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UK Government Watch


2021: April-June

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Commented: Censorship on Demand...

The Government is considering extending the TV censorship regime to Video on Demand services like Netflix and Apple TV


Link Here8th July 2021

As part of an ongoing strategic review of the UK public service broadcasting system, the government will review the ownership model and remit of Channel 4 and consider tightening regulation of video-on-demand services such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video.

With a fast-evolving media landscape, increasing competition and changing audience habits posing imminent challenges, moving Channel 4 into private ownership and changing its remit could help secure its future as a successful and sustainable public service broadcaster.

The government will also consult on whether the regulation of video-on-demand services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime need strengthening so they are subject to similar rules as traditional "linear" broadcasters such as the BBC, ITV and Sky.

It will consider whether new rules are needed to protect viewers of video-on-demand services - such as changes to age ratings and addressing impartiality and accuracy rules for documentaries and news content - alongside measures to level the playing field so public service broadcasters can compete with international rivals.

This will help ensure the country has a diverse, free and pluralistic broadcasting landscape with high standards.

The reviews will come ahead of a broadcasting white paper due in the autumn. The white paper would consider the future of the country's broadcasting landscape with the ultimate aim of making sure it serves listeners and viewers on all platforms and across the UK.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said:

Technology has transformed broadcasting but the rules protecting viewers and helping our traditional channels compete are from an analogue age.

The time has come to look at how we can unleash the potential of our public service broadcasters while also making sure viewers and listeners consuming content on new formats are served by a fair and well-functioning system.

So we'll now be looking at how we can help make sure Channel 4 keeps its place at the heart of British broadcasting and level the playing field between broadcasters and video-on-demand services.

Video-on-demand services

Video-on-demand services available in the UK are not regulated to the same level as "linear" television channels and some services such as Netflix and Apple TV+ are not regulated in the UK at all.

Only content on the BBC iPlayer is subject to Ofcom's Broadcasting Code, which includes enhanced protections to audiences from harmful or offensive material and rules on accuracy and impartiality.

Existing audience protections on UK-regulated video-on-demand services are primarily focused on children and rules preventing content which incites hatred. Some services have introduced their own voluntary procedures - such as Netflix's voluntary age ratings partnership with the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).

The current landscape makes for an inconsistent, ad-hoc and potentially harmful gap in regulation between video-on-demand services alongside a potential competitive disadvantage between UK broadcasters and their internationally-funded online counterparts.

It is also almost twenty years since the UK broadcast sector's regulatory framework was introduced in the Communications Act 2003, which was designed before the arrival of online companies such as Apple+, Amazon Prime and Netflix in their current form.

The government will also take forward existing commitments to legislate to strengthen public service broadcasters' "prominence" online so that their video-on-demand content can easily be found and accessed on smart TVs and other platforms and devices.

 

Update: Now the censors are coming for Netflix

8th July 2021. See article from spiked-online.com

The government wants Ofcom to regulate streaming services. This is bad news for free expression.

 

 

Updated: Censored comments...

Comments about the UK Government's new Internet Censorship Bill


Link Here28th June 2021
Full story: Online Safety Bill...UK Government legislates to censor social media

Comment: Disastrous

11th May 2021. See article from bigbrotherwatch.org.uk

Mark Johnson, Legal and Policy Officer at Big Brother Watch said:

The Online Safety Bill introduces state-backed censorship and monitoring on a scale never seen before in a liberal democracy.

This Bill is disastrous for privacy rights and free expression online. The Government is clamping down on vague categories of lawful speech. This could easily result in the silencing of marginalised voices and unpopular views.

Parliament should remove lawful content from the scope of this Bill altogether and refocus on real policing rather than speech-policing.

 

 

Offsite Comment: Online safety bill: a messy new minefield in the culture wars

13th May 2021. See article from theguardian.com by Alex Hern

The message of the bill is simple: take down exactly the content the government wants taken down, and no more. Guess wrong and you could face swingeing fines. Keep guessing wrong and your senior managers could even go to jail.

