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Offsite Article: WeChatChinaCensors...


Link Here 21st February 2019
Australians and Canadians note that their messages using the WeChat app are censored by China

See article from hrw.org

 

 

Guarded Secret...

Google has included a secret microphone in a home alarm system


Link Here 20th February 2019

Google has acknowledged that one of its home alarm products contained a secret  microphone. Product specifications for the Nest Guard, an all-in-one alarm, keypad and motion sensor, available since 2017, had made no mention of the listening device.

Nest Guard is an all-in-one alarm, keypad, and motion sensor but, despite being announced well over a year ago, the word microphone was only added to the product's specification this month.

But earlier this month, the firm said a software update would make Nest Guard voice-controlled. On Twitter, concerned Nest owners were told the microphone has not been used up to this point.

In response to criticism, Google claimed:

The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs. That was an error on our part. The microphone has never been on and is only activated when users specifically enable the option.

This is the kind of thing that makes me paranoid of smart home devices, commented Nick Heer , who writes the Pixel Envy blog.

If I owned one of these things and found out that the world's biggest advertising company hid a microphone in my home for a year, I'd be livid.

 

 

Waging war...

Bangladesh ISPs block porn and gambling on orders or the government


Link Here 20th February 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in Bangladesh...Internet censors to track down supposed blasphemy
Bangladesh internet censors have blocked almost 20,000 websites as part of an anti-pornography campaign, a minister has reported.

ISPs have blocked pornography and gambling websites in the past week under orders from the telecommunications censor. war, Mustafa Jabbar, the posts and telecommunications minister, told AFP:

I want to create a safe and secure internet for all Bangladeshis, including children. And this is my war against pornography. And this will be a continuous.

Popular social media apps such as TikTok and Bigo - which authorities believe are misused - have also been blocked

 

 

Offsite Article: Credit scoring on speed...


Link Here 20th February 2019
Millions of Chinese citizens have been deemed untrustworthy by the nation's social credit system as Beijing plans tougher punishments

See article from dailymail.co.uk

 

 

Taking to the Streets...

The Worst Possible Version of the EU Copyright Directive Has Sparked a German Uprising


Link Here 19th February 2019
Full story: Copyright in the EU...Copyright law for Europe

Last week's publication of the final draft of the new EU Copyright Directive baffled and infuriated almost everyone, including the massive entertainment companies that lobbied for it in the first place; the artists' groups who endorsed it only to have their interests stripped out of the final document; and the millions and millions of Europeans who had publicly called on lawmakers to fix grave deficiencies in the earlier drafts, only to find these deficiencies made even worse .

Take Action: Stop Article 13

Thankfully, Europeans aren't taking this lying down. With the final vote expected to come during the March 25-28 session, mere weeks before European elections, European activists are pouring the pressure onto their Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), letting them know that their vote on this dreadful mess will be on everyone's mind during the election campaigns.

The epicenter of the uprising is Germany, which is only fitting, given that German MEP Axel Voss is almost singlehandedly responsible for poisoning the Directive with rules that will lead to mass surveillance and mass censorship, not to mention undermining much of Europe's tech sector.

The German Consumer Association were swift to condemn the Directive, stating : "The reform of copyright law in this form does not benefit anyone, let alone consumers. MEPs are now obliged to do so. Since the outcome of the trilogue falls short of the EU Parliament's positions at key points, they should refuse to give their consent."

A viral video of Axel Voss being confronted by activists has been picked up by politicians campaigning against Voss's Christian Democratic Party in the upcoming elections, spreading to Germany's top TV personalities, like Jan Böhmermann.

Things are just getting started. On Saturday, with just two days of organizing, hundreds of Europeans marched on the streets of Cologne against Article 13. A day of action --March 23, just before the first possible voting date for MEPs--is being planned, with EU-wide events.

In the meantime, the petition to save Europe from the Directive --already the largest in EU history--keeps racking up more signatures, and is on track to be the largest petition in the history of the world.

Take Action : Stop Article 13

 

 

Drilling down...

YouTube has now taken down 100 drill music videos at the request of London Police


Link Here 19th February 2019
Full story: Drill Music...Drill music videos banned by UK police

YouTube is continuing take down drill music videos at the request of London police. The Metropolitan Police has continually argued that the underground rap genre is partly responsible, linked a spate of knife attacks to violent lyrics.

As of last month, the police had requested the removal of 129 videos, of which the music sharing platform deleted 102. This purge has escalated since May last year at which point the Press Association reported that police had requested 50 to 60 videos be removed over the course of two years and Youtube, in response, deleted 30. Some of the videos that were removed later resurfaced on Pornhub.

Mike West heads a London police unit that has compiled a database of around 1,900 drill videos that he told the Press Association, generate purely a violent retaliatory response.

Last month police closed a landmark case against Skengdo and AM, two of the biggest names in the UK drill scene. The duo pled guilty to breaching a gang injunction by performing their song Attempted 1.0 during a sold out concert at Koko, London. They received a suspended nine-month jail sentence, making it the first time in British history that an artist has been sentenced to prison for performing a song.

 

 

Offsite Article: Artificial Unintelligence...


Link Here 19th February 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in EU...EU introduces swathes of internet censorship law
EU proposal pushes tech companies to tackle terrorist content with AI, despite implications for war crimes evidence

See article from advox.globalvoices.org

 

 

Parliamentary committee publishes report laying into Facebook for flagrant data abuse...

But inevitably concludes that the UK needs a new social media censor


Link Here 18th February 2019
Full story: Fake news in the UK...Government sets up fake news unit

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee has published its final report on Disinformation and 'fake news'. The report calls for:

  • Compulsory Code of Ethics for tech companies overseen by independent regulator

  • Regulator given powers to launch legal action against companies breaching code

  • Government to reform current electoral communications laws and rules on overseas involvement in UK elections

  • Social media companies obliged to take down known sources of harmful content, including proven sources of disinformation

Further finds that:

  • Electoral law 'not fit for purpose'

  • Facebook intentionally and knowingly violated both data privacy and anti-competition laws

Chair's comment

Damian Collins MP, Chair of the DCMS Committee said:

"Our inquiry over the last year has identified three big threats to our society. The challenge for the year ahead is to start to fix them; we cannot delay any longer.

"Democracy is at risk from the malicious and relentless targeting of citizens with disinformation and personalised 'dark adverts' from unidentifiable sources, delivered through the major social media platforms we use everyday. Much of this is directed from agencies working in foreign countries, including Russia.

"The big tech companies are failing in the duty of care they owe to their users to act against harmful content, and to respect their data privacy rights.

"Companies like Facebook exercise massive market power which enables them to make money by bullying the smaller technology companies and developers who rely on this platform to reach their customers.

"These are issues that the major tech companies are well aware of, yet continually fail to address. The guiding principle of the 'move fast and break things' culture often seems to be that it is better to apologise than ask permission.

"We need a radical shift in the balance of power between the platforms and the people. The age of inadequate self regulation must come to an end. The rights of the citizen need to be established in statute, by requiring the tech companies to adhere to a code of conduct written into law by Parliament, and overseen by an independent regulator.

"We also have to accept that our electoral regulations are hopelessly out of date for the internet age. We need reform so that the same principles of transparency of political communications apply online, just as they do in the real world. More needs to be done to require major donors to clearly establish the source of their funds.

"Much of the evidence we have scrutinised during our inquiry has focused on the business practices of Facebook; before, during and after the Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal.

"We believe that in its evidence to the Committee Facebook has often deliberately sought to frustrate our work, by giving incomplete, disingenuous and at times misleading answers to our questions.

"Even if Mark Zuckerberg doesn't believe he is accountable to the UK Parliament, he is to the billions of Facebook users across the world. Evidence uncovered by my Committee shows he still has questions to answer yet he's continued to duck them, refusing to respond to our invitations directly or sending representatives who don't have the right information. Mark Zuckerberg continually fails to show the levels of leadership and personal responsibility that should be expected from someone who sits at the top of one of the world's biggest companies.

