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UK Parliament Watch


2018: Oct-Dec

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A censorship agenda...

MPs nod through the BBFC internet porn censorship guidelines


Link Here19th December 2018
Full story: BBFC Internet Porn Censors...BBFC: Age Verification We Don't Trust
The House of Commons approved the upcoming internet porn censorship scheme to be implemented by the BBFC from about Easter 2019.

The debate was set for 3 sections to approve each of the 3 documents defining the BBFC censorship guidelines. Each was allotted 90 minutes for a detailed debate on how the BBFC would proceed. However following a Brexit debate the debate was curtailed to a single 90 minute session covering all 3 sections.

It didn't matter much as the debate consisted only of MPs with a feminist agenda saying how the scope of the censorship didn't go far enough. Even the government spokeswoman leading the debate didn't understand why the rules didn't go further in extending sites being censored to social media; and why the range of porn to be banned outright wasn't more extensive.

Hardly a word said was relevant to the topic of examining the BBFC guidelines.  Issues of practicality, privacy, the endangerment of porn viewers from fraud, outing and blackmail are clearly of no interest to MPs.

The MPs duly nodded their approval of the BBFC regime and so it will soon be announced when the censorship will commence.

The age verification service provider was quick to follow up with a press release extolling the virtues of its porn viewing card approach. Several newspapers obliging published articles using it, eg  See  Porn sites 'will all require proof of age from April 2019' -- here's how it'll work from metro.co.uk

 

 

BBFC age verification we don't trust...

The upcoming porn censorship regime has been approved by the Lords


Link Here 14th December 2018
Full story: BBFC Internet Porn Censors...BBFC: Age Verification We Don't Trust

On Tuesday the House of Lords approved the BBFC's scheme to implement internet porn censorship in the UK. Approval will now be sought from the House of Commons.

The debate in the Lords mentioned a few issues in passing but they seemed to be avoiding taking about some of the horrors of the scheme.

The Digital Economy Act defining the law behind the scheme offers no legal requirement for age verification providers to restrict how they can use porn viewers data. Lords mentioned that it is protected under the GDPR rules but these rules still let companies do whatever they like with data, just with the proviso that they ask for consent. But of course the consent is pretty mandatory to sign up for age verification, and some of the biggest internet companies in the world have set the precedent they can explain wide ranging usage of the data claiming it will be used say to improve customer experience.

Even if the lords didn't push very hard, people at the DCMS or BBFC have been considering this deficiency, and have come up with the idea that data use should be voluntarily restricted according to a kite mark scheme. Age verification schemes will have their privacy protections audited by some independent group and if they pass they can display a gold star. Porn viewers are then expected to trust age verification schemes with a gold star. But unfortunately it sounds a little like the sort of process that decided that cladding was safe for high rise blocks of flats.

The lords were much more concerned about the age verification requirements for social media and search engines, notably Twitter and Google Images. Clearly age verification schemes required for checking that users are 13 or 18 will be very different from an 18 only check, and will be technically very different. So the Government explained that these wider issues will be addressed in a new censorship white paper to be published in 2019.

The lords were also a bit perturbed that the definition of banned material wasn't wide enough for their own preferences. Under the current scheme the BBFC will be expected to ban totally any websites with child porn or extreme porn. The lords wondered why this wasn't extended to cartoon porn and beyond R18 porn, presumably thinking of fisting, golden showers and the like. However in reality if the definition of bannable porn was extended, then every major porn website in the word would have to be banned by the BBFC. And anyway the government is changing its censorship rules such that fisting and golden showers are, or will soon be, allowable at R18 anyway.

The debate revealed that the banks and payment providers have already agreed to ban payments to websites banned by the BBFC. The government also confirmed its intention to get the scheme up and running by April. Saying that, it would seem a little unfair for the website's 3 month implementation period to be set running before their age verification options are accredited with their gold stars. Otherwise some websites would waste time and money implementing schemes that may later be declared unacceptable.

Next a motion to approve draft legislation over the UK's age-verification regulations will be debated in the House of Commons. Stephen Winyard, AVSecure s chief marketing officer, told XBIZ:

We are particularly pleased that the prime minister is set to approve the draft guidance for the age-verification law on Monday. From this, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will issue the effective start date and that will be around Easter.

But maybe the prime minister has a few more urgent issues on her mind at the moment.

 

 

BBFC: Age Verification We Don't Trust...

The government's age verification scheme which leaves people's sensitive sexual preferences unprotected by law is to be presented for approval by the House of Lords


Link Here 10th December 2018
Full story: BBFC Internet Porn Censors...BBFC: Age Verification We Don't Trust
The following four motions are expected to be debated together in the House of Lords on 11th December 2018:

Online Pornography (Commercial Basis) Regulations 2018

Lord Ashton of Hyde to move that the draft Regulations laid before the House on 10 October be approved. Special attention drawn to the instrument by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, 38th Report, 4th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (Sub-Committee B)

Guidance on Age-verification Arrangements

Lord Ashton of Hyde to move that the draft Guidance laid before the House on 25 October be approved. Special attention drawn to the instrument by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, 39th Report, 4th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (Sub-Committee B)

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara to move that this House regrets that the draft Online Pornography (Commercial Basis) Regulations 2018 and the draft Guidance on Age-verification Arrangements do not bring into force section 19 of the Digital Economy Act 2017, which would have given the regulator powers to impose a financial penalty on persons who have not complied with their instructions to require that they have in place an age verification system which is fit for purpose and effectively managed so as to ensure that commercial pornographic material online will not normally be accessible by persons under the age of 18.

