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2015: July-Sept

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Difficult Issues...

MPs call for the censorship of a website reporting on muslim extremism and promoting an incendiary exhibition of cartoons

Link Here28th July 2015
A group of MPs have called for an investigation into a well known blog, reporting on muslim extremism, that is popular with the far right.

The Gates of Vienna website has also been promoting an upcoming exhibition of cartoons of the religious character Muhammad in London. It has been organised by the former Ukip parliamentary candidate Anne-Marie Waters and is set to take place at a location in central London on 18 September.

The Labour MPs Ian Austin, Ruth Smeeth, Imran Hussain, Paula Sherriff, Wes Streeting and John Cryer have written to the director of public prosecutions, Alison Saunders, asking her to consider if the site's owners are breaching the law. The letter reads:

It is clear that these are the ideas that inspired Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik and as such it is deeply troubling that they are available to inspire others. We would urge you to investigate the Gates of Vienna website and take appropriate action if anyone involved is deemed to be promoting terrorism and civil disorder.

Austin told the Guardian that the exhibition of Muhammad cartoons was:

Clearly [intended] to provoke a reaction from British Muslims and we must all ensure this does not happen.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan police said an appropriate policing plan would be put in place for the event but would not comment further.



Trust Us, We're Censors...

Ofcom boss speaks to parliamentary committee about censorship of the BBC and also of religious hate channels

Link Here22nd July 2015
Ofcom chief executive Sharon White was called to address the parliamentary culture, media and sport select committee. During the course of the session White told the MPs that she is paid 275,000 a year.

She seemed keen on expanding Ofcom's remit to take on the censorship portion of the BBC Trust's current role. She did however baulk at the suggestion to take on wider governance of the BBC.

White said Ofcom already regulated various aspects of the BBC's output, including issues around decency and harm and offence, and said if the government wanted it to extend its responsibilities to bias and impartiality we will do the best possible job .

But she also warned there would be resourcing implications for the censor, which deals with around 25,000 complaints a year, a tenth of the 250,000 complaints that are received by the BBC on an annual basis.

White was quick to belittle a further option that another body entirely should pick up the BBC censorship role. White warned that concern should be taken that a new OfBeeb-style body did not clash or cause confusion with the role of Ofcom. But she laughed off suggestions of a looming turf war .

On the topic of extremist religious broadcasting, White said that Ofcom has not been hampered by lack of legislation in cracking down on extremist broadcasts following David Cameron said it should be given beefed-up powers to tackle the issue. This was identified as one of the key pillars of Cameron's five-year counter extremism strategy unveiled on Monday, in which he said Ofcom would be given new powers to take action against foreign channels that broadcast hate preachers.

White told MPs on the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee:

We haven't found that we have been unable to act because the legislation hasn't given us the powers.

Where do you place cause and effect, between television and content being a powerful influencer, and that reflecting growing views in society?  It's a very difficult judgment to make ... One suspects that it will vary by community, even by family.

She said Ofcom had a very good monitoring department that looked at potentially extremist content but added:

Depending on the detail of the prime minister's statement and how that gets reflected in legislation ... we would need to look at the team and whether it would need some extra resourcing.

Ofcom shares the government's concerns about harmful, extremist content, and we have taken action against a number of channels. We are continuing to work closely with the government to ensure audiences remain protected.

But she said the regulator's remit with regard to the internet was rather limited, to the broadcasting of stuff that looks like it's been on the television, in the terrible jargon, TV-like content . Ofcom's remit does not cover content on the open internet.



Harmful censorship...

Parliamentary committee to grill Ofcom on internet censorship

Link Here20th July 2015
The Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the UK's House of Commons is to hold its first evidence session with the newly-appointed Chief Executive of Ofcom, Sharon White. She will appear before the Committee on Tuesday 21 July.

Amongst over topics, the agenda items include: Tackling harmful content online.



Update: UK licensed to censor the world...

Christian moralists commission propaganda survey in support of Elspeth Howe's annual attempt to enact her Online Safety Bill, requiring age verification for adult content on the internet

Link Here17th July 2015
Nearly three-quarters of people questioned for a survey for a christian morality campaign said all websites offering adult movies and pornography should introduce age-verification systems

The Government should impose age verification checks on all websites which offer pornography and 18-rated entertainment such as horror films , Fifty Shades of Grey and Game of Thrones , according to the survey.

The survey of more than 2,000 adults was conducted earlier this month for Christian Action Research and Education (CARE), which is campaigning for internet censorship.

The ComRes survey found 74% of the people they asked said the Government should require sites offering pornography in the UK to put age verification checks in place. A further 73% also said that age verification should apply to 18 rated films streamed online.

The timing of publication of the survey was timed to support Elspeth Howe's latest Online Safety Bill, which was debated in the House of Lords today. The Online Safety Bill required default website blocking for mobile phones, requires strict ID verification for adult internet video and also required foreign porn sites to get a UK licence for its operation on threat of banks denying payment services for unlicensed websites.

The Bill passed its 2nd reading in the Lords and now moved to committee. But the government did rather point out that Howe was stepping on their toes for initiatives that the government would be introducing in the near future.



No wonder MPs are detached from the real world...

Newspapers reveal how internet censorship denies MPs basic internet resources such as the urban dictionary

Link Here1st July 2015
Over blocking on Westminster's internet network is denying MPs the basic tools to do their job properly.

The press have had a field day about a particular website being blocked called which rates politicians by sex appeal and presents visitors with photos of two randomly selected parliamentarians and asks which one would be preferable in bed.

Clearly some parliamentarians are given privileged uncensored internet as the Telegraph bemoans that more than 50,000 views to the website were allowed compared with 484,683 attempts to view which were censored.

The next most popular banned website was the Urban Dictionary, with 155,000 attempted views, of which 8,180 were successful. Visitors can learn the meanings behind ghetto slang with phrases such as rich rolling - or showing one's most ornate materials .

Overall the MPs made more or less zero access to content termed porn in 2014 with the reported total access count being just 394.

A member of the IT staff spoke about the partial availability of uncensored internet feeds:

The intention is that all computers are subject to the same website filtering rules. As highlighted in the response to the FOI request, these rules had not been correctly applied to some connections, this has now been rectified.

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