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23rd December

 Update: Crap law in the making...


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Open Rights Group demolishes government's internet censorship tweak to catch porn carrying Twitter and Reddit
Link Here  full story: UK Governments Consults on Age Checks for Porn...Government proposes censoring porn websites that are not age verified

open rights group 2016 logoIs the government misleading the Lords about blocking Twitter?

Last week we reported that the UK government expect the BBFC to ask social media providers, such as Twitter, to block the use of their service by accounts that are associated with porn sites that fail to verify the age of their users.

The Bill is even worse than we illustrated. The definition of a "pornographic website" in Clause 15 (2) is purely a site that operates on a "commercial basis". This could catch any site--including Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr--where pornography can be found. The practical limit would therefore purely be down to the discretion of the regulator, the BBFC, as to the kind of commercial sites they wanted to force to use Age Verification. However, the BBFC does not seem to want to require Twitter or Reddit to apply age verification--at least, not yet.

However, we also got one part wrong last week . In relation to Twitter, Reddit and other websites where porn sites might promote their content, the Bill contains a power to notify these "ancillary services" but has no specific power to enforce the notifications .

In other words, they expect Twitter, Google, Facebook, Tumblr and other companies to voluntarily block accounts within the UK, without a specific legal basis for their action .

This would create a toxic situation for these companies. If they fail to "act" on the "notifications", these services will leave themselves open to the accusation that they are failing to protect children, or actively "supplying" pornography to minors.

On the other hand, if they act on these notices, they will rightly be accused by ourselves and those that are censored of acting in an unaccountable, arbitrary manner. They will not have been legally obliged to act by a court; similar content will remain unblocked; and there will be no clear remedy for someone who wished to contest a "notification". Liability for the blocks would remain with the company, rather than the BBFC.

The government has not been clear with the Lords that this highly unclear situation is the likely result of notifications to Twitter--rather than account blocks, as they have suggested.

There are very good reasons not to block accounts after a mere notification. For instance in this case, although sites can contest a classification at the BBFC, and an internal appeals process will exist, there is no external appeal available, other than embarking on an expensive judicial review. It is not clear that a classification as pornography should automatically lead to action by ancillary services, not least because compliance automatically results in the same content being made available. To be clear, the bill does not aim to remove pornography from Twitter, Reddit users or search engines.

Why then, has the government drafted a bill with this power to notify "ancillary services", but no method to enforce? The reason appears to be that payment providers in particular have a long standing agreement amongst themselves that they will halt payments when they are notified that someone is taking payments for unlawful activity. Similarly, large online ad networks have a similar process of accepting notifications.

There is therefore no need to create enforcement mechanisms for these two kinds of "ancillary providers". (There are pitfalls with their approach--it can lead to censorship and unwarranted damage to businesses--but let us leave that debate aside for now.)

It seems clear that, when the bill was written, there was no expectation that "ancillary providers" would include Twitter, Yahoo, or Google, so no enofrcement power was created.

The government, in their haste, has agreed with the BBFC that they should be able to notify Twitter, Google, Yahoo and other platforms. They have agreed that BBFC need not take on a role of enforcement through court orders.

The key point is that the Lords are being misled by the government as things stand. Neither the BBFC or government have explored with Parliamentarians what the consequences of expanding the notion of "ancillary providers" is.

The Lords need to be told that this change means that:

  • the notices are unenforceable against Internet platforms;

  • they will lead to public disputes with the companies;

  • they make BBFC's decisions relating to ancillary providers highly unaccountable as legal responsibility for account blocks rest with the platforms.

It appears that the BBFC do not wish to be cast in the role of "national censor". They believe that their role is one of classification, rather than enforcement. However, the fact that they also wish to directly block websites via ISPs rather flies in the face of their self-perception, as censorship is most clearly what they will be engaging in. Their self-perception is also not a reason to pass the legal buck onto Internet platforms who have no role in deciding whether a site fails to meet regulatory requirements.

This mess is the result of rushing to legislate without understanding the problems involved. The obvious thing to do is to limit the impact of the "ancillary services" approach by narrowing the definition to exclude all but payment providers and ad networks. The alternative--to create enforcement powers against a range of organisations--would need to establish full accountability for the duties imposed on ancillary providers in a court, something that the BBFC seems to wish to avoid.

Or of course, the government could try to roll back its mistaken approach entirely, and give up on censorship as a punishment: that would be the right thing to do. Please sign our petition if you agree .

 

16th December

 Offsite Article: Censor's Charter...

Link Here  full story: UK Governments Consults on Age Checks for Porn...Government proposes censoring porn websites that are not age verified
open rights group 2016 logoOpen Rights Group summarises the current state of play revealing how porn sites will be blocked for UK internet users

See article from openrightsgroup.org

 

15th December

 Update: The Censored Digital Economy...


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Lords 2nd Reading debate of age verification and censorship for worldwide porn websites
Link Here  full story: UK Governments Consults on Age Checks for Porn...Government proposes censoring porn websites that are not age verified
house of lords red logoThe Lords had their first debate on the Digital Economy Bill which includes laws to require age verification as well as extension of out dated police and BBFC censorship rules to the internet.

Lords inevitable queued up to support the age verification requirements. However a couple of the lords made cautionary remarks about the privacy issues of websites being able to build up dangerous database of personal ID information of porn users.

A couple of lords also spoke our against the BBFC/police/government censorship prohibitions being included in the bill. It was noted that these rules are outdated, disproportionate and perhaps requires further debate in another bill.

As an example of these points, the Earl of Erroll (cross bencher) said:

My Lords, I welcome the Bill because it has some very useful stuff in it -- but, like everything else, it might benefit from some tweaking. Many other speakers mentioned the tweaks that need to be made, and if that happens I think that we may end up with quite a good Bill.

I will concentrate on age verification because I have been working on this issue with a group for about a year and three-quarters. We spotted that its profile was going to be raised because so many people were worried about it. We were the first group to bring together the people who run adult content websites -- porn websites -- with those who want to protect children. The interesting thing to come out quite quickly from the meetings was that, believe it or not, the people who run porn sites are not interested in corrupting children because they want to make money. What they want are adult, middle-aged people, with credit cards from whom they can extract money, preferably on a subscription basis or whatever. The stuff that children are getting access to is what are called teaser adverts. They are designed to draw people in to the harder stuff inside, you might say. The providers would be delighted to offer age verification right up front so long as all the others have to comply as well -- otherwise they will get all the traffic. Children use up bandwidth. It costs the providers money and wastes their time, so they are very happy to go along with it. They will even help police it, for the simple reason that it will block the opposition. It is one of the few times I approve of the larger companies getting a competitive advantage in helping to police the smaller sites that try not to comply.

One of the things that became apparent early on was that we will not be able to do anything about foreign sites. They will not answer mail or do anything, so blocking is probably the only thing that will work. We are delighted that the Government has gone for that at this stage. Things need to get blocked fast or sites will get around it. So it is a case of block first, appeal later, and we will need a simple appeals system. I am sure that the BBFC will do a fine job, but we need something just in case.

Another thing that came back from the ISPs is that they want more clarity about what should be blocked, how it will be done and what they will have to do. There also needs to be indemnity. When the ISPs block something for intellectual property and copyright reasons, they are indemnified. They would need to have it for this as well, or there will be a great deal of reluctance, which will cause problems.

The next thing that came up was censorship. The whole point of this is we want to enforce online what is already illegal offline. We are not trying to increase censorship or censor new material. If it illegal offline, it should be illegal online and we should be able to do something about it. This is about children viewing adult material and pornography online. I am afraid this is where I slightly disagree with the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron. We should decide what should be blocked elsewhere; we should not use the Bill to block other content that adults probably should not be watching either. It is a separate issue. The Bill is about protecting children. The challenge is that the Obscene Publications Act has some definitions and there is ATVOD stuff as well. They are supposed to be involved with time. CPS guidelines are out of step with current case law as a result of one of the quite recent cases -- so there is a bit of a mess that needs clearing up. This is not the Bill to do it. We probably need to address it quite soon and keep the pressure on; that is the next step. But this Bill is about keeping children away from such material.

The noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, made a very good point about social platforms. They are commercial. There are loopholes that will get exploited. It is probably unrealistic to block the whole of Twitter -- it would make us look like idiots. On the other hand, there are other things we can do. This brings me to the point that other noble Lords made about ancillary service complaints. If we start to make the payment service providers comply and help, they will make it less easy for those sites to make money. They will not be able to do certain things. I do not know what enforcement is possible. All these sites have to sign up to terms and conditions. Big retail websites such as Amazon sell films that would certainly come under this category. They should put an age check in front of the webpage. It is not difficult to do; they could easily comply.

We will probably need an enforcer as well. The BBFC is happy to be a regulator, and I think it is also happy to inform ISPs which sites should be blocked, but other enforcement stuff might need to be done. There is provision for it in the Bill. The Government may need to start looking for an enforcer.

Another point that has come up is about anonymity and privacy, which is paramount. Imagine the fallout if some hacker found a list of senior politicians who had had to go through an age-verification process on one of these websites, which would mean they had accessed them. They could bring down the Government or the Opposition overnight. Noble Lords could all go to the MindGeek website and look at the statistics, where there is a breakdown of which age groups and genders are accessing these websites. I have not dared to do so because it will show I have been to that website, which I am sure would show up somewhere on one of these investigatory powers web searches and could be dangerous.

One of the things the Digital Policy Alliance, which I chair, has done is sponsor a public available specification, which the BSI is behind as well. There is a lot privacy-enforcing stuff in that. It is not totally obvious; it is not finished yet, and it is being highlighted a bit more. One thing we came up with is that websites should not store the identity of the people whom they age-check. In fact, in most cases, they will bounce straight off the website and be sent to someone called an attribute provider, who will check the age. They will probably know who the person is, but they will send back to the website only an encrypted token which says, We've checked this person that you sent to us. Store this token. This person is over 18 -- or under 18, or whatever age they have asked to be confirmed. On their side, they will just keep a record of the token but will not say to which website they have issued it -- they will not store that, either. The link is the token, so if a regulator or social service had to track it down, they could physically take the token from the porn site to where it came from, the attribute provider, and say, Can you check this person's really over 18, because we think someone breached the security? What went wrong with your procedures? They can then reverse it and find out who the person was -- but they could still perhaps not be told by the regulator which site it was. So there should be a security cut-out in there. A lot of work went into this because we all knew the danger.

This is where I agree entirely with the Open Rights Group, which thinks that such a measure should be mandated. Although the publicly available specification, which is almost like a British standard, says that privacy should be mandated under general data protection regulation out of Europe, which we all subscribe to, I am not sure that that is enough. It is a guideline at the end of the day and it depends on how much emphasis the BBFC decides to put on it. I am not sure that we should not just put something in the Bill to mandate that a website cannot keep a person's identity. If the person after they have proved that they are 18 then decides to subscribe to the website freely and to give it credit card details and stuff like that, that is a different problem -- I am not worried about that. That is something else. That should be kept extremely securely and I personally would not give my ID to such a site -- but at the age verification end, it must be private.

There are some other funny things behind the scenes that I have been briefed on, such as the EU VAT reporting requirements under the VAT Mini One Stop Shop, which requires sites to keep some information which might make a person identifiable. That could apply if someone was using one of the attribute providers that uses a credit card to provide that check or if the website itself was doing that. There may be some things that people will have to be careful of. There are some perfectly good age-checking providers out there who can do it without you having to give your details. So it is a good idea; I think that it will help. Let us then worry about the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, made so well about what goes where.

The universal service obligation should be territorial; it has to cover the country and not just everyone's homes. With the internet of things coming along -- which I am also involved in because I am chair of the Hypercat Alliance, which is about resource discovery over the internet of things -- one of the big problems is that we are going to need it everywhere: to do traffic monitoring, people flows and all the useful things we need. We cannot have little not-spots, or the Government will not be able to get the information on which to run all sorts of helpful control systems. The noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane, referred to mast sharing. The problem with it is that they then do not put masts in the not-spots; they just keep the money and work off just one mast -- you still get the not-spots. If someone shares a mast, they should be forced a mast somewhere else, which they then share as well.

On broadband take-up, people say, Oh, well, people aren't asking for it . It is chicken and egg: until it is there, you do not know what it is good for. Once it is there and suddenly it is all useful, the applications will flow. We have to look to the future; we have to have some vision. Let us get chicken or the egg out there and the chicken will follow -- I cannot remember which way round it is.

I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, that the problem with Openreach is that it will always be controlled by its holding company, which takes the investment, redirects it and decides where the money goes. That is the challenge with having it overseeing.

I do not want waste much time, because I know that it is getting late-ish. On jobs, a huge number of jobs were created in earlier days in installing and maintaining internet of things sensors all over the place -- that will change. On the gigabit stuff, it will save travel, energy and all sorts of things -- we might even do remote-control hip operations, so you send the device and the surgeon then does it remotely, once we get super-duper superfast broadband.

I want to say one thing about IP. The Open Rights Group raised having thresholds of seriousness. It is quite important that we do not start prosecuting people on charges with 10-year sentences for trivial things. But it is also sad how interesting documentaries can disappear terribly quickly. The catch-up services cover only a month or so and if you are interested, it is quite nice being able to find these things out there on the internet a year or two later. There should somehow be a publicly available archive for all the people who produce interesting documentaries. I do not know whether they should make a small charge for it, but it should be out there.

The Open Rights Group also highlighted the bulk sharing of data. Some of the stuff will be very useful -- the briefing on free school meals is interesting -- but if you are the only person who really knows what might be leaked, it is very dangerous. If someone were to beat you up, an ordinary register could leak your address across without realising that at that point you are about to go into witness protection. There can be lots of problems with bulk data sharing, so be careful; that is why the insurance database was killed off a few years ago. Apart from that, I thank your Lordships for listening and say that, in general, this is a good effort.?

 

14th December

  The BBFC is set to ban all online porn...


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Murray Perkins of the BBFC explains how all the world's major porn websites will have to be totally banned in Britain (even if they set up age verification systems) under the censorship rules contained in the Digital Economy Bill
Link Here
bannedThe BBFC currently cuts about 15% of all R18 porn films on their way to totally ordinary mainstream porn shops. These are not niche or speciality films, they are totally middle of the road porn, which represents the sort of content on all the world's major porn sites. Most of the cuts are ludicrous but Murray Perkins, a senior examiner of the BBFC, points out that they are all considered either be to be harmful, or else are still prohibited by the police or the government for reasons that have long since past their sell by date.

So about a sixth of all the world's adult films are therefore considered prohibited by the British authorities, and so any website containing such films will have to be banned as there is to practical way to cut out the bits that wind up censors, police or government. And this mainstream but prohibited content appears on just about  all the world's major porn sites, free or paid.

The main prohibitions that will cause a website to be blocked (even before considering whether they will set up strict age verification) are such mainstream content as female ejaculation, urine play, gagging during blow jobs, rough sex, incest story lines (which is a major genre of porn at the moment), use of the word 'teen' and verbal references to under 18's. 

Murray Perkins has picked up the job of explaining this catch all ban. He explains it well,  but he tries to throw readers off track by citing examples of prohibitions being justifiable because the apply to violent porn, whilst not mentioning that they apply equally well to trivia such as female squirting.

Perkins writes in the Huffington Post:

BBFC logoRecent media reports highlighting what content will be defined as prohibited material under the terms of the Digital Economy Bill could have given an inaccurate impression of the serious nature of the harmful material that the BBFC generally refuses to classify. The BBFC works only to the BBFC Classification Guidelines and UK law, with guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and enforcement bodies, and not to any other lists.

The Digital Economy Bill aims to reduce the risk of children and young people accessing, or stumbling across, pornographic content online. It proposes that the BBFC check whether

(i) robust age verification is in place on websites containing pornographic content and

(ii) whether the website or app contains pornographic content that is prohibited.

An amendment to the Digital Economy Bill, passed in the House of Commons, would also permit the BBFC to ask Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block pornographic websites that refuse to offer effective age verification or contain prohibited material such as sexually violent pornography.

