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30th December

  Russia recommends...

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Charlie Hebdo's Russian plane crash edition
Link Here
hebdo on russian plane crashRussia has accused Charlie Hebdo of mocking the Black Sea plane crash after publishing inhuman cartoons about the disaster.

In one reference to the crash, the French magazine depicted a jet hurtling downwards along with words translated as: Bad news... Putin wasn't on board .

The magazine also published a cartoon showing a choir member from the ensemble making a wailing sound aaaaaa . One caption reads: The repertoire of the army choir is expanding.   A third cartoon shows bodies sinking in the sea with the caption: The Red Army conquers a new public .

The Russian Defence Ministry's spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov complained:

It is degrading for any human being to even pay attention to such a poorly-created abomination. If such, dare I say, "artistry" is the real manifestation of "Western values", then those who hold and support them are doomed - at least to loneliness in the future.

 

30th December

  Something to hide?...

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Irish national archives reveal a long struggle to open historical files from the film censor's office
Link Here  full story: Hardcore in Ireland...Censor ban on hardcore porn in Irish Courts
Irish Film Censorship: A Cultural Journey from Silent Cinema to Internet PornographyNational Archives show minister for justice Alan Dukes clashed with attorney general John Rodgers over access to the film censor's historical files.

In 1986 Kevin Rockett, then academic and chairman of the Irish Film Institute , wrote to attorney general John Rogers to say he had been refused access to the film censor's files, even for films of the 1920s, by then minister for justice Alan Dukes .

Rogers wrote to Dukes saying that he did not see the legal basis on which access to the files, especially for films made 30 years or more previously, could be resisted or refused.

A month later, Dukes responded that over the years, censors and ministers for justice had always considered themselves precluded , on the basis of breach of confidence, from disclosure of information on films.

Further letters ensued and eventually the files were opened following a long struggle. Rockett told The Irish Times that a fter a long and frustrating campaign he eventually convinced the Official Film Censor in 1998 to transfer the more than 100 volumes of film censorship material to the National Archives.

Rockett wrote Irish Film Censorship: A Cultural Journey from Silent Cinema to Internet Pornography in 2004, with the help of those files.

 

21st December

 Update: But will the government listen?...

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European Court of Justice finds that the UK mass snooping regime is too broad and must be reigned in
Link Here  full story: Snooper's Charter Plus...2015 Cameron government expands the Snooper's Charter
The European Court of Justice has passed judgement on several linked cases in Europe requiring that ISP retain extensive records of all phone and internet communications. This includes a challenge by Labour's Tom Watson. The court wrote in a press release:

european court of justice logoThe Members States may not impose a general obligation to retain data on providers of electronic communications services

EU law precludes a general and indiscriminate retention of traffic data and location data, but it is open to Members States to make provision, as a preventive measure, for targeted retention of that data solely for the purpose of fighting serious crime, provided that such retention is, with respect to the categories of data to be retained, the means of communication affected, the persons concerned and the chosen duration of retention, limited to what is strictly necessary. Access of the national authorities to the retained data must be subject to conditions, including prior review by an independent authority and the data being retained within the EU.

In today's judgment, the Court's answer is that EU law precludes national legislation that prescribes general and indiscriminate retention of data.

The Court confirms first that the national measures at issue fall within the scope of the directive. The protection of the confidentiality of electronic communications and related traffic data guaranteed by the directive, applies to the measures taken by all persons other than users, whether by private persons or bodies, or by State bodies.

Next, the Court finds that while that directive enables Member States to restrict the scope of the obligation to ensure the confidentiality of communications and related traffic data, it cannot justify the exception to that obligation, and in particular to the prohibition on storage of data laid down by that directive, becoming the rule.

Further, the Court states that, in accordance with its settled case-law, the protection of the fundamental right to respect for private life requires that derogations from the protection of personal data should apply only in so far as is strictly necessary. The Court applies that case-law to the rules governing the retention of data and those governing access to the retained data.

The Court states that, with respect to retention, the retained data, taken as a whole, is liable to allow very precise conclusions to be drawn concerning the private lives of the persons whose data has been retained.

The interference by national legislation that provides for the retention of traffic data and location data with that right must therefore be considered to be particularly serious. The fact that the data is retained without the users of electronic communications services being informed of the fact is likely to cause the persons concerned to feel that their private lives are the subject of constant surveillance. Consequently, only the objective of fighting serious crime is capable of justifying such interference.

The Court states that legislation prescribing a general and indiscriminate retention of data does not require there to be any relationship between the data which must be retained and a threat to public security and is not restricted to, inter alia, providing for retention of data pertaining to a particular time period and/or geographical area and/or a group of persons likely to be involved in a serious crime. Such national legislation therefore exceeds the limits of what is strictly necessary and cannot be considered to be justified within a democratic society, as required by the directive, read in the light of the Charter.

