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Updated: A Twitter spat...

Donald Trump threatens social media with the removal of Section 230 protections


Link Here30th May 2020
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA
A draft of the executive order announced by Donald Trump via Twitter in response to the platform's attempt to fact-check his tweets proposes a radical modification of Section 230, the so-called First Amendment of the Internet.  It asks the FCC to examine whether actions related to the editing of content by social media companies should potentially lead to the firms forfeiting their protections under Section 230. The section says that social media and internet forums are not generally responsible for the content of posts by their users (at least until the companies become aware of illegal content).

The executive order also orders a review of alleged 'unfair or deceptive practices' by Facebook and Twitter and calls on the government to reconsider advertising on services judged to 'violate free speech principles.'

Section 230 has ensured the legal protection of platforms from liability for third-party content since the popularization of the internet in the mid-1990s.

Reuters described the executive order as an extraordinary attempt to intervene in the media that experts said was unlikely to survive legal scrutiny. However Section 230 protections have already been removed for content relating to sex work and constitutional rights didn't help fend off censorship included in the FOSTA Act.

 

Offsite: Let's go through Trump's terrible internet censorship order, line by line

30th May 2020. See article from theverge.com

 

 

Planet of the Humans...

YouTube censors documentary that questions the effectiveness of green policies and technologies


Link Here27th May 2020
Full story: YouTube Censorship...YouTube censor videos by restricting their reach
Planet of the Humans is a 2019 USA documentary by Jeff Gibbs.
Featuring Catherine Andrews, David Blood and Michael Bloomberg. IMDb

Planet of the Humans (2019), a documentary that dares to say what no one else will this Earth Day - that we are losing the battle to stop climate change on planet earth because we are following leaders who have taken us down the wrong road - selling out the green movement to wealthy interests and corporate America. This film is the wake-up call to the reality we are afraid to face: that in the midst of a human-caused extinction event, the environmental movement's answer is to push for techno-fixes and band-aids. It's too little, too late.

Planet of the Humans by Jeff Gibbs features a prominent producer's credit to Michael Moore, previously a darling of the progressive left. This time he has wound up the environmentalists with a film that suggests that many of the green policies and technologies espoused by climate change campaigners, don't stand up to scrutiny when considered in a more holistic framework of considering the full environmental footprint for raw materials extraction, manufacture, transport etc.

Anyway the climate change campaigners have been campaigning hard to get Planet of the Humans banned and now seem to have succeeded in getting it banned from YouTube citing a technicality of 4s of stock footage apparently included in the documentary without obtaining copyright clearance.

The four-second clip subject to the copyright right claim comes 37 minutes into the documentary, in a sequence titled How Solar Panels & Wind Turbines Are Made. The footage shows a mining operation for rare earth metals, which are used in wind turbine manufacture. Gibbs says he incorporated the footage under fair use, an exception to copyright law that allows news reporters, producers and documentary filmmakers limited access to copyrighted material to illustrate points.

Director Jeff Gibbs said in a statement:

This attempt to take down our film and prevent the public from seeing it is a blatant act of censorship by political critics of Planet of the Humans. It is a misuse of copyright law to shutdown a film that has opened a serious conversation about how parts of the environmental movement have gotten into bed with Wall Street and so-called green capitalists. There is absolutely no copyright violation in my film. This is just another attempt by the film's opponents to subvert the right to free speech.

Opponents of Planet of the Humans , who do not like its critique of the failures of the environmental movement, have worked for weeks to have the film taken down and to block us from appearing on TV and on livestream. Their efforts to subvert free speech have failed, with nearly eight and a half million people already viewing the film on YouTube. These Trumpian tactics are shameful, and their aim to stifle free speech and prevent people from grappling with the uncomfortable truths exposed in this film is deeply disturbing.

PEN America, which was founded in 1922 and fights for the free speech of artists in the U.S. and around the world, came out strongly and denounced the initial attempt to censor this film, and we hope all champions of free expression condemn this act of censorship.

We are working with YouTube to resolve this issue and have the film back up as soon as possible.

 

 

Cummings' blind spot: he couldn't see the harm in a little sightseeing...

Twitter blocks Dominic Cummings tweets from appearing in its trending list


Link Here27th May 2020
Full story: Twitter Censorship...Twitter offers country by country take downs
For unknown reasons Twitter has taken it on itself to block tweets about the Dominic Cummings saga from appearing in its trending tweets list. Twitter nominally claims this is something to do with spam but this seems an unlikely explanation.