Guidance on Ancillary Service Providers

Lord Ashton of Hyde to move that the draft Guidance laid before the House on 25 October be approved. Special attention drawn to the instrument by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, 39th Report, 4th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (Sub-Committee B)

The DCMS and BBFC age verification scheme has been widely panned as fundamentally the law provides no requirement to actually protect people's identity data that can be coupled with their sexual preferences and sexuality. The scheme only offers voluntary suggestions that age verification services and websites should protect their user's privacy. But one only has to look to Google, Facebook and Cambridge Analytica to see how worthless mere advice is. GDPR is often quoted but that only requires that user consent is obtained. One will have to simply to the consent to the 'improved user experience' tick box to watch the porn, and thereafter the companies can do what the fuck they like with the data.

See criticism of the scheme:

Security expert provides a detailed break down of the privacy and security failures of the age verification scheme

Parliamentary scrutiny committee condemns BBFC Age Verification Guidelines

Parliamentary scrutiny committee condemns as 'defective' a DCMS Statutory Instrument excusing Twitter and Google images from age verification.

 

 

Getting a taste of its own medicine as parliament publishes Facebook's private data...

Parliament publishes a set of enlightening emails about Facebook's pursuit of revenue and how it allows people's data to be used by app developers


Link Here5th December 2018
Full story: Facebook Privacy...Facebook criticised for discouraging privacy

Parliament's fake news inquiry has published a cache of seized Facebook documents including internal emails sent between Mark Zuckerberg and the social network's staff. The emails were obtained from the chief of a software firm that is suing the tech giant. About 250 pages have been published, some of which are marked highly confidential.

Facebook had objected to their release.

Damian Collins MP, the chair of the parliamentary committee involved, highlighted several key issues in an introductory note. He wrote that:

  • Facebook allowed some companies to maintain "full access" to users' friends data even after announcing changes to its platform in 2014/2015 to limit what developers' could see. "It is not clear that there was any user consent for this, nor how Facebook decided which companies should be whitelisted," Mr Collins wrote
  • Facebook had been aware that an update to its Android app that let it collect records of users' calls and texts would be controversial. "To mitigate any bad PR, Facebook planned to make it as hard as possible for users to know that this was one of the underlying features," Mr Collins wrote
  • Facebook used data provided by the Israeli analytics firm Onavo to determine which other mobile apps were being downloaded and used by the public. It then used this knowledge to decide which apps to acquire or otherwise treat as a threat
  • there was evidence that Facebook's refusal to share data with some apps caused them to fail
  • there had been much discussion of the financial value of providing access to friends' data

In response, Facebook has said that the documents had been presented in a very misleading manner and required additional context.

See Mark Zuckerberg's response on Facebook

Offsite Analysis: New Documents Show That Facebook Has Never Deserved Your Trust

7th December 2018. See  article from eff.org by Bennett Cyphers and Gennie Gebhart

 

 

Defective Age Verification Law...

Parliamentary scrutiny committee condemns as 'defective' a DCMS Statutory Instrument excusing Twitter and Google images from age verification. Presumably one of the reasons for the delayed introduction


Link Here3rd December 2018
Full story: BBFC Internet Porn Censors...BBFC: Age Verification We Don't Trust
There's a joint committee to scrutinise laws passed in parliament via Statutory Instruments. These are laws that are not generally presented to parliament for discussion, and are passed by default unless challenged.

The committee has now taken issue with a DCMS law to excuse the likes of social media and search engines from requiring age verification for any porn images that may get published on the internet. The committee reports from a session on 21st November 2018 that the law was defective and 'makes an unexpected use of the enabling power'. Presumably this means that the DCMS has gone beyond the scope of what can be passed without full parliamentary scrutiny.

Draft S.I.: Reported for defective drafting and for unexpected use of powers Online Pornography (Commercial Basis) Regulations 2018

7.1 The Committee draws the special attention of both Houses to these draft Regulations on the grounds that they are defectively drafted and make an unexpected use of the enabling power.

7.2 Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 ("the 2017 Act") contains provisions designed to prevent persons under the age of 18 from accessing internet sites which contain pornographic material. An age-verification regulator 1 is given a number of powers to enforce the requirements of Part 3, including the power to impose substantial fines. 2

7.3 Section 14(1) is the key requirement. It provides:

"A person contravenes [Part 3 of the Act] if the person makes pornographic material available on the internet to persons in the United Kingdom on a commercial basis other than in a way that secures that, at any given time, the material is not normally accessible by persons under the age of 18".

