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EU Censorship News


2020: Oct-Dec

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A Digital Observatory...

Spain sets up an internet censorship system in the name of monitoring 'fake news'


Link Here11th December 2020
Full story: Internet Censorship in Spain...Age verification debated in Parliament
More details have emerged on the censorship apparatus operated by Spain's Socialist Party (PSOE)-Podemos government. A new cyber-monitoring tool, known as ELISA, has been rolled out across the country, which will scour the internet for supposed instances of disinformation and report them to Spain's central government for further action.

ELISA began by monitoring only a few dozen web pages. However, its surveillance operation has now expanded to around 350 sites. It has been described as a Digital Observatory, designed to facilitate the monitoring of open sources, as well as the profiling of media and social networks.

To avoid any judicial oversight, ELISA will supposedly only monitor open source data, rather than private communications. It will nonetheless mine vast quantities of information on online sources, social media usage, news platforms and other internet content.

ELISA's development and implementation is the latest in a series of internet-monitoring and censorship measures recently made public in Spain.  Revelations about the CCN's ELISA tool come hot on the heels of a new protocol, the Procedure for Intervention against Disinformation. It allows the state to monitor and suppress internet content, under the pretext of combatting fake news and disinformation.

This gives the Spanish government full decision-making power to determine what is or is not fake news, and makes legal provision for constant state surveillance of social media platforms and the media more broadly to detect disinformation and formulate a political response.

 

 

Banned Books...

A museum of forbidden literature in Estonia


Link Here8th December 2020
A museum of forbidden literature has opened in the Old Town of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. The aim of the museum is to present banned, burned or censored books to the general public from different parts of the world.

The museum explained in a statement:

In the museum, books from different parts of the world will be exhibited to tell their stories and discuss issues related to the free expression of ideas.

The aim is to conduct initial research on the history of censorship in Estonia, focussing on the period of Soviet occupation. In the museum, visitors can read books, touch them, read them and buy most of them.

Books are categorised by country -- forbidden sections can be found from the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, China, but also from the US. There is also a section of books that have been burned for various reasons throughout history.

The museum is open every Friday and Saturday from 11 AM to 6 PM.

 

 

The Digital Services Act...

The EU Commission president introduces the next round of internet censorship law


Link Here2nd December 2020
Full story: Internet Censorship in EU...EU introduces swathes of internet censorship law
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, has introduced a new swathe of internet regulation. She said the commission would be rewriting the rulebook for our digital market with stricter rules for online content, from selling unsafe products to posting 'hate speech'.

Von der Leyen told the online Web Summit:

No-one expects all digital platforms to check all the user content that they host. This would be a threat to everyone's freedom to speak their mind. ...But... if illegal content is notified by the competent national authorities, it must be taken down. More pressure

The Digital Services Act will replace the EU's 2000 e-commerce directive. Due to come into force on Wednesday, 2 December, it has now been delayed until next week.

Likely to put more pressure on social-media platforms to take down and block unlawful content more quickly, the new rules will almost certainly be contested by companies such as Google and Facebook, which now face far stricter censorship both in Europe and the US, following claims about the the supposed spread of 'fake news' and 'hate speech'.

 

 

Censorship chit chat...

The EU's anti-terrorist coordinator calls for the censorship of in-game chat


Link Here30th November 2020
The EU's anti-terrorist coordinator Gilles de Kerchove, is urging the censorship of internet game chat lest it could be used to propagate extremist ideologies and even prepare attacks.

The official commented ahead of a proposed Digital Services Act that aims to address US dominance of the internet and to propose censorship measures targeting speech that the EU does not like. De Kerchove commented:

I'm not saying that all the gaming sector is a problem. There are two billion people playing online, and that's all very well ...BUT... you have extreme-right groups in Germany that have come up with games where the aim is to shoot Arabs, or (George) Soros, or Mrs Merkel for her migration policy, etc.

That can be an alternative way to spread ideology, especially of the extreme right but not only them, a way to launder money -- there are currencies created in games that can be exchanged for legal tender

He also suggested the Digital Services Act include a provision forcing providers of encrypted communication to give police and prosecutors unencrypted versions of the messages sent on their services when ordered to do so by a judge.

 

 

Fucking censors...

The Austrian village of Fucking to change its name


Link Here27th November 2020
An Austrian village with the famous name of Fucking has had enough of the mockery and will change its name to Fugging, local leaders have announced.

The tiny village has become something of an attraction because of its name, with road signs regularly stolen. Annoyed locals tried to stop this from happening by encasing the bottom of the signs in concrete. Other hassles included naked couples romping in front of the signs in the name of a photo opportunity.

However local entrepreneurs were able to make a little cash by selling Fucking Christmas cards and more recently a Fucking beer.

 

 

An EU copyright on stupidity...

