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Online Censorship Act...

The Online Unsafety Bill gets Royal Assent and so becomes law


Link Here29th October 2023
Full story: Online Safety Act...UK Government legislates to censor social media
The Online Safety Bill received Royal Assenton 26th October 2023, heralding a new era of internet censorship.

The new UK internet Ofcom was quick off the mark to outline its timetable for implementing the new censorship regime.

Ofcom has set out our plans for putting online safety laws into practice, and what we expect from tech firms, now that the Online Safety Act has passed. Ofcom writes:

The Act makes companies that operate a wide range of online services legally responsible for keeping people, especially children, safe online. These companies have new duties to protect UK users by assessing risks of harm, and taking steps to address them. All in-scope services with a significant number of UK users, or targeting the UK market, are covered by the new rules, regardless of where they are based.

While the onus is on companies to decide what safety measures they need given the risks they face, we expect implementation of the Act to ensure people in the UK are safer online by delivering four outcomes:

  • stronger safety governance in online firms;

  • online services designed and operated with safety in mind;

  • choice for users so they can have meaningful control over their online experiences; and

  • transparency regarding the safety measures services use, and the action Ofcom is taking to improve them, in order to build trust .

We are moving quickly to implement the new rules

Ofcom will give guidance and set out codes of practice on how in-scope companies can comply with their duties, in three phases, as set out in the Act.

Phase one: illegal harms duties

We will publish draft codes and guidance on these duties on 9 November 2023, including:

  • analysis of the causes and impacts of online harm, to support services in carrying out their risk assessments;

  • draft guidance on a recommended process for assessing risk;

  • draft codes of practice, setting out what services can do to mitigate the risk of harm; and

  • draft guidelines on Ofcom's approach to enforcement.

We will consult on these documents, and plan to publish a statement on our final decisions in Autumn 2024. The codes of practices will then be submitted to the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, and subject to their approval, laid before Parliament.

Phase two: child safety, pornography and the protection of women and girls

Child protection duties will be set out in two parts. First, online pornography services and other interested stakeholders will be able to read and respond to our draft guidance on age assurance from December 2023. This will be relevant to all services in scope of Part 5 of the Online Safety Act.

Secondly, regulated services and other interested stakeholders will be able to read and respond to draft codes of practice relating to protection of children, in Spring 2024.

Alongside this, we expect to consult on:

  • analysis of the causes and impacts of online harm to children; and

  • draft risk assessment guidance focusing on children's harms.

We expect to publish draft guidance on protecting women and girls by Spring 2025, when we will have finalised our codes of practice on protection of children.

Phase three: transparency, user empowerment, and other duties on categorised services

A small proportion of regulated services will be designated Category 1, 2A or 2B services if they meet certain thresholds set out in secondary legislation to be made by Government. Our final stage of implementation focuses on additional requirements that fall only on these categorised services. Those requirements include duties to:

  • produce transparency reports;

  • provide user empowerment tools;

  • operate in line with terms of service;

  • protect certain types of journalistic content; and

  • prevent fraudulent advertising.

We now plan to issue a call for evidence regarding our approach to these duties in early 2024 and a consultation on draft transparency guidance in mid 2024.

Ofcom must produce a register of categorised services. We will advise Government on the thresholds for these categories in early 2024, and Government will then make secondary legislation on categorisation, which we currently expect to happen by summer 2024. Assuming this is achieved, we will:

  • publish the register of categorised services by the end of 2024;

  • publish draft proposals regarding the additional duties on these services in early 2025; and

  • issue transparency notices in mid 2025.

 

 

Updated: Minister for Lynch Mob Justice...

Tory MP Caroline Dinenage tries to bully social media site Rumble into demonetising Russell Brand without due process


Link Here26th September 2023
Last week, The Times and Channel 4's Dispatches covered serious allegations of assault against Russell Brand. While the comedian has yet to be convicted of any wrongdoing and whether the anonymous accusers are victims is yet to be determined, several major platforms, including YouTube, Netflix, and BBC iPlayer, took swift action, either demonetizing or removing Brand's content.

A senior Tory politician has taken it onboard to take the lynch mob position of declaring that the accuser is always right, and that without needing to bother with due process, police investigation or judicial trial, she has demanded the standard PC punishment of loss of career.

