory drop it indiscriminately.

 

14th March   

Update: Taking Tweets Seriously...

A study of Chinese censorship of a Twitter like service shows that the system is agile, priority driven and seems likely to employ a high degree of human intervention
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in China...All pervading Chinese internet censorship

Vietnam flagThe New Scientist has reported on a study into the way that that Great Firewall of China censors internet users and particularly how this has been adapted to social networking sites.

As expected, the communists are hypersensitive to criticism of the state - but also to people slating internet censorship itself.

The US study also shows Beijing's censorship machine adapts quickly to emerging issues. It's also location-dependent, being far more active, when required, in dissident regions.

David Bamman, a computer scientist and linguist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, got the idea for the research last summer when he noticed how quickly false rumours of the death of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin disappeared from China's Twitter equivalent Sina Weibo. So with colleagues Noah Smith and Brendan O'Connor he decided to study the censorship mechanism more closely.

They studied the Twitter like Sina Weibo and download nearly 57 million messages for a snapshot of 3 months. They then compared these with Sina Weibo's archive to see which tweets were deleted.

As might be expected, criticism of state propaganda was not tolerated. Messages attacking China's Ministry of Truth were zapped, as were ones involving calls for the resignations of incompetent government officials, such as that of the railways minister after a horrific train crash . Complaints about Fang Binxing - architect of the web censoring Golden Shield Project, nicknamed the Great Firewall - were also highly deleted - as were mentions of a pair of Communist Party meetings which became a code word for arranging pro-democracy protests last spring.

The researchers suggest that this agility and infrequent updates to more background censorship issues points to a high level of human involvement and a nuanced approach, rather than total automation. There also seems to be a priority system by location. Bamman explained: In Tibet there was an overall deletion rate of 53% - against 12% in Beijing and 11% in Shanghai. The research will be published in a forthcoming issue of the open access journal First Monday.

 

12th March   

World Day Against Cyber-Censorship...

Reporters Without Borders announce their Enemies of the Internet for 2012
Link Here

world day against cybercensorship logoThe 2012 list of the Enemies of the Internet

  • Bahrain [new entry]
  • Belarus [new entry]
  • Burma
  • China
  • Cuba
  • Iran
  • North Korea
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Syria
  • Turkmenistan
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vietnam

Two countries, Bahrain and Belarus, have been moved from the under surveillance category to the Enemies of the Internet list, joining the ranks of the countries that restrict Internet freedom the most: Burma, China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. They combine often drastic content filtering with access restrictions, tracking of cyber-dissidents and online propaganda. Iran and China, in particular, reinforced their technical capacity in 2011 and China stepped up pressure on privately-owned Internet companies in order to secure their collaboration.

Iran has announced the launch of a national Internet. Iran and Vietnam have both launched a new wave of arrests, while the bloody crackdown on protests in Syria is hitting netizens hard and is enabling the regime to perfect its mastery of online surveillance with Iran's help. Turkmenistan has fought its first battle in the war over Information 2.0 while North Korea, which is developing its online presence for propaganda purposes, is confronted with an increase in smuggling of banned communications equipment across the Chinese border. In Cuba, bloggers supportive of the government and those critical of the regime argue online.

Saudi Arabia has continued its relentless censorship and suppressed coverage of a provincialuprising. Uzbekistan took measures to prevent Uznet from becoming a forum for discussing the Arab springs. There is one light of hope: the situation is improving in Burma, where the military have permitted the release of journalists and bloggers and the unblocking of news websites, but the legislative and technical tools for controlling and monitoring the Internet have yet to be dismantled.

Bahrain offers an example of an effective news blackout based on a remarkable array of repressive measures: keeping the international media away, harassing human rights activists, arresting bloggers and netizens (one of whom died in detention), smearing and prosecuting free speech activists, and disrupting communications, especially during the major demonstrations.

In Belarus, President Lukashenko's regime has increased his grip on the Web as the country sinks further into political isolation and economic stagnation. The Internet, a space used for circulating information and mobilizing protests, has been hit hard as the authorities have reacted to revolution via the social media. The list of blocked websites has grown longer and the Internet was partially blocked during the silent protests. Some Belarusian Internet users and bloggers have been arrested while others have been invited to preventive conversations with the police in a bid to get them to stop demonstrating or covering demonstrations. The government has used Twitter to send messages that are meant to intimidate demonstrators, and the main ISP has diverted those trying to access the online social network Vkontakte to sites containing malware. And Law No. 317-3, which took effect on 6 January 2012, reinforced Internet surveillance and control measures.

The 2012 list of countries under surveillance

  • Australia
  • Egypt
  • Eritrea
  • France
  • India [new entry]
  • Kazakhstan [new entry]
  • Malaysia
  • Russia
  • South Korea
  • Sri Lanka
  • Thailand
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • UAE

The countries under surveillance list still includes Australia, whose government clings to a dangerous content filtering system; Egypt, where the new regime has resumed old practices and has directly targeted the most outspoken bloggers; Eritrea, a police state that keeps its citizens away from the Internet and is alarmed by its diaspora's new-found militancy online and on the streets of foreign cities; France, which continues its three-strikes policy on illegal downloading, with suspension of Internet access, and where administrative filtering is introduced by an internal security law and appears with increasing frequency in decrees implementing laws; and Malaysia, which continues to harass bloggers (who have more credibility that the traditional media) in the run-up to general elections.

The under surveillance list also includes Russia, which has used cyber-attacks and has arrested bloggers and netizens to prevent a real online political debate; South Korea, which is stepping up censorship of propaganda from its northern neighbour and keeps an array of repressive laws; Sri Lanka, where online media and journalists continue to be blocked and physically attacked; Thailand, where the new government sends bloggers to prison and is reinforcing content filtering in the name of cracking down on lese-majeste; Tunisia, where freedom of expression is still fragile and content filtering could be reimposed; Turkey, where thousands of websites are still inaccessible, alarming filtering initiatives have been taken and netizens and online journalists continue to be prosecuted; and the United Arab Emirates, where surveillance has been reinforced preventively in response to the Arab Spring.

Since the Mumbai bombings of 2008, the Indian authorities have stepped up Internet surveillance and pressure on technical service providers, while publicly rejecting accusations of censorship. The national security policy of the world's biggest democracy is undermining freedom of expression and the protection of Internet users' personal data.

Kazakhstan, which likes to think of itself as a regional model after holding the rotating presidency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2010, nonetheless seems to be turning its back on all its fine promises in order to take the road of cyber-censorship. An unprecedented oil workers strike, a major riot, a strange wave of bombings and the president's ailing health all helped to increase government tension in 2011 and led to greater control of information, especially online information: blocking of news websites, cutting of communications around the city of Zhanaozen during the riot, and new, repressive Internet regulations.

Venezuela and Libya are no longer under surveillance.

Thailand put on Warning

If Thailand continues down the slope of content filtering and jailing netizens on lese-majeste charges, it could soon join the club of the world's most repressive countries as regards the Internet.

More than 5,000 pages with content deemed to be critical of the monarchy were taken down between December and March, Thailand's national police spokesman Piya Utayo told reporters.

 

12th March   

Update: Enemies of the Internet...

2000 Chinese people paid for snitching on internet porn
Link Here  full story: Pornography in China...Always under the cosh

Vietnam flagOver 2,000 people in China have been paid for reporting internet and mobile phone pornography to the authorities in 2011.

More than nine million yuan (around 1 million) were awarded to a total of 2,129 people, Xinhua reported. People who offered important tip-offs were paid 1,000 to 10,000 yuan.

Four organisations handled 1.26 million tip-off cases from December 2009 when they began soliciting public information till the end of 2011. The organisations were:

  • China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Centre,
  • 12321 Internet Obscene and Trash Information Reporting Centre,
  • Internet Illegal Conduct and Crime Reporting Centre,
  • Reporting Centre of the National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications

The organizations had asked people for greater efforts in snitching up porn on the internet and mobile phones.

 

12th March

 Offsite Article: Blogging Etiquette...

Link Here
Proposals for universal credits and hat tips for source material used by bloggers and aggregators

See article from nytimes.com

 

9th March   

Fishing Rights Curtailed...

German police lose their warrantless access to people's cloud data
Link Here
bundesverfassungsgerichtThe German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) has ruled that certain provisions in the Federal Telecommunications Act concerning the disclosure of telecom user data to law enforcement agencies violate the German constitution.

Until now, German law enforcement authorities have had the authority to request data such as personal identification numbers or personal unlocking keys that protect access to devices or storage space on networks.

The current law allows law enforcement to request such data without stating specific conditions or the legal basis for complying with such a request.

According to the Court, however, because law enforcement authorities do not require this type of data to carry out their duties, the current provisions in telecommunications law allowing these requests are not proportionate and thus violate the constitutional right to informational self-determination.

The Court requested that the German legislature revise the relevant provisions of the German Federal Telecommunications Act by June 2013.

 

8th March

 Offsite Article: Collusion...

Link Here
Firefox add-on to allow internet surfers to watch who is spying on them

See article from dailymail.co.uk

 

5th March   

Dogged by the US...

US internet censors forcibly take Down Canadian gambling website
Link Here

bodog logoUS internet censors at the Department of Homeland Security have seized a domain name registered outside of the US, by individuals who are not American citizens, and who registered with a Canadian registrar.

What is unique about this case is that the American authorities did not get the domain's registrar - a Canadian company - to pull the domain. Instead they went to Verisign, which operates the entirety of .com, and had them pull the glue records, the warrant states.

The domain in question,  bodog.com,  is a big name in online gambling. It was set up and run by Canadian billionaire Calvin Ayre. He, and three others involved with the site, have been indicted and could be extradited to the US if the authorities catch them.

The indictment claims that Bodog paid out $100m in winnings to US gamblers, in violation of US law. The company is also accused of spending $42m to promote the site in various US states, including Maryland. The move came after an undercover investigation by the FBI, and with the help of a snitch who used to work at Bodog.

Sports betting is illegal in Maryland, and federal law prohibits bookmakers from flouting that law simply because they are located outside the country, said US attorney Rod Rosenstein in a statement.

By going to the root operator of .com and having the records pulled - bypassing the registrar entirely - the DHS has sent the world exactly one message: anything hosted in the US, registered in the US, or using a domain whose root is controlled by a US corporation is subject to American law.