"We also repeat our call to the Government to make a statement about how many investigations are currently being carried out into Russian interference in UK politics. We want to find out what was the impact of disinformation and voter manipulation on past elections including the UK Referendum in 2016 and are calling on the Government to launch an independent investigation."

Final Report

This Final Report on Disinformation and 'Fake News' repeats a number of recommendations from the interim report published last summer. The Committee calls for the Government to reconsider a number of recommendations to which it did not respond and to include concrete proposals for action in its forthcoming White Paper on online harms.
Independent regulation of social media companies.

The Report repeats a recommendation from the Interim Report for clear legal liabilities to be established for tech companies to act against harmful or illegal content on their sites, and the report calls for a compulsory Code of Ethics defining what constitutes harmful content. An independent regulator should be responsible for monitoring tech companies, backed by statutory powers to launch legal action against companies in breach of the code.

Companies failing obligations on harmful or illegal content would face hefty fines. MPs conclude: "Social media companies cannot hide behind the claim of being merely a 'platform' and maintain that they have no responsibility themselves in regulating the content of their sites."

The Report's recommendation chimes with recent statements by Ministers indicating the Government is prepared to regulate social media companies following the death of teenager Molly Russell. The Committee hopes to see firm recommendations for legislation in the White Paper to create a regulatory system for online content that is as effective as that for offline content.

It repeats its recommendation for new independent regulation to be funded by a levy on tech companies operating in the UK.

Data use and data targeting

The Report highlights Facebook documents obtained by the Committee and published in December 2018 relating to a Californian court case brought by app developer Six4Three. Through scrutiny of internal Facebook emails between 2011 and 2015, the Report finds evidence to indicate that the company was willing to: override its users' privacy settings in order to transfer data to some app developers; to charge high prices in advertising to some developers, for the exchange of data, and starve some developers--such as Six4Three--of that data, contributing to them losing their business. MPs conclude: "It is evident that Facebook intentionally and knowingly violated both data privacy and anti-competition laws."

It recommends that the ICO carries out a detailed investigation into the practices of the Facebook platform, its use of users' and users' friends' data, and the use of 'reciprocity' of the sharing of data. The CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) should conduct a comprehensive audit of the advertising market on social media and investigate whether Facebook has been involved in anti-competitive practices.

MPs note that Facebook, in particular, is unwilling to be accountable to regulators around the world: "By choosing not to appear before the Committee and by choosing not to respond personally to any of our invitations, Mark Zuckerberg has shown contempt towards both our Committee and the 'International Grand Committee' involving members from nine legislators from around the world."

 

 

Keep calm and play on...

Violent video games found not to be associated with adolescent aggression


Link Here 18th February 2019

Researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, have found no relationship between aggressive behaviour in teenagers and the amount of time spent playing violent video games. The study used nationally representative data from British teens and their parents alongside official E.U. and US ratings of game violence. The findings were published in Royal Society Open Science.

The idea that violent video games drive real-world aggression is a popular one, but it hasn't tested very well over time, says lead researcher Professor Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute. Despite interest in the topic by parents and policy-makers, the research has not demonstrated that there is cause for concern.

The study is one of the most definitive to date, using a combination of subjective and objective data to measure teen aggression and violence in games. Unlike previous research on the topic, which relied heavily on self-reported data from teenagers, the study used information from parents and carers to judge the level of aggressive behaviour in their children. Additionally, the content of the video games was classified using the official Pan European Game Information (EU) and Entertainment Software Rating Board (US) rating system, rather than only player's perceptions of the amount of violence in the game.

Our findings suggest that researcher biases might have influenced previous studies on this topic, and have distorted our understanding of the effects of video games, says co-author Dr Netta Weinstein from Cardiff University. An important step taken in this study was preregistration, where the researchers publically registered their hypothesis, methods and analysis technique prior to beginning the research.

Part of the problem in technology research is that there are many ways to analyse the same data, which will produce different results. A cherry-picked result can add undue weight to the moral panic surrounding video games. The registered study approach is a safe-guard against this, says Przybylski.

While no correlation was found between playing video games and aggressive behaviour in teenagers, the researchers emphasize that this does not mean that some mechanics and situations in gaming do not provoke angry feelings or reactions in players. Anecdotally, you do see things such as trash-talking, competitiveness and trolling in gaming communities that could qualify as antisocial behaviour, says Przybylski. This would be an interesting avenue for further research.

Researchers should use the registered study approach to investigate other media effects phenomena. There are a lot of ideas out there like 'social media drives depression and technology addiction that lowers quality of life that simply have no supporting evidence. These topics and others that drive technological anxieties should be studied more rigorously 203 society needs solid evidence in order to make appropriate policy decisions.'

The data was drawn from a nationally representative sample of British 14- and 15-year olds, and the same number of their carers (totalling 2,008 subjects). Teenagers completed questions on their personality and gaming behaviour over the past month, while carers completed questions on their child's recent aggressive behaviours using the widely-used Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. The violent content in the games played were coded based on their rating in the official Pan European Game Information (PEGI; EU) and Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB; US) rating system, as well as player's subjective rating. The findings of the study were derived from a study following the Registered Reports Protocol; the study's sampling plan and statistical approach were evaluated before the data were collected. Multiple linear regression modelling tested whether the relations between regular violent video game play (coded by researchers) and adolescents' aggressive and helping behaviours (judged by parents) were positive, negative, linear, or parabolic.

 

 

Perhaps they were addicted to their research...

Despite a ban on porn doctors in India note a 75% increase in porn viewing and rather simplistically correlate this to an increase in the divorce rate


Link Here 18th February 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in India...India considers blanket ban on internet porn
According to a recent analysis, people in Hyderabad have taken an avid interest in viewing porn even though it has been banned. With the Union government banning 827 porn sites across the country, an increase of 75% has been seen in porn viewing in Hyderabad.

Hyderabad is among the many states which have seen an increase in porn viewership. On conducting a medical study, it was claimed that the increasing number of divorces can be attributed to psychological effects of porn addiction.

A survey published by DocOnline and conducted by city doctors, it was inferred that the obsession with pornography is effecting the sexual health of viewers. Dr Syed Abrar Kareem, a physician stated that porn gives rise to impractical sexual expectations which when not met, result in psycho-somatic disorders. Out of the 5,000 people chosen for the survey, 3,500 were men and 1,500 were women confessed to watching porn regularly.

A rise of 31% has been recorded in divorces and break-ups. Allegedly, the doctors have also seen an increase in impotency cases being brought to them due to the extreme involvement in virtual sex.

 

 

Offsite Article: The EU sees itself as a white knight slaying the Google dragon...


Link Here 18th February 2019
Full story: Copyright in the EU...Copyright law for Europe
But its choice of weapon is the atom bomb and it doesn't care about destroying the freedom and livelihoods of the European people relying on the Google ecosystem

See article from torrentfreak.com

 

 

Destroying European livelihoods...

The text of Article 13 and the EU Copyright Directive has just been finalised in its worst form yet


Link Here 16th February 2019
Full story: Copyright in the EU...Copyright law for Europe

In the evening of February 13, negotiators from the European Parliament and the Council concluded the trilogue negotiations with a final text for the new EU Copyright Directive.

For two years we've debated different drafts and versions of the controversial Articles 11 and 13. Now, there is no more ambiguity: This law will fundamentally change the internet as we know it -- if it is adopted in the upcoming final vote. But we can still prevent that!

Please click the links to take a look at the final wording of Article 11 and Article 13 . Here's my summary:

Article 13: Upload filters

Parliament negotiator Axel Voss accepted the deal between France and Germany I laid out in a recent blog post :

  • Commercial sites and apps where users can post material must make "best efforts" to preemptively buy licences for anything that users may possibly upload -- that is: all copyrighted content in the world. An impossible feat.

  • In addition, all but very few sites (those both tiny and very new) will need to do everything in their power to prevent anything from ever going online that may be an unauthorised copy of a work that a rightsholder has registered with the platform. They will have no choice but to deploy upload filters , which are by their nature both expensive and error-prone .