Content moderation is a hard job, and it's about to get harder.

 

 

Offsite Comment: Harm Version 3.0

15th May 2021. See article from cyberleagle.com by Graham Smith

Two years on from the April 2019 Online Harms White Paper, the government has published its draft Online Safety Bill. It is a hefty beast: 133 pages and 141 sections. It raises a slew of questions, not least around press and journalistic material and the newly-coined content of democratic importance. Also, for the first time, the draft Bill spells out how the duty of care regime would apply to search engines, not just to user generated content sharing service providers.

This post offers first impressions of a central issue that started to take final shape in the government's December 2020 Full Response to consultation: the apparent conflict between imposing content monitoring and removal obligations on the one hand, and the government's oft-repeated commitment to freedom of expression on the other - now translated into express duties on service providers.

The draft Bill represents the government's third attempt at defining harm (if we include the White Paper, which set no limit). The scope of harm proposed in its second version (the Full Response) has now been significantly widened.

See article from cyberleagle.com

 

 

Offsite Comment: The unstoppable march of state censorship

17th May 2021. See article from spiked-online.com

Vaguely worded hate-speech laws can end up criminalising almost any opinion.

 

 

Offsite Comment: Drowning internet services in red tape

 18th May 2021. See article from techmonitor.ai by Laurie Clarke

The UK government has unveiled sprawling new legislation that takes aim at online speech on internet services 203 stretching from illegal to legal yet harmful content. The wide-ranging nature of the proposals could leave internet businesses large and small facing a huge bureaucratic burden, and render the bill impractical to implement.

 

 

Offsite Comment: UK online safety bill raises censorship concerns and questions on future of encryption

24th May 2021. See article from cpj.org

 

 

Offsite Comment: Why the online safety bill threatens our civil liberties

26th May 2021. See article from politics.co.uk by Heather Burns

With the recent publication of the draft online safety bill, the UK government has succeeded in uniting the British population in a way not seen since the weekly clap for the NHS. This time, however, no one is applauding. After two years of dangled promises, the government's roadmap to making the UK the safest place in the world to be online sets up a sweeping eradication of our personal privacy, our data security, and our civil liberties.

 

 

Offsite Comment: Misguided Online Safety Bill will be catastrophic for ordinary people's social media

23rd June 2021. See article from dailymail.co.uk

The Government's new Online Safety Bill will be catastrophic for ordinary people's freedom of speech, former minister David Davis has warned.

The Conservative MP said forcing social networks to take down content in Britain they deem unacceptable seems out of Orwell's 1984.

Davis slammed the idea Silicon Valley firms could take down posts they think are not politically correct - even though it is legal.

See full article from dailymail.co.uk

 

 

Offsite Comment: On the trail of the Person of Ordinary Sensibilities

28th June 2021. See article from cyberleagle.com by Graham Smith

  The bill boils down to what a mythical adult or child of 'ordinary sensibilities' considers to be 'lawful but awful' content.

 

 

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

 2nd July 2021. See article by Heather Burns

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

 

 

 

 

Offsite Article: OnlyFans pulled up by the BBC when youngsters fool age verification...


Link Here 29th May 2021
Full story: Online Safety Bill...UK Government legislates to censor social media
Asking the interesting question for future age verification laws. In today's blame society who has to carry the can when people inevitably find ways to circumvent the system. Is it the user, the website, or the age verification service?

See article from bbc.co.uk

 

 

Offsite Article: Endgame for end-to-end encryption...


Link Here4th April 2021
Full story: UK Government vs Encryption...Government seeks to restrict peoples use of encryption
Wired has reported that the Home Office is actively exploring legal and technical mechanisms to compel Facebook and WhatsApp to break end-to-end encrypted messaging

See article from openrightsgroup.org


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