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UK Internet Censorship


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Offsite Article: Government GitHub...


Link Here7th September 2021
Full story: Online Safety Bill...UK Government legislates to censor social media
How the draft Online Safety Bill would affect the development of Free/open source software. By Neil Brown

See article from decoded.legal

 

 

Offsite Article: The War on Porn: Cancel Culture on Steroids...


Link Here 5th September 2021
How the recent threat to OnlyFans falls in with a history of censorship and control by banks and payment providers. By Jerry Barnett

See article from quillette.com

 

 

Open Letter: The current version of the Online Safety Bill is not the answer...

Individuals and LGBT organisations speak out against the Governments Online Safety Bill


Link Here4th September 2021
Full story: Online Safety Bill...UK Government legislates to censor social media

As proud members of the LGBTQ+ community, we know first-hand the vile abuse that regularly takes place online. The data is clear; 78% of us have faced anti-LGBTQ+ hate crime or hate speech online in the last 5 years. So we understand why the Government is looking for a solution, but the current version of the Online Safety Bill is not the answer -- it will make things worse not better.

The new law introduces the "duty of care" principle and would give internet companies extensive powers to delete posts that may cause 'harm.' But because the law does not define what it means by 'harm' it could result in perfectly legal speech being removed from the web.

As LGBTQ+ people we have seen what happens when vague rules are put in place to police speech. Marginalised voices are silenced. From historic examples of censors banning LGBTQ+ content to 'protect' the public, to modern day content moderation tools marking innocent LGBTQ+ content as explicit or harmful.

This isn't scaremongering. In 2017, Tumblr's content filtering system marked non-sexual LGBTQ+ content as explicit and blocked it, in 2020 TikTok censored depictions of homosexuality such as two men kissing or holding hands and it reduced the reach of LGBTQ+ posts in some countries, and within the last two months LinkedIn removed a coming out post from a 16-year-old following complaints.

This Bill, as it stands, would provide a legal basis for this censorship. Moreover, its vague wording makes it easy for hate groups to put pressure on Silicon Valley tech companies to remove LGBTQ+ content and would set a worrying international standard.

Growing calls to end anonymity online also pose a danger. Anonymity allows LGBTQ+ people to share their experiences and sexuality while protecting their privacy and many non-binary and transgender people do not hold a form of acceptable ID and could be shut out of social media.

The internet provides a crucial space for our community to share experiences and build relationships. 90% of LGBTQ+ young people say they can be themselves online and 96% say the internet has helped them understand more about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. This Bill puts the content of these spaces at potential risk.

Racism, homophobia, transphobia, and threats of violence are already illegal. But data shows that when they happen online it is ignored by authorities. After the system for flagging online hate crime was underused by the police, the Home Office stopped including these figures in their annual report all together, leaving us in the dark about the scale of the problem. The government's Bill should focus on this illegal content rather than empowering the censorship of legal speech.

This is why we are calling for "the duty of care", which in the current form of the Online Safety Bill could be used to censor perfectly legal free speech, to be reframed to focus on illegal content, for there to be specific, written, protections for legal LGBTQ+ content online, and for the LGBTQ+ community to be properly consulted throughout the process.

  • Stephen Fry , actor, broadcaster, comedian, director, and writer.
  • Munroe Bergdorf , model, activist, and writer.
  • Peter Tatchell , human rights campaigner.
  • Carrie Lyell , Editor-in-Chief of DIVA Magazine.
  • James Ball , Global Editor of The Bureau Of Investigative Journalism.
  • Jo Corrall , Founder of This is a Vulva.
  • Clara Barker , material scientist and Chair of LGBT+ Advisory Group at Oxford University.
  • Marc Thompson , Director of The Love Tank and co-founder of PrEPster and BlackOut UK.
  • Sade Giliberti , TV presenter, actor, and media personality.
  • Fox Fisher , artist, author, filmmaker, and LGBTQIA+ rights advocate.
  • Cara English , Head of Public Engagement at Gendered Intelligence, Founder OpenLavs.
  • Paula Akpan , journalist, and founder of Black Queer Travel Guide.
  • Tom Rasmussen , writer, singer, and drag performer.
  • Jamie Wareham , LGBTQ journalist and host of the #QueerAF podcast.
  • Crystal Lubrikunt , international drag performer, host, and producer.
  • David Robson, Chair of London LGBT+ Forums Network
  • Shane ShayShay Konno , drag performer, curator and host of the ShayShay Show, and founder of The Bitten Peach.
  • UK Black Pride , Europe's largest celebration for African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin America, and Caribbean-heritage LGBTQI+ people.