  • Should a court ever find their licensing or filtering efforts not fierce enough, sites are directly liable for infringements as if they had committed them themselves. This massive threat will lead platforms to over-comply with these rules to stay on the safe side, further worsening the impact on our freedom of speech.

Article 11: The "link tax"

The final version of this extra copyright for news sites closely resembles the version that already failed in Germany -- only this time not limited to search engines and news aggregators, meaning it will do damage to a lot more websites.

  • Reproducing more than "single words or very short extracts" of news stories will require a licence. That will likely cover many of the snippets commonly shown alongside links today in order to give you an idea of what they lead to. We will have to wait and see how courts interpret what "very short" means in practice -- until then, hyperlinking (with snippets) will be mired in legal uncertainty.

  • No exceptions are made even for services run by individuals, small companies or non-profits, which probably includes any monetised blogs or websites.

Other provisions

The project to allow Europeans to conduct Text and Data Mining , crucial for modern research and the development of artificial intelligence, has been obstructed with too many caveats and requirements. Rightholders can opt out of having their works datamined by anyone except research organisations.

Authors' rights: The Parliament's proposal that authors should have a right to proportionate remuneration has been severely watered down: Total buy-out contracts will continue to be the norm.

Minor improvements for access to cultural heritage : Libraries will be able to publish out-of-commerce works online and museums will no longer be able to claim copyright on photographs of centuries-old paintings.

 

How we got here Former digital Commissioner Oettinger proposed the law

The history of this law is a shameful one. From the very beginning , the purpose of Articles 11 and 13 was never to solve clearly-defined issues in copyright law with well-assessed measures, but to serve powerful special interests , with hardly any concern for the collateral damage caused.

In the relentless pursuit of this goal , concerns by independent academics , fundamental rights defenders , independent publishers , startups and many others were ignored. At times, confusion was spread about crystal-clear contrary evidence . Parliament negotiator Axel Voss defamed the unprecedented protest of millions of internet users as " built on lies ".

In his conservative EPP group, the driving force behind this law, dissenters were marginalised . The work of their initially-appointed representative was thrown out after the conclusions she reached were too sensible. Mr Voss then voted so blindly in favour of any and all restrictive measures that he was caught by surprise by some of the nonsense he had gotten approved. His party, the German CDU/CSU, nonchalantly violated the coalition agreement they had signed (which rejected upload filters), paying no mind to their own minister for digital issues .

It took efforts equally herculean and sisyphean across party lines to prevent the text from turning out even worse than it now is.

In the end, a closed-door horse trade between France and Germany was enough to outweigh the objections... so far.

What's important to note, though: It's not "the EU" in general that is to blame -- but those who put special interests above fundamental rights who currently hold considerable power. You can change that at the polls! The anti-EU far right is trying to seize this opportunity to promote their narrow-minded nationalist agenda -- when in fact without the persistent support of the far-right ENF Group (dominated by the Rassemblement/Front National ) the law could have been stopped in the crucial Legal Affairs Committee and in general would not be as extreme as it is today.

 

We can still stop this law

Our best chance to stop the EU copyright law: The upcoming Parliament vote.

The Parliament and Council negotiators who agreed on the final text now return to their institutions seeking approval of the result. If it passes both votes unchanged, it becomes EU law , which member states are forced to implement into national law.

In both bodies, there is resistance.

The Parliament's process starts with the approval by the Legal Affairs Committee -- which is likely to be given on Monday, February 18.

Next, at a date to be announced, the EU member state governments will vote in the Council. The law can be stopped here either by 13 member state governments or by any number of governments who together represent 35% of the EU population ( calculator ). Last time, 8 countries representing 27% of the population were opposed. Either a large country like Germany or several small ones would need to change their minds: This is the less likely way to stop it.

Our best bet: The final vote in the plenary of the European Parliament , when all 751 MEPs, directly elected to represent the people, have a vote. This will take place either between March 25 and 28, on April 4 or between April 15 and 18. We've already demonstrated last July that a majority against a bad copyright proposal is achievable .

The plenary can vote to kill the bill -- or to make changes , like removing Articles 11 and 13. In the latter case, it's up to the Council to decide whether to accept these changes (the Directive then becomes law without these articles) or to shelve the project until after the EU elections in May, which will reshuffle all the cards.

This is where you come in

The final Parliament vote will happen mere weeks before the EU elections . Most MEPs -- and certainly all parties -- are going to be seeking reelection. Articles 11 and 13 will be defeated if enough voters make these issues relevant to the campaigns. ( Here's how to vote in the EU elections -- change the language to one of your country's official ones for specific information)

It is up to you to make clear to your representatives: Their vote on whether to break the internet with Articles 11 and 13 will make or break your vote in the EU elections. Be insistent -- but please always stay polite.

Together, we can still stop this law.

 

 

Algorithmic propaganda...

The Council of Europe calls on European countries to control social media 'algorithms' presumably meaning that people will be force fed with what the establishment want people to read


Link Here 16th February 2019
The Council of Europe is a wider organisation of European countries than the EU and is known best for being the grouping behind the European Court of Human Rights.

The council's Committee of Ministers has issued a statement criticising the algorithmic nature of social media. It calls on member countries to address its concerns. The Committee writes:

- draws attention to the growing threat to the right of human beings to form opinions and take decisions independently of automated systems, which emanates from advanced digital technologies. Attention should be paid particularly to their capacity to use personal and non-personal data to sort and micro-target people, to identify individual vulnerabilities and exploit accurate predictive knowledge, and to reconfigure social environments in order to meet specific goals and vested interests;

- encourages member States to assume their responsibility to address this threat by

a) ensuring that adequate priority attention is paid at senior level to this inter-disciplinary concern that often falls in between established mandates of relevant authorities;

b) considering the need for additional protective frameworks related to data that go beyond current notions of personal data protection and privacy and address the significant impacts of the targeted use of data on societies and on the exercise of human rights more broadly;

c) initiating, within appropriate institutional frameworks, open-ended, informed and inclusive public debates with a view to providing guidance on where to draw the line between forms of permissible persuasion and unacceptable manipulation. The latter may take the form of influence that is subliminal, exploits existing vulnerabilities or cognitive biases, and/or encroaches on the independence and authenticity of individual decision-making;

d) taking appropriate and proportionate measures to ensure that effective legal guarantees are in place against such forms of illegitimate interference; and

e) empowering users by promoting critical digital literacy skills and robustly enhancing public awareness of how many data are generated and processed by personal devices, networks, and platforms through algorithmic processes that are trained for data exploitation. Specifically, public awareness should be enhanced of the fact that algorithmic tools are widely used for commercial purposes and, increasingly, for political reasons, as well as for ambitions of anti- or undemocratic power gain, warfare, or to inflict direct harm;

Of course if once strips away the jargon, then the fundamental algorithm is to simply give people more of what they seem to have enjoyed reading. And of course the establishment's preferred algorithm is to give people what the state would like them to read.

 

 

One click and your jailed...

The government's Counter-Terrorism Act has received royal consent and makes it an offence to accidentally click on a link before you even know what it contains


Link Here 13th February 2019
Full story: Extremism in the UK...UK government introduces wide ranging ban on extremism
It will be an offence to view terrorist material online just once -- and could incur a prison sentence of up to 15 years -- under a new UK law.

The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill has just been granted Royal Assent, updating a previous Act and bringing new powers to law enforcement to tackle terrorism.

But a controversial inclusion was to update the offence of obtaining information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism so that it now covers viewing or streaming content online.

Originally, the proposal had been to make it an offence for someone to view material three or more times -- but the three strikes idea has been dropped from the final Act.

The government said that the existing laws didn't capture the nuance in changing methods for distribution and consumption of terrorist content -- and so added a new clause into the 2019 Act making it an offence to view (or otherwise access) any terrorist material online. This means that, technically, anyone who clicked on a link to such material could be caught by the law.

 

 

Javid threatens to cut social media down to size...