Caroline Dinenage, the chair of chair of Parliament's Culture, Media and Sport Committee has written to bully the free speech friendly social media website Rumble into banning or demonetising Brand's video content which seems to have about 1.5 million followers. Dineage wrote that she is concerned that Brand may be able to profit from his work online:

We would be grateful if you could confirm whether Mr Brand is able to monetise his content, including his videos relating to the serious accusations against him. If so, we would like to know whether Rumble intends to join YouTube in suspending Mr Brand's ability to earn money on the platform.

We would also like to know what Rumble is doing to ensure that creators are not able to use the platform to undermine the welfare of victims of inappropriate and potentially illegal behaviour.

Rumble, however, has chosen a different route from the other platforms. In response to an inquiry by the UK's Culture, Media and Sport Committee regarding Brand's monetization on the platform, Rumble CEO Chris Pavlovski issued a statement emphasizing the company's commitment to a free internet. In a clear stance against cancel culture and rushes to judgement, Pavlovski responded, stressing that allegations against Brand have no connection with his content on Rumble. He pointed out the importance of a free internet, where no one arbitrarily dictates which ideas can or cannot be heard.

From Rumble CEO Chris Pavlovski:

Today we received an extremely disturbing letter from a committee chair in the UK Parliament. While Rumble obviously deplores sexual assault, rape, and all serious crimes, and believes that both alleged victims and the accused are entitled to a full and serious investigation, it is vital to note that recent allegations against Russell Brand have nothing to do with content on Rumble's platform. Just yesterday, YouTube announced that, based solely on these media accusations, it was barring Mr. Brand from monetizing his video content. Rumble stands for very different values. We have devoted ourselves to the vital cause of defending a free internet -- meaning an internet where no one arbitrarily dictates which ideas can or cannot be heard, or which citizens may or may not be entitled to a platform.

We regard it as deeply inappropriate and dangerous that the UK Parliament would attempt to control who is allowed to speak on our platform or to earn a living from doing so. Singling out an individual and demanding his ban is even more disturbing given the absence of any connection between the allegations and his content on Rumble. We don't agree with the behavior of many Rumble creators, but we refuse to penalize them for actions that have nothing to do with our platform.

Although it may be politically and socially easier for Rumble to join a cancel culture mob, doing so would be a violation of our company's values and mission. We emphatically reject the UK Parliament's demands.
 

Offsite Comment: The casual authoritarianism of Caroline Dinenage

21st September 2023. See article from spiked-online.com by Laurie Wastell

Why is the head of parliament's culture committee calling on tech firms to unperson Russell Brand?


Update: Politicians and Media Heap Pressure on Rumble After it Defends Principle of Neutrality

26th September 2023.See article from reclaimthenet.org

Rumble has stood up to censorship pressure and rejected the UK Parliament's request to cut off Brand's monetization, with CEO Chris Pavlovski noting that the allegations against Brand have nothing to do with content on Rumble's platform.

Now several media outlets have joined the lynch mob and are targeting Rumble's stance.

Lord Allan of Hallam, a former Facebook executive who advised on the Online Safety Bill, branded Rumble a crazy American platform and expressed disdain at Rumble's philosophy of allowing free expression.

He and internet academic  Professor Lorna Woods also complained about Rumble's refusal to bow down to pressure from UK officials and framed it as grandstand[ing] before the press.

The Times also took aim at Rumble by noting that under the Online Safety Bill, Rumble will have to prevent children from seeing pornography...material that promotes self-harm, suicide or eating disorders...violent content...material harmful to health, such as vaccine misinformation and take down material that is illegal, such as videos that incite violence or race hate.

However, Bryn Harris, the Chief Legal Council for The Free Speech Union, pointed out that The Times' article doesn't actually provide examples of any of the alleged illegal or harmful to kids content on Rumble.

Additionally, the Associated Press piled in on Rumble after it stood up to the demands of UK officials by claiming that Rumble is a haven for disinformation and extremism.

 

 

Making Britain the unsafest place in the world to be online...

The Online Censorship Bill passes its final parliamentary hurdle


Link Here 20th September 2023
Full story: Online Safety Bill...UK Government legislates to censor social media
The UK's disgraceful Online Safety Bill has passed through Parliament and will soon become law. The wide-ranging legislation, which is likely to affect every internet user in the UK and any service they access, and generate mountains of onerous red tape for any internet business stupid enough to be based in Britain. Potential impacts are still unclear and some of the new regulations are technologically impossible to comply with.

A key sticking point is what the legislation means for end-to-end encryption, a security technique used by services like WhatsApp that mathematically guarantees that no one, not even the service provider, can read messages sent between two users. The new law gives regulator Ofcom the power to intercept and check this encrypted data for illegal or harmful content.

