Melon Farmers Original Version

Internet News

2011: Oct-Dec

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31st December   

Update: All Just TalkTalk...

HomeSafe website blocking service attracts few takers
Link Here
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

The number of people signing up to a ground-breaking new service to block children from accessing self-harm and pornography websites has slumped amid criticisms that it fails to achieve its aims, could breach privacy and employs technology connected to the Chinese military.

TalkTalk ISP launched its free HomeSafe service to its 4 million internet subscribers in May, but the product has only attracted around 200,000 users despite signing up more than 100,000 in its first two months.

The slowing take-up follows HomeSafe featuring prominently in TalkTalk's recent advertising campaign which attempted to attract customers by plugging the UK's safest broadband .

Some technology blogs and websites have raised concerns that HomeSafe might be easily bypassed by dubious websites, while also querying whether the product could introduce worries about privacy.

On his blog, Dr Richard Clayton, a computer scientist at the University of Cambridge, wrote:

I doubt that malware distributors will see this [HomeSafe] as much of a challenge. The system is described as 'opt in', [but] that only applies to whether or not websites you visit might be blocked. What is not opt in is whether or not TalkTalk learns the details of the URLs [websites] that all of their customers visit, whether they have opted in or not.


24th December   

Enquiring Minds...

So who actually decides which websites are blocked on mobile phones in the name of child protection?
Link Here

All the major UK mobile operators have Internet blocking schemes that block certain content from users. This is designed to protect children from accessing adult material. The filters are turned on by default when anybody signs up to a mobile contract. Age verification, normally via a credit card, is required to turn them off.

We've heard a lot of anecdotal evidence of mistakes, over-blocking and the difficulty of pointing out when things go wrong.

Mobile Internet access is becoming more important as a means of getting online. According to Ofcom, 28% of UK adults said they accessed the internet on their mobile in the first three months of 2011. So we've started to look more closely at how this blocking works.

It's clear that mobile operators could be much clearer about this. They tend to be pretty opaque as to exactly how their blocking works, and how they decide which Web pages are inappropriate for under 18s.

For example, Orange says that it is the Independent Mobile Classification Body (IMCB) that decides what is adult content or not. However this is not true. The IMCB only provides a framework for determining content from mobile phone companies that is inappropriate for children and teenagers. But content from the Internet is out of IMCB's remit, as stated in its Classification Framework.

Mobile operators all declare that they are acting according to a code of conduct set by the Mobile Broadband Group. But this code does not provide for any kind of criteria for determining or defining blockable content. It simply points at the IMCB framework.

It is most likely that lists from US companies like Blue Coat are used to decide what we are able to access. How the policies of these companies fit with the frameworks of the IMCB and the Mobile Broadband Group is another question we are looking to answer.

Transparency regarding how mobile operators decide what counts as blockable content is increasingly important. Customers should be able to ascertain how and why content is blocked, and have easier ways to point out when things are going wrong. We'll be developing more work on this, including tools to help you point out when mobile operators are blocking sites, soon. Please let us know if you're interested in helping out.

...See  more information at


20th December   

Explicit Warning...

Parental advisory of explicit lyrics extended to online retailers
Link Here

The music industry's parental advisory scheme has been extended to explicit content in music and video downloads.

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) scheme has applied to physical music and video since 1995, with logos attached to material deemed offensive or inappropriate for children.

The logo now signposts unsuitable files on sites including iTunes and Amazon.

The updated scheme states that UK digital music retailers and streaming services use the Parental Advisory logo or the word explicit alongside files that could be considered unsuitable.

The BPI said that while some sites already flagged up explicit content, the scheme, introduced on Tuesday, would provide consistent labelling.


16th December   

Updated: Another Block in the Wall...

Sky blocks Newzbin website in response to court order
Link Here

Sky Broadband has begun blocking Newzbin2 after receiving a court order telling it to do so.

The ISP is the second major internet provider to block access to the Usenet indexing website, after BT started doing so around the end of October. However, major rivals TalkTalk and Virgin Media said that they have received no such court order themselves, and are not blocking the site.

We have received a court order requiring us to block access to this illegal website, which we did on 13 December, Sky said in a statement: Moving forward, as and when clear and legally robust evidence of copyright theft is presented, we will take appropriate action in respect to site blocking, which will include complying with court orders.

The European branch of the Motion Picture Association (MPA) representing Walt Disney, Paramount, Sony, 20th Century Fox, Universal and Warner Brothers won a court order in July that forced BT to block access to Newzbin2. In early November, shortly after BT began blocking Newzbin, the MPA sent letters to all the major ISPs, saying the organisation intended to seek similar court orders and asking whether the ISPs intended to fight against this move.

The MPA has also gone to BT to seek a block of the Pirate Bay file-sharing website, but BT has said it will not institute further blocks without a court order for each case.


10th December   

Update: Out of Sight Out of Mind...

Germany strikes off unused law enabling website blocking for child abuse images
Link Here
Full story: Internet Censorship in Germany...Germany considers state internet filtering

Germany's lower house of Parliament has repealed a law enabling website blocking iof websites containing child pornography.

The Bundestag's 2009 law enabled a list of sites compiled by Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office to be blocked by ISPs.

However the law was denounced as soon as it was passed and the repeal process was put into effect.

The criticism was that internet blocks are easy to work round via proxies and that putting them on a blocked list rather lets such websites off the hook, as they have seemingly been dealt with. And of course the websites are effectively vanished to decent folks, so there will be no further complaints for the authorities to act upon.

The only way to prevent such sites from being viewed is to delete them, Internet expert Jimmy Schulz said, by alerting the individual Internet service providers.


7th December   

Update: Police Take the Law into their Own Hands...

Authorities persuade Nominet to consider taking down websites without judicial oversight
Link Here
Full story: Internet Domain Censorship...In the Domain of Nominet internet censorship

Nominet has been suspending domain names at the mere request of law enforcement agencies, without a fair trial. While most of these sites have been dodgy, some should not have been removed. This loophole in the justice system could be exploited and mistakes are inevitable, leading to deliberate or accidental censorship.

Despite ORG's demands that transparency and evidence remain the foundation of any policy, law enforcement agencies have refused to budge. They say they lack the resources and powers to use the courts.

ORG, ISPA and LINX all announced that they were unable to support the initial Nominet Issue Group statement. It is incredibly important for justice to be transparent and open to all.

Nominet have asked the Issue group for a further meeting, where ORG will explain why using the courts is a vital safeguard.

Search engines asked to help with copyright censorship

In addition to the discussions about a new, faster website censorship plan, Ed Vaizey is now also hosting roundtables between copyright owners and search engines. The aim is to tell search engines to do more to stop infringement by blocking, promoting or demoting certain sites.

Just like previous discussions about website censorship, these proposals have no basis in evidence, come seemingly at the say so of rights-holders, with no involvement from civil society. We're urgently looking to tell DCMS why private policing of the Internet is a bad idea.

We have been invited to the next round of discussions: tomorrow, with minister Ed Vaizey. This is a big win for you and ORG. Now we can try to open the process up to everyone.


