Freedom of expression is more in danger today than in 2008 because of the right to be forgotten , the United Nation's former free expression rapporteur Frank La Rue told an internet conference. At the event La Rue told Index on Censorship:
The emphasis on the 'right to be forgotten' in a way is a reduction of freedom of expression, which I think is a mistake. People get excited because they can correct the record on many things but the trend is towards limiting people's access to
information which I think is a bad trend in general.
La Rue, who was the UN's rapporteur between 2008 and 2014, addressed lawyers, academics and researchers at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in London, in particular covering the May 2014 right to be forgotten ruling from the Court
of Justice of the European Union, and its impact on free speech. On the ruling, La Rue said:
I would want to know the past. It is very relevant information. Everyone should be on the record and we have to question who is making these decisions anyway?
The state is accountable to the people of a nation so should be accountable here. Not private companies and especially not those with commercial interests.
The BBC explains its commendable policy in a blog post:
Since a European Court of Justice ruling last year, individuals have the right to request that search engines remove certain web pages from their search results. Those pages usually contain personal information about individuals.
Following the ruling, Google removed a large number of links from its search results , including some to BBC web pages, and continues to delist pages from BBC Online.
The BBC has decided to make clear to licence fee payers which pages have been removed from Google's search results by publishing this list of links. Each month, we'll republish this list with new removals added at the top.
We are doing this primarily as a contribution to public policy. We think it is important that those with an interest in the right to be forgotten can ascertain which articles have been affected by the ruling. We hope it will contribute to
the debate about this issue. We also think the integrity of the BBC's online archive is important and, although the pages concerned remain published on BBC Online, removal from Google searches makes parts of that archive harder to find.
The pages affected by delinking may disappear from Google searches, but they do still exist on BBC Online. David Jordan, the BBC's Director of Editorial Policy and Standards, has written a blog post which explains how we view that archive as a
matter of historic public record and, thus, something we alter only in exceptional circumstances. The BBC's rules on deleting content from BBC Online are strict; in general, unless content is specifically made available only for a limited
time, the assumption is that what we publish on BBC Online will become part of a permanently accessible archive. To do anything else risks reducing transparency and damaging trust.
One caveat: when looking through this list it is worth noting that we are not told who has requested the delisting, and we should not leap to conclusions as to who is responsible. The request may not have come from the obvious subject of a story.
The European Union is threatening the long-established principle of freedom of panorama -- meaning some major landmarks in public spaces may have to be blocked out from videos and photographs for fear of infringing on the owner's
The principle -- which has been long-established in a number of jurisdictions across Europe and the United States -- is that works such as the London Eye, the Angel of the North, or sculptures displayed in public spaces may be photographed and
those photographs may be used for commercial use.
But the EU apparatchiks have stepped in to curtail the freedom, adding an amendment to a recent report that sought to enshrine the principle formally into EU law.
Germany's Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda submitted the original proposals to protect freedom of panorama in a report earlier this month, but the European Parliament's legal committee, while approving most of the report, implemented several
amendments -- one of these reading, The commercial use of photographs, video footage or other images of works which are permanently located in physical public places should always be subject to prior authorisation from the authors or any proxy
acting for them.
This means that photographers using images of major public spaces may have to consult with copyright owners before publishing images or video, even if the piece of work is not the primary subject of the image.
The rule mimics bizarre French and Belgian rules on taking photographs of the European Parliamentary buildings in Brussels and Strasbourg. Most Members of the European Parliament have at some point taken pictures of the buildings and are
therefore in breach of the law. Indeed in Belgium, pictures adhering to the law are blacked out, as can be seen on the Atomium's Wikipedia page .
The European Parliament is set to vote on the matter on July 9th, with the European Commission responsible for the final legislation.
Germans will only be able to buy adult eBooks between 10pm and 6am, according to a ridiculous new law.
Other such media have long been banned during the daytime, and real books that are violent or erotic are kept under the counter of bookstores. But a new ruling means that eBooks will be treated like films or TV, and so can only be sold during the
night time window.
The 10pm to 6am window was originally instituted in a 2002 law -- Jugendmedienschutz-Staatsvertrag, or Youth Media Protection Act -- that was intended to restrict adult cinemas from showing films in the day. But many have pointed out that
applying the rule on the internet, where products can be bought at all hours of the day, is impractical.