In making any assessment of content, the BBFC will apply the standards used to classify pornography that is distributed offline. Under the Video Recordings Act 1984 the BBFC is obliged to consider harm when classifying any content including 18 and R18 rated sex works. Examples of material that the BBFC refuses to classify include pornographic works that: depict and encourage rape, including gang rape; depict non-consensual violent abuse against women; promote an interest in incestuous behaviour; and promote an interest in sex with children. [Perkins misleadingly neglects to include, squirting, gagging, and urine play in his examples here]. The Digital Economy Bill defines this type of unclassifiable material as prohibited .-

Under its letters of designation the BBFC may not classify anything that may breach criminal law, including the Obscene Publications Act (OPA) as currently interpreted by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The CPS provides guidance on acts which are most commonly prosecuted under the OPA. The BBFC is required to follow this guidance when classifying content offline and will be required to do the same under the Digital Economy Bill. In 2015, 12% of all cuts made to pornographic works classified by the BBFC were compulsory cuts under the OPA. The majority of these cuts were to scenes involving urolagnia which is in breach of CPS guidance and could be subject to prosecution.

 

12th December

 Offsite Article: Just How Risky Face-Sitting and Fisting Are...

Link Here  full story: UK Governments Consults on Age Checks for Porn...Government proposes censoring porn websites that are not age verified
vice logoVice investigates if there is any harm in sexual practices considered somehow 'obscene' by the British authorities

See article from vice.com

 

5th December

 Comment: Porn is not conveniently organised in easy to block packages...

The politician behind Britain's porn censorship now thinks it might not even work. By Rob Price
Link Here  full story: UK Governments Consults on Age Checks for Porn...Government proposes censoring porn websites that are not age verified

business insider logoIt was Conservative MP and former minister John Whittingdale who introduced the bill. But now, the BBC is reporting that he's worried it might not actually work. He told Parliament:

One of the main ways in which young people are now exposed to pornography is through social media such as Twitter, and I do not really see that the bill will do anything to stop that happening.

This gets neatly at a key problem with the porn filter: The internet is not neatly divided into pornography and non-pornography. As I wrote last week , it's technically simple to block dedicated fetish websites. But plenty of sites mix porn with non-pornographic content, or include both conventional and non-conventional material -- raising serious questions as to how the filter could ever work in practice.

...Read the full  article from businessinsider.com

 

30th November

 Update: The blind leading the blind...

Britain and Bangladesh start processes to censor internet porn.
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in Bangladesh...Internet censors to track down supposed blasphemy

Bangladesh flagThe Bangladesh and UK governments have started a process to block pornographic websites and stop publication of offensive contents in the countries.

Ragged Union JackThe Bangladesh Telecommunications Division and British Board of Film Censors have formed committees to detect and block websites that contain pornography, vulgar picture and video contents, according to a news agency report.

The committees will make a three-level technical proposal by listing such websites ad contents within a week, State Minister for Telecommunications Tarana Halim said. The process to block these will start after getting the list and proposal, she said after a meeting on controlling offensive internet contents at the Secretariat .

A director general of telecoms regulators BTRC will head the committee, which will comprise representatives from National Telecommunication Monitoring Centre (NTMC), internet service providers (ISPs), mobile-phone operators and law-enforcing agencies. David Austin of the BBFC will spearhead UK censorship efforts.

Tarana said the drive against internet pornography will continue even after blocking the listed porn websites. And no doubt speaking for the UK too, she said:

The availability of internet pornography and offensive content is creating a negative social impact on all the citizens, including the adolescents.

 

29th November

 Update: Lib Dems to oppose internet censorship...

A rare occurrence these days, politicians that are standing up for the rights of the people
Link Here  full story: UK Governments Consults on Age Checks for Porn...Government proposes censoring porn websites that are not age verified
Lib Dems logoThe Liberal Democrats are to oppose plans to censor internet porn sites in the name of 'protecting the children'. Brian Paddick, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, said:

Liberal Democrats will do everything possible to ensure that our privacy is not further eroded by this Tory government.

Clamping down on perfectly legal material is something we would expect from the Russian or Chinese governments, not our own. Of course the internet cannot be an ungoverned space, but banning legal material for consenting adults is not the right approach.

The Internet Service Provider Association has also said moves to force providers to block adult sites that do not age verify has the potential to significantly harm the digital economy . ISPA chair James Blessing said:

The Digital Economy Bill is all about ensuing the UK continues to be a digital world leader, including in relation to internet safety. This is why ISPA supported the government's original age verification policy for addressing the problem of underage access of adult sites at source.

Instead of rushing through this significant policy change, we are calling on government to pause and have a substantive discussion on how any legal and regulatory change will impact the UK's dynamic digital economy and the expectations and rights of UK Internet users.

 

28th November

 Offsite Article: Prurient digital economy bill is blind to harm it will cause...

Link Here  full story: UK Governments Consults on Age Checks for Porn...Government proposes censoring porn websites that are not age verified
national villainsIn placing the BBFC as official guardians of morality, alternative depictions of sexuality such as that by the growing feminist pornography movement and the BDSM community are threatened. By Vonny Moyes

See article from thenational.scot

 

27th November

 Offsite Article: What the New British Porn Bill Means for You...

Link Here  full story: UK Governments Consults on Age Checks for Porn...Government proposes censoring porn websites that are not age verified
vice logoThe BBFC is famous for enforcing bizarre notions about what can be depicted in film, based on outdated laws surrounding obscenity

See article from vice.com

 

26th November

 Offsite Video: For those that hold the opinion that Britain is bastion of Western liberal values...

Link Here  full story: UK Governments Consults on Age Checks for Porn...Government proposes censoring porn websites that are not age verified
the britisher on porn videoPorn Censorship in Britain 2016: The Digital Economy Bill. By the Britisher

See video from YouTube

 

23rd November

  First the Snooper's Charter, now the Fraudster's Charter...

Website blocking will open up age verification to credit card fraud
Link Here  full story: David Cameron's Internet Porn Ban...Attempting to ban everything on the internet

open rights group 2016 logoWhen you legislate at break-neck speed, and fail to consult, things will go wrong. This is absolutely the case with Age Verification (AV) in the Digital Economy Bill, which now seems set to include website blocking to bolster use of AV technologies. This is likely to lead to high risks of credit card fraud and privacy abuse.

Currently the BBFC are pinning their hopes on being able to specify some kind of privacy and safety standard through their ability to regulate arrangements that deliver age verified material. Sites must deliver pornographic material:

in a way that secures that, at any given time, the material is not normally accessible by persons under the age of 18

The regulator can issue then guidance for:

types of arrangements for making pornographic material available that the regulator will treat as complying

The claim is that this mechanism allows the guidance to specify what kind of AV is private and secure.

However, if the BBFC are told to block non-compliant websites, in practice they will have to accept any system that websites use that verifies age. To do otherwise would be highly unfair: why should a site with legal material, that uses their own AV system, end up blocked by the BBFC?

This will especially apply to systems that require registration / credit card tests. There are plenty of paysites already of course. These are not privacy friendly, as they strongly identify the user to the website - and they have to do this to minimise fraudulent payment card transactions. That's alright as a matter of choice of course, but dangerous when it is done purely as a means of age verification.

If asking for credit card details becomes common or permissible, and a credible ask in the minds of UK citizens, then the government will have created a gold mine for criminals to operate scam porn sites targeted at the UK, inviting people to supply their credit cards to scam sites for Age Verification . In fact you could see this being extended to all manner of sites that a criminal could claim were blocked until you prove you're over 18 .

verified by visa fraud

Once credit card details are harvested, in return for some minimal/copyright infringing porn access at a scam porn site, then criminals can of course resell them for fraud. Another easy to understand example of a criminal abusing this system is that you could see criminals typo-squatting on relevant domain names such as youporm.com and asking for a credit card to gain access. Anything that normalises the entry of credit card details into pages where the user isn't making a payment will increase the fraudulent use of such cards. And if a website is validating credit cards to prove age, but not verifying them, then the internationally agreed standards to protect credit card data are unlikely to apply to them.

