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UK Government Watch

2013: July-Sept

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Nick Clegg Recommends...

Grand Theft Auto V

Link Here21st September 2013
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg believes games like Grand Theft Auto can have a corrosive effect on player behaviour, the politician said on his LBC Radio show. He said:

Clearly these games can have an incredibly powerful, and I suspect in some cases corrosive effect, on someone's behaviour, someone's outlook; they get shut off, they don't talk to other people, they just stay in their living room, their bedroom hunkered down in front of their computer. They occupy a hermetically sealed world of their own and that can have a very detrimental effect.

In a free country, what do you do? Do you start saying to people you can't use it for more than X number of hours? No you can't do that. There are, of course, restrictions around content. But we cannot limit people's use of [video games], certainly not the amount of time they devote to this by law or by edict.

Clegg did not say which research his comments were based on.

Clegg added that parents bear a heavy responsibility to make sure the games their children spend time with are age and content appropriate. He also said that parents should try to ration their children's time spent playing games because overuse can be problematic.



BBC Trust to be Paid Off?...

Government plan to move the censorship of the BBC from the BBC Trust to Ofcom

Link Here8th September 2013
Censorship of the BBC could be moved from the BBFC Trust to Ofcom.

The Sunday Times has reported that the plans are seen as evidence of the government's anger at the scandal-prone corporation, most lately about recent generous payoffs to senior staff. Chris Patten and Mark Thompson are due to appear before the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) tomorrow for a showdown about the payments.

Chris Heaton-Harris, a Conservative member of the PAC, said:

Whoever is telling the truth here, it is clear that the governance of the BBC by the Trust is broken. It has clearly failed to adequately scrutinise the way the corporation has been spending public money.

A senior source at the Culture, Media and Sport department said:

It is clear that the trust, which is both a cheerleader for the BBC and its regulator, does not work. There are contradictions.

Under the plans the BBC would be run on similar lines to Channel 4, which is publicly owned but censored by Ofcom. The corporation has been subject to Ofcom regulation on matters of obscenity, privacy and harm, since 2007, but has maintained its independence on questions of editorial impartiality. The plan would require primary legislation, and would take effect from the BBC's next charter beginning in January 2017.

Tessa Jowell, the former Labour culture secretary who set up the trust, said it should remain as the voice of the licence fee payer and warned that Ofcom might become too powerful..



Update: Incompetent Lawmaking...

Government agrees to amend its disgraceful gagging bill

Link Here6th September 2013
Full story: Election Censorship in the UK...Government proposes widespread censorship a year before election
A negative public reaction to the government's disgraceful lobbying bill and its effect on censoring campaign groups has led to a promise to make significant changes.

Liberal Democrat sources said the government will retreat on some parts of the lobbying bill as early as next week, after campaign groups raised serious concerns that it would have a chilling effect on their campaigns.

The news comes days after MPs attacked the bill as a dog's breakfast and a mess when it was debated for the first time in the House of Commons.

Labour attacked its sinister restrictions on campaigning by campaign groups a year before an election, while backbench Tories expressed reservations about its impact on free speech.

It is understood the government will offer to remove several controversial clauses, including ones that said campaigning could count as political if it procures success for a candidate, even if it does not endorse a specific party. Charities from Oxfam to the Royal British Legion feared this could make them subject to spending limits on political campaigning in the year before an election.

Sources close to Nick Clegg said the amendments would mean no extra charities or third parties would be caught by the restrictions, though some that faced limits in 2010 would still be affected by new limits.

Even with the promised concessions, the lobbying bill will still mean third parties are subject to tougher restrictions on political campaigning.

The Electoral Commission has warned the new spending limits could mean it would have to ask groups in breach of the law to take down blogs or stop political rallies. The watchdog said the bill would create a high degree of uncertainty.



Update: So who decides what moralist propaganda should be taught to kids about porn?...

Sex education should include dangers of menacing internet porn, Nick Clegg warns but accuses the Tories of blocking the idea

Link Here 6th September 2013
Full story: David Cameron's Internet Porn Ban...Attempting to ban everything on the internet



Update: Dictator Dave...