Delete gang related content or else!


Link Here 13th February 2019
Full story: Knives in UK Media...Blaming video games showing knives
Social media giants will face tough new laws to prevent the spread of knife crime, the Home Secretary threatened -- as he spoke of fears for his own children's safety.

Sajid Javid said it was time for a legal crackdown on social media images promoting gang culture, in the same way that child sex abuse images and terrorist propaganda have already been outlawed.

In a warning to online firms, he said:

My message to these companies is we are going to legislate and how far we go depends on what you decide to do now. At the moment we don't have the legislation for these types of [knife crime-related] content.

I have it for terrorist content and child sexual abuse images.

Google is among several firms which have been criticised for hosting content glamorising gang culture. Rappers using its YouTube video platform post so-called drill music videos to boast about the number of people they have stabbed or shot, using street terms. The platform has taken down dozens of videos by drill artists, after warnings from the Metropolitan Police that they were raising the risk of violence.

 

 

I bet you the Gambling Commission's identity verification requirements will do more to reduce ads...

ASA publishes new requirements for gambling adverts to be restricted from being seen by under 18s


Link Here 13th February 2019
ASA's rule writing arm CAP has published new standards to restrict gambling ads from being seen by under 18s.

This follows a review of the evidence on advertising's impact on under-18s and rulings by the Advertising Standards Authority. The last review was carried out in 2014.

The evidence suggests that exposure to gambling ads that comply with the UK's Advertising Codes is, of itself, unlikely to harm under-18s. Targeted restrictions are still required, however, to address the potential risks associated with irresponsible advertising. While the advertising rules don't need to change, we have introduced new standards to strengthen how they apply in practice.

The new standards:

  • prohibit online ads for gambling products being targeted at groups of individuals who are likely to be under 18 based on data about their online interests and browsing behaviour;

  • extensively list unacceptable types of content, including certain types of animated characters, licensed characters from movies or TV and sportspeople and celebrities that are likely to be of particular appeal to children, and references to youth culture; and

  • prohibit the use in gambling ads of sportspersons, celebrities or other characters who are or appear to be under 25; and

  • adds to existing guidance on the responsible targeting of ads, covering all media (including social networks and other online platforms)

In particular, the standards provide examples of scenarios to help advertisers understand what they need to do to target ads away from under-18s. For example:

Social media -- gambling operators must use all the tools available to them on a social network platform to prevent targeting their ads at under-18s. This includes both ad targeting facilities provided directly by the platform based, on their platform users' interests and browsing behaviour, and tools that restrict under-18s' access to marketers' own social media content.

Parts of websites for under-18s -- gambling operators should take particular care to avoid placing their ads on parts of websites of particular appeal to under-18s. For example, a football club's website might have a strongly adult audience in general, but it would be inappropriate to place gambling ads in pages dedicated to younger supporters.

Social and online gaming -- gambling-like games or games that feature elements of simulated gambling activity are often popular with children and young people. Such games should not be used to promote real-money gambling products. Where social and online games feature marketing communications for gambling games, they should not be directed at under-18s.

Influencers -- gambling operators should take particular care when identifying influencers to promote their products or brands. They should take into account the influencer's likely appeal and obtain audience data (for instance, the age-breakdown of a follower or subscriber-base) to ensure that under-18s are not likely to comprise more than 25% of the audience.

Affiliates -- responsibility lies with gambling operators to ensure that affiliates or other third parties acting on their behalf to publish or disseminate ads that comply with the advertising rules.

The new standards will come into force on 1 April 2019.

 

 

Council of Europe annual report: Media freedom in Europe...

Index on Censorship joins 11 other European and international press freedom groups to launch Council of Europe media freedom report


Link Here 13th February 2019

Press freedom in Europe is more fragile now than at any time since the end of the Cold War. That is the alarming conclusion of a report launched today by the 12 partner organisations of the Council of Europe platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists.

The report, Democracy at Risk, analyses media freedom violations raised to the Platform in 2018. It provides a stark picture of the worsening environment for the media across Europe, in which journalists increasingly face obstruction, hostility and violence as they investigate and report on behalf of the public.

The 12 Platform partners -- international journalists' and media organisations as well as freedom of expression advocacy groups -- reported 140 serious media freedom violations (alerts) in 32 Council of Europe member states in 2018. This review of the alerts reveals a picture sharply at odds with the guarantees enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. Impunity for crimes against journalists is becoming a new normal. Legal protections for critical, investigative reporting have been weakened offline and online. The space for the press to hold government authorities and the powerful to account has shrunk.

Last year the murders of J31n Kuciak and fianc39e Martina Kusn3drov31 in Slovakia and Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, were among 35 alerts for attacks on journalists' physical safety and integrity. Alerts about serious threats to journalists' lives doubled and were accompanied by a strong surge in verbal abuse and public stigmatisation of the media and individual journalists in Council of Europe member states.

Urgent actions backed by a determined show of political will by Council of Europe member states are now required to improve the dire conditions for media freedom and to provide reliable protections for journalists in law and practice, the report warns.

The purpose of the Platform, based on a 2015 agreement between the Council of Europe and the partner organisations, is to prompt an early dialogue with member states and hasten remedies for violations and shortcomings in the protections for free and independent journalism.

The Platform partners call on states that impose the harshest restrictions on journalists' activities' and freedom of expression to:

Restore rule of law safeguards and drop charges against journalists and release them as a step towards restoring a safe and enabling environment for independent media; Remove extremism and other laws criminalising media and end arbitrary exercise of powers by the executive and regulators; and Take the necessary steps to put in place a structure of media regulation and ownership which safeguards media plurality and freedom.

In addition, the Platform partners call on all states to reply fully and in good faith to all alerts and to take effective measures in law and practice to remedy the threats to the safety of individual journalists and media.

The Council of Europe Platform was launched in April 2015 to provide information which may serve as a basis for dialogue with member states about possible protective or remedial action. While many member states responded to alerts in 2018, five states declined to respond to any alerts, including those reporting very serious media freedom violations.

The 12 Platform partners are: the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the Association of European Journalists (AEJ), Article 19, Reporters without Borders (RSF), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Index on Censorship, the International Press Institute (IPI), the International News Safety Institute (INSI), Rory Peck Trust, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and PEN International.

 

 

The Cairncross Review...

Online platforms should have a 'news quality obligation' to improve trust in news they host, overseen by a censor


Link Here 12th February 2019

The Cairncross Review into the future of the UK news industry has delivered its final report, with recommendations on how to safeguard the future sustainability of the UK press.

  • Online platforms should have a 'news quality obligation' to improve trust in news they host, overseen by a regulator

  • Government should explore direct funding for local news and new tax reliefs to support public interest journalism

  • A new Institute for Public Interest News should focus on the future of local and regional press and oversee a new innovation fund

The independent review , undertaken by Frances Cairncross, was tasked by the Prime Minister in 2018 with investigating the sustainability of the production and distribution of high-quality journalism. It comes as significant changes to technology and consumer behaviour are posing problems for high-quality journalism, both in the UK and globally.

Cairncross was advised by a panel from the local and national press, digital and physical publishers and advertising. Her recommendations include measures to tackle the uneven balance of power between news publishers and the online platforms that distribute their content, and to address the growing risks to the future provision of public-interest news.

It also concludes that intervention may be needed to improve people's ability to assess the quality of online news, and to measure their engagement with public interest news. The key recommendations are:

  • New codes of conduct to rebalance the relationship between publishers and online platforms;

  • The Competition and Markets Authority to investigate the online advertising market to ensure fair competition;

  • Online platforms' efforts to improve their users' news experience should be placed under regulatory supervision;

  • Ofcom should explore the market impact of BBC News, and whether its inappropriately steps into areas better served by commercial news providers;

  • The BBC should do more to help local publishers and think further about how its news provision can act as a complement to commercial news;

  • A new independent Institute should be created to ensure the future provision of public interest news;

  • A new Innovation Fund should be launched, aiming to improve the supply of public interest news;

  • New forms of tax reliefs to encourage payments for online news content and support local and investigative journalism;

  • Expanding financial support for local news by extending the BBC's Local Democracy Reporting Service;

  • Developing a media literacy strategy alongside Ofcom, industry and stakeholders.

