GreatFire.org's Free Weibo, a tool that allows you to search and find censored tweets on China's popular microblogging platform, Sina Weibo, was temporarily made available in the Apple apps store in China after being previously blocked.
Charlie Smith, who along with Martin Johnson created Great Fire, a website that monitor's censorship in China explained that Great Fire had recently updated the app, which threw the Apple censors off for a short period of time. But only a day
later, the app was blocked again.
The app is only blocked in the Chinese Apple store but it can be downloaded everywhere else. Furthermore, says Smith, those who were able to download Free Weibo before it was blocked are still able to use the app, problem-free.
Apple has censored a number of applications before, most recently a popular censorship circumvention tool called OpenDoor, usually pulling them quietly without much warning. With Open Door, the developers learned about the censorship only after users
brought it to their attention.
Police in Germany have developed a smartphone app that helps them to identify right-wing extremist music from just a short clip.
The app, which has been dubbed a Nazi Shazam , in reference to the popular music-identification app, allows German authorities to recognise neo-Nazi music at far-right rallies in just seconds through its audio fingerprints . Ministers are
set to meet this week to discuss implementation of the new piece of software.
According to Der Spiegel, the Federal Review Board for Media Harmful to Minors has collated a list of 79 pieces of music it considers to have racist lyrics or that promotes neo-Nazi ideology.
Apple is censoring digital comics by banning them from apps on the iPad and iPhone.
According to a report from Publisher's Weekly , in 2013 alone Apple has banned a total of 59 digital comics from apps such as Comixology due to the company's censorship guidelines for apps. Most of the comics are banned due to what Apple
views as graphic sexual content.
One of the most notable comics banned by Apple is the new series Sex Criminals by writer Matt Fraction and artist Chip Zdarsky. The comic is published by Image Comics, and is a comedic comic about a couple who discover they can stop time
whenever they have sex, and use their power to rob a bank.
Apple originally approved Sex Criminals #1 for the Comixology app, but then rejected the second issue. The third issue was similarly rejected along with a retroactive rejection of issue #1.
Strangely, while Apple banned almost five dozen comics from Comixology and other apps this year so far, it lets those comics into the iBookstore. Apple's content guidelines, it seems, don't actually apply to Apple's own apps.
An online dating app has been attacked as sexist and has been accused of being prostitution.
Carrot Dating, developed by an MIT graduate, allows men to bribe women into offering them dates with everything from jewelry to a tank full of petrol. Users wanting to get the romance going can even offer prospective suitors plastic surgery.
The idea behind the app is that users dangle a carrot in exchange for getting women to go out with them, according to its creator Brandon Wade.
Business Insider's Christina Sterbenz wrote:
Through Carrot Dating, users (but really men)... can buy credits to send gifts to other users ... so they'll agree to a first date. That sounds quite like an activity illegal in most of the continental US --- prostitution.
Aside from being blatantly sexist, Wade's app clearly won't build the chemistry needed to fall in love.
In fact, this problematic app is teaching men that women are greedy idiots who can't see through blatant and pathetic misogyny.
For the record, if you offer a woman a present in exchange for a first date, then you're implying she can be bought, much like a hooker.'
A Chinese media censor has threatened to shut down mobile apps that don't comply with repressive government restrictions.
The State Internet Information Office claimed that some mobile apps were vehicles for pornography and obscene information, and harm the physical and mental health of youngsters .
The censorship will also affect apps that provide access to foreign news outlets blocked by Chinese authorities.
Under fire are apps like Zaker, China's most popular news aggregator with 17.5 million users, and Chouti, whose slogan is Publish what shouldn't be published . While the government has previously urged service providers to self-regulate to
avoid the spreading of rumours , this latest more hard-line approach is a sign of diminishing patience.
From today, the government will shut down and ban any apps that fail to maintain order in news dissemination on the mobile Internet .
In the last two months, over 1,000 people have been arrested in China for crimes related to internet use. [ This equates to 4.4 arrests per million population per year. This compares with 28.3 arrests per million population per
year in the UK (for just malicious communications)].
[I guess that if the size of the population is taken into account, this could be less than number of internet arrests in Britain].
Apple Duly Purges Anti-Censorship Browser from China App Store
The strict regime of Internet censorship and surveillance enforced by the Chinese authorities drives many Internet users to seek out tools they can use to get around the restrictions, programs like OpenDoor, a browser that was available recently from the
App Store in China.
Until Apple removed it.The removal of OpenDoor follows a pattern of Apple bowing to pressure from Chinese authorities, removing content from the Chinese version of its App Store to conform to the regime's demands for censorship. The removal took place in
July of this year, according to the Chinese edition of Radio Netherlands Worldwide.