7th December   

Update: XXX = 3 Times as Expensive?...

.XXX website domains now available to all
Link Here

.xxx domains are now openly available to anyone that wants them. They are available at $60 each.

The ICM Registry says creating a .xxx domain is better for those who don't like porn, since it provides an easy way to filter out adult-entertainment sites. After all, if a site has the .xxx suffix, it's clear before you even go there what kind of content will be there, and telling software to simply filter those sites out is an easy thing to do.

At the same time, .xxx domains provide better protections than other porn sites, and that benefits people who do want access to adult material. Since anyone who runs a .xxx site agrees to certain conditions --- among them a daily scan for malware, dedicated servers for search, and access to a new micropayment system --- the sites will theoretically be safer and easier to use than other adult sites, which are sometimes breeding grounds for malware.


6th December   

Update: Korean Copyright War...

US seizes domains of websites offering movie downloads to Korean speakers
Link Here
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA

Operation In Our Sites, launched by the US Department of Homeland Security's ICE unit, continues with the seizure of 11 Korean domain names that were allegedly related to movie piracy.

Since Korean websites are becoming likely targets for the operations launched by US authorities, the well-known banner that declares a site illegal, alerting its visitors that it has been shut down by law enforcement agencies, now has a Korean translation of the warning.,,,,,,, ,, and were domains that offered download links to the latest movies in return for a small fee.

Many of the seized domains belong to a US company, even if they were clearly designed to target Korean speakers.

So far, 350 domains have been taken into custody by the US federal government and these operations will not stop too soon.


4th December   

Update: Effin' Censors...

Facebook bans the Irish village of Effin claiming that it is an offensive word
Link Here
Full story: Facebook Censorship...Facebook quick to censor

A Limerick woman is leading the battle to have her home village of Effin recognized by social network site Facebook.

Ann Marie Kennedy is taking on the giant corporation which has deemed the village name of Effin to be offensive.

She has also failed in an attempt to launch a Facebook campaign based on a Please get my hometown Effin recognised page on the website. It came back with an error message saying 'offensive,' Kennedy told the Irish Independent.

I would like to be able to put Effin on my profile page and so would many other Effin people around the world to proudly say that they are from Effin, Co Limerick, but it won't recognize that. It keeps coming up as Effingham, Illinois; Effingham, New Hampshire; and it gives suggestions of other places.

Kennedy has vowed to carry on her battle until Effin gains official status on Facebook.

...Read the full article


3rd December

 Offsite: US Internet Censorship without Adequate Judicial Oversight...

Link Here
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA
Judge orders hundreds of sites de-indexed from Google, Facebook

See article from


24th November   


Internet users consider internet alternatives that are less open to censorship
Link Here

Users of the social news and community site Reddit don't like the way the US government seems to be muscling in on the Internet. So they plan to build a new one.

Redditors have flocked over the last week to a new subgroup on they're calling the Darknet Plan or Meshnet with the aim of building a mesh-based version of the Internet that wouldn't be subject to the control of any corporation or government, with a focus on anonymity, peer-to-peer architecture and strong resistance to censorship.

In the last few days, about 10,000 users have joined the group, and about 200,000 have visited, according to Chris Bresee, the 17-year old Vermonter who founded the project. He attributes the sudden spike in interest to the Stop Online Piracy Act and the awareness of the possibilities of government censorship that the bill has created: If passed in its current form, SOPA would use Domain Name System filtering to effectively disappear infringing sites from the Internet.

Mesh networks are designed to allow users to connect to one another directly instead of to a centralized Internet service provider. Bresee says Meshnet would start by aiming to create local clusters of users and connect them with the traditional Internet. We would piggyback on the current infrastructure to connect these islands of meshes, he says. But as the mesh networks grow, less and less dependence on the ISPs would be needed.


22nd November   

Update: An Expensive Ghetto...

Major internet companies take legal against the introduction of .xxx domains
Link Here

Two of the internet's biggest pornography firms are suing the net's address regulator, Icann, over its introduction of the .xxx suffix.

Manwin Licensing, which runs websites for Playboy, and Digital Playground have filed lawsuits against Icann and ICM Registry, which is running the new top-level domain name, .xxx

The firms claimed that the decision to create .xxx had been flawed and that ICM had abused its position.

Manwin issued a press release alongside the lawsuit claiming that ICM was charging annual registration fees of about $60 per address. It claimed that was 10 times the fee charged for other comparable top-level domain names. It said costs mounted up because website owners had to register mis-spelt versions of their addresses to prevent cybersquatters exploiting them.

Manwin has also filed papers with Icann complaining that the body never sought competitive bids for the .xxx registry, and failed to conduct proper economic studies to support its creation.


22nd November   

Major Inconvenience Over Minor Issue...

Popular cloud computer file hosting website, Fileserve is blocked by the IWF
Link Here

UK users of the popular Fileserve file-hosting service are currently unable to download any files as the site is being blocked by ISPs acting on a block list provided by the Internet Watch Foundation.

Since early this week the blacklist, which aims to disable access to sexual child abuse content, has been preventing users from accessing their personal files and downloading those uploaded by others. Fileserve expects the issue to persist for at least a couple of days.

With hundreds of millions of page views each month, Fileserve is listed among the 10 most-visited file-sharing sites on the Internet. The site allows users to store files in the cloud for personal use or subsequent sharing with the rest of the world.

Update: IWF demonstrate to cloud computer users just how easy it is to pull the plug on all of their data

22nd November 2011. See  article from
See  also techincal explanation of how one small block triggered a total block from

The UK's Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has now lifted a block imposed on a major cloud computing data host.

The target of the block was Fileserve,  one of the top most-visited sites on the web, allowing users to store files, documents, music etc.

The IWF caused major inconvenience in an attempt to block what is understood to be a single file hosted on the site. But this blocked access to all of the sites' download servers.

Many inconvenienced users had taken to their web providers' support forums to complain about the move, with many believing their ISPs were blocking downloads. Subsequently, an updated message on the Fileserve site revealed in cringeworthy language that the: IWF recently implemented changes that may affect your download ability on the site .


19th November   

Update: Back in the Domain of Courts...

Nominet develops its domain takedown powers to provide defences against over zealous police
Link Here
Full story: Internet Domain Censorship...In the Domain of Nominet internet censorship

Nominet is consulting and developing its procedures for taking down internet .uk domains when presented with claims of them being used illegally.

Under the latest changes, Nominet will be able to deny a site suspension request unless police provide a court order or the site is accused of putting the public at serious risk.

Early draft recommendations came in for criticism because police would be able to instruct Nominet to take down unlimited numbers of domains without a court order. Following previous coverage, many El Reg readers were outraged that the proposals didn't seem to do enough to protect ordinary .uk owners from over-zealous cops.

The new draft recommendations state that should a suspension notice be objected to by a domain's registrant, Nominet would be able to consult an independent expert , likely an outside lawyer, before deciding whether to ask police for a court order.

A new revision also draws a distinction between serious cases of botnets, phishing and fake pharmaceuticals sales, which pose an imminent risk to internet users, and cases of counterfeiting, which are perhaps not as risky.