Twitter's censorship has been widely noted by Twitter users and they have tried to work around it. So trending topics over the past five days have instead included a variety of misspellings of his name, including #cummnings, #dominiccummigs and #sackcummimgs, as well as his first name on its own, the hashtag #sackdom, and the place names Durham, County Durham and Barnard Castle.

Bizarrely, the shortened hashtag #cumgate has also trended, since the first syllable is not included in Twitter's banned list, apparently in an attempt to avoid the Scunthorpe problem applying too broadly and so blocking words such as scum, cumbersome or cumulative.

Twitter declined to comment on the censorship. The company's opaque trending algorithms have regularly led to accusations of interference, as users conclude that the absence of a particular topic is a sign of malicious intent, but the answer is rarely as straightforward as it is in this case.

 

 

A Tale of Two Committees...

Another excellent blog post analysing current thinking as the government defines internet censorship to be introduced in the Online Harms Bill. By Graham Smith


Link Here26th May 2020
Full story: Online Harms White Paper...UK Government seeks to censor social media

 

 

 

Wizards of Waverly Place...

More silly censorship on Disney+


Link Here25th May 2020
Full story: Disney+ Censorship...Cuts for political correctness and sexiness
Wizards of Waverly Place is a 2007 - 2012 USA children's comedy fantasy TV series by Lev L Spiro.
Starring Selena Gomez, David Henrie and Jake T Austin. IMDb

"Wizards of Waverly Place" focuses on the Russos. A typical family, which includes a mom, Theresa Russo; a dad, Jerry Russo; a son, Justin Russo; a daughter, Alex Russo; and another son, Max Russo. The kids and the family live normal lives but what their friends don't know is the kids are wizards in training and the dad was a former wizard!

The new Disney+ streaming service for children is continuing to be pulled up for censorship. The latest example is that the channel has been blurring out cleavage in Wizards of Waverly Place. There is nothing overly sexual about the scenes being blurred, just every day street clothes.

The TV series was made by Disney and the cleavage was considered perfectly OK about a decade ago. Maria Canals-Barrera's slight hint of cleavage is what offended Disney censors and required the fogging.

Disney has not responded to questions about the sorry episode.

 

 

A shot of bleach in the arm of social media...

Trump plans to set up a panel to counter social media bias in generally censoring right wing opinions


Link Here24th May 2020
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA
President Trump plans to create a panel to examine cases of bias against conservatives and suppression of free speech on social media, reported The Wall Street Journal. Last week the president tweeted:

The Radical Left is in total command & control of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google. The Administration is working to remedy this illegal situation. Stay tuned, and send names & events. Thank you Michelle!

It is not clear what department the panel would fall under or what authority it would have. However, the WSJ talked to sources that said the plans might lead to the creation of a commission that would work with agencies such as the Federal Communication Commission and the Federal Elections Commission.

In May 2019, the White House launched a tool that allowed people to share their experiences with political censorship but nothing really came of it. At a Social Media Summit held last July , several conservatives voiced concerns about censorship on social media and the shadow-banning of their content.

 

 

Updated: Oh LaLa...

Netflix censors Back to the Future Part II


Link Here23rd May 2020
Back To the Future Part II is a 1989 USA comedy Sci-Fi adventure by Robert Zemeckis.
Starring Michael J Fox, Christopher Lloyd and Lea Thompson. BBFC link IMDb

Marty McFly has only just gotten back from the past, when he is once again picked up by Dr. Emmett Brown and sent through time to the future. Marty's job in the future is to pose as his own son to prevent him from being thrown in prison. Unfortunately, things get worse when the future changes the present.

Back To the Future Part II has never troubled either the BBFC or MPAA but Netflix has decided that the film needs to be censored for its recent addition to the company's film line up.

A scene has been censored where Marty McFly is seeking to retrieve the Grays Sports Almanac from the younger Biff Tannen in an effort to restore the timeline to its original state. Marty eventually gets hold of it but finds that it is just a cover that has been used to hide a copy of a men's magazine titled Oh LaLa .

Netfllix has cut about 5 seconds where the rather modest Oh LaLa cover is on screen.

The cut version leaves a rather untidy edit where the audience is left unaware as to why Marty reacts the way he does.

Update: Future updates

22nd May 2020.

It now seems that what happened is that the Netflix version of Back to the Future Part II was indeed cut. (Here is a video of the cut and uncut versions ).
But as is so often the case with intern et giants when they are caught out for ludicrous, incompetent or embarrassing censorship, they simply throw up their arms, claim that it was some sort of ghastly mistake, and reverse the censorship. So the uncut version was quietly restored to Netflix..