 

3rd March   

Dangerous Porn...

Vietnam man jailed for 2 years for porn posts to a government website
Link Here

Vietnam flagAssociated Press is reporting that an official has been sentenced to two years in prison for posting porn to a government website.

Phan Ngoc Quan was convicted of illegally accessing the official Tra Vinh province website.

AP reported that a police investigation found Quan uploaded pornography to the website in 2010 and 2011, and that he subsequently confessed to the charge.

 

2nd March   

Update: Not Very Private...

EU Justice Commissioner says that Google's privacy policy is in breach of EU law
Link Here  full story: Behavioural Advertising...Serving adverts according to internet snooping

EU flagChanges made by Google to its privacy policy are in breach of European law, the EU's justice commissioner has said.

Viviane Reding told the BBC that authorities found that transparency rules have not been applied .

The policy change, implemented on 1st March, means private data collected by one Google service can be shared with its other platforms including YouTube, Gmail and Blogger.

Google said it believed the new policy complied with EU law. It went ahead with the changes despite warnings from the EU earlier this week.

Offsite Comment: Thoughts on Google's Privacy Policy changes

2nd March 2012. See  article from  privacyinternational.org

Google wants to be able to provide an ID card equivalent for the Internet.

...Read the full article

 

27th February   

Updated: Impaired Judgement...

ATVOD bluffs that hardcore might seriously impair under 18's that see it
Link Here

bootybox tv logoATVOD have announced a determination that all internet hardcore must be locked behind paywalls, that in practice can only be unlocked by credit cards, even debit cards won't do. I wonder percentage of customers are banned from watching porn because they haven't got a credit card or else would rather not use it).

And as far seriously impairing under 18's, I guess they will all have been seriously impaired already. And will continue to be seriously impaired to the benefit of foreign websites. The 'experts' are hardly convinced that the depiction of anything so natural to every person's life can be considered seriously impairing anyway. And the government seems to have asked ATVOD/Ofcom to bluff it out until more specific legislation can be drawn up. (See morally impaired plot ).

And do any of these censors ever consider the serious impairment to our children caused by poverty. They seem so keen to add the mass of expensive state control freakery and yet it is suffocating Britain's ability to earn any money.

Anyway ATVOD have release the news article:

ATVOD Rules That Adult Website Must Block Access To Children

ATVOD publishes determination that adult video on demand website Bootybox.tv had breached statutory rules requiring video on demand providers to ensure that under 18s cannot normally access hardcore pornographic content

The Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD) has today published its determination that the provider of the online video on demand service Bootybox.tv was in breach of a statutory rule which requires that material which might seriously impair under 18s can only be made available if access is blocked to children.

The Bootybox.tv website offered users access to explicit hardcore porn videos which could be viewed on-demand. The content of the videos was equivalent to that which could only be sold in licensed sex shops if supplied on DVD.

Responding to a complaint from a concerned father, who had discovered that his son had visited the site, ATVOD found that the website broke the statutory rules in two ways. Firstly, it allowed any visitor to the website unrestricted access to a selection of hardcore pornographic video promos/trailers featuring real sex in explicit detail and featured a large still image of explicit sex on the homepage. Secondly, access to the full videos was open to any visitor who paid a fee. As the service accepted payment methods -- such as debit cards and prepaid vouchers -- which can be used by under 18s, ATVOD ruled that the service had also failed to put in place effective access controls in relation to the full videos.

ATVOD followed up its ruling with an Enforcement Notification, requiring the provider of Bootybox.tv to either remove the hardcore porn content from the service or put it all behind effective access controls which will ensure that only adults can see it. The service has now ceased operating.

Speaking today at a conference at the House of Lords on ATVOD's role in child and consumer protection, ATVOD Chief Executive Pete Johnson will say:

UK providers of hardcore pornography on demand must take effective steps to ensure that such material is not accessible to under 18s. Asking visitors to a website to click an 'I am 18' button or enter a date of birth or use a debit card is not sufficient -- if they are going to offer explicit sex material they must know that their customers are 18, just as they would in the 'offline' world.

Last week, ATVOD followed up its ruling with a seminar for providers of adult content on video on demand services. The seminar was designed to ensure that such providers fully understood their obligations under the statutory rules and to make clear that ATVOD would take action in relation to any other providers found to be in breach of the rule.

Comment: ATVOD Stitch Up

27th February 2012. From beerandbollocks.com

The previous operator of Bootybox.tv made a few interesting comments to a forum.

Firstly he said that the complaint to ATVOD was initiated about the content of one of the films, not about ease of access to the site.

Secondly he summarised one of the important issues with ATVOD regulation that will suffocate British companies trading in adult video on demand:

With all due respect, do you seriously think any UK website owner is going to only use soft 18 images on their sites to promote their hardcore content? No.

The unlocked web pages of a website are for surfers to window shop and if there's soft images then first time visitors may think that the website only offers soft content.

It's effectively killing their business.

 

26th February   

Update: Bullied 24 Hours a Day...

Blaming social networking websites for the problems of modern life
Link Here

childline speech bubble logoThe head of ChildLine has blamed social networking sites such as Facebook for fuelling what the charity claims is a huge rise in the number of children who deliberately harm themselves.

Sue Minto said the internet and mobile phones meant young people were being exposed to cyber-bullying 24 hours a day.

Launching a self-harm awareness campaign which is being supported by X Factor judge Tulisa Contostavlos, Minto claimed such pressure could cause children to begin cutting themselves or engage in risky behaviour such as drinking or using drugs.

Research to be released later this week suggests the number of children and young people who deliberately hurt themselves on a regular basis has risen significantly over the past ten years.

 

24th February   

Update: Snoop Mail...

India demands capability to snoop in all emails
Link Here  full story: BlackBerry Mobile Phones...Winding up countries who can't snoop on users

India flagReporters Without Borders is alarmed by the latest demands being made by India's security agencies with the aim of reinforcing surveillance of Internet use. Email service providers such as Yahoo! and Gmail are now being instructed to route all emails accessed in India through servers based there to facilitate monitoring.

The Indian media report that, during a meeting in the office of the home secretary (interior minister), the department of information technology was told to notify all email service providers of the new directive.

According to an article in The Times of India, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) has also told department of telecommunications to ask mobile phone companies to set up mechanisms for monitoring Internet usage on mobile phones.

Reporters Without Borders said:

These are the latest of many abusive demands that the Indian authorities have made on Internet companies and service providers. The government's desire to step surveillance of telecommunications has become obsessive since the 2008 Mumbai bombings. It should not forget the fundamental right to confidentiality and privacy. These plans must be dropped and the harassment of Internet companies must stop.

For the moment, Yahoo! routes emails via servers based in India only if they involve email accounts registered in India. Emails sent from accounts registered abroad (addresses ending in yahoo.com or yahoo.fr, for example) are routed through servers based abroad even if they are accessed in India. This means that the Indian security services cannot inspect them without first making a formal request to the government of the country concerned.

It has also emerged that, at a meeting in January, security agencies told the department of telecommunications to provide them with a list of all the Indian companies using BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), a highly encrypted corporate email service provided by the BlackBerry smartphone's Canadian manufacturer, Research in Motion.

The security agencies apparently intend to contact each of these companies one by one and ask them to surrender the company encryption key.

According to The Times of India, Research in Motion has finally established a server in India that will allow Indian law enforcement agencies to intercept messages sent by the BlackBerry instant messaging service, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), in real-time.

 

23rd February

 Offsite Article Stealth...

Link Here
Stealth is a search engine that does not store cookies, track IP addresses or save search terms.

See article from mashable.com

 

21st February   

Update: Blocking Watching...

Orange UK are blocking French digital rights campaign group
Link Here  full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

Open Rights Group logo Through reports to the blocked.org.uk site, we have established that Orange UK are filtering access to La Quadrature Du Net's website on pre-paid mobile accounts.

La Quadrature Du Net is similar to ORG -- it is an advocacy group that seeks to defend citizen's fundamental rights on the Internet. They have been a leading voice in the growing movement to oppose the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, behind which so much momentum is gathering. They have provided detailed analyses alongside practical suggestions about how to help with the political effort to oppose the treaty.

Searching for LQDN's website on Orange pre-pay handsets leads to a warning that Orange Safeguard has classified this page as only suitable for people over the age of 18. LQDN's site does not contain any such material. But it still falls within the parameter of adult-related material.

That La Quadrature Du Net is blocked under such a policy highlights the need for change. The problem of over-blocking is being exacerbated by a lack of transparency (so that it's not clear what is blocked and to whom) and the problems users experience trying to opt-out.

We're gathering more evidence of the scale of the over-blocking problem through blocked.org.uk site, and you can help by reporting inappropriate blocks you find. We're currently in the process of meeting the mobile operators and the Mobile Broadband Group to tell them our concerns and outline how we think the problems can be addressed. More efficient measures need to be implemented in order to allow parents to implement tools to try to manage their children's Internet use whilst ensuring that adults are not subject to unnecessary censorship.

Report blocked websites at blocked.org.uk

 

21st February

 Offsite Article Social Network Login Status Detector Demo...

Link Here
3rd party websites can detect if visitors are logged into social networks

See article from tomanthony.co.uk

 

20th February

 Offsite Comment: The 'right to be forgotten' is not censorship...But...

Link Here  full story: The Right to be Forgotten...Bureaucratic censorship in the EU
An opinion piece seeing only the positive side, but somehow not mentioning the easy potential for it being abused and used for censorship by individuals, companies and celebs. By Dr David Lindsay

See article from healthcanal.com

 

19th February   

Update: Hands Off the Internet...

Media industry bid to take control of the internet thwarted by Canada's Supreme Court
Link Here

Canada flagThe Supreme Court of Canada ruled last week that ISPs are not subject to the country's Broadcasting Act, which was passed in 1991. The court confirmed a 2010 ruling by The Federal Court of Appeal, which was tasked with answering the following question:

Do retail Internet service providers ('ISPs') carry on, in whole or in part, 'broadcasting undertakings' subject to the Broadcasting Act when, in their role as ISPs, they provide access through the Internet to 'broadcasting' requested by end-users?

The question was important because the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ( CRTC ) had concluded in 1999 that the term broadcasting as it is used in the Broadcasting Act included programs transmitted to end-users over the Internet.