OpenDoor has 800,000 users on Apple devices; one third of them were or are from China, according to OpenDoor developers. Users from Iran and Pakistan, states that also practice Internet censorship, give the app high praise on its Facebook page.
Today the BBFC becomes the new regulator of mobile content, replacing the Independent Mobile Classification Body, which had regulated
this content since 2004. From 2 September, the BBFC will provide the UK mobile network operators EE, O2, Three and Vodafone, with a new independent Classification Framework for content accessed via their mobile networks. Mobile Operators will use this as
a basis for their code of practice for content, meaning content that would be age rated 18 by the BBFC, can be put behind access filters.
The Classification Framework designed by the BBFC allows mobile operators to classify their own commercial content and to calibrate the filters they use to restrict content accessible by children via a mobile operator's Internet access service. Such
content will include pornography and other adult sexual content, pro-ana websites and content which promotes or glorifies discrimination or real life violence.
The BBFC's new partnership will better enable EE, O2, Three and Vodafone to make consistent, evidence based and transparent decisions about the use of Internet filters and will make a significant contribution to protecting children from unsuitable and
even harmful content accessed through their mobile devices.
It seems that the BBFC have just patched up their film classification guidelines and ignored the consequences of trying to apply this to a much broader medium such as a large website.
Back in 2004 when the IMCB were in charge, the rules were envisaged to control video clips and the like provided by mobile phone companies, but David Cooke's introduction seems to suggest that the scope of this has been extended to take in internet
It makes sense to speak of 'repeated' use of the word 'cunt' for a 90 minute film or 1 5 minute video clip, but how does this apply to a massive website such as the Guardian newspaper? It will have many uses of the word 'cunt' spread thinly throughout
1000's of pages. Is it ok to use asterisked spellings such as 'c**t'?
The BBFC speak of references to porn terms being 18 rated but how would this apply to a list of R18 DVDs with titles and cuts using explicit porn terminology?
The BBFC opts out of discussing how effective age restrictions are such, as self declared age like on the BBFC website. Does such an age gate mean that the BBFC porn terms don't trigger an 18 rating (Can other websites use this same technique?)
The BBFC doesn't mention anything about links to other website. Does a link to a porn website mean that the linking website is 18 rated?
And what about pixellated nudity sex scenes.
The questions are endless and the BBFC document is woeful at answering even the most basic.
Perhaps the BBFC could provide a few illustrations such as how it classifies its own website, or how it would classify the Daily Mail website? Enquiring minds need to know.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has instructed all the
cellular operators of the country to immediately stop all kinds of chat packages, including voice and SMS, at any time of the day.
A previous directive had banned late night chat services but the phone companies had found ways around the rules.
According to the latest directive titled Directive relating to packages offered by CMTOs contrary to moral values of society , cellular operators continue voice and SMS package (bundle offers) with different names despite a ban imposed by
The PTA has previously banned all kinds of late night packages in November 2012. However, the cellular operators start selling these packages with different names and times.
Later, the PTA conducted a comprehensive survey which revealed that the chat packages are still operational under different names in clear violation of the PTA directives.
The cellular operators' consortium had approached the Supreme Court over the previous ban and proceedings on their petition are still pending there.
The telecom industry officials said the PTA this time without consulting the stakeholders again issued a directive on packages which generated a major share of the industry revenue. They said they will decide the future course of action after a
The BBFC gets appointed to write the censorship guidelines for website blocking on mobile phones
2nd July 2013
It will be interesting to get proper guidelines about website censorship. It will give something for people to complain against when their websites are blocked by the cheap and crap overblocking algorithms used by the net censor companies.
Interestingly the internet was specifically not part of the original remit of IMCB. It was only for content supplied by the phone companies themselves. I think someone must have been using a cloudy crystal ball when the IMCB was set up.
The Mobile Broadband Group is appointing the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) to take over from the Independent Mobile Classification Board (IMCB) in providing the independent framework that underpins the Mobile Operators' code of practice,
established in 2004, for the self regulation of new forms of content on mobile.
The Classification Framework enables mobile operators to restrict access to their commercial content that is unsuitable for customers under the age of 18. The Framework is applied to commercial content such as: video and audio/video material; or mobile
games. The framework is also used by the mobile operators to calibrate the internet filters that parents can use to restrict content accessible by children via a mobile operator's internet access service.
Hamish MacLeod, chair of the Mobile Broadband Group, commented:
We are very grateful for the excellent work that the IMCB has done over the last 8 years to support our code. However, with customers increasingly consuming content via mobile networks, we feel that the BBFC's unparalleled expertise will be best suited
to provide us with the independent framework and guidance for the future.
