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EU Censorship News


2021: Jan-March

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Sexual Expression is Being Banned Online...

Free Speech Coalition Europe petitions the EU about considering the rights of sex workers in upcoming internet censorship laws


Link Here29th March 2021
Full story: Internet Censorship in EU...EU introduces swathes of internet censorship law
The Free Speech Coalition Europe is a group representing the adult trade. It has organised a petition to The Members of the European Parliament of the IMCO, JURI and LIBE Committees on the subject of how new EU internet censorship laws will impact sex workers. The petition reads:

10 Steps to a Safer Digital Space that Protects the Rights of Sexuality Professionals, Artists and Educators

"Online platforms have become integral parts of our daily lives, economies, societies and democracies."

Not our words but those of the European Commission. And after more than a year in the grips of a global pandemic, this statement rings truer than ever before. So why are some of society's already most marginalised people being excluded from these necessary spaces?

Sexual Expression is Being Banned Online

Sex in almost all its guises is being repressed in the public online sphere and on social media like never before. Accounts focused on sexuality -- from sexuality professionals, adult performers and sex workers to artists, activists and LGBTIQ folks, publications and organisations -- are being deleted without warning or explanation and with little regulation by private companies that are currently able to enforce discriminatory changes to their terms and conditions without explanation or accountability to those affected by these changes. Additionally, in many cases it is impossible for the users to have their accounts reinstated -- accounts that are often vitally linked to the users' ability to generate income, network, organise and share information.

Unpacking the Digital Services Act (DSA)

At the same time as sexual expression is being erased from digital spaces, new legislation is being passed in the European Union to safeguard internet users' online rights. The European Commission's Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act encompass upgraded rules governing digital services with their focus, in part, building a safer and more open digital space. These rules will apply to online intermediary services used by millions every day, including major platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Amongst other things, they advocate for greater transparency from platforms, better-protected consumers and empowered users.

With the DSA promising to "shape Europe's digital future" and "to create a safer digital space in which the fundamental rights of all users of digital services are protected", it's time to demand that it's a future that includes those working, creating, organising and educating in the realm of sexuality. As we consider what a safer digital space can and should look like, it's also time to challenge the pervasive and frankly puritanical notion that sexuality -- a normal and healthy part of our lives -- is somehow harmful, shameful or hateful.

How the DSA Can Get It Right

The DSA is advocating for "effective safeguards for users, including the possibility to challenge platforms' content moderation decisions". In addition to this, the Free Speech Coalition Europe demands the following:

  • Platforms need to put in place anti-discrimination policies and train their content moderators so as to avoid discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, or profession -- the same community guidelines need to apply as much to an A-list celebrity or mainstream media outlet as they do to a stripper or queer collective;

  • Platforms must provide the reason to the user when a post is deleted or account is restricted or deleted. Shadowbanning is an underhanded means for suppressing users' voices. Users should have the right to be informed when they are shadowbanned and to challenge the decision;

  • Platforms must allow for the user to request a revision of a content moderation's decision, platforms must ensure moderation actions take place in the users' location, rather than arbitrary jurisdictions which may have different laws or custom; e.g., a user in Germany cannot be banned by reports & moderation in the middle east, and must be reviewed by the European moderation team;

  • Decision-making on notices of reported content as specified in Article 14 of the DSA should not be handled by automated software, as these have proven to delete content indiscriminately. A human should place final judgement.

  • The notice of content as described in Article 14.2 of the DSA should not immediately hold a platform liable for the content as stated in Article 14.3, since such liability will entice platforms to delete indiscriminately after report for avoiding such liability, which enables organized hate groups to mass report and take down users;

  • Platforms must provide for a department (or, at the very least, a dedicated contact person) within the company for complaints regarding discrimination or censorship;

  • Platforms must provide a means to indicate whether you are over the age of 18 as well as providing a means for adults to hide their profiles and content from children (e.g. marking profiles as 18+); Platforms must give the option to mark certain content as "sensitive";

  • Platforms must not reduce the features available to those who mark themselves as adult or adult-oriented (i.e. those who have marked their profiles as 18+ or content as "sensitive"). These profiles should then appear as 18+ or "sensitive" when accessed without a login or without set age, but should not be excluded from search results or appear as "non-existing";

  • Platforms must set clear, consistent and transparent guidelines about what content is acceptable, however, these guidelines cannot outright ban users focused on adult themes; e.g., you could ban highly explicit pornography (e.g., sexual intercourse videos that show penetration), but you'd still be able to post an edited video that doesn't show penetration;

  • Platforms cannot outright ban content intended for adult audiences, unless a platform is specifically for children, or >50% of their active users are children.

 

 

Offsite Article: A dangerous rap...