Website blocking makes these scams more likely because the BBFC is likely to have to sacrifice control of the AV systems that are permissible, and a diversity of AV systems makes it hard for users to understand what is safe to do. During the committee stage of the Digital Economy Bill, we argued that the AV regulator should be highly specific about the privacy and anonymity protections, alongside the cyber security consequences. We argued for a single system with perhaps multiple providers, that would be verifiable and trusted. The government on the other hand believes that market-led solutions should be allowed to proliferate. This makes it hard for users to know which are safe or genuine.

If website blocking becomes part of the enforcement armoury, then websites that employ unsafe but effective, or novel and unknown, AV systems will be able to argue that they should not be blocked. The BBFC is likely to have to err on the side of caution - it would be an extreme step to block an age-verifying website just because it hadn't employed an approved system.

The amount of website blocking that takes place will add to the scamming problem and open up new opportunities for innovative criminals. The BBFC seems to be set to have an administrative power to order ISPs to block. If this is the case, the policy would appear to be designed to block many websites, rather than a small number. The more blocking of sites that users encounter, the more they will get used to the idea that age verification is in use for pornography or anything that could possibly be perceived as age-restricted, and therefore trust the systems they are presented with. If this system is not always the same, but varies wildly, then there are plenty of opportunities for scams and criminal compromise of poorly-run Age Verification systems.

Security and privacy problems can be minimised, but are very, very hard to avoid if the government goes down the website blocking route. What MPs need to know right now is that they are moving too fast to predict the scale of the problems they are opening up.

 

22nd November

 Update: Your database entry: Verified Porn User...

The Digital Economy Bill is primarily reprehensible for introducing mass internet censorship, but don't forget it also enables the rapid sharing of government databases to more or less any official who makes a request
Link Here  full story: UK Governments Consults on Age Checks for Porn...Government proposes censoring porn websites that are not age verified

open rights group 2016 logoSo what is wrong with the Digital Economy Bill?
 
Well, Part 5 of the Bill will fundamentally change the way our personal information is handled, shared and controlled whenever we hand it over to government. 
 
That means that whenever we file a tax return, apply for a driving licence, register a birth, death or marriage, apply for benefits or deal with a council, court or other public authority, all of the data we share, we will have no control of.

Because if Part 5 of the Bill becomes law:

  • As soon as you share anything with the government, you will be blocked from having any further control over how your personal information and sensitive data is shared around government, with councils, other government bodies and business. 

  • You will not be allowed to change your data if there is a mistake or error.

  • You will not be asked permission or informed if an official shares, uses or looks at your data.

  • You will not be allowed to opt out of your data being shared.

  • Your birth, death, marriage and civil registration documents will be shared in bulk without your consent.

Data sharing is a fact of life and a great deal of good can come from the sharing of data, but as soon as our data is digitised it is insecure and open to exploitation.
 
We see this every time we read of a big company suffering a data breach or data hack. And government aren't immune, in 2014/15 government experienced 9,000 data breaches possibly down to poor data sharing practice, certainly down to not understanding data protection laws.
 
Our data is us -- it is who we are, what we do, how we live and who we know. If we don't know where it is going, who it is shared with, why it is used and what we can do to control access to it, the future of all our personal information is at risk.

If you are worried please write to your MP this week and tell them, because without challenge this Bill will pass and control of our personal information will be lost to Government forever.

See how to help at bigbrotherwatch.org.uk

 

21st November

 Update: Wake Up Britain! Oppose UK internet censorship...

Reasons why the government's plan 'to protect children online' is not just dreadful but extremely alarming.
Link Here

BBIC Banned

It's already been announced that the government are to press ahead with their controversial plans to create a huge database of the all the activities of every internet user in the UK . Every time you visit any website, the time and date and the name of the website will be recorded. There are no exemptions.

Such a system of blanket surveillance has not been used or proposed in any other country.

You might think then, that after such an announcement, they would have been a little muted for a short while in proposing yet more heavy handed legislation aimed at the internet. Not a bit of it. Now they really seem to have the bit between their teeth and are charging full steam ahead with, if possible, even more draconian powers.

In the 1980's, as a result of the backlash against video nasties , the government handed complete censorship of all video media to the British Board of Film Censors, now renamed the British Board of Film Classification (because they don't like to be thought of as censors). A bit like the ministry of propaganda preferred to be called the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell's 1984. Appropriately enough, this bill was made law in 1984.

Now, the latest proposal is to effectively hand censorship of the entire internet over to the same people!

The argument is that if a website which is unsuitable for children does not have adequate checks in place to verify the users age, the BBFC will be able to block it. This might sound reasonable in theory but in practice it will culminate in a monstrous invasion of internet freedom and dangers for internet users. Here's why:

  1. Most people know that such controls can be effectively by-passed with use of a proxy servers, or on a phone or tablet a simple app which redirects internet traffic through a secure unfiltered connection. The problem with this is that it introduces a whole new level of risk and exposure to criminality. Traffic can be routed, without the user knowing, via servers which are known to contain criminal content thus giving the appearance that the user has been accessing child pornography, terrorist information or other material which could incriminate them.

  2. Amongst the honest firms who run proxy servers there are con-men and criminals waiting to catch the unwary. Ransom demands and other criminal activity is often the actual business which is sitting behind a link for what appears to be a proxy server. If you don't believe me, please do your own research.

  3. Identification will be a nightmare. Making porn or other websites take credit or debit card details as a check of age is preposterous. Very few people would want to trust giving their credit or debit card details to a website just to even see what is on it.

  4. It's even been suggested that these websites could cross check the UK electoral roll. How's that supposed to work? Presumably not so anybody can give the name and address of someone they dislike and that goes down on the government's list of names and addresses of people who've visited dodgy websites?

  5. The BBFC can not just censor but entirely block any web site that contains anything they disagree with! For example if the site contains anything which they would not allow in a BBFC certificated video. They would argue that it was their duty . Since a website containing any nudity at all, or discussion of sex, or any other thing which is not suitable for children , should be behind an age protected barrier, this will allow them to block any web site they wish. If a site with discussion about something which is not suitable for a small child, say in the US or Canada, cannot be bothered to deal with the BBFC, it can simply be blocked completely in the UK if the owners do not cravenly submit to the demands of a government censor in another country! Not that the websites will probably care, having written off internet users in the UK the same way as they would people who are blocked from access by any other dictatorial government around the world.

  6. In addition to websites being blocked, if a server contains a small amount of anything which is unsuitable for children, the domain itself, containing many other web sites, can be blocked. Because most countries in the world are more broad minded and less adamant about state control of what people see than the UK, nobody else will have noticed that UK users are being blocked from access to perfectly normal information just because their domain has been blacklisted.

  7. Who is going to pay for this work to be done? The BBFC can currently pay for their video censorship work because the Video Recordings Act requires that by law firms in the UK have no option but to pay their fees ranging from several thousand pounds for each video submitted.

    How do you think the BBFC is going to get on with the owners of foreign websites?

    Ah, hello Mr Dirty Website Owner, this is the BBFC here, we want you to follow our regulations and pay us or fees or I'm afraid I'll have to inform you that her majesty's government will block UK users from access to your website.

    Mr Dirty Website Owner's response is something which you can probably imagine yourself. It probably involves some rather colourful language telling the BBFC where they can stick their regulations and fees.

  8. The government has already required ISPs to provide filtered child friendly internet connections for anyone who wants it. However, since the population have generally been less than enthusiastic about uptake of filtered internet connections the government has decided that this is not good enough and so you *will* have a censored internet connection *and like it* even though 70% of households in the UK have no children.

  9. If this truly was a matter of protecting children, then the problem would lie with the 10 to 15 % of homes with children, where the adults have not switched on the filters. It would be far more sensible to amend the law to require homes where children are present to have the filters switched on. But this just proves that it *isn't* just a matter of protecting children, what they really want is *total* control, and you don't get that with a opt in scheme. The plan is to censor the internet to the extent that these filtered connections are no longer required.