The Court makes clear however that the directive does not preclude national legislation from imposing a targeted retention of data for the purpose of fighting serious crime, provided that such retention of data is, with respect to the categories of data to be retained, the means of communication affected, the persons concerned and the retention period adopted, limited to what is strictly necessary. The Court states that any national legislation to that effect must be clear and precise and must provide for sufficient guarantees of the protection of data against risks of misuse. The legislation must indicate in what circumstances and under which conditions a data retention measure may, as a preventive measure, be adopted, thereby ensuring that the scope of that measure is, in practice, actually limited to what is strictly necessary. In particular, such legislation must be based on objective evidence which makes it possible to identify the persons whose data is likely to reveal a link with serious criminal offences, to contribute to fighting serious crime or to preventing a serious risk to public security.

As regards the access of the competent national authorities to the retained data, the Court confirms that the national legislation concerned cannot be limited to requiring that access should be for one of the objectives referred to in the directive, even if that objective is to fight serious crime, but must also lay down the substantive and procedural conditions governing the access of the competent national authorities to the retained data. That legislation must be based on objective criteria in order to define the circumstances and conditions under which the competent national authorities are to be granted access to the data. Access can, as a general rule, be granted, in relation to the objective of fighting crime, only to the data of individuals suspected of planning, committing or having committed a serious crime or of being implicated in one way or another in such a crime. However, in particular situations, where for example vital national security, defence or public security interests are threatened by terrorist activities, access to the data of other persons might also be granted where there is objective evidence from which it can be inferred that that data might, in a specific case, make an effective contribution to combating such activities.

Further, the Court considers that it is essential that access to retained data should, except in cases of urgency, be subject to prior review carried out by either a court or an independent body. In addition, the competent national authorities to whom access to retained data has been granted must notify the persons concerned of that fact.

Given the quantity of retained data, the sensitivity of that data and the risk of unlawful access to it, the national legislation must make provision for that data to be retained within the EU and for the irreversible destruction of the data at the end of the retention period.

The view of the authorities

david andersonDavid Anderson, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation gives a lucid response outlining the government's case for mass surveillance. However the official justification is easily summarised as it clearly assists in the detection of serious crime. He simply does not mention that the government having justified grabbing the data on grounds of serious crime detection, will share it willy nilly with all sorts of government departments for their own convenience, way beyond the reasons set out in the official justification.

And when the authorities talk about their fight against 'serious' crime, recent governments have been updating legislation to redefine practically all crimes as 'serious' crimes. Eg possessing a single spliff may in practice be a trivial crime, but the law on possession has a high maximum sentence that qualifies it as a 'serious' crime. It does not become trivial until it goes to court and the a trivia punishment has been handed down. So using mass snooping data would be easily justified to track down trivial drug users.

See  article from terrorismlegislationreviewer.independent.gov.uk

The Open Rights Group comments

See  article from openrightsgroup.org

open rights group 2016 logoThe judgment relates to a case brought by Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson MP, over intrusive data retention powers. The ruling says that:

  • - Blanket data retention is not permissible
  • - Access to data must be authorised by an independent body
  • - Only data belonging to people who are suspected of serious crimes can be accessed
  • - Individuals need to be notified if their data is accessed.

At present, none of these conditions are met by UK law.

Open Rights Group intervened in the case together with Privacy International, arguing that the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA), rushed through parliament in 2014, was incompatible with EU law. While the Judgment will no longer affect DRIPA, which expires at the end of 2016, it has major implications for the Investigatory Powers Act.

Executive Director Jim Killock said:

The CJEU has sent a clear message to the UK Government: blanket surveillance of our communications is intrusive and unacceptable in a democracy.

The Government knew this judgment was coming but Theresa May was determined to push through her snoopers' charter regardless. The Government must act quickly to re-write the IPA or be prepared to go to court again.

Data retention powers in the Investigatory Powers Act will come into effect on 30 Dec 2016. These mean that ISPs and mobile phone providers can be obliged to keep data about our communications, including a record of the websites we visit and the apps we use. This data can be accessed by the police but also a wide range of organisations like the Food Standards Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and the Department of Health.

 

21st December

  If it comes to term...

French lawmakers introduce bill to ban 'false' information on anti-abortion websites
Link Here
assemblee nationaleThe French National Assembly and the Senate have launched the initial steps to create the crime of online obstruction of abortion. The final bill is scheduled to be passed into law in February 2017.

The new crime would affect websites that discuss the possible psychological effects of abortion and those that promote alternatives to terminating pregnancy. Although the new crime would not be a ban, it has raised concern among those troubled over the possible censorship of information on pro-life sites.

The law imposes a maximum of two-years' imprisonment for putting up 'false' information on abortion online, plus a fine of 30,000 Euros.

Maybe interesting times ahead if religious prohibitions on abortion are contested as 'false' information, eg claims that God will punish those that opt for aboortion.

 

21st December

 Offsite Article: A first in recent times...

Link Here
irishcourts service logoPossession of a banned book gets added to the charge sheet of an Irish man being prosecuted for serious child assault offences

See article from irishexaminer.com

 

20th December

 Update: Countering take down abuse...

France debates bill to protect ISPs from the use of take down orders as a means of censorship
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in France...Web blocking in the name of child protection

france senate logoFrance is considering appointing an official internet ombudsman to investigate complaints about online material in order to prevent excessive censorship and preserve free speech. A bill establishing a content qualification assessment procedure has been tabled in the French senate.