The change has been as part of a legal complaint around a German erotica eBook called Schlauchgel√ľste (Pantyhose Cravings), according to blog The Digital Reader, a memoir of a transgender person which has caused problems because it was readily
available. READ MORE Amazon to start paying authors based on how far readers get through their books Grey: 8 things we learn in new Fifty Shades of Grey book told through Christian's eyes How e-readers took the embarrassment out of erotic fiction
None of the sites selling selling such material are yet shutting down in the day, according to reports. But the law allows for people to be fined up to ‚?¨500,000 if they are found to be selling the material.
The German booksellers' association is looking to provide a way that eBook stores can be sure that they're not selling the books to young people without having to check through the contents of every book that they sell, according to Boersenblatt
the website for the German book trade. Such systems might require publishers to say whether books are erotic, and then place them in a special section of the website that ensures that they can't be seen by children.
In just a few days EU lawmakers will vote on a new scheme that could facilitate the spread of a restrictive link tax online. This backwards censorship plan is pushed by a politician named Jean-Marie Cavada.
In just a few days, key lawmakers will vote on a new scheme that will facilitate the spread of a restrictive link tax online. The link tax was initially targeted at Google's News service gaining from links to news websites, but its
applications are inevitably wider once the concept is established.
This backwards censorship plan is supported by a politician named Jean-Marie Cavada. A classic Internet villain who wants to hold onto the past.
We know Cavada hopes to usher in new powers that could see links and comments on Soundcloud, Facebook, and WhatsApp to your favorite blog redirected or blocked entirely.
Have you seen those not available in your area geo-block-like messages? Yeah, more of that sort of thing. We hate them too. If Cavada gets his way we'll see much more of that frustrating Internet censorship and it will affect users
everywhere. Let's all send him a message he can't ignore now .
Here's the rub: Cavada's link censorship plan is about to be voted on in a powerful EU parliamentary committee he chairs. Regardless of where you live many of your favourite websites and key web infrastructure will be covered by his irresponsible
As it stands, if Cavada gets his way you could see some of your favourite websites being forced to pay a link tax for pointing to information that's freely available elsewhere.
Get this: he even tried to scrub the input from Internet users from this decision-making process. He then tried to block a UN free expression expert from talking to key decision-makers about the problems with his restrictive plan. Who does that?
For Cavada to back off he needs to hear from as many of us as possible right now. The vote is in just a few days.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has decided that Delfi, an Estonia-based news website, holds responsibility for defamatory comments made by anonymous readers.
Access, a digital rights organization, weighed in on the decision, calling it a worrying setback. Furthermore, the organization argues that the ruling contradicts the European Union's E-Commerce Directive, which protects intermediaries
that employ notice-and-takedown mechanisms to deal with user comments.
Access noted that Delfi's case received disappointing rulings from other courts, even though Estonia has adopted the EU's E-Commerce Directive. Access says that it denounces the ECHR's ruling, stating that it creates a worrying
precedent that could force websites to censor content.
The ECHR defended its ruling by citing the extreme nature of the comments which the court considered to amount to hate speech, the fact that they were published on a professionally-run and commercial news website.
The Center for Democracy & Technology notes:
Holding content hosts liable for their users' speech is a shortcut to censorship for governments and private litigants who cannot easily identify an anonymous speaker or seek a judgment against her. The threat of liability creates strong
incentives for content hosts to preview and approve all user comments, and to censor with a broad brush, limit access to their services, and restrict users' ability to communicate freely over their platforms. In a world where all online speech
is intermediated by web servers, news portals, social media platforms, search engines, and ISPs, the collateral consequences of intermediary liability are potentially enormous.
Google has 15 days to comply with a demand from France's internet censor to extend the right to be forgotten to all its search engines.
Google has responded to European censorship under the right to be forgotten by only removing the required information for the copy of the search engine specific to the censoring country. And in particular leaves the links live in the global
French censor CNIL said Google could face sanctions if it did not comply within the time limit.
In response, Google said in a statement:
We've been working hard to strike the right balance in implementing the European Court's ruling, co-operating closely with data protection authorities.
The ruling focused on services directed to European users, and that's the approach we are taking in complying with it.
The misleadingly named European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation (ECTR) is a campaign group backed by European Jewish leaders, and a gaggle of former EU heads of state and government. It calls for pan-European legislation outlawing
antisemitism and criticism of religion, coining a phrase, 'group libel' to mirror the muslim phrase 'defamation of religion'.