  10. Going back to proxy servers again, since this is such an easy way to avoid the censorship, and since, unfortunately, proxy servers allow access to anything, even stuff 99.9% of people really don't want to see, this will give the government a *perfect excuse* to ban proxy servers as well. And there you have it: TOTAL INTERNET CENSORSHIP. You could probably still download and install a proxy server, but if you are detected using it you could be marched down to the local police station for questioning, and since there is no excuse to be using a proxy server as they will be illegal, they can assume you were planning a terrorist attack or watching child pornography and throw you in jail. Sorry, I mean detain you in a cell pending trial, for the public good.

WAKE UP BRITAIN! Please don't allow the control freaks to take over your county. Print this article out, send it to your MP - don't let MPs simply be carried along by misguided nanny state meddling in basic democratic freedom under the guise of protecting the children . The onus should be on parents to switch on the filters that have already been provided, not treat every adult in the UK as a child.

This proposed legislation is a continuation of the very slippery slope towards total state surveillance and control which has already been approved. If you don't stand up to this next level of state control, what will they think they can get away with next?

Don't take this warning lightly, unless enough people object they will steamroller ahead with it and you will loose your freedom. Unless you want your internet to be suitable for a pre school toddler with a vast number of other harmless pages and websites blocked as a result, send this article to your MP now and ask for his or her comments.

 

20th November

 Offsite Article: Ofcom's Children and parents: media use and attitudes report 2016...

Link Here  full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn
Ofcom logoUse of network level website blocking systems has increased since 2015 among parents of 5-15s. Around a third now use them (33% for parents of 3-4s and 31% for parents of 5-15s).

See article from ofcom.org.uk

 

19th November

 Update: Quick, buy shares in VPNs, there will soon be a massive new uptake...

UK government decides that it will censor nearly all internet porn
Link Here  full story: UK Governments Consults on Age Checks for Porn...Government proposes censoring porn websites that are not age verified

karen bradleyBritain's minister of censorship culture has said that the government will move block the vast majority of internet porn, both domestic and foreign.

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley threatened:

We made a promise to keep children safe from harmful pornographic content online and that is exactly what we are doing. Only adults should be allowed to view such content and we have appointed a regulator, BBFC, to make sure the right age checks are in place to make that happen. If sites refuse to comply, they should be blocked.

In fulfilling this manifesto commitment and working closely with people like (MPs) Claire Perry and Kit Malthouse who have worked tirelessly on internet safety issues, we are protecting children from the consequences of harmful content.

The powers will be brought forward in amendments to the Digital Economy Bill later this month.

Porn websites will be allowed to stay open if they adopt onerous age validation but as yet no one has come up with a solution that is accurate, cheap, convenient and secure enough to be viable.  The only currently acceptable method is to allow porn only to those willing to pay with credit cards, (debit cards not allowed). Not only do you have to go through the hassle of filling in credit card details, you have to trust potentially dodgy foreign websites with your ID information, you have to pay before being able to see what is on offer. Needless to say, the UK adult online trade that has been subjected to this suffocating censorship regime have been forced to either go bankrupt or go abroad.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), will be given powers to make ISPs censor porn sites which do not put age checks in place to make them inaccessible to children.

On a slightly more positive note The BBFC said any verification mechanism must provide assurances around data protection and it would consider those that already exist and ones currently being developed. It is understood the government is working with the BBFC to determine the best mechanism that confirms eligibility rather than identifying the user.

 

15th November

 Petition: Stop UK censorship of legal content...

ORG petition against the censorship of online adult porn
Link Here  full story: UK Governments Consults on Age Checks for Porn...Government proposes censoring porn websites that are not age verified

org censoredIn the Digital Economy Bill, the Government wants erotica and pornography websites to make sure their users are over 18. This could threaten our privacy by collecting data on everyone in the UK who visits erotica and pornography sites. Making sure all porn sites go along with it is unworkable. So a group of MPs want Internet Service Providers to block websites that don't comply. Sign our petition to say no to censorship of legal content.

MPs are putting pressure on the Government to add measures to the Bill that would force Internet Service Providers to block erotica and pornography websites that don't verify the age of their users.

This equates to censorship of legal content - potentially affecting tens of thousands of websites and millions of people.

Blocking websites is a disproportionate, technical response to a complex, social issue. The UK's children need education, not censorship, to keep them safe.

Sign the petition from openrightsgroup.org

 

7th November

 Update: Painful, dangerous and causing long standing damage...

MPs line up to propose silly censorial amendments to the Digital Economy Bill
Link Here  full story: UK Governments Consults on Age Checks for Porn...Government proposes censoring porn websites that are not age verified
thangam debbonaireThangam Debbonaire, a Labour MP from Bristol proposed a ludicrous amendment to the Digital Economy Bill suggesting that online distributors of porn should be jailed if they were aware, or should have been aware of anybody being coerced in its production. She also suggested prison time for distributors of films which depict people being forced to perform painful and dangerous acts.

She told the Bristol Post that evidence showed that some people in the adult film industry were forced to do things that were painful, dangerous and causing long standing damage . Others were being sold into the trade, she claimed.

She acknowledged that there were already laws in place which drew a clear line that having sex with someone trafficked or coerced was unacceptable . I believe this now needs to be applied to pornography, Debbonaire said. She also asked whether it was time to set-up a censor so that viewers can be sure that they are not watching a sexual assault taking place on screen.

Culture Minister Matthew Hancock replied to the MP, patronisingly 'praising' her powerful and passionate speech . He said that, while he entirely supported the thrust of the argument , but he believed her suggestion fell into technical difficulties .

Hancock said many of the restrictions being called for by Debbonaire were covered, or even taken further, by existing legislation , especially the Modern Slavery Act, which was introduced last year. He also said it could be difficult to prove whether a distributor of online porn knew that someone who featured in one of their films had been trafficked. Hancock added:

I'm concerned that the offence could be difficult to prosecute.

To show that someone 'knew or should have known' that someone had been exploited could be difficult. It could be quite a tenuous link between those people [the distributor] and the people responsible for the trafficking themselves.

Debbonaire withdrew the amendment. She told the Post she wanted to highlight the issue of coercion to those who watch pornography.

What I really want is for the men, and some women, that consume porn to stop and think, what is it that I'm watching? I want people to start thinking and asking questions like, is there a safe way to be involved in the production of porn?

 

6th November

 Update: The Usual Suspects...

MPs propose another amendment to force ISPs to block porn sites for everybody
Link Here  full story: UK Governments Consults on Age Checks for Porn...Government proposes censoring porn websites that are not age verified
House of Commons logoA group of MPs have tabled an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill that would force pornography websites to be blocked by ISPs if they fail to verify the age of their users.

This is the second time such amendments have been suggested. The MPs involved are Claire Perry, David Burrowes, Fiona Bruce, Derek Thomas, Jeremy Lefroy, Caroline Ansell, Heidi Allen, Andrew Selous, Iain Duncan Smith, Maria Miller, Fiona Mactaggart.

Open Rights Group Executive Director Jim Killock said:

Perhaps these MPs have realised that plans to make all adult websites apply age verification are unworkable as foreign porn sites may simply not comply. They are now suggesting that websites who don't comply should be blocked -- even though their content is perfectly legal.

While child protection is important, this proposal is disproportionate. Censorship of this kind should be reserved for illegal and harmful content.

We are talking about potentially thousands of websites with legal material being censored, something that is unprecedented in the developed world.

The Digital Economy Bill has proposed that all pornography websites should be forced to verify the age of their users. This has sparked concerns that the privacy of adults could be violated. It is not yet clear how age verification will be implemented but it could lead to the collection of data on everyone who visits a porn website. This kind of information could be vulnerable to Ashley Madison style data breaches.

The Open Rights Group further commented:

open rights group 2016 logoThe amendment has been tabled because MPs understand that age verification cannot be imposed upon the entire mostly US-based pornographic industry by the UK alone. In the USA, age verification has been seen by the courts as an infringement on the right of individuals to receive and impart information. This is unlikely to change, so use of age verification technologies will be limited at best.