As with so much EU internet law, the new Copyright Directive was designed by lobbyists, passed by fools, and will prove predictably nonsensical to implement. Germany is now grappling with this impossible predicament


Link Here26th November 2020
Full story: Copyright in the EU...Copyright law for Europe
In view of the implementation deadline in summer 2021, it is becoming increasingly apparent what the transformation of the EU's disgraceful Copyright Directive in Germany could look like. The draft of the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection is now available and is - just like the Directive on which it is based - highly controversial, in particular in terms of the possible implementation of upload filters.

The directive requires platforms to censor copyrighted material as a user attempts to upload a post. It requires the platform to scan the post prior to publication and block it should it contain copyrighted material. However the directive also specifies some legally specified exemptions without the need for licensing, e.g. parodies or so-called pastiches, i.e. remixes, memes, GIFs, mashups, fan art, fan fiction, covers or sampling. But can the automated upload filters detect that copyright material in a post is a pastiche or not?

Lexoligy describes a German variation adding some metrics to this legally permitted fair use:

The draft German Act provides for a minor exception clause for non-commercial use in social media. According to this, reproductions for non-commercial purposes of a small scale will be allowed, even if they have not been licensed (e.g. up to 20 seconds of a film or sound track, 1,000 characters of a text or photographs with a data volume of up to 250 kB).

If the public reproduction of a content is not permitted, the service provider is obliged to immediately remove the corresponding content or block access to it upon notification of the rights holder. If the content is permitted the platform must pay the author an appropriate remuneration.

It seems that the envisaged censorship process is for the platform to block the content automatically and then give an opportunity for the user to justify why the content should not be blocked. But this process doesn't sound very viable for an average social media poster. And perhaps the only practical outcome is for all copyright material to be blocked from all user posts with just a few savvy 'influencers' able to work the system.

 

 

Protecting cartoon children...

France blocks access to hentai website


Link Here22nd November 2020
Full story: Internet Censorship in France...Web blocking in the name of child protection
The French government has blocked access to the website of the popular hentai outlet Nhentai, with a new government redirect page warning that the site contain images of child porn.

News of this ban was first reported on November 19th , when multiple French citizens took to social media to report that their attempts to access the page were being denied.

According to the generic block page, users were being redirected to this page by the Ministry of the Interior because you have attempted to connect to a site containing image of child pornography, an act which was being done in order to protect the dignity of the [cartoon] victims of abuse seen in the images and protect the internet users and especially the very young, who did not want to find these images.

The French government also noted that access to the website was banned so that the person who is trying to view this images can be made aware of the gravity of his attraction, in order to fight against the sites that produce these images.

 

 

An EU Advent Calendar...

The EU is pushing for an agreement by Christmas for a new rapid internet take down law applying to terrorist content


Link Here15th November 2020
Full story: Internet Censorship in EU...EU introduces swathes of internet censorship law
EU ministers are discussing a new censorship law this year obliging internet firms to remove what is deemed to be extremist propaganda within an hour of it being reported.

The EU has been discussing such a regulation for more than a year, but the recent terror attacks in France and Austria have given it new urgency.

Interior ministers said the text must be agreed soon with the EU Commission and European Parliament.

Both German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson called for an agreement by Christmas on the new regulation on terrorist content online (TCO).

 

 

Seeking world domination...

Austria adds to the long list of countries that think Facebook should censor worldwide posts according to local sensitivities


Link Here13th November 2020
The Austrian Supreme Court has decided that any censorship demands it places on Facebook must be implemented globally.

The ruling signifies defeat for Facebook in its final appeal in a case that has been running for years. Eva Glawischnig is former Austrian politician who didn't like it when some random Facebook user described her as a traitor and corrupt. She apparently decided it would be easier to censor those accusations than challenge them and has been trying to force Facebook to remove the posts ever since.

A year ago, the EU Court of Justice ruled in her favour, adding that anything that even comes close hurting the claimants feelings should be censored too. This created the absurd situation of making the global Facebook platform beholden to the whims of every country in which it operates.

Facebook took the matter to the Austrian Supreme Court, has just published its ruling. A summary, as reported by Der Standard, is that Facebook must now censor those posts globally or face the legal consequences in Austria and possibly the whole EU.

telecoms.com comments:

The precedent this sets is chilling. Not only is it absurd for one country to be able to dictate what is visible in all others, but the ruling effectively says it's no longer permissible to accuse politicians of corruption. Are you still allowed to accuse other people of corruption? Does this protection only apply to people who can afford to litigate for years? What else can Austria now compel Facebook and other internet companies to do?

 

 

EU is endangering journalists...