Update: Explanation

23rd May 2020. See article from explica.co :

Bob Gale, the writer of the Back to the Future trilogy, asked fans not to be too hard on Netflix, because the censorship came from the distributor Universal. He explained in an article from explica.co :

The fault lies with Universal, which somehow provided Netflix with an edited version of the movie. I found out about this about ten days ago through an eagle-eyed fanatic, and the studio rectified the error. The version available now is the original uncensored and unedited version. Apparently, this was a foreign version that neither director Robert Zemeckis nor I knew existed, made to broadcast in some country that had a problem with the cover of Oh La La magazine. I asked that the studio destroy this version. Netflix does not edit movies, they only broadcast the versions provided by the studios. Therefore, they are not guilty. You can direct your anger against Universal, but I think they will be much more careful in the future and with the future.

 

 

Offsite Article: EFF Petitions the Appeals Court:...


Link Here23rd May 2020
Reverse Legal Gotchas on Ordinary Internet Activities Using RSS. By Mitch Stoltz

See article from eff.org

 

 

An irresponsible judgement about GDPR or an accurate judgement based on an irresponsible law...

Court tells grandma that she should have registered as a data controller and produced a risk assessment document before posting a picture of her grandchildren on social media


Link Here22nd May 2020
Full story: EU GDPR law...Far reaching privay protection law
The GDPR is a reprehensible and bureaucratic law that is impossible to fully comply with, and dictates an onerous process of risk assessments that are enforced by inspection and audits. It is not the sort of thing that you would wish on your grandmother. So the law makers built in an important exclusion such that the law does not apply to the processing of personal data by a natural person in the exercise of a purely personal or household activity.

But now a Dutch court has weighed in and decided that this important exclusion does not applying to posting family pictures on the likes of Twitter.

The court got involved in a family dispute between a grandmother who wanted to post pictures of her grand children on social against the wishes of the mother.

The court decided that the posting of pictures for public consumption on social media went beyond 'purely personal or household activity'. The details weren't fully worked out, but the court judgement suggested that they may have taken a different view had the pictures been posted to a more restricted audience, say to Facebook friends only. But saying that such nuance doesn't apply to Twitter where posts are by default public.

The outcome of the case was that the grandmother was therefore in the wrong and has been ordered to remove the pictures from her social media accounts.

But the horrible outcome of this court judgement is that anyone posting pictures of private individuals to Twitter must now register as a data controller, so requiring submission to the full bureaucratic nightmare that is the GDPR.

 

 

Offsite Article: 2 years since GDPR and no action against data exploitation by Ireland registered US internet giants...


Link Here22nd May 2020
Full story: Internet Censorship in Ireland...Ireland considers the UK's lead in censoring porn and social media
Ireland's Data Protection Commission is under pressure to act, and act soon.

See article from politico.eu

 

 

God's Own Country...

British gay drama cut for streaming by the US distributor but after the director's intervention the film is now uncut for rental on Amazon Prime


Link Here21st May 2020
God's Own Country is a 2017 UK gay romance by Francis Lee.
Starring Josh O'Connor, Alec Secareanu and Gemma Jones. BBFC link IMDb

Spring. Yorkshire. Isolated young sheep farmer Johnny Saxby numbs his daily frustrations with binge drinking and casual sex, until the arrival of a Romanian migrant worker Gheorghe, employed for the lambing season, ignites an intense relationship that sets Johnny on a new path.

God's Own Country director Francis Lee has revealed his film was butchered by its American distributor, who censored several of the movie's gay sex scenes for a streaming release.

The censorship first came to light earlier this week, when Lee tweeted that fans should not stream the movie via Amazon Prime Video, due to edits made without his consent. He Tweeted:

Dear friends in USA, God's Own Country appears to have been censored on Amazon Prime. Until this is investigated please do not rent or buy on Amazon Prime. It is not the film I intended or made.

However the director later seems to have got the Amazon Prime version fixed and he tweeted the following day:

After investigation, God's Own Country was not censored by Amazon, but by the US distributor Samuel Goldwyn Films, who butchered the streaming version without consultation to get more 'revenue'.

The rental version of God's Own Country on @PrimeVideo is the correct version of my film. I would like to thank Amazon Prime for being supportive and I would caution any film maker of working with the aforementioned 'distributor'.

The film was banned in numerous Arab countries and China as a result of its LGBT+ themes, with only Secareanu's native Romania playing the film in Eastern Europe.

 

 

Offsite Article: Untrustworthy censors...


Link Here21st May 2020
Full story: Coronavirus...Internet censorship and surveillance
Google disgracefully censors a totally rational well reasoned academic who was just a little more optimistic about the petering out of coronavirus than the rest... and later reverses the unjustified censorship after social media uproar

See article from unherd.com

 

 

Troublesome truths...