Dan Shefets, a Danish lawyer explained one of the issues targeted by the bill:

ISPs face both penal and civil liability as soon as they are made aware of allegedly illicit content. One consequence of such liability is that smaller companies take down such content for fear of later sanctions.

The aim is to provide a simple procedure that will support firms operating online who are uncertain of their legal liabilities and to prevent over-zealous removal or censorship of material merely because it is the subject of a complaint. It could be copied by other European jurisdictions.

The idea is that a rapid response from the internet ombudsman would either order the material to be taken down or allow it to remain. As long as ISPs complied with the rulings, they would not face any fine or punishment.

 

13th December

 Update: Calls for an online news vetting service...

German politicians seek more censorship of 'fake news' presumably thinking that it may somehow protect them from the popular revolt
Link Here  full story: Free Speech in Germany...Criticism of refugees or Turkey now banned

spd cdu logoLeading German MPs have called for online 'fake news' campaigns to be made a crime. Patrick Sensburg, a senior MP in Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, said:

Targeted disinformation to destabilise a state should be a criminal offence. We need to consider whether there should be some sort of 'test site' that reveals and identifies propaganda pages.

The call was backed by his party colleague Ansgar Heveling, the chairman of the German parliament's influential internal affairs committee aying:

We last saw disinformation campaigns during the Cold War, now they have clearly been revived with new media opportunities. The law already offers options, such as a slander or defamation. But I think a criminal sentence is more appropriate when it is a targeted campaign.

German intelligence has warned that Russia is seeking to influence next year's German elections via propaganda distributed via the internet, partcularly social media. Russia has been accused of deliberately using socialbots , automated software masqueraring as real people, to promote 'fake news' stories on social media.

Mrs Merkel's current coalition partners and main rival in next year's elections, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), have also called for a cross-party alliance against 'fake news' stories. Sigmar Gabriel, the SPD leader called for

Democratic solidarity against manipulative socialbots and an alliance against 'fake news'.

Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel of the SPD added:

If there is any doubt about the authenticity of any information, we should refrain from attacking our political opponents with it.

 

13th December

 Updated: Blasphemy of saying what many people think...

Netherlands political leader found guilty of 'hate speech' after calling for fewer immigrants
Link Here  full story: Geert Wilders...Geert Wilders winds up the muslim world
geert wildersDutch political leader Geert Wilders has been found guilty of hate speech and inciting racial discrimination for leading a chant calling for fewer, fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands.

Presiding Judge Hendrik Steenhuis said the court would not impose a sentence because the conviction was punishment enough for a democratically elected lawmaker. Prosecutors had asked judges to fine him 5,000 euros ($5,300).

Wilders, head of the PVV Freedom Party, was not present to hear the judgement but his lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops immediately issued a statement to say that he would appeal.

The judge claimed that Wilders had breached the boundaries of even a politician's freedom of speech. Wilders said, in a statement:

I still cannot believe it, but I have been convicted because I asked a question about Moroccans. The Netherlands has become a sick country. The judge who convicted me [has] restricted the freedom of speech for millions of Dutch. I will never be silent. I am not a racist and neither are my voters.

Update: Even more popular

13th December 2016. See  article from yahoo.com

Geert Wilders' party has risen strongly in the polls since the lawmaker was convicted of discrimination, according to a survey published on Sunday.

The current state of the polls suggests that his party would win about 36 seats out of 150, leaving the party with most seats but probably not in government.

 

8th December

 Commented: False blame...

After years of laws handing over our wealth to US and international corporations, the EU has decided to blame the resulting social unrest on tech companies not deleting hate speech quickly enough.
Link Here
european commission logoThe European Commission has called on tech companies such as Twitter, Facebook, and other major names to implement more aggressively measures in order to censor online hate speech. The alternative is to face new EU legislation that would force the tech companies to censor more quickly.

The Financial Times reports that a study commissioned by the EU justice commissioner, Vera Jourova, found that YouTube, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, and Facebook have struggled to comply with the hate speech voluntary code of conduct that was announced earlier this year. Amid national security concerns and heightened racial tensions, mostly resulting from unpopular EU refugee policies.

In Germany, the government-led effort has been particularly aggressive. Germany is one of the European nations where the ongoing refugee crisis has reinvigorated the far-right and sparked a backlash against government policy. Reuter reports that Heiko Maas, the German Justice Minister, recently said that Facebook should be made liable for any hate speech published on its social media platform and it should be treated as a media company.

According to The Verge, Google, Twitter, Facebook and Microsoft agreed in a code of conduct announced in May to review and respond within 24 hours to the majority of hate speech complaints. However, only 40% of the recorded incidents have been reviewed within 24 hours, according to the commission's report. That figure rose to 80% after 48 hours.

According to PCMag, two advocacy groups have criticized those efforts in France. In May, the two rights groups announced their plans to sue Google, Twitter, and Facebook for failing to remove from their platforms homophobic, racist and other hateful posts. News articles have so far failed to point out that maybe some of these groups are making some false claims about  material being censorable. Perhaps the media companies were right to not remove all of the posts reported.

EU justice ministers will meet to discuss the report's findings on 8th December.