The Committee to Protect Journalists expresses concern about an proposal to ban secure encrypted messaging


Link Here10th November 2020
Full story: Internet Encryption in the EU...Encryption is legal for the moment but the authorites are seeking to end this

The Committee to Protect Journalists expressed concern after the Council of the European Union proposed a draft resolution last week calling for national authorities across the EU to have access to encrypted messages as part of criminal investigations into terrorism and organized crime. Journalists rely on encryption to evade surveillance and protect their sources, CPJ has found .

End-to-end encryption prevents authorities, company employees, and hackers from viewing the content of private digital messages, but the resolution proposes unspecified technical solutions to undermine those protections, according to rights groups European Digital Rights and Access Now. The groups said the resolution was drafted without input from privacy experts or journalists.

EU institutions must immediately retract all plans to undermine encryption, which is vital to press freedom and the free flow of information, said Tom Gibson, EU Representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists. Encryption offers essential protection for journalists who routinely communicate and share files electronically. If journalists cannot communicate safely with colleagues and sources, they cannot protect the anonymity of their sources.

The resolution was proposed by Germany, which holds the current presidency of the Council of the European Union, and could serve as a basis for further negotiations with other EU institutions in 2021.

 

 

Endangering adults in the name of protecting the children...

Germany moves towards requiring age verification for porn sites


Link Here 27th October 2020
Full story: Internet Censorship in Germany...Germany considers state internet filtering
In November of 2019, Tobias Schmid began a crusade to regulate some of porn's biggest players. Schmid , the director of the State Media Authority (LMA) of the German state North Rhine-Westphalia, wanted to enforce existing mandatory age laws on porn sites like Pornhub, YouPorn, and xHamster. In practice, this would mean that all visitors to the sites would have to upload pictures of official IDs and risk the data falling into the hands of moralists and blackmailers.

Now, after an almost year long legal scramble and porn sites refusing to back down, it looks like Schmid could get his way. After telecommunication providers like Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom refusing to voluntarily implement DNS blocks against a number of sites, including Pornhub, YouPorn, and MyDirtyHobby, German authorities are now in the process of legally enforcing the bans.

 

 

Dragonfly Eyes...

China demands cuts to translated Chinese novel being published in German


Link Here25th October 2020
Full story: China International Censors...China pressures other countries into censorship
Dragonfly Eyes is a novel written by Cao Wenxuan, a well-known Chinese author of children's and young adult books. The book was licensed for translation into German, but the original Chinese publisher was not happy with the translation and is demanding small cuts and edits to show Chinese characters in the book in a better light.

The Chinese publisher told Nora Frisch, the German publisher of the translation, to take the book off the market pending edits.

Dragonfly Eyes tells the story of a French woman married to a Shanghai entrepreneur. During the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, the woman - by then a grandmother -- is accused of being a spy. She is captured by the Red Guards paramilitary movement, who shave off her hair and parade her through the streets. When infighting breaks out between various factions, she is able to escape.

The corrections which the Chinese publisher demanded from Frisch concerned a few passages in the last chapter. In the original version, the French woman asks one of the Red Guards, an 18-year-old girl, to lend her a scarf so she can cover her head. In the revised version, it's the girl who offers the scarf to the old woman.

As Chinese authorities have begun paying more attention to how China is perceived abroad in recent years, censorship has increased. President Xi Jinping has repeatedly stressed that he expects Chinese media and publishers to contribute to the country's soft power by telling China's story well.

The impact of this policy recently became apparent in Germany, when Thalia, a large chain of bookstores, suddenly designated an unusual amount of shelf space to Chinese literature in some of its stores. Clients quickly noticed that the shelves lacked any literature critical of the Communist Party. Instead, speeches by Xi Jinping were front and center.

Thalia later admitted that the display had been curated by China Book Trading, a German subsidiary of China International Publishing Group, which is owned by the ruling Communist Party.

 

 

The e-Commerce Directive...

The EU's next round of strangulation of European internet businesses via red tape and censorship


Link Here23rd October 2020
Full story: Internet Censorship in EU...EU introduces swathes of internet censorship law

The European Union has made the first step towards a significant overhaul of its core platform regulation, the e-Commerce Directive .

In order to inspire the European Commission, which is currently preparing a proposal for a Digital Services Act Package , the EU Parliament has voted on three related Reports ( IMCO , JURI , and LIBE reports), which address the legal responsibilities of platforms regarding user content, include measures to keep users safe online, and set out special rules for very large platforms that dominate users' lives.

Clear EFF's Footprint

Ahead of the votes, together with our allies , we argued to preserve what works for a free Internet and innovation, such as to retain the E-Commerce directive's approach of limiting platforms' liability over user content and banning Member States from imposing obligations to track and monitor users' content. We also stressed that it is time to fix what is broken: to imagine a version of the Internet where users have a right to remain anonymous, enjoy substantial procedural rights in the context of content moderation, can have more control over how they interact with content, and have a true choice over the services they use through interoperability obligations .

