Downton Abbey is a 2019 UK period drama by Michael Engler. Starring Michelle Dockery, Maggie Smith and Tuppence Middleton.
Adapted from the hit TV series Downton Abbey that tells
the story of the Crawley family, a wealthy owner of a large estate in the English countryside in the early 20th century.
The Downton Abbey movie may seem family-friendly, but gay references have caused a stir for the Irish film
censor. The Irish Film Classification Office (IFCO) revealed that the film was initially given a 12A rating due to several offensive references to the sexuality of a gay butler, Thomas Barrow. A subplot in which Barrow visits a gay club in York sees the
bar raided by police who are verbally abusive towards the gay men, describing them as 'perverts' and 'queers'.
In fact filmmakers had consulted a historical adviser who said that Barrow's experiences are an accurate depiction of gay life in
interwar Britain. The plot was also praised by LGBT+ activists.
So the movie's distributor Universal were no doubt confident in appealing IFCO's decision, seeking a PG rating. The appeal was duly won and the film has now been re-rated to PG
for brief homophobic reference.
The appeals board felt an audience familiar with its characters and setting would have been aware of the storyline about a gay character, so they changed the rating to a PG.
Ger Connolly, the director of
IFCO, told The Times that the 12A classification had been a margin call. He said:
My decision came down to the use of words like 'pervert' in the context of a character's sexuality. For me, that moved it into the 12A
Connolly was clearly a lone voice in deciding on a 12A rating and received no support in the UK where the film was always rated PG uncut by the BBFC for mild threat, language.
The EU recently enacted an internet censorship law giving websites the right to demand fees for linking to them. It was hoped that Google in particular would end up paying for links to European news providers struggling for revenue in the modern internet
But it seems that Google may have other ideas. Google is changing the way it displays news stories produced by European publishers in France as new copyright rules go into effect. Rather than paying publishers to display snippets of their
news stories, as was intended, Google will show only headlines from articles instead.
Google says that it doesn't pay for news content as a matter of policy. The company shut down its Google News in Spain after a law passed in 2014 would have
mandated such payments. Google are sticking to their guns. The company said:
We believe that Search should operate on the basis of relevance and quality, not commercial relationships. That's why we don't accept payment from anyone
to be included in organic search results and we don't pay for the links or preview content included in search results.
This move will disappoint publishers who had hoped for additional revenue as a result of new copyright law that goes into effect
in France next month. The country is the first to implement European Union copyright rules passed earlier this year .
But perhaps there is a worse to come for European companies. It could be that in a page of Google news search results, US news
services may have embellished entries with snippets and thumbnail images whilst the European equivalent will just have a boring text link. And guess which entries people will probably click on.
Maybe it won't be long before European companies set
their fees at zero for using their snippets and images.
The EU's top court has ruled that Google does not have to apply the right to be forgotten globally.
It means the firm only needs to remove links from its search results in the EU, and not elsewhere
The ruling stems from a dispute between Google
and a French privacy censor CNIL. In 2015 it ordered Google to globally remove search result listings to pages containing banned information about a person.
The following year, Google introduced a geoblocking feature that prevents European users
from being able to see delisted links. But it resisted censoring search results for people in other parts of the world. And Googlechallenged a 100,000 euro fine that CNIL had tried to impose.
The right to be forgotten, officially known as the
right to erasure, gives EU citizens the power to request data about them be deleted. Members of the public can make a request to any organisation verbally or in writing and the recipient has one month to respond. They then have a range of considerations
to weigh up to decide whether they are compelled to comply or not.
Google had argued that internet censorship rules should not be extended to external jurisdictions lest other countries do the same, eg China would very much like to demand that the
whole world forgets the Tiananmen Square massacre.
The court also issued a related second ruling, which said that links do not automatically have to be removed just because they contain information about a person's sex life or a criminal
conviction. Instead, it ruled that such listings could be kept where strictly necessary for people's freedom of information rights to be preserved. However, it indicated a high threshold should be applied and that such results should fall down search
result listings over time.
