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UK Internet Censorship

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EPG listing set to require that included streaming channels submit to UK TV censorship rules...

The UK government dreams up a new wheeze to take censorship control of streaming TV channels under current law

Link Here26th September 2023
Full story: UK Internet TV censorship ...UK catch-up and US internet streaming
The government writes:

Broadcast television in the UK is subject to a system of regulation overseen by the independent communications regulator Ofcom, which is key to ensuring protections for audiences. This regulation ensures that regulated television channels available in the UK abide by a common set of rules and standards in relation to the programmes they show.

Over the last century, the number of channels available in the UK has increased significantly 203 from a single channel in 1922 to several hundred today. This trend has been recently accelerated by the increasing availability of internet-delivered linear television, known as internet protocol (IP) delivered television. For example, Sky's newest product Sky Stream delivers content via the internet, compared to Sky Q that delivers its services via satellite.

Under the amended Communications Act 2003, in general only channels that appear on regulated electronic programme guides (EPGs) are subject to UK regulation. Which EPGs are regulated in the UK is described in legislation and under this description these currently are Freeview, Freesat, Sky, Virgin Media, and YouView. This list of regulated EPGs means that many of the newer EPGs and channels utilising IP technology are unregulated and can be easily accessed by audiences on their television sets. While millions of people still choose to watch television through the traditional regulated EPGs, there are increasingly significant numbers of UK viewers accessing linear television channels and content via television sets that can be connected to the internet. Data suggests that the UK has a high proportion of these kinds of televisions, with smart televisions already in as many as 74% of UK households.

This shift is transforming the way that audiences access television, with many new services now delivered via the internet. This evolution of distribution means that there is greater choice for consumers in how they access linear television content and that there is more competition within the market for delivering services, allowing for new and innovative services to emerge.

Many of the larger providers of unregulated EPGs have voluntarily put in place terms and procedures to protect audiences from harmful content, which may result in some comparable levels of protection as the regulated EPGs while incurring lower administrative costs for the providers.

However, the introduction of these newer unregulated and self-regulated guides has resulted in a clear regulatory gap within the existing statutory regime, which could result in inconsistent protections for audiences and limited options for independent complaints handling. This also means that guides do not have to ensure other benefits for audiences like prominence for public service channels and accessibility for people with disabilities.

The government is therefore concerned that the combination of the defined set of regulated EPGs and the growth of new, IP delivered services means that there is increasingly a lack of regulation. UK audiences being able to access unregulated EPGs means there is an increasing number of linear television channels and services that are not regulated by Ofcom and to the standards audiences in the UK expect. This has the potential to cause harm, especially for children and vulnerable audiences, with no statutory protections on these unregulated services.

The lack of protections in place for these unregulated services mean that there is a range of potentially harmful content that could be shown on television with no independent recourse for action to be taken. This includes content that would be unsuitable for younger audiences that are available during the day, that would need to be shown after the watershed if regulated, such as those that include swearing, violence, and sexual content.

Moreover, an inconsistent application of statutory regulation means that EPGs delivering similar -- and often competing -- services do not currently have to comply with the same statutory requirements. This means that there is not currently a fair competitive environment between providers.

Given the landscape of changing technology and the increasing risk to audiences of unregulated content appearing on television, the government believes that legislation is required to update the EPGs that are regulated in the UK. The government is therefore consulting on whether and how to use existing powers that allow it to update which EPGs are regulated in the UK.

This 8-week consultation seeks views on whether and how the Secretary of State should exercise this power, and seeks views on a proposed approach.

In summary, the government is consulting on:

  • The impact of regulating EPGs.

  • The proposed approach for defining which EPGs should be regulated.

Responses from all individuals or organisations on the specific consultation questions and content of the consultation document are welcome.



Making Britain the unsafest place in the world to be online...

The Online Censorship Bill passes its final parliamentary hurdle

Link Here 20th September 2023
Full story: Online Safety Bill...UK Government legislates to censor social media
The UK's disgraceful Online Safety Bill has passed through Parliament and will soon become law. The wide-ranging legislation, which is likely to affect every internet user in the UK and any service they access, and generate mountains of onerous red tape for any internet business stupid enough to be based in Britain. Potential impacts are still unclear and some of the new regulations are technologically impossible to comply with.

A key sticking point is what the legislation means for end-to-end encryption, a security technique used by services like WhatsApp that mathematically guarantees that no one, not even the service provider, can read messages sent between two users. The new law gives regulator Ofcom the power to intercept and check this encrypted data for illegal or harmful content.

