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2021: Jan-March

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Government notes that porn websites without user comments or uploads will not be within the censorship regime of the upcoming Online Safety Bill


Link Here27th March 2021
Full story: Online Harms White Paper...UK Government seeks to censor social media
Written Question, answered on 24 March 2021

Baroness Grender Liberal Democrat Life peer Lords

To ask Her Majesty's Government which commercial pornography companies will be in scope of the Online Safety Bill; and whether commercial pornography websites which

  1. do not host user-generated content, or

  2. allow private user communication, will also be in scope.

Baroness Barran Conservative

The government is committed to ensuring children are protected from accessing online pornography through the new online safety framework. Where pornography sites host user-generated content or facilitate online user interaction such as video and image sharing, commenting and live streaming, they will be subject to the new duty of care. Commercial pornography sites which allow private user to user communication will be in scope. Where commercial pornography sites do not have user-generated functionality they will not be in scope. The online safety regime will capture both the most visited pornography sites and pornography on social media, therefore covering the majority of sites where children are most likely to be exposed to pornography.

We expect companies to use age assurance or age verification technologies to prevent children from accessing services which pose the highest risk of harm to children, such as online pornography. We are working closely with stakeholders across industry to establish the right conditions for the market to deliver age assurance and age verification technical solutions ahead of the legislative requirements coming into force.

 

 

Surely someone has an idea somewhere...

Government seeks ideas on how to impose or implement age verification in retail


Link Here17th March 2021

Both on and off licenced retailers, bars and restaurants have been invited to put forward proposals to trial new technology when carrying out age verification checks.

The call for proposals has been launched by the Home Office and the Office for Product Safety and Standards, and retailers who are successful will be able to pilot new technology to improve the process of ID check during the sale of alcohol and other age restricted items.

The pilots will explore how technology can strengthen current measures in place to prevent those under 18 from buying alcohol, reduce violence or abuse towards shop workers and ensure there are robust age checks on the delivery, click and collect or dispatch of alcohol.

It will be up to applicants to suggest products to trial within their proposals, but technology that may potentially be tested include a holographic or ultraviolet identification feature on a mobile phone.

Retailers will be able to submit applications online on gov.uk and will be required to provide detail on how the technology works and how they plan to test it.

The pilots will allow a wide range of digital age verification technology to be tested, and the findings will be used to understand the impact of this technology and inform future policy, as part of the government's ambition to create an innovative digital economy.

Retailers will still be required to carry out physical age verification checks alongside any digital technology in line with the current law, which requires a physical identification card with a holographic mark or ultraviolet feature upon request in the sale of alcohol.

Trials by successful applicants will begin in the summer and must be completed by April 2022.

Retailers can submit their proposals to trial digital age verification technology on gov.uk. Submissions close on 31 May and successful applicants be notified by 2 July.

 

 

Thou shalt not mock religion in Scotland...

The National Secular Society calls for the Scottish Government to restore free speech protections to its disgraceful Hate Crimes bill


Link Here28th February 2021
Full story: Scotland stifles free speech...Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill

The National Secular Society has urged Scotland's justice minister not to renege on a commitment to ensure a strengthened level of protection for free speech on religion in the current hate crime bill.

A vital free speech provision around religion has yet to be determined, even though it had appeared to be settled and a final vote on the legislation is likely to be just days away.

The NSS has long warned that plans to criminalise 'stirring up hatred' on the grounds of religion within the bill pose a threat to freedom of expression.

The Scottish parliament's Justice Committee had agreed to an amendment to protect expressions of "antipathy, dislike, ridicule and insult" of religion or belief during previous consideration of the bill. However, this now appears to be under threat after the launch of a last minute consultation on freedom of expression provisions in the bill. The consultation, which closed on Monday, lasted just four days.

The NSS and Edinburgh Secular Society have now jointly written to Humza Yousaf, Scotland's cabinet secretary for justice, over the issue.

The NSS said a free speech clause covering religion that only protected "discussion or criticism" would be "too imprecise" and go "nowhere near far enough to protect robust debate, satire, comedy and commentary about religions or beliefs".