Nominet would draw a distinction between the two scenarios. If it received a suspension request relating to a low risk crime, such as alleged counterfeiting, it would have to inform the registrant, giving them an opportunity to object and/or rectify the problem, before it suspended the domain name.

The policy has stated in all drafts that it would not be applicable to private complainants, such as intellectual property interests, and that hasn't changed. We're excluding all civil disputes, Blowers said. If the MPAA [for example] wanted to bring down 25,000 domains associated with online piracy, that would fall outside of this process.

The policy has also been tweaked with respect to free speech issues. To take down an overtly racist or egregiously pornographic site, Nominet would not suspend the domain name without a court order.

The recommendations are still in draft form but it is intended that the final version will be implemented early in 2012.

Update: LINX Concerns

29th November 2011. See  article from

A spokesperson for LINX, representing ISPs said that the organisation fears social networks, online auction houses and similar sites could be unfairly taken down by cops if their users upload dodgy material. Its statement reads:

A domain owner should be allowed to defend themselves in court. We are also concerned that the law enforcement agencies' proposal does not limit suspension to domains where the domain owner had criminal intent itself: this could place at risk any domain with user-generated content, such as auction sites and social networking.

LINX members are committed to helping the police combat criminal behaviour online, but all such action needs to be balanced and proportionate, and respect the property rights of legitimate businesses. We would welcome suspension of domains held by criminal enterprises, but to protect the innocent suspension should be ordered by a court.

Update: Further Consultations

30th June 2012. See  article from

Nominet will conduct a further round of public consultation before implementing a policy for dealing with domains associated with criminal activity. The Nominet Board communique states:

Further research and legal advice was presented in relation to the ongoing policy development for dealing with domain names associated with criminal activity. The Board agreed to conduct a public consultation prior to implementing the final recommendations.


18th November   

The World has a Seizure...

The EU comes out against new SOPA law enabling the US to seize domain names worldwide
Link Here
Full story: SOPA...Internet censorship in the name of preventing piracy

The European Parliament has adopted a resolution which criticizes domain name seizures of infringing websites by US authorities.

According to the resolution these measures need to be countered as they endanger the integrity of the global internet and freedom of communication. With this stance the European Parliament joins an ever-growing list of opposition to the proposed US law called Stop Online Piracy Act .

Starting in 2010, US authorities have used domain name seizures as a standard tool to take down websites that are deemed to facilitate copyright infringement.

Despite fierce criticism from the public, legal experts and civil liberties groups, taking control of domain names is now one of the measures included in the pending Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), legislation designed to give copyright holders more tools to protect their rights against foreign sites.

Opposition to SOPA has been swelling in recent days, and today the European Parliament adds its voice by heavily criticizing the domain seizures that are part of it. A resolution on the EU-US Summit that will be held later this month stresses the need to protect the integrity of the global internet and freedom of communication by refraining from unilateral measures to revoke IP addresses or domain names.

If SOPA does indeed become law the US would be able to shut down domains worldwide, as long as they are somehow managed by US companies. This includes the popular .com, .org and .net domains, and thus has the potential to affect many large websites belonging to companies in EU member states.


18th November   

Updated: Court Internet Censorship Begins...

BT blocks Newzbin 2 website
Link Here

BT has started blocking Newzbin 2 as ordered by a UK court.

Newzbin 2 is a members-only site which indexes material shared in Usenet discussion forums. The site is being blocked via legal actions of the Motion Picture Association, who managed to get the UK court to block the site.

We've heard that the British Telecom censorship of the free web has begun, the group behind Newzbin 2 told the BBC. It also said that 93.5% of its active UK users have downloaded workaround software developed by them to bypass the block. The group would not divulge how it worked.

Newzbin2 shall go on, its users shall continue to access the site and its facilities, the Newzbin team told the BBC. Nothing has changed and they [the MPA] have no change after paying millions of dollars in legal fees.

Update: Inevitable clamour for more blocking

18th November 2011. Based on article from

The Motion Picture Association (MPA) has asked two UK internet service providers (ISPs) to consent to a court order that would force them to block their customers' access to a copyright-infringing website.

A ZDNet report said the MPA told it that it had sent letters to Virgin Media and TalkTalk referring to the recent order by Mr Justice Arnold and asked the major UK ISPs whether they would consent to a court order requiring them to impede subscriber access to the Newzbin2 website .

TalkTalk said in a statement:  We are considering our position since there are some objectionable elements to the proposed injunction. We will only block access to a website if ordered to do so by a court. .

Virgin Media also confirmed that it had received MPA's letter and that it would only act on receipt of a court order. A Virgin Media spokesperson said in a statement: As a responsible ISP, we will comply with any court order addressed to us but strongly believe such deterrents need to be accompanied by compelling legal alternatives, such as our agreement with Spotify, which give consumers access to content at the right price.


13th November   

Bullying Social Networks...

Anti-bullying campaigners to target internet anonymity
Link Here

A campaign group called Diana Award write:

As the UK prepares to raise awareness of bullying during Anti-Bullying Week, 14-18 November, latest research reveals that cyber-bullying amongst teenagers is on the increase with 38% affected. A staggering 78% of young people fear cyber-bullying will continue to rise. 46% of young people feel that current initiatives are insufficient in targeting their protection, prevention and needs, perhaps partly explaining why 28% of cyber-bullying victims have not informed anyone of their experience.

The research, Young People's voices on Cyber-bullying, was commissioned by the Diana Award, with the support of the Children's Research Centre, Open University. The Diana Award run a peer led bullying prevention programme, Anti-Bullying Ambassadors, in 200 schools and youth organisations throughout England.

The research will be discussed at the Diana Award National Anti-Bullying Conference on Monday 14th November in London.

Update: Calling for an end to internet anonymity

See  article from

This week campaigners will use a conference in London to call for social networking websites to stop bullies sending messages anonymously, saying that it is particularly damaging to children and teenagers.  They will say that new websites which make use of Facebook - by far the most popular social networking medium - are encouraging the anonymous posting by making it easy and accessible to under-18s.

The report, by campaigning group Diana Award questioned 1,512 children aged 11 to 16 across England and found that 38% had suffered abuse online at lease once, and that 28% of victims have not told anyone about their experience. Nearly half of youngsters feel current attempts to prevent online bullying are inadequate.

Beatbullying said it was particularly concerned about the growth of trolling . One website, Formspring, has been particularly linked to anonymous cyberbullying. Formspring allows its 25 million members to send unmoderated questions or messages to each other anonymously. Many are drawn into it through Facebook, which itself prevents anonymous messages.

Richard Piggin, the deputy chief executive of Beatbullying, said:

Users should not have the option of remaining anonymous on sites such as Formspring and other social networking platforms. Anonymity encourages people to act in a way they might well not in real life or if they were named online.

Whatever sites like Formspring say about anonymity allowing people to express themselves, it is clear that it is being used in a negative way by allowing children to hide behind it in order to abuse others.

Other social networking sites encourage you to use your real identity, which is a positive thing. Formspring needs to make changes.