Using this power would require service providers to create a backdoor in their software, allowing Ofcom to bypass the mathematically secure encryption. But this same backdoor would be abused by hackers, thieves, scammers and malicious states to snoop, steal and hack.

Beyond encryption, the bill also brings in mandatory age checks on pornography websites and requires that websites have policies in place to protect people from harmful or illegal content. What counts as illegal and exactly which websites will fall under the scope of the bill is unclear, however.

Neil Brown at law firm decoded.legal says Ofcom still has a huge amount of work to do. The new law could plausibly affect any company that allows comments on its website, publishes user-generated content, transmits encrypted data or hosts anything that the government deems may be harmful to children, says Brown:

What I'm fearful of is that there are going to be an awful lot of people, small organisations - not these big tech giants -- who are going to face pretty chunky legal bills trying to work out if they are in scope and, if so, what they need to do.

 

 

Cryptic statements...

The Online Censorship Bill has now been passed by the House of Lords with weak promises about not breaking user security


Link Here9th September 2023
Full story: Online Safety Bill...UK Government legislates to censor social media

The U.K.'s Online Safety Bill has passed a critical final stage in the House of Lords, and envisions a potentially vast scheme to surveil internet users.

The bill would empower the U.K. government, in certain situations, to demand that online platforms use government-approved software to search through all users' photos, files, and messages, scanning for illegal content. Online services that don't comply can be subject to extreme penalties, including criminal penalties.

Such a backdoor scanning system can and will be exploited by bad actors. It will also produce false positives, leading to false accusations of child abuse that will have to be resolved. That's why the bill is incompatible with end-to-end encryption--and human rights. EFF has strongly opposed this bill from the start.

Now, with the bill on the verge of becoming U.K. law, the U.K. government has sheepishly acknowledged that it may not be able to make use of some aspects of this law. During a final debate over the bill, a representative of the government said that orders to scan user files can be issued only where technically feasible, as determined by Ofcom, the U.K.'s telecom regulatory agency. He also said any such order must be compatible with U.K. and European human rights law.

That's a notable step back, since previously the same representative, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, said in a letter to the House of Lords that the technology that would magically make invasive scanning co-exist with end-to-end encryption already existed . We have seen companies develop such solutions for platforms with end-to-end encryption before, wrote Lord Parkinson in that letter.

Now, Parkinson has come quite close to admitting that such technology does not, in fact, exist. On Tuesday, he said :

There is no intention by the Government to weaken the encryption technology used by platforms, and we have built strong safeguards into the Bill to ensure that users' privacy is protected.

If appropriate technology which meets these requirements does not exist, Ofcom cannot require its use. That is why the powers include the ability for Ofcom to require companies to make best endeavors to develop or source a new solution.

The same day that these public statements were made, news outlets reported that the U.K. government privately acknowledged that there is no technology that could examine end-to-end encrypted messages while respecting user privacy.

 

People Need Privacy, Not Weak Promises

Let's be clear: weak statements by government ministers, such as the hedging from Lord Parkinson during this week's debate, are no substitute for real privacy rights.

Nothing in the law's text has changed. The bill gives the U.K. government the right to order message and photo-scanning, and that will harm the privacy and security of internet users worldwide. These powers, enshrined in Clause 122 of the bill, are now set to become law. After that, the regulator in charge of enforcing the law, Ofcom, will have to devise and publish a set of regulations regarding how the law will be enforced.

Several companies that provide end-to-end encrypted services have said they will withdraw from the U.K. if Ofcom actually takes the extreme choice of requiring examination of currently encrypted messages. Those companies include Meta-owned WhatsApp, Signal, and U.K.-based Element, among others.

While it's the last minute, Members of Parliament still could introduce an amendment with real protections for user privacy, including an explicit protection for real end-to-end encryption.

Failing that, Ofcom should publish regulations that make clear that there is no available technology that can allow for scanning of user data to co-exist with strong encryption and privacy.

Finally, lawmakers in other jurisdictions, including the United States, should take heed of the embarrassing result of passing a law that is not just deceptive, but unhinged from computational reality. The U.K. government has insisted that through software magic, a system in which they can examine or scan everything will also somehow be a privacy-protecting system. Faced with the reality of this contradiction, the government has turned to an 11th hour campaign to assure people that the powers it has demanded simply won't be used.


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