7.4 The term "commercial basis" is not defined in the Act itself. Instead, section 14(2) confers a power on the Secretary of State to specify in regulations the circumstances in which, for the purposes of Part 3, pornographic material is or is not to be regarded as made available on a commercial basis. These draft regulations would be made in exercise of that power. Regulation 2 provides:

"(1) Pornographic material is to be regarded as made available on the internet to persons in the United Kingdom on a commercial basis for the purposes of Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 if either paragraph (2) or (3) are met.

(2) This paragraph applies if access to that pornographic material is available only upon payment.

(3) This paragraph applies (subject to paragraph (4)) if the pornographic material is made available free of charge and the person who makes it available receives (or reasonably expects to receive) a payment, reward or other benefit in connection with making it available on the internet.

(4) Subject to paragraph (5), paragraph (3) does not apply in a case where it is reasonable for the age-verification regulator to assume that pornographic material makes up less than one-third of the content of the material made available on or via the internet site or other means (such as an application program) of accessing the internet by means of which the pornographic material is made available.

(5) Paragraph (4) does not apply if the internet site or other means (such as an application program) of accessing the internet (by means of which the pornographic material is made available) is marketed as an internet site or other means of accessing the internet by means of which pornographic material is made available to persons in the United Kingdom."

7.5 The Committee finds these provisions difficult to understand, whether as a matter of simple English or as legal propositions. Paragraphs (4) and (5) are particularly obscure.

7.6 As far as the Committee can gather from the Explanatory Memorandum, the policy intention is that a person will be regarded as making pornographic material available on the internet on a commercial basis if:

(A) a charge is made for access to the material; OR

(B) the internet site is accessible free of charge, but the person expects to receive a payment or other commercial benefit, for example through advertising carried on the site.

7.7 There is, however, an exception to (B): in cases in which no access charge is made, the person will NOT be regarded as making the pornographic material available on a commercial basis if the material makes up less than one-third of the content on the internet site--even if the person expects to receive a payment or other commercial benefit from the site. But that exception does not apply in a case where the person markets it as a pornographic site, or markets an "app" as a means of accessing pornography on the site.

7.8 As the Committee was doubtful whether regulation 2 as drafted is effective to achieve the intended result, it asked the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport a number of questions. These were designed to elicit information about the regulation's meaning and effect.

7.9 The Committee is disappointed with the Department's memorandum in response, printed at Appendix 7: it fails to address adequately the issues raised by the Committee.

7.10 The Committee's first question asked the Department to explain why paragraph (1) of regulation 2 refers to whether either paragraph (2) or (3) "are met" 3 rather than "applies". The Committee raised this point because paragraphs (2) and (3) each begin with "This paragraph applies if ...". There is therefore a mismatch between paragraph (1) and the subsequent paragraphs, which could make the regulation difficult to interpret. It would be appropriate to conclude paragraph (1) with "is met" only if paragraphs (2) and (3) began with "The condition in this paragraph is met if ...". The Department's memorandum does not explain this discrepancy. The Committee accordingly reports regulation 2(1) for defective drafting.

7.11 The first part of the Committee's second question sought to probe the intended effect of the words in paragraph (4) of regulation 2 italicised above, and how the Department considers that effect is achieved.

7.12 While the Department's memorandum sets out the policy reasons for setting the one-third threshold, it offers little enlightenment on whether paragraph (4) is effective to achieve the policy aims. Nor does it deal properly with the second part of the Committee's question, which sought clarification of the concept of "one-third of ... material ... on ... [a] means .... of accessing the internet ...".

7.13 The Committee is puzzled by the references in regulation 2(4) to the means of accessing the internet. Section 14(2) of the 2017 Act confers a power on the Secretary of State to specify in regulations circumstances in which pornographic material is or is not to be regarded as made available on the internet on a commercial basis. The means by which the material is accessed (for example, via an application program on a smart phone) appears to be irrelevant to the question of whether it is made available on the internet on a commercial basis. The Committee remains baffled by the concept of "one-third of ... material ... on [a] means ... of accessing the internet".

7.14 More generally, regulation 2(4) fails to specify how the one-third threshold is to be measured and what exactly it applies to. Will the regulator be required to measure one-third of the pictures or one-third of the words on a particular internet site or both together? And will a single webpage on the site count towards the total if less than one-third of the page's content is pornographic--for example, a sexually explicit picture occupying 32% of the page, with the remaining 68% made up of an article about fishing? The Committee worries that the lack of clarity in regulation 2(4) may afford the promoter of a pornographic website opportunities to circumvent Part 3 of the 2017 Act.

7.15 The Committee is particularly concerned that a promoter may make pornographic material available on one or more internet sites containing multiple pages, more than two-thirds of which are non-pornographic. For every 10 pages of pornography, there could be 21 pages about (for example) gardening or football. Provided the sites are not actively marketed as pornographic, they would not be regarded as made available on a commercial basis. This means that Part 3 of the Act would not apply, and the promoter would be free to make profits through advertising carried on the sites, while taking no steps at all to ensure that they were inaccessible to persons under 18.