Ending anonymity is one of a series of reforms campaigners now want from the websites. Charities want internet and mobile phone networks to provide stronger safeguards against bullying, including better safety features, more regulation and codes of conduct.


12th November   

Limmy's Rant...

Scottish comedian takes on the Tories and comes off worse
Link Here

Scottish comedian Limmy has backtracked over a series of aggressive Tweets against Margaret Thatcher and the Royal Family, after they sparked calls for him to be sacked by the BBC.

The comic, real name Brian Limond, said: I have deleted my tweets, and I'd like to apologise for any offence caused. It is never my intention to offend.

His Twitter rant started with a comment on William urging FIFA to relax its ban on the England football team wearing Remembrance Day Poppies. He tweeted: Would Prince William write to FIFA on behalf of the Scotland team wearing poppies? No. Cos he thinks ENGLAND won the war.

That was followed by: I'd love to slide a samurai sword up Prince William's arse to the hilt, then yank it towards me like a door that won't fucking open.;

Of the Tories, Limmy wrote: 'England voted in the Tories KNOWING what would happen, just like Germany voted in the Nazis KNOWING what would happen.

After that attracted the attention of Tories he said: This is fucking excellent, I've got a shower of Tory cunts coming after me, retweeting everything. COME INTAE ME, TORY SCUM, COME INTAE ME!!!!

When criticised over this, he changed his avatar to Stalin, and then to a picture of Thatcher with Die Now written in red over it.'

Tory MP Louise Mensch took up the rebuke. She tweeted: How is it possible for a working comedian to put up an avatar of an old woman w/ red line over her throat & DIE NOW written across her face? Violence against an old woman totally beyond "free speech".

She then enquired about Limmy's employment with the BBC... and Limmy reverted his avatar back to the photograph of himself, and issued the apology.


10th November   

Update: Dotting the X's...

.XXX domains enter the next introductory phase and are now more widely available
Link Here

After more than a decade of debate, rejections and legal challenges, the Internet's governing body began accepting applications for .xxx websites from the adult entertainment industry on Tuesday, 8th November 2011.

The so-called landrush phase signifies the true launch of .xxx websites.

ICM Registry had already began accepting some .xxx applications from trademarked companies looking to use a .xxx address and those seeking to prevent their company from appearing on a .xxx website on September 7.

Adult entertainment producers without trademarks can apply for .xxx website names for the next 17 days, with their general availability following on December 6.

The chief executive of ICM Registry, Stuart Lawley, said his company had received 80,000 applications in this early phase. Presumably most of these were defensive, to prevent other people from creating an xxx variant of an existing website, so won't actually become websites in their own right.


9th November   

Updated: Faced Down...

Facebook removes pages of bad taste jokes
Link Here
Full story: Facebook Censorship...Facebook quick to censor

Facebook have removed pages dedicated to bad taste jokes about rape and sexual violence. has been campaigning against the pages for 2 months, and raised a petition of 186,000 signatures against the pages. In addition they ran a twitter campaign and a Facebook page of their own.

One of the target pages, now removed was called : You know she's playing hard to get when... and featured wisecracks such as:

  •  Don't You Hate it When You Punch a Slut in the Mouth and They Suck It

After removing the pages, Facebook's rep told AllFacebook that they take things seriously, and reminded everyone that reporting a Page is how to get offending content reviewed and also said that they've made the social reporting tool totally much more awesome because they care and stuff.

Update: Tagged as Humour

9th November 2011. See  article from

Facebook has removed several rape joke pages from its social network. However, controversial postings may remain if administrators add a tag stating they are humorous or satire.

Facebook told the BBC:

We take reports of questionable and offensive content very seriously. However, we also want Facebook to be a place where people can openly discuss issues and express their views, while respecting the rights and feelings of others.

Groups or pages that express an opinion on a state, institution, or set of beliefs - even if that opinion is outrageous or offensive to some - do not by themselves violate our policies. These online discussions are a reflection of those happening offline, where conversations happen freely.

The statement's formal language contrasts with the firm's previous comments. In August it said: Just as telling a rude joke won't get you thrown out of your local pub, it won't get you thrown off Facebook.


8th November   

Update: National Knee Jerking...

Survey finds support for closing down social networks at times of unrest
Link Here
Full story: A Riotous Blame Game...So what is to blame for the 2011 hoodie riots

More than two-thirds of adults support the shutdown of social networks during periods of social unrest such as the riots in England this summer, new research has revealed.

A poll of 973 adults carried out for the online security firm Unisys found 70% of adults supported the shutdown of Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), while only 27% disagreed.

However analysis by the Guardian of 2.5m tweets relating to the riots, part of its Reading the Riots study in conjunction with the London School of Economics, found little evidence to support claims the network had been used to instigate unrest. However, the BBM network was believed to have played a role in organising disturbances.

Freedom of expression campaigners said they were worried that Britons were sanctioning draconian measures as ever more services shift online. Padraig Reidy, news editor of Index on Censorship said:

It's very worrying that people would believe shutting down social networks would be in any way desirable. The vast majority of social network use during the unrest was people sreading information and helping each other get home safely. These kinds of actions would weaken the UK's position against authoritarian regimes who censor internet access. As we live more of our lives online, people should be conscious of the amount of power they're potentially handing over to government.


6th November

 Offsite: Maybe it was Something they Said!...

Link Here
Women bloggers call for a stop to 'hateful' trolling by misogynist men

See article from


5th November   

Update: Under Fire from Facebook...

Now Facebook censor Charlie Hebdo
Link Here

Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have slammed Facebook for threatening to terminate the account of a French weekly whose offices were firebombed after publishing images of the Prophet Mohammed.

RSF noted with irony that Charlie Hebdo's staff could no longer edit comments on its Facebook wall , including those inciting violence, while the enemies of freedom of expression could continue to post hate messages.

Apparently Facebook sent a warning messgae to Charlie Hebdo:

Facebook has just discovered opportunely that Charlie Hebdo 'is not a real person', something that breaks the site's rules.

The content that you have published on Facebook has been deleted for breaking (Facebook) rules. Postings with graphic, sexually explicit or excessively revealing content are banned.

This message is a warning. Another infraction will result in the account being terminated.

Charlie Hebdo journalist Valerie Manteau said that the newspaper has now taken down its Facebook page voluntarily and as a temporary measure because it could not edit the comments.

It is extremely worrying to notice that the social network seems to fall on the side of censorship and restricting the freedom to inform, said RSF, noting that Facebook had already closed the pages of several dissidents.


5th November   

Registered as Censorship...

Lebanon moves to censor news websites and blogs
Link Here

A recent decision by Lebanon's National Audiovisual Media Council (NAMC) is catching a lot of flak. The council called for all news websites to register with it starting November 1, prompting fears the move is both illegal and a move to censorship.

In an interview with NOW Lebanon, Abdel-Hadi Mahfouz, head of the 10-member NAMC, claimed the council merely wants to get an idea of the electronic media landscape in the country prior to passing a new law that would extend media control to include online publications.

Mahfouz told NOW Lebanon that both news websites and blogs should register, after which details would be hammered out on how the two should be regulated in the future. He added that failure to register could result in the site being banned.

