Internet censors of the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) have instructed telecommunications companies and ISPs to block a list of pornography websites. Godfrey Mutabazi, Executive Director at the UCC, has said that they have identified 17 popular local and 10 international pornography websites which they, as the UCC, have asked ISP's and telecommunications companies to block.
The commission received the list of porn sites from the Pornography Control Committee. The committee has established that the list of the websites attached hereto is currently streaming pornography to Uganda in breach of section 13 of the Anti-Pornography Act, 2014.
Mutabazi has warned that telecom companies and internet providers risk penalties if they don't comply with the new directive.
Perhaps the recent introduction of high taxes on social media websites has pushed Ugandans onto the next best internet freebie, porn.
Today's headlines are dominated by the role of misinformation campaigns or "fake news" in undermining democracy in the West. From ongoing accusations of Russian meddling in Trump's election to Russian efforts to sway the Brexit and French Presidential election votes, these countries are confronting "fake news" as an ongoing and urgent threat to democracy. Yet in Latin America, where misinformation campaigns have prevailed throughout the twentieth century, concerns over "fake news" are hardly new . Latin American media concentration, disinformation campaigns, and biased coverage have long undermined informed civic discourse .
"Fake News" as a pretext for curbing free expression in Latin America
In 2018, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia and Costa Rica, among others, will undergo electoral processes involving their respective presidencies. These governments are beginning to exploit concerns over "fake news," as though it were a novel phenomenon, in order to adopt proposals to increase state control over online communications and expand censorship and Internet surveillance. Such rhetoric glosses over the fact that propaganda from traditional Latin American media monopolies has long been the norm in the region, and that Internet companies have played a critical role in counterbalancing this power dynamic. Frank La Rue, the former UN Special Rapporteur on Free Expression, remarked at the 2017 Internet Governance Forum on the inherent risks of importing the term "fake news" to Latin America:
I don't like the term "fake news" because I think there is a bit of a trap in it. We are confronting campaigns of misinformation. So we should talk about information and disinformation.
La Rue believes that when distinctions between fake and real news are drawn, they are done ultimately to dissuade the public from reading news or thinking independently. He argues that "the problem again is that fake news becomes a perfect excuse to just silence or shut down any alternative or any dissident voice." To respond to this threat, EFF co-signed an open letter along with other 34 Latin American NGOs at the end of last year.
When Brazil set up a council to counter fake news, the Army and the Brazilian intelligence agency--entities with a long track record of crushing minority or dissenting voices--were invited to join. The specter of "fake news" has also been a pretext for draconian bills in Brazilian parliament. The latest one, a recent proposal of unknown authorship , led to a great controversy when it was submitted to the Communication Council of National Congress' analysis without prior notice. The text defined as a crime the creation or sharing of false news, imposing detention penalties for those who propagate information the government deemed false. It also sought to modify a key component of Brazilian civil rights framework, the Marco Civil da Internet, by making companies liable for failing to remove or block reported posts within 24 hours or for not providing an easy tool by which the user can check whether the news is trustworthy. Internet companies would be subject to a staggering fine of up to 5% of their revenue in the previous fiscal year if they failed to remove content. Although the proposal was withdrawn as a reaction to public outcry, other bills with similar content remain in the parliament.
Mexico is also approaching election season; the country is set to hold the largest election in its history. In July 2018, Mexicans will elect not only a new president but also all federal legislators and nine state governors. The country's National Election Institute (INE) has recently signed an agreement with Facebook Ireland to fight fake news. The INE is expected to sign similar agreements with Google and Twitter. The agreement , a copy of which was obtained by the newspaper
, includes the use of Facebook's tools to measure civic participation, access to real-time data of voting results granted by INE, and the provision of a physical space in the Institute's office where, on election day, the company is expected to perform activities such as posting live videos. While neither party is meant to get involved in deciding what is true or false, transparency is a must. Luis Fernando Garcia, of Mexican NGO Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales, told EFF:
We need complete transparency about the nature of the relationship between INE and Facebook. Facebook should also refrain from adopting measures that discriminate against some media outlets and benefit others in the name of combating "fake news".
We need an Internet where we are free to meet, create, organize, share, associate, debate and learn. And we also need elections to be free from manipulation. As we have said before , people should be empowered by the tools they use, not left passive by others' use of such technology. But platforms should remain wary of purporting to validate news even in the face of calls to do so; if they assume this role, it will raise obvious concerns about how they'll respond to political pressures.
Like "fake news," policies around hate speech are often used as cover for censorship. It has served as a convenient pretext for advancing a repressive Honduran draft bill on Internet content regulation. After fraud accusations marred 2017 Honduras' presidential elections, Honduras finds itself in a grave political crisis. Amidst the turbulence, a bill regulating online speech was introduced in the Honduran National Congress in February 2018. The bill, which was widely criticized by civil society , provides broad leeway for Internet companies to block Internet content in the name of protecting users from hate speech, discrimination, or insults. The bill compels companies to take down third-party content within 24 hours in order not to be fined or even find their services blocked. This pro-censorship bill has also spurred recent debates on the creation of a national cybersecurity committee assigned to deal with, among other issues, fake news.
Efforts to keep "fake news" in check are spreading across Latin America. Disinformation campaigns cannot serve to wreck democracy and free speech. EFF will be monitoring this issue as this year's Latin American elections progress.
Canada has several province based film censors but Manitoba is now set to close down its own film censor and use the ratings from another province instead.
Culture Minister Cathy Cox said that she's started the dismantling of the Manitoba Film Classification Board and replacing it with the classifications designated by Consumer Protection British Columbia.
Cox told reporters she saw no problem accepting the standards of another province, especially one with an NDP government. She that this was not about cost to the state but was concerned with censorship costs borne by distributors. She said:
This is not about cost. The distributors pay the costs of classifying films shown and sold, and video games sold in stores in Manitoba. This is making it easier for distributors. This is an opportunity to reduce our footprint and to reduce red tape.
Her staff later supplied figures that the state censors had classified 377 films in Manitoba in 2016-2017.
Film festivals would be permitted under Cox's changes to classify their own films or use classifications provided by other jurisdictions
Trinidad and Tobago's media censor has banned a trivial calypso song from radio and TV.
The Telecommunications Authority Of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT) has banned the chutney song
Rowlee's Mudda Count
by Nermal 'Massive' Gosein being played by the