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UK Parliament Watch

2013: Jan-March

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Internet Censors...

House of Lords Committee recommends measures to move internet video to Ofcom style heavy handed TV censorship

Link Here28th March 2013

The House of Lords' Communications Committee are looking for 'voluntary' participation in Ofcom's content regulation, but these kinds of voluntary arrangement are rarely truly voluntary. Usually the government threatens legislation if the required 'volunteering' doesn't take place.

These are the key paragraphs from the House of Lords Communications Committee recommendations :

204.  Ofcom should investigate the option of non-broadcast providers of TV-like services, such as Netflix and the content providers mentioned in Box 1, being invited to comply with an appropriate set of standards (the Broadcasting Code suitably amended for their environment) in return for some form of public recognition or kitemark. (Para 53)

211.  We urge the Government to ensure that cooperation on the regulation of converging media content, such as the category of TV and TV-like material, is included as part of the discussions between the EU and the US about the establishment of a free trade agreement. (Para 94)

221.  Specifically, Ofcom should be required, in dialogue with UK citizens and key industry players, to establish and publish on a regular basis the UK public's expectations of major digital intermediaries such as ISPs and other digital gateways, specifically with regard to protecting UK audiences and their families when accessing content through digital intermediaries' services, covering for example:

  • The scope of their responsibilities (given they are not always in direct control of the content to which they provide access);

  • Appropriate processes for receiving complaints and subsequent redress;

  • Any specific measures, such as access controls, content classification systems, or other actions which the UK public might expect them to take in protecting children from harmful material. (Para 141)



Using a Hammer to Crack a Blog...

Government seems keen to censor small bloggers, so as to ensure that anything bigger doesn't slip through the net

Link Here26th March 2013

Big Brother Watch writes:

We have highlighted that the current drafting of relevant publisher for the purposes of the Leveson law risks capturing blogs and organisations like Big Brother Watch in a system of regulation never intended for them.

The Government's amendment to the Crime and Courts Bill exempts a person who publishes a small-scale blog from the definition of relevant publisher is an attempt to deal with growing concern, as demonstrated by the 20 person signatory letter in Saturday's Guardian.

Sadly the amendment offers no definition of what is small scale or how it relates to an organisation who publishes the blog in question, so the compromise arguably makes the situation worse. The first time an organisation is sued as being a relevant publisher would have to fight in court to prove they are not -- or risk facing exemplary damages. That could be a hefty legal bill and for small organisations a fight they might not be able to even consider, let alone see to the end.

However the Government stills seems keen to only exclude the tiniest of the tiny

See  article from .

The government has moved to exclude small-scale bloggers from the threat of media regulation, and will hold a mini-consultation with the newspaper industry on how best to construct a workable definition of the bloggers that need to be protected.

Ministers concede that the definitions offered so far may have loopholes, and will attempt to put in place a clear watertight amendment after Easter when the crown and courts bill returns to the Commons.

Lord McNally, the justice minister, said the government's aim was to bring under the ambit of the regulator only the main elements of the press as well as what he defined as press-like activity online. He said:

I have seen over the past week some concerns voiced regarding the extent to which bloggers and tweeters may be caught.

Clearly, the online version of the national press or their regional counterparts, or indeed an online press-like news site, carry with them very different public expectations when compared with a small-scale blog or for that matter a tweet.



Update: Such Serious Issues Debated at Such Irresponsible Speed...

Realisation that a whole host of tiny websites, including Big Brother Watch, would be covered by the provisions of the new press regulator

Link Here 22nd March 2013

Big Brother Watch writes:

As the bell tolls for press freedom, the realisation that a whole host of tiny websites, including Big Brother Watch, would be covered by the provisions of the new press regulator is dawning on Westminster.

On Monday, the Lords will vote on the legislation underpinning the Royal Charter on press-self regulation. They will determine who is to be a relevant publisher and at present risks catching broadly any site that is has more than one author, carries news or information about current affairs, or gossip about celebrities, and has some kind of editorial control.

We are urgently trying to garner support for the below amendment to exclude small organisations from the provisions of what is already becoming an unwieldy and unpredictable piece of legislative horse trading.

This is not an ideal situation -- as with most things formulated in meetings at 2am -- and it would make much more sense for this to be handled rationally and thought through properly. This amendment protects a few, but the principle has already gone.

We are still looking for a peer to table this amendment -- any help is appreciated -- please call the office on 0207 3406030.


Insert into New Schedule 5 of the Crime and Courts Bill Exclusions from definition of "relevant publisher"

9) "A publisher who does not exceed the definition of a small or medium-sized enterprise as defined in Section 382 and 465 Companies Act 2006."

