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Updated: A Twitter spat...

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


Link Here30th May 2020
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
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 Here 27th May 2020
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

 

 

 

Wizards of Waverly Place...

More silly censorship on Disney+


Link Here25th May 2020
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.

 

 

Offsite Article: Evidence of reckless behaviour leading to infection and litigation is surely best deleted...


Link Here15th May 2020
Parliament's Human Rights Committee gives the Covid-19 app a hard time

See article from theguardian.com

 

 

Harmful censorship...

Ministers report on the timetable for the Online Harms internet censorship bill


Link Here14th May 2020
The DCMS minister for censorship, Caroline Dinenage and the Home Office minister in the House of Lords, Susan Williams were quizzed by Parliament's home affairs committee on the progress of the Online Harms Bill.

Caroline Dinenage in particular gave the impression that the massive scope of the bill includes several issues that have not yet been fully thought through. The government does not yet seem able to provide a finalised timetable.

Dinenage told the home affairs committee that she could not commit to introducing the new laws in Parliament in the current session. She said it was an aspiration or intention rather than a commitment as pledged by her predecessor.

She said the government's final consultation response outlining its plans would not be published until probably in the Autumn, more than 18 months after the White Paper in 2019 and more than two and a half years since the green paper.

Julian Knight, Conservative chair of the culture committee, said:

If you don't do it it 2021, then it would have to go through the whole process and it could be 2023 before it is on the statute book with implementation in 2024. Given we have been working on this through the last Parliament, that is not good enough.

The disinformation online about coronavirus underlines why we need this legislation. Unless we can get the architecture in place, we will see further instances of serious erosion of public trust and even damage to the fabric of society.

Dinenage disclosed that the new internet censor, probably Ofcom, would initially be paid for by the taxpayer before shifting all funding to the tech industry.

 

 

Censorship at a moment's notice...

France lawmakers pass an extreme censorship law that will result in even more of the internet being hosted and controlled by US internet giants


Link Here14th May 2020
France has adopted a new censorship law forcing internet companies to take down content that that the government doesn't like at breakneck speed.

After months of debate, the lower house of Parliament adopted the legislation, which will require platforms such as Google, Twitter and Facebook to remove flagged hateful content within 24 hours and flagged terrorist propaganda within one hour. Failure to do so could result in fines of up to 1.25 million euro.

The new rules apply to all websites, whether large or small. But there are concerns that only internet giants such as Facebook and Google actually have the resources to remove content as quickly as required.

Digital rights group La Quadrature du Net said the requirement to take down content that the police considered terrorism in just one hour was impractical.

The worrying outcome maybe that small companies are forced to present their content via larger US companies that can offer the capability that content will be censored automatically on receiving a complaint. This will of course result in the likes of Google taking even more control of the internet.

The law, which echoes similar rules already in place in Germany, piles more pressure on Silicon Valley firms to police millions of daily posts in Europe's two most populous countries.

The censorship law targets search engines as well as social media companies, has been the source of plenty of controversy. Online digital rights groups, tech companies, opposition parties have all criticized the initiative, and the Senate has led an effort to water it down by deleting the systematic deadline for removing content.

Opponents argued in particular that the law would lead to lawful content being taken down and would hand too much power to the companies charged with making decisions on what content is considered obviously unlawful.

The European Commission has also voiced criticism , writing to the French government in November to ask for the legislation to be postponed. The EU executive argued that Paris should wait for its own planned rules on platforms, the Digital Services Act, to pass to set a common EU-wide standard on policing illegal content online.

 

 

Snoop on...

Senate bill to restrict snooping of people's browsing history fails by one vote


Link Here14th May 2020
The US government continues to have the right to snoop on internet users' browsing histories, as well and also internet search histories. A bill that would have stripped the government of its right to conduct the searches with no warrant failed in the Senate.

The bipartisan bill, an amendment to a surveillance authority first established under the 2001 Patriot Act, was sponsored by Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, and Montana Republican Steve Daines. But the amendment required 60 votes to move forward, and the final Senate vote was 59-37 in favor.

 

 

The Facebook Oversight Board...

Former Guardian editor appointed to Facebook's new censorship appeals board


Link Here14th May 2020

We know that social media can spread speech that is hateful, harmful and deceitful. In recent years, the question of what content should stay up or come down, and who should decide this, has become increasingly urgent for society. Every content decision made by Facebook impacts people and communities. All of them deserve to understand the rules that govern what they are sharing, how these rules are applied, and how they can appeal those decisions.

The Oversight Board represents a new model of content moderation for Facebook and Instagram and today we are proud to announce our initial members. The Board will take final and binding decisions on whether specific content should be allowed or removed from Facebook and Instagram

The Board will review whether content is consistent with Facebook and Instagram's policies and values, as well as a commitment to upholding freedom of expression within the framework of international norms of human rights. We will make decisions based on these principles, and the impact on users and society, without regard to Facebook's economic, political or reputational interests. Facebook must implement our decisions, unless implementation could violate the law.