Russia attempts to get Google to censors coronavirus news that it does not like


Link Here20th May 2020
Full story: Internet Censorship in Russia...Russia restoring repressive state control of media
The Russian government has demanded that Google censor a news story that accuses the nation of artificially reducing the reported number of deaths from COVID-19. The news data, however, comes from government-run institutions and official records.

The nation's internet censor, the Roskomnadzor, is trying to remove a news item from the MBKh Media website for being considered disinformation. In fact the MBKh Media article was based on a piece published by the Financial Times, and that piece also is under scrutiny by Roskomnadzor.

The news in question states that the Russian government is trying to reduce the actual COVID-19 death toll by attributing the deaths to other diseases. According to the report, the death toll should be at least 70% higher, which means that the actual death toll would be close to 5,000. Moscow's Health Department confirmed that the reports are based on their data.

To block the news, the Roskomnadzor has turned to Google directly since MBKh Media has refused to delete the report.

Maybe the Russian censors should consider that its reputation for censoring embarrassing but true information means that the act of censorship ends up reinforcing the credibility of what's being censored. Maybe then attempts to censor say 5G theories may end up enforcing the conspiracy.

 

 

The UK's opening gambit in US trade negotiations is to stifle US social media giants...

The government seems a bit cagey about the timetable for introducing the internet censorship measures contained in ICO's Age Appropriate Design rules


Link Here19th May 2020
Full story: ICO Age Appropriate Design...ICO calls for age assurance for websites accessed by children
The Age Appropriate Design Code has been written by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) to inform websites what they must do to keep ICO internet censors at bay with regards to the government's interpretations of GDPR provisions. Perhaps in the same way that the Crown Prosecution Service provides prosecution guidance as to how it interprets criminal law.

The Age Appropriate Design Code dictates how websites, and in particular social media, make sure that they are not exploiting children's personal data. Perhaps the most immediate effect is that social media will have to allow a level of usages that simply does not require children to hand over personal data. Requiring more extensive personal data, say in the way that Facebook does, requires users to provide 'age assurance' that they are old enough to take such decisions wisely.

However adult users may not be so willing to age verify, and may in fact also appreciate an option to use such websites without handing over data into the exploitative hands of social media companies.

So one suspects that US internet social media giants may not see Age Appropriate Design and the government's Online Harms model for internet censorship as commercially very desirable for their best interests. And one suspects that maybe US internet industry pushback may be something that is exerting pressure on UK negotiators seeking a free trade agreement with the US.

Pure conjecture of course, but the government does seem very cagey about its timetable for both the Age Appropriate Design Code and the Online Harms bill. Here is the latest parliamentary debate in the House of Lords very much on the subject of the government's timetable.

House of Lords Hansard: Age-appropriate Design Code, 18 May 2020

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara:

To ask Her Majesty's Government when they intend to lay the regulation giving effect to the age- appropriate design code required under section 123 of the Data Protection Act 2018 before Parliament.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Barran) (Con)

The age-appropriate design code will play an important role in protecting children's personal data online. The Government notified the final draft of the age-appropriate design code to the European Commission as part of our obligations under the technical standards and regulations directive. The standstill period required under the directive has concluded. The Data Protection Act requires that the code is laid in Parliament as soon as is practicably possible.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara:

I am delighted to hear that, my Lords, although no date has been given. The Government have a bit of ground to make up here, so perhaps it will not be delayed too long. Does the Minister agree that the Covid-19 pandemic is a perfect storm for children and for young people's digital experience? More children are online for more time and are more reliant on digital technology. In light of that, more action needs to be taken. Can she give us some information about when the Government will publish their final response to the consultation on the online harms White Paper, for example, and a date for when we are likely to see the draft Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny?

Baroness Barran

I spent some time this morning with a group of young people, in part discussing their experience online. The noble Lord is right that the pandemic presents significant challenges, and they were clear that they wanted a safe space online as well as physical safe spaces. The Government share that aspiration. We expect to publish our response to the online harms consultation this autumn and to introduce the legislation this Session.

Lord Clement-Jones (LD)

My Lords, I was very disappointed to see in the final version of the code that the section dealing with age-appropriate application has been watered down to leave out reference to age-verification mechanisms. Is this because the age-verification provisions of the Digital Economy Act have been kicked into the long grass at the behest of the pornography industry so that we will not have officially sanctioned age-verification tools available any time soon?

Baroness Barran

There is no intention to water down the code. Its content is the responsibility of the Information Commissioner, who has engaged widely to develop the code, with a call for evidence and a full public consultation.