Let us be clear

The manner in which this has been brought to bear, in 2am meetings with lobbyists, no civil society input, rushed drafting and ill-considered consequences should not be the way to make law. Indeed, we cannot think of a worse way to make law.

See  article from

Meeting Hacked Off

The explosive revelations that websites will be included in the post-Leveson press regulation arrangements this weekend led to a flurry of analysis --- and a meeting between Hacked Off, bloggers and free speech groups yesterday.

See  article from



Update: Introducing the UK News and Internet Censor...

So will websites be liable to astronomic and unjust 'exemplary' damages?

Link Here21st March 2013

The very worrying establishment of a UK news and internet censor has been rushing through parliament with the lack of scrutiny and consideration that you would expect given a 3 party stitch up.

See  Hansard transcriptions of the latest debate from

See Bill amendments containing the new laws [pdf] from

Press regulation deal sparks fears of high libel fines for bloggers

See article from

Bloggers could face high fines for libel under the new Leveson deal with exemplary damages imposed if they don't sign up to the new regulator, it was claimed on Tuesday.

Under clause 29 introduced to the crime and courts bill in the Commons on Monday night, the definition of relevant bloggers or websites includes any that generate news material where there is an editorial structure giving someone control over publication.

Bloggers would not be at risk of exemplary damages for comments posted by readers. There is also a schedule that excludes certain publishers such as scientific journals, student publications and not-for-profit community newspapers. Websites are guaranteed exclusion from exemplary damages if they can get on this list.

Kirsty Hughes, the chief executive of Index on Censorship, which campaigns for press freedom around the world, said it was a sad day for British democracy. This will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on everyday people's web use, she said.

She said she feared thousands of websites could fall under the definition of a relevant publisher in clause 29. Hughes said:

Bloggers could find themselves subject to exemplary damages, due to the fact that they were not part of a regulator that was not intended for them in the first place.

There does seem to be two exclusions to signing up for censorship. Solo bloggers seem to be excluded as the law only applies to websites with multiple (presumably two) authors. There is also an exclusion for single interest publications, but definition are vague enough that this will be worthless when courts get involved and interpret the rules to suit the authorities.

Offsite: An in-depth examination of the bill's clauses about liability to news censorship

See  article from

There are doubts that the censor will be able to address all the issues anyway

See  article from

The Leveson-inspired draft bill deals with the past, not the future, of the press in failing to address the myriad ways we now receive news' What Miller seems to want to define is a news business , which fails to admit any complexity at all in the news ecosystem as it is presently constructed.

The press is melting before our very eyes, and the public it served is trickling away in a thousand different streams. The impact a story has now is as much dependent on the network it travels through as on the news brand that presents it.

The sole blogger , or even a person in possession of a microblogging Twitter account, can have as devastating effect on any number of lives as the front page of a tabloid newspaper. Under Miller's definition of press , the richest and most powerful publishers of all, Google, Facebook, and Twitter, are arguably exempt because they do not seek to exercise editorial control or indeed report news as part of a business model. It would be interesting to know whether Miller views an algorithm as editorial control . I suspect not, even though by most definitions it is just that. It was once the case that to reach a broad audience you needed an industrial publishing complex behind you, whereas now, you just need a mobile phone.

And the buzzards are already circling

See  article from

'Cut the wire ' Max Mosley calls for websites to be closed down if they flout new Press watchdog rules

His remarks were condemned by anti-censorship campaigners claiming it would turn Britain into a totalitarian state like China or Iran



No Respect for Free Expression...

MP George Galloway initiates parliamentary motion calling for the censorship of Twitter

Link Here16th March 2013

EDM 1190 Twitter and the Detection of Crime

Primary sponsor: Galloway, George:

That this House

  • notes that Twitter is now a very widely used mode of social networking;

  • further notes that Twitter is a US-based enterprise whose primary motivation is to maximise its profits;

  • further notes that Twitter is now used for a variety of criminal activities including sending malicious communications;

  • further notes that Twitter refuses to co-operate with the UK authorities in general and the police in particular in trying to detect the source of criminal communications unless it is a matter of life and death , to be determined by Twitter;

  • believes that this failure to co-operate with the detection of the sources of criminal behaviour is reprehensible;

  • and calls on the Government to impose sanctions on Twitter until it agrees to fully co-operate with the UK authorities and police in the detection of crime.

As of 16th march, no other MPS had signed the motion



Update: Inappropriately Wide Reaching...

