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The UK's Online Censorship Bill...

Legal analysis of UK internet censorship proposals


Link Here5th July 2022
Full story: Online Safety Bill...UK Government legislates to censor social media

Offsite Article: French lawyers provide the best summary yet

15th June 2022. See article from taylorwessing.com

 

Offsite Article: Have we opened Pandora's box?

20th June 2022. See article from tandfonline.com

Abstract

In thinking about the developing online harms regime (in the UK and elsewhere1) it is forgivable to think only of how laws placing responsibility on social media platforms to prevent hate speech may benefit society. Yet these laws could have insidious implications for free speech. By drawing on Germany's Network Enforcement Act I investigate whether the increased prospect of liability, and the fines that may result from breaching the duty of care in the UK's Online Safety Act - once it is in force - could result in platforms censoring more speech, but not necessarily hate speech, and using the imposed responsibility as an excuse to censor speech that does not conform to their objectives. Thus, in drafting a Bill to protect the public from hate speech we may unintentionally open Pandora's Box by giving platforms a statutory justification to take more control of the message.

See full article from tandfonline.com

 

Offsite Article: The Online Safety Act - An Act of Betrayal

5th July 2022. See article from ukcolumn.org by Iain Davis

The Online Safety Bill (OSB) has been presented to the public as an attempt to protect children from online grooming and abuse and to limit the reach of terrorist propaganda.

This, however, does not seem to be its primary focus. The real objective of the proposed Online Safety Act (OSA) appears to be narrative control.

 

 

Throwing free speech to the wolves of the internet Goliaths and the easily offended...

The Christian Institute realises that religious voices will be readily silenced under the Online Censorship Bill


Link Here30th June 2022
Full story: Online Safety Bill...UK Government legislates to censor social media
The Christian Institute has been reading a report by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and has realised that the Christians will be first against the wall when the UK government empowers US internet Goliaths partnering with the easily offended to control what people are allowed to say.

The Christian Institute explains:

A report titled An Unsafe Bill , published by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), outlines the Online Safety Bill's impact on free speech, privacy and innovation

The Bill gives strong incentives for social media companies and search engines to restrict content which is legal but harmful to adults and empowers Government ministers to decide what this covers.

The IEA warns this will give the Secretary of State for Culture and watchdog Ofcom unprecedented powers to define and limit speech, with limited parliamentary or judicial oversight.

The report highlights that because tech companies could be fined up to ten per cent of their annual global turnover if they fail to uphold their new duties, platforms may use automated tools in a precautionary and censorious manner.

The briefing also warns that the Bill's free speech protections appear wholly inadequate, with the risk that those claiming distress will request the removal of speech with which they disagree.

Writing in The Times, its co-author Matthew Lesh called the Bill a recipe for automated over-removal of speech on an industrial scale, to ensure compliance and placate the most easily offended. He commented:

Is the government trying to out-compete Russia and China in online censorship?

 

An Unsafe Bill

29th June 2022. See full report [pdf] from iea.org.uk

Here is the summery of the quoted report.

An Unsafe Bill: How the Online Safety Bill threaten s free speech , innovation and privacy

By Matthew Lesh, Head of Public Policy, Institute of Economic Affairs, and Victoria Hewson , Head of Regulatory Affairs , Institute of Economic Affairs

Summary

  • - The Online Safety Bill establishes a new regulatory regime for digital platforms intended to improve online safety.

  • - The Bill raises significant issues for freedom of expression, privacy and innovation.

  • - There is a lack of evidence to justify the legislation, with respect to both the alleged prevalence of what the Bill treats as ' harm ' and the link between the proposed measures and the desired objectives.

Freedom of expression

  • - The duties in the Bill, in respect of illegal content and legal content that is harmful to adults, combine d with the threat of large fines and criminal liability, risks platforms using automated tools in a precautionary and censorious manner .

  • - The Bill appears designed to discourage platforms from hosting speech that the Secretary of State considers to be harmf ul, even if that speech is legal. The Bill allows for the expansion of the category of ' legal but harmful ' content with limited parliamentary scrutiny .

  • - The Secretary of State and Ofcom will have unprecedented powers to define and limit speech, with limited parliamentary or judicial oversight.

  • - The introduction of age assurance requirements will force search engines and social media to withhold potentially harmful information by default, making it difficultforadults to access information without logging int o services, and entirely forbidding children from content even if it could be educationally valuable.

  • - Some small to mid - sized overseas platforms could block access for UK users to limit their regulatory costs and risks, thereby reducing British users ' acce ss to online content .

  • - Safeguards designed to protect free expression are comparatively weak and could backfire by requiring application in a ' consistent ' manner, leading to the removal of more content.

Privacy

  • - The safety duties will lead platforms to profi le users and monitor their content and interactions including by using technologies mandated by Ofcom .

  • - The inclusion of private messaging in the duties risks undermining encryption .