The Government will now consider all of the recommendations in more detail. To inform this, the Culture Secretary will write immediately to the Competition and Markets Authority, Ofcom and the Chair of the Charity Commission to open discussions about how best to take forward the recommendations which fall within their remits. The Government will respond fully to the report later this year.

DCMS Secretary of State Jeremy Wright said:

A healthy democracy needs high quality journalism to thrive and this report sets out the challenges to putting our news media on a stronger and more sustainable footing, in the face of changing technology and rising disinformation. There are some things we can take action on immediately while others will need further careful consideration with stakeholders on the best way forward.

A Mediatique report Overview of recent market dynamics in the UK press, April 2018 commissioned by DCMS as the part of the Cairncross Review found:

  • Print advertising revenues have dropped by more than two-thirds in the ten years to 2017;

  • Print circulation of national papers fell from 11.5 million daily copies in 2008 to 5.8 million in 2018 and for local papers from 63.4 million weekly in 2007 to 31.4 million weekly in 2017;

  • Sales of both national and local printed papers fell by roughly half between 2007 and 2017, and are still declining;

  • The number of full-time frontline journalists in the UK has dropped from an estimated 23,000 in 2007, to just 17,000 today, and the numbers are still declining.

A report Online Advertising in the UK by Plum Consulting, commissioned by DCMS as the part of the Cairncross Review (and available as an annex to the Review) found:

  • UK internet advertising expenditure increased from £3.5 billion in 2008 to £11.5 billion in 2017, a compound annual growth rate of 14%.

  • Publishers rely on display advertising for their revenue online - which in the last decade has transformed into a complex, automated system known as programmatic advertising.

  • An estimated average of £0.62 of every £1 spent on programmatic advertising goes to the publisher - though this can range from £0.43 to £0.72. *Collectively, Facebook and Google were estimated to have accounted for over half (54%) of all UK online advertising revenues in 2017.

  • The major online platforms collect multiple first-party datasets from large numbers of logged-in users. They generally, they do not share data with third-parties, including publishers.

Dame Frances Cairncross is a former economic journalist, author and academic administrator. She is currently Chair of the Court of Heriot-Watt University and a Trustee at the Natural History Museum. Dame Frances was Rector of Exeter College, Oxford University; a senior editor on The Economist; and principal economic columnist for the Guardian. In 2014 she was made a Dame of the British Empire for services to education. She is the author of a number of books, including "The Death of Distance: How the Communications Revolution is Changing our Lives" and "Costing the Earth: The Challenge for Governments, the Opportunities for Business". Dame Frances is married to financial journalist Hamish McRae.

The BBC comments on some of the ideas not included in the report's recommendations

See article from bbc.co.uk

The report falls short of requiring Facebook, Google and other tech giants to pay for the news they distribute via their platforms. Caurncross told the BBC's media editor Amol Rajan that "draconian and risky" measures could result in firms such as Google withdrawing their news services altogether.:

There are a number of ways we have suggested technology companies could behave differently and could be made to behave differently. But they are mostly ways that don't immediately involve legislation."

Frances Cairncross earned widespread respect as a journalist for her hard-headed and pragmatic approach to economics. That pragmatism is the very reason the government commissioned her to look at the future of high-quality news - and also the reason many in local and regional media will be disappointed by her recommendations.

What is most notable about her review is what it doesn't do.

  • It doesn't suggest all social media should be regulated in the UK
  • It doesn't suggest social media companies pay for the privilege of using news content
  • It doesn't suggest social media companies be treated as publishers, with legal liability for all that appears on their platform

This is because the practicalities of doing these things are difficult, and experience shows that the likes of Google will simply pull out of markets that don't suit them.

Ultimately, as this report acknowledges, when it comes to news, convenience is king. The speed, versatility and zero cost of so much news now means that, even if it is of poor quality, a generation of consumers has fallen out of the habit of paying for news. But quality costs. If quality news has a future, consumers will have to pay. That's the main lesson of this report.

 

 

UK Internet Regulation...

Open Righst Group publishes a report outlining a new wave of Internet censorship on the horizon


Link Here 12th February 2019

2018 was a pivotal year for data protection. First the Cambridge Analytica scandal put a spotlight on Facebook's questionable privacy practices. Then the new Data Protection Act and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) forced businesses to better handle personal data.

As these events continue to develop, 2019 is shaping up to be a similarly consequential year for free speech online as new forms of digital censorship assert themselves in the UK and EU.

Of chief concern in the UK are several initiatives within the Government's grand plan to "make Britain the safest place in the world to be online", known as the Digital Charter. Its founding document proclaims "the same rights that people have offline must be protected online." That sounds a lot like Open Rights Group's mission! What's not to like?

Well, just as surveillance programmes created in the name of national security proved detrimental to privacy rights, new Internet regulations targeting "harmful content" risk curtailing free expression.

The Digital Charter's remit is staggeringly broad. It addresses just about every conceivable evil on the Internet from bullying and hate speech to copyright infringement, child pornography and terrorist propaganda. With so many initiatives developing simultaneously it can be easy to get lost.

To gain clarity, Open Rights Group published a report surveying the current state of digital censorship in the UK . The report is broken up into two main sections - formal censorship practices like copyright and pornography blocking, and informal censorship practices including ISP filtering and counter terrorism activity. The report shows how authorities, while often engaging in important work, can be prone to mistakes and unaccountable takedowns that lack independent means of redress.

Over the coming weeks we'll post a series of excerpts from the report covering the following:

Formal censorship practices

  • Copyright blocking injunctions

  • BBFC pornography blocking

  • BBFC requests to "Ancillary Service Providers"

Informal censorship practices

  • Nominet domain suspensions

  • The Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU)

  • The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF)

  • ISP content filtering

The big picture

Take a step back from the many measures encompassed within the Digital Charter and a clear pattern emerges. When it comes to web blocking, the same rules do not apply online as offline. Many powers and practices the government employs to remove online content would be deemed unacceptable and arbitrary if they were applied to offline publications.

Part II of our report is in the works and will focus on threats to free speech within yet another branch of the Digital Charter known as the Internet Safety Strategy.

 

 

Article 13 is Not Just Criminally Irresponsible...

It's Irresponsibly Criminal. By Glyn Moody


Link Here 12th February 2019
Full story: Copyright in the EU...Copyright law for Europe

 

 

 

Creating disharmony...

Indonesians will have to get a competency certificate before beling allowed to sing


Link Here 11th February 2019

Indonesian entertainers have rallied against a draft law that seeks to ban blasphemous and pornographic music content, with critics saying it will be used to clamp down on an already very limited freedom of expression.

More than 100 protestors - many carrying placards or playing guitars and drums - took to the streets of Bogor, near Jakarta, on Sunday  to demonstrate against the proposed law.

Under the proposed law, musicians would be prevented from bringing negative influences from foreign cultures and/or degrading human dignity into Indonesia.  As well as cracking down on blasphemous and pornographic content, it imposes onerous new requirements on musicians, such as carrying out competency tests to gain certification.

As well as cracking down on blasphemous and pornographic content, it imposes onerous new requirements on musicians, such as carrying out competency tests to gain certification.

An online petition calling for the vaguely worded bill to be scrapped has been signed by more than 250,000 people.

 

 

Offsite Article: Be careful who you share with...


Link Here 11th February 2019
China sets its sights on buying up western social media starting with reddit

See article from theguardian.com

 

 

Fake free speech...

Russian anti-fake news bill rushed through parliament despite vocal opposition


Link Here 10th February 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in Russia...Russia restoring repressive state control of media

The Russian State Duma is considering multiple bills of law that would further stifle free speech in Russia's already heavily restricted internet environment.