Link Here1st March 2021
Like Pablo Hasťl, Spain wants me jailed for rap lyrics. By ValtÚnyc

See article from theguardian.com

 

 

Blasphemy Behometh...

Polish court fines heavy metal frontman for supposed blasphemy


Link Here18th February 2021
Full story: Blasphemy in Poland...Under duress for minor comments about religion
Nergal is the frontman of the heavy metal band Behometh. He has just been fined about £3,500 for blasphemy for allegedly stamping on artwork that depicts the Virgin Mary.

Nergal posted the photograph from a shoot for his Me And That Man project on Facebook in 2019.

He has now disputed the presumably lower court claim and the case is now expected to proceed to a full trial. If found guilty the frontman could face up to two years in prison.

Conservative legal group Ordo Iuris and an organisation known as Towarzystwo Patriotyczne (The Patriotic Society) claim to have notified authorities that Nergal had allegedly offended the religious feelings of four people, including a politician from Poland's ruling conservative coalition, when he first posted the photo.

The prosecutors' evidence was said to have been backed by the witness testimony of an 'expert' in religious studies who deemed that treading with a shoe on the image of the Mother of God is an offence against religious feelings.

 

 

Establishing a Freedom of Speech Council...

Poland publishes a bill aimed at preventing social media companies from unfairly taking down people's accounts


Link Here13th February 2021
Full story: Internet Censorship in Poland...In the name of dangerous gambling
The Polish government has published a new draft bill on freedom of speech on social media platforms. The Minister of Justice said that freedom of speech and debate is the cornerstone of democracy and censoring statements, especially online, where most political discussions and ideological disputes take place these days, infringes on those freedoms. Therefore, Poland should have regulations in place to prevent abuse on the part of internet tycoons, which are increasingly limiting this freedom under the auspices of protecting it.

The draft act envisages the appointment of the Freedom of Speech Council, which it claims would safeguard the constitutional freedom of expression on social networking sites. The council would comprise law and new media 'experts' and it would be appointed by the lower chamber of the Polish Parliament for a six-year term of office, by a qualified (3/5) majority.

The draft act also provides that if a website blocks an account or deletes a certain entry, even though its content does not violate/infringe upon Polish law, the user will be able to lodge a complaint with the service provider. The provider must confirm that the complaint has been received and will then have 48 hours to consider it. If the provider dismisses the complaint, the user will be able to appeal that decision to the Freedom of Speech Council, which will consider the appeal within seven days. The council will proceed in closed sessions. It will not take evidence from witnesses, parties, expert opinions and visual inspections, and the evidentiary proceedings before the council will boil down to evidence submitted by the parties to the dispute.

If the council deems the appeal justified, it may order the website to immediately restore the blocked content or account. Thereafter, having received the order, the provider will have no more than 24 hours to comply. Failure to comply with the council's order may lead to large fines.

 

 

Ticking down to impossible deadlines...

Italy's data protection censor forces TikTok to immediately block all users who have not age verified


Link Here24th January 2021
Italy's data protection censor has ordered video sharing app TikTok to temporarily block the accounts of any users whose ages can't be confirmed. The order comes after the death of a 10-year-old girl in Palermo, whose parents told authorities their daughter was participating in a blackout challenge she saw on the app. The child died of asphyxiation, and authorities are investigating whether anyone invited her to try the challenge.

The Italian Data Protection Authority ordered TikTok to block unverified users in Italy until at least February 15th. The temporary suspension of unverified accounts in Italy bans TikTok from further processing user data for which there is no absolute certainty of age and, consequently, of compliance with the provisions related to the age requirement.

Under its terms of service, users must be at least 13 years old to sign up for an account on TikTok, but Italian authorities said it's easy to get around that rule. TikTok has a version of its app in the US for children under 13-- TikTok for Younger Users wich operates with limited content and interaction.

Earlier this month, TikTok updated the default privacy settings for users between 13 and 15 years old, putting limits on who can see and comment on their videos.

 

 

The last company in the world you'd want to hand over personal details to...

Google starts demanding identity verification to watch adult flagged YouTube videos


Link Here 21st January 2021
Back in September 2020, Google announced that it would be demanding identity verification for those wanting to watch videos Google has decided should be restricted to adults, Google explained:

In line with upcoming regulations, like the European Union's Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD), we will be introducing a new age verification step over the next few months. As part of this process some European users may be asked to provide additional proof of age when attempting to watch mature content. If our systems are unable to establish that a viewer is above the age of 18, we will request that they provide a valid ID or credit card to verify their age.

Well now it seems that Google is now implementing this policy and several Melon Farmers readers have reported that they have been blocked from viewing adult rated videos on YouTube. Google demands either a credit card transaction or else hand over personal details on government issued ID.


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