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UK Internet Censorship


2020: Oct-Dec

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A bitter pill...

The government consults on banning all advertising for food that tastes good enforced by onerous new censorship and red tape requirements that will strangle British companies whilst advantaging US corporate giants


Link Here12th November 2020
The UK Government writes:

We want your views on our proposal for a total online advertising restriction for HFSS (high in fat, salt or suger) products to reduce the amount of HFSS advertising children are exposed to online.

This consultation closes at

Consultation description

We're asking questions on:

  • what types of advertising will be restricted

  • who will be liable for compliance

  • enforcement of the restrictions

In 2019 the government consulted on restricting advertising of HFSS for TV and online . It asked for views on whether to extend current advertising restrictions on broadcast TV and online media, including consulting on watershed restrictions. In July 2020 the government confirmed its intention to introduce a 9pm watershed on TV .

This new consultation goes further and looks at how a total HFSS advertising restriction could be implemented online. It should be read with the 2019 consultation.

 

 

Updated: Likes vs 'should' likes...

TikTok to explain their 'algorithms' to a UK a parliamentary committee


Link Here10th November 2020
Full story: TikTok Censorship...Chinese ownership adds to the usual social media censorship
The upcoming social media website Tiktok will allow UK politicians to review its algorithm, after MPs challenged the firm over censorship concerns and ties to the Chinese government.

Tiktok's UK director of government relations and public policy Elizabeth Kanter said members of the Business Select Committee were welcome to visit its transparency centre, to review its algorithm and the way it moderates content.

Of course the very  idea of algorithms has evolved into some sort of assumption that they are a sinister means of corrupting the weak minds of social media users. In reality they are probably closer to something simple like:

Give 'em more of what they like and don't bother wasting their time with 'worthy' content that they 'should' like, because they'll only skim over it anyway.

Kanter claimed that the app no longer moderates content based on political sensitivities or affiliation. She said:

We do not censor content, I would encourage you to open the app and search for Tiananmen square, search for Uygher, search for Tibet -- you will find that content on Tik Tok.

Kanter reiterated the company's claim that it would not share any data with its Chinese parent company Bytedance or with the Chinese authorities.

TikTok has also announced that it is upping its censorship of political content. In a blog post, the app said it was expanding its policy to take into account coded language and symbols used to spread hateful ideologies:

Tiktok already removes content related to neo-Nazism and white supremacy, but will now also ban similar ideologies such as white nationalism, white genocide theory, Identitarianism and male supremacy.

Update: And on the subject of the repression of Uyghur muslims

10th November 2020. See article from digitalmusicnews.com

A TikTok executive admitted to UK lawmakers that the platform censors anti-Chinese content. The statement was made during a hearing held by the UK's Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy Committee. Elizabeth Kanter, TikTok's Director of Government Relations and Public Policy, made the damning comments.

The UK hearing was held to determine whether businesses in the UK are exploiting forced labor in those Xinjiang camps. Kanter initially told the committee that TikTok does not censor content . But when pressed about those previous incidents of censorship on the platform, Kanter admitted something different. She said those videos were removed in the early days of TikTok when content was governed by different guidelines. She said:

The people who wrote the content guidelines took a decision to not allow conflict on the platform, and so there were some incidents where content was not allowed on the platform, specifically with regard to the Uyghur situation.

Kanter later backtracked on her comments claiming that she had misspoken.

 

 

Commented: A disgraceful disregard of free speech...

Scottish MSPs point out that a new blasphemy bill will apply to speech in people's private homes


Link Here 2nd November 2020
Full story: Scotland stifles free speech...Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill
The disgraceful new Scottish hate crime and blasphemy bill will criminalise free speech in people's own homes, MSPs have been told.

MSPs questioned Scottish 'Justice' Secretary Humza Yousaf over the censorship legislation during an evidence session before the Holyrood Justice Committee. The new proposed legislation will introduce a stirring-up of hate offence on characteristics including religion, and sexual orientation.

However critics note that the Hate Crime and Public Order Bill, which centres around plans for a new offence of stirring up hatred, will stifle freedom of expression.

BBC Scotland, Catholic bishops, the Humanist Society of Scotland, and the Scottish Police Federation are amongst those to have raised concerns, along with Mr Bean star Rowan Atkinson and writer Val McDermid.

Because of this, Yousaf was forced to moderate the legislation and marginally change the controversial stirring up offences section which has been condemned by opponents. It now means stirring up offences would be limited to intent relating to age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity and variations in sex characteristics and therefore prosecutions could only be brought in this respect.

Liam Kerr MSP, Scottish Conservative Justice Spokesman, added: The Hate Crime Bill was a mess when the SNP first brought it to parliament and it still contains serious issues that need to be fixed. He said:

Tinkering around the margins will not fix the most controversial bill in Scottish Parliament history.