British Naturism points out that Elspeth's Howe's Online Protection Bill has become a Censorship Bill

Link Here10th March 2013
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

When first proposed, the House of Lords Online Protection Bill was of no concern to naturists, but it had the potential to become a concern. Originally the Bill proposed that children should be blocked from access to pornography, and pornography was defined as material intended to be sexually arousing. However amendments have been proposed which have increased the scope of the bill.

Baroness Benjamin has put forward an amendment which would change the definition from pornographic images to adult content . Lord Morrow has also moved an amendment which would insert at an age appropriate level past the word content .

The new line in the Bill would then read:

Manufacturers of electronic devices must provide customers with a means of filtering adult content at an age-appropriate level from an internet access service at the time the device is purchased.

The danger here is the lack of any definition of what the words adult and appropriate actually mean. There are several shortcomings in this Bill that absolutely must be addressed:

  • Appropriate must be defined on evidence and facts, not emotion, myth, and prejudice;
  • Classification must be evidence based;
  • Emotion and prejudice are not evidence;
  • Over-blocking is just as serious as under-blocking, both result in serious harm;
  • It must be clear which filters provide protection and which ones support prejudice and may be harmful;
  • Freedom of Expression is important and must be protected;
  • Blocking of web sites that are not harmful to children is libel;
  • Blocking web sites without justification is just as much censorship as preventing the publication of a newspaper. There must be a practicable means to find out if blocked and to contest the blocking.

Unless there is real protection for Freedom of Expression then the manufacturers, software providers, and ISPs will minimise costs and filter everything that could possibly cause offence to anyone. That will cause considerable harm, not just to Naturism, but to society in general and to children and young people in particular.



Offsite Article: Triumphant and Heroic Run Down the Home Straight Ruined by a Reprehensible Film Producer...

Link Here6th March 2013
Full story: Censorship by Libel...British libel law allows the rich to censor the truth
David Puttnam Years of effort set to be lost over libel reform as David Puttnam's selfish hijack of the bill makes it unacceptable to progress further

See article from



Offsite Article: No Local Hero...

Link Here9th February 2013
Full story: Censorship by Libel...British libel law allows the rich to censor the truth
david puttnamDavid Puttnam's obsession with press censorship puts libel reform bill in jeopardy

See article from



So ARE UK Kids Depraved and Corrupted?...

ATVOD tries to convince lords and banks to ban Brits from foreign porn websites

Link Here6th February 2013

Media Convergence Witnesses

Peter Johnson, CEO, and Ruth Evans, Chair, ATVOD pitched their case to a House of Lords Committee about why the banks should be dragooned into banning internet porn.

Interestingly, the ATVOD pair admitted that porn is the only issue that ATVOD has any complaints to look into. The other 3 areas of the ATVOD remit, sponsorship, product placement and inciting hatred have only resulted in 1 complaint between them, and that was rejected.

So perhaps it isn't surprising that ATVOD need to big up the child protection issue, otherwise they may be out of a job.

The basic argument for enlisting the banks is that ATVOD suffocation of British companies achieves little apart from driving business offshore. then they need something to attack foreign businesses. And banking payment systems have been suggested as the tool.

However because adult porn is basically legal, then the banks will probably not want to get involved. But ATVOD claim that the Obscene Publications Act (OPA) makes it illegal for kids to see as it supposedly 'depraves and corrupts' them. ATVOD therefore claim that adult porn available to under 18s is therefore illegal under the OPA and hence the banks could be reasonably asked to ban payments services from porn websites.

The ATVOD pair admitted though that the OPA is hardly used with about 8 convictions in the last year.

Of course Johnson and Evans didn't mention the fundamental flaw in their claims.

How can the depiction of sex, something that nearly everybody does, be so harmful to under 18s. Especially as they are well prepared for sex via ongoing sex education and the simple fact that it is probably near the number one topic of conversation for nearly all of society, particularly teenagers.

Porn may be undesirable, and embarrassing to parents but can it really 'seriously harm children' or else 'deprave and corrupt' them.  And if it does, we should surely know about it, because they all watch the stuff anyway.



Offsite Article: Zero Tolerance Campaigns...

Link Here10th January 2013
Scottish MPs enjoy a long debate celebrating a 20 years of miserable man-hating political correctness

See article from



Offsite Comment: Responding to Diane Abbot's Lard Arsed Comments...

Link Here5th January 2013
Diane Abbott's one-woman war against fried chicken sums up how snooty and paternalistic Labour has become. By Brendan O'Neill

See article from



Offsite Article: Heavily Into Censorship...

Link Here4th January 2013
PC Extremist and Labour Shadow Health Secretary, Diane Abbott, spews about health control freakery and internet censorship

See article from

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