The four Co-Chairs and 16 other Members announced today are drawn from around the world. They speak over 27 languages and represent diverse professional, cultural, political, and religious backgrounds and viewpoints. Over time we expect to grow the Board to around 40 Members. While we cannot claim to represent everyone, we are confident that our global composition will underpin, strengthen and guide our decision-making.

All Board Members are independent of Facebook and all other social media companies. In fact, many of us have been publicly critical of how the company has handled content issues in the past. Members contract directly with the Oversight Board, are not Facebook employees and cannot be removed by Facebook. Our financial independence is also guaranteed by the establishment of a $130 million trust fund that is completely independent of Facebook, which will fund our operations and cannot be revoked. All of this is designed to protect our independent judgment and enable us to make decisions free from influence or interference.

When we begin hearing cases later this year, users will be able to appeal to the Board in cases where Facebook has removed their content, but over the following months we will add the opportunity to review appeals from users who want Facebook to remove content.

Users who do not agree with the result of a content appeal to Facebook can refer their case to the Board by following guidelines that will accompany the response from Facebook. At this stage the Board will inform the user if their case will be reviewed.

The Board can also review content referred to it by Facebook. This could include many significant types of decisions, including content on Facebook or Instagram, on advertising, or Groups. The Board will also be able to make policy recommendations to Facebook based on our case decisions.

See first 20 members in blog post from oversightboard.com

The list includes a British panel member, Alan Rusbridger, a former editor of The Guardian. Perhaps giving a hint of a 'progressive' leaning to proceedings.

Offsite Comment: Facebook's free-speech panel doesn't believe in free speech

14th May 2020. See article from spiked-online.com

Alan Rusbridger, one-time cheerleader of press regulation, is among the members.

 

 

Offsite Article: Tracking a hidden menace...


Link Here13th May 2020
Leaked documents reveal that the NHS covid 19 app had, or has, aspirations to be a full-on location tracking app

See article from wired.co.uk

 

 

You can't say that!...

Twitter will label coronavirus tweets if they are deemed to be misleading, disputed or unverified


Link Here12th May 2020

In serving the public conversation, our goal is to make it easy to find credible information on Twitter and to limit the spread of potentially harmful and misleading content. Starting today, we're introducing new labels and warning messages that will provide additional context and information on some Tweets containing disputed or misleading information related to COVID-19.

During active conversations about disputed issues, it can be helpful to see additional context from trusted sources. Earlier this year , we introduced a new label for Tweets containing synthetic and manipulated media. Similar labels will now appear on Tweets containing potentially harmful, misleading information related to COVID-19. This will also apply to Tweets sent before today.

These labels will link to a Twitter-curated page or external trusted source containing additional information on the claims made within the Tweet.

While false or misleading content can take many different forms, we will take action based on three broad categories:

  • Misleading information -- statements or assertions that have been confirmed to be false or misleading by subject-matter experts, such as public health authorities.

  • Disputed claims -- statements or assertions in which the accuracy, truthfulness, or credibility of the claim is contested or unknown.

  • Unverified claims -- information (which could be true or false) that is unconfirmed at the time it is shared.

 

 

Pandemia: Virus Outbreak...

A bad case of censorship runs rife through Google Play and Amazon Store


Link Here9th May 2020
Pandemia: Virus Outbreak is a strategy game by PocketsOfEnergy which is set to be released on Steam

Swipe cards to face the deadly virus threat in this story driven strategy game. Step into the world in which you will face the decisions that world leaders make in the event of a deadly virus threat. Every decision have consequences.

The game was banned from from Google Play after one week due to alleged references to COIVD-19.

PocketsOfEnergy said in a statement:

We are very happy that Steam provides the platform for releasing the game and does not censor or ban our game for no reason like Google Play and Amazon Store did.

Let's keep the world of indie creators or corporations free of any censorship and pay respect for the work of others.

 

 

Warped neurological thinking...

Morality in Media calls on payment companies to censor porn websites for them


Link Here8th May 2020
The US anti-porn campaigners Morality in Media (who now misleadingly name themselves as the National Centre on Sexual Exploitation) have been calling on international payment companies to censor the adult tube sites, most notably Pornhub. The group has set up an international branch and recruited a few unknown morality campaign groups from around the world. Haley McNamara, director of the international branch writes in a letter to major payment companies:

Major credit card companies continue to provide infrastructure to the exploitative pornography industry. As international anti-exploitation leaders, we urgently call on these financial institutions to cease processing payments and thereby refuse to aid human rights violations

We believe this decision would be in line with your corporate ethical commitment to processing legal purchases, and that it will advance your reputation by refusing profits from sexual violence, incest, sex trafficking, child sexual abuse material, and other exploitation.