However, the attempt to punish websites by blocking them is also a punishment inflicted on the visitors to these websites. Blocking them is a form of censorship, it is an attempt to restrict access to them for everyone. When material is restricted in this way, it needs to be done for reasons that are both necessary for the goal, and proportionate to the aim. It has to be effective in order to be proportionate.

The goal is to protect children, although the level of harm has not been established. According to OfCom: More than nine in ten parents in 2015 said they mediated their child's use of the internet in some way, with 96% of parents of 3-4s and 94% of parents of 5-15s using a combination of: regularly talking to their children about managing online risks, using technical tools, supervising their child, and using rules or restrictions. (1)

70% of households have no children. These factors make the necessity and proportionality of both age verification and censorship quite difficult to establish. This issue affects 30% of households who can choose to apply filters and use other strategies to keep their children safe online.

It is worth remembering also that the NSPCC and others tend to accept that teenagers are likely to continue to access pornography despite these measures. They focus their concerns on 9-12 years olds coming across inappropriate material, despite a lack of evidence that there is any volume of these incidents, or that harm has resulted. While it is very important to ensure that 9-12 year olds are safe online, it seems more practical to focus attention directly on their online environment, for instance through filters and parental intervention, than attempting to make the entire UK Internet conform to standards that are acceptable for this age group.

That MPs are resorting to proposals for website blocking tells us that the age verification proposals themselves are flawed. MPs should be asking about the costs and privacy impacts, and why such a lack of thought has gone into this. Finally, they should be asking what they can do to help children through practical education and discussion of the issues surrounding pornography, which will not go away, with or without attempts to restrict access.

 

29th October

 Offsite Article: Swapping memory sticks don't require age verification...

Link Here  full story: UK Governments Consults on Age Checks for Porn...Government proposes censoring porn websites that are not age verified
SanDisk SDCZ50 Cruzer Blade FlashThere's enough porn already knocking around n people's hard drives to last a life time. By Glyn Moody

See article from arstechnica.co.uk

 

28th October

 Update: Censorship creeps...

Open Rights Group reports on the clamour of MPs, notably Claire Perry, to add website blocking into the measures against adult websites that do not implement age verification
Link Here  full story: UK Governments Consults on Age Checks for Porn...Government proposes censoring porn websites that are not age verified
House of Commons logoThe current wording of the Digital Economy Bill punishes foreign adult websites who do not implement age verification by suffocating them from payments and advertising. It does not at the moment facilitate such websites by being blocked by ISPs. Open Rights Group reports on a clamour by censorial MPs to table amendment to give powers to block non-complying websites. I suspect that in reality the security services would not be very appreciative as maybe massive use of VPNs and the like would hinder surveillance of criminals and terrorists. The Open Rights Group reports:

Now we want censorship: porn controls in the Digital Economy Bill are running out of control

The government's proposal for age verification to access pornography is running out of control. MPs have worked out that attempts to verify adult's ages won't stop children from accessing other pornographic websites: so their proposed answer is to start censoring these websites.

That's right: in order to make age verification technologies "work", some MPs want to block completely legal content from access by every UK citizen . It would have a massive impact on the free expression of adults across the UK. The impact for sexual minorities would be particularly severe.

This only serves to illustrate the problems with the AV proposal. Age verification was always likely to be accompanied by calls to block "non-compliant" overseas websites, and also to be extended to more and more categories of "unsuitable" material.

We have to draw a line. Child protection is very important, but let's try to place this policy in some context:

  • 70% of UK households have no children

  • Take up of ISP filters is around 10-30% depending on ISP, so roughly in line with expectations and already restricting content in the majority of households with children (other measures may be restricting access in other cases).

  • Most adults access pornography , including a large proportion of women.

     

  • Less that 3% of children aged 9-12 are believed to have accessed inappropriate material

  • Pornography can and will be circulated by young people by email, portable media and private messaging systems

  • The most effective protective measures are likely to be to help young people understand and regulate their own behaviour through education, which the government refuses to make compulsory

MPs have to ask whether infringing on the right of the entire UK population to receive and impart legal material is a proportionate and effective response to the challenges they wish to address.

Censorship is an extreme response, that should be reserved for the very worst, most harmful kinds of unlawful material: it impacts not just the publisher, but the reader. Yet this is supposed to be a punishment targeted at the publishers, in order to persuade the sites to "comply".

If website blocking was to be rolled out to enforce AV compliance, then the regulator would be forced to consider whether to block a handful of websites, and fail to "resolve" the accessibility of pornography, or else to try to censor thousands of websites, with the attendant administrative burden and increasing likelihood of errors.

You may ask: how likely is this to become law? Right now, Labour seem to be considering this approach as quite reasonable. If Labour did support these motions in a vote, together with a number of Conservative rebels, this amendment could easily be added to the Bill.

Another area where the Digital Economy Bill is running out of control is the measures to target services who "help" pornography publishers. The Bill tries to give duties to "ancillary services" such as card payment providers or advertising networks, to stop the services from making money from UK customers. However, the term is vague. They are defined as someone who:

provide[s], in the course of a business, services which enable or facilitate the making available of pornographic material or prohibited material on the internet by the [publisher]

Ancillary services could include website hosts, search engines, DNS services, web designers, hosted script libraries, furniture suppliers ... this needs restriction just for the sake of some basic legal certainty.

Further problems are arising for services including Twitter, who operate on the assumption that adults can use them to circulate whatever they like, including pornography. It is unclear if or when they might be caught by the provisions. They are also potentially "ancillary providers" who could be forced to stop "supplying" their service to pornographers to UK customers. They might therefore be forced to block adult content accounts to UK adults, with or without age verification.

The underlying problem starts with the strategy to control access to widely used and legal content through legislative measures. This is not a sane way to proceed. It has and will lead to further calls for control and censorship as the first steps fail. More calls to "fix" the holes proceed, and the UK ends up on a ratchet of increasing control. Nothing quite works, so more fixes are needed. The measures get increasingly disproportionate.

Website blocking needs to be opposed, and kept out of the Bill.

 

20th October

  A blackmailers, hackers, spammers, phishers charter...

Open Rights Groups notes that the Digital Economy Bill offers no meaningful protections for the ID data handed over to porn sites or age verifiers.
Link Here
open rights group 2016 logoThe Digital Economy Bill mandates that pornographic websites must verify the age of their customers. Are there any powers to protect user privacy?

Yesterday we published a blog detailing the lack of privacy safeguards for Age Verification systems mandated in the Digital Economy Bill. Since then, we have been offered two explanations as to why the regulator designate , the BBFC, may think that privacy can be regulated.

The first and most important claim is that Clause 15 may allow the regulation of AV services, in an open-ended and non-specific way:

15 Internet pornography: requirement to prevent access by persons under the age of 18  

  1. A person must not make pornographic material available on the internet on a commercial basis to persons in the United Kingdom except in a way that secures that, at any given time, the material is not normally accessible by persons under the age of 18
  2. [snip]
  3. The age-verification regulator (see section 17) must publish guidance about--

    (a) types of arrangements for making pornographic material available that the regulator will treat as complying with subsection (1);

However, this clause seems to regulate publishers who "make pornography material available on the internet" and what is regulated in 15 (3) (a) is the "arrangements for making pornography available". They do not mention age verification systems, which is not really an "arrangement for making pornography available" except inasmuch as it is used by the publisher to verify age correctly.

AV systems are not "making pornography available".

The argument however runs that the BBFC could under 15 (3) (a) tell websites what kind of AV systems with which privacy standards they can use.

If the BBFC sought to regulate providers of age verification systems via this means, we could expect them to be subject to legal challenge for exceeding their powers. It may seem unfair to a court for the BBFC to start imposing new privacy and security requirements on AV providers or website publishers that are not spelled out and when they are subject to separate legal regimes such as data protection and e-privacy.

This clause does not provide the BBFC with enough power to guarantee a high standard of privacy for end users, as any potential requirements are undefined. The bill should spell out what the standards are, in order to meet an 'accordance with the law' test for intrusions on the fundamental right to privacy.

The second fig leaf towards privacy is the draft standard for age verification technologies drafted by the Digital Policy Alliance. This is being edited by the British Standards Institution, as PAS 1296 . It has been touted as the means by which commercial outlets will produce a workable system.