  • - The child safety duties will infringe the privacy of adult users by requir ing them to verify their age, through an identity verification or age assurance process, to access content that is judged unsuitable for children.

  • - The user empowerment duties will further necessitate many users verifying their identities to platforms.

Innovation

  • - The Bill imposes byzantine requirements on businesses of all sizes. Platforms face large regulatory costs and criminal liability for violations, which could discourage investment and research and development in the United Kingdom.

  • - The Bill ' s regulatory costs will be more burdensome for start - ups and small and medium - sized businesses, which lack the resources to invest in legal and regulatory compliance and automated systems, and therefore the Bill could entrench the market position of ' Big Tech ' companies.

  • - The likely result of the additional regulatory and cost burdens on digital businesses will be the slower and more cautious introduction of new innovative products or features , and fewer companies entering the sector. This will lead to less competition and less incentive to innovate, with resulting losses to consumer welfare

 

 

Offsite Article: The Online Unsafety Bill...


Link Here26th June 2022
Full story: Online Safety Bill...UK Government legislates to censor social media
Sex work could become 10 times more dangerous due to online safety bill, says sex work group

See article from mancunianmatters.co.uk

 

 

Updated: The Lady of Heaven...

Film withdrawn from many cinemas after religious protests


Link Here17th June 2022
The Lady Of Heaven is a 2021 UK action drama by Eli King
Starring Ray Fearon, Denise Black and Christopher Sciueref BBFC link 2020 IMDb

The heart-wrenching journey of Lady Fatima, the daughter of the religious character Muhammad. Separated by 1400 years, an Iraqi child, in the midst of a war-torn country, learns the importance and power of patience. After losing his mother, the child finds himself in a new home, where a loving grandmother narrates the historical story of The Lady and how her suffering as the first victim of terror spun out of control into the 21st century.

Cineworld cinemas have cancelled all screenings of a film about the daughter of the religious character Muhammad after cinemas were picketed by Muslim activists.

Presumably fearing muslim violence, Cineworld said it took the decision to cancel all showings of The Lady of Heaven to ensure the safety of our staff and customers.

Vue Cinemas have cancelled some screenings but still seems to be showing the film in London on the south east.

The issue is that the film provides a visual representation of Muhammad, albeit CGI created, rather than being played by an actor.

A video circulating online showed the manager of Sheffield Cineworld telling protesters that Sunday night's screening had been cancelled, to cries of Allahu Akbar (God is great).

A screening in Bolton was cancelled after 100 protesters turned up at the local Cineworld branch. The chair of the Bolton Council of Mosques had urged the cancellation of the screening, claiming the film was underpinned with a sectarian ideology and is blasphemous in nature to the Muslim community.

5Pillars, a Muslim news site, tweeted a photo of what it said was 200 Muslims protesting against the film outside Cineworld in Broad Street, Birmingham on Sunday.

More than 117,000 people have signed a petition to try to get the film banned from all UK cinemas but in fact the film has already been passed 15 uncut by the BBFC, the UK film censor. The film has also been rated R by the MPA for screenings in the US.

Claire Fox, who sits in the House of Lords,  tweeted that the decision to cancel the screening showed the creep of extra-parliamentary blasphemy law was now censoring film. She wrote:

Same 'I Find that Offensive' cancel culture arguments now being used far beyond campus activism. Disastrous for the arts, dangerous for free speech, a lesson to those who argue identity politics are no threat to democracy.

Malik Shlibak, executive producer of the film, told the Guardian cinemas should stand up and defend their right to show films that people want to see:

I think cinemas are crumbling to the pressure, and taking these decisions to quell the noise. The production company had received dozens of messages from people who were trying to book tickets to see the film but not being able to.

This is an artistic endeavour talking about and elaborating on history and religion, which always has a plethora of different takes and interpretations. That's normal and healthy. We welcome this and we welcome people to express themselves, whether they're for or against the film.

What we don't support, and what we vehemently stand against, is what they're trying to do, which is to censor others and dictate what we can and cannot watch in UK cinemas.They have no right to do so and it's something very dangerous. The general population really need to be aware of this and stand up to this, because it is infringing and putting in danger their freedom of speech.

 

Offsite comment: The shameful censorship of The Lady of Heaven

 See article from spiked-online.com

 

Update: The BBFC responds to religious bullying in a statement

12th June 2022. See article from bbfc.co.uk

We classify content in line with our published Classification Guidelines, which are the result of wide-scale consultations with thousands of people from across the UK, extensive research, and more than 100 years of experience. They are updated every four to five years to ensure that our standards continue to reflect the expectations and values of people across the country.

We classified The Lady Of Heaven 15 for strong bloody violence, gory images, and threat. We provide content advice -- which we call 'ratings info' -- on our website and app for every film we classify, so that audiences can decide for themselves whether a film will be suitable for them or their families. You can review the ratings info for The Lady Of Heaven here.