The pornography industry does not judge or verify consent in any videos on their sites, let alone live webcam videos. Tragically, this has resulted in worldwide cases of rape, child sexual abuse, sex trafficking, and non-consensually shared pornography (or 'revenge porn') being uploaded onto mainstream pornography websites.

Further, we know that mainstream pornography is promoting themes of incest, rape, racism, sex with youth, and sexual violence against women, which warps many users' sexual and neurological development. It is time for mainstream companies to stop propping up an industry that is inherently built on sexual exploitation.

Offsite Comment: Wake up and smell the coffee

See article from girlonthenet.com

Blogger Girl on the Net has written a interesting allegorical explainer suggesting that the called for action is likely to hit the wrong target.

 

 

In these recessionary times maybe it is not a good idea to deprive websites of their income...

The Data censor ICO has suspended its action against adtech citing coronavirus effects


Link Here8th May 2020
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has announced:

The ICO recently set out its regulatory approach during the COVID-19 pandemic, where we spoke about reassessing our priorities and resources.

Taking this into account we have made the decision to pause our investigation into real time bidding and the Adtech industry.

It is not our intention to put undue pressure on any industry at this time but our concerns about Adtech remain and we aim to restart our work in the coming months, when the time is right.

 

 

Offsite Article: EU Drives EU internet companies into deeper recession...


Link Here 7th May 2020
Rhe EU doubles down on its impossible to comply with and unreasonable cookie consent law

See article from techcrunch.com

 

 

An Imran Khan beamer is hit for six...

US internet giants threaten total boycott of Pakistan over its extreme internet censorship law just enacted


Link Here5th May 2020
Earlier this month, the government of Pakistan enacted some of the most authoritarian and restrictive online censorship laws outside Communist China. The laws seems to be based on European and UK laws to hold the internet companies responsible for whatever users post.

Although the likes of Google and Facebook usually bow down to local law, this new law was a step too far. Google, Twitter, and Facebook have surprised many by taking a stand against the Pakistani government's censorship plans and threatening to pull out of the country if the plans aren't changed. And remarkably, it seems to be working.

Pakistan's new law is misleadingly titled the Citizen Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules 2020. It gives the country's censors the power to shut down a huge range of online content. It would require tech companies to remove this content within 24 hours of it being posted.

Tech companies would also be duty-bound to stop post of various types of content from becoming accessible to Pakistani users in real-time and appears to make them responsible for the content of posts put up by users.

Tech companies would also be required to store user data on local servers and open headquarters in the Pakistani capital Islamabad.

The main internet companies have now got together under the banner of the Asia Internet Coalition and have written a frank and critical letter to  Prime Minister, Imran Khan. It explains that if the law isn't changed all the companies will withdraw from the Pakistani market altogether.

In response Pakistani officials have duly committed to review the regulations this week and have said they will now conduct a comprehensive and broad consultation process with all relevant segments of civil society and technology companies.

Perhaps the cooperative stand taken by the internet giants may be something for the UK to consider in its own plans for a repressive new 'online harms censorship law. It would seem entirely reasonable for the companies to take a stand against being held responsible for all the world's ills.

 

 

Prime cuts...

Amazon Prime streams a heavily cut version of Vikings Season 6


Link Here5th May 2020
  The Express reports that viewers are fuming that they are being served up a cut version of Season 6 of the epic History Channel series, Vikings.

The version being screened internationally on Amazon Prime in a censored version. Episodes in season 6 have been shorn of nudity as the show's later seasons chronicles the illicit affairs of Viking king Ragnar Lothbrok and his queen, Lagertha.

One newcomer to the series recently found out about the major discrepancies between the censored streaming versions of the show and the uncut, extended Blu-Ray editions. On Amazon Prime, most episodes have been cut short and some more adult moments of sex and gore were trimmed for the premiere broadcast.

In the very first episode, which runs two minutes longer in the uncut version, an attempted rape scene is cut short, and a brief dream sequence involving a mutilated corpse was trimmed.

It seems that uncut version have been exclusive to rather expensive Blu-ray releases.

 

 

Download the app or else we won't open the pubs!...

Australia is struggling to get people to download its covid surveillance app


Link Here3rd May 2020
Both the state and commercial sector have a disgraceful record of respecting people's data privacy. From the state's viewpoint, surveillance data is way too valuable, for law enforcement, censorship and societal control, to allow people to have any avenue for privacy. Meanwhile commercial companies, notably Facebook, Google, credit reference agencies, and more or less any website that wants to earn a bit more money from advertising, have all abused people's data mercilessly. And then of course there are also the hackers, scammers and identity thieves that prey on any data they can steal.