7.16 The Committee anticipates that the shortcomings described above are likely to cause significant difficulty in the application and interpretation of regulation 2(4). The Committee also doubts whether Parliament contemplated, when enacting Part 3 of the 2017 Act, that the power conferred by section 14(2) would be exercised in the way provided for in regulation 2(4). The Committee therefore reports regulation 2(4) for defective drafting and on the ground that it appears to make an unexpected use of the enabling power.

 

 

Terms of censorship...

Parliamentary group defines islamophobia as a type of racism that targets muslim identity


Link Here28th November 2018

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims has made history by putting forward the first working definition of Islamophobia in the UK. Its report, Islamophobia Defined, states:

Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.

The culmination of almost two years of consultation and evidence gathering, the definition takes into account the views of different organisations, politicians, faith leaders, academics and communities from across the country.

No doubt the term will be still be used as an accusation intended to silence people from mentioning negative traits associated with islam.

 

 

ID'ed as censors...

DCMS minister Margot James informs parliamentary committee of government thoughts on online digital ID


Link Here16th November 2018
Full story: Online ID in the UK...UK scheme to verify online id
Digital ID was discussed by the Commons Science and Technology Committee on 13th November 2018.

Carol Monaghan Committee Member:  At the moment, platforms such as Facebook require age verification, but that simply means entering a date of birth, and children can change that. If you are planning to extend that, or look at how it might apply to other social media, how confident are you that the age verification processes would be robust enough to cope?

Margot James MP, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries: At the moment, I do not think that we would be, but age verification tools and techniques are developing at pace, and we keep abreast of developments. At the moment , we think we have a robust means by which to verify people's age at 18; the challenge is to develop tools that can verify people's age at a younger age, such as 13. Those techniques are not robust enough yet, but a lot of technological research is going on, and I am reasonably confident that, over the next few years, there will be robust means by which to identify age at younger than 18.

Stephen Metcalfe Committee Member: My question is on the same point about how we can create a verification system that you cannot just get around by putting in a fake date of birth. I assume that the verification for 18 - plus is based around some sort of credit card, or some sort of bank card. The issue there is that, potentially, someone could borrow another person's card, because it does not require secret information--it requires just the entering of the 16-digit number, or something. But on the younger ages, given that we are talking about digital life and digital literacy, do you think that the time has come to talk about having a digital verified ID that young people get and which you cannot fiddle with--a bit like an online ID card, or digital passport? I know that that idea has been around a little while.

Margot James: It has. I do think that the time has come when that is required, but there are considerable hoops to go through before we can arrive at a system of digital identity, including someone's age, that is acknowledged, respected and entered into by the vast majority of people. As you probably know, the Government have committed in prior years to the Verify system, which we think has got as far as it can go, which is not far enough. We have a team of excellent policy officials in the DCMS looking afresh at other techniques of digital identity. It is a live issue and there have been many attempts at it; there is frustration, and not everybody would agree with what I have said. But you asked my view, and that is it--and the Department is focusing a lot of energy on that area of research.

Chair: Can you imagine that your legislation, when it comes, could include the concept, to which Stephen referred, of a digital identity for children?

Margot James: That is a long way off--or it is not next year, and probably not the year after, given how much consultation it would require. The new work has only just started, so it is not a short-term solution, and I do not expect to see it as part of our White Paper that we publish this winter. That does not mean to say that we do not think that it is important; we are working towards getting a system that we think could have public support.

To go slightly beyond the terms of your inquiry, with regard to the potential for delivering a proper digital relationship between citizen and G overnment through delivery of public services, a digital identity system will be important. We feel that public service delivery has a huge amount to gain from the digital solution.

Bill Grant Committee Member:: I am pleased to note that the Government are addressing issues that have been with us for nearly a decade--the dark side of social media and the risk to children, not least the risk that we all experience as parliamentarians. Can you offer any reason why it has taken so long for Government to begin that process? Would you be minded to accelerate the process to address the belated start?

Margot James: One reason is that progress has been made by working with technology companies. The Home Office has had considerable success in working with technology companies to eradicate terrorist content online. To a lesser but still significant extent, progress has also been made on a voluntary basis with the reduction in child abuse images and child sexual exploitation. I said "significant , " but this is a Home Office area--I am working closely with the Home Office, because the White Paper is being developed in concert with it--and it is clear that it does not feel that anything like enough is being done through voluntary measures.

Chair: Do you feel that?

Margot James: Yes, I do. A lot of the highly dangerous material has gone under the radar in the dark web, but too much material is still available, apparently, on various platforms, and it takes them too long to remove it.

Chair: Ultimately, the voluntary approach is not working adequately.

Margot James: Exactly--that is our view now. I was trying to address the hon. Member's question about why it had taken a long time. Partly it is that technology changes very fast , but, partly, it is because voluntary engagement was delivering, but it has impressed itself on us in the last 12 months that it is not delivering fast enough or adequately. We have not even talked about the vast range of other harms, some of which are illegal and some legal but harmful, and some in the grey area in between, where decidedly inadequate progress has been made as a result of the many instances of voluntary engagement, not just between the Government and the technology sector but between charitable organisations and non-governmental organisations, including the police.