This latest admission from the justice secretary confirms what so many respondents to the consultation have warned 203 that as drafted, this Bill means free speech could be criminalised within the home with friends you've invited over for a dinner party, and that Mr Yousaf is perfectly comfortable with that.

The SNP need to be clear with the Scottish public about exactly what they intend this Hate Crime Bill to do.

They can't keep trying to force through dangerous attacks on freedom of speech.

Update: Stronger free speech protection needed over hate crime bill urges the National Secular Society

31st October 2020. See article from secularism.org.uk

The National Secular Society has urged the Scottish government to ensure freedom of expression is adequately protected after ministers hinted at possible concessions in a bill on hate crime.

NSS chief executive Stephen Evans met with government representatives on Thursday and urged them to reconsider plans to criminalise stirring up hatred on various grounds, including religion.

Mr Evans warned that the vague and highly subjective wording in the bill risked chilling free speech and sending the message that the law was there to protect people from being offended.

Part of the bill, which is currently making its way through the Scottish parliament, would criminalise behaviour deemed threatening or abusive and intended to stir up hatred.

As part of its case the NSS argued that protections for free speech in the relevant section of the bill should be at least as strong as their equivalents in England and Wales.

Offsite Comment: Scotland is leading the way to totalitarianism

2nd November 2020. See article from unherd.com by Rod Dreher

 A bill brought forth by the SNP aims to police what citizens say at home

 

 

Harming hopes of a trade deal...

The Telegraph outlines the latest state of play in the government's upcoming internet censorship bill


Link Here26th October 2020
Full story: Online Harms White Paper...UK Government seeks to censor social media
The Telegraph has reported on the current government thinking about its news internet censorship bill that it refers to as the Online Harms Bill.

Another update will be published after the US elections suggesting that the government's plans for internet censorship are abound up in negotiations for a US trade deal and the amount of scope for censorship will depend on whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden is in charge.

The Online Harms Bill is set to require websites and apps with user interaction to agree legally-binding terms and conditions that lock them into a rather vaguely define 'duty of care'.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden -- who has presented the plan to Number 10 with Home Secretary Priti Patel -- has pledged the firms' codes to tackle content such as self-harm and eating disorders will have to be meaningful and vetted by the new internet censor Ofcom to ensure they are proper and effective.

The current proposals are thought to stop short of criminal sanctions against the firms for breaches over legal but harmful content like self-harm videos, but named executives will be held accountable for companies' policies and face fines and disqualification for breaches. Criminal sanctions will be reserved for illegal online material such as child abuse and terrorism.

The proposals, set out as a response to the consultation on last year's white paper , are expected to be published after the US elections, once agreed by the Prime Minister.

The Government is expected to draft a tight duty of care bill early next year that will lay down the sanctions and investigative powers of the new regulator but leave the scope of the duty of care on legal harms to secondary legislation to be voted on by MPs.

 

 

Shared burdens...

Ofcom publishes its censorship guidelines to be applied to UK based video sharing platforms


Link Here21st October 2020
Full story: Online Harms White Paper...UK Government seeks to censor social media
Ofcom has published its burdensome censorship rules that will apply to video sharing platforms that are stupid enough to be based in the UK. In particular the rules are quite vague about age verification requirements for the two adult video sharing sites that remain in the UK. Maybe Ofcom is a bit shy about requiring onerous and unviable red tape of British companies trying to compete with large numbers of foreign companies that operate with a massive commercial advantage of not having age verification.

Ofcom do however note that these censorship rules are a stop gap until a wider scoped 'online harms' censorship regime which will start up in the next couple of years.

Ofcom writes:

Video-sharing platforms (VSPs) are a type of online video service which allows users to upload and share videos with members of the public.

From 1 November 2020, UK-established VSPs will be required to comply with new rules around protecting users from harmful content.

The main purpose of the new regulatory regime is to protect consumers who engage with VSPs from the risk of viewing harmful content. Providers must have appropriate measures in place to protect minors from content which might impair their physical, mental or moral development; and to protect the general public from criminal content and material likely to incite violence or hatred.

Ofcom has published a short guide outlining the new statutory requirements on providers. The guide is intended to assist platforms to determine whether they fall in scope of the new regime and to understand what providers need to do to ensure their services are compliant.

The guide also explains how Ofcom expects to approach its new duties in the period leading up to the publication of further guidance on the risk of harms and appropriate measures, which we will consult on in early 2021.

Ofcom will also be consulting on guidance on scope and jurisdiction later in 2020. VSP providers will be required to notify their services to Ofcom from 6 April 2021 and we expect to have the final guidance in place ahead of this time.


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