It added that the law should "in no way serve to criminalise people for their opposition to ideas or protect people's beliefs from antipathy, dislike, ridicule and insult".

The letter argued that the "wide consensus and strong support" for the additional protection for speech about religion or belief should be reflected in the legislation. And it says it would be "unconscionable at this late stage to renege on additional free speech protections already agreed to".

 

 

Offsite Article: Speech should be free but not of consequences...


Link Here 25th February 2021
Full story: Online Harms White Paper...UK Government seeks to censor social media
Rather than genuinely tackling the thornier issues, we're seeing calls for more regulations online as a quick fix. By Ruth Smeeth

See article from indexoncensorship.org

 

 

Cancelling cancel culture...

Gavin Williamson outline plans for people to be able to sue universities that stifle free speech


Link Here17th February 2021
Full story: University Censorship...Universities vs Free Speech
Students and academics will be able to sue their universities for suffocating their free speech on campus under new Government plans to tackle declining free speech.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has warned of a cancel culture and a rising intolerance within universities across the country.  In response he has unveiled plans for a free speech champion who will have the power to defend academics amid rising fears institutions are trying to cancel people with differing views. Williamson wrote in The Daily Telegraph :

Last year, I warned our vice-chancellors and leaders of the very real and alarming threat of censorship and a 'cancel culture# within our universities.

I made very clear where I, and the rest of the Government, stood on the matter; that we were on the side of lawful free speech and academic freedom, and that we would back this commitment in law if we had to.

The Education Secretary went on to describe how despite repeated warnings, there were a growing number of cases whereby academics were being silenced and students wrongfully expelled. He added:

Under this rising intolerance, students have found themselves wrongfully expelled from their courses academics fired and others forced to live under a threat of violence.

 

 

And through the square window...

Floella Benjamin attempts to resuscitate internet porn age verification in a Domestic Abuse Bill


Link Here11th February 2021
Full story: Online Harms White Paper...UK Government seeks to censor social media
Campaigners for the revival of deeply flawed and one sided age verification for porn scheme have been continuing their efforts to revive it ever since it was abandoned by the Government in October 2019.

The Government was asked about the possibility of restoring it in January 2021 in the House of Commons. Caroline Dinenage responded for the government:

The Government announced in October 2019 that it will not commence the age verification provisions of Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 and instead deliver these protections through our wider online harms regulatory proposals.

Under our online harms proposals, we expect companies to use age assurance or age verification technologies to prevent children from accessing services which pose the highest risk of harm to children, such as online pornography. The online harms regime will capture both the most visited pornography sites and pornography on social media, therefore covering the vast majority of sites where children are most likely to be exposed to pornography. Taken together we expect this to bring into scope more online pornography currently accessible to children than would have been covered by the narrower scope of the Digital Economy Act.

We would encourage companies to take steps ahead of the legislation to protect children from harmful and age inappropriate content online, including online pornography. We are working closely with stakeholders across industry to establish the right conditions for the market to deliver age assurance and age verification technical solutions ahead of the legislative requirements coming into force.

In addition, Regulations transposing the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive came into force on 1 November 2020 which require UK-established video sharing platforms to take appropriate measures to protect minors from harmful content. The Regulations require that the most harmful content is subject to the strongest protections, such as age assurance or more technical measures. Ofcom, as the regulatory authority, may take robust enforcement action against video sharing platforms which do not adopt appropriate measures.

Now during the passage of the Domestic Abuse in the House of Lords, Floella Benjamin attempted to revive the age verification requirement by proposing the following amendment:

Insert the following new Clause --

Impact of online pornography on domestic abuse

(1) Within three months of the day on which this Act is passed, the Secretary of State must commission a person appointed by the Secretary of State to investigate the impact of access to online pornography by children on domestic abuse.

(2) Within three months of their appointment, the appointed person must publish a report on the investigation which may include recommendations for the Secretary of State.