Ayman Mhanna, executive director of the press-freedom-promoting SKEyes Center, said he feared censorship was the main goal of the initiative and lamented what he called the council's past dismal record of speaking up when journalists were beaten or intimidated as well as the council's lack of explanation for its recent decision. Mhanna said:

Also, there are deep flaws in the decision . There's absolutely no clarity in terms of what they mean by 'news websites.' I really think that they themselves don't know the difference between official news websites, blogs, citizen journalism platforms [and the like].

Change and Reform bloc MP Ghassan Moukheiber, who authored a new media law that would address electronic media and is currently under review in parliament, also questioned the decision, highlighting what he called its complete illegality.

Moukheiber and Mhanna said that the current 1994 law does not mention electronic media at all, and therefore it, and the council it created, has no legal authority to regulate websites.

Moukheiber said: This decision is not only [legally incorrect] but dangerous. Although it looks benign, legally [registration would be] a de facto recognition that electronic media are subject to the [1994] law.


4th November   

Update: Breast Cancer Awareness Body Painting Project...

Kindly publicised by Facebook's censorship department
Link Here
Full story: Facebook Censorship...Facebook quick to censor

Ellen Gondola had breast cancer. One day, years later, she stood topless in an artist's studio and allowed her chest to be covered in paint, her cancer scars blanketed with bamboo and butterflies. She'd never felt so beautiful.

But Facebook called it pornography, inappropriate nudity, a violation of the terms of use. The social networking giant took her photo down, and the encouraging comments beneath it.

Twenty-four other breast cancer survivors have posed topless like she did. Most of their images have been taken down, too, creator and photographer Michael Colanero said, citing puritanical resistance from Facebook users who flagged the images as inappropriate.

Gondola had joined a cause, the Fort Lauderdale-based Breast Cancer Awareness Body Painting Project, which has a group page on Facebook. Now she's part of a second cause, the Facebook No-Censor Petition.


2nd November   

Proper Internet Utilisation...

Malaysia calls for a level of censorship that will not actually be censorship, just banning porn and negative elements
Link Here

Malaysia will call on the international community to embark on a campaign to save the younger generation as well as the next generations from moral degradation arising from exposure to negative elements on the Internet.

Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said the matter would be conveyed at the current London Conference on Cyberspace which..

He said Malaysia would also articulate its view on the enforcement of the law either domestically or internationally, which he said, should not be regarded as an act of Internet censorship.

There should also be a commonly accepted stand to deal with child pornography and pornography in general, he told Bernama and RTM after visiting the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (OCIS).

In Malaysia, Rais said, cyberspace matters should be seen from the point of view of how the Internet, through its social media, can be used responsibly within the perimeters of the country's law. But when we say this, let it not mean that the Internet or the social media is subject to censorship. The law is the law and should be respected, he said, adding that the conference would galvanise understanding among the international community on 'proper' Internet utilisation.


2nd November   

Norms of Behaviour...

UK calls for a level of censorship that is half way between freedom and control
Link Here

Governments must not clamp down on Internet and mobile phone networks at times of social unrest, the British government said weeks after suggesting police should do just that during riots. Foreign Secretary William Hague said the fact that criminals and terrorists can exploit digital networks is not justification for states to censor their citizens.

And Prime Minister David Cameron said governments must not use cybersecurity as an excuse for censorship or to deny their people the opportunities that the Internet represents. The prime minister told the conference that:

governments cannot leave cyberspace open to the criminals and the terrorists that threaten our security and our prosperity but at the same time we cannot just go down the heavy-handed route. The balance we have got to strike is between freedom and a free-for-all.

Cameron and Hague spoke as a two-day international cybersecurity conference opened Tuesday in London. Their stance contrasts with calls by Russia and China for tighter regulation of the Internet through binding international treaties. 

Britain supports the less proscriptive idea of internationally agreed online norms of behavior. That approach was backed by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who warned against imposing a repressive global code for the Internet.

John Kampfner, chief executive of Index on Censorship:

It's very easy to defend the case of black and white, human rights against dictatorships around the world, said  But as soon as our own Western-style stability of the state is called into question, well then freedom of expression is expendable. There should be one rule for all, including Western governments.


2nd November   

EU Controls...

EU Commissioner looks for all internet devices to have installed parental controls
Link Here

The EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, has called for all Internet-connected devices to be produced with parental controls installed by default.

In a speech to the Safer Internet Forum in Luxembourg, Kroes praised existing self-regulation initiatives but put forward a list of measures for industry to implement in the next 18 months:

  • children should be able to easily report abusive content, cyber-bullying or grooming using a single-click system;
  • children's profiles on services like social networking sites should be set to privacy by default;
  • Internet-connected devices should have parental controls installed also by default;
  • age-rating and content classification systems need expansion and improvement

It is not yet clear whether installed by default is intended to mean installed and activated by default . It is also unclear what sort of parental controls Kroes has in mind, whether parental control software installed on home computers and under the complete control of the user, or internet blocking implemented at the network level.


1st November   

Chewing the Fat...

Man boobs on YouTube
Link Here

YouTube employees are still debating where to draw the censorship line between titillating content that may or may not be acceptable.

Victoria Grand, YouTube's director for global communications and policy, said:

Recently we had the issue of man boobs. Do man boobs need to be age-restricted or not?

Man boobs, is an unlikely but popular category on YouTube, in part because mischievous uploaders may imply the exposed bosoms are actually, well, female. One gentlemen who goes by the name of Mr. Pregnant has uploaded over 1,000 videos (one, aptly titled manboobs and featuring his ample chest, has been viewed nearly 2 million times).

Literally, these are the things that we debate ferociously to the point that we don't sleep at night, Grand said during a panel discussion about free speech at a human rights conference in San Francisco: We try to take into account user safety versus age appropriateness versus what a general community of kids 13 and up can see.

YouTube censors pornography. Its policies do, however, allow partial nudity and non-sexual nudity as long as those videos are placed behind a warning screen that requires users to say they're 18 years or older. What falls into the age-restricted category is highly context-dependent: YouTube policies refer to the length of time an image appears in the video, the lighting, and the camera angle and focus.

YouTube appears to have resolved the debate over buxom men in favor of Mr. Pregnant and free speech: his videos have not been not age-restricted.


31st October   

Update: So What Has the Dangerous Pictures Act Achieved So Far?...

Martin Salter wheeled out to call for more of the same
Link Here

The UK Government passed the Criminal Justice & Immigration Act 2008 criminalising the possession of adult, staged, consensual violent pornography with draconian penalties of up to 3 years in prison. The law also bans images of bestiality and necrophilia.

Since that time the law has achieved:

  • Numerous paedophilia cases have been pepped up with lesser charges of extreme porn that is found when computers are searched.
  • The authorities have been able to persecute people when no evidence of their suspected original crime has been found. The resulting computer search has turned up some extreme porn 'so at least they can be done for something'.
  • A few innocent people have got into trouble about jokey bad taste video clips found on their phones and computers.
  • Zero reports of dangerous sex criminals being detected from their extreme porn use.