Offsite Comment: Social Networks Must Stand Against Censorship

bloomberg logo7th December 2016. See  article from bloomberg.com

The pressure for social networks to censor the content that appears on them just won't cease, and the networks are bending. Censorship, however, is not what users want. Nor is it technically possible, even if the platforms won't admit it.

 

7th December

  Maybe best to not go there...

But surely a proposed new French law banning 'false information' on anti-abortion websites is incendiary stuff in what is essentially a religious debate
Link Here
France flagLawmakers in France have voted to ban misleading anti-abortion web sites. After a heated debate, the French National Assembly passed a bill to outlaw websites spreading misinformation about abortion. Pro-abortion activists have accused Pro-Life campaigners of pretending to give neutral information while putting pressure on women not to have abortions.

The new law, which still has to pass the Senate, extends an existing law against physical intimidation over abortion to digital media and would extend the scope of a 1993 law, which criminalizes false information related abortions, to digital media.

Providing false information on abortion online would be punishable by up to two years in prison and a 30,000 euro fine, a stipulation that pro-life advocates were quick to ridicule.

In the current fad for blaming all society's ills on 'false' news and information this adds an interesting possibility of religious commandments being tested in court as false information. The underlying religious view is that abortion is bad simply ecause their god said so.  And surely opponents will understandably see this as false information.

Bruno Retailleau, who heads the Republicans party group in the Senate, says the bill is totally against freedom of expression. He claimed the bill went against the spirit of the 1975 law legalizing abortion, which called for women to be informed of alternatives.

 

2nd December

  Censorship campaigners with a chipolata on their shoulder...

Moralists whinge about the French 12 rating for Seth Rogen's Sausage Party
Link Here
Sausage Party DVD Greg TiernanSausage Party is a 2016 USA animation comedy adventure by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon.
Starring Kristen Wiig, Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd. BBFC link IMDb

An animated fable about the delusion of religion. It is set in an American supermarket, its characters are horny and often blasphemous foodstuffs who at one point engage in a mass sex party.

Catholic and right-wing have whinged about a Seth Rogen cartoon featuring lots of strong language and a foodstuffs orgy scene.

France's film certification board,  (Centre National de la Cinematographie: Commission de Classification, CNC) has now come under renewed censorship pressure by conservative organisations angry at what they perceive as an overlenient rating given to a Hollywood cartoon.

In the US, the film was rated R for strong crude sexual content, pervasive language, and drug use. The film was cut in the US to avoid an NC-17 rating, with the censors asking for the deletion of the hairy scrotum of a pita bread. This cut version has been distributed worldwide. In the UK, it had 15 for very strong language, strong sex references . In France it has been given a 12 certificate.

Jean-Frédéric Poisson, president of France's Christian Democratic party whinged:

An orgy scene for 12-year-olds! Everything remains to be done to combat early exposure to pornography.

La Manif Pour Tours, which has campaigned against same-sex marriage fired of an angry tweet:

Hello CNC, explain how you can authorise the screening of a giant orgy for the whole family?

The Association of Catholic Families warned parents:

[The movie gives] the appearance of being intended for young people and children. its content is not only coarse, but also clearly pornographic, under cover of being 'politically incorrect'.

The French ratings board has traditionally been more lenient than its UK and US equivalents, but is not entirely out on a limb in Europe as Sweden awarded an even lower rating, 11A.

 

2nd December

  The Dark Web...

French court jails man for the habitual visiting of websites promoting Islamic State
Link Here
France flagA man in France has been sentenced to two years in prison for repeatedly visiting pro-ISIS websites, even though there is no indication that he planned to stage a terrorist attack. The man was convicted by a court iunder a new law that has drawn scorn from civil liberties groups. In addition to the two-year prison sentence, he will have to pay a ?30,000 fine.

Police discovered the man's browsing history after conducting a raid on his house. During the investigation, they found pro-ISIS images and execution videos on his phone, personal computer, and a USB stick. An ISIS flag was on the wallpaper of his computer desktop, and his computer's password was "13novembrehaha," a reference to the night gunmen killed 130 people in attacks across Paris. The man had been regularly consulting jihadist websites for two years, police said.

This week's conviction is the latest handed down under a controversial law that criminalizes the "habitual" consultation of websites that promote terrorism. The law makes exceptions for those who visit the sites "in good faith" -- for research, to inform the public, or for judicial purposes.

 

1st December

 Petition: Encryption is under threat in Europe!...

Tell the EU Council: Protect our rights to privacy and security!
Link Here
access-now logoThe Council of the EU could undermine encryption as soon as December. It has been asking delegates from all EU countries to detail their national legislative position on encryption.

We've been down this road before. We know that encryption is critical to our right to privacy and to our own digital security. We need to come together once again and demand that our representatives protect these rights -- not undermine them in secret. Act now to tell the Council of the EU to defend strong encryption!

Dear Slovak Presidency and Delegates to the Council of the EU:

According to the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the Justice and Home Affairs Ministers will meet in December to discuss the issue of encryption. At that discussion, we urge you to protect our security, our economy, and our governments by supporting the development and use of secure communications tools and technologies and rejecting calls for policies that would prevent or undermine the use of strong encryption.