One targets expressions of willful disregard towards the state. Another targets disinformation. All of them echo increasingly global concerns among governments about the political implications of disinformation -- and unbridled criticism -- on the internet. And all have been heavily criticized by Russian civil society groups, experts, users and even the government's own ministers. Yet these bills promoting possible further crackdown on free speech still trudge on through the legislative system.

The first bill, a sovereign internet initiative , which is yet to reach the floor of the lower chamber of Russia's bicameral parliament, seeks to establish state-regulated internet exchange points that would allow for increased monitoring and control over internet traffic moving into and out of the country.

Under this law, individuals, officials or organizations accused of spreading fake news disguised as genuine public announcements which are found to promote public disorder or other serious disturbances could be fined for up to a million rubles (slightly above USD $15,000), unless they remove the violating content in a day's time. The bill also provides measures through which Roskomnadzor, Russia's media watchdog, will order ISPs to block websites hosting the offending content.

The bill passed its first reading in late January with flying colours, receiving 336 votes in its favor and only 44 against, thanks to the 2016 landslide which guaranteed the ruling United Russia party an absolute voting majority.

The anti-fake news bill will be reviewed again by the Duma in February, conditioned on the revision of some of its most contentious points. The bill pushed through by Putin's party was met with a rare response of significant opposition, even among the normally acquiescent branches of Russia's highly centralized and executive-biased power structure. The attorney general's office, among others, criticized the bill's vague definitions as potentially damaging to citizens' civil rights.

The second bill , which came up for review alongside the fake news-busting proposal, is seen as being even more controversial. It seeks to punish vulgar expressions of wilful disregard towards the state, its symbols and organs of its power with fines of up to 5,000 rubles (around USD $76) and detention for up to 15 days. The bill also passed in the first reading on the same day, despite vocal criticism from both government members (Deputy Communications Minister Alexey Volin said that calmly accepting criticism was an obligation for state officials, adding that they weren't made of sugar) and opposition parties.

 

 

Next they will want to check your bank account and assess your wealth...

Gambling Commission now requires that gambling sites verify identity before allowing people to bet


Link Here 10th February 2019
The Gambling Commission (UKGC) has released a new set of rules, ensuring that operators implement a new wave of identity checks to make gambling safer and fairer.

Following an open consultation, and to further guard against the risk of children gambling, new rules mean operators must verify customer identity and age before they can either deposit funds into an account or gamble with the licensee, with either their own money or a free bet or bonus.

Furthermore, the UKGC has clamped down on free-to-play games, stressing that customer must now be age verified to access such versions gambling games on licensees' websites, emphasising that there is no legitimate reason why they should be available to children.

Changes are also designed to aid with the detection of criminal activity, whilst operators are reminded that they cannot demand that ID be submitted as a condition of cashing out, if they could have asked for that information earlier.

Finally, an increase in identifying self-excluded players was stressed, because effective verification by operators will mean that a customer will not be verified, and therefore unable to gamble, until they provide correct details. These details will then be checked against both the operator's own self-exclusion database and the verified data held by Gamstop.

Set to come into force on Tuesday 7 May, further new rules come as a result of a number of complaints to contact centre staff, regarding licensees not allowing a customer to withdraw funds until they submit certain forms of ID.

The new rules require remote licensees to:

  • Verify, as a minimum, the name, address and date of birth of a customer before allowing them to gamble
  • Ask for any additional verification information promptly
  • Inform customers, before they can deposit funds, of the types of identity documents or other information that might be required, the circumstances in which the information might be required, and how it should be supplied to the licensee
  • Take reasonable steps to ensure that information on their customers' identities remains accurate.

 

 

Offsite Article: The new tech totalitarianism...


Link Here 10th February 2019
A book review of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Professor Shoshana Zuboff

See article from newstatesman.com

 

 

Duty of care: an empty concept...

The Open Rights Group comments on government moves to create a social media censor


Link Here 9th February 2019
Full story: Internet Safety Bill...UK Government seeks to censor social media

There is every reason to believe that the government and opposition are moving to a consensus on introducing a duty of care for social media companies to reduce harm and risk to their users. This may be backed by an Internet regulator, who might decide what kind of mitigating actions are appropriate to address the risks to users on different platforms.

This idea originated from a series of papers by Will Perrin and Lorna Woods and has been mentioned most recently in a recent Science and Technology committee report and by NGOs including children's charity 5Rights.

A duty of care has some obvious merits: it could be based on objective risks, based on evidence, and ensure that mitigations are proportionate to those risks. It could take some of the politicisation out of the current debate.

However, it also has obvious problems. For a start, it focuses on risk rather than process . It moves attention away from the fact that interventions are regulating social media users just as much as platforms. It does not by itself tell us that free expression impacts will be considered, tracked or mitigated.

Furthermore, the lack of focus that a duty of care model gives to process means that platform decisions that have nothing to do with risky content are not necessarily based on better decisions, independent appeals and so on. Rather, as has happened with German regulation, processes can remain unaffected when they are outside a duty of care.

In practice, a lot of content which is disturbing or offensive is already banned on online platforms. Much of this would not be in scope under a duty of care but it is precisely these kinds of material which users often complain about, when it is either not removed when they want it gone, or is removed incorrectly. Any model of social media regulation needs to improve these issues, but a duty of care is unlikely to touch these problems.

There are very many questions about the kinds of risk, whether to individual in general, vulnerable groups, or society at large; and the evidence required to create action. The truth is that a duty of care, if cast sensibly and narrowly, will not satisfy many of the people who are demanding action; equally, if the threshold to act is low, then it will quickly be seen to be a mechanism for wide-scale Internet censorship.

It is also a simple fact that many decisions that platforms make about legal content which is not risky are not the business of government to regulate. This includes decisions about what legal content is promoted and why. For this reason, we believe that a better approach might be to require independent self-regulation of major platforms across all of their content decisions. This requirement could be a legislative one, but the regulator would need to be independent of government and platforms.

Independent self-regulation has not been truly tried. Instead, voluntary agreements have filled its place. We should be cautious about moving straight to government regulation of social media and social media users. The government refuses to regulate the press in this way because it doesn't wish to be seen to be controlling print media. It is pretty curious that neither the media nor the government are spelling out the risks of state regulation of the speech of millions of British citizens.

That we are in this place is of course largely the fault of the social media platforms themselves, who have failed to understand the need and value of transparent and accountable systems to ensure they are acting properly. That, however, just demonstrates the problem: politically weak platforms who have created monopoly positions based on data silos are now being sliced and diced at the policy table for their wider errors. It's imperative that as these government proposals progress we keep focus on the simple fact that it is end users whose speech will ultimately be regulated.

 

 

A tax burden shared...

Uganda's social media tax is leaving people either disconnected or else relying on shared wifi access or VPNs


Link Here 9th February 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship Tax in Africa...Extortionate tax on bloggers, websites and social media users

The number of people using the internet in Uganda has dropped by 26% since July 2018, when the country's social media tax was put into force. Prior to the tax's implementation, 47.4% of people in Uganda were using the internet. Three months after the tax was put in place, that number had fallen to 35%.

ISPs charge an additional 200 Ugandan shillings (UGX) in social media tax on top of the ISP access fees and standard sales tax. This is nominally 5.4 US cents but is a significant portion of typical Ugandan incomes.

President Yoweri Museveni and several government officials said this was intended to curb online rumor-mongering and to generate more tax revenue.

The tax was the subject of large-scale public protests in July and August 2018. During one protest against the tax, key opposition leader, activist and musician Bobi Wine noted that the tax was enforced to oppress the young generation.

The government expected to collect about UGX 24 billion in revenue from the tax every quarter. But in the first quarter after the tax's implementation, they collected UGX 20 billion. In the second quarter, ending December 2018, they had collected only UGX 16 billion.

While some people have gone offline altogether, others are simply finding different and more affordable ways to connect. People are creating shared access points where one device pays the tax and tethers the rest as a WiFi hotspot, or relying on workplace and public area WiFi networks to access the services.