Bill Grant: It was envisaged earlier that there would be some sort of regulator or ombudsman, but , over and above that , Martha Lane Fox's think - tank proposed the establishment of an office for responsible technology, which would be overarching, in whatever form the regulation comes. Would you be minded to take that on board?

Margot James: That is one proposal that we will certainly look at, yes. Martha Lane Fox does a lot of very good work in this area, has many years' experience of it, and runs a very good organisation in the "tech for good" environment, so her proposals are well worth consideration. That is one reason why I was unable to give a specific answer earlier, because there are good ideas, and they all need proper evaluation. When the White Paper is published, we will engage with you and any other interested party , and invite other organisations to contribute to our thinking, prior to the final legislation being put before Parliament and firming up the non-legislative measures, which are crucial. We all know that legislation does not solve every ill, and it is crucial that we continue the very good work being done by many internet companies to improve the overall environment.

 

 

UK adult businesses to be crucified from Easter 2019...

DCMS minister Margot James informs parliamentary committee of the schedule for the age verification internet porn censorship regime


Link Here 15th November 2018
Full story: BBFC Internet Porn Censors...BBFC: Age Verification We Don't Trust
Age Verification and adult internet censorship was discussed by the Commons Science and Technology Committee on 13th November 2018.

Carol Monaghan Committee Member: The Digital Economy Act made it compulsory for commercial pornography sites to undertake age verification, but implementation has been subject to ongoing delays. When do we expect it to go live?

Margot James MP, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries: We can expect it to be in force by Easter next year. I make that timetable in the knowledge that we have laid the necessary secondary legislation before Parliament. I am hopeful of getting a slot to debate it before Christmas, before the end of the year. We have always said that we will permit the industry three months to get up to speed with the practicalities and delivering the age verification that it will be required to deliver by law. We have also had to set up the regulator--well, not to set it up, but to establish with the British Board of Film Classification , which has been the regulator, exactly how it will work. It has had to consult on the methods of age verification, so it has taken longer than I would have liked, but I would balance that with a confidence that we have got it right.

Carol Monaghan: Are you confident that the commercial pornography companies are going to engage fully and will implement the law as you hope?

Margot James: I am certainly confident on the majority of large commercial pornography websites and platforms being compliant with the law. They have engaged well with the BBFC and the Department , and want to be on the right side of the law. I have confidence, but I am wary of being 100% confident, because there are always smaller and more underground platforms and sites that will seek ways around the law. At least, that is usually the case. We will be on the lookout for that, and so will the BBFC. But the vast majority of organisations have indicated that they are keen to comply with the legislation.

Carol Monaghan: One concern that we all have is that children can stumble across pornography. We know that on social media platforms, where children are often active, up to a third of their content can be pornographic, but they fall outside the age verification regulation because it is only a third and not the majority. Is that likely to undermine the law? Ultimately the law, as it stands, is there to safeguard our children.

Margot James: I acknowledge that that is a weakness in the legislative solution. I do not think that for many mainstream social media platforms as much of a third of their content is pornographic, but it is well known that certain social media platforms that many people use regularly have pornography freely available. We have decided to start with the commercial operations while we bring in the age verification techniques that have not been widely used to date. But we will keep a watching brief on how effective those age verification procedures turn out to be with commercial providers and will keep a close eye on how social media platforms develop in terms of the extent of pornographic material, particularly if they are platforms that appeal to children--not all are. You point to a legitimate weakness, on which we have a close eye.

 

 

Fireworks in the House...

The Lords discuss when age verification internet censorship will start


Link Here13th November 2018
Full story: BBFC Internet Porn Censors...BBFC: Age Verification We Don't Trust

Pornographic Websites: Age Verification - Question

House of Lords on 5th November 2018 .

Baroness Benjamin Liberal Democrat

To ask Her Majesty 's Government what will be the commencement date for their plans to ensure that age-verification to prevent children accessing pornographic websites is implemented by the British Board of Film Classification .

Lord Ashton of Hyde The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

My Lords, we are now in the final stages of the process, and we have laid the BBFC 's draft guidance and the Online Pornography (Commercial Basis) Regulations before Parliament for approval. We will ensure that there is a sufficient period following parliamentary approval for the public and the industry to prepare for age verification. Once parliamentary proceedings have concluded, we will set a date by which commercial pornography websites will need to be compliant, following an implementation window. We expect that this date will be early in the new year.

Baroness Benjamin

I thank the Minister for his Answer. I cannot wait for that date to happen, but does he share my disgust and horror that social media companies such as Twitter state that their minimum age for membership is 13 yet make no attempt to restrict some of the most gross forms of pornography being exchanged via their platforms? Unfortunately, the Digital Economy Act does not affect these companies because they are not predominantly commercial porn publishers. Does he agree that the BBFC needs to develop mechanisms to evaluate the effectiveness of the legislation for restricting children's access to pornography via social media sites and put a stop to this unacceptable behaviour?