 

 

Comment: A push for age verification...

A pithy summary abut the current parliamentary clamour for age verification for porn and social media


Link Here2nd September 2021
Full story: Online Safety Bill...UK Government legislates to censor social media
 
Ben Greenstone comments on a recent article in the Times commenting on a cross party cartel of powerful parliamentarians all calling for more obtrusive age verification:

The Chairs of both the Draft Online Safety Bill Joint Committee and the DCMS Select Committee, alongside the Shadow DCMS Secretary of State and the Children's Commissioner, are all calling for tougher age verification measures online.

It blows my mind that the piece does not make more of the fact that DCMS tried to introduce age verification for *actual online pornography* and failed because it was too hard. 18 year olds can have a credit card which can be used as a proxy measure... what do 13 year olds have?

This is classic just fix it from people who don't seem to have spent any time actually thinking about what fixing it would look like and what it would require. It's bad news for online service providers, but great news if you are planning to set up an age verification business.

 

 

Making the UK internet the most censorial and red tape infested outside of China...

The Government salivates over suffocating proposals for censoring internet TV, now that it can go even further than the red tape Dystopia called the EU


Link Here30th August 2021
Full story: UK Internet TV censorship ...UK catch-up and US internet streaming
The UK Government has just opened a public consultation on proposals to significantly extend censorship laws for internet TV to match the nannying, burdensome control freakery that currently applies to broadcast TV in the UK. The tone of the press release highlights the obvious glee that the Government holds for more censorship:

Government to consult on better protections for UK audiences on video-on-demand services

Audiences could be better protected from harmful material like misinformation and pseudoscience while watching programmes on video-on-demand services (VoD), Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has announced.

  • Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+ could be subject to stricter rules protecting UK audiences from harmful material
  • It would mean audiences - particularly children - receive a consistent level of protection on video-on-demand services as they do on traditional broadcasters
  • Ministers seek views to level the regulatory playing field in consultation launched today

The government is considering how to better level the regulatory playing field between mainstream VoD services and traditional broadcasters and is seeking views on the matter in a consultation launched today. This could mean aligning the content standards rules for on-demand TV services with those for traditional linear TV like BBC 1 and Sky.

Now that the UK has left the EU there is an opportunity to create regulation suited to UK viewers that goes beyond the minimum standards as set out in EU regulation under the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said:

We want to give UK audiences peace of mind that however they watch TV in the digital age, the shows they enjoy are held to the same high standards that British broadcasting is world-renowned for.

It is right that now we have left the EU, we look at introducing proportionate new rules so that UK audiences are protected from harm.

Ofcom data shows a huge growth in popularity and use of on-demand services in the UK. The number of households that subscribe to one rose by almost 350% between 2014 and 2020. In 2021, 75% per cent of UK households say that they have used a subscription VoD service.

Viewers have access to thousands of hours of VoD shows and content at the touch of a button. However, services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ are not regulated in the UK to the same extent as UK linear TV channels.

For example, except for BBC iPlayer, they are not subject to Ofcom's Broadcasting Code which sets out appropriate standards for content including harmful or offensive material, accuracy, fairness and privacy.

This means there is a gap between existing protections for audiences watching traditional TV and those watching newer VoD services. There are some protections for under-18s but minimal rules exist to regulate content. There are very few rules to protect audiences, for example, from misleading health advice or pseudoscience documentaries.

Some service providers have taken welcome steps to introduce their own standards and procedures for audience protection - such as pin-codes and content warnings - but the extent of these measures varies across services. Age ratings are also inconsistent and sometimes non-existent.