Cameron takes inspiration from Bongoland dictatorships and proposes vague and widespread censorship of political campaigns in the 12 months up to an election

Link Here26th August 2013
Full story: Election Censorship in the UK...Government proposes widespread censorship a year before election
The Electoral Commission , Britain's elections watchdog, has concluded that government plans to censor political campaigning before a general election are flawed and in part unworkable.

In a private briefing sent to interested parties, the commission says that it has significant concerns about the coalition's lobbying bill, that some parts of it may be unenforceable and that it is not at all clear how the new restrictions affecting charities will work.

When the transparency of lobbying, non-party campaigning and trade union administration bill 2013-14 was published in July, the day before MPs broke up for their summer recess, it emerged that, as well as long-expected plans for a statutory register of lobbyists, the bill includes proposals that would drastically censor campaign groups from speaking on political issues in the 12 months before a general election.

In its letter, the commission says the proposed rules about spending at constituency level may be unenforceable , partly because it will often be hard for campaigners to identify with a reasonable level of confidence when an activity has 'no significant effects' in a given constituency .

More broadly, it says the proposed rules about what constitutes election-related activity are not sufficiently clear. The briefing says:

In our view, it is not at all clear how that test will apply in practice to the activities of the many third parties that have other purposes beyond political campaigning. For instance, it seems arguable that the new test could apply to many of the activities of charities, voluntary organisations, blogs, thinktanks and other organisations that engage in debate on public policy.

John Sauven, executive director at Greenpeace , one of more than 100 charity organisations that have expressed concerns about the bill, said the legislation was the most pernicious assault on campaign groups in living memory .

A spokesman for the Electoral Commission said it had significant concerns about the bill and would be explaining them in detail to a select committee in September. The bill's second reading is on 3 September, with its three-day committee stage a week later.



Offsite Article: Anyone for Cinema Pubs?...

Link Here26th August 2013
Vested interest propaganda piece opposing a government idea to open up public film viewing to a wider set of venues than cinemas

See article from



Update: Noting current website filtering inability to distinguish between education and titillation...

Prominent writers warn Cameron that people will be blocked from accessing to educational websites

Link Here23rd August 2013
Full story: David Cameron's Internet Porn Ban...Attempting to ban everything on the internet

   Porn or literature?
Don't bother asking ISPs

The current crop of website blocking options are totally over the top in overblocking with a safety first approach that blocks websites over totally trivial use of eg strong language. It is not clear if the Government or ISPs are intending to upgrade their filters to prevent businesses being trashed over negligent website blocking decisions by automated software. But presumably they will stick with the current crap. Related issues are that educational websites are being likewise blocked merely for using words associated with sexuality.

David Cameron's plan for UK households to block internet porn with default search filters will be very damaging for LGBT people and vulnerable adults who could be denied access to legitimate sexual health and education sites, a group of authors and journalists has warned.

In an open letter to the Prime Minister, prominent figures including the Belle de Jour writer Brooke Magnanti and feminist blogger and author Zoe Margolis, warned that the Government was taking:

A dangerous and misguided approach to internet safety. Focusing on a default 'on' filter ignores the importance of sex and relationship education and sexual health. Worse, you are giving parents the impression that if they install Internet filters they can consider their work is done.

They point out that faults with existing internet service provider filters have been reported numerous times and warn that any default filters could:

Unintentionally block important sites related to sexual health, LGBT issues, or sex and relationship education. This will be very damaging for LGBT young people, for example, or vulnerable adults who may be cut off from important support and advice, in particular those with abusive partners who are also the Internet account holder.

Lee Maguire, technical officer at the civil liberties organisation the Open Rights Group, said that filters could never distinguish:

Between sites that seek to titillate and those with frank discussion of sexuality.

Sites dealing with issues surrounding sexuality are likely to fall foul of miscategorisation as they often contain certain keywords that filters see as inappropriate for children. Even when humans categorise sites, categories will often be set by individuals with their own cultural values.

The open letter, which was also signed by the science-fiction writer Charles Stross and the New Statesman journalist Laurie Penny, said that by promising families one click to protect the whole family , the Prime Minister was:

Giving parents the impression that if they install Internet filters they can consider their work is done. We urge you instead to invest in a programme of sex and relationship education that empowers young people and to revisit the need for this topic to be mandatory in schools. Please drop shallow headline grabbing proposals and pursue serious and demonstrably effective policies to tackle abuse of young people.