Originally the CRTC exempted broadcasting services via the Internet from the requirements of the Broadcasting Act. In 2008.  However after public hearings, the CRTC revisited this exemption. The CRTC referred the matter to the Federal Appeals Court, whose ruling saying ISPs were not subject to the law was then challenged.

It turns out the companies who lined up on either side of this issue are the same ones facing off over laws like SOPA and Protect IP. It was groups representing actors, producers, directors and writers that appealed to the Supreme Court. Such groups would like to see the current control that the massive multinational media companies now enjoy over TV related platforms be extended to the internet.

 

18th February   

Update: Heavy Handed Repression...

China jails adult webmaster for 10 years
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in China...All pervading Chinese internet censorship

Great Firewall of ChinaA Chinese webmaster has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined $3,000 for operating a porn site using a US-based server.

China's National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications prosecuted Sheng Jiarong and cited him for reaping advertising revenues though the website.

The censor claimed its heavy-handed approach is clamping down on the spread of porn through the Internet and mobile devices and helping it to improve the way it polices domestic sites that host adult content.

 

17th February   

Update: So Much for Free Speech Rights to Offend...

A man has been jailed for allegedly offensive comments on Facebook
Link Here  full story: Race Hate Internet Prosecutions...UK prosecutions over internet comments

Facebook logoA man has been jailed for posting racist remarks on the internet.

Anthony Buck wrote anti-Muslim comments on social networking site Facebook.

He was sentenced to a total of four months after breaching a suspended sentence for a previous crime.

Buck pleaded guilty to sending offensive messages by public communication network.

 

16th February   

Update: Searching for a Threat to Free Speech...

Lawyer warns that the 'right to be forgotten' will surely lead to internet censorship
Link Here  full story: The Right to be Forgotten...Bureaucratic censorship in the EU

stanford law reviewA leading British lawyer has condemned new European regulations that force websites to delete data on users' request, saying such rules could transform search engines like Google into a censor-in-chief for the European Union, rather than a neutral platform .

According to the current European proposal from Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, various websites will be forced to delete information shortly after consumers request it be removed.

Prof Jeffrey Rosen, writing in the Stanford Law Review,  argued that the fear of fines will have a chilling effect, and that it will be hard to enforce across the Internet when information is widely disseminated:

Although Reding depicted the new right as a modest expansion of existing data privacy rights, in fact it represents the biggest threat to free speech on the Internet in the coming decade.

Unless the right is defined more precisely when it is promulgated over the next year or so, it could precipitate a dramatic clash between European and American conceptions of the proper balance between privacy and free speech, leading to a far less open Internet.

Prof Rosen warns that if the regulations are implemented as currently proposed, it's hard to imagine that the Internet results will be as free and open as it is now.

 

15th February   

Update: Dominion over Domains...

UK follows the US lead and seizes domain of site accused of copyright violation
Link Here  full story: Internet Domain Censorship...In the Domain of Nominet internet censorship

soca warning The UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) has seized the domain of a popular music blog in the style of a U.S. Department of Homeland Security domain name seizure.

The RnBXclusive blog in question was running from a .com domain name, seemingly outside of British jurisdiction. Rackspace hosted the content in question, and its domain was registered with GoDaddy; both are U.S. companies. The site now just carries a threatening page including the message:

If you have downloaded music using this website you may have committed a criminal offence which carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine under UK law.

In speaking to GoDaddy, a spokesperson confirmed that the company had a presence in the UK, as has Rackspace. This seems to be enough for the UK authorities to demand a domain take down.

 

11th February   

Update: A Pandora's Box of Human Rights Violations...

Amnesty International urges EU to reject international anti-counterfeiting pact
Link Here  full story: ACTA Trade Restrictions...Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement

amnesty international logo Amnesty International has urged EU governments not to join the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), branding it a Pandora's box of potential human rights violations.

Starting this Saturday, 11 February, a range of civil society groups and individual citizens have planned protests in many European cities to voice opposition to ACTA before the European Parliament decides whether to formally ratify the pact later this year.

Amnesty International believes the pact's content, process, and institutional structure impact in a number of ways on human rights -- especially the rights to due process, privacy, freedom of information, freedom of expression, and access to essential medicines.

The EU should reject ACTA in its current form -- implementing the agreement could open a Pandora's box of potential human rights violations by doing away with due process and front-loading the requirement to enforce its provisions, said Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International: While Amnesty believes that creators should be compensated for their work, the protection of intellectual property should never come at the expense of basic human rights.

Amnesty International is concerned about ACTA's broad coverage, vague language, and tendency to value private law enforcement over judicial review. Rather than allowing the courts to resolve how infractions of the ACTA should be treated, the pact obliges states to encourage third parties to enforce its provisions.

This would incentivize Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to impose repressive measures to avoid infringements, such as blocking, deleting, or even suspending services without recourse to judicial review.

Companies may be threatened with criminal sanctions if they derive indirect economic benefit from infringements or if they are deemed to have aided and abetted one or more acts of infringement. This is likely to have a chilling effect on free speech and access to information.

As these private companies would also be incentivized to implement intrusive surveillance technologies in order to avoid being liable for the actions of their users, this would also lead to gross violations of user privacy.

Access to generic medicines and other essential products could also be affected, as the ACTA would give customs officials the authority to seize products with labels suspected of being confusingly similar to trademark brands. Giving generic medicines similar labels helps to communicate medical equivalence and supports public health policy goals.

Amnesty International is also gravely concerned about the ACTA's vague and meaningless safeguards. Instead of using well-defined and accepted terminology, the text refers to concepts such as fundamental principles and even invents a concept of fair process , which currently has no definition in international law.

Only a small number of states including EU members, Japan, Australia and the USA, have negotiated the Agreement since 2007. The negotiation process has lacked transparency and democratic credibility, as it has taken place outside of recognized institutions, such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The public was kept out of the process, and civil society, despite its demands, has not yet had access to all documents relating to the ACTA negotiations. US industry was kept up to speed with the negotiations, on condition that the industry partners signed a non-disclosure agreement.

The resulting standards are tremendously skewed towards protecting commercial interests over human rights.

Germany and Latvia delay ratification

See  article from  bbc.co.uk

Germany flagGermany has halted signing a controversial anti-piracy accord, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta), after the justice ministry voiced concerns.

A foreign ministry spokesperson told AFP that the delay was to give us time to carry out further discussions .

Latvia put off ratification on Friday. Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have already delayed the process.

The Associated Press reports Germany's that Justice ministry believes the legislation is unnecessary in Germany and that the European Parliament should vote on Acta before the country considers it for ratification.

Anti-Acta websites currently list more than 50 protests scheduled to take place across Germany on Saturday.

 

10th February   

Update: ACTA Opposition...

Some good points made in opposition to the undemocratically authored ACTA anti-piracy international treaty
Link Here  full story: ACTA Trade Restrictions...Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement

kader arifThe Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) treaty, signed by most European countries last week, has generated considerable protest. This has sparked at least one signatory to have a deeper  think about what they actually signed up for.

The Slovenian ambassador to Japan, Helena Drnovsek Zorko, has issued an unprecedented public apology for signing the treaty, saying she was only obeying orders and was now supporting the public protests against the treaty. She sdmitted:

I signed ACTA out of civic carelessness, because I did not pay enough attention, she said, in a most undiplomatic display of honesty. Quite simply, I did not clearly connect the agreement I had been instructed to sign with the agreement that, according to my own civic conviction, limits and withholds the freedom of engagement on the largest and most significant network in human history, and thus limits particularly the future of our children.

The Polish government has announced it is to suspend the ratification of the ACTA treaty, in light of public concern. Polish prime minister Donald Tusk said:.

The issue of signing of the ACTA accord did not involve sufficient consultation with everyone who is part of the process. The ACTA ratification process will be frozen as long as we haven't overcome all the doubts. This will probably require a review of Polish law. We can't rule out that, at the end of the day, this accord will not be approved.

French European Parliament member Kader Arif, who resigned in protest the day the treaty was signed, urged his fellow parliamentarians to reject ACTA.

I see a great risk concerning checks at borders, and the agreement foresees criminal sanctions against people using counterfeited products as a commercial activity, he told The Guardian. This is relevant for the trade of fake shoes or bags, but what about data downloaded from the internet? If a customs officer considers that you may set up a commercial activity just by having one movie or one song on your computer, which is true in theory, you could face criminal sanctions.

I don't want people to have their laptops or MP3 players searched at borders, Arif said. There needs to be a clearer distinction between normal citizens and counterfeiters which trade fake products as a commercial activity.

[And if you doubt what Arif is saying you only have to look to Britain for an example of EXACTLY what Arif fears. The British Parliament deliberately targeted its anti porn laws at commercial suppliers rather than customers. Yet the British authorities corrupted the law and deemed that giving a dodgy video to your mate was in fact commercial supply. They argued that commercial 'gain' could be as minimal as just the satisfaction of doing your mate a good turn].

Protest

See  article from  openrightsgroup.org

Open Rights Group logo The Open Rights Group are supporting a demonstration against ACTA, which will take place in central London on Saturday, on 11th February. It has been planned to coincide with demonstrations across Europe, when a chorus of thousands of discontented voices will speak as one against over-reaching Internet laws.

The aim will be to tell as many people as possible what's going on by distributing leaflets and asking those who are worried to contact their MEPs.

People will be meeting at UK Music's offices, 27 Berners St, Paddington, central London at 2pm. The Open Rights Group will help supply what can only be described as brilliant leaflets and fabulous t-shirts. Then the idea is to split up into small teams and head off to spread the word.

 

10th February   

Update: Scratching the Surface...

Pakistan blocks 13,000 porn sites
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in Pakistan...internet website blocking

Pakistan flagPakistan has blocked 13,000 supposedly obscene Web sites and are taking additional steps to prevent the spread of such materials across the Internet.

The Times of India reported on Friday that Parliamentary Secretary for Information Technology Nawab Liaqat Ali Khan had made the remark, calling it a serious issue that the government is trying to address at the moment.

He went on to express concern at the rapid spread of obscene Web sites and admitted the government had no mechanism to block these sites, but pointed out a ministerial committee and a sub-committee had been formed to look into this matter, the report stated.

 

9th February

 Offsite Article: The Dark Web...