Other Ugandans are using Virtual Private Network (VPN) applications to bypass the tax. In a statement for The Daily Monitor , the Uganda Revenue Authority's Ian Rumanyika argued that people could not use the VPNs forever, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

In addition to leaving Ugandans with less access to communication and diminished abilities to express themselves online, it has also affected economic and commercial sectors, where mobile money and online marketing are essential components of daily business.

 

 

An epidemic of delusion and hysteria is spreading amongst US state legislators...

Arizona considers joining the list of states subscribing to the nonsense that porn is a public health crisis


Link Here 9th February 2019
Full story: US politicans and porn harms...US states claim porn to be a public health hazard

Arizona has joined several other states in the nonsense claim that pornography is to be considered a public health crisis

Arizona state Representative Michelle Udall introduced a resolution declaring pornography is a crisis leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts. The resolution claims pornography perpetuates a sexually toxic environment that damages all areas of our society.

The resolution passed a committee vote along party lines and now moves to the Arizona House, where Republicans hold a slim majority.

Utah was the first state in the nation to declare pornography a public health crisis in 2016, but measures have been passed in 11 other states since.

 

 

What have Donald Trump and Donald Tusk got in common?...

Apart from the name Donald, and securing a place in hell, both put American corporate interests above European livelihoods. The Council of the EU approves copyright law that will suffocate European businesses and livelihoods


Link Here 8th February 2019
Full story: Copyright in the EU...Copyright law for Europe

The Council of the EU headed by Donald Tusk has just adopted as the common position, the deal struck by France and Germany on the controversial EU Copyright Directive that was leaked earlier this week .

While Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Luxembourg maintained their opposition to the text and were newly joined by Malta and Slovakia, Germany's support of the "compromise" secretly negotiated with France over the last weeks has broken the previous deadlock .

This new Council position is actually more extreme than previous versions, requiring all platforms older than 3 years to automatically censor all their users' uploads, and putting unreasonable burdens even on the newest companies.

The German Conservative--Social Democrat government is now in blatant violation of its own coalition agreement , which rejects upload filters against copyright infringement as disproportionate. This breach of coalition promises will not go down well with many young voters just ahead of the European elections in May. Meanwhile, prominent members of both German government parties have joined the protests against upload filters.

The deal in Council paves the way for a final round of negotiations with the Parliament over the course of next week, before the entire European Parliament and the Council vote on the final agreement. It is now up to you to contact your MEPs, call their offices in their constituencies and visit as many of their election campaign events as you can! Ask them to reject a copyright deal that will violate your rights to share legal creations like parodies and reviews online, and includes measures like the link tax that will limit your access to the news and drive small online newspapers out of business.

Right before the European elections, your voices cannot be ignored! Join the over 4.6 million signatories to the largest European petition ever and tell your representatives: If you break the Internet and accept Article 13, we won't reelect you!

 

 

Updated: Lawmakers with a weak constitution...

New York State lawmaker proposes a 20 dollar tax on all online or offline porn purchases


Link Here 8th February 2019
Full story: Pole Tax...Discriminatory taxes on adult entertainment in USA
A new bill introduced late last month in the New York State legislature marks the latest attempt to impose a user tax on porn, or for that matter any sexually oriented media. Teh proposed bill will slap an extra $2 on to every porn download.

The charge would also apply to offline sexually oriented media, adding the two-buck fee to each magazine or DVD classified as sexually oriented. In fact, the language of New York Assembly Bill AO3417 is so broad that it apparently would apply not only to porn, but even to R-rated movies and TV programs airing on pay cable networks such as HBO or Showtime.

That's because the law as written by Assistant Assembly Speaker Felix W. Ortiz defines sexually oriented as any media that features nude pictures or nude performances. And nude does not even mean completely nude under the bill's wording, breasts or buttocks are enough.

The language of the bill is also unclear on whether the $2 surcharge would apply to free porn downloads, such as on Pornhub and similar tube sites.

Update: Blocking blocked in South Dakota

8th February 2019. See  article from eu.argusleader.com

An attempt to block pornography and other obscene material on all personal devices in South Dakota, then charge users a $20 access fee, was voted down Friday by state lawmakers.

House Bill 1154, written by out-of-state authors, raised serious concerns with lobbyists representing South Dakota retailers and telecommunication companies, who opposed the measure in a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee Friday morning.

 

 

Offsite Article: A Lord Chamberlain for the internet?...


Link Here 8th February 2019
Full story: Internet Safety Bill...UK Government seeks to censor social media
Thanks, but no thanks. By Graham Smith

See article from cyberleagle.com

 

 

Searching for compliance...

Google agrees to censor search in Russia as dictated by the authorities


Link Here 7th February 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in Russia...Russia restoring repressive state control of media

Google has agreed to censor search results in Russia as dictated by country's internet censor. This will then allow Google to continue operations in Russia.

Google is one of a few search engines that does not adhere to an official list of banned websites that should not be included in search results.. However, Google already deletes 70% links from its search results to websites that internet censor Roskomnadzor has banned.

In December of 2018, Roskomnadzor charged Google a fine of 500,000 rubles ($7,590) for refusing to subscribe to the banned list. The company did not challenge the agency's decision and chose to pay the fine. The Russian law that made the fine possible does not allow Roskomnadzor to block sites that do not comply with its censorship demands, but that did not stop Roskomnadzor from threatening to block Google within Russian borders regardless.

 

 

That'll teach them...

Pennsylvania bill seeks to tax video gamers to fund guns for school teachers


Link Here 7th February 2019
Lawmakers from Pennsylvania have introduced a bill that proposing an additional 10% sin tax on M (mature) and AO (adults only) rated video games.

The money would go into a fund called the Digital Protection for School Safety Account that aims to enhance security measures at schools in the wake of the school shootings in Parkland, Florida and Newtown, Connecticut.

State representative Chris Quinn, a republican first introduced the bill in 2018 but is trying again in the current session. Explaining the bill last year, Quinn said violent video games might be an element in the rise of school shootings in America. One factor that may be contributing to the rise in, and intensity of, school violence is the material kids see, and act out, in video games, he said.

The Entertainment Software Association, which lobbies on behalf of the video game industry, notes that the bill is a violation of the US Constitution.

 

 

Offsite Article: Monopolistic data grabbers...


Link Here 7th February 2019
Full story: Facebook Privacy...Facebook criticised for discouraging privacy
German Competition watchdog bans Facebook from processing so much data without explicit permissions

See article from bbc.co.uk

 

 

The EU's Curb on the Dissemination of Terrorist Content Will Have a Chilling Effect on Speech...

Is there a special place in hell for EU legislators who promote censorship without even a sketch of a plan of the likely consequences


Link Here 6th February 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in EU...EU introduces swathes of internet censorship law

Governments around the world are grappling with the threat of terrorism, but their efforts aimed at curbing the dissemination of terrorist content online all too often result in censorship. Over the past five years, we've seen a number of governments--from the US Congress to that of France and now the European Commission (EC)--seek to implement measures that place an undue burden on technology companies to remove terrorist speech or face financial liability.

This is why EFF has joined forces with dozens of organizations to call on members of the European Parliament to oppose the EC's proposed regulation, which would require companies to take down terrorist content within one hour . We've added our voice to two letters--one from Witness and another organized by the Center for Democracy and Technology --asking that MEPs consider the serious consequences that the passing of this regulation could have on human rights defenders and on freedom of expression.

We share the concerns of dozens of allies that requiring the use of proactive measures such as use of the terrorism hash database (already voluntarily in use by a number of companies) will restrict expression and have a disproportionate impact on marginalized groups. We know from years of experience that filters just don't work.

Furthermore, the proposed requirement that companies must respond to reports of terrorist speech within an hour is, to put it bluntly, absurd. As the letter organized by Witness states, this regulation essentially forces companies to bypass due process and make rapid and unaccountable decisions on expression through automated means and furthermore doesn't reflect the realities of how violent groups recruit and share information online.

We echo these and other calls from defenders of human rights and civil liberties for MEPs to reject proactive filtering obligations and to refrain from enacting laws that will have unintended consequences for freedom of expression.