The consultation asks for views on whether UK audiences viewing TV-like VoD programmes should receive the same or similar level of protections as when they are watching traditional television. It asks which measures can and should be made consistent across VoD services.

It will also consider whether mainstream VoD services not currently regulated in the UK by Ofcom - like Netflix and Apple TV+ - should be brought within UK jurisdiction to provide accountability to UK audiences who use them.

Not all VoD providers deliver a TV-like experience, so any regulatory change will need to be proportionate, particularly for smaller or niche services, to ensure essential protections like freedom of speech are not affected.

Notes to Editors

  • The consultation is open for 8 weeks and closes on 26 October at 23:45 BST.
  • This review into VoD regulation will form part of a number of measures as part of a wide-ranging broadcasting White Paper into the future of broadcasting which will be published this autumn.
  • The consultation examines the current level of audience protection from harmful content provided through regulation and voluntarily by individual VoD services, and what steps are required to ensure appropriate protection levels for UK audiences going forward.
  • Now the UK has left the European Union, this is an opportunity to improve upon EU aligned provisions under the Audiovisual Media Services Directive with regulations that are designed in the best interests of UK audiences.
  • This consultation does not seek responses on wider broadcasting regulation, nor changes to how television or public service broadcasters such as the BBC or Channel 4 are funded or regulated. This consultation will also not cover changes to advertising rules/restrictions and does not cover topics such as introducing levies/quotas on VoD services. Responses on these issues will not be considered as part of this consultation.

 

 

Offsite Article: Verified as the age of self interest...


Link Here 27th August 2021
Full story: ICO Age Appropriate Design...ICO calls for age assurance for websites accessed by children
Trade group for age verification companies s clearly campaigning for its own commercial interests but it does lay out the practical vagaries of ICO's Age Appropriate Design

See article from techmonitor.ai

 

 

Offsite Article: A legal view on the Online Harms Bill...


Link Here 15th August 2021
Regulating content on user-to user and search service providers. By Rafe Jennings

See article from ukhumanrightsblog.com

 

 

Offsite Article: Handing out extraordinary powers to Silicon Valley companies...


Link Here 9th August 2021
Full story: Online Safety Bill...UK Government legislates to censor social media
The government's online safety bill is another unseen power-grab. By Patrick Maxwell

See article from politics.co.uk

 

 

Ofcom's new Chief Internet Censor...

And one can guess on her political allegiance as she is currently a boss of NewsGuard, who famously labelled the Daily Mail website as 'failing to maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability'


Link Here28th July 2021
Full story: Online Safety Bill...UK Government legislates to censor social media
Britain's state internet censor Ofcom has announced that Anna-Sophie Harling will be its principal internet censor dealing with censorship under the Government's upcoming Online Safety Bill.

Ofcom will be able to fine tech firms that fail to remove 'offending' content up to 10% of their global revenue.

Harling will be part of a team reporting into Mark Bunting, director of online policy.

Harling is currently managing director for Europe at NewsGuard, which audits online publishers for 'accuracy'. And one can guess on her political allegiance as NewsGuard famously labelled the Daily Mail website as 'failing to maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability'.

 

 

Age Appropriate Censorship...

Facebook and Instagram announces far reaching changes ready for the start of the UK's Age Appropriate Design code


Link Here27th July 2021
Full story: ICO Age Appropriate Design...ICO calls for age assurance for websites accessed by children
The data protection censors at the Information Commissioner's Office have got into the internet censorship game with a new regime that starts on the 2nd September 2021. It's Age Appropriate Design code very much requires an age gated internet in the name of data protection for children, The code itself is not law but ICO claims that is an interpretation of the EU's GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) law and so carries legal weight.

The code requires that websites hand over their personal data to anyone that asks to verify that they are of sufficient age to hand over their personal data. All in the name of preventing children from handing over their personal data.

And the most immediate impact is that social media websites need to ensure that their users are over the age of 13 before the internet companies can make hay with their personal data.

And in preparation for the new rules Facebook and Instagram have posted substantial blogs laying out new polices on age verification.

Facebook summarised:

Facebook and Instagram weren't designed for people under the age of 13, so we're creating new ways to stop those who are underage from signing up.