Link Here
Is the propaganda machine winding up to take a knock at anonymity on the internet?

See article from bbc.co.uk

 

8th February   

Update: Protecting Business as Well as Children...

Ireland points out that ISP's aren't the best organisations to decide which websites to block, and the inevitable safety first over blocking will result in damage to innocent parties
Link Here  full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

ispai ireland logoThe Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland (ISPAI) is knocking Britain's new plan that requires surfers to select whether or not they want internet blocking, calling it nothing less than censorship.

The ISPAI said the responsibility should lie with parents policing what their children view on the web and not the business of the U.K. government. ISPAI's Paul Duran told the Irish Independent:

If Internet service providers are dictating what can be accessed, then that could be seen as nothing less than censorship. Essentially we would be deciding what would be the inappropriate material. That should be left to the parents or guardians.

The ISPAI represents 20 ISPs in Ireland including Eircom, O2, Vodafone and UPC.

Critics of the British move said there are a number of practical issues that are being overlooked and need to be addressed. The restrictions could lump in websites that do not contain sexually explicit material.

Digital law expert JP McIntyre said:

Many of these blocking issues are easy to circumvent, but what they do tend to do is damage people who have been wrongly blocked. You'll find that shops selling things like lingerie get blocked by these filters,

Very often there are no appeal mechanisms or they are very hard to use and in the meantime people find that their businesses are suffering because people can't access their sites and they don't know why.

Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald refused to comment on whether there were any plans to persuade Irish ISPs to adopt the British model.

 

7th February   

Update: Safely Censored...

TalkTalk to mandate that new subscribers select whether or not they want ISP level website blocking
Link Here  full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

TalkTalk HomeSafeFrom the end of next month new subscribers to TalkTalk broadband will be unable to activate their internet connection until they specify any categories of website access that they would like to block.

The TalkTalk ISP has defined nine categories of websites, including porn, dating, gambling, gaming, suicide, social networking and weapons + violence, that can be blocked. Subscribers will be alerted automatically either by email or text if the controls are subsequently changed.

TalkTalk already provides subscribers with the opportunity to block access to websites through its HomeSafe service, but currently they not prompted to choose website blocking and the default is for no sites to be blocked. So far 240,000 subscribers have elected for website blocks to be imposed.

The children's minister, Tim Loughton, praised TalkTalk and said he hoped other internet service providers would offer similar services shortly:

Through the UK Council for Child Internet Safety we are working with industry and charities to provide tools and information to inform parents and help keep children safe online.

Meanwhile a little propaganda for cyberbullying parents

See  article from  scotsman.com

ceop logoParents who are not technology savvy are putting their children are at risk from exposure to unsuitable content on the internet, claim two studies.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (Ceop) Centre and IT firm Westcoastcloud, have warned that not all parents have put internet blocking controls on their computers.

Further, even the majority of those who have put controls in place have not considered doing the same on other household devices that access the internet.

A Mori poll, commissioned by Ceop, showed that about 8% in the UK, aged between five and 15, are regular users of the internet.

But the study from Westcoastcloud, a division of Glasgow-based cloud computing specialist Iomart, revealed that only half of parents have installed software to protect their offspring  while only one in four has installed similar protection on the mobile phones, games consoles and television services.

Technology has transformed people's lives both collectively and individually, said Peter Davies, chief executive of the Ceop Centre and the senior police officer leading on child protection on the internet for the Association of Chief Police Officers: But too often we see examples of where the child is at risk because they make simple online mistakes -- because they are lured in or push the boundaries too far and risk their safety.

 

7th February   

Update: India Censors Google and Facebook...

Google and Facebook remove content supposedly objectionable to religious and political leaders
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in India...India considers blanket ban on internet porn

Google logoGoogle India has removed web pages deemed offensive to Indian political and religious leaders to comply with a court case that has raised censorship fears in the world's largest democracy.

A New Delhi court gave Facebook, Google, YouTube and Blogspot and other sites two weeks to present further plans for policing their networks, according to the Press Trust of India.

Google India did not say which sites were removed but had said it would be willing to go after anything that violated local law or its own standards.

Indian officials have been incensed by material insulting to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, ruling Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi and religious groups, including illustrations showing Singh and Gandhi in compromising positions and pigs running through Mecca, Islam's holiest city.

Communications Minister Sachin Pilot said that anyone hurt by online content should be able to seek legal redress, he said. The government has warned it has evidence to prosecute 21 sites for offenses of promoting enmity between classes and causing prejudice to national integration.

Update: Summons Stands

18th February 2012. See  article from  domain-b.com

The Delhi High Court has refused to stay a summons against Google and Facebook issued by a trial court over a private complaint. At the same time, Justice Suresh Kait denied a strong plea from the counsel for the Delhi Police that Google India managing director Rajan Anandan and Facebook India's director of online operations Kirthiga Reddy appear in person before the trial court on 13 March, when the next hearing is scheduled.

What is this insistence that they should appear in person? Justice Kait asked public prosecutor Naveen Sharma. They have been allowed to appear through a lawyer. The court deferred the hearing of the petition challenging their summonses to 3 May.

Sharma told the court that websites like Facebook and Yahoo had been given sufficient warnings and opportunities by the communications and information technology ministry to remove objectionable content before steps were taken for their prosecution.

Update: Removal Count

2nd March 2012. See  article from  webpronews.com

Presumably, Google has satisfied the request of the Indian courts as no more removal requests have been added to Google's Transparency Report although 122 more items have been added to the Items requested to be removed category. Additionally, only half of the removal requests have been fulfilled.

Update: Yahoo Excused

3rd March 2012. SSee  article from  bbc.co.uk

The Delhi High Court has dismissed a criminal case against Yahoo India which was accused of hosting objectionable content on its web pages.

Yahoo was among 21 web firms, including Facebook and Google, accused of hosting material that could cause communal unrest.

However Yahoo said there is no actual document to show that its website has violated any law.

The judge agreed, however, he said that a private complaint against the website could be revived if credible and actionable evidence was filed against it.

Update: Case Delayed

14th March 2012. See  article from  theregister.co.uk
 

The controversial Indian legal imbroglio over censorship of web content and involving twenty companies including Google, Facebook and Microsoft has been deferred until May 23.

 

7th February   

Update: Repressive Indonesia...

Ministry claims to have blocked nearly 1 million porn websites
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in Indonesia...Indonesia passes internet porn bill

Indonesia flagIndonesia's Communications and Information Ministry claims it has blocked nearly 1 million sites that carry pornographic content.

Communications and Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring said the censorship of porn sites was in line with the government's commitment to provide safe sites accessed by Indonesians and build a more positive character for the nation.

We've blocked more than 983,000 porn sites. We will keep on doing it, Tifatul said during a seminar on the Healthy and Safe Use of the Internet. Tifatul added that the censorship would in turn improve people's ethics in using the Internet for positive purposes.

 

6th February   

Update: Radical Findings...

Parliamentary Committee find that ISPs should monitor the internet for websites radicalising religious extremists
Link Here  full story: Glorification of Censorship...Climate of fear caused by glorification of terrorsim

House of Commons logoWebsite should be monitored and material that promotes violent extremism should be removed. A nine-month inquiry by the Commons home affairs select committee concluded the internet is a fertile breeding ground for terrorism and plays a part in most, if not all, cases of violent radicalisation.

ISPs should be more active in monitoring sites and the government should work with them to develop a code of practice for removing material that could lead to radicalisation, the report said.

The inquiry found that the internet played a greater role in violent radicalisation than prisons, universities or places of worship, and was now one of the few unregulated spaces where radicalisation is able to take place .

But it added that a sense of grievance was key, and direct personal contact with radicals was a significant factor . The government's counter-terrorism strategy should show the British state is not antithetical to Islam , the committee said. Keith Vaz, its chairman, said:

More resources need to be directed to these threats and to preventing radicalisation through the internet and in private spaces. These are the fertile breeding grounds for terrorism.

The July 7 bombings in London, carried out by four men from West Yorkshire, were a powerful demonstration of the devastating and far-reaching impact of home-grown radicalisation.

We remain concerned by the growing support for non-violent extremism and more extreme and violent forms of far-right ideology.

He added that a policy of engagement, not alienation would prevent radicalisation and called for the government's counter-radicalisation strategy Prevent to be renamed Engage.

Nick Pickles, director of civil liberties and privacy group Big Brother Watch, said:

Whatever the reason for blocking online content, it should be decided in court and not by unaccountable officials.

There is a serious risk that this kind of censorship not only makes the internet less secure for law-abiding people, but drives underground the real threats and makes it harder to protect the public.

 

6th February   

Update: i Spy Internet Snooping...

European Advertising Standards Alliance define new rules to inform web surfers that adverts they see are determined via snooping
Link Here  full story: Behavioural Advertising...Serving adverts according to internet snooping

easa logoWhen new rules governing the way companies collect and use data about our movements online come into force, a little i symbol will appear on screen to reveal adverts generated by cookies . Many internet users find these digital devices, which are used by websites to create personal profiles based on use of the Internet, intrusive.

The data is used for Online Behavioural Advertising, allowing companies to direct their display adverts at individuals who, through the websites they have visited, have indicated an interest in certain goods or services.

The warning system, to be introduced by the European Advertising Standards Alliance and the Internet Advertising Bureau of Europe, will allow users to opt out of all Online Behavioural Advertising.

Similar measures introduced in the US had shown that users were often reassured about the use of cookies and chose to redefine their advertising profiles so they more accurately reflected their interests. Some web names, like Yahoo!, have already begun using the triangle icon on a voluntary basis in Britain but from June all ad networks will be required to display the symbol or face sanctions.

 

5th February   

Update: Anonymity on the Internet...

British MPs note their concern about Google's plundering of private data
Link Here  full story: Behavioural Advertising...Serving adverts according to internet snooping

House of Commons logoA small group of British MPs have signed up to an Early Day Motion voicing concern that Google are set to plunder user data for advert serving purposes.

The primary sponsor is Robert Halfon and the motion reads:

That this House

  • is concerned at reports in the Wall Street Journal that Google may now be combining nearly all the information it has on its users, which could make it harder for them to remain anonymous;

  • notes that Google's new policy is planned to take effect on 1 March 2012, but that this has not been widely advertised or highlighted to Google's users and customers, who now number more than 800 million people;

  • and therefore concludes that Google should make efforts to consult on these changes and that the firm should be extremely careful in the months ahead not to risk the same kind of mass privacy violations that took place under its StreetView programme, which the Australian Minister for Communications called the largest privacy breach in history across western democracies.