It's a great first step in the right direction that all three EU Parliament reports have considered EFF suggestions. There is an overall agreement that platform intermediaries have a pivotal role to play in ensuring the availability of content and the development of the Internet. Platforms should not be held responsible for ideas, images, videos, or speech that users post or share online. They should not be forced to monitor and censor users' content and communication--for example, using upload filters. The Reports also makes a strong call to preserve users' privacy online and to address the problem of targeted advertising. Another important aspect of what made the E-Commerce Directive a success is the "country or origin" principle. It states that within the European Union, companies must adhere to the law of their domicile rather than that of the recipient of the service. There is no appetite from the side of the Parliament to change this principle.

Even better, the reports echo EFF's call to stop ignoring the walled gardens big platforms have become. Large Internet companies should no longer nudge users to stay on a platform that disregards their privacy or jeopardizes their security, but enable users to communicate with friends across platform boundaries. Unfair trading, preferential display of platforms' own downstream services and transparency of how users' data are collected and shared: the EU Parliament seeks to tackle these and other issues that have become the new "normal" for users when browsing the Internet and communicating with their friends. The reports also echo EFF's concerns about automated content moderation, which is incapable of understanding context. In the future, users should receive meaningful information about algorithmic decision-making and learn if terms of service change. Also, the EU Parliament supports procedural justice for users who see their content removed or their accounts disabled.

Concerns Remain

The focus on fundamental rights protection and user control is a good starting point for the ongoing reform of Internet legislation in Europe. However, there are also a number of pitfalls and risks. There is a suggestion that platforms should report illegal content to enforcement authorities and there are open questions about public electronic identity systems. Also, the general focus of consumer shopping issues, such as liability provision for online marketplaces, may clash with digital rights principles: the Commission itself acknowledged in a recent internal document that "speech can also be reflected in goods, such as books, clothing items or symbols, and restrictive measures on the sale of such artefacts can affect freedom of expression." Then, the general idea to also include digital services providers established outside the EU could turn out to be a problem to the extent that platforms are held responsible to remove illegal content. Recent cases ( Glawischnig-Piesczek v Facebook ) have demonstrated the perils of worldwide content takedown orders.

It's Your Turn Now @EU_Commission

The EU Commission is expected to present a legislative package on 2 December. During the public consultation process, we urged the Commission to protect freedom of expression and to give control to users rather than the big platforms. We are hopeful that the EU will work on a free and interoperable Internet and not follow the footsteps of harmful Internet bills such as the German law NetzDG or the French Avia Bill, which EFF helped to strike down . It's time to make it right. To preserve what works and to fix what is broken.

 

 

The Chinese Empire...

China censors French Museum over wrong think about Genghis Khan


Link Here14th October 2020
Full story: China International Censors...China pressures other countries into censorship
A history museum in western France has postponed an exhibition about the Mongol emperor Genghis Khan for three years, citing censorial interference by the Chinese government.

The Château des ducs de Bretagne in Nantes says that it decided to pause the production after Chinese authorities asked that names and terms like "Genghis Khan," "empire," and "Mongol" not be used in the exhibition. The museum also alleges that the Chinese government asked to oversee the exhibition's brochures, legends, and maps.

The museum further detailed that the collaboration was hampered by the interference of the Chinese Bureau of Cultural Heritage, which requested changes that included notably elements of biased rewriting of Mongol culture in favour of a new national narrative.   The museum noted that censorship underscored the hardening ... of the position of the Chinese government against the Mongolian minority.

 

 

Big guns vs big tech...

EU arms up against US internet giants


Link Here12th October 2020
Full story: Internet Censorship in EU...EU introduces swathes of internet censorship law
The European Commission is beefing up its weapons to take on Big Tech.

Under Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, the commission is planning to merge two major legislative initiatives on competition into a single text.

One is the so-called New Competition Tool, a market investigation tool that would allow competition enforcers to act more swiftly and forcefully. The other is a part of the Digital Services Act , a new set of rules due to be unveiled in December for companies like Google, Apple and Amazon. Combined, the new powers would be known as the Digital Markets Act.

The act will include a list of do's and don'ts for so-called gatekeeping platforms -- or those who are indispensable for other companies to reach consumers online -- to curb what it sees as anti-competitive behavior.

 

 

Offsite Article: Challenging UK state snooping...


Link Here11th October 2020
The CJEU has ruled to prevent national legislation from ordering telecommunication companies to transfer data in a general and indiscriminate manner to security agencies, even for purposes of national security

See article from ukhumanrightsblog.com

 

 

Offsite Article: Twitting on users...


Link Here5th October 2020
Full story: Internet Censorship in Germany...Germany considers state internet filtering
Politico reports on German moves to force social media platforms to proactively report hate speech to the government

See article from politico.eu


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