We're developing AI to find and remove underaged accounts, and new solutions to verify people's ages.

We're also building new experiences designed specifically for those under 13.

See full article from about.fb.com

Instagram added:

Creating an experience on Instagram that's safe and private for young people, but also fun comes with competing challenges. We want them to easily make new friends and keep up with their family, but we don't want them to deal with unwanted DMs or comments from strangers. We think private accounts are the right choice for young people, but we recognize some young creators might want to have public accounts to build a following.

We want to strike the right balance of giving young people all the things they love about Instagram while also keeping them safe. That's why we're announcing changes we'll make today, including:

  • Defaulting young people into private accounts.

  • Making it harder for potentially suspicious accounts to find young people.

  • Limiting the options advertisers have to reach young people with ads.

See full article from about.instagram.com

 

 

Harming free speech...

The Law Commission proposes law to censor internet speech that is claimed to be 'harmful'


Link Here21st July 2021
Full story: Trivial Insults and Jokes...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

The Law Commission has published recommendations to address the harms arising from online abuse . The recommendations include a coherent set of communications offences to more effectively target harmful communications while increasing protection for freedom of expression.

More than 70% of UK adults have a social media profile and internet users spend over four hours online each day on average. Whilst the online world offers important opportunities to share ideas and engage with one another, it has also increased the scope for abuse and harm. A report by the Alan Turing institute estimates that approximately one third of people in the UK been exposed to online abuse.

The recommendations, which have been laid in Parliament, would reform the "communications offences" found in section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988 ("MCA 1988") and section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 ("CA 2003"). These offences do not provide consistent protection from harm and in some instances disproportionately interfere with freedom of expression.

The reforms would address the harms arising from online abuse by modernising the existing communications offences, ensuring that the law is clearer and that it effectively targets serious harm and criminality. The recommendations aim to do this in a proportionate way in order to protect freedom of expression. They also seek to "future-proof" the law in this area as much as possible by not confining the offences to any particular mode or type of communication.

The need for reform

The laws that govern online abusive behaviour are not working as well as they should. The existing offences are ineffective at criminalising genuinely harmful behaviour and in some instances disproportionately interfere with freedom of expression.

Reliance on vague terms like "grossly offensive" and "indecent" sets the threshold for criminality too low and potentially criminalises some forms of free expression that ought to be protected. For example, consensual sexting between adults could be "indecent", but is not worthy of criminalisation.

Other behaviours such as taking part in pile-on harassment, which can be genuinely harmful and distressing are not adequately criminalised. Additionally, the law does not effectively deal with behaviours such as cyberflashing and encouraging serious self-harm.

The result is that the law as it currently stands over-criminalises in some situations and under-criminalises in others. This is what the Commission's recommendations aim to correct.

Recommendations in detail: The harm-based offence

The Commission is recommending a new offence based on likely psychological harm. This will shift the focus away from the content of a communication (and whether it is indecent or grossly offensive) toward its potentially significant harmful effects. The recommended new harm-based offence would criminalise behaviour if:

  • The defendant sends or posts a communication that is likely to cause harm to a likely audience

  • in sending or posting the communication, the defendant intends to cause harm to a likely audience

  • the defendant sends or posts the communication without reasonable excuse .

Within the offence, harm refers to serious distress. This threshold is one well-known to the criminal law, including in offences in the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Reasonable excuse would include whether the communication was or was meant as a contribution to a matter of public interest. Media articles would be exempt from the offence.

This new offence could also capture pile-on harassment -- when a number of different individuals send harassing communications to a victim. The fact that the offence is context-specific means it could be applied where a person deliberately joins a pile-on intending to cause harm.

Recommendations in detail: new offences

To complement the harm-based offence, the Law Commission has made recommendations to ensure the law is clearer and protects against a variety of abusive online behaviour.

  • Cyberflashing: The Sexual Offences Act 2003 should be amended to include the sending of images or video recordings of genitals, for example, "dick pics" sent via AirDrop.