 

 

Updated: As always increased red tape benefits the largest (ie US) companies...

Daily Mail reports on government discussion about a new internet censor, codenamed Ofweb


Link Here 6th February 2019
Full story: Internet Safety Bill...UK Government seeks to censor social media
Wrangling in Whitehall has held up plans to set up a social media censor dubbed Ofweb, The Mail on Sunday reveals.

The Government was due to publish a White Paper this winter on censorship of tech giants but this Mail has learnt it is still far from ready. Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said it would be published within a month, but a Cabinet source said that timeline was wholly unrealistic. Other senior Government sources went further and said the policy document is unlikely to surface before the Spring.

Key details on how a new censor would work have yet to be decided while funding from the Treasury has not yet been secured. Another problem is that some Ministers believe the proposed clampdown is too draconian and are preparing to try to block or water down the plan.

There are also concerns that technically difficult requirements would benefit the largest US companies as smaller European companies and start ups would not be able to afford the technology and development required.

The Mail on Sunday understands Jeremy Wright has postponed a visit to Facebook HQ in California to discuss the measures, as key details are still up in the air.

Update: The Conservatives don't have a monopoly on internet censorship...Labour agrees

6th February 2019. See  article from ft.com

Labour has called for a new entity capable of taking on the likes of Facebook and Google. Tom Watson, the shadow digital secretary, will on Wednesday say a regulator should also have responsibility for competition policy and be able to refer cases to the Competition and Markets Authority.

According to Watson, any duty of care would only be effective with penalties that seriously affect companies' bottom lines. He has referred to regulators' ability to fine companies up to 4% of global turnover, or euro 20m, whichever is higher, for worst-case breaches of the EU-wide General Data Protection Regulation.

 

 

Commented: A bit censorial...

Banned drill music makers are given suspended prison sentences for defying the ban


Link Here 6th February 2019
Full story: Drill Music...Drill music videos banned by UK police

Two men who breached an injunction banning them from making drill music have been given suspended jail sentences of nine months each.

The ruling comes as Scotland Yard continues its controversial crackdown on the rap genre, a strategy which has attracted significant criticism from drill fans.

The Metropolitan Police have repeatedly blamed the music genre for rising knife crime in London and has launched a wide ranging crackdown on drill music videos. Detective Inspector Luke Williams of Lambeth and Southwark Gangs Unit said:

I am pleased with the sentences passed in these cases which reflect that the police and courts are unwilling to accept behaviour leading to serious violence.

Offsite Comment: Behind Bars

3rd February 2019. See article from dummymag.com

Behind Bars: After years of the UK banning music, attempts to censor drill break alarming new ground

Following news of suspended sentences being handed out to drill duo Skengdo x AM, we look into the long history of misguided music censorship in Britain

See article from dummymag.com

Offsite Comment: Don't censor drill music, listen to what it's trying to tell us

6th February 2019. See  article from theguardian.com by Ciaran Thapar

Update: Drilling down

13th February 2019. See  article from nwemail.co.uk

YouTube is removing more drill videos reported by the Metropolitan Police for provoking violence.

The Google-owned video giant had deleted 102 of 129 videos requested by Scotland Yard as of last month, according to figures seen by the Press Association.

The clips are predominantly videos for tracks from the rap sub-genre. Just over six months earlier, YouTube had removed about 30 such videos since September 2015.

That figure was about half of the videos the Met had referred to YouTube, whereas the platform has now approved about 80% of requests.

 

 

Commented: Censorship machines roll on to lay waste European business...

Article 13 is back on -- and it got worse, not better


Link Here 6th February 2019
Full story: Copyright in the EU...Copyright law for Europe

Contrary to some reports A rticle 13 was not shelved solely because EU governments listened to the unprecedented public opposition and understood that upload filters are costly, error-prone and threaten fundamental rights.

Without doubt, the consistent public opposition contributed to 11 member state governments voting against the mandate, instead of just 6 last year, but ultimately the reform hinges on agreement between France and Germany , who due to their size can make or break blocking minorities. The deadlock is the direct result of their disagreement, which was not about whether to have upload filters at all; they just couldn't  agree on exactly who should be forced to install those faulty filters :

The deadlock hinged on a disagreement between France and Germany

  • France's position: Article 13 is great and must apply to all platforms, regardless of size . They must demonstrate that they have done all they possibly could to prevent uploads of copyrighted material. In the case of small businesses, that may or may not mean using upload filters -- ultimately, a court would have to make that call . (This was previously the majority position among EU governments , supported by France, before Italy's newly elected government retracted their support for Article 13 altogether.)

  • Germany's position: Article 13 is great, but it should not apply to everyone. Companies with a turnover below ?20 million per year should be excluded outright, so as not to harm European internet startups and SMEs. (This was closer to the European Parliament's current position , which calls for the exclusion of companies with a turnover below ?10 million and fewer than 50 employees.)

What brought France and Germany together:

Making Article 13 even worse In the Franco-German deal , which leaked today, Article 13 does apply to all for-profit platforms. Upload filters must be installed by everyone except those services which fit all three of the following extremely narrow criteria:

  • Available to the public for less than 3 years

  • Annual turnover below ? 10 million

  • Fewer than 5 million unique monthly users

Countless apps and sites that do not meet all these criteria would need to install upload filters, burdening their users and operators, even when copyright infringement is not at all currently a problem for them. Some examples:

  • Discussion boards on for-profit sites, such as the Ars Technica or Heise.de forums (older than 3 years)

  • Patreon , a platform with the sole purpose of helping authors get paid (fails to meet any of the three criteria)

  • Niche social networks like GetReeled , a platform for anglers (well below 5 million users, but older than 3 years)

  • Small European competitors to larger US brands like wykop, a Polish news sharing platform similar to reddit (well below ? 10 million turnover, bur may be above 5 million users depending on the calculation method)

On top of that, even the smallest and newest platforms, which do meet all three criteria , must still demonstrate they have undertaken " best efforts " to obtain licenses from rightholders such as record labels, book publishers and stock photo databases for anything their users might possibly upload -- an impossible task . In practice, all sites and apps where users may upload material will likely be forced to accept any license a rightholder offers them , no matter how bad the terms, and no matter whether the y actually want their copyrighted material to be available on the platform or not , to avoid the massive legal risk of coming in conflict with Article 13. In summary: France's and Germany's compromise on Article 13 still calls for nearly everything we post or share online to require prior permission by "censorship machines" , algorithms that are fundamentally unable to distinguish between copyright infringement and legal works such as parody and critique. It would change the web from a place where we can all freely express ourselves into one where big corporate rightholders are the gatekeepers of what can and can't be published. It would allow these rightholders to bully any for-profit site or app that includes an upload function. European innovation on the web would be discouraged by the new costs and legal risks for startups -- even if they only apply when platforms become successful, or turn 3 years old. Foreign sites and apps would be incentivised to just geoblock all EU users to be on the safe side.

Now everything hinges on the European Parliament

With this road block out of the way, the trilogue negotiations to finish the new EU copyright law are back on. With no time to lose, there will be massive pressure to reach an overall agreement within the next few days and pass the law in March or April. The most likely next steps will be a rubber-stamping of the new Council position cooked up by Germany and France on Friday, 8 February, and a final trilogue on Monday, 11 February.
MEPs, most of whom are fighting for re-election, will get one final say. Last September, a narrow majority for Article 13 could only be found in the Parliament after a small business exception was included that was much stronger than the foul deal France and Germany are now proposing -- but I don't have high hopes that Parliament negotiator Axel Voss will insist on this point. Whether MEPs will reject this harmful version of Article 13 (like they initially did last July) or bow to the pressure will depend on whether all of us make clear to them: If you break the internet and enact Article 13, we won't re-elect you.

Update: Now made even worse

6th February 2019. See  article from eff.org by Cory Doctorow

As the German Government Abandons Small Businesses, the Worst Parts of the EU Copyright Directive Come Roaring Back, Made Even Worse

 


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