Encryption tools, technologies, and services are essential to protect against harm and to shield our digital infrastructure and personal communications from unauthorized access. The ability to freely develop and use encryption provides the cornerstone for today's EU economy. Economic growth in the digital age is powered by the ability to trust and authenticate our interactions and communication and conduct business securely both within and across borders.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression has noted, encryption and anonymity, and the security concepts behind them, provide the privacy and security necessary for the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in the digital age.

Recently, hundreds of organizations, companies, and individuals from more than 50 countries came together to make a global declaration in support of strong encryption. We stand with people from all over the world asking you not to break the encryption we rely upon.

Sign the  petition from act.accessnow.org

 

13th November

 Update: Censoring links breaks the internet...

Users Around the World Reject Europe's Upload Filtering Proposal
Link Here  full story: Copyrighting hyperlinks...EU propose copyright extension to hyperlinks

save the link openmediaUsers around the world have been outraged by the European Commission's proposal to require websites to enter into Shadow Regulation agreements with copyright holders concerning the automatic filtering of user-generated content . This proposal, which some are calling RoboCopyright and others Europe's #CensorshipMachine , would require many Internet platforms to integrate content scanning software into their websites to alert copyright holders every time it detected their content being uploaded by a user, without any consideration of the context.

People are right to be mad. This is going to result in the wrongful blocking of non-infringing content, such as the fair use dancing baby video . But that's only the start of it. The European proposal may also require images and text -- not just video -- to be automatically blocked on copyright grounds. Because automated scanning technologies are unable to evaluate the applicability of copyright exceptions, such as fair use or quotation, this could mean no more image macros , and no more reposting of song lyrics or excerpts from news articles to social media.

Once these scanning technologies are in place, it will also become far easier for repressive regimes around the world to demand that Internet platforms scan and filter content for purposes completely unrelated to copyright enforcement -- such as suppressing political dissent or enforcing anti-LGBT laws. Even when used as originally intended, these automated tools are also notoriously ineffective, often catching things they shouldn't, and failing to catch things they intend to. These are among the reasons why this new automatic censorship mechanism would be vulnerable to legal challenge under Europe's Charter of Fundamental Rights, as we explained in our last post on this topic .

A Filtering Mandate Infringes the Manila Principles on Intermediary Liability

Two years ago, well before the current European proposal was placed on the table, EFF and our partners launched the Manila Principles on Intermediary Liability . Despite not being a legal instrument, the Manila Principles have been tremendously influential. It has been endorsed by over 100 other organizations and referenced in international documents, such as reports by United Nations rapporteurs and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), along with the Global Commission on Internet Governance's One Internet report.

According to the Manila Principles (emphasis added):

Intermediaries should be shielded from liability for third-party content

  • Any rules governing intermediary liability must be provided by laws, which must be precise, clear, and accessible.

  • Intermediaries should be immune from liability for third-party content in circumstances where they have not been involved in modifying that content.

  • Intermediaries must not be held liable for failing to restrict lawful content.

  • Intermediaries must never be made strictly liable for hosting unlawful third-party content, nor should they ever be required to monitor content proactively as part of an intermediary liability regime .

Forcing Internet platforms ( i.e ., intermediaries) into private deals with copyright holders to automatically scan and filter user content is, effectively, a requirement to proactively monitor user content. Since sanctions would apply to intermediaries who refuse to enter into such deals, this amounts to an abridgment of the safe harbor protections that intermediaries otherwise enjoy under European law . This not only directly contravenes the Manila Principles, but also Europe's own E-Commerce Directive.

The Manila Principles don't ban proactive monitoring obligations for the sake of the Internet intermediaries; the ban is to protect users. When an Internet platform is required to vet user-generated content, it has incentive to do so in the cheapest manner possible, to ensure that its service remains viable. This means relying on error-prone automatic systems that place copyright holders in the position of Chief Censors of the Internet. The proposal also provides no recourse for users in the inevitable cases where automated scanning goes wrong.

That doesn't mean there should be no way to flag copyright-infringing content online. Most popular platforms already have systems in place that allow their users to flag content --for copyright infringement or terms of service or community standards violations. In Europe, the United States, and many other countries , the law also requires platform operators to address infringement notices from copyright owners; even this is the subject of considerable abuse by automated systems . We can expect to see far more abuse when automated copyright bots are also put in charge of vetting the content that users upload.

Europe's mandatory filtering plans would give far too much power to copyright holders and create onerous new barriers for Internet platforms that seek to operate in Europe. The automated upload filters would become magnets for abuse -- not only by copyright holders, but also governments and others seeking to inhibit what users create and share online.

If you're in Europe, you can rise up and take action using the write-in tool below, put together by the activists over at OpenMedia. This tool will allow you to send Members of the European Parliament your views on this repressive proposal, in order to help ensure that it never becomes law.

Take action: Save the Link

 

12th November

 Update: Wind up wound down...

Germany cancels a musical performance in Istanbul about the Armenian genocide
Link Here  full story: Erdogan Insulted in Germany...Free speech finds no refuge in Germany
aghetGermany's foreign ministry has cancelled a 13 November 2016 Dresden Symphony Orchestra performance of Aghet , commemorating the 100-year anniversary of the Armenian genocide, scheduled to take place at the German consulate in Istanbul. The ministry said that:

The whole consulate in Istanbul is not available on November 13 and that the invitations were sent out without State Department approval.