    • To recognise the violation of a victim's sexual autonomy without their consent, the offence would require either that the defendant intends to cause alarm, distress or humiliation, or if the defendant is acting for a sexual purpose, the defendant is reckless as to whether the victim is caused alarm, distress or humiliation.

  • Encouragement or glorification of serious self-harm: An offence to target intentional encouragement or assistance of self-harm at a high threshold (equivalent to grievous bodily harm).

    • The change would ensure that the offence targets the most serious encouragement or assistance of self-harm without unduly criminalising vulnerable people.

  • Sending flashing images with intent to induce a seizure : A specific offence for sending flashing images to people with epilepsy with the intention of inducing seizures.

  • Knowingly false communications : A defendant would be liable if they knowingly send or post a communication that they know to be false and they intend to cause non-trivial emotional, psychological, or physical harm to the likely audience, without a reasonable excuse.

    • This would raise the threshold for the offence currently in the Communications Act 2003, from knowingly causing "annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety" to causing harm.

  • Threatening communications : We recommend a specific offence targeting communications that contain threats of serious harm.

    • It would be an offence where the defendant intends the victim to fear the threat will be carried out or the defendant is reckless as to whether the victim fears that the threat will be carried out.

    • The offence defines "serious harm" as including serious injury (equivalent to grievous bodily harm in the Offences Against the Person Act 1861), rape and serious financial harm.

The reforms, if enacted, involve a shift away from prohibited categories of communication (eg "grossly offensive") to focus on the harmful consequences of particular communications. Our aim is to ensure harmful communications are appropriately addressed while providing robust protection for freedom of expression.

 

 

Updated - Lords comment: Censored comments...

Comments about the UK Government's new Internet Censorship Bill


Link Here21st July 2021
Full story: Online Safety Bill...UK Government legislates to censor social media

Offsite Comment: The Online Safety Bill won’t solve online abuse

 2nd July 2021. See article by Heather Burns

The Online Safety Bill contains threats to freedom of expression, privacy, and commerce which will do nothing to solve online abuse, deal with social media platforms, or make the web a better place to be.

 

Update: House of Lords Committee considers that social media companies are not the best 'arbiters of truth'

21st July 2021. See article from dailymail.co.uk , See report from committees.parliament.uk

A house of Lords committee has warned that the government's plans for new online censorship laws will diminish freedom of speech by making Facebook and Google the arbiters of truth.

The influential Lords Communications and Digital Committee cautioned that legitimate debate is at risk of being stifled by the way major platforms filter out misinformation. Committee chairman Lord Gilbert said:

The benefits of freedom of expression online mustn't be curtailed by companies such as Facebook and Google, too often guided their commercial and political interests than the rights and wellbeing of their users.

The report said:

We are concerned that platforms approaches to misinformation have stifled legitimate debate, including between experts.

Platforms should not seek to be arbiters of truth. Posts should only be removed in exceptional circumstances.

The peers said the government should switch to enforcing existing laws more robustly, and criminalising any serious harms that are not already illegal.

 

 

Claiming that face analysis would provide a way of proving age without handing over identity...

But would you trust money seeking age verification companies not to use facial identification to record who is watching porn anyway


Link Here10th July 2021
Full story: Online Safety Bill...UK Government legislates to censor social media
Our Big Brother government is seeking ways for all websites users to be identified and tracked in the name of child protection. But for all the up and coming legislation that demands age verification, there aren't actually any methods yet that satisfy both strict age verification and protect people's personal data from hackers, thieves, scammers, spammers, money grabbing age verification companies, the government, and the provably data abusing social media companies.

The Observer has reported on a face scanning scheme whereby the age verification company claims not to look up your identity via facial recognition and instead just trying and count the wrinkles on your photo.

See article from theguardian.com .

Security expert Alec Muffet has also posted some interesting and relevant background provided to the Observer that somehow did not make the cut.

See article from alecmuffett.com

 

 

Offsite Article: WhatsApp boss describes attacks on encryption as Orwellian...


Link Here 10th July 2021
Full story: UK Government vs Encryption...Government seeks to restrict peoples use of encryption
Will Cathcart likens governments' stance to insisting a 1984 telescreen be installed in every living room

See article from theguardian.com


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