Using this power would require service providers to create a backdoor in their software, allowing Ofcom to bypass the mathematically secure encryption. But this same backdoor would be abused by hackers, thieves, scammers and malicious states to snoop, steal and hack.

Beyond encryption, the bill also brings in mandatory age checks on pornography websites and requires that websites have policies in place to protect people from harmful or illegal content. What counts as illegal and exactly which websites will fall under the scope of the bill is unclear, however.

Neil Brown at law firm says Ofcom still has a huge amount of work to do. The new law could plausibly affect any company that allows comments on its website, publishes user-generated content, transmits encrypted data or hosts anything that the government deems may be harmful to children, says Brown:

What I'm fearful of is that there are going to be an awful lot of people, small organisations - not these big tech giants -- who are going to face pretty chunky legal bills trying to work out if they are in scope and, if so, what they need to do.



Cryptic statements...

The Online Censorship Bill has now been passed by the House of Lords with weak promises about not breaking user security

Link Here9th September 2023
Full story: Online Safety Bill...UK Government legislates to censor social media

The U.K.'s Online Safety Bill has passed a critical final stage in the House of Lords, and envisions a potentially vast scheme to surveil internet users.

The bill would empower the U.K. government, in certain situations, to demand that online platforms use government-approved software to search through all users' photos, files, and messages, scanning for illegal content. Online services that don't comply can be subject to extreme penalties, including criminal penalties.

Such a backdoor scanning system can and will be exploited by bad actors. It will also produce false positives, leading to false accusations of child abuse that will have to be resolved. That's why the bill is incompatible with end-to-end encryption--and human rights. EFF has strongly opposed this bill from the start.

Now, with the bill on the verge of becoming U.K. law, the U.K. government has sheepishly acknowledged that it may not be able to make use of some aspects of this law. During a final debate over the bill, a representative of the government said that orders to scan user files can be issued only where technically feasible, as determined by Ofcom, the U.K.'s telecom regulatory agency. He also said any such order must be compatible with U.K. and European human rights law.

That's a notable step back, since previously the same representative, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, said in a letter to the House of Lords that the technology that would magically make invasive scanning co-exist with end-to-end encryption already existed . We have seen companies develop such solutions for platforms with end-to-end encryption before, wrote Lord Parkinson in that letter.

Now, Parkinson has come quite close to admitting that such technology does not, in fact, exist. On Tuesday, he said :

There is no intention by the Government to weaken the encryption technology used by platforms, and we have built strong safeguards into the Bill to ensure that users' privacy is protected.

If appropriate technology which meets these requirements does not exist, Ofcom cannot require its use. That is why the powers include the ability for Ofcom to require companies to make best endeavors to develop or source a new solution.

The same day that these public statements were made, news outlets reported that the U.K. government privately acknowledged that there is no technology that could examine end-to-end encrypted messages while respecting user privacy.


People Need Privacy, Not Weak Promises

Let's be clear: weak statements by government ministers, such as the hedging from Lord Parkinson during this week's debate, are no substitute for real privacy rights.

Nothing in the law's text has changed. The bill gives the U.K. government the right to order message and photo-scanning, and that will harm the privacy and security of internet users worldwide. These powers, enshrined in Clause 122 of the bill, are now set to become law. After that, the regulator in charge of enforcing the law, Ofcom, will have to devise and publish a set of regulations regarding how the law will be enforced.

Several companies that provide end-to-end encrypted services have said they will withdraw from the U.K. if Ofcom actually takes the extreme choice of requiring examination of currently encrypted messages. Those companies include Meta-owned WhatsApp, Signal, and U.K.-based Element, among others.

While it's the last minute, Members of Parliament still could introduce an amendment with real protections for user privacy, including an explicit protection for real end-to-end encryption.

Failing that, Ofcom should publish regulations that make clear that there is no available technology that can allow for scanning of user data to co-exist with strong encryption and privacy.

Finally, lawmakers in other jurisdictions, including the United States, should take heed of the embarrassing result of passing a law that is not just deceptive, but unhinged from computational reality. The U.K. government has insisted that through software magic, a system in which they can examine or scan everything will also somehow be a privacy-protecting system. Faced with the reality of this contradiction, the government has turned to an 11th hour campaign to assure people that the powers it has demanded simply won't be used.



Offsite Article: Compromising E2EE is not possible without introducing systemic vulnerabilities and risks...