Notably, the ECJ ruling said that delistings must be accompanied by measures which effectively prevent or, at the very least, seriously discourage an internet user from being able to access the results from one of
Google's non-EU sites. It will be for the national court to ascertain whether the measures put in place by Google Inc meet those requirements.
The Irish Communications Minister Richard Bruton has scrapped plans to introduce restrictions on access to porn in a new online safety bill, saying they are not a priority.
The Government said in June it would consider following a UK plan to block
pornographic material until an internet user proves they are over 18. However, the British block has run into administrative problems and been delayed until later this year.
Bruton said such a measure in Ireland is not a priority in the Online
Safety Bill, a draft of which he said would be published before the end of the year.
It's not the top priority. We want to do what we committed to do, we want to have the codes of practice, he said at the Fine Gael parliamentary party think-in. We
want to have the online commissioner - those are the priorities we are committed to.
An online safety commissioner will have the power to enforce the online safety code and may in some cases be able to force social media companies to remove or
restrict access. The commissioner will have responsibility for ensuring that large digital media companies play their part in ensuring the code is complied with. It will also be regularly reviewed and updated.
Bruton's bill will allow for a more
comprehensive complaint procedure for users and alert the commissioner to any alleged dereliction of duty. The Government has been looking at Australia's pursuit of improved internet safety.
The Council of Europe is an organisation which aims to uphold human rights across Europe (beyond the EU and reaching as far as Russia). The European Court of Human Rights was established under the auspices of the Council of Europe.
The Council has
recently been considering the issue of sexism being everywhere and has penned a long list of recommendations that are taken straight out of the uncompromising language of extreme feminism. The council explains in a press release:
New Council of Europe action against sexism
In March 2019, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers adopted a new Recommendation on Preventing and Combating Sexism. Not only does this text contain the first ever
internationally agreed definition of sexism, but it also proposes a set of concrete measures to combat this wide-spread phenomenon.
Sexism is present in all areas of life. From catcalls on the street, to women being ignored during
work meetings, to boys being bombarded with aggressive role-models in video games. It is also there when comments are made about politicians on the length of their skirts rather than their latest parliamentary report. When sexist behaviour accumulates,
it can lead to an acceptance of discrimination and even violence.
Secretary General Thorbj°rn Jagland said that No-one should be discriminated against because of their sex. This is a basic principle which we are still far from
respecting in practice. Through efforts to prevent and combat sexist behaviour, the Council of Europe wants to help ensure a level playing field for women and men, boys and girls.
Sexism is harmful and lies at the root of gender
inequality. It produces feelings of worthlessness, self-censorship, changes in behaviour, and a deterioration in health. Sexism affects women and girls disproportionately. Some groups of women, such as politicians, journalists, women's human rights
defenders, or young women, may be particularly vulnerable to acts of sexism. But it can also affect men and boys, when they don't conform to stereotyped gender roles. Moreover, the impact of sexism can be worse for some women and men due to ethnicity,
age, disability, social origin, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or other factors.
To address these issues and encourage the full implementation of the Recommendation, the Council of Europe has just launched a video
and action page under the hashtag #stopsexism and the slogan See it. Name it. Stop it. The aim is to help the wider public identify acts of sexism and take a stand against them.
Blasphemy was quietly abolished in Greece on 1 July 2019 under changes to the country's criminal code, in a huge step forward for the global campaign to end harsh blasphemy laws.
According to the Humanist Union of Greece, the crime of blasphemy
will be dropped from the country's Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedures from 1 July 2019. The news was welcomed by the Humanist Union of Greece after it was published on a Greek news site.
Greece's blasphemy law was among the most
restrictive in Europe, and has actively been used to prosecute people for often satirical posts deemed to insult religion. In a high-profile blasphemy case in Greece in 2012, blogger Filippos Loizos used a play on words to portray a revered Greek
Orthodox monk as a traditional pasta-based dish. He was sentenced to 10 months in prison after being found guilty of blasphemy. His conviction was later overthrown on appeal.
