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Commented: Censorship on Demand...

The Government is considering extending the TV censorship regime to Video on Demand services like Netflix and Apple TV


Link Here8th July 2021

As part of an ongoing strategic review of the UK public service broadcasting system, the government will review the ownership model and remit of Channel 4 and consider tightening regulation of video-on-demand services such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video.

With a fast-evolving media landscape, increasing competition and changing audience habits posing imminent challenges, moving Channel 4 into private ownership and changing its remit could help secure its future as a successful and sustainable public service broadcaster.

The government will also consult on whether the regulation of video-on-demand services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime need strengthening so they are subject to similar rules as traditional "linear" broadcasters such as the BBC, ITV and Sky.

It will consider whether new rules are needed to protect viewers of video-on-demand services - such as changes to age ratings and addressing impartiality and accuracy rules for documentaries and news content - alongside measures to level the playing field so public service broadcasters can compete with international rivals.

This will help ensure the country has a diverse, free and pluralistic broadcasting landscape with high standards.

The reviews will come ahead of a broadcasting white paper due in the autumn. The white paper would consider the future of the country's broadcasting landscape with the ultimate aim of making sure it serves listeners and viewers on all platforms and across the UK.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said:

Technology has transformed broadcasting but the rules protecting viewers and helping our traditional channels compete are from an analogue age.

The time has come to look at how we can unleash the potential of our public service broadcasters while also making sure viewers and listeners consuming content on new formats are served by a fair and well-functioning system.

So we'll now be looking at how we can help make sure Channel 4 keeps its place at the heart of British broadcasting and level the playing field between broadcasters and video-on-demand services.

Video-on-demand services

Video-on-demand services available in the UK are not regulated to the same level as "linear" television channels and some services such as Netflix and Apple TV+ are not regulated in the UK at all.

Only content on the BBC iPlayer is subject to Ofcom's Broadcasting Code, which includes enhanced protections to audiences from harmful or offensive material and rules on accuracy and impartiality.

Existing audience protections on UK-regulated video-on-demand services are primarily focused on children and rules preventing content which incites hatred. Some services have introduced their own voluntary procedures - such as Netflix's voluntary age ratings partnership with the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).

The current landscape makes for an inconsistent, ad-hoc and potentially harmful gap in regulation between video-on-demand services alongside a potential competitive disadvantage between UK broadcasters and their internationally-funded online counterparts.

It is also almost twenty years since the UK broadcast sector's regulatory framework was introduced in the Communications Act 2003, which was designed before the arrival of online companies such as Apple+, Amazon Prime and Netflix in their current form.

The government will also take forward existing commitments to legislate to strengthen public service broadcasters' "prominence" online so that their video-on-demand content can easily be found and accessed on smart TVs and other platforms and devices.

 

Update: Now the censors are coming for Netflix

8th July 2021. See article from spiked-online.com

The government wants Ofcom to regulate streaming services. This is bad news for free expression.

 

 

Updated: Censored comments...

Comments about the UK Government's new Internet Censorship Bill


Link Here28th June 2021
Full story: Online Safety Bill...UK Government legislates to censor social media

Comment: Disastrous

11th May 2021. See article from bigbrotherwatch.org.uk

Mark Johnson, Legal and Policy Officer at Big Brother Watch said:

The Online Safety Bill introduces state-backed censorship and monitoring on a scale never seen before in a liberal democracy.

This Bill is disastrous for privacy rights and free expression online. The Government is clamping down on vague categories of lawful speech. This could easily result in the silencing of marginalised voices and unpopular views.

Parliament should remove lawful content from the scope of this Bill altogether and refocus on real policing rather than speech-policing.

 

 

Offsite Comment: Online safety bill: a messy new minefield in the culture wars

13th May 2021. See article from theguardian.com by Alex Hern

The message of the bill is simple: take down exactly the content the government wants taken down, and no more. Guess wrong and you could face swingeing fines. Keep guessing wrong and your senior managers could even go to jail.

Content moderation is a hard job, and it's about to get harder.

 

 

Offsite Comment: Harm Version 3.0

15th May 2021. See article from cyberleagle.com by Graham Smith

Two years on from the April 2019 Online Harms White Paper, the government has published its draft Online Safety Bill. It is a hefty beast: 133 pages and 141 sections. It raises a slew of questions, not least around press and journalistic material and the newly-coined content of democratic importance. Also, for the first time, the draft Bill spells out how the duty of care regime would apply to search engines, not just to user generated content sharing service providers.