Lord Ashton of Hyde

My Lords, I agree that there are areas of concern on social media sites. As the noble Baroness rightly says, they are not covered by the Digital Economy Act . We had many hours of discussion about that in this House. However, she will be aware that we are producing an online harms White Paper in the winter in which some of these issues will be considered. If necessary, legislation will be brought forward to address these, and not only these but other harms too. I agree that the BBFC should find out about the effectiveness of the limited amount that age verification can do; it will commission research on that. Also, the Digital Economy Act itself made sure that the Secretary of State must review its effectiveness within 12 to 18 months.

Lord Griffiths of Burry Port Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Wales)

My Lords, once again I find this issue raising a dynamic that we became familiar with in the only too recent past. The Government are to be congratulated on getting the Act on to the statute book and, indeed, on taking measures to identify a regulator as well as to indicate that secondary legislation will be brought forward to implement a number of the provisions of the Act. My worry is that, under one section of the Digital Economy Act , financial penalties can be imposed on those who infringe this need; the Government seem to have decided not to bring that provision into force at this time. I believe I can anticipate the Minister 's answer but--in view of the little drama we had last week over fixed-odds betting machines--we would not want the Government, having won our applause in this way, to slip back into putting things off or modifying things away from the position that we had all agreed we wanted.

Lord Ashton of Hyde

My Lords, I completely understand where the noble Lord is coming from but what he said is not quite right. The Digital Economy Act included a power that the Government could bring enforcement with financial penalties through a regulator. However, they decided--and this House decided--not to use that for the time being. For the moment, the regulator will act in a different way. But later on, if necessary, the Secretary of State could exercise that power. On timing and FOBTs, we thought carefully--as noble Lords can imagine--before we said that we expect the date will be early in the new year,

Lord Addington Liberal Democrat

My Lords, does the Minister agree that good health and sex education might be a way to counter some of the damaging effects? Can the Government make sure that is in place as soon as possible, so that this strange fantasy world is made slightly more real?

Lord Ashton of Hyde

The noble Lord is of course right that age verification itself is not the only answer. It does not cover every possibility of getting on to a pornography site. However, it is the first attempt of its kind in the world, which is why not only we but many other countries are looking at it. I agree that sex education in schools is very important and I believe it is being brought into the national curriculum already.

The Earl of Erroll Crossbench

Why is there so much wriggle room in section 6 of the guidance from the DCMS to the AV regulator? The ISP blocking probably will not work, because everyone will just get out of it. If we bring this into disrepute then the good guys, who would like to comply, probably will not; they will not be able to do so economically. All that was covered in British Standard PAS 1296, which was developed over three years. It seems to have been totally ignored by the DCMS. You have spent an awful lot of time getting there, but you have not got there.

Lord Ashton of Hyde

One of the reasons this has taken so long is that it is complicated. We in the DCMS , and many others, not least in this House, have spent a long time discussing the best way of achieving this. I am not immediately familiar with exactly what section 6 says, but when the statutory instrument comes before this House--it is an affirmative one to be discussed--I will have the answer ready for the noble Earl.

Lord West of Spithead Labour

My Lords, does the Minister not agree that the possession of a biometric card by the population would make the implementation of things such as this very much easier?

Lord Ashton of Hyde

In some ways it would, but there are problems with people who either do not want to or cannot have biometric cards.

 

 

Some are more equal than others...

Parliamentary committee of feminists calls for the censorship of pornography for adults


Link Here22nd October 2018

A Parliamentary committee of feminists has issued a document mainly on the subject of harassment according to their definitions. The Women and Equalities Committee have published a document titled: Sexual Harassment of Women and Girls in Public Places. It contains a section calling for the censorship of pornography for adults:

Pornography

92. There is specific concern about the role of pornography in contributing to harmful attitudes to women and girls and providing a context in which sexual harassment takes place, and that it is increasingly being used by young people as a source of sex education, with negative consequences. One man who participated in our focus groups said, "I think the problem is that not only has [pornography] become normalised, it is also considered acceptable, even expected." This was worrying, as the research also showed that men in particular--who are far more likely to be regular users of pornography than women --believed that pornography was harmful because it engendered unrealistic expectations of sex.

93. Our research did not find a strong relationship between attitudes towards pornography and attitudes towards sexual harassment, although it did suggest some clear trends that need exploring in further research. For example, people who find legal pornography acceptable are generally more likely to find sexual harassment acceptable than people who find legal pornography unacceptable. However, our research asked about attitudes rather than behaviours (for example, use of pornography or sexual harassment perpetration), and research both internationally and in the UK suggests that there is a relationship between the consumption of pornography and sexist attitudes and sexually aggressive behaviours, including violence. We asked Dr Maddy Coy whether there is a link between men viewing pornography and the likelihood of them sexually harassing women and girls. Dr Coy told us:

There is a meta-analysis of research that shows that. It was pornography consumption associated with higher levels of attitudes that support violence, which includes things like acceptance of violence, rape myth acceptance and sexual harassment, yes. [ ... ] The basis of some of those studies can be critiqued [ ... ] but the findings are consistent across individual studies and the meta-analysis that pulled them together that there is a relationship between pornography consumption, attitudes that support sexual violence and likelihood of committing sexual violence.