Greece is the 8th country to repeal its blasphemy law since 2015.
US social media companies have delayed signing a pledge which aims to combat what the French government deems to be online hate speech. The pledge pushes online service providers to commit to more aggressive censorship and moderation of content on their
Europe 1 radio is reporting that President Trump pressured US social media companies to delay signing the pledge saying that France was bullying the companies to join.
The pledge is titled Charter for an Open, Free, and Safe
Internet . It expands on the commitments made by social media companies in the immediate aftermath of the New Zealand mosque massacre. Social media companies took down a live stream of the killings and the killer, Brenton Tarrent's manifesto. New
Zealand ISPs blocked websites until such material was removed.
The pledge will widen the scope of the commitments from online service providers related to:
Taking down content
Providing support for victims
France wanted US social media companies to sign this pledge on August 23. However, according to France's junior minister for the digital industry CÚdric O, the signing has been delayed until August 27.
A senior Trump administration official
said that the White House is still evaluating the pledge and that the industry wants to water down the initiative.
Commentators suggest that background to the delay may be related to France's plans to introduce a new tax for US social media
The UK Government recently outlines its plans for appointing Ofcom as the internet censor overseeing new EU censorship rules introduced under a new Audio Visual Media Services AVMS directive.
In Ireland, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has
pitched for similar powers, with the government currently considering the BAI's position alongside the appointment of an online safety commissioner.
The BAI believes that it could become an EU-wide regulator for online video, because Google and
Facebook's European operations are headquartered in Dublin.
Earlier this year, the government announced plans that would see a future online safety commissioner given the power to issue administrative fines, meaning the commissioner would not have
to go through a court.
Requirements for Video Sharing Platforms in the Audiovisual Media Services Directive
The Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) is the regulatory framework governing EU-wide coordination of national legislation on all
audiovisual media. The government launched a consultation on implementing the newly introduced and amended provisions in AVMSD on 30 May, which is available
One of the main changes to AVMSD is the extension of scope to cover video-sharing platforms (VSPs) for the
first time. This extension in scope will likely capture audiovisual content on social media sites, video-sharing sites, pornography sites and live streaming services. These services are required to take appropriate measures to: protect children from
harmful content; protect the general public from illegal content and content that incites violence or hatred, and; respect certain obligations around commercial communications.
The original consultation, published on 30 May,
outlined the government's intention to implement these requirements through the regulatory framework proposed in the Online Harms White Paper
. However, we also indicated the possibility of an interim approach ahead of the regulatory framework coming into force to ensure we meet the transposition deadline of 20 September 2020. We now plan to take forward this interim approach and have
written to stakeholders on 23 July to set out our plans and consult on them.
This open letter and consultation sent to stakeholders, therefore, aims to gather views on our interim approach for implementing requirements pertaining
to VSPs through appointing Ofcom as the national regulatory authority. In particular, it asks questions regarding:
how to transpose the definition of VSPs into UK law, and which platforms are in the UK's jurisdiction;
the regulatory framework and the regulator's relationship with industry;
the appropriate measures that should be taken by platforms to protect users;
the information gathering powers Ofcom should have to oversee VSPs;
the appropriate enforcement and
sanctions regime for Ofcom;
what form the required out of court redress mechanism should take; and
how to fund the extension of Ofcom's regulatory activities from industry.
Update: The press get wind of the EU censorship nightmare of the new AVMS directive
The government is considering giving powers to fine video-sharing apps and websites to the UK's media censor Ofcom.
The proposal would see Ofcom able to impose multi-million pound fines if it judges the platforms have failed to prevent youngsters
seeing pornography, violence and other harmful material.