David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said:
We are pleased to be able to use our experience and expertise, including the insight we have into public opinion about what kind of content is suitable for under 18s to help Mobile Operators to restrict access to content accessed via mobile networks by
those under 18. Parents are concerned about the content children access via mobile devices and the BBFC Framework takes into account the same issues the BBFC considers when age rating a film or DVD, such as strong language, violence, drug use,
discrimination, sex and nudity.
The BBFC works to published Classification Guidelines based on large scale public consultation exercises involving around 10,000 people. The Classification Guidelines are formally revised every 4-5 years.
The BBFC Classification Framework is a living document which will be updated regularly to reflect evolving public attitudes and societal concerns.
Premium rate voice services or premium rate SMS (text only) services are not covered by the BBFC Classification Framework and continue to operate under the PhonepayPlus Code of Practice.
Over the coming weeks, the parties involved will put in place the necessary transition arrangements and the BBFC Classification Framework will come into use on 2 September 2013.
The first pornography app for Google Glass launched, though not for long.
MiKandi, a developer of adult content apps, released Tits & Glass, an app for the connected glasses, which allows users to browse and vote on racy content. Glass users can record their own pornographic content or photos, and upload
them to the app.
Jesse Adams, the CEO and co-founder of MiKandi, told ABC News:
You are literally recording what you see and sharing it. If someone else can see a little taste of what you saw in front of their eyes, that kind of interaction is really fun. It's that live personalized experience that you can then see on your
eyes that's really interesting.
But Google doesn't wish to have people exploring porn through the glasses. The company has rapidly changed its policies surrounding pornographic content. Google's Glass Platform Developer Policies now reads:
We don't allow Glassware content that contains nudity, graphic sex acts or sexually explicit material,
A Google spokesperson added that Any Glassware that violates this policy will be blocked from appearing on Glass.
According to MiKandi, the clause was added to Google's policies over the weekend. The company plans to adjust the app to comply with Google's rules.
Last week Apple was unfairly maligned by a comic writer as an authoritarian censor, and by implication, as a homophobic one. But the truth is Apple simply doesn't need to censor apps, because developers now censor themselves
Apple have blocked an iPhone bookstore app from the Chinese app store in an apparent attempt at appeasing censors, according to the app's developer.
The freemium app, Jingdian Shucheng , gave access to 10 books banned in China. Hao Peiqiang, the developer, told the Financial Times that he believes that his criticism of the Chinese government's policy on Tibet prompted the ban.
In a letter sent to Hao, Apple said that the app was removed because of content that was illegal in China . Hao suspects that content in question is three books written by Wang Lixiong, the dissident thrown out of Beijing during the National
Apple's App Store Review rules do indeed state that app's must comply with local laws:
Apps must comply with all legal requirements in any location where they are made available to users. It is the developer's obligation to understand and conform to all local laws.
Jingdian Shucheng remains available outside of the Chinese mainland.
A new Playboy app promises a bespoke Playboy lifestyle for guys into travel, clothes, food, cars, girls and beyond.
Given that Apple prudes have banned anything remotely porny, then Scott Flanders, CEO of Playboy Enterprises had to do some careful spinning:
We've rebuilt Playboy for iPhone from the ground up to attract the new generation of Gen Y fans who enjoy the indulgences of the artisanal good life and modern culture.
iPhone users across the globe can enjoy the new app, now found in the App Store. The three subscription options offered to consumers include: a recurring monthly subscription for $1.99, a recurring six-month subscription for $10.99 and a recurring yearly
subscription for $19.99.
There will be app-only content, as well as material selectively chosen from the current issue of the magazine, ie selecting only that suitable for Apple censors.
The opening video of the app will star Miss February 2011, Kylie Johnson. The Good Life's Food section of the app debuts with a conversation with Chef Eddie Huang, owner of BaoHaus restaurant in New York's East Village . Under Drink, Jeffrey
Morgenthaler, bar manager at Clyde Common in Portland, mixes up a classic Easter Day cocktail. An exploration of the resurgence of the station wagon's popularity in Cars. For Girls, Miss November 2004, Cara Zavaleta, makes a striking appearance in
Josh Schollmeyer, Playboy's Director of Digital Content noted:
We're taking everything that has made Playboy great and re-imagining it for the iPhone, while reinventing our aesthetic with exclusive pictorials and a beautiful, image-heavy navigation. It truly is Playboy 2.0.
Official White House Response to Make Unlocking Cell Phones Legal. It's Time to Legalize Cell Phone Unlocking
By R. David Edelman, Senior Advisor for Internet, Innovation, & Privacy
Thank you for sharing your views on cell phone unlocking with us through your petition on our We the People platform. Last week the White House brought together experts from across government who work on telecommunications, technology, and copyright
policy, and we're pleased to offer our response.
The White House agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties. In fact, we believe the same principle should also apply to tablets, which are increasingly
similar to smart phones. And if you have paid for your mobile device, and aren't bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network. It's common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice, and important
for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers' needs.