The group recently published a document proposing to outlaw antisemitism as well as criminalising a host of other activities of what the group deems to be violating fundamental rights on religious, cultural, ethnic and gender grounds. The group
cleverly heads the list with some justifiable prohibitions, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, polygamy, but then slip in extensive censorship and blasphemy items, eg criminalising xenophobia, and creating a new crime of group libel
, ie public defamation of ethnic, cultural or religious groups.
The proposed legislation would also curb freedom of expression on grounds of a bizarre definition of 'tolerance'. The document twists the meaning of tolerance to try and justify the end to the right of freedom of expression:
Tolerance is a two-way street. Members of a group who wish to benefit from tolerance must show it to society at large, as well as to members of other groups and to dissidents or other members of their own group.
There is no need to be tolerant to the intolerant. This is especially important as far as freedom of expression is concerned: that freedom must not be abused to defame other groups.
But the document goes much further, calling for the criminalisation of overt approval of a totalitarian ideology, xenophobia or antisemitism.
The group has now appointed Tony Blair as chairman.
Comment: Tony Blair's plans to tackle extremism will stifle free speech
Index on Censorship considers Tony Blair's proposals on hate speech to be dangerous and divisive. Blair has defended plans to lower the the barriers on what constitutes incitement to violence and make Holocaust denial illegal. Jodie
Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship said:
These suggestions, far from protecting people, are likely to have the opposite effect, driving extremist views underground where they can fester and grow Instead, we should be protecting free expression, including speech that may be
considered offensive or hateful, in order to expose and challenge those views.
Individuals should always be protected from incitement to violence and that protection already exists in law, as do stringent laws on hate speech. Further legislation is not needed.
Comment: NSS criticises Tony Blair's plans to entrench religion in public life across Europe
The National Secular Society (NSS) has criticised Blair ahead of his appointment as chair of the ECTR as ill thought out and counter-productive .
The former Prime Minister has defended proposals lowering the barriers to what constitutes incitement to violence and pan-European plans to make Holocaust denial illegal and to entrench state funding for religious institutions
The NSS is adamant that measures such as 'group libel' would be counter-productive, have a massive chilling effect on free speech and would be likely to restrict the open debate necessary to resolve problems.
Keith Porteous Wood, NSS executive director, said:
Britain already has draconian legislation on religious insults -- a possible seven year jail term with a low prosecution threshold. Politicians have already called for the outlawing of Islamophobia, playing into the hands of those intent on
closing down honest debate about and within Islam.
There is no need for more laws, and the ones we already have fail to adequately protect freedom of expression. A robust civil society with a deep commitment to free expression is our best hope for challenging and countering bigoted narratives
and misguided views. Driving extremist views underground will only allow them to fester and allow their proponents to present themselves as martyrs.
Outlawing Holocaust denial completely undermines the West's defence of freedom of speech at home and abroad and removes our moral authority to propound freedom of expression abroad. No one has the right in a plural society not to be offended
and ideas should not be proscribed but people should be defended from incitement to violence.
A European-wide Holocaust denial law would be exhibit A in every response from dictators abroad - and Islamists at home - when we criticise their appalling human rights records or challenge their rhetoric and beliefs.
The NSS has also accused Blair of being confused over the role of religion .
For Mr Blair to dismiss those intent on justifying violence in the name of religion as abusing religion and using it as a mask reveals that his enthusiasm for religion has once more led him to misunderstand one of the roots of this problem.
While few would suggest that extremists' interpretations of their faith are mainstream in today's society, it is naive and counterproductive to deny the role that such interpretations play in their religio-political motivations.
Comment: BBC to be forced to report the news under a narrow set of acceptable values .
Tony Blair's new role as chairman of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation (ECTR) is in fact supporting an organisation that is a danger to free speech. Paul Nuttall, UKIP Deputy Leader and MEP for the North West, said the ECTR
wants public broadcasting companies like the BBC to be forced under legal statute to report the news under a narrow set of acceptable values . He explained:
Tony Blair is joining an organisation that explicitly wants to see legislative control of news output.
The ECTR sent a framework statute to members of the European Parliament with the intention of it becoming law that frankly caused great concern. It included dictatorial powers to demand that 'public broadcasting (television and radio) stations
will devote a prescribed percentage of their programmes to promoting a climate of tolerance'. It also called for private and public media to be controlled by a Media Complaints Commission driven by a narrow set of acceptable values.