(3) As part of the investigation, the appointed person must consider the extent to which the implementation of Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 (online pornography) would prevent domestic abuse, and may make recommendations to the Secretary of State accordingly.

(4) Within three months of receiving the report, the Secretary of State must publish a response to the recommendations of the appointed person.

(5) If the appointed person recommends that Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 should be commenced, the Secretary of State must appoint a day for the coming into force of that Part under section 118(6) of the Act within the timeframe recommended by the appointed person.

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would require an investigation into any link between online pornography and domestic abuse with a view to implementing recommendations to bring into effect the age verification regime in the Digital Economy Act 2017 as a means of preventing domestic abuse.

Floella Benjamin made a long speech supporting the censorship measure and was supported by a number of peers. Of course they all argued only from the 'think of the children' side of the argument and not one of them mentioned trashed adult businesses and the risk to porn viewers of being outed, scammed, blackmailed etc.

See Floella Benjamin's speech from hansard.parliament.uk

 

 

A new statue statute...

UK Government will require planning permission before taking down historical public monuments


Link Here19th January 2021
The UK government is taking a stand against historical statues being censored or cancelled by woke militants.

The UK Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has set forth new UK laws that would make it more difficult to remove monuments across the country. He explained:

Latterly there has been an attempt to impose a single, often negative narrative which not so much recalls our national story, as seeks to erase part of it. This has been done at the hand of the flash mob, or by the decree of a 'cultural committee' of town hall militants and woke worthies.

He then announced his plans to bring due process back to UK heritage to ensure that monuments aren't destroyed by woke militants or removed on a whim or at the behest of a baying mob. Now planning permission will be required for the removal or alteration of any public monument. Additionally, local councils will need to consult with their residents and guarantee any changes abide by council rules.

These changes will not only affect public statues, but plaques and other monuments, as well. According to a government press release, the new laws will make clear that historic monuments should be retained and explained.

 

 

Harmful Online Communications...

Open Rights Group respond to Law Commission proposals to extend hate crime definitions to pander to the easily offended


Link Here14th January 2021
Full story: UK government on hate crime...Which group can command the most advantageous anti-discrimination law?
Open Rights Group writes:

This is a short joint submission to the Law Commission's Harmful Online Offences consultation. This submission is by the Open Rights Group and Preiskel & Co LLP solicitors.

Opposing the new offence

  • We do not support the Law Commission's proposed offence. We are concerned with its breadth. We echo and adopt Article 19's submissions in this regard.

  • The threshold of a "likelihood to harm" appears to be very broad, and it could include many communications which could cause distress to readers, as the result of their strongly-held religious, political or cultural beliefs, but be legitimate discourse.

  • The "Intent to harm or awareness of the risk of harming a likely audience" compounds this. "Risk" as a threshold seems very low. It appears to open up prosecution to anyone whose postings can be related to someone who has experienced mental distress as a result of reading those communications.

  • "Likely audience" again is in our view vague and open to interpretation. Making communications "without reasonable excuse" reverses the normal burden for speech: speech, protected as a fundamental right, is permissible unless it is unlawful. Speech should not be confined to that which courts feel is most socially useful, and therefore defensible under a "reasonable excuse" defence.

  • In short, by attempting to capture a wide range of behaviours within a single online offence, with a highly malleable concept of mental distress and wide potential audiences, the offence opens up the potential for a wide range of legitimate communications to be deemed criminal.

  • Additionally, the problems we identify with the new potential offence may be made worse by the government's proposed Online Harms framework, which will impose a legal duty over Internet Society Services to exercise a "duty of care" over their users. Given that "mental distress" is very personal and driven by context, this ambiguity could exacerbate the legal uncertainties inherent within the "duty of care" expectations. If the legal test for the point where mental distress triggers criminal liability is difficult to understand, or to assess content against, this is likely to create an incentive for companies to remove legal content that is found in the grey areas of "likely audiences" experiencing a "risk" of mental distress in order to successfully carry out their legal duties, and avoid direct risk of regulatory action.

...See full consultation response from openrightsgroup.org


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