Link Here31st August 2023
Full story: Online Safety Bill...UK Government legislates to censor social media
The British Computer Society is not impressed by the Online Safety Bill

See article from



Offsite Article: Online Privacy at Risk from Awful U.K. Internet Regulation Bill...

Link Here 6th August 2023
Full story: Online Safety Bill...UK Government legislates to censor social media
The legislation is also terrible on free speech and poses global risks.

See article from



Offsite Article: Age Verified by Google...

Link Here31st July 2023
Full story: Online Safety Bill...UK Government legislates to censor social media
A fascinating article speculating on how the UK's Online Censorship Bill will actually impact the internet business, as always the onerous red tape will most benefit the US internet giants

See article from



They just want to be loved...

Ofcom publishes its self congratulatory Annual Report clearly relishing its upcoming role as internet censor and coordinator of an eye wateringly expensive red tape nightmare

Link Here14th July 2023
Ofcom writes:

We have today published our Annual Report and Accounts covering the period from 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023.

The report sets out our performance against our plan of work for the past financial year, capturing the progress we have made in our work across major projects and ongoing regulatory responsibilities.



Reviewing UK censorship laws on pornography...

The Government announces a new review that will surely be a one-sided affair inviting moralists and campaigners to whinge about porn

Link Here 4th July 2023
The UK government is reviewing porn censorship laws for adults, moving beyond the age verification requirements proposed in the current Online Censorship Bill.

No doubt the 'review' will be a one-sided whinge-fest soliciting the views of moralists, censors and law enforcers, whilst totally ignoring the views of film makers and viewers.

The Government writes:

Regulation of online pornography in the UK will undergo a thorough review to make sure it is fit for purpose in tackling exploitation and abuse, the government has announced today (Monday 3 July).

As the way we consume media and access content rapidly changes, the Review will investigate any gaps in UK regulation which allows exploitation and abuse to take place online as well as identifying barriers to enforcing criminal law. While the criminal law has been updated in recent years to tackle the presence of extreme and revenge pornography, there are currently different regimes that address the publication and distribution of commercial pornographic material offline, such as videos, and online. The government wants to ensure any pornography legislation and regulation operates consistently for all pornographic content.

The review will also look at how effective the criminal justice system and law enforcement agencies are in responding to illegal pornographic content, including considering if any changes need to be made to criminal law to address challenges law enforcement might have.

It will also consider what more can be done to provide children with information and resources about the harm caused by pornography. This will make sure that illegal and harmful content, such as that which features child sexual abuse and exploitation, or where adults are being exploited, is robustly dealt with.

The Pornography Review is a prompt response to calls for action from parliamentarians and campaign groups concerned with the prevalence and impact on both children and adults of illegal pornographic content and child sexual exploitation and abuse on pornography sites and social media.

This work is separate to, but builds on, the Online Safety Bill, which will hold social media companies and pornography services accountable for ensuring children cannot view pornography, with a new higher standard on the age verification or age estimation tools they must use.

Technology Minister, Paul Scully, said:

Keeping the public safe is the first priority of any government and with technology moving faster than ever, we cannot take our eye off the ball in exploring what more we can do.

Our Pornography Review will look closely at the laws and regulations relating to offline and online content, informing our next steps in tackling the heinous crimes of exploitation and abuse, wherever it occurs.

'Justice' Minister, Ed Argar, said:

It is vital we keep up with the pace of the online world and this review will help ensure our laws work to protect people online while punishing those who share illegal and harmful content.

The Review will seek expertise across government and significant engagement with the Crown Prosecution Service and police, industry, civil society stakeholders and regulators.

The review will also look at the role of the pornography industry in trafficking and exploiting adult performers, child sexual exploitation and abuse,¬ and how extreme and non-consensual pornographic content online is dealt with.

There are currently several criminal offences, linked to legislation such as the Obscene Publications Act 1959 and the extreme porn offence at s63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008,¬ which can be committed in relation to all pornographic material,¬ whether offline or online. Some pornographic material is covered by communications offences and offences which deal with publicly displayed material in shops and other premises.

Separately, there is a very robust regime of offences tackling the possession, taking and making of indecent images of children, whether they are photographs / films, or non-photographic.

There are also different regulatory regimes, including¬ that established by the Video Recordings Act 1984, which address the publication and distribution of commercial pornographic material offline, and the video-sharing platform regime that addresses¬ some online pornography. Notes to editors

The Review will involve a range of government departments, including the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, Ministry of Justice, the Home Office and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Further scope of the Review will be set out in due course.

The Review is aiming to be completed within a year.

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