Following the disclosure that Jo Yeates's killer Vincent Tabak was obsessed with websites showing sexual violence, bondage and strangulation, campaigners are inevitably claiming that an unstoppable flood of hard-core and violent pornography is corroding the very fabric of society.

This has been put down to the apparent failure of laws introduced in 2009 to outlaw images of rape, torture and extreme sexual violence as well as bestiality and necrophilia. Anyone caught visiting such websites to view violent and extreme pornography was threatened with up to 3 years in jail and an unlimited fine.

But officials admitted they expected to see only a small number of prosecutions and no extra funding was made available for a proactive police response. The policy contrasts with proactive inquiries into the use of child-abuse images which are the responsibility of specially trained teams.

Liz Longhurst, who led the fight for a new law after her daughter Jane was murdered, said she was disappointed that there have been few prosecutions and attacked the recklessness of internet companies. She claimed:

The internet service providers have so much to answer for. They go on about freedom, but for goodness sake where was Jane's freedom?

The police should make it routine that if somebody is accused of murder or a serious attack they should investigate if this stuff is on their computer.

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) said that last year they have investigated 2700 complaints from the public claiming llegal adult porn but these resulted in only 12 cases that were judged as potentially criminal and 8 take down notices were issued. The other 4 presumably been hosted abroad and not liable to IWF intervention. 49 take down notices have been issued in the last 3 years.

IWF chief executive Susie Hargreaves said: The IWF is able to act on any public reports of online obscene adult content where it is hosted in the UK and contravenes UK Law. However, we receive very few reports of this type of content which satisfies these criteria.

Former Labour MP Martin Salter, who campaigned for the new laws, said he wants to see police using them and sending out a clear message.

There are some people so evil and so depraved that nothing will deter them. But it was hoped that by tightening these laws we might prevent some unbalanced individuals from being tipped over the edge.

Quite frankly, every time the police use these powers and there is more publicity about their existence, the greater the deterrent factor in these cases.


31st October   

Update: Opting Out of ISP Level Website Blocking...

Church of England threatens to pull their investment from ISPs unless they 'take action against porn'
Link Here
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

The Church of England is threatening to use its financial power to inflict internet censorship on Britain. It is considering withdrawing the millions it has invested in ISPs unless they take action.

The Church of England, which wields significant financial clout on the markets, is reviewing investments worth tens of millions. It refuses to invest in firms which fuel the very problems Christians are trying to tackle and has already leaned heavily on supermarkets to be more responsible in the way they sell alcohol.

A Church spokesman said members of its ethical investment advisory group are considering new guidelines on pornography which take into account how easy it is to access with modern media.

The Church of England's stance on porn was welcomed by the Reverend Nutter Richard Moy, who works with young people in Lichfield, Staffordshire. He spouted without a grain of justification:

It is not surprising that people go from soft porn to progressively more hard-core porn to the point where they are so depraved that they do things that they would never imagine doing.

I think that if people start using mild porn to gratify a need rather than looking at why they need that gratification then they will eventually move on to more disturbing things.

[On the other hand, if people don't gratify their needs, eg priests trying to be celibate, then they may eventually move on to even more disturbing things].


29th October   

Update: Opting Out of ISP Level Website Blocking...

ISPs clarify that their approach to website blocking is to ensure that parents are well informed about free blocking software that may be used on home computers
Link Here
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

The UK's four major Internet Service Providers have published a Code of Practice, putting the decision on what to block in parents' hands. Virgin Media, BT, TalkTalk and Sky, said they believed parents are best-placed to decide whether to turn controls on, and to decide what types of content and applications to block, rather than having those decisions made for them by internet firms.

The Code commits them to educating parents about content controls but does not require them to provide ISP level blocking. Instead the code commits its signatory ISPs to teaching parents about the availability of parental controls, providing tools free of charge to filter access to the internet at the point of purchase and reminding customers of the blocking tools at their disposal at least once a year.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said he was pleased to see the industry taking action to help parents protect their children online . He said:

The new code of conduct is a real, practical step to ensure households make a choice about parental controls when opening a new internet account.

The Children's Minister Tim Loughton added:

Parents are quite rightly concerned about their children accessing harmful or inappropriate content online. But many parents don't always know how to activate parental controls at home. That's why it's important they are asked to make a choice at the point of purchase over whether they want parental controls switched on or off.


29th October   

Facebook Walls Have Ears...

Sweden considers infiltrating internet forums so as to detect terrorism and 'serious' crime
Link Here

Swedish security service Sapo and national police investigators want to see new legislation that will make it easier for them to snoop on the internet.

Both Sapo and the National Bureau of Investigation (Rikskriminalpolisen) claim they want to be better able to reveal terror plans and other 'serious' crimes.

Options under discussion are the ability to infiltrate discussion groups and carry out surveillance using false identities, the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper reports. Sapo head Anders Danielsson said:

After Anders Behring Breivik's and Taimour Abdulwahab's terror attacks, we have to ask the question if the virtual world can trigger people to commit heinous crimes. If it can, we have to be there. We have to patrol the net.

Should the police be on Facebook so that people can turn there in the same way they can approach a police officer on the street? Someone may want to say something about talk of strange or unpleasant things in a Facebook group. How can we create that possibility? Should we infiltrate the internet? Then we're into legal questions? Can we do that?

Both attacks have prompted Swedish police and Sapo to review their surveillance methods so they can more easily identify individuals who lack an economic motive and have no criminal history, yet are nevertheless prepared to commit violent acts.

An inquiry into possible changes is expected to be completed by the end of the year and may result in Sapo asking the government to update Swedish legislation.


28th October   

Dangerous Words...

Parliamentary task force examines hate speech on the internet
Link Here

A UK Government Task Force is meeting to discuss ways of combating the growing supposed problem of people publishing bigoted statements on websites.

The Internet Hate Speech Task Force hearing follows a meeting attended by MPs and ISPs.  At that discussion, Israel's Minister of Public Affairs and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein claimed: The issue of hate on the internet needs greater attention given its scope and potential for harm.!

The task force is hosted by John Mann MP and was set up by the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism (ICCA). It will look at the nature and scope of internet hate. This will include racism, religious hate speech, misogyny and homophobia.

The types of hate speech that are appearing on the internet will be examined as will the various online media through which it appears. The hearing will also highlight the impact that internet hate can have, including its role in fostering hate crimes, and it will include testimonies from experts and witnesses.

Further hearings will be scheduled by the Task Force and a report containing recommendations is due in late 2012


28th October   

Updated: Google Transparency Report...

Google reveal the number of requests for them to remove or hide content
Link Here

Google have revealed the number of requests for them to remove content, mostly from YouTube and to hide content from searches. The figures cover the period January to June 2011.


Google received 7 UK court orders to remove 43 items from searches. 14 on grounds of defamation and  28 on grounds of privacy or security.

Google received 1 UK court order and 52 letters from the likes of police and government requesting removal of a total of 220 YouTube videos. 61 for privacy and security, 135 for national security, 3 for violence and 1 for hate speech.