Orchestra director Markus Rindt told Reuters:

It's definitely been cancelled. They said they wanted to reschedule at a better time, but when would that be? This has been planned for years.

The Aghet project began in November 2015 when he conceived of the idea to bring together Armenian, Turkish and German musicians to play a concert together to remember the events that happened 101 years ago and to act a symbol of reconciliation.

In advance of the performance, the orchestra had invited Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu. But last April Turkey had demanded the European Commission pull its 200,000 Euros of funding from the symphony's project as the country takes offence at any mention of the 1915 Armenian genocide.

 

11th November

  Justifying the insulting cartoons...

Spanish prime minister considers law to ban internet memes that target him and his party
Link Here
mariano rajoySpain's ruling Popular Party (PP) has presented a censorship proposal to Congress that could result in the banning of memes, social network users' way of gaining comic revenge on the politicians that rule our lives.

The censorship law will target the spreading of images that infringe the honour of a person , by demanding that the butt of the joke gives permission for their images to be used in that way

The proposal is a disgraceful attack against the sometimes irreverent humour and political expression in memes, many of which have poked fun at the PP's leader and conservative prime minister, Mariano Rajoy.

Sources from the PP haves said that the proposal is merely an idea at this stage, and tries to deflect criticism by noting that it does not censor memes that are non-insulting.

So far the only impact of the reform proposal is to have sparked a fresh wave of memes aimed at Rajoy and the PP government, with dozens of social network users posting new gags accompanied by the hashtag #SinMemesNoHayDemocracia - no democracy without memes.

 

10th November

 Offsite Article: More anti-democratic, anti-freedom, trade agreement bollox from the EU...

Link Here  full story: Anti-democratic Trade Agreements...US led trade agreements to try to put corporations ahead of the people
tisa logoIs the EU abandoning its promotion of freedom of expression via trade agreements? By Jodie Ginsberg and Christian Borggreen

See article from project-disco.org

 

6th November

  'Terrorist' network in France taken down...

Why does the fight against terror mean that the authorities can trash the right to justice?
Link Here

France flagAn 18-year-old broke France's anti-terror laws by naming his home Wi-Fi network Daesh 21 . The unnamed man was given a three-month jail sentence, suspended for now, after he was found guilty of essentially publicly condoning a terrorist act or group.

According to daily newspaper The Public Good,  the man had chosen the name for his network as a joke. The 21 has no relevant significance.

A neighbor saw the network name and called the police, who arrested the man. After the police determined he did not pose a terrorism threat himself, they charged him with public support for terror acts.

The man was offered the opportunity to admit to the supposed 'crime' and accept 100 hours of community service punishment, but he declined and opted for a trial.

 

5th November

 Update: Storm troopers sent in to Facebook...

Germany continues to try and censor its way out of its refugee mess
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in Germany...Germany considers state internet filtering

Facebook logoFacebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is at the centre of a criminal investigation in Germany into whether Facebook adequately censors  Nazi-themed content posted on the social network.

Facebook's Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, and its European policy director, Richard Allan, are also under investigation, according to German newspaper Der Spiegel. All three have been accused by Chan-jo Jun, a Bavarian lawyer, of failing to ensure posts on Facebook containing racist abuse, threats of violence and Holocaust denial are removed.

Jun said he identified more than 430 posts on Facebook which he found offensive which were reported to Facebook but never deleted. Instead, he said Facebook sent him a generic response dismissing the posts as harmless.

According to Der Spiegel, prosecutors in Munich have now opened a preliminary investigation and are looking into whether there is enough evidence of a criminal offence. Under German law, Facebook is legally obliged to remove racist or Nazi-themed content as soon as it becomes aware of it.

Facebook has dismissed the allegations, saying they lack merit, and insists that none of its employees have broken any laws.

 

2nd November

  Historical wrongs righted...

France repeals regional blasphemy law
Link Here
France flagThe blasphemy law in force in the region of Alsace-Moselle, France, has been repealed by the national Senate! It means that France is now free of blasphemy laws as such!, although there are plenty of modern day equivalents claiming insults and mockery to be incitement to hatred.

The law was a bit of an anomaly in France as it had been inherited from a historic period of German rule in the region.

 

31st October

 Update: A test of democracy...

Popular Dutch far right politician on trial for insulting immigrants
Link Here  full story: Geert Wilders...Geert Wilders winds up the muslim world
NetherlandsDutch anti-Islam opposition leader Geert Wilders has gone on trial for inciting hatred and discrimination, 18 months after he led a chant for fewer Moroccans in the country and called them scum during campaigning for local elections.

A verdict is due in December.  The trial raise issues of free speech in the Netherlands particularly as Wilders' comments are supported by strong showings in the opinion polls, suggesting that the party could actually be vying for government in next year's election

 

28th October

  Ultimate Fight Censorship...

France bans the sport of mixed martial arts as made famous by UFC
Link Here
UFC 181 Hendricks vs LawlerThe sport of mixed martial arts has been banned as a sport in France under new combat sport laws.