The motion has been signed by

  • Campbell, Gregory: Democratic Unionist Party Londonderry East
  • Campbell, Ronnie: Labour Party Blyth Valley
  • Caton, Martin: Labour Party Gower
  • Clark, Katy: Labour Party North Ayrshire and Arran
  • Connarty, Michael: Labour Party Linlithgow and East Falkirk
  • Corbyn, Jeremy; Labour Party Islington North
  • Halfon, Robert; Conservative Party Harlow
  • Hopkins, Kelvin; Labour Party Luton North
  • McCrea, Dr William; Democratic Unionist Party South Antrim
  • Meale, Alan; Labour Party Mansfield
  • Morris, David; Conservative Party Morecambe and Lunesdale
  • Osborne, Sandra; Labour Party Ayr Carrick and Cumnock
  • Rogerson, Dan; Liberal Democrats North Cornwall
  • Vickers, Martin; Conservative Party Cleethorpes
  • Williams, Stephen; Liberal Democrats Bristol West

 

5th February   

Update: Secretive Copyright Treaty...

EU rapporteur resigns over being railroaded to get restrictive copyright treaty passed before the public realises what it entails
Link Here  full story: ACTA Trade Restrictions...Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement

EU flagThe European Parliament rapporteur for ACTA, Kader Arif, resigned just hours after the EU signed the controversial intellectual property treaty.

In a translated statement, Arif denounced the process leading up to the ACTA signings as a masquerade .

I denounce in the strongest possible manner the entire process which has led to the signature of this agreement: failure to address civil society, lack of transparency since the beginning of the negotiations, successive reports of the signature of the text without any explanation, sweeping aside of the views of the European Parliament expressed in several different resolutions.

Arif said that he had come under pressure to rush through the ratification process so as to keep ACTA out of the public eye.

As rapporteur on this matter, I was contronted by unprecedented manoeuvres by the right of the Parliament to impose an accelerated timetable with a goal of passing the agreement quickly before public opinion could be alerted.

The rapporteur closed his statement by expressing the hope that his resignation would lead to greater public awareness of the treaty.

This agreement could have major consequences on the lives of our citizens, and yet it seems that everything is being done to ensure that the European Parliament will have no voice in this chapter. Thus, today, in handing back the report that I have been in charge of, I hope to send a strong signal to alert public opinion to this unacceptable situation. I will not participate in this masquerade.

 

31st January   

Searching for Censorship...

Open Rights Group reveal media industry proposals to hobble internet searches that reveal copyright infringing material
Link Here

Open Rights Group logoWe wrote last year, many times, about the discussions being hosted by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport between rights holders and variousintermediaries - which to normal people means companies like Internet Service Providers and search engines. One of the most recent roundtables saw the group of rights holders present search engines with a paper on how they should help tackle copyright infringement.

After two Freedom of Information requests, we have received the proposals [pdf] . Here's the summary of what the rights holders were asking for:

  • Assign lower rankings to sites that repeatedly make available unlicensed content in breach of copyright.

  • Prioritise websites that obtain certification as a licensed site under a recognised scheme

  • Stop indexing websites that are subject to court orders while establishing suitable procedures to de-index substantially infringing sites

  • Continue to improve the operation of the notice and takedown system and ensure that search engines do not encourage consumers towards illegal sites via suggested searches; related searches and suggested sites

  • Ensure that they do not support illegal sites by advertising them or placing advertising on them, or profit from infringement by selling key words associated with piracy or selling mobile applications which facilitate infringement.

The minutes from the meeting suggest that the search engines were not impressed, and promised to write their own proposals to be discussed at a future meeting.

...Read the full article

Offsite: Google grilled by parliamentary committee

31st January 2012. See  article from  blogs.ft.com

Houses of ParliamentGoogle was dragged over the coals by a British parliamentary committee, as the technology company's approach to removing illegal content from its search results again came under scrutiny.

Several members of the joint committee on privacy and injunctions, chaired by John Whittingdale MP, repeatedly attacked Google's representatives as they set out how the search engine seeks to balance legal challenges with freedom of expression.

Ben Bradshaw, Nadim Zahawi, and Lord Mawhinney, all criticised Google for what they saw as its failure to help victims of invasion of privacy, by removing all links to content which a judge has ruled to be illegal in the UK.

...Read the full article

 

30th January   

Update: Same as Iran and China...

Tor website blocked by O2 and 3 mobile networks
Link Here  full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

Tor project logoOpen Rights Group and Tor have established that UK mobile networks such as Vodafone, O2 and 3 are blocking UK users' access toTor's primary website (meaning the  Tor Project website, rather than connections to the Tor network) on pre-paid contractless accounts.

Tor helps people stay anonymous online. Some examples of how it has been used include those trying to avoid oppressive state censorship in places such as Iran, through to abuse victims in the UK.

There is a blog post by Jacob Appelbaum with more technical details about the blocking on UK mobile networks over at the Tor blog.

Searching for torproject.org reveals that it is blocked because it falls into the category of anonymiser . (Orange also say that they block content that falls into the anonymiser category - but it does not seem that Tor is blocked on Orange.) It's unlikely that mobile operators are targeting Tor, and more likely that anonymisation tools generally are blocked.

It was initially established that Tor was blocked initially through the new tool blocked.org.uk. openrightsgroup.org are asking for help in monitoring how blocking on mobile networks works by reporting when you come across incorrectly applied blocks.

Open Rights Group will be meeting with mobile operators over the next few weeks to talk about making sure that they can both help parents manage their children's mobile Internet use and avoid clumsy implemented blocking. Some are better at aspects of this than others (Orange provide an overview of the categories they block, for example.) But none implement a transparent and clear policy that puts users in charge.

 

30th January   

Offsite: The Right to be Forgotten...

EU proposes a bag of worms that will only be untangled by incredibly expensive lawyers
Link Here  full story: The Right to be Forgotten...Bureaucratic censorship in the EU

EU flagEuropean Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding has proposed a sweeping reform of the EU's data protection rules, claiming that the proposed rules will both cost less for governments and corporations to administer and simultaneously strengthen online privacy rights.

The 1995 Data Protection Directive already gives EU citizens certain rights over their data. Organizations can process data only with consent, and only to the extent that they need to fulfil some legitimate purpose. They are also obliged to keep data up-to-date, and retain personally identifiable data for no longer than is necessary to perform the task that necessitated collection of the data in the first place. They must ensure that data is kept secure, and whenever processing of personal data is about to occur, they must notify the relevant national data protection agency.

The new proposals go further than the 1995 directive, especially in regard to the control they give citizens over their personal information. Chief among the new proposals is a right to be forgotten that will allow people to demand that organizations that hold their data delete that data, as long as there is no legitimate grounds to hold it.

This is the so-called right to be forgotten . The proposal does not create a right to be thrown down the memory hole or rewrite the past; news reports and similar material would be a legitimate reason to retain personal information, and this would override a demand to have data deleted. But sites like Facebook---which has had difficulties with the concept of deletion---and Google would likely be required to purge any such personal data should someone demand that they do so.

...Read the full article

Offsite: Google exec questions Reding's Right to be forgotten pledge

See article from theregister.co.uk

Google logoGoogle's privacy policy counsel in Brussels, Marisa Jimenez, expressed concern about some of the passages written under article 17 of the proposed regulation. She said Reding's so-calledright to be forgotten on the internet plans have, in part, been welcomed by Google.

But she noted that the current text submitted by the European Commission is incredibly complex and thereby open to any number of interpretations by data protection authorities and companies that could be expected to comply with the rules, if passed by the European Parliament in their current form.

Here's what Reding's proposed regulation currently states on the right to be forgotten :

Article 17 provides the data subject's right to be forgotten and to erasure. It further elaborates and specifies the right of erasure provided for in Article 12(b) of Directive 95/46/EC and provides the conditions of the right to be forgotten, including the obligation of the controller which has made the personal data public to inform third parties on the data subject's request to erase any links to, or copy or replication of that personal data. It also integrates the right to have the processing restricted in certain cases, avoiding the ambiguous terminologyblocking .

...Read the full article

 

30th January   

Offsite: Multilayered Firewalls...

Inside China's censorship machine
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in China...All pervading Chinese internet censorship

Consent Networked Worldwide Struggle Internet In fall 2009, I sat in a large auditorium festooned with red banners and watched as Robin Li, CEO of Baidu, China's dominant search engine, paraded onstage with executives from 19 other companies to receive the China Internet Self-Discipline Award.Officials from the quasi-governmental Internet Society of China praised them for fostering harmonious and healthy Internet development. In the Chinese regulatory context, healthy is a euphemism for porn-free and crime-free. Harmonious implies prevention of activity that would provoke social or political disharmony. Related

China's censorship system is complex and multilayered. The outer layer is generally known as the great firewall of China, through which hundreds of thousands of websites are blocked from view on the Chinese Internet. What this system means in practice is that when one goes online from an ordinary commercial Internet connection inside China and tries to visit a website such as hrw.org, the website belonging to Human Rights Watch, the web browser shows an error message saying,This page cannot be found. This blocking is easily accomplished because the global Internet connects to the Chinese Internet through only eight gateways, which are easily filtered. At each gateway, as well as among all the different Internet service providers within China, Internet routers --- the devices that move the data back and forth between different computer networks --- are all configured to block long lists of website addresses and politically sensitive keywords.

...Read the full article

 

29th January   

Update: No New Dawn for Tunisia...

Tunisia is set for another court hearing in a legal action demanding a block on porn websites
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in Tunisia...Blogs and websites banned in Tunisia

Tunisia flagOnce again, in the post Ben Ali era, censorship and freedom of speech (or lack of), is at the centre of debate. The reason this time is the ongoing saga of a legal action lodged by three lawyers against the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI)) calling upon it to block pornographic websites.

Early next month, the ATI, will appeal to the Court of Cassation's (the highest court of appeal) verdict issued on May 26, 2011, by a court in Tunis ordering the agency to block access to pornographic content on the web.