Offsite Article: David Miranda, schedule 7 and the danger that all reporters now face...

Link Here 20th August 2013
Full story: The Edward Snowden Revelations...Internet Snooping in the US revealed
The Guardian reports about how the government set round the heavies to destroy Guardian computers related to the Snowden revelations about state snooping. By Alan Rusbridger

See article from



Offsite Article: Anti-Trade Union bill may restrict political comment from a far wider group...

Link Here 20th August 2013
Full story: Election Censorship in the UK...Government proposes widespread censorship a year before election
Proposals in a bill slipped out as Parliament broke for the Summer will gag the TUC, trade unions and every campaign group in the country in what can only be seen as a chilling attack on free speech.

See article from



The high priests of PC given an unholy tangled mess to sort out...

Home Office to be investigated by ASA for mentioning unmentionable people breaking unmentionable laws

Link Here 10th August 2013

An investigation into the Home Office Go Home ad vans campaign has been launched by the UK advert censor following a series of complaints.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) confirmed they launched their investigation after receiving 60 complaints expressing concerns that the ads were reminiscent of slogans used by racist groups to attack immigrants in the past .

The regulator said some complaints also centred around the claim that 106 arrests last week in your area made in the advert was misleading.

Last month, adverts displayed on billboards transported by vans in six London boroughs were driven around in a Government effort to tell overstaying migrants to go home , or face arrest and deportation.



Offsite Article: Anti-Social Legislation Order...

Link Here7th August 2013
A terrifying attack on our civil liberties is going through Parliament

See article from



Update: Never Enough Censorship...

Now the Daily Mail pushes for UK adult websites to be forced into the .xxx top level domain

Link Here5th August 2013
Full story: David Cameron's Internet Porn Ban...Attempting to ban everything on the internet

Britain hosts the third biggest volume of internet pornography in the world and is home to more than half a million sites. There are more than 52million pages of pornographic content in the country registered under the national domain

There are no restrictions on pornographers registering their sites under Britain's domain name, for which a private company called Nominet UK is responsible.

John Carr, an anti-porn campaigner acting as an adviser to the government on child internet safety, called on Nominet to ban websites containing certain words like rape and said the free for all should end. He said that all porn sites should be under the domain name .xxx and declared:

The UK should not provide succour and comfort to porn merchants. Nominet should have a policy that websites registered under the national domain name do not contain depraved or disgusting words. People should not be able to register websites that bring disgrace to this country under the national domain name.

Ed Vaizey, the communications minister, is now writing to Nominet to ask what its plans are to prevent abusive behaviour . He added that he took Carr's complaint 'extremely seriously' .

The evidence that Britain hosts more pornography than any other country apart from the US and Holland will be presented by a web analysis company called MetaCert this week. Apparently Britain hosted six times as many porn web pages as Germany in fourth place and ten times as many as France in fifth place. The US is home to nearly two-thirds of the world's pornography.



Offsite Article: First they came for the porn stars: the problem with an online filter...

Link Here 5th August 2013
The idea that you can tackle misogyny with a porn filter or a plastic bag is one of the more ludicrous conceits of social conservatives in modern times.

See article from



Offsite Article: Crap website blocking algorithms by Fortiguard...

Link Here3rd August 2013
Full story: David Cameron's Internet Porn Ban...Attempting to ban everything on the internet
Blocked! Pornography, The Filter and Me by Pat Higgins

See article from



Offsite Article: Should we ban banning things?...

Link Here29th July 2013
Full story: David Cameron's Internet Porn Ban...Attempting to ban everything on the internet
The political addiction to mere prohibitions (without even bothering to think through the consequences) by David Allen Green

See article from



Comment: Unattractive Bullying...

Government attempts to censor the BBC over heinous crimes against political correctness, a misjudged comment about a sportswoman's looks

Link Here27th July 2013

The BBC has dismissed a call by the culture secretary to take further action over Wimbledon commentator John Inverdale's sexist comments, with the corporation saying it considers the matter closed .