This post offers first impressions of a central issue that started to take final shape in the government's December 2020 Full Response to consultation: the apparent conflict between imposing content monitoring and removal obligations on the one hand, and the government's oft-repeated commitment to freedom of expression on the other - now translated into express duties on service providers.

The draft Bill represents the government's third attempt at defining harm (if we include the White Paper, which set no limit). The scope of harm proposed in its second version (the Full Response) has now been significantly widened.

See article from cyberleagle.com

 

 

Offsite Comment: The unstoppable march of state censorship

17th May 2021. See article from spiked-online.com

Vaguely worded hate-speech laws can end up criminalising almost any opinion.

 

 

Offsite Comment: Drowning internet services in red tape

 18th May 2021. See article from techmonitor.ai by Laurie Clarke

The UK government has unveiled sprawling new legislation that takes aim at online speech on internet services 203 stretching from illegal to legal yet harmful content. The wide-ranging nature of the proposals could leave internet businesses large and small facing a huge bureaucratic burden, and render the bill impractical to implement.

 

 

Offsite Comment: UK online safety bill raises censorship concerns and questions on future of encryption

24th May 2021. See article from cpj.org

 

 

Offsite Comment: Why the online safety bill threatens our civil liberties

26th May 2021. See article from politics.co.uk by Heather Burns

With the recent publication of the draft online safety bill, the UK government has succeeded in uniting the British population in a way not seen since the weekly clap for the NHS. This time, however, no one is applauding. After two years of dangled promises, the government's roadmap to making the UK the safest place in the world to be online sets up a sweeping eradication of our personal privacy, our data security, and our civil liberties.

 

 

Offsite Comment: Misguided Online Safety Bill will be catastrophic for ordinary people's social media

23rd June 2021. See article from dailymail.co.uk

The Government's new Online Safety Bill will be catastrophic for ordinary people's freedom of speech, former minister David Davis has warned.

The Conservative MP said forcing social networks to take down content in Britain they deem unacceptable seems out of Orwell's 1984.

Davis slammed the idea Silicon Valley firms could take down posts they think are not politically correct - even though it is legal.

See full article from dailymail.co.uk

 

 

Offsite Comment: On the trail of the Person of Ordinary Sensibilities

28th June 2021. See article from cyberleagle.com by Graham Smith

  The bill boils down to what a mythical adult or child of 'ordinary sensibilities' considers to be 'lawful but awful' content.

 

 

Offsite Comment: The Online Safety Bill won’t solve online abuse

 2nd July 2021. See article by Heather Burns

The Online Safety Bill contains threats to freedom of expression, privacy, and commerce which will do nothing to solve online abuse, deal with social media platforms, or make the web a better place to be.

 

 

 

 

Safer sex work in the UK...

The Government has rejected a Labour MPs attempt to pass law criminalising men for buying sex


Link Here26th June 2021
Full story: Criminalising Prostitution in UK...Labour continue to criminalise men buying sex
There is a steady stream of mostly Labour politicians who put forward law proposals to criminalise men for buying sex.

A private members bill from Labour MP Diana Johnson titled the Sexual Exploitation Bill sought to criminalise buying sex ran out of parliamentary time this year and has therefore been abandoned.

The latest attempt this week was by another miserable Labour MP, Sarah Champion. She sought add a clause criminalising men for buying sex to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

But the Conservative Government have bravely rejected the clause explaining that similar legislation in other countries has tended towards making sex workers lives more dangerous.

Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department explained in her speech:

I am grateful to the hon. Lady [Sarah Champion] for putting the case for new clauses 76 to 82 on behalf of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North [Diana Johnson], who in the last Parliament had a ten-minute rule Bill on the issue.

The Government's long-standing policy towards sex work and prostitution has been focused on tackling the harm and exploitation that can be associated with prostitution, as well as ensuring that those wishing to exit sex work are appropriately supported. These six new clauses seek to make significant changes to the legislative regime governing prostitution and sex work. In summary, they would impose what is known as the sex buyer law, or Nordic model, which would criminalise the buying but not the selling of sexual services, the profiting by third parties from sexual services and the advertising of sexual services.

Under English and Welsh law currently, the buying and selling of sexual services are not necessarily unlawful in themselves. In other jurisdictions where the buying of sex has been criminalised, such as France, Northern Ireland and Sweden, there has been no conclusive evidence to show that the criminalisation of the demand for sex has either led to a significant decrease in the demand for sexual services or improved the conditions in which sex workers operate. Indeed, there is some evidence to suggest that criminalising the purchasing of sexual services worsens the conditions in which prostitutes and sex workers operate. It may change the profile of buyers of sexual services, distilling the demand down only to those willing to break the law to purchase such acts and forcing prostitutes and sex workers to engage in forms of prostitution associated with higher levels of harm. In the absence of unequivocal evidence, the Government have therefore maintained their line that we are focusing on trying to exit people and trying to reduce the harm and exploitation that they face.