94. The BBFC told us that it knows through its work with charities that children report that exposure to pornography, much of which is accidental, is impacting on their attitudes and their behaviours. A rapid evidence assessment for the Children's Commissioner for England in 2016 found that children's exposure to pornography was linked to unrealistic attitudes about sex, belief that women are sex objects and less progressive gender role attitudes.

95. One woman told us that the Government should recognise pornography, sexism and objectification as a public health risk and use the media to inform society of the harms associated with them: "This could be done in the same way the amazing effort by the Government worked in turning people's attitudes around regarding smoking." Our research suggested that, whilst men may believe that pornography can be harmful, this does not necessarily lead them to think it is socially unacceptable. This has implications for how the Government develops policy to tackle the harms associated with pornography; focusing messaging solely on harms may not be the most effective approach with men and boys. More research is needed to develop policies that address these issues.

96. The Government is not consistent in its understanding of the research suggesting a relationship between pornography and sexually harmful behaviour. On the one hand, in a range of ways government policies and media regulation already assume that some media content is sexually harmful. For example, in introducing the new policy of age verification for online pornography the Government says: "We will help make sure children aren't exposed to harmful sexualised content online by requiring age verification for access to commercial sites containing pornographic material." The Minister told us that she very much hoped that the policy would have an impact on attitudes towards women and sexual harassment. The draft consultation on the new statutory guidance on Relationships and Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education states that: "Some pupils are [ ... ] exposed to harmful behaviours online, and via other forms of media, which may normalise violent sexual behaviours." Chief Executive David Austin told us that, as a regulator, the BBFC takes into account research evidence about the effect of men viewing violent pornography when determining classifications:

For example, we will not classify depictions of pornography that feature real or simulated lack of consent, encourage an interest in abusive relationships, such as sex with children or incest, that kind of content. We definitely take that into account.

The Government also restricts adults' access to hard copy pornographic films to licensed sex shops and licensed cinemas. It is therefore clear that government policy and media regulation is already based on an understanding that pornographic content can be harmful.

97. It is odd, therefore, that the Government's written evidence to us expressed doubt about the strength of research suggesting a relationship between the consumption of pornography and sexually harmful behaviours. It stated that "there is currently limited evidence to suggest a link between the consumption of pornography and sexual violence". The Minister for Women told us that she was commissioning research on the impact of online pornography on attitudes towards women and girls, saying that:

We have to be careful about the research, which is why I have commissioned this research over and above everything that has gone before. We have to acknowledge the fact that the Crime Survey for England & Wales has shown a reduction in sexual violence since 2004--05, while online pornography has exploded exponentially. I have to bear that in mind in terms of what we are doing, which is why I want thorough research looking not just at gang criminality, frankly, but also at how this affects people forming healthy relationships in adult life. [ ... ] I know the Children's Commissioner did some research in 2014 that showed some evidence, but I do not think it could be described as being unequivocal in the links between these things. I would like to be entirely clear on that.

98. The Government's approach to pornography is not consistent. It restricts adults' access to offline pornography to licensed premises and is introducing age verification of commercial pornography online to prevent children's exposure to it. But the Government has no plans to address adult men's use of mainstream online pornography, despite research suggesting that men who use pornography are more likely to hold sexist attitudes and be sexually aggressive towards women.

99. There are examples of lawful behaviours which the Government recognises as harmful, such as smoking, which are addressed through public health campaigns and huge investment designed to reduce and prevent those harms. The Government should take a similar, evidence-based approach to addressing the harms of pornography.

100. The BBFC, the regulator for age verification, believes that, as a result of the new policy, "accidental stumbling across commercial pornography by children online will largely become a thing of the past." However, writer and commentator Melanie Phillips told us she was more sceptical about pornography websites abiding by the new law because the "commercial impulse is so enormous ." Furthermore, pornography accessed through social media is not part of the new regime, because it does not come within the definition of 'commercial pornography' under the draft regulations published in 2017, though not consulted upon. As pornography is also accessed through social media, this gap could undermine the effectiveness of the policy.

101. The definition of 'commercial pornography services' for the Government's policy on age verification of pornography websites should be amended to include social media, to ensure that this policy is as effective and comprehensive as possible.

102. BBFC classification guidelines address content related to discrimination: "Potentially offensive content relating to matters such as race, gender, religion, disability or sexuality may arise in a wide range of works, and the classification decision will take account of the strength or impact of their inclusion." The BBFC told us that preliminary research to inform new classification guidelines suggests increased public concern about sexual violence. We believe that the new guidelines provide an opportunity to be clearer about normalised sexism as discrimination, and to name sexual harassment as a form of sexual violence in order to be clear about the regulation of its depiction.

103. British Board of Film Classification policies and guidelines should be explicit about categorising normalised sexism as discrimination. The policies and guidelines should name sexual harassment as a form of sexual violence in order to be clearer about regulation of its depiction.

 

 

It couldn't possibly be our policies that are so unpopular with the people...

The dissatisfaction must be caused by something else... like fake news


Link Here22nd October 2018
Full story: Fake news in the UK...Government sets up fake news unit
A committee of MPs has claimed that the government is not taking the urgent action needed to protect democracy from fake news on Facebook and other social media.