The CFMMA (French MMA Confederation) have announced they will make a legal challenge against the new laws put into place by the French Sport Ministry.

The official press release from the French Sport Ministry said it has banned the use of the Octagon cage, known best in the UFC. The statement read:

Fights will take place on a carpet or in a ring with three or four ropes. The corners of the ring will be protected.

The following techniques are strictly outlawed and will lead to immediate disqualification:

  • Punches, kicks or strikes with the knees against a fighter on the ground;
  • any strike with the elbow;
  • headbutts;
  • blows to the genitals, the spine, the back of the head or the throat;
  • putting the fingers in the eyes, mouth or nose;
  • Pulling the hair;
  • biting;
  • throwing (the opponent) intentionally onto the head or neck;
  • throwing the opponent out of the ring.

Banning of any form of striking on the ground has been vetoed, essentially making any match-up a standing fight with the exclusion of elbows.

 

24th October

 Update: Pirate Party On Course For Historic Election Win in Iceland...

So what are its views on internet censorship?
Link Here
pirate party iceland logoThe Pirate Party in Iceland continues its shakeup of the local political arena. According to the latest polls the party now has a serious shot at taking part in the next Government coalition, with roughly 20% of all votes one week before the parliamentary elections.  

The Pirate Party was founded in 2006 by Rick Falkvinge, and has scored some significant victories over the years including a continuing presence in the European Parliament.

Iceland's Pirates have a great track record already, with three members in the national Parliament. However, more may join in the future as the party has added many new supporters in recent months. The Pirates have been leading the polls for most of the year and are currently neck-and-neck with the Social Democratic Alliance to become the largest party in the country.

This brings the Pirates in an unusual position where they have to start thinking about possible partners to form a coalition Government, for the first time in history.

TorrentFreak spoke with Ásta Helgadóttir, Member of Parliament for the Icelandic Pirate Party, who says that the party is ready to bring the change many citizens are longing for. Despite the Pirate name, copyright issues are not central to their plans. That said, they have spoken out against recent web-blocking efforts.

Iceland's ISPs have been ordered to block access to 'infringing' sites such as The Pirate Bay, which the party sees as a step in the wrong direction. The party fears that these censorship efforts will lead to more stringent measures. Helgadóttir said:

These measures are not a solution and only exacerbate the problem. There needs to be a review of copyright law and how creators are compensated for their work.

Helgadóttir has also been speaking about the censorship of internet porn. She commented in an interview with grapevine.is :

In 2013 the Pirate Party came along. The freedom of information aspect attracted me--I'm very much against censorship.

One idea being mooted at the time was the blocking of porn sites in Iceland, which set alarm bells ringing for Ásta. According to Icelandic law, pornography is illegal. It's a law from the 19th century, and it hasn't been enforced for fifteen years now. Then the idea of building a pornography shield around Iceland came up. And I thought, No, you can't do that! It's censorship! And they were like, No, it's not censorship, we're thinking about the children!'"

The Pirate Party is trying to infiltrate the system and change these 'heritage laws, because when you read a law, you have to understand the root of that law--when was it written, what was the context, and the culture. And now we're in the 21st century, with the internet, which changes everything.

The parliamentary elections will take place next week, October 29.

 

15th October

 Extract: Ever more extreme censorship demands...

Germany is getting worked up that it cannot get Facebook to adequately censor negative comments about refugees
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in Germany...Germany considers state internet filtering
Facebook logoGermanpulse has published an interesting piece about German politicians expecting social media websites to pre-censors posts that the government doesn't like:

We have reported on the German government's war against social media giants Facebook, Twitter and Google many times over the last year as the country tries to rid the popular sites of any signs of hate speech. While the companies have made attempts to appease government officials with stricter enforcement, each move is said to still not be enough. The question is: is Germany taking the fight too far?

Volker Kauder, a member of the CDU, spoke with Der Spiegel this week to say the time for roundtables is over. I've run out of patience, and argues that Facebook, Twitter and Google have failed and should pay 50,000 euro ($54,865) fines for not providing a strict level of censorship.

All major social media sites do provide tools to report hate speech offenders, but Kauder isn't the only one to argue that the tool is ineffective.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas made a statement that only 46 percent of the comments were erased by Facebook, while a mere one percent were taken care of by Twitter.

Maas' solution is not much different from Kauder's, as he told Handelsblatt that the companies should face legal consequences.

...Read the full article from germanpulse.com

Der Spiegel has also published an opinion piece showing a little exasperation with trying to get comments censored by Facebook.

In June, the national body made up of justice ministers from the 16 federal states in Germany launched a legislative initiative to introduce a law which, if passed, would require operators of Internet platforms to immediately disclose the identity of users whose online actions are the subject of criminal proceedings. The law explicitly covers companies that are not based in Germany, but in fact do business here.

Justice Minister Maas must now introduce the draft law to Chancellor Merkel's cabinet, but he's hesitant out of fear of a backlash among a net community that still views Facebook as a symbol of Internet freedom. So far, he has done little that goes beyond appeals. If he wanted too, however, Maas could push for a further tightening of the country's telecommunications law. All that would be needed is a clause stipulating that every Internet company that does business in Germany would be required to name one person within the firm who is a resident in the country who could be held liable under German law.

