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2008: July-Sept

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26th September   

Update: Sky High Prices...

Parliament meeting about Sky prices and legality of subscription to foreign TV
Link Here
Full story: No Free Trade for Satellite TV...Subscription to EU channels whilst in the UK

The cost of Sky for pubs and the current legal situation around foreign satellites will be debated during a meeting in Parliament next month.

MP John Grogan is hosting the meeting in the Palace of Westminster on October 20.

Speakers at the event will be Nick Bish and Kate Nicholls from the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers and lawyer Paul Dixon, a partner at legal firm Molesworth Bright Clegg.

Dixon has represented Portsmouth licensee Karen Murphy, who has had her appeal against a conviction for screening foreign satellite football referred to Europe.

Grogan, who previously hosted a meeting for the European Satellite TV Association (ESTA) in July last year, said: A number of MPs have been lobbied over the Parliamentary recess by publicans regarding the issue of the cost of installing Sky TV in licensed premises.

With the forthcoming court cases in Europe and the report of OfCom into the Pay TV market due by Christmas, I thought it was an appropriate time to raise the issue.

 

14th August   

Update: Home Phorm...

Parliamentary questions about Home Office role in the Phorm trials
Link Here
Full story: Behavioural Advertising...Serving adverts according to internet snooping

In the House of Lords Lib Dem peer Baroness Miller has asked a series of questions about the nature of talks between the government and Phorm.

Critics have asked why the Home Office has not intervened over secret Phorm trials BT conducted in 2006 and 2007.

In her questions Baroness Miller has asked about the issues surrounding Phorm and the technology it employs.

In one question she asked if the government has issued advice to net service firms about getting consent for web-watching ad systems or what needs to be done to let people know their web habits could be monitored.

In response the government said it was up to net firms to decide if a service they provide was within the law. The Home Office told the BBC that it was unaware of BT's early trials, in which thousands of BT customers had their web habits monitored without consent.

But it did confirm that Phorm had approached the Home Office in June 2007: We welcome companies sharing commercially sensitive ideas and proposals with us in confidence if that means public safety considerations and legal obligation can be taken into account, where appropriate, in the conception of new products and services .

Technology consultant Peter John, who has been following Phorm closely, asked why the Home Office did not intervene once it became clear that customers were unhappy that their web surfing habits had been monitored without consent. He believes the Home Office should have sought legal advice about a document it prepared for BT on the legality of the service in relation to RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act).

It found that the service may comply with RIPA but only if consent was asked.

According to John, the City of London Police is currently conducting its own investigation into Phorm, following complaints against BT.

 

5th August   

Gagging for Repression...

Parliamentary committee finds diplomatic gags to be wrong and unworkable
Link Here

A Government-imposed gag on retired diplomats giving media interviews without prior approval is "oppressive" and must be scrapped, a Commons committee says today.

Tougher restrictions were written into diplomatic service contracts in 2006, sparking complaints from former mandarins that their free speech was being eroded.

The Public Administration Select Committee said rules were excessively wide-ranging and oppressive and would substantially diminish informed discussion of major world events.

Their only saving grace is that they seem to be unworkable, they concluded, accusing ministers of failing to act on promises to revise them.

Were the rules to be applied literally, they would prevent live TV or radio commentary from former diplomats for the rest of their lives.

In practice, the Foreign Office continues to rely on the good sense of its former staff. It should say so. There is no sense in maintaining a rule that is both wrong in principle and manifestly unworkable in practice.


The government was also accused of restricting free speech by refusing to allow former civil servants to appeal against any decision to block publication of their memoirs.

The committee said that welcome moves to toughen the vetting process, in the wake of several highly- controversial books, had been undermined by the lack of an independent arbiter.

 

3rd August   

Update: Images of Repression...

The UK government look towards the tracking of mobile phone images
Link Here

Reading the Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Report into Harmful content on the Internet and in Video Games , there is an evil, ill thought out recommendation which should be thoroughly condemned::

Controlling conduct-based risks and cyberbullying

138. We note that mobile phone call records would make it possible to establish that a particular phone had been used to upload content onto a video-sharing website at a particular time but would not necessarily identify the images uploaded or the person who had used the phone to upload them.

Given that images or videos taken by mobile devices may be uploaded to social networking sites or video sharing sites on impulse, it would seem important to be able to have a record of the nature of content handled, should it be offensive, harmful or even illegal.

It may be that the mobile phone industry could develop technology which would allow images uploaded by mobile devices to be viewed, thereby helping in the process of assembling evidence if inappropriate conduct has taken place.

We recommend that network operators and manufacturers of mobile devices should assess whether it is technically possible to enable images sent from mobile devices to be traced and viewed by law enforcement officers with the appropriate authority.

If such currently non-existent technology is developed in the UK, presumably by magic, since the Committee has not come up with any research and development funding, what will prevent this selfsame mobile phone image tracking technology from being abused, in say, China, Russia, Zimbabwe, Burma, Pakistan etc. to hunt down political dissidents and opponents of those authoritarian regimes ?

Innocent photographers in the UK already suffer from illegal harassment by Police Constables, Police Community Support Officers and Private Security Guards. Why should they welcome their mobile phone retained Communications Traffic Data being trawled, just in case their copyrighted images might of interest in a Police investigation ?