And every one of these snoopers has been continually claiming that they can be trusted with your data. It doesn't matter how often their lies are found out, they continue to make the same claims.

It is little wonder then that a significant number of people are a little unwilling to sign up for Big Brother surveillance, however well intentioned, the state, and its commercial partners, simply can't be trusted.

Something that perhaps politicians are starting to realise in Australia. The government as been aggressively pushing its covid tracking app for a week or so, but has got nowhere near the required take up.

Australia's COVIDSafe app was launched on Sunday April 26. About a million people downloaded it within the first day, but that trailed off with only a tenth of that installing it by the end of the week. The current tally is that about 4 million people downloaded the app, out of a population of about 26 million.

The Federal Government has warned that millions more Australians need to download the app and has threatened that if they don't, then the lockdown won't be eased.

In fact opposition to the app has appeared even from the Australian panel of experts working to fight the pandemic.One of Australia's top advisers to the World Health Health Organisation refuses to download the app. University of NSW professor Mary-Louise McLaws said until she knew more about where the data it collected was stored and secured, she couldn't install it. In particular  she is concerned the personal data could be accessed through Amazon's servers under U.S. law.

The government has resorted to all but declaring the 40% threshold is necessary for pubs to open and life to go back to normal. Critics slammed this rhetoric as emotional blackmail, noting that it is hardly likely to win people over.

Of course one of the possible outcomes is that the authorities could go down the Chinese route and make the app more or less mandatory.

 

 

Fake claims...

The piss poor journalists of ITN, who do no nothing but belittle the achievements of the government in fighting coronavirus, think they deserve a kite mark for 'quality journalism'


Link Here3rd May 2020

ITN, the maker of news for ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, is calling for a digital kitemarking system online to distinguish between supposedly quality journalism and fake content, with internet companies facing penalties if they publish inaccurate information.

In a submission to a House of Lords inquiry into the future of journalism, seen by the Observer , ITN says internet companies should face the same penalties as broadcasters and other 'quality' news providers from regulatory bodies, such as Ofcom, if they let misinformation slip through the net.

ITN also calls on parliament to draw up a code of conduct for news suppliers and digital platforms to help prevent the dissemination of fake news. If agreement with the big digital companies on a voluntary code cannot be reached, it says, it should be made mandatory and negotiations time-limited so the big tech companies cannot drag their feet.

The Lords inquiry is looking into how the production and consumption of journalism is changing, how journalists can be supported and how the profession can become more trusted by the public.

 

 

Updated: A mainstream media conspiracy theory...

Facebook and Google believe that David Icke nonsense about 5G and coronavirus is somehow undermining civilisation as we know it


Link Here2nd May 2020
Conspiracy theorist David Icke has had his main Facebook page shutdown by Facebook.

Icke, a former sports commentator, is a vocal backer of the conspiracy theory that 5G technology spreads coronavirus.

Politicians and campaigners are calling on internet giants to stop their platforms being used to amplify Icke's thoughts on covid and 5G.

Update: YouTube too

2nd May 2020. See article from bbc.co.uk

YouTube has deleted David Icke's official channel from its platform. Google said it acted after repeatedly warning Icke that he had violated its censorship rules by posting misleading information about the coronavirus pandemic.

However, Google will still allow videos posted by others that feature Icke to remain live, so long as their content does not break its rules.

Icke's  channel had more than 900,000 subscribers at the time it was removed. One suspects that these social media bans will probably add weight to the conspiracy in that these companies are going to such great lengths to censor the story because Icke is getting too close to the truth.

 

 

Designated Dictator...

Turkey bans an episode of Designated Survivor on Netflix


Link Here1st May 2020
Designated Survivor Episode 2.7: Family Ties is a USA action mystery thriller by Milan Cheylov.
Starring Kiefer Sutherland, Natascha McElhone and Paulo Costanzo. IMDb

Leading into a NATO summit in DC, the team learns that Turkish president Fatih Turan, who Tom does not much like, wants to raise significantly the leases on strategic air fields in Turkey, they believing to build up a war chest for an upcoming election. If Tom doesn't agree, Turan may hand the leases over to the Russians which would give them the upper hand in the Middle East.

Netflix has removed an episode of political thriller series Designated Survivor in Turkey following a demand from the country's censor board. Netflix said in a statement:

Following a demand from the Turkish regulator, we have removed one episode of Designated Survivor from Netflix in Turkey only, to comply with local law.

The episode remains on the service in all other territories.

Season 2 episode 7 is title Family Ties and depicts a fictitious Turkish president, played by Troy Caylak, as its antagonist. Kiefer Sutherland leads the show as U.S. president Tom Kirkman.


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