The ATI, which lost an appeal on August 15, 2011, claims that the filtering of pornographic websites listed by Smart Filter could not be carried out for the five Internet service providers.

The Tunisian Internet Agency, wanting to put an end to its old image as an Internet censor during the rule of Ben Ali, prefers to raise the awareness of Internet users, and especially parents by giving them practical tips on the use of parental control software instead of blocking websites.

 

27th January   

Update: Internet Censor...

Birmingham councillor dreams up a wheeze to use club licensing requirements to restrict what lap dancing clubs can put on their websites
Link Here  full story: Lap Dancing in West Midlands...Fun on Broad Street

Birmingham City Council logoBirmingham City councillor Nigel Dawkins has called for the sex establishments not to be allowed to use pornographic images on their websites.

Since last January, lap dancing clubs have had to apply for a Sexual Entertainment Venue licence. The committee has the power to refuse the licences and set the conditions under which they have to operate.

Dawkins said he wanted another condition put on the licences:

I think we should make it a condition that on their websites they do not use porn to advertise their clubs because they are using pornography to sell their business and that's a scandal, he said. They wouldn't be allowed to use these images on their windows, but they are free to use them on their websites.

Licensing committee chairman, Councillor Bruce Lines  said they had no powers over the internet. But the committee agreed to ask its officers to prepare a report for a future meeting on the possiblity of restricting how clubs advertised themselves on their websites.

 

27th January   

Update: Copy Cats...

EU signs up to the ACTA committing to action against copyright infringement
Link Here  full story: ACTA Trade Restrictions...Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement

EU flagThe European Union and 22 Member States have officially signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The UK was among the signatories who gathered in Japan to sign the controversial intellectual property treaty.

The signatories commit to a raft of controversial intellectual property enforcement measures, including rules outlawing DRM circumvention, introducing criminal enforcement of intellectual property rights, and passages which have been interpreted as turning ISPs into anunofficial copyright police force .

The treaty still requires ratification by the European Parliament. The final vote is scheduled for June.

 

26th January   

Update: Anti-ACTA Protests...

Polish demonstrations against the country signing the US led anti-piracy treaty
Link Here  full story: ACTA Trade Restrictions...Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement

Poland flagThousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets of Polish cities, some of them hurling stones at police, in protest at an international copyright treaty criticized as a clampdown on freedom of speech on the internet.

In the city of Kielce around 700 people protested. Some of them threw bottles and stones at police, damaged cars and partially blocked traffic.

In the largest demonstration, in Cracow, 15,000 people took to the streets in a largely peaceful protest. Demonstrators chanted Down with censorship while some had a piece of tape inscribed with ACTA glued over their lips.

ACTA is the acronym for the international Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which Poland was to sign in Tokyo on Thursday.

 

24th January   

Update: Even More Miserable...

Pakistan starts blocking porn websites
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in Pakistan...internet website blocking

Pakistan Telecoms AuthorityPakistan has begun to implement a long threatened block on internet porn.

The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority has provided a list to the ISP's in Pakistan to block the frequently accessed adult sites. It is believed that more web pages will be added to the initial banned list of 1,000 websites and as many as 170,000 websites may be banned in the near future.

The currently blocked websites redirects the users to a new page with the following error message, This page is blocked due to restrictions enforced by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) .

 

22nd January   

Update: Dangerous Tweets...

China expands programme to register users posting to Twitter like website
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in China...All pervading Chinese internet censorship

China flagChina will expand nationwide a trial program that requires users of the country's wildly popular Twitter like services to disclose their identities to the government in order to post comments online, the government's top Internet censor said.

Wang Chen of the State Council Information Office, said at a news conference that registration trials in five major eastern China cities would continue until wrinkles were worked out. But he said that eventually all 250 million users of microblogs, called weibos in China, would have to register, beginning first with new users.

Wang indicated that under the program, users could continue to use nicknames online, even though they would still be required to register their true identities. The reasoning seems to be to limit the spread of malicious rumors, pornography, scams and other 'unhealthy practices' on weibos, which have become a major source of news for many Chinese.

 

20th January   

Updated: India Tries the Wrong Man...

Google India points out to the court that it is not responsible for the content of Google Inc. websites
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in India...India considers blanket ban on internet porn

google india logoGoogle India has filed a petition in the Delhi High Court saying that it does not exercise any control over content on YouTube, Google, Orkut or Blogspot in India, and thus can't be summoned to an Indian court in a criminal case against it related to inflammatory images of Gods and Goddesses posted on some of its websites.

The petition to quash a criminal complaint was submitted by Google India's lawyers in the Delhi High Court.

The original criminal complaint was filed by editor of Akbari , Vinay Rai last month. Google's India MD Rajan Anandan has been summoned to appear in a lower court on Friday in connection with this complaint.

According to the petition, Google India says that it has been appointed just as a distributor of Google Inc.'s Adwords program in India, and thus it's India MD does not control the Blogger, Google or YouTube websites. Google India furthur says that sites such as Orkut.com are owned by Google Inc, and thus it is not even an intermediary' as defined in the Indian IT Act, and thuscan't be summoned to answer in any case regarding content .

Mukul Rohatgi, counsel for Google India, told ET that it's humanly impossible to monitor or remove the content before it is uploaded on the internet. My client Google India is different from Google Inc, and does not have any control over the platform. Google India is just an advertising and revenue collection body.

Appearing for Vinay Rai, his counsel SPM Tripathi said that according to IT Rules, 2011, the websites have to remove the content within 36 hours of receiving a court order, which they have not complied with. The content on the websites is derogatory against Hindu, Muslim and Christian Gods and Goddesses, and can spark a riot if publicised. It incites hatred and enmity between communities and thus should be removed by the parties.

Update: Delays in the case India v The Internet

20th January 2012. See  article from  zdnet.com

The Delhi High Court delayed hearings on petitions by Facebook and Google to dismiss criminal proceedings against them in the country's Web censorship case. The two Internet giants are among 21 companies that have been asked to develop a mechanism to block objectionable material in India, and the Indian government has given the green light for their prosecution.

Earlier this week, Facebook and Google told the Delhi High Court they cannot block offensive content that appears on their services. Although the case was originally filed in a lower court, the companies have appealed to the Delhi High Court, challenging the lower court's ruling asking them to take down some content. The high court has now pushed back the case till February 2, according to NDTV. If their petitions fail, the 21 companies will have to face trial in the lower court, which has its next hearing scheduled for March 13.

 

20th January   

Offsite: Lessons Learnt...

South Korea to end compulsory registration of internet forum users
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in South Korea...Repressive new internet censorship law

South Korea flagIn 2003, South Korea's conservative Grand National Party (GNP) struck back from losing a presidential race by enacting a new law which required online users to verify their real identities before posting comments on election-related web sites. The legislation's stated goals were to to promote responsible online discourse and to protect the privacy of candidates, and it has accomplished its purpose to a limited extent. Yet the greater underlying political motive is clear to see --- the conservative party that relies on older, less internet-savvy Koreans wanted to limit the influence of online media on election results.

In 2007, an election year, the proliferation of anonymous online slander was the stated cause for extending the real-name system to web sites with over 300,000 daily visits.

In 2009, the real-name system was extended to web sites that received over 100,000 web sites per day. As of last year, this law applied to about 150 South Korean web sites.

The government's efforts to control cyberspace have been formidable, but as a result of the real-name policy, South Korean web sites have become prime targets for hacking both from in and outside of the country. The number of hacking incidents reached a momentous level last year, as a series of high-profile cyber-attacks made it clear that the real-name system was untenable --- the most notorious case being SK Communications' SNS Cyworld, which leaked personal information of over 35 million Koreans, more than half of the national population.

The South Korean government also suffered an embarrassment when Google's YouTube refused to comply to the real-name verification system in 2009. Stating that freedom of expression must be upheld on the internet, Google disabled video upload and comment functionalities from users accessing the site within S. Korea. Yet users only had to change their country setting in order to upload and comment on the site again, providing a legal loophole which set-off a wide debate within the country. The incident prompted the KCC to initiate a legal review, and after mulling over whether to punish Google or not, decided to exempt it from the real-name law, which added oil to the fire. Korean companies that have had to comply to the law --- that had incurred web development, monitoring, and security costs --- cited discrimination that put them at a competitive disadvantage to global companies.

On December 30, 2011, the KCC announced that it will phase out the real-name verification system by 2014. This time, web sites that do not remove resident registration IDs and other sensitive information will be fined.

...Read the full article

 

19th January   

Update: Dangerous Websites...

Iran confirms death sentence for webmasters
Link Here  full story: Internet Death Sentence...Iran goes extreme over website censorship

Iran flagAhmad Reza Hashempour was arrested in 2007. A lower court had sentenced him to death, and the Supreme Court this week upheld Hashempour's death sentence on charges ofmembership in anti-religion and blasphemous websites.

During his four-year detention, Ahmad Reza Hashemour spent a long time in solitary where he was physically and psychologically tortured to make television confessions against himself.

This is the latest injustice in the Mozelleen 3 case. Many of the suspects in this case were forced to make television confessions against themselves and to accept the charges leveled against them. Several individuals implicated in this case released open letters several months after their arrests, speaking up about unbearable torture during their detention period. Another suspect in this case, Vahid Asghari, was also sentenced to death this week, after four years in prison.

Update: Death sentence confirmed for Canadian website programmer

19th January 2012. See  article from  xbiz.com

Website programmer Saeed Malekpour's death sentence for developing and promoting porn sites has been upheld by Iran's supreme court. The Iranian-born Canadian resident now faces imminent execution despite a reprieve last June when the sentence was suspended and set for judicial review after his defense lawyers introduced expert evidence amidst an international outcry for justice.

He appeared on state television confessing to a series of crimes detailing his involvement with porn sites that led to his conviction. But in a letter from his prison cell, the programmer ultimately retracted his confessions and claimed he made the statements under duress that included physical and psychological torture and threats against his family.

Malekpour wrote:

Once, in October 2008, the interrogators stripped me while I was blindfolded and threatened to rape me with a bottle of water. While I remained blindfolded and handcuffed, several individuals armed with cables, batons, and their fists struck and punched me. At times, they would flog my head and neck.

Such mistreatment was aimed at forcing me to write what the interrogators were dictating, and to compel me to play a role in front of the camera based on their scenarios.