Google received 24 US court orders and 3 government/police requests to remove 198 items from searches. 188 of these on grounds of defamation

Google received 6 US court order and 26 letters from the likes of police and government requesting removal of a total of 113 YouTube videos. 62 for privacy and security, and 16 for defamation.

Google also received 5 court orders to remove 379 Google Groups on grounds of defamation. Also 18 requests to remove 47 items from Blogger blogs.

The US requests are a 70% increase over the previous 6 month.

Update: Occupying the High Ground

28th October 2011. From , thanks to Nick

In a show of good faith, Google touted the fact that it has refused to cooperate with law enforcement agencies in the U.S. who requested the removal of YouTube videos of police brutality and criticisms of law enforcement officials.

Google cited its transparency report from the first half of this year, but to mention it with violent crackdowns at Occupy Oakland this week, is telling. Google said:

We received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove YouTube videos of police brutality, which we did not remove. Separately, we received requests from a different local law enforcement agency for removal of videos allegedly defaming law enforcement officials. We did not comply with those requests, which we have categorized in this Report as defamation requests.


27th October   

Update: A Picture Paints a Poignant Word...

Frenchman sues Facebook for taking down his account over a classic nude art posting
Link Here
Full story: Facebook Censorship...Facebook quick to censor

A Frenchman is suing Facebook under human rights laws for deleting his account after he posted a famous painting of nude woman as his profile picture.

The father-of-three used an image of an explicit 19th century oil by Gustave Courbet called l'Origine du Monde (The Origin Of The World) on the social networking site.

But he claims he missed messages and social contact from his 800 Facebook friends when the page was taken down.

He has now launched legal action in a Paris court demanding the site pay him £ 18,000 in damages for barring his access.


23rd October   

Updated: Silly Tweet...

A Ricky Gervais windup with jokes about 'mongs'
Link Here
Full story: The R Word...Campaign against the word 'retard'

Ricky Gervais has refused to apologise after disability groups and fellow comedians condemned him for repeatedly using the word 'mong' on Twitter and posting photos of himself pulling monged-up faces. In the past month Gervais's Twitter followers have leapt from 68,000 to more than 440,000 as the comedian became embroiled in an online row about the use of the term.

In a statement Gervais said that the term was completely different to mongol , a derogatory term for people with Down's syndrome. I have never used the word 'mongol'. I have used the word 'mong', he said. I have never used that word to mean Down's syndrome and never would. The modern use of the word 'mong' means 'dopey' or 'ignorant'. It's even in modern slang and urban dictionaries.

See one of many definitions from :

Mong is short for mongoloid , which was originally an anachronistic term for a Down's Syndrome sufferer. The modern Mong however is a total fuckwit, who deserves nothing less than complete humiliation for their idiocy.

The controversy began after Gervais returned to Twitter on 29 September. He made a string of tweets involving variations on the word mong . Phrases included What a fucking useless Mong I really am , two mongs don't make a right and good monging .

Gervais had already responded to criticism earlier this month, tweeting: Just to clarify for uptight people stuck in the past. The word Mong means Downs syndrome about as much as the word Gay means happy.

The tirade has now come to the attention of the press. Frank Buckley, of Down Syndrome Education International, told the Sun: Most would consider it as offensive as comparable terms of abuse referring to racial background or sexual orientation. A Mencap spokesman, Mark Gale, said that the comedian's behaviour was very disappointing , adding that such language can perpetuate discriminatory attitudes .

Gervais remains unrepentant, bullishly posting another gurning self-portrait of himself on Twitter with the caption: The police just came round and confiscated all my awards. Gutted.

Update: Sorry, I was being a bit of a mong

23rd October 2011.  See  article from

Ricky Gervais apologised over his use of the term mong , after being criticised by the tearful mother of two disabled daughters.

The comedian claimed he had been naive to use the word without realising that it was still used to insult the disabled.

He was seemingly affected by Nicola Clark, a disability campaigner and mother of two disabled girls, who had broken down in tears while talking about the row on Jeremy Vine's BBC Radio 2 show.

Gervais then contacted Mrs Clark on Twitter to offer a very public thank you for her kind, rational and understanding words in private since the issue broke.


21st October   

Update: Unacceptably High Costs for Defending Libel Cases...

Parliamentary committee finds that libel reforms don't go far enough
Link Here
Full story: Censorship by Libel...British libel law allows the rich to censor the truth

Reforms to England's libel laws will not do enough to protect free speech. A powerful parliamentary committee believes further steps are needed to prevent big corporations using their financial muscle to gag opponents by threatening legal action.

It also wants extra measures to protect scientists and academics who are publishing legitimate research, and to prevent trivial claims ever reaching court.

The committee has been scrutinising the Coalition's proposals to end the international embarrassment that sees rich and powerful foreigners flocking to our courts to silence critics.

The report from the joint committee on the draft Defamation Bill says many of the Government's proposals, particularly a move to end trial by jury except in the most serious cases, are worthwhile . But it says the plans are modest and do not address the key problem in defamation law, the unacceptably high costs associated with defending cases.

Recommendation that websites be held responsible for anonymous comments

See  article from

Websites should have protection from defamation cases if they act quickly to remove anonymous postings which prompt a complaint, a report says. A joint parliamentary committee tasked with examining libel reform says it wants a cultural shift so that posts under pseudonyms are not considered true, reliable or trustworthy , But it says websites which identify authors and publish complaints alongside comments should get legal protection.

The committee proposes a new notice and takedown procedure for defamatory online comments - aimed at providing a quick remedy for those who are defamed and to give websites which use the procedure more legal protection.

It recommends that where complaints are made about comments from identified authors - the website should promptly publish a notice of the complaint alongside it. The complainant can then apply to a court for a takedown order - which if granted, should result in the comment being removed, if the website is to avoid the risk of a defamation claim.

But where potentially defamatory comments are anonymous, the website should immediately remove them on receipt of a complaint, unless the author agrees to identify themselves, the report says. The author of the comment can then be sued for defamation but if a website refuses to take down an anonymous remark it should be treated as its publisher and face the risk of libel proceedings .

The report also says a website could apply to a court for a leave-up order, if it (is rich enough and) considers the anonymous comment to be on a matter of significant public interest.

But Mumsnet, a parenting website, says many of its members rely on the ability to ask questions or post comments anonymously. Many of the women posting messages do so under a user name , rather than their real name - and the site is worried the proposal will mean more people demanding messages be taken down.

Its co-founder, Justine Roberts, said while it was right to stop people from assassinating the character of others from behind the cloak of anonymity the report did not recognise how useful anonymous postings were in allowing people to speak honestly about difficult real-life situations . The recommendations could have a chilling effect on sites like Mumsnet where many thousands of people use anonymity to confidentially seek and give advice about sensitive real-life situations.

Under the current law, websites are liable for defamatory statements made by their users. If they fail to take down a post when they receive a complaint, they risk being treated as the primary publisher of the statement.

So how is a website to know if users correctly identify themselves anyway?


18th October   

Update: Blocking Practicality...