Director general Tony Hall has fired off a response to Maria Miller , who said in a letter published on Thursday that Inverdale's remarks about Marion Bartoli undermined her efforts to promote women in sport, admitting that the incident was totally unacceptable and fell well beneath the standards we expect of our presenters .

Despite Inverdale issuing an on-air apology and sending a letter to Bartoli, Miller called for an explanation about further action to be taken by the BBC.

The BBC considers the incident, which attracted more than 700 complaints , to have been dealt with -- a spokesman said The BBC considers this matter closed now.

Offsite Comment: How do you solve a problem like Maria Miller?

27th July 2013. See  article from by Patrick Hayes

Attempts to influence the media by the head of what was known as the ministry of fun are no laughing matter.



Let Us Know How You Get On...

Government does not seem particularly interested in ATVOD's bizarre idea to ban card payments for online porn

Link Here27th July 2013

ATVOD has the bizarre idea that online porn is likely to 'deprave and corrupt' children. Hence the Video on Demand Censor claims that the banks could ban card payments on the grounds that the porn contravenes the Obscene Publications Act.

However online porn has been available for some time and there's not much evidence of masses of depraved children. Most campaigners against online porn are more realistically concerned that it provides a bad education for children, and that boys may be learning to treat girls less respectfully than they should.

Floella Benjamin, a member of the House of Lords asked the Government this week:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the action taken by the Authority for Television on Demand (ATVOD) to ensure that United Kingdom websites providing explicit pornography keep such material out of reach of those aged under 18; and whether they will take steps to assist ATVOD in acting in relation to websites operating from outside the United Kingdom.

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the suggestion by the Authority for Television on Demand that United Kingdom financial institutions should consider whether it is possible to decline to process payments from the United Kingdom to the operations of non-United Kingdom websites which appear to be breaking the Obscene Publications Act 1959 by allowing children to access explicit hardcore pornography.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble answered:

I welcome the work that the Authority for Television on Demand (ATVOD) has undertaken in this area to explore with UK financial institutions and card companies the possibility of declining to process payments to websites operating from outside the EU which allow under 18s in the UK to view explicit pornographic content. The protection of children online is of the utmost importance and we will watch this work with interest. ATVOD provided a report on this area to the UKCCIS executive board on July, 8th, 2013 and we look forward to receiving further reports on their progress in due course.

The reply doesn't seem to imply much pro-active support from the government, just a a vague interest to see how ATVOD gets on.



Offsite Article: The Porn Minister...

Link Here25th July 2013
Letter to David Cameron, a YouTube rap by Dan Bull See video from YouTube



Update: Banning Everything Except Page 3...

David Cameron draws the censorship line at banning Page 3

Link Here23rd July 2013
Full story: Page 3 Girls...Miserable campaigners whinge about page 3 fun

Daily Mail Dave delivered a speech promising to censor more or less anything on the internet but has drawn the line at banning sexy pictures in newspapers.

Cameron said he would never support a ban on topless images on page 3 of the Sun newspaper. Pressed to explain the distinction between his censorial position on online pornographic images and his laissez-faire stance on topless images in newspapers, he said that it was up to consumers whether or not they wanted to buy the Sun [or Daily Mail].

Asked by Woman's Hour presenter Jane Garvey whether he was worried that his daughters could be confronted by Page 3, he said:

This is an area where we should leave it to consumers to decide, rather than to regulators ... As politicians we have to decide where is the right place for regulation, where is the right place for legislation, where is the right place for consumers to decide.

The founder of the No More Page 3 campaign, Lucy Holmes, said she thought Cameron's willingness to acknowledge the dangers of online pornography while ignoring the parallel dangers of topless images on page 3 of Britain's best-read newspaper was peculiar :

David Cameron must see that these pictures are damaging for women. Is he afraid of upsetting the Sun?



More Innocent People to be Jailed...

Cameron looks set to extend Dangerous Pictures Act to the depiction of rape and other serious sexual offences

Link Here20th July 2013
Full story: David Cameron's Internet Porn Ban...Attempting to ban everything on the internet

Daily Mail spokesman David Cameron is set to announce that the Dangerous Pictures Act will be extended to cover the glorified depiction of rape and other serious sexual offences.