Saeed's lawyers were told that his death sentence will be issued this week.

 

18th January   

Update: Dubai is Damned Dangerous...

British engineer sentenced to jail for saying 'damned mosques' in exasperation at slow building process
Link Here

UAE flagA British engineer is facing a month in jail after he told colleagues in a meeting, When will we finish with the damn mosques?

The worker, who has not been named, told an appeals court that he did not mean to insult the Islamic religion.

The British engineer works at the parks and recreation section of Abu Dhabi Municipality, and is appealing against a one-month prison sentence imposed by the Court of Misdemeanours. The slow completion of a Mosque in Abu Dhabi caused the British engineer to make the statement that has landed him in court and facing jail.

The engineer told the court he lost his temper during a meeting because the project he was leading was progressing slowly.

He was then reported to the police by his work 'colleagues' for asking the offending question.

A decision on the appeal will be announced on 7th February

Update: Failed Appeal

8th February 2012.  See  article from  7days.ae  

A British engineer has lost his appeal for insulting Islam after he used a derogatory word to ask co-workers when they would be finished building mosques in Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi Appeal Court ruled that the one-month jail sentence would stand. The engineer, who was working for the parks and recreations section of Abu Dhabi Municipality, had said he merely made the comment during the meeting as he was keen to finish designing a mosque garden.

The court heard he loudly asked colleagues the question, inserting a blasphemous word before saying mosque . One of his colleagues then complained to police. The man had previously told the lower court that he did not intend to insult Muslims and was merely emphasising his words to show how keen he was to finish the project. He added that he respected the UAE and Islam and never intended to show disrespect to the mosque on which he was working.

He was appealing the one-month sentence imposed by the Abu Dhabi Court of Misdemeanours.

 

15th January   

Update: MPAA Told Hands off DNS Blocking...

Obama speaks out against part of the SOPA internet censorship bill
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA

Barack ObamaThe White House just released a statement commenting on the pending SOPA and PIPA anti-piracy bills in congress. While the Obama Administration sides with the opposition by saying that free-speech should be protected, censorship is evil, and that DNS-blocking is a no go, the statement doesn't mean that the bills are off the table.

Responding to two petitions signed by over 50,000 people each, the Obama administration recited much of the criticism voiced by SOPA/PIPA opponents. The Administration wrote:

Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small. Across the globe, the openness of the Internet is increasingly central to innovation in business, government, and society and it must be protected.

To minimize this risk, new legislation must be narrowly targeted only at sites beyond the reach of current U.S. law, cover activity clearly prohibited under existing U.S. laws, and be effectively tailored, with strong due process and focused on criminal activity.

The only strong position the Obama Administration takes is against DNS blocking. Here, the White House sides with many of the tech experts, and against the MPAA, by concluding that tampering with DNS poses a threat to the Internet.

In fact many of the lawmakers previously in favor of DNS-blocking have suddenly started to back pedal. They probably got a heads up and changed their tone before the White House statement was released. SOPA author Lamar Smith said DNS blocking would be removed from the bill until further notice.

 

14th January   

Blocking Watching...

Open Rights Group set up facility to monitor over blocking by mobile phone companies
Link Here  full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

Open Rights Group logoOpen Rights Group (ORG) are researching into the accuracy of the website blocking employed by mobile phone companies. The group wrote in its newsletter:

Last month, we asked ORG supporters to help us find sites that were being blocked by the default Adult filter on their mobile phones. Lots of you replied and asked to get involved. And thanks to that extraordinary team - we've launched a tool to report what sites are being blocked and by whom.

We are getting regular reports and testing blocks on every mobile network. We're seeing just how bad mobile blocking is, and how bad the networks are at dealing with complaints. Forums and joke sites get banned. So do churches. Some MPs want to extend defaultadult censorship to Internet at home as well: but we are already seeing how bad it is on mobile networks. ORG has already been invited to talk to O2 about their systems, as a result of this campaign.

Report blocked websites at blocked.org.uk

3 logoMeanwhile thank to a reader who wrote to MelonFarmers:

Just to let you know; the mobile network Three are blocking access to your site through their 3G networks - The site works fine on Wi-Fi, but on 3G you get asked to contact Three to get a pin to unblock the site, as they have it listed as anAdult content site.

They charge 99p to allow access to adult sites (And it's not straightforward, takes a while to find the right place to do it.). 

They have also blocked Movie-Censorship.com, same reason as above.

 

14th January   

Betting on a Free Internet...

German courts decide that ISPs cannot be forced to block websites judged to be illegal
Link Here

Germany flagCompared with some European countries where courts are telling ISPs that they must block access to certain sites (in Finland and the UK, for example), news from Germany comes as a refreshing change. The German newspaper Der Spiegel reported:

Deutsche Telekom must allow access to online betting sites, even if they are illegal in Germany. So ruled the Cologne Administrative Court.

This follows a decision in Dusseldorf at the end of last year, where a judge had ruled that Vodafone and Telekom were not responsible for the content of Web sites, because they played no role in selecting material, and therefore should not be forced to block access.

Moreover, the latest judgment can be used as a precedent in similar cases, according to the Der Spiegel report.

 

14th January   

Dangerous Links...

Man extradited to the US over copyright claims about a website that linked to infringing TV content
Link Here

tv shack logoA British student can be extradited to the United States to face charges of copyright infringement over a website he ran offering links to pirated films online, a court has ruled.

Richard O'Dwyer, whose site TV Shack made more than 150,000 in advertising revenues, according to US prosecutors, is thought to be the first person extradited to America on such charges. If convicted in New York, he faces jail.

Speaking after the hearing at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court, the 23-year-old said he felt like a guinea pig for the US justice system. His lawyer argued that his site hosted no illegal content, but merely directed users to where it was held online, and said that his client would appeal the ruling.

 

12th January   

Update: Red Goes Black...

Reddit to go dark to protest SOPA internet censorship
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA

reddit logoOn January 18, the online community at reddit will go dark for 12 hours in opposition of the Stop Online Piracy Act now being considered in the House and its companion PROTECT IP Act in the Senate. Both bills would give copyright holders tremendous power to have websites blocked, to get their advertising cut off, and to shut down their credit card or PayPal payments.

reddit's community has been organizing all manner of objections to the two bills, including a targeted (and successful) boycott of GoDaddy, which supported the legislation. This time, site admins decided to get involved in order to get the word out to all of reddit's users.

Reddit explained:

Instead of the normal glorious, user-curated chaos of reddit, we will be displaying a simple message about how the PIPA/SOPA legislation would shut down sites like reddit, link to resources to learn more, and suggest ways to take action..

We're not taking this action lightly. We wouldn't do this if we didn't believe this legislation and the forces behind it were a serious threat to reddit and the Internet as we know it.

 

9th January   

Updated: Life in the Slow Lane...

Iran set to turn off internet access to the outside world
Link Here  full story: Iranian Internet Censorship...Extensive internet blocking

Iran flagA member of Iran's Corporate Computer Systems reports that Iran will be cut off from the World Wide Web once the country launches its own national internet network next month.

Iranian media report that Payam Karbasi, the spokesman for Corporate Computer Systems of Iran, said: With the launch of the national internet, the internet providers can increase the speed of access to their desired websites by two megabytes... however, it will be just like a corporate network, which cannot be accessed by outsiders, and some material cannot be accessed through that network.

The national internet network will allow service providers to decide which sites the users can be accessed speedily, which sites will be provided at the lowest speed, and of course which sites will be totally blocked.

In the past two weeks, Iranian internet users have reported an extreme reduction in internet speed. While access to government sites remains easy, using proxies to access blocked sites only via the slow lane.

Karbasi said: Imagine there is a monitoring system that checks all the internet packages and then allows it to pass through or regards it unclean. Because of the high volume of internet packages, they remain in a line-up in order to be checked, and this causes the reduction in the speed of access.

With the launch of the so-called clean internet network, Iranian authorities aim to separate Iran from the World Wide Web in order to block access to supposedly immoral content and maintain control of what Iranian users can access.

Update: Spy in the Caf

9th January 2012.  See  article from  rferl.org

internet cafeIran's cyberpolice have issued new restrictions for Internet cafes that appear to be part of the Iranian establishment's efforts to impose further controls on the Internet.

According to the new rules, the personal information of citizens visiting cybercafes, such as their name, father's name, national ID number, and telephone number, will be registered. Cafe owners will be required to keep the personal and contact information of their clients and also a record of their browsing history for six months.

Another new rule that has been announced requires cybercafe owners to install closed-circuit cameras and keep the video recordings for six months. The guidelines also say that installing circumvention tools that allow access to banned websites will be illegal at Internet cafes.

Deputy cyberpolice chief Mohsen Mirbehresi has said that owners of Internet cafes should deny Internet access to those who do not show their IDs. Internet cafes have 15 days to implement the restrictions, which were announced on January 3.

 

7th January   

Update: TalkTalk SafeSafe NotNot...

HomeSafe internet blocking is insufficient for TalkTalk to claim UK's safest broadband
Link Here  full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

HomeSafe logoa. A TV ad for broadband, viewed on 12 September, featured a toy family in a dolls house, guarded by a row of toy soldiers. The voice-over said,Talk Talk homes have the UK's safest broadband thanks to HomeSafe, free for all customers. No wonder thousands of homes join Talk Talk every day. Talk Talk, a brighter home for everyone.

b. A poster for broadband, viewed on 19 September, stated The UK's safest broadband is now 3.25 a month and Includes HomeSafe, the UK's first and only network level security .

c. A national press ad for broadband, viewed on 28th August, stated The UK's safest broadband 3.25 a month. Our great value phone and broadband gives you all this: Half price for 9 months then 6.50 a month for the remaining 3 months. Our ground-breaking new security service, HomeSafe is free to all customers ... . Issue

British Telecommunications (BT) and two members of the public challenged whether the claim UK's safest broadband made in ads (a), (b) and (c) was misleading.

ASA Decision: Complaints Upheld

The ASA acknowledged that TalkTalk were the only home broadband provider to offer security features that were applied at the network level, rather than to individual devices. We noted that HomeSafe offered three features: content restriction, which allowed parents to restrict access to inappropriate websites; virus alerts, which alerted users if they viewed a suspect website; and a feature which allowed parents to restrict access to social networking and gaming sites during certain times of the day. We noted that most other broadband providers supplied security packages to their customers, and that these required software to be downloaded on each individual computer it was to be applied to, and that they were only able to be used on personal computers running Windows operating systems.