The government may believe that PAS 1296 could, via Clause 15 (3) (a), be stipulated as a standard that Age Verifcation providers abide by in order to supply publishers, thereby giving a higher standard of protection than data protection law alone.

PAS 1296 provides general guidance and has no means of strong enforcement towards companies that adopt it. It is a soft design guide that provides broad principles to adopt when producing these systems.

Contrast this, for instance, with the hard and fast contractual arrangements the government's Verify system has in place with its providers, alongside firmly specified protocols. Or card payment processors, who must abide by strict terms and conditions set by the card companies, where bad actors rapidly get switched off.

The result is that PAS 1296 says little about security requirements , data protection standards, or anything else we are concerned about. It stipulates that the age verification systems cannot be sued for losing your data. Rather, you must sue the website owner, i.e. the porn site which contracted with the age verifier.

There are also several terminological gaffes such as referring to PII (personally identifying information) which is a US legal concept, rather than EU and UK's 'personal data'; this suggests that PAS 1296 is very much a draft, in fact appears to have been hastily cobbled-together

However you look at it, the proposed PAS 1296 standard is very generic, lacks meaningful enforcement and is designed to tackle situations where the user has some control and choice, and can provide meaningful consent. This is not the case with this duty for pornographic publishers. Users have no choice but to use age verification to access the content, and the publishers are forced to provide such tools.

Pornography companies meanwhile have every reason to do age verification as cheaply as possible, and possibly to harvest as much user data as they can, to track and profile users, especially where that data may in future, at the slip of a switch, be used for other purposes such as advertising-tracking. This combination of poor incentives has plenty of potential for disastrous consequences.

What is needed is clear, spelt out, legally binding duties for the regulator to provide security, privacy and anonymity protections for end users. To be clear, the AV Regulator, or BBFC, does not need to be the organisation that enforces these standards. There are powers in the Bill for it to delegate the regulator's responsbilties. But we have a very dangerous situation if these duties do not exist.

 

 

19th October

 Update: A database of the UK's porn habits. What could possibly go wrong?...

The Government wants people who view pornography to show that they are over 18, via Age Verification systems. by Jim Killock of Open Rights Group
Link Here  full story: David Cameron's Internet Porn Ban...Attempting to ban everything on the internet

open rights group 2016 logoThe Government wants people who view pornography to show that they are over 18, via Age Verification systems. This is aimed at reducing the likelihood of children accessing inappropriate content.

To this end the Digital Economy Bill creates a regulator that will seek to ensure that adult content websites will verify the age of users, or face monetary penalties, or in the case of overseas sites, ask payment providers such as VISA to refuse to process UK payments for non-compliant providers.

There are obvious problems with this, which we detail elsewhere .

However, the worst risks are worth going into in some detail, not least from the perspective of the Bill Committee who want the Age Verification system to succeed.

As David Austen, from the BBFC, who will likely become the Age Verification Regulator said :

Privacy is one of the most important things to get right in relation to this regime. As a regulator, we are not interested in identity at all. The only thing that we are interested in is age, and the only thing that a porn website should be interested in is age. The simple question that should be returned to the pornographic website or app is, "Is this person 18 or over?" The answer should be either yes or no. No other personal details are necessary.

However, the Age Verification Regulator has no duties in relation to the Age Verification systems. They will make sites verify age, or issue penalties, but they are given no duty to protect people's privacy, security or defend against cyber security risks that may emerge from the Age Verification systems themselves.

David Austen's expectations are unfortunately entirely out of his hands.

Instead, the government appears to assume that Data Protection law will be adequate to deal with the privacy and security risks. Meanwhile, the market will provide the tools.

The market has a plethora of possible means to solve this problem. Some involve vast data trawls through Facebook and social media. Others plan to link people's identity across web services and will provide way to profile people's porn viewing habits. Still others attempt to piggyback upon payment providers and risk confusing their defences against fraud. Many appear to encourage people to submit sensitive information to services that the users, and the regulator, will have little or no understanding of.

And yet with all the risks that these solutions pose, all of these solutions may be entirely data protection compliant. This is because data protection allows people to share pretty much whatever they agree to share, on the basis that they are free to make agreements with whoever they wish, by providing 'consent'.

In other words: Data protection law is simply not designed to govern situations where the user is forced to agree to the use of highly intrusive tools against themselves.

What makes this proposal more dangerous is that the incentives for the industry are poor and lead in the wrong direction. They have no desire for large costs, but would benefit vastly from acquiring user data.

If the government wants to have Age Verification in place, it must mandate a system that increases the privacy and safety of end users, since the users will be compelled to use Age Verification tools. Also, any and all Age Verification solutions must not make Britain's cybersecurity worse overall, e.g. by building databases of the nation's porn-surfing habits which might later appear on Wikileaks.

The Digital Economy Bill's impact on privacy of users should, in human rights law, be properly spelled out (" in accordance with the law ") and be designed to minimise the impacts on people (necessary and proportionate). Thus failure to provide protections places the entire system under threat of potential legal challenges.

User data in these systems will be especially sensitive, being linked to private sexual preferences and potentially impacting particularly badly on sexual minorities if it goes wrong, through data breaches or simple chilling effects. This data is regarded as particularly sensitive in law.

Government, in fact has at its hands a system called Verify which could provide age-verification in a privacy friendly manner. The Government ought to be explaining why the high standards of its own Verify system are not being applied to Age Verification, or indeed, why the government is not prepared to use its own systems to minimise the impacts.

As with web filtering, there is no evidence that Age Verification will prevent an even slightly determined teenager from accessing pornography, nor reduce demand for it among young people. The Government appears to be looking for an easy fix to a complex social problem. The Internet has given young people unprecedented access to adult content but it's education rather than tech solutions that are most likely to address problems arising from this. Serious questions about the efficacy and therefore proportionality of this measure remain.

However, legislating for the Age Verification problem to be "solved" without any specific regulation for any private sector operator who wants to "help" is simply to throw the privacy of the UK's adult population to the mercy of the porn industry. With this mind, we have drafted an amendment to introduce the duties necessary to minimise the privacy impacts which could also reduce if not remove the free expression harms to adults.

 

12th October

 Update: It's a shitty job but someone's happy to do it...

BBFC designated as the porn censor tasked with banning everybody's free porn
Link Here

BBFC logoThe BBFC has signed an agreement with the U.K. government to act as the country's new internet porn censor.

BBFC Director David Austin explained the censor's new role regulating online adult entertainment to a committee in Parliament weighing the 2016 Digital Economy Bill. Austin discussed how the BBFC will approach those sites that are found to be in contravention to U.K. law in regards to verifying that adult content can't be accessed by under 18s.

Austin said that the 2016 Digital Economy Bill now being weighed will achieve a great deal for the BBFC's new role as the age-verification enforcer. The piece of legislation, if given the OK, could impose financial penalties of up to $250,000 for noncomplying adult entertainment sites.

Austin said that the BBFC will methodically start focusing on the largest offending websites, including foreign ones, and notifying them for breaches in the U.K.'s mandatory age-verification laws. Austin said that offending sites will face a notification process that may include the filing of sanctions against sites' business partners, such as payment providers and others that supply ancillary services. Austin also mentioned that sanctioned sites could find web properties blocked by IP address and de-indexed from search engines.

 

12th October

  Age of censorship...

The Open Rights group has provided written evidence to parliament highlighting the serious flaws in the Digital Economy bill that will employ the BBFC to try and snuff out internet porn
Link Here
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Open Rights Group has submitted Written evidence to House of Commons Public Bill Committee on the Digital Economy Bill. The following is the groups views on some of the worst aspects of the Age Verification requirements for 18 rated adult internet porn:

Open Rights Group (ORG) is the United Kingdom's only campaigning organisation dedicated to working to protect the rights to privacy and free speech online. With 3,200 active supporters, we are a grassroots organisation with local groups across the UK. We believe people have the right to control their technology, and oppose the use of technology to control people.