Commentators point out the impracticalities of ISP level 'one size fits all' website blocking
Link Here
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

Adult content filters can't replace good parenting

See  article from by Corry Doctrow

The government's proposed web controls are too simplistic when it comes to understanding and filtering adult material

Last week's announcement of a national scheme to block adult content at the point of subscription (as the BBC's website had it) was a moment of mass credulity on the part of the nation's media, and an example of how complex technical questions and hot-button save-the-children political pandering are a marriage made in hell when it comes to critical analysis in the press.

Under No 10's proposal, the UK's major ISPs, BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin, will invite new subscribers to opt in or out of an adult content filter. But for all the splashy reporting on this that dominated the news cycle, no one seemed to be asking exactly what adult content is, and how the filters' operators will be able to find and block it.

Adult content covers a lot of ground. While the media of the day kept mentioning pornography in this context, existing adult filters often block gambling sites and dating sites (both subjects that are generally considered adult but aren't anything like pornography), while others block information about reproductive health and counselling services aimed at GBLT teens (gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender).

Then there's the problem of sites that have a wide variety of content, such as the venerable LiveJournal, which contains millions of personal and shared diaries. Some of these have material that children, especially small children, shouldn't see, but others don't. Is LiveJournal an adult site? It is, at least according to some filters.

...Read the full article

Britain's broadband censors: a bunch of students

See  article from by Nicole Kobie

McAfee creates blacklists of online content, categorising sites in order to let ISPs block them. BT and Sky use McAfee's lists for their parental controls, which a new Government-sponsored code of conduct requires them to offer to all customers.

The overall process is mostly automated, with McAfee's system looking for keywords on a site to classify it. Toralv Dirro, a security strategist at McAfee's Avert labs told PC Pro. If there's any doubt, we do have a team of people that take a look at a website and correct a classification if it's necessary. The team responsible for covering McAfee's customers worldwide is made up of between five to ten people. I think it's a fairly popular job for students, Dirro said.

However, he admits the very sites the small team is asked to judge are those that are the most subjective. Drawing the line between erotic and hardcore pornography is probably the most difficult, he said. Another thing is websites that go into extreme left or right side [politically], but still do news or something like that.

Dirro admitted there can be difficulties when a mainstream site features material that could be deemed pornographic to some people. Maybe they had pornographic or erotic stuff on their site, which for example could happen with a newspaper site, if they have the 'Page 3' picture of a woman on the front page. Normally, the entire site would be banned, not only the offending page. However larger sites such as The Sun have markers to prevent them from being slotted into a category and subsequently blocked.

There's no way you can obtain the complete list from us, Dirro said, adding McAfee would never publish the full list for intellectual property reasons. If you published that list, anyone could just take it and use it and create their own products.

If a site has been wrongly categorised, which Dirro admitted does happen, the site owner can open a ticket with support to get it changed. If McAfee refuses to change it, there's not really much that a site can do, Dirro admitted.

...Read the full article

EFF Criticises UK Government over Gambling Filter Plans

From by Mark Bennett

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is criticising the UK government for its plans on internet filtering. In conjunction with the Christian organization Mothers' Union, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has enacted a plan with four of Britain's major ISPs, BT, TalkTalk, Virgin, and Sky, to block access to pornography, gambling, self-harm, and other blacklisted websites.

The EFF claims that the plan lacks transparency. The blocked categories are vague in nature, and the list's origins unknown. Not only do the categories contain legal content in some cases, but there is significant room for overblocking.

The EFF also suggests opt-in services create privacy concerns. Users who choose to opt out of the bad content filter are then on one list. The plan does not in include privacy protections for the people who choose to opt out. The list could potentially be made public, shaming users who would prefer their Internet with its pornography, gambling, and self-harm websites intact.


12th October   

Update: Filtering Out Spin...

ISPs don't seem to talking from the same hymn sheet as David Cameron re website blocking
Link Here
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

As widely reported yesterday the four biggest ISPs said they have come up with a code of practice re website blocking and parental controls.

However this does not quite mean that ISPs are automatically blocking pornographic sites, and customers who wish to see such content do not have to ask their provider for permission to do so.

In fact what the ISPs said is something a little different. For example BT said in a statement:

The ISPs have committed to improve the way they communicate to customers, enabling parents to make simple and well-informed choices about installing and activating parental controls and other measures to protect children online. The four ISPs are working with parents' groups and children's charities on this important initiative and will continue to do so.

The ISPs are offering a wider range of services, not just the automatic blocking facility that has caught the attention.

All four ISPs already offer controls, and some of their users already have the feature turned on. The only change is that new customers can no longer sidestep the activation decision. A spokesperson for TalkTalk said: This is called 'active choice' rather than an opt-in or opt-out.  

In the cases of BT, Sky and Virgin Media, the parental control software is PC-based rather than network-based, and comes on the CD new customers need to set up their connection. BT said it plans to remind existing customers that they can activate the parental controls if they wish. This will be PC software provided by the security company McAfee.

TalkTalk goes a step further, in that it uses a network-level blocking system called HomeSafe, which has already raised the ire of anti-censorship campaigners. HomeSafe has blocked one million websites since its introduction in May, TalkTalk said in a statement, adding it hopes to see other ISPs follow its lead with network-level measures.

However, a spokesman for BT said the company is not convinced these screen material as effectively as PC-based controls, at this time . They could prove irritating and end up being unused, because they are inflexible and do not offer the versatility of PC-based controls, the spokesman told ZDNet UK.


8th October   

Update: Nothing's Shocking...

Except to Facebook who censor Jane's Addiction album cover art
Link Here
Full story: Facebook Censorship...Facebook quick to censor

The band Jane's Addiction posted the cover for their 1988 album Nothing's Shocking on their official Facebook page, along with a few other classic images from their history. But Facebook apparently took offence to the Nothing's Shocking cover, which features two naked ladies, and removed it.

The band quickly reposted the image, albeit an edited version with Facebook logos covering the girls' modesties, along with a post that said:

In 1988, nine of the 11 leading record chains refused to carry Nothing's Shocking because of its cover. (In 2011, Facebook joined them.)


7th October   

Update: A Bitter Pill...

Nominet closes down 500 UK websites over allegations of selling counterfeit pharmaceutical products
Link Here
Full story: Internet Domain Censorship...In the Domain of Nominet internet censorship

Nominet has suspended 500 .uk domains as part of an international operation to close down websites selling counterfeit pharmaceutical products.

Almost 13,500 websites worldwide were suspended as part of Operation Pangea IV, an Interpol coordinated effort which resulted in the seizure of more than 2.4 million pills.

Nominet acted to suspend the .uk domains following a request from The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Police Central e-Crime Unit.

Eleanor Bradley, Nominet's Director of Operations, said that the sites were in clear breach of Nominet's terms and conditions, due to their owners having provided fraudulent WHOIS details.


7th October

 Offsite: Crossing the Privacy Line...

Link Here
Full story: Facebook Privacy...Facebook criticised for discouraging privacy
Warning that Facebook's new Time Line feature will let other people see the embarrassing sites that we have been visiting

See article from


2nd October

 Offsite: Facebook Aliases...

Link Here
Kids evading prying parents by using false names on Facebook

See article from

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