The ECTR also called for certain new 'thought' crimes to be regarded as aggravated criminal offences, such as the 'overt approval of a totalitarian ideology, xenophobia'. This is very dangerous stuff and is utterly against the great tradition of
free speech in this country. Do we really want our news reports to be dictated by a political organisation led by Blair?
Even worse is that Mr Blair's organisation also proposes re-education programmes, which brings to mind the 1930s. It proposes young people 'convicted of committing crimes listed will be required to undergo a rehabilitation programme designed to
instil in them a culture of tolerance'. It's very worrying that in championing the ECTR, Mr Blair appears to want to enforce an Orwellian-style 'Ministry of Information' regime upon the population without taking it to the ballot box.
Offsite Comment: Tony Blair has just joined the crew of reckless muzzlers
AdBlock Plus has successfully defended itself in court for the second time in five weeks. The browser add-on prevents ads from appearing on websites unless it has given them permission to be displayed. AdBlock Plus has been downloaded about
400 million times.
German broadcasters RTL and ProSiebenSat.1 had argued that browser plug-in was anti-competitive and threatened their ability to offer users content for free .
However, a court in Munich ruled in favour of AdBlock's owner Eyeo. With a rather technical reason that too few people were using Eyeo's products for it to be judged to have a dominant position that might justify the antitrust intervention
requested by the broadcasters.
Ben Williams, a spokesman for the German company, told the BBC:
This is the fourth time that massive publishers have brought legal proceedings against our start-up.
Thankfully, the court sided with users and with compromise. So, we're pleased to say that Adblock Plus will continue to provide users with a tool that helps them control their internet experience. RTL news site RTL's news website features pop-up
ads, which do not appear if the AdBlock Plus plug-in is installed
A spokeswoman for RTL responded:
We are weighing a possible course of action against the ruling and assessing the prospects of an appeal.
Last month Eyeo successfully defended itself against similar claims by two other German publishers - Die Zeit and Handelsblatt - at a court in Hamburg. It still faces a further case brought by another local publisher, Axel Springer, in Cologne.
A play by the French writer Michel Houellebecq has been yanked from a prominent summer festival in Croatia, with officials alluding to fear of violence arising from Houellebecq's writings about Islam.
The Elementary Particles , a new stage work adapted from Houellebecq's own 1998 novel, was set to play at the Dubrovnik Summer Festival in July. But now a spokeswoman for the festival has confirmed that the play was cancelled
following a risk analysis carried out by the Croatian Security and Intelligence Agency. She said that, based on that analysis, the Croatian Ministry of Interior determined that the play would represent a security risk.
But saying that, this particular piece, The Elementary Particles, doesn't contain the author's incendiary views on Islam. The novel's plot follows the sexual lives of two half-brothers, Michel and Bruno, the former of whom is a
biologist who is researching a potentially new race of human beings.
Abulkasim al-Jaberi was arrested in November when television cameras showed him spouting a stream of profanity aimed at the king, Queen Maxima and the royal house. Bizarrely he had been protesting about what he perceived was an insult. In
particularly he felt that the Dutch Black Pete historical children's figure, was a racist insult.
Al-Jaberi, a long time critic of the black-faced sidekick that appears at the traditional gift-giving festival of Saint Nicholas, was handed a 500-euro fine which he refused to pay.
Prosecutors then said that he would face trial based on a lese-majeste or injured monarch law harking back to 1881, which makes deliberately insulting the king or royal house punishable with a prison sentence of up to five years or
a 20,000-euro fine.
This decision to prosecute him for insulting King Willem-Alexander has sparked 'outrage' in liberal-minded Netherlands and prompted prosecutors to re-evaluate the case based on a century-old law.
An unknown person spray-painted Al-Jaberi's words on the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, while Twitter saw a stream of similar expletives being tweeted. Online, in newspapers and even in parliament many denounced the lese-majeste law as archaic and
hardly in tune with modern-day rights.
Prosecutors announced this week that they were withdrawing the summons for Al-Jaberi's appearance in an Amsterdam court on May 27 for further investigation , but the charge itself has not been dropped. Prosecutors pulled the summons after
Al-Jaberi's lawyer filed an objection amid an public avalanche of outrage.
Amsterdam Prosecutor's Office representative Willem Nijkerk explained: I was surprised by the emotional reaction. We didn't see this coming.