Why should mobile phone photographers be hunted down and identified, if the Police or shyster lawyers representing rich and powerful people or organisations, try to suppress their images?

The dreadful dictatorship appeasing commercial monopoly of the International Olympic Committee springs to mind. They already seem set to inflict Beijing 2008 style monopoly enforcement on the London 2012 Olympic Games.

 

3rd August

 Offsite: The New Morality Police...

Link Here
More regulation and greater Internet safety. Politicians should be careful what they wish for

See article from indexoncensorship.org

 

31st July   

Update: Watershed Inanity...

Harmful committee recommend more internet censorship
Link Here

The internet industry must take more responsibility for protecting young people from the "dark side" of digital content relating to abuse, violence and suicide, according to a committee of MPs.

The investigation recommended the establishment of a self-regulatory body to create better online safeguards to protect children from being exposed to unsuitable material. The body would police websites, adjudicate on complaints and could help crack down on piracy and illegal file-sharing in Britain.

The culture, media and sport committee report, on harmful content on the internet and video games, said that leaving individual companies to introduce their own measures to protect users had resulted in an unsatisfactory piecemeal approach which lacks consistency and transparency.

The committee chairman, John Whittingdale, criticised YouTube for not going far enough with proactive measures, beyond a pledge to take down material when it is "flagged" up by users: We had a lively debate with YouTube [who said they have] millions of users who act as regulators. They understandably say they can't look at all the material uploaded.

The report recommends a "proactive review of content" as standard practice for sites hosting user-generated content. The idea would be to introduce technological tools to "quarantine" material which potentially violates terms and conditions of use until ... reviewed by staff.

The report recommended a host of measures including improving the "shocking" industry-accepted standard takedown time of 24 hours for the removal of child abuse content. Whittingdale said a key concern was that many young people did not realise when they are putting information on social networking websites such as Bebo and Facebook it was being "made available to the world".

The report recommends a default setting for social networking website user profiles with heavily restricted access that would require a "deliberate decision" to display personal information. The increasingly worrying role of the influence of suicide websites was also highlighted in the report. It said that it could be possible to look at blocking such websites on a voluntary basis, in the same way that ISPs already do for child sex abuse websites with the Internet Watch Foundation.

The report also agrees that parents need to take on a greater responsibility to protect their children. The report also recommended introducing the rating system used by the BBFC for computer games.

Based on article from mirror.co.uk

Internet sites such as YouTube should adopt TV-style watersheds to protect youngsters from porn and violence, MPs said today.

Users posting home-made films would have to give them a cinema-style age rating under the proposals. Those containing sex, bad language or violence could be blocked before 9pm.

The move is among curbs proposed by the Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee.

 

12th July   

Corrupted Information...

Fiona MacTaggart quotes from discredited source bout human trafficking
Link Here

Sorry, we can't find hardly any victims...
But we're not going let this minor detail stop
us from crucifying men who want to get laid

In the recent parliamentary debate about trafficking, Fiona MacTaggart said:

I make no apology for focusing on prostitution in this debate. Let me quote Sigma Huda, who is the UN special rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children. She said:

For the most part, prostitution as actually practised in the world usually does satisfy the elements of trafficking...states parties with legalised prostitution industries have a heavy responsibility to ensure that their legalised prostitution regimes are not simply perpetuating widespread and systematic trafficking. As current conditions throughout the world attest, states parties that maintain legalised prostitution are far from satisfying their obligations.

Perhaps interesting to note that she failed to mention a few relevant details about Sigma Huda:

To date, however, the Special Procedure on trafficking has been profoundly disappointing and even detrimental to the situation of trafficked persons. For the past one year, the mandate-holder has been in prison on charges of corruption, leaving the mandate effectively inactive.

Furthermore, the thematic reports produced in the first two years of her mandate, when she was still in office, were criticized by human rights and anti-trafficking groups for not being based on the core human rights conventions or on a verifiable evidence base, and for being biased and ideologically driven in their approach to trafficking.

...Read full article Newly Appointed UN Special Rapporteur Brings Hope: Human Rights for Sex Workers and Migrants

 

10th July   

Trafficking in Hot Air...

Parliament debates human trafficking
Link Here

Sorry, we can't find hardly any victims...
But we're not going let this minor detail stop
us from crucifying men who want to get laid

There was a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament on 8th July re the subject of Human Trafficking.

All parties seem to be supporting the line that something has to be done about the problem of trafficking for sex. Nothing suggests that anybody is seriously considering any other option than to criminalise the purchase of sex.

The topic of why  so few of the 18,000 estimated victims have ever been found did arise. But there seemed to be a presumption that the authorities were failing to find the victims rather than to consider that estimates may be hyped up urban myths.

Vernon Coaker, the minister charged with examining the issue concluded:

On demand, we have not yet come to any conclusions, but we are considering what to do. We understand that demand for prostitution results in many people being trafficked into prostitution, so we need to do something about that. Even Holland, which is held up as the liberal alternative, is extremely concerned about the impact that its laws have on trafficking. That is why Holland is shutting some licensed premises and managed areas and even considering making it a criminal offence to purchase sex outside the licensed and regulated sector.

...Read parliamentary transcript


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