In a speech on Monday, David Cameron will also laud agreements between the Government and internet firms to restrict access to pornography online to those opting to see certain sites and to introduce new censorship requirement for public Wi-Fi connections.

The Government hopes that such actions will convince Daily Mail readers that it is taking action.

Internet firms have also called for tougher legal safeguards on pornography if ministers want to police the web, as the companies do not believe they should be held responsible for deciding what content should be restricted.

The Telegraph has obtained a letter to campaign organisation Rape Crisis South London from Damian Green, the Policing Minister, in which he said the Coalition is actively considering amending legislation on so-called rape pornography .

In his letter Green said: The Government is now actively considering the serious matters [raised by campaigners] including amending the existing criminal law.



Update: Governed by the Daily Mail...

Government tries to push ISPs to spin their internet censorship options as default blocking

Link Here16th July 2013
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

A letter sent to the UK's four leading ISPs from the government has made them very cross indeed. So cross that someone in the industry has passed it to the Rory Cellan-Jones of the BBC.

The letter comes from the Department for Education but it sets out a list of demands from Downing Street, with the stated aim of allowing the prime minister to make an announcement shortly. The companies are asked, among other things, for a commitment to fund an awareness campaign for parents. They're not particularly happy about promising cash for what the letter concedes is an unknown campaign

But it also asks them to change the language they are using to describe the website censoring options they will be offering to internet users. Instead of talking of active choice + , they are urged to use the term default-on.

A person at one ISP told Cellan-Jones the request was staggering - asking us to market active choice as default-on is both misleading and potentially harmful .

The letter reads:

Dear All,

I am emailing to ask for some specific action which the prime minister plans to announce shortly. This follows a meeting yesterday at No 10 yesterday to discuss a range of child internet safety issues including parental controls and filters. The prime minister would like to make some further specific requests of industry and his office have asked us to ask you when you could deliver the following actions.

1. Implementing browser intercept

I understand that Talk Talk will be trialling a browser intercept to force existing customers to choose either to proceed with parental controls (pre-ticked), choose their own settings or turn them off completely. The prime minister wants to announce that by the end of the year, every household with a broadband internet connection will have had to make a decision to opt-out of installing filters. Will the other three ISPs consider making a commitment to adopting this approach - even before it has been trialled?

2. Age-verification systems/closed-loop

The prime minister expects customers to be required to prove their age/identity before any changes to the filters are made. I understand that you will all be implementing closed-loop systems which will notify account holders of any changes that are made to the filters and that you have robust systems in place but please could you all confirm the precise information that is required to enable customer to access, set-up and change their filters?

3. Awareness campaign for parents

I understand that it was agreed at Claire Perry's meeting a few weeks ago that Talk Talk, BT and others would undertake some further research to establish what the focus of the campaign should be. The prime minister would like to be able to announce a collective financial commitment from industry to fund this campaign. I know that it will be challenging for you to commit to an unknown campaign but please can you indicate what sum you will pledge to this work that the PM can announce.

4. Using the phrase default-on instead of active-choice +

The prime minister believes that there is much more that we can all do to improve how we communicate the current position on parental internet controls and that there is a need for a simplified message to reassure parents and the public more generally. Without changing what you will be offering (ie active-choice +), the prime minister would like to be able to refer to your solutions are default-on as people will have to make a choice not to have the filters (by unticking the box). Can you consider how to include this language (or similar) in the screens that begin the set-up process? For example, this connection includes family-friendly filters as default [or as standard] - if you do not want to install this protection please un-tick the box (obviously not intended to be drafting). Would you be able to commit to including default-on or similar language both in the set-up screen and public messaging?

We are all aware of the really excellent work that you are doing and but there are a number of specific areas that the prime minister thinks need further immediate action. You are likely to receive a further message from colleagues in DCMS and the Home Office regarding tackling illegal images but given the short deadline for this work we thought it better to give you some time to work on these issues in the meantime. I need to report back to No 10 by the end of the week on these points so I would be grateful if you could consider this request as a matter of urgency and respond by midday Friday.

Apologies for the very tight deadline and grateful for your help with this work.

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