Lord Moynihan (Con)

My Lords, is my noble friend the Minister able to tell the House the results of the consultation process with the industry on possible ways to implement age verification online?

Baroness Barran

We believe that our online harms proposals will deliver a much higher level of protection for children, as is absolutely appropriate. We expect companies to use a proportionate range of tools, including age-assurance and age-verification technologies, to prevent children accessing inappropriate behaviour, whether that be via a website or social media.

The Earl of Erroll (CB)

May I too push the Government to use the design code to cover the content of publicly accessible parts of pornographic websites, since the Government are not implementing Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act to protect children? Any online harms Act will be a long time in becoming effective, and such sites are highly attractive to young teenagers.

Baroness Barran

We agree absolutely about the importance of protecting young children online and that is why we are aiming to have the most ambitious online harms legislation in the world. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State and the Minister for Digital and Culture meet representatives of the industry regularly to urge them to improve their actions in this area.

Lord Holmes of Richmond (Con)

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the code represents a negotiation vis- -vis the tech companies and thus there is no reason for any delay in laying it before Parliament? Does she further agree that it should be laid before Parliament before 10 June to enable it to pass before the summer break? This would enable the Government to deliver on the claim that the UK is the safest place on the planet to be online. Share The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned: This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

Baroness Barran

The negotiation is not just with the tech companies. We have ambitions to be not only a commercially attractive place for tech companies but a very safe place to be online, while ensuring that freedom of speech is upheld. The timing of the laying of the code is dependent on discussions with the House authorities. As my noble friend is aware, there is a backlog of work which needs to be processed because of the impact of Covid-19.

 

 

Offsite Article: It looks like the UK's data regulator has given up, blaming coronavirus...


Link Here 19th May 2020
Information Commissioner's Office has effectively downed tools as a result of the pandemic, raising concerns about outstanding cases and ongoing privacy issues

See article from wired.co.uk

 

 

Nag nag nag...

Twitch introduces a new PC censor and heath nanny


Link Here17th May 2020
Twitch has introduced a new PC censor in the following blog post:

Keeping our community safe and healthy is a top priority for Twitch. Today, we're excited to announce the formation of the Twitch Safety Advisory Council, which will support the growth of our community moving forward.

The Safety Advisory Council will inform and guide decisions made at Twitch by contributing their experience, expertise, and belief in Twitch's mission of empowering communities to create together. The Council will advise on a number of topics including:

  • Drafting new policies and policy updates
  • Developing products and features to improve safety and moderation
  • Promoting healthy streaming and work-life balance habits
  • Protecting the interests of marginalized groups
  • Identifying emerging trends that could impact the Twitch experience

This group is composed of online safety experts and Twitch creators who have a deep understanding of Twitch, its content, and its community. When developing this council we felt it was essential to include both experts who can provide an external perspective, as well as Twitch streamers who deeply understand creators' unique challenges and viewpoints. Each member of the council was carefully selected based on their familiarity with the Twitch community and their relevant personal and professional experiences.

We are excited to work with this talented group to make Twitch the best place to grow and foster a community. The creation of the Safety Advisory Council is just one way we are enhancing our approach to issues of trust and safety. We will continue to invest in tools, products, and policies that promote the safety and well-being of everyone on Twitch.

 

 

Mentally challenged...

Facebook opens an AI challenge to help it to censor hateful messages hidden in memes


Link Here16th May 2020
Full story: Facebook Censorship since 2020...Left wing bias, prudery and multiple 'mistakes'
Facebook is seeking help in the censorship of hateful messages that have been encoded into meme. The company writes in a post:

In order for AI to become a more effective tool for detecting hate speech, it must be able to understand content the way people do: holistically. When viewing a meme, for example, we don't think about the words and photo independently of each other; we understand the combined meaning together. This is extremely challenging for machines, however, because it means they can't just analyze the text and the image separately. They must combine these different modalities and understand how the meaning changes when they are presented together. To catalyze research in this area, Facebook AI has created a data set to help build systems that better understand multimodal hate speech. Today, we are releasing this Hateful Memes data set to the broader research community and launching an associated competition, hosted by DrivenData with a $100,000 prize pool.

The challenges of harmful content affect the entire tech industry and society at large. As with our work on initiatives like the Deepfake Detection Challenge and the Reproducibility Challenge, Facebook AI believes the best solutions will come from open collaboration by experts across the AI community.

We continue to make progress in improving our AI systems to detect hate speech and other harmful content on our platforms, and we believe the Hateful Memes project will enable Facebook and others to do more to keep people safe.


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