Atkins then pointed out there are already laws against any sex work involving trafficking and Sarah Champion went on to withdraw her proposed clause.

 

 

Offsite Article: Even a Guardian columnist thinks that the Government's Online Censorship Bill goes too far...


Link Here26th June 2021
Full story: Online Safety Bill...UK Government legislates to censor social media
A Conservative government that boasts it is a defender of free speech against the attacks of the woke is about to impose the severest censorship this country has seen in peacetime. By Nick Cohen

See article from spectator.co.uk

 

 

The government sets out new advertising restrictions to help tackle childhood obesity...

Presumably the thinking is that if the government destroys enough people's livelihoods then the kids will be starved into losing weight


Link Here25th June 2021

Following a public consultation, regulations will come into force at the end of next year to introduce a 9pm watershed for advertisements of foods high in fat, salt and sugar ( HFSS ).

The new rules apply to TV and UK on-demand programmes, as well as restrictions on paid-for advertising of HFSS foods online as part of the government's ongoing commitment to tackle unhealthy eating habits at source.

The watershed will apply from 9pm to 5.30am, meaning HFSS adverts can only be shown during these times.

In order to keep the restrictions proportional, these new regulations will apply to food and drink products of most concern to childhood obesity and will ensure the healthiest in each category will be able to continue to advertise. This approach means foods such as honey, olive oil, avocados and marmite are excluded from the restrictions.

The restrictions will apply to all businesses with 250 or more employees that make and/or sell HFSS products, meaning small and medium businesses will be able to continue advertising. The government recognises these companies may be some of the hardest hit by the pandemic and rely on online media as the sole way to communicate with their customers.

Online restrictions will be limited to paid-for advertising, ensuring brands can continue to advertise within 'owned media' spaces online; such as a brand's own blog, website, app or social media page.

Analysis from September 2019 demonstrated that almost half (47.6%) of all food adverts shown over the month on ITV1, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky1 were for products high in fat, salt and sugar, rising to nearly 60% between 6pm and 9pm. Ofcom research suggests that children's viewing peaks in the hours after school, with the largest number of child viewers concentrated around family viewing time, between 6pm and 9pm.

The measures set out today form part of our legislative response to tackling obesity. The government is committed to working alongside industry and will issue guidance to help them prepare for this transition.

Offsite Comment: The advertising industry is not impressed

25th June 2021. See article from adweek.com

Ad Industry Say UK Government HFSS Ban Is Set to Fail

The IAB, IPA, AA and ISBA all claim a ban will be ineffective in reversing childhood obesity rates

 

 

The crown jewels of cenorship...

The UK government is set to extend the TV censorship regime to cover internet streaming services


Link Here21st June 2021
Full story: UK Internet TV censorship ...UK catch-up and US internet streaming
The British government is set to extend the remit of UK TV censorship to cover major streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, is due to set out the proposal this week, with other streaming giants including Amazon Prime and Disney+ also brought under the UK's TV censorship framework. The plans will be set out in a broadcasting white paper.

Ofcom will then be able to censor content on the streaming channels and apply Ofcom rules on bias and accuracy.

The Telegraph suggests that a reason for the move was in part down to last year's row over the accuracy of scenes in The Crown , the historical drama based on the Queen and the Royal Family. Amazon Prime was also picked up for hosting anti-vaccination documentaries in the US that it later removed.

Under current rules, Netflix does not fall within Ofcom's jurisdiction because it is based in the Netherlands. Instead, it is subject to Dutch regulation even on its English language programmes tailored to the UK version of its site.

 

 

Presumably the name Internet 'Safety' Bill was coined by Dominic Cummings...

Internet organisations write to MPs pointing how dangerous it will be for internet users to lose the protection of End to End Encryption for their communications


Link Here15th June 2021
Full story: Online Safety Bill...UK Government legislates to censor social media

To Members of Parliament: end-to-end encryption keeps us safe

68 million of your constituents are at risk of losing the most important tool to keep them safe and protected from cyber-criminals and hostile governments.