Due to complicated licensing agreements Netflix is only available in a few dozen countries, all of which have a different content library. The same is true for many other media services such as BBC iPlayer, Amazon Instant Video, and even YouTube.
These geo-blocking practices have been a thorn in the side of the European Commission, who now plan to abolish these restrictions altogether.
The EU's governing body has just adopted the new Digital Single Market Strategy. One of the main pillars of the new strategy is to provide consumers and businesses with better access to digital goods and services.
Among other things the Commission plans to end unjustified geo-blocking, which it describes as a discriminatory practice used for commercial reasons. Europe, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said:
I want to see every consumer getting the best deals and every business accessing the widest market -- wherever they are in.
Of course that's not to say that the EU won't dream up their own red tape nightmares instead. It has a pitiful track record with its VAT Mess rules killing off small traders on the internet, and so driving even more sales to massive companies who
can cope with the administrative burdens, such as the US companies, Amazon and eBay.
Big Game is in Irish cinemas this week and will be the cut version adopted by the UK to obtain a BBFC 12A rating.
The film was censored to remove a use of the word 'motherfucker' so as to avoid a 15 rating. The version which went before the Irish film censor, IFCO ,was the previously trimmed UK cut, which was passed with an Irish 12A.
The result is a film with one use of implied strong language.
The Irish Examiner newspaper report hints that the uncut version may be released on DVD.
Norway has scrapped its blasphemy law. It has been reported that Norway scrapped the law in a direct response to January's brutal attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo .
The proposal to rush through the change was made by Conservative MP Anders B Werp and Progress Party MP Jan Arild Ellingsen, who argued that the law:
Underpins a perception that religious expressions and symbols are entitled to a special protection. This is very unfortunate signal to send, and it is time that society clearly stands up for freedom of speech.
The Free Thinker points out a telling comment from a 2012 report which found Norway to be one of the eight best nations in which to be an atheist:
There's a strong correlation between the happiest countries in the world and the least religious countries in the world, and along with Sweden and Denmark, Norway rates at the top of both list ...
People likely look to religion less when they want for less, for one thing, but it also may be that atheism flourishes in nations where people demonstrate high levels of commitment towards a socially just government and shared economic
The French parliament has approved a controversial law extending mass snooping capabilities of the intelligence services, with the aim of preventing Islamist attacks.
The law on intelligence-gathering, adopted by 438 votes to 86, was drafted after muslim terrorists attacked the Charlie Hebdo office and a Jewish supermarket.
The Socialist government says the law is needed to take account of changes in communications technology. But critics say it is a dangerous extension of mass surveillance.
The new law define new purposes for which secret intelligence-gathering may be used. It sets up a supervisory body, the National Commission for Control of Intelligence Techniques (CNCTR), with wider rules of operation. And inevitably it
authorises new methods, such as the bulk collection of metadata via internet providers
One online advocacy group, La Quadrature du Net, wrote after the vote:
Representatives of the French people have given the Prime Minister the power to undertake massive and limitless surveillance of the population.
The ABCs of Death 2 will be released in a cut version in Germany. Rather than simply cutting specific shots which have been deemed problematic as tends to be the case when films are censored the UK, the German cut of The ABCs of Death
2 will see three whole chapters from the portmanteau removed completely by distributor Capelight under pressure from Germany's censorship board the FSK.
The offending chapters are C is for Capital Punishment, from British director Julian Gilbey; D is for Deloused , a stop-motion animation by another British filmmaker, Robert Morgan; and T is for Torture Porn , by Canadian directorial duo Jen and Sylvia Soska.
The European Commission is considering creating an EU-wide complaint procedure for people whose websites are wrongly blocked by ISPs.
Justice Commissioner Vera JourovŠ said in a letter that:
The Commission is analysing the need for a specific initiative on notice-and-action procedures to bring legal certainty and transparency to the way online intermediaries take down content that is alleged to be illegal.
The concept will be published in the planned Digital Single Market legislative package, due to be presented next month, but there are no specific details of the process expected as yet.
Council of Europe human rights commissioner Nils Muiznieks said two weeks ago:
The blocking of internet sites without prior judicial authorisation which recently started in France is a clear example of the risks that such measures represent for human rights, and particularly for freedom of expression and the right to
receive and communicate information
He urged lawmakers to ensure that any blocking measures:
Are subject to effective democratic control and that the persons at whom they are directed have an effective remedy available to challenge them.