Age Verification

23. We believe the aim of restricting children's access to inappropriate material is a reasonable one; however placing age verification requirements on adults to access legal material throws up a number of concerns which are not easily resolved.24.Our concerns include: whether these proposals will work; the impact on privacy and freedom of expression; and how pornography is defined.

Lack of privacy safeguards

25. New age verification systems will enable the collection of data about people accessing pornographic websites, potentially across different providers or websites. Accessing legal pornographic material creates sensitive information that may be linkedto a real life identity. The current wording of the draft Bill means that this data could be vulnerable to the "Ashley Madison-style" leaks.

26. MindGeek (the largest global adult entertainment operator) estimates there are 20 to 25 million adults in the UK who access adult content regularly. That is over 20 million people that will have to reveal attributes of their identity to a pornographywebsite or a third party company.

27. Current proposals2 for age-verification systems suggest using people's emails, social media accounts, bank details, credit and electoral information, biometrics and mobile phone details. The use of any of this information exposes pornography website users to threats of data mining, identity theft and unsolicited marketing.

28. The currently proposed age-verification systems have minimal regard for the security of the data they will collect.

29. The Bill does not contain provisions to secure the privacy and anonymity of users of pornographic sites. These must be included in the Bill, not merely in guidance issued by the age-verification regulator. They should ensure that the age-verificationsystem, by default, must not be able to identify a user to the pornographic site by leaving persistent data trails. The user information that pornography websites are allowed to store without additional consent should be strictly limited.

Will age verification work?

30. The objective of these proposals is child safety rather than age verification. Policy makers should not measure success by the number of adults using age verification. It is highly likely that children will be able to continue accessing pornographicmaterial, meaning that the policy will struggle to meet its true goal.

31. The Bill does not outline an effective system to administer age verification. It sets out a difficult task to regulate foreign pornography publishers. This will be difficult to enforce. Even if access to pornographic material hosted abroad is blockedin the UK, bypassing website blocks is very easy - for example through the use of VPNs. Using VPNs is not technically difficult and could easily be used by teenagers to circumvent age verification.

32. Young people will still be able to access pornographic materials through some mainstream social media websites that are not subject to age verification, and from peer-to-peer networks.

33. As with ISP and mobile phone filters, age verification may prevent young children from accidentally finding pornographic material but it is unlikely to restrict a tech-savvy teenager.

Discrimination against sexual minorities and small business

34. The age verification systems will impose disproportionate costs on small publishers. No effective and efficient age verification system has been presented and it is very likely the costs imposed on smaller publishers will cause them to go out of business 3 .

35. Smaller publishers of adult materials often cater for sexual minorities or people with special needs. The costs associated with implementing age verification systems threaten the existence of these sites and thus the ability of particular groupsto express their sexuality by using the services of smaller pornographic publishers.

36. It is unclear whether adults will trust age verification systems, especially if they appear to identify them to the sites. It is possible that there will be a dissuasive effect on adults wishing to receive legal material. This would be a negativeimpact on free expression, and would be likely to disproportionately impact people from sexual minorities.

Definition of pornographic material

37. The definitions of pornographic material included in the Bill are much broader than what is socially accepted as harmful pornography. The Bill not only covers R18 materials typically described as "hardcore pornography", which offline can only be acquiredin licensed sex shops, but also 18-rated materials of a sexual nature. The boundaries of 18 classification are dynamic and reflect social consensus on what is acceptable with some restrictions. Today this would include popular films such as Fifty Shadesof Gray. This extension of the definition of pornography to cover all "erotic" 18 rated films also raises questions as to why violent - but not sexual - materials rated as 18 should then be accessible online.

38. Hiding some of these materials or making them more difficult to access puts unjustifiable restrictions on people's freedom of expression. Placing 18-rated materials beyond the age-verification wall under the same category as hardcore pornography willdiscourage people from exploring topics related to their sexuality.

Suggestions for improvement

39. The online age verification proposed in the Bill is unworkable and will not deliver what Government set out to do. We urge the Government to find more effective solutions to deliver their objectives on the age verification. The online age verificationshould be dropped from the Bill in its current version. 40. The updated version of age verification should incorporate:

41. 1) Privacy safeguards

The regulator should have specific duties to ensure the systems are low risk. For instance, Age verification should not be be in place unless privacy safeguards are strong. Any age verification system should not create wider security risks, for instanceto credit card systems, or through habituating UK Internet users into poor security practices.

42. Users of adult websites should have clarity on the liability of data breaches and what personal data is at risk.

42. 2) Safeguards for sexual minorities

Requirements should be proportionate to the resources available and the likelihood of access by minors. Small websites that cater for sexual minorities may fall under the commercial threshold.

43. 3) Remove 18-rated materials from the definition of pornographic materials

Placing all materials of a sexual nature under the definition of pornography is not helpful and will greatly increase the impact of these measures on the human right to impart and receive information, including of older children and young adults.

Open Rights Group make equally valid arguments against the criminalisation of file sharing  and the introduction of many features of an ID card to tie together vast amounts or personal data held in a variety of government databases.

Red the full article from openrightsgroup.org

 

11th October

 Update: Jailing everybody...

The Crown Persecution Service outlines changes to widen the scope of prosecutions for insults on the internet
Link Here  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
Crown Prosecution ServiceSocial media users who encourage flame wars or retweet the doxing (revealing identifying information with malicious intent) of others are set to be punished more severely by British prosecutors.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)'s latest Guidelines on prosecuting cases involving communications sent via social media target doxing, online mobs, fake social media profiles and other social media misbehaviour.

Also included in the latest version of the guidance is a specific encouragement to prosecutors to charge those who egg on others to break social media speech laws. Those who encourage others to commit a communications offence may be charged with encouraging an offence under the Serious Crime Act 2007, warns the guidance.

In a Kafka-esque twist, the guidance also includes this chilling line, discussing how prosecutors can prove the criminal offence of sending a grossly offensive message, under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003:

The offence is committed by sending the message. There is no requirement that any person sees the message or be offended by it.

Another nasty touch is that the CPS will allow victims to decide whether crimes are deemed to be 'hate crimes' and therefore attract more severe penalties. The CPS policy consultation defines race/religion hate crimes as follows:

Crimes involving hostility on the basis of race or religion

The reporting and prosecution of hate crime are shaped by two definitions; one is subjective and is based on the perception of the victim and the other is objective and relies on supporting evidence.

Both the subjective and objective definitions refer to hostility, not hatred. There is no statutory definition of hostility and the everyday or dictionary definition is applied, encompassing a broad spectrum of behaviour.

We have an agreed definition with the police for identifying and flagging cases involving hostility on the basis of race or religion. The joint definition is:

Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on a person's race or religion or perceived race or religion.

The equivalent paragraph an disability hate crime adds explaining how the CPS has waved its hands and extended the scope:

This definition is wider than the statutory definition, to ensure we capture all relevant cases:

The guidance also encourages prosecutors to treat social media crimes committed against persons serving the public more seriously than nasty words directed against their fellow members of the public. Similarly, coordinated attacks by different people should also attract greater prosecutorial attention.

Prosecution in all cases is said to be less likely if swift and effective action has been taken by the suspect and/or others, for example service providers, to remove the communication .

David Cameron

In July 2013, UK prime minister David  Cameron announced a series of measures to censor the internet.

Petitions

Do Not Force ISP Filtering of Pornography and Other Content

David Cameron: Stop Sleepwalking the UK into Censorship
 

Campaigns

Censorship Policies

All internet users will have to choose network level website blocking. For new users by the end of 2013. For existing customers by end of 2014. The subscriber making the choices will be subject to age verification and further updates to the blocking options may only be made by the account holder.

Website blocking to be applied to all new mobile phones

Prohibited possession of extreme pornography will be extended to scenes of simulated rape.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) is to draw up a blacklist of banned Google search terms, Chinese style.

Hardcore services on Connected TVs to be restricted to videos within BBFC R18 guidelines

There will be stronger powers for watchdogs to investigate the hidden internet -- heavily encrypted forums and pages that allow abusers to cover their tracks

Adult content will be banned on public WiFi

Ofcom to oversee this implementation of these measures.