...Read the full article from spiegel.de

 

15th October

  Somebody deserves a good kicking...

Churchmen and politicians whinge about an art exhibit at Estonia's new National Museum
Link Here
estonia kick maryThe opening of Estonia's new National Museum has been overshadowed by protests from Church leaders and politicians over an exhibit they say mocks religion.

The exhibit is a virtual image of the Virgin Mary in a glass box. Visitors are invited to kick a spot on the plinth of the display, whereupon the image appears to fly into pieces and the word Reformation appears.

The Archbishop of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, Urmas Viilma, said the image offends the feelings of believers. He wrote on Facebook:

I very seriously doubt that this exhibit is suitable for the permanent collection of the National Museum of Estonia, even if it is interesting from a technical point of view or from the perspective of modern approach to the depiction of historical events.

The virgin Mary for a huge number of believers is not some historical figure or event, gone into oblivion, but a reality today. The ridicule was an insult to the feelings of believers.

The chairman of the opposition Conservative People's Party, Mart Helme added:

The image should be removed as soon as possible because the virtual destruction the authors offer insults the feelings of religious Russian-speaking residents and hinders their integration.

 

6th October

  Dangerous Truths...

Council of Europe calls on Theresa May to censor news media from reporting on the muslim background of terrorists
Link Here
Council of Europe flagThe Council of Europe has called for news censorship of the press such that it is not allowed to report when terrorists are muslim. The recommendations came as part of a list of 23 censorial demands to Theresa May's government on how to run the media in an alarming threat to freedom speech.

The report, drawn up by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), blamed the recent increase in hate crimes and racism in the UK on the worrying examples of intolerance and hate speech in the newspapers, online and even among politicians , although the research was done before the Brexit campaign. Of course there was no apparent attribution of blame on the terrorists themselves for stirring up the hate.

The suggestions sent to Downing Street urging the UK Government to reform criminal law and freedom of the press and in a brutal criticism of the British press, the report recommends ministers give more rigorous training to journalists.

But UK ministers firmly rebutted the remarkable demands, telling the body:

The Government is committed to a free and open press and does not interfere with what the press does and does not publish, as long as the press abides by the law.

The report, from the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) body, said there had been an increase in hate speech and racist violence in Britain between March 2009 and March 2016. The report recommends the British media be barred from reporting the Muslim background of terrorists. The report states:

ECRI considers that, in light of the fact that Muslims are increasingly under the spotlight as a result of recent ISIS-related terrorist acts around the world, fuelling prejudice against Muslims shows a reckless disregard, not only for the dignity of the great majority of Muslims in the United Kingdom, but also for their safety.

In this context, it draws attention to a recent study by Teeside University suggesting that where the media stress the Muslim background of perpetrators of terrorist acts, and devote significant coverage to it, the violent backlash against Muslims is likely to be greater than in cases where the perpetrators motivation is downplayed or rejected in favour of alternative explanations.

Of course the use of alternative explanations isn't likely to work very well in reality. It is perhaps already true that when news media speak of 'mentally disturbed' attackers, then this is simply a euphemism for 'muslim'. And equally if background details are omitted entirely, then it can be safely inferred that attackers are muslim.

 

6th October

 Update: Looking on the bright side...

German prosecutors drop case against comedian who insulted Erdogan
Link Here  full story: Erdogan Insulted in Germany...Free speech finds no refuge in Germany
Germany flagA German TV comedian who was the centre of a major diplomatic row between Berlin and Ankara over a poem insulting the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been told he will not face prosecution.

German prosecutors said that they had dropped their investigation into Jan Böhmermann because of insufficient evidence he had committed a crime. The explained that the poem was protected by so-called Kunstfreiheit, or artistic freedom and said that criminal actions could not be proven with the necessary certainty .

In March Böhmermann had read a poem on state TV in which he lampooned the Turkish leader, arguing that he was doing so to test the boundaries of satire.

However, legal proceedings are still not over for Böhmermann. On 2 November, a Hamburg court will decide whether a private prosecution that Erdogan himself has brought against the comic can go ahead. In addition, laywers for Erdogan have reportedly lodged an appeal against the state prosecutor's decision to drop the case.

After the decision, Böhmermann lashed out at Merkel's government:

If a joke causes a constitutional crisis, it's not the joke that's the problem, it's the state

In a pre-recorded video statement which veered wildly in tone, he made light of the controversy and gave a bizarre rendition of the Monty Python song Always Look on the Bright Side of Life complete with a surprisingly convincing English accent. But he also signalled he was not prepared to back down and renewed his attack on Erdogan:

Compared to what critical journalists, satirists and opposition figures are going through in Turkey, all this fuss about the Böhmermann Affair is a big sad joke in itself. While you sit watch this video people are in prison in Turkey with no chance of a fair trial, their passports surrendered, their jobs lost, just because they took a critical look at their own country.

Meanwhile, their relatives in Germany are afraid to speak freely on the phone, because they fear reprisals against their loved ones in Turkey.