This is particularly important for secondhand or other mobile devices that you might buy or receive as a gift, and want to activate on the wireless network that meets your needs -- even if it isn't the one on which the device was first activated. All
consumers deserve that flexibility.
So where do we go from here?
The Obama Administration would support a range of approaches to addressing this issue, including narrow legislative fixes in the telecommunications space that make it clear: neither criminal law nor technological locks should prevent consumers from
switching carriers when they are no longer bound by a service agreement or other obligation.
After Apple pulled the 500px photo app from iTunes over a porn controversy, it seems Tumblr is doing what it can to avoid the same fate by adding a 17+ age warning to its iPhone and iPad app.
The multi media extension for Twitter now restricts new users and updaters to those aged 17 or older. (The age is set at 17 rather than 18 to pay lip service to US commercial censorship that denies a platform to adult only content, so that companies can
claim to be family friendly. 17 rated material is fine as it is deemed not quite adult only. Hence nearly every mainstream film or game that is rated 18 in Europe, is rated 17 in the US. The R rating for films and the M rating for games are both 17
You must be at least 17 years old to download this app, Tumblr writes in its description of the app in the iTunes App Store, because it contains Frequent/Intense Sexual Content or Nudity.
Pride's Purge is a Web site described by its creator Tom Pride as an irreverent look at UK politics . As he recently discovered, it's also
blocked by 3UK's child protection filter. He contacted the company on Twitter, pointing out that Pride's Purge was not a porn site or anything similar, and this is what it replied:
We don't just block adult websites, websites with mature content may also be censored.
So it now seems that there is a category of material called mature content that is distinct from adult content , and that is also blocked by child protection filters, at least on 3UK's network. Worryingly, political satire seems to be
regarded as an example of mature content , and therefore unsuitable for children under 18. In fact, the censorship is even worse, as Pride explains:
it's not blocked for just the under-18s. It's blocked for anyone who hasn't proven to [3UK] they are over 18 -- and that means you will have to give your full identity to 3UK before they allow you to enter this site.
Which means 3UK now officially regard political satire as porn -- and are censoring it in exactly the same way.
It's about time these companies were sued, either for loss of earning through their negligence, or else for abusing the right to free speech.
A game that explores the Syrian civil war, Endgame: Syria , has been rejected by Apple due to App Store guidelines forbidding games that solely target a specific race, culture, a real government or corporation, or any other real entity .
Apple say that Endgame:Syria, which explores a real news event and aims to show users the range of factions and peoples involved in the situation, fell into this category and so was rejected.
The game's designer, Tomas Rawlings responded:
This decision is a shame really as it makes it hard to talk about the real world. Our aim is to use games as a format to bring news to a new audience and submission processes such as this do make it a lot harder for us.
We'll be making changes to the game and re-submitting it but it does mean we'll have to strip some of the meaning and context from it to pass Apple's submission process and that is not ideal.
About this time last year we wrote about a church that had been blocked by O2's mobile Internet filters. Following this, we set up www.blocked.org.uk, a site which allows people to report over-blocking on their mobile networks.
With somewhat uncanny timing, this morning someone used blocked.org.uk to tell us about another church (St. Mark's in Southampton) that is blocked - this time on Vodafone. We have confirmed that it is also blocked by Orange. The site is blocked on O2's
highest blocking setting, but not on their default safety service.
Using O2's very handy URL checker , we have established that they classify the site as alcohol . It is likely that this is the category that has led to its blocking on other networks, but this is not confirmed.
*Update: Vodafone have confirmed to us that the site has been manually reviewed and the classification of alcohol has been corrected - the site should be unblocked within the next 2 days*
It is likely that the reason for this categorisation is the use of the word wine on the church's website. The church is part of the New Wine Network of Churches . Their website explains that this means they have the aim of 'Equipping
Churches to see Jesus' Kingdom Grow' . Their use of the word wine is not related to selling or the use of alcohol.
It's yet another example of how internet filters make simple and costly mistakes which often result in over-blocking. Our report from May this year collected more examples of this. Since then we have seen political parties, technology news
websites, and more recently a number of maternity health sites all blocked by mobile networks. It can be tricky and slow to get sites removed from block lists (although mobile networks say this is improving).
Because of the sheer number of websites there are, most categorisation by filtering services is likely done by an algorithm. A human could probably spot the difference between a site advocating the force feeding of your kids too much booze, for example,
and a church's efforts to express their religious mission. Machines find that more difficult, it seems.
There are broader questions about who makes judgements about what types of sites should be blocked, and what is appropriate for children of different ages. All of which adds up to a need to ensure parents are supported and are able to make decisions for
themselves, rather than having decisions made for them.