The culture committee wants a crackdown on the manipulation of personal data, the spread of disinformation and Russian interference in elections. Tory MP Damian Collins, who chairs the committee, says he is disappointed by the response to its latest report. Collins has accused ministers of making excuses to further delay desperately needed announcements on the ongoing issues of harmful and misleading content being spread through social media.

When the Digital Culture Media and Sport Committee issued its interim report on fake news in July it claimed that the UK faced a democratic crisis founded on the manipulation of personal data.

The MPs called for new powers for the Electoral Commission - including bigger fines - and new regulation of social media firms. But of the 42 recommendations in its interim report, the committee says only three have been accepted by the government, in its official response, published last week.

The committee has backed calls from the Electoral Commission to force social media advertisers to publish an imprint on political ads to show who had paid for them, to increase transparency. Collins also criticised the government's continued insistence that there was no evidence of Russian interference in UK elections.

Collins said he would be raising this and other issues with Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright, when he appears before the committee on Wednesday.

 

 

Paying for unsafe legislation...

The Government picks up the tab for legal liabilities arising from the BBFC being sued over age verification issues


Link Here12th October 2018
Full story: BBFC Internet Porn Censors...BBFC: Age Verification We Don't Trust
As far as I can see if a porn website verifies your age with personal data, it will probably also require you tick tick a consent box with a hol load of small print that nobody ever reads. Now if that small print lets it forward all personal data, coupled with porn viewing data, to the Kremlin's dirty tricks and blackmail department then that's ok with the the Government's age verification law. So for sure some porn viewers are going to get burnt because of what the government has legislated and because of what the BBFC have implemented.

So perhaps it is not surprising that the BBFC has asked the government to pick up the tab should the BBFC be sued by people harmed by their decisions. After all it was the government who set up the unsafe environment, not the BBFC.

Margot James The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced in Parliament:

I am today laying a Departmental Minute to advise that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has received approval from Her Majesty's Treasury (HMT) to recognise a new Contingent Liability which will come into effect when age verification powers under Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 enter force.

The contingent liability will provide indemnity to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) against legal proceedings brought against the BBFC in its role as the age verification regulator for online pornography.

As you know, the Digital Economy Act introduces the requirement for commercial providers of online pornography to have robust age verification controls to protect children and young people under 18 from exposure to online pornography. As the designated age verification regulator, the BBFC will have extensive powers to take enforcement action against non-compliant sites. The BBFC can issue civil proceedings, give notice to payment-service providers or ancillary service providers, or direct internet service providers to block access to websites where a provider of online pornography remains non-compliant.

The BBFC expects a high level of voluntary compliance by providers of online pornography. To encourage compliance, the BBFC has engaged with industry, charities and undertaken a public consultation on its regulatory approach. Furthermore, the BBFC will ensure that it takes a proportionate approach to enforcement and will maintain arrangements for an appeals process to be overseen by an independent appeals body. This will help reduce the risk of potential legal action against the BBFC.

However, despite the effective work with industry, charities and the public to promote and encourage compliance, this is a new law and there nevertheless remains a risk that the BBFC will be exposed to legal challenge on the basis of decisions taken as the age verification regulator or on grounds of principle from those opposed to the policy.

As this is a new policy, it is not possible to quantify accurately the value of such risks. The Government estimates a realistic risk range to be between 21m - 210m in the first year, based on likely number and scale of legal challenges. The BBFC investigated options to procure commercial insurance but failed to do so given difficulties in accurately determining the size of potential risks. The Government therefore will ensure that the BBFC is protected against any legal action brought against the BBFC as a result of carrying out duties as the age verification regulator.

The Contingent Liability is required to be in place for the duration of the period the BBFC remain the age verification regulator. However, we expect the likelihood of the Contingent Liability being called upon to diminish over time as the regime settles in and relevant industries become accustomed to it. If the liability is called upon, provision for any payment will be sought through the normal Supply procedure.

It is usual to allow a period of 14 Sitting Days prior to accepting a Contingent Liability, to provide Members of Parliament an opportunity to raise any objections.

 

 

Petition: Online Forums Bill...

Tracking a disgraceful internet censorship bill from Lucy Powell


Link Here8th October 2018
The Online Forums Bill is a Private Members' Bill that was introduced on Parliament on 11th September 2018 under the Ten Minute Rule. The only details published so far is a summary

A Bill to make administrators and moderators of certain online forums responsible for content published on those forums; to require such administrators and moderators to remove certain content; to require platforms to publish information about such forums; and for connected purposes.

The next stage for this Bill, Second reading, is scheduled to take place on Friday 26 October 2018.

There is a small petition against the bill

Stop the Online Forums Bill 2017-18 becoming law.

Thought control by politicians, backed by the main stream media has led to ever more sinister intrusions into people's freedom to criticize public policy and assemble into campaign groups. ?More details

By requiring platforms to publish information about closed forums and making Administrators responsible for content is Orwellian and anti-democratic.

See petition from petition.parliament.uk


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