End-to-end encryption means that your constituents' family photographs, messages to friends and family, financial information, and the commercially sensitive data of businesses up and down the country, can all be kept safe from harm's way. It also keeps us safer in a world where connected devices have physical effect: end-to-end encryption secures connected homes, cars and children's toys. The government should not be making those more vulnerable to attack. The draft Online Safety Bill contains clauses that could undermine and in some situations even prohibit the use of end-to-end encryption, meaning UK citizens will be less secure online than citizens of other democracies. British businesses operating online will have less protection for their data flows in London than in the United States or the European Union. Banning end-to-end encryption, or introducing requirements for companies to scan the content of our messages, will remove protections for private citizens and companies' data. We all need that protection, but children and members of at-risk communities need it most of all.

Don't leave them exposed.

With more people than ever before falling prey to criminals online, now is not the time for the UK to undertake a reckless policy experiment that puts its own citizens at greater risk. We, the undersigned, are calling on the Home Office to explain how it plans to protect the British public from criminals online when it is taking away the very tools that keep the public safe. If the draft Online Safety Bill aims to make us safer, end-to-end encryption should not be threatened or undermined by this legislation.

Sincerely, *Members of the Global Encryption Coalition

 

 

Offsite Article: Is government preparing to censor discussions about migration?...


Link Here 13th June 2021
Full story: Online Safety Bill...UK Government legislates to censor social media
And will the Online Safety Bill enable political censorship by the government?

See article from openrightsgroup.org

 

 

Offsite Article: OnlyFans pulled up by the BBC when youngsters fool age verification...


Link Here29th May 2021
Full story: Online Safety Bill...UK Government legislates to censor social media
Asking the interesting question for future age verification laws. In today's blame society who has to carry the can when people inevitably find ways to circumvent the system. Is it the user, the website, or the age verification service?

See article from bbc.co.uk

 

 

Unsafe legislation...

The Government publishes its draft Internet Censorship Bill


Link Here11th May 2021
Full story: Online Safety Bill...UK Government legislates to censor social media

New internet laws will be published today in the draft Online Safety Bill to protect children online and tackle some of the worst abuses on social media, including racist hate crimes.

Ministers have added landmark new measures to the Bill to safeguard freedom of expression and democracy, ensuring necessary online protections do not lead to unnecessary censorship.

The draft Bill marks a milestone in the Government's fight to make the internet safe. Despite the fact that we are now using the internet more than ever, over three quarters of UK adults are concerned about going online, and fewer parents feel the benefits outweigh the risks of their children being online -- falling from 65 per cent in 2015 to 50 per cent in 2019.

The draft Bill includes changes to put an end to harmful practices, while ushering in a new era of accountability and protections for democratic debate, including:

  • New additions to strengthen people's rights to express themselves freely online, while protecting journalism and democratic political debate in the UK.

  • Further provisions to tackle prolific online scams such as romance fraud, which have seen people manipulated into sending money to fake identities on dating apps.

  • Social media sites, websites, apps and other services hosting user-generated content or allowing people to talk to others online must remove and limit the spread of illegal and harmful content such as child sexual abuse, terrorist material and suicide content.

  • Ofcom will be given the power to fine companies failing in a new duty of care up to £18 million or ten per cent of annual global turnover, whichever is higher, and have the power to block access to sites.

  • A new criminal offence for senior managers has been included as a deferred power. This could be introduced at a later date if tech firms don't step up their efforts to improve safety.

The draft Bill will be scrutinised by a joint committee of MPs before a final version is formally introduced to Parliament.

The following elements of the Bill aim to create the most progressive, fair and accountable system in the world. This comes only weeks after a boycott of social media by sports professionals and governing bodies in protest at the racist abuse of footballers online, while at the same time concerns continue to be raised at social media platforms arbitrarily removing content and blocking users.

Duty of care

In line with the government's response to the Online Harms White Paper , all companies in scope will have a duty of care towards their users so that what is unacceptable offline will also be unacceptable online.

They will need to consider the risks their sites may pose to the youngest and most vulnerable people and act to protect children from inappropriate content and harmful activity.

They will need to take robust action to tackle illegal abuse, including swift and effective action against hate crimes, harassment and threats directed at individuals and keep their promises to users about their standards.

The largest and most popular social media sites (Category 1 services) will need to act on content that is lawful but still harmful such as abuse that falls below the threshold of a criminal offence, encouragement of self-harm and mis/disinformation. Category 1 platforms will need to state explicitly in their terms and conditions how they will address these legal harms and Ofcom will hold them to account.

The draft Bill contains reserved powers for Ofcom to pursue criminal action against named senior managers whose companies do not comply with Ofcom's requests for information. These will be introduced if tech companies fail to live up to their new responsibilities. A review will take place at least two years after the new regulatory regime is fully operational.