On occasion, we will consider some content unsuitable for classification, in line with the objective of preventing non-trivial harm risks to potential viewers and, through their behaviour, to society. As an accountable and transparent organisation, this decision and the reasons for it will be communicated to the distributor and publicly. However, there is nothing in The Lady Of Heaven that exceeds our Classification Guidelines at 15 or deems it unsuitable for classification.

Filmmakers are free to explore historical or controversial themes and events within their films. The BBFC's role is to ensure the content is classified appropriately based on our guidelines, in order to protect children and other vulnerable groups from potential harm and to empower consumers to make informed viewing decisions.

 

Update: The Government is also unimpressed by religious bullying and sacks an organiser of the protests

12th June 2022. See article from bbfc.co.uk

An imam has been dismissed as a government adviser after backing calls for The Lady of Heaven to be banned. Qari Asim was removed from his role as an Islamophobia consultant after his role in organising protests against the film. Asim was said to have advertised a protest in Leeds, with details of its timing and location.

Supporting the campaign to limit free expression precluded him from continuing, the government said. Asim, imam of the Makkah Masjid mosque in Leeds, was told his appointment as deputy chair of the government's Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group had to end in a letter from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing & Communities. It said:

Your recent support for a campaign to limit free expression - a campaign which has itself encouraged communal tensions - means it is no longer appropriate for you to continue your work with government in roles designed to promote community harmony.

He was told his actions were a clear effort to restrict artistic expression and that the campaign had led to street protests which have fomented religious hatred. The government said that on Monday Asim had posted on Facebook:

We have been working with many brothers and Imams across the country to liaise with the cinemas. Some Imams have taken a view to protest and others are in dialogue with the cinemas trying to resolve the situation.

The letter continued:

Resolving the situation, as you made clear, meant cancelling screenings. You wrote that in some places we have been successful and those cinemas will no longer be showing the movie.

We were disappointed to see that you failed to condemn some of the protests complicit in these behaviours.

 

Offiste Comment: Film bans are less about offence, more community leaders showing who's boss

10th June 2022. See article from theguardian.com by Kenan Malik

Debates about the giving of offence are rarely about offence. They are mostly about gatekeeping: that is, debates over who has the right to police communities and determine what can be said about a community and by a community.

The Lady of Heaven has already had a five-week run in the US without protest. In Britain, however, the film was seen as an opportunity for certain leaders and organisations to flex their muscles. Much of the campaign for its banning has been organised by the Muslim news website 5Pillars, its editor Roshan Muhammed Salih describing the film as shocking and disgusting and as pure, unadulterated, sectarian filth. Salih has long been a propagandist for both the Iranian regime (he was head of news for Press TV, Tehran's English language broadcast service) and the Taliban.

See full article from theguardian.com by Kenan Malik

 

Update: Muslim Action Forum calls on the BBFC to ban the Lady of Heaven

17th June 2022. See article. From 5pillarsuk.com

The Muslim Action Forum is a collective campaign group. It has called on muslims to boycott cinema chains that have shown The Lady of Heaven and has witten a letter to the BBFC calling for a ban of the film. The letter to the BBFC reads:

Dear Sir,

We write to you regarding the film Lady of Heaven directed by Eli King, that was released in Britain on 3rd June 2022 in Vue Cinemas, Cineworld and Showcase. It has been written by Yasir Al-Habib who is a prominent, extreme Shi'a cleric denounced by Muslims of all denominations including Shia. He was imprisoned in Kuwait for his hate speech, and also deported out of Iran -- denounced by them as a mad man and an illiterate fool.

The film is blasphemous, historically inaccurate, and blatantly anti-Muslim, designed to cause outrage and hatred between communities, especially between Shias and Sunnis. It has been a financial flop in the USA and in the UK as audiences have realised that it is nothing but a cheap money-making exercise at the expense of others. This is akin to showing a sectarian film about the issues in Northern Ireland where the leaders of one side are depicted as inherently evil along with their families. On this occasion the beliefs of over two billion Muslims have been deeply offended. Showcase Cinemas. Editorial credit: Amani A / Shutterstock.com

The Public Order Act 1986, quoted in your guidelines, makes it illegal to show abusive and insulting images designed to stir up racial or religious hatred. This film has been designed to create just that result. We already know after the Satanic Verses and Charlie Hebdo experiences, that it is deeply offensive to the two billion Muslims in this world to depict the image of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who is respected and revered by each and every one of us. The film offends us as it not only depicts our beloved Prophet but also portrays members of his blessed household. Whilst these noble people dedicated their whole lives in helping the sick and needy, the film depicts some of them as evil and as terrorists.

This film has been withdrawn from most cinemas after Muslims demonstrated their opposition to it and were prepared to continue to peacefully demonstrate until the film was withdrawn. We are now calling upon British Muslims to boycott all the guilty cinema chains.

The BBFC should not have given licence in the first instance, and we request to review your decision in regards this film. We are happy to assist you in any way possible in this regard, if required.

Shoaib Malik
National Co-ordinator
On behalf of Muslim Action Forum


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