We noted that TalkTalk believed that the claim Talk Talk homes have the UK's safest broadband was accurate as it was based on their being the only broadband provider to offer network level security. However, we considered that the claim implied that customers would enjoy the safest online experience when using TalkTalk broadband. We also considered that the images shown in the ad reinforced this impression, as a father was pictured relaxing in an armchair whilst two children used the internet, giving the impression that using TalkTalk meant the actual online experience was the safest. We considered that customers could interpret safest as referring to a number of features, such as virus protection or protection from hacking, and that Home Safe only offered a basic range of security features. We did not consider that consumers would interpretsafest as referring to blocking of inappropriate content, and restricting access to certain sites at certain times. As Talk Talk were not able to substantiate that customers would enjoy the safest online experience with them, we concluded ad (a) was misleading.

We noted that ad (b) stated Includes HomeSafe, the UK's first and only network level security . However, we did not consider that consumers would interpret this as being the full basis for the claim UK's safest broadband , as the word includes implied that it was only part of a fuller package. We also considered consumers were unlikely to understand what network level security meant, as it was not a commonly used term in home broadband, and that it could be easily misinterpreted to refer to other features such as the security of the wireless connection. We considered that the claim implied that customers would enjoy the safest online experience when using TalkTalk broadband, and that the qualification used did not sufficiently counteract this impression. As Talk Talk were not able to substantiate that customers would enjoy the safest online experience with them, we concluded ad (b) was misleading.

We noted that ad (c) stated Our ground-breaking new security service, HomeSafe is free to all customers . However, we considered that the ad did not make it clear that this was the basis for the claim UK's safest broadband , and that the ad did not provide any details of the features provided by HomeSafe. We considered that the claim implied that customers would enjoy the safest online experience when using TalkTalk broadband, and that the qualification used did not sufficiently counteract this impression. As Talk Talk were not able to substantiate that customers would enjoy the safest online experience with them, we concluded ad (c) was misleading.

Ad (a) breached BCAP Codes rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Substantiation) and 3.38 (Other comparisons).

Ads (b) and (c) breached CAP Codes rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.38 (Other comparisons). Action

The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told TalkTalk to ensure that the basis for comparative claims was made clear in future.

 

7th January   

Update: Leaked Judgement...

Court confirms requirement for Twitter to hand over data about supporters of Wikileaks
Link Here  full story: US vs Wikileaks...US aggressively attacks Wikileaks over leaked cables

doj logoTwitter has to provide the U.S. Department of Justice with all account information for three users who allegedly support WikiLeaks, a federal judge has ordered. The data will be used in the investigation into WikiLeaks and its leader, Julian Assange.

U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady denied a motion to suspend previous orders that would allow the DOJ access to the Twitter account information of three people who are suspected of having ties to WikiLeaks.

The information the Department of Justice requested is extensive as Salon reported: It includes all mailing addresses and billing information known for the user, all connection records and session times, all IP addresses used to access Twitter, all known email accounts, as well as the 'means and source of payment,' including banking records and credit cards.

In December 2010, a magistrate judge granted the Department of Justice permission to seek the three account holders' Twitter information under a secret order.  The ACLU took the case before a magistrate judge who ruled in favor of the Department of Justice. The case was then presented to an appeals court, presided by Judge O'Grady who upheld the ruling. This most recent decision allows investigators into WikiLeaks to move forward with their request for Twitter account information.

 

6th January   

Update: Parrying Perry...

Government backs off from the idea of ISPs blocking porn unless requested otherwise
Link Here  full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

william hagueThe Government has toned down its support for internet blocking and moved to distance itself from a leading anti-porn campaigner.

Last year, the Government threw its weight behind the idea of ISPs blocking all porn by default unless adults specifically requested a full service.

However the ISPs didn't find this idea practical. They rolled out the compromise idea of providing blocking software to individual subscribers so that they could be tailored as required. ISP's would also ensure that these facilities would be made crystal clear to new subscribers.

Now it appears the Government is distancing itself from the original idea of blocking porn by default at the ISP level. Foreign Secretary William Hague explained in response to an open letter from rights groups:

We believe that parents should be provided with wide tools to enable them to voluntarily block harmful and inappropriate content.

It is important to distinguish between Government encouraging people to make more use of existing protections as a matter of choice, and the Government deciding what people can and cannot do online.

Our plans do not prevent access to legal material, but seek to make it much clearer that protections exist, and to encourage their use.

The Home Secretary also distanced the Government from MP Claire Perry, who has been campaigning for a block on all porn, a stance that has raised concerns among internet freedom groups. Hague said:

The position of Claire Perry regarding the default filtering of adult content is not the position of this Government.

 

6th January   

Updated: Blocked Blocking Law Unblocked...

Spain enacts previously shelved law allowing websites to be closed or blocked over copyright violations
Link Here  full story: File Sharing in Spain...Internet censorship in the name of preventing piracy

Spanish flagIn only its second cabinet meeting after taking power Dec. 22, Spain's brand new right-leaning government has enacted a law intended to deal a severe blow to digital piracy by allowing the courts to close or block websites accused of profiting from the illegal downloading of copyrighted content.

Spain is reportedly responsible for 20% of the global illegal downloads of the top 10 films from 2010.

The so-called Sinde Law---named after outgoing Culture Minister A'ngeles Gonzalez-Sinde---was actually passed by the Spanish Parliament in February, but former Prime Minister Jose' Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist government didn't enact the regulations so it was never implemented.

The new center-right government wasted no time in enacting the law, however, passing after having been in office for less than a week.

The law, which, according to news reports, gives websites ten days to close down their sites after a government committee identifies reports of violations and gains backing from a judge on a case by case basis, went into effect immediately upon its approval by the new government.

Update: Spain Bullied by America

6th January 2012. See  article from  gamepolitics.com

drill sergeantAccording to more than 100 leaked diplomatic cables, the reason that Spain passed such a strict anti-piracy law was because the United States government made strong threats against the country. The cables were part of a recent WikiLeaks release. Many have long suspected that the United States government has been interfering in other countries' copyright legislation, and these new cables certainly prove critics' points.

The leaked cables showed that the US had a hand in drafting the new Spanish copyright legislation and influenced decisions of the outgoing and incoming government. According to the new leaked documents, the U.S. voiced its anger at outgoing Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero last month when they realized that his government was unlikely to pass the US-drafted Sinde law before leaving office.

 

4th January   

By By Internet...

Belarus set to turn off internet access to the outside world
Link Here

Belarus flagBelarus labelled as Europe's only dictatorship is certainly living up to its reputation. From January 6th, browsing foreign websites will become an offense punishable by fines, with service providers taking responsibility for the actions of their users.

New legislation requires that anyone doing business in the country may only utilize fully local Internet domains when carrying out their activities online.

As highlighted by the Law Library of Congress, this means that it will become illegal for locals to use a site such as Amazon.com, which has no official Belarusian presence. Indeed, browsing any website outside the country will be punishable with fines of up to $125.

Additionally, the legislation will also hold Internet providers, such as cafe's providing wifi, responsible for the actions of their customers if they are found to be using foreign sites. The same responsibilities lie with home Internet subscribers who share their connections with others.

The initial decree, issued in February 2010 by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, requires the compulsory registration of all web sites which must then be hosted in the country.

The usual sites are currently listed in the country's Top 20 most-visited list including Google, YouTube, Twitter and Wikipedia, all of which have .com domains and US hosting. Indeed, only two sites in the Belarusian Top 10 currently appear to be legal for local access.

Even Google's Belarusian variant Google.by seems to fall outside the legal reach of citizens of Belarus, hosted as it is in the United States. Twitter, Facebook and Wikipedia have further problems, since the .BY variants of their domains have been registered by other entities.

 

3rd January   

But Did it Help?...

Kazakhstan turns off the internet in response to unrest
Link Here

Kazakhstan flagKazakhstan's crackdown on independent media and social networking sites last month has sparked a debate about censorship.

The Kazakh government shut down Internet access and mobile phone coverage early last month in the western region of Mangistau after ongoing protests there by oil workers on strike turned violent and police killed 15 people. Journalists were denied access to the region, and media coverage of events there have been restricted.

This strike has been a focal point for censorship, said Johann Bihr, director of Reporters Without Borders' European and Central Asia desk. The situation regarding freedom of speech in Kazakhstan has never been good, but this year especially has seen a violent crackdown. Since it began in May, the independent media that reported this strike have been severely repressed.

For two days following the violence in Mangistau, the government blocked the social networking site Twitter across the country.

Aleksandr Danilov, a blogger in the city of Almaty in eastern Kazakhstan, said that many voices in the Kazakh online community actually support such restrictions.  He wrote:

Kazakh [Internet users] actively discussed the blocking of Internet resources and opinions were divided. There were those who argued for a complete blockage of social [networking] resources in order to prevent provocations. Many argue that by [instant] notifications from Twitter, unrest could well have been coordinated through this social network.

 

3rd January   

Update: People Power vs Media Industry...

Jostling for position to support or oppose SOPA
Link Here  full story: SOPA...Internet censorship in the name of preventing piracy

effThe Stop Online Piracy Act, better known as SOPA, is bad news. Bringing piracy to heel is a noble goal but imposing sweeping, arbitrary laws that can force websites offline with almost no judicial oversight isn't the way to go about it. The average guy on the internet may not care much one way or the other [probably because he's not even aware of what's going on] but some backlash is beginning to be felt: Go Daddy dropped its support for SOPA a couple of weeks ago following calls for a boycott of its services and now Sony, Nintendo and Electronic Arts have all followed suit - sort of.

Sony Electronics, Nintendo and Elecronic Arts, which had previously thrown their weight behind the proposed legislation, are now all notably absent from the most recent list of SOPA supporters. Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Sony Music Entertainment and Sony Music Nashville remain on the list, which is unfortunate, but of greater concern is the continued presence of the Entertainment Software Association, the industry association which counts among its members Sony, Nintendo and EA. The support is still there, in other words, less direct and better camouflaged but still very much a part of the process pushing for the implementation of SOPA.