The final legislation, when introduced to Parliament, will contain provisions that require companies to report child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) content identified on their services. This will ensure companies provide law enforcement with the high-quality information they need to safeguard victims and investigate offenders.

Freedom of expression

The Bill will ensure people in the UK can express themselves freely online and participate in pluralistic and robust debate.

All in-scope companies will need to consider and put in place safeguards for freedom of expression when fulfilling their duties. These safeguards will be set out by Ofcom in codes of practice but, for example, might include having human moderators take decisions in complex cases where context is important.

People using their services will need to have access to effective routes of appeal for content removed without good reason and companies must reinstate that content if it has been removed unfairly. Users will also be able to appeal to Ofcom and these complaints will form an essential part of Ofcom's horizon-scanning, research and enforcement activity.

Category 1 services will have additional duties. They will need to conduct and publish up-to-date assessments of their impact on freedom of expression and demonstrate they have taken steps to mitigate any adverse effects.

These measures remove the risk that online companies adopt restrictive measures or over-remove content in their efforts to meet their new online safety duties. An example of this could be AI moderation technologies falsely flagging innocuous content as harmful, such as satire.

Democratic content

Ministers have added new and specific duties to the Bill for Category 1 services to protect content defined as 'democratically important'. This will include content promoting or opposing government policy or a political party ahead of a vote in Parliament, election or referendum, or campaigning on a live political issue.

Companies will also be forbidden from discriminating against particular political viewpoints and will need to apply protections equally to a range of political opinions, no matter their affiliation. Policies to protect such content will need to be set out in clear and accessible terms and conditions and firms will need to stick to them or face enforcement action from Ofcom.

When moderating content, companies will need to take into account the political context around why the content is being shared and give it a high level of protection if it is democratically important.

For example, a major social media company may choose to prohibit all deadly or graphic violence. A campaign group could release violent footage to raise awareness about violence against a specific group. Given its importance to democratic debate, the company might choose to keep that content up, subject to warnings, but it would need to be upfront about the policy and ensure it is applied consistently.

Journalistic content

Content on news publishers' websites is not in scope. This includes both their own articles and user comments on these articles.

Articles by recognised news publishers shared on in-scope services will be exempted and Category 1 companies will now have a statutory duty to safeguard UK users' access to journalistic content shared on their platforms.

This means they will have to consider the importance of journalism when undertaking content moderation, have a fast-track appeals process for journalists' removed content, and will be held to account by Ofcom for the arbitrary removal of journalistic content. Citizen journalists' content will have the same protections as professional journalists' content.

Online fraud

Measures to tackle user-generated fraud will be included in the Bill. It will mean online companies will, for the first time, have to take responsibility for tackling fraudulent user-generated content, such as posts on social media, on their platforms. This includes romance scams and fake investment opportunities posted by users on Facebook groups or sent via Snapchat.

Romance fraud occurs when a victim is tricked into thinking that they are striking up a relationship with someone, often through an online dating website or app, when in fact this is a fraudster who will seek money or personal information.

Analysis by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau found in 2019/20 there were 5,727 instances of romance fraud in the UK (up 18 per cent year on year). Losses totalled more than £60 million.

Fraud via advertising, emails or cloned websites will not be in scope because the Bill focuses on harm committed through user-generated content.

The Government is working closely with industry, regulators and consumer groups to consider additional legislative and non-legislative solutions. The Home Office will publish a Fraud Action Plan after the 2021 spending review and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will consult on online advertising, including the role it can play in enabling online fraud, later this year.

 

 

Offsite Article: In an age where one can share a year's worth of porn on a single memory stick...


Link Here6th May 2021
Full story: Online Harms White Paper...UK Government seeks to censor social media
German academic publishes a survey confirming that 16 and 17 year olds are keen porn viewers and suggests that they will surely find ways to work around age verification

See article from onlinelibrary.wiley.com

 

 

Offsite Article: Thought crimes against political correctness vs real crimes against real people...


Link Here7th April 2021
Full story: Online Harms White Paper...UK Government seeks to censor social media
Government can't tackle online harm without cracking down on online scams by Jeff Smith MP

See article from politicshome.com

 

 

Offsite Article: Endgame for end-to-end encryption...


Link Here4th April 2021
Full story: UK Government vs Encryption...Government seeks to restrict peoples use of encryption
Wired has reported that the Home Office is actively exploring legal and technical mechanisms to compel Facebook and WhatsApp to break end-to-end encrypted messaging

See article from openrightsgroup.org


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