Ofcom are already the designated internet censor enforcing the current AVMS censorship rules. These apply to all UK based Video on Demand platforms. The current rules are generally less
stringent than Ofcom's rules for TV so have not particularly impacted the likes of the TV catch up services, (apart from Ofcom extracting significant censorship fees for handling minimal complaints about hate speech and product placement).
notable exception is the regulation of hardcore porn on Video on Demand platforms. Ofcom originally delegated the censorship task to ATVOD but that was a total mess and Ofcom grabbed the censorship roles back. It too became a bit of a non-job as ATVOD's
unviable age verification rules had effectively driven the UK adult porn trade into either bankruptcy or into foreign ownership. In fact this driving the porn business offshore gave rise to the BBFC age verification regime which is trying to find ways to
censor foreign porn websites.
Anyway the EU has now created an updated AVMS directive that extends the scope of content to be censored, as well as the range of websites and apps caught up the law. Where as before it caught TV like video on demand
websites, it now catches nearly all websites featuring significant video content. And of course the list of harms has expanded into the same space as all the other laws clamouring to censor the internet.
In addition, all qualifying video websites
will have to register with Ofcom and have to cough up a significant fee for Ofcom's censorship 'services'.
The EU Directive is required to be implemented in EU members' laws by 20th September 2020. And it seems that the UK wants the censors
to be up on running from the 19th September 2020.
Even then, it would only be an interim step until an even more powerful internet censor gets implemented under the UK's Online Harms plans.
The Telegraph reported that the proposal was
quietly agreed before Parliament's summer break and would give Ofcom the power to fine tech firms up to 5% of their revenues and/or block them in the UK if they failed to comply with its rulings. Ofcom has said that it is ready to adopt the powers.
A government spokeswoman told the BBC.
We also support plans to go further and legislate for a wider set of protections, including a duty of care for online companies towards their users.
TechUK - the industry group that represents the sector - said it hoped that ministers would take a balanced and proportionate approach to the issue. Its deputy chief executive Antony Walker said:
Key to achieving
this will be clear and precise definitions across the board, and a proportionate sanctions and compliance regime, said
The Internet Association added that it hoped any intervention would be proportionate. Daniel Dyball, the
association's executive director.said:
Any new regulation should be targeted at specific harms, and be technically possible to implement in practice - taking into account that resources available vary between
The BBC rather hopefully noted that if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal, we will not be bound to transpose the AVMSD into UK law.
Facebook has agreed to settle a years-long legal battle with a French teacher who sued after the social media giant shuttered his account when he posted a renowned 19th-century painting that features a woman's genitals.
The dispute dates to 2011, when
the teacher, Frederic Durand, ran foul of Facebook's censorship of nude images after posting a link that include a thumbnail image of L'Origine du Monde (The Origin of the World), an 1866 painting by the realist painter Gustave Courbet.
Durand argued that Facebook was infringing on his freedom of expression. He sought 20,000 euro in damages and initially won his case in a Paris court but a higher court overturned the ruling in March 2018.
Durand had been preparing an appeal, but in a statement to AFP, his lawyer Stephane Cottineau said a deal had been reached for Facebook to make an unspecified donation to a French street art association called Le MUR (The WALL).
YouTube has a long censorship list, including the politically right, the politically incorrect, and anyone who may offend touchy corporate advertisers. So more or less anybody could fall foul at any time
You'd think YouTube would be keen on supporting creators who generate content and income for the company. But Google is obviously a bit too rich to care much, and so content creators have to live with the knowledge that their livelihoods could easily be
wiped out by even the most trivial of political or PC transgressions.
YouTube arbitrarily bans and demonitises those from a long list of no-noes, including being on the political right, offending the easily offended, being politically incorrect, or of
course saying something corporate advertisers don't like.
Needless to say there is a long list of aggrieved creators that have an axe to grind with YouTube, and plenty more who are walking on eggshells trying to make sure that they are not the
And now they're fighting back. An obscure 'YouTubers union' has joined forces with IG Metall -- Germany an Europe's largest industrial union, to form the campaigning group FairTube.
FairTube has called for the following from
YouTube and given it until 23 August to engage with it, or else.
Publish all categories and decision criteria that affect monetization and views of videos
Give clear explanations for individual decisions -- for example, if a video is demonetized, which parts of the video violated which criteria in the
Advertiser-Friendly Content Guidelines?
Give YouTubers a human contact person who is qualified and authorized to explain decisions that have negative consequences for YouTubers (and fix them if they are mistaken)
Let YouTubers contest
decisions that have negative consequences
Create an independent mediation board for resolving disputes (here the Ombuds Office of the Crowdsourcing Code of Conduct can offer relevant lessons)
Formal participation of YouTubers in
important decisions, for example through a YouTuber Advisory Board
At first glance one may wonder if the union has any way to generate a little leverage over YouTube but they have been thinking up a few ideas:
Contesting the status of YouTube creators as self-employed, thus creating a greater duty of care on YouTube towards its creators.
Claiming GDPR violations due to YouTube's refusal to give creators the data it stores about them and which it
does share with advertisers.
Old fashioned collective action -- not so much striking as spreading the word and joining the union to put collective pressure on YouTube and its own Google.
According to a leaked EU internet censorship document obtained by Netzpolitik, a German blog, the European
Commission (EC) is now preparing a new Digital Services Act to unify and extend internet censorship across the EU.
The proposals are partially to address eCommerce controls required to keep up with technological changes, but it also addresses more
traditional censorship to control 'fake news' political ideas it does not like and 'hate speech'.
The new rules cover a wider remit of internet companies covering all digital services, and that means anything from ISPs, cloud hosting, social
media, search engines, ad services, to collaborative economy services (Uber, AirBnB etc).
The censorship regime envisaged does not quite extend to a general obligation for companies to censor everything being uploaded, but it goes way beyond
current censorship processes. Much of the report is about unifying the rules for takedown of content.
The paper takes some of the ideas from the UK Online Harms whitepaper and sees requirements to extend censorship from illegal content to
The authors perceive that unifying censorship rules for all EU countries as some sort of simplification for EU companies, but as always ever more rules just advantages the biggest companies, which are unfortunately for
the EU, American. Eg requiring AI filtering of content is a technology very much in the control of the richest and most advanced companies, ie the likes of Google.
Actually the EU paper does acknowledge that EU policies have in the past advantaged
US companies. The paper also notes unease at the way that European censorship decisions, eg the right to be forgotten, have become something implemented by the American giants.
The German film censors of the FSK started up 70 years ago. After World War II, according to the Allies, a post was supposed to replace military censorship and thus block propaganda films with National Socialist content. Politicians wanted to seize the
opportunity and connect it with a state control authority for the protection of minors.
Although there is no legal obligation in Germany to have films examined by the FSK, according to the Youth Protection Act, cinema and video films must be provided
with an age-approval mark. That is, a film that has no FSK certificate, may only be seen or purchased by adults.
Saying that, the rules for selling 18 rated videos seem very onerous in Germany and it has led to large numbers of films being cut for
the easier to retail 16 rating.
The FSK charges film distributors 1000 euro for its age rating. A movie is rated by five examiners. The odd number is important because it is decided by a simple majority. The chairman is the Permanent
Representative of the Supreme State Youth Authorities, in addition to a youth protection expert, for example, from the youth welfare office, and a public representative, for example, of churches, the Central Council of Jews or the Federal Youth. Two
examiners are selected by the FSK although they must be independent of the film industry.
Going self rated in 2020
Age ratings can be self applied for online films so an FSK rating is not required. In addition, the
online streaming competition is rather diminishing the market for DVDs. And the declining DVD sales makes the censorship fees every more burdensome.
So to tray and reduce costs the FSK wants to start a new test procedure next year. The
distributors will fill in a questionnaire with information, such as hard violence, explicit sex scenes or similar. A computer program calculates an age rating. Releases of 18+ years or for controversial/contested cases will still be consider by an FSK
In addition to the cost savings, the FSK hopes with the new system to find a connection on the international market.
Denmark is considering the censorship of social media after an Instagram influencer's suicide note kicked off a controversy.
Instagram personality Fie Laursen posted a suicide note which received 30,000 comments and 8,000 likes. The public suicide
note remained online for two days before Laursen herself took it down, having received treatment in a local hospital for an attempted overdose.
In the aftermath, Danish Minister of Children and Education Pernille Rosenkrantz-Theil has proposed
that influencers and bloggers must adhere to press based rules to avoid 'harm' to the wider public. Rosenkrantz-Theil said:
All journalists are familiar with the press ethics rules that, for example, that one must
be careful about talking about suicide in the public space. When managing popular blogs with hundreds of thousands of followers, I think we can make the same demands.
Rosenkrantz-Theil proposes the formation of a governmental
censorship board to enforce such rules which would be granted the authority to remove material in breach of whatever guidelines were created. The politician also outlined a scenario whereby the influencers would have to designate three people to have the
password for their accounts. These people can then remove a post if they believe it violates the press ethics.
The proposed Press Board would be afforded the right to criticize and ultimately, to censor, offending posts that broke any potential
ethical guidelines. The censor's remit would be limited to those influencers with more than 5,000 followers.
Google has been accused of blacklisting pro-life YouTube search entries ahead of last year's vote in Ireland on legalizing abortion. Pundits call it a deliberate manipulation and demand that the company be held accountable.
Google's manual interference with YouTube search results may have played a role in the 2018 referendum on abortion in Ireland surfaced last week, when Project Veritas website published an insider-based article on the matter. Blocked terms reportedly
included abortion is murder, Irish Catholic, pro-life and other terms.
Google responded, saying that there was no distinction between pro-life or pro-choice queries on YouTube at the time and that their whole procedure was transparent.
is hardly a credible response from Google, their processes are never transparent, so how can one believe the other half of the statement?
The Pirate Party political movement owes its early success to sticking up for The Pirate Bay, following a raid in Sweden. In recent years Pirates have delivered many excellent politicians and Marcel Kolaja, one of the new MEPs, has just been elected as a
Vice-President of the EU Parliament.
4 Pirate MEPS were elected at the last European Election with one from Germany and three from the Czech Republic.
During the last term, the excellent Julia Reda was at the forefront of many lawmaking
discussions, particularly with regard to the new Copyright Directive. While Reda recently left Parliament, the new MEPs obviously have similar ambitions.
With 426 votes, Marcel Kolaja was elected with an absolute majority in the second voting
round. He will serve as one of the fourteen Vice-Presidents tasked with replacing the President as chair of the plenary if needed, as well as a variety of other tasks.
Brexit party MEPs show their disrespect of EU institutions by turning their backs on the EU anthem
German politicians have proposed that people who desecrate the European flag could be faced with a prison sentence.
German politicians, in the east German state of Saxony, are now trying to use the law to force people to respect EU symbols.
Saxony state's justice minister has drafted a bill that, if passed, would mean that anyone who denigrates the EU anthem or removes, destroys, damages, or makes useless or unrecognisable the EU flag could face up to three years' imprisonment or a hefty
There is already a similar law in Germany to protect German flags and symbols and this change would extend the principle to EU equivalents
Germany has fined Facebook for failing to detail the number of complaints received in a transparency report.
The Federal Office for Justice (BfJ,) a subdivision of the German justice ministry, announced that it had issued Facebook a fine of 2 million
euro for failing to meet the requirements of Berlin's Network Enforcement Act, a law against illegal content, in its transparency report for the first half of 2018.
In the penalty charge notice, the BfJ reprimands in particular that in the
released report, the number of received complaints about unlawful content is incomplete, the office said in its announcement, adding that this is creating a distorted image in the public about the extent of unlawful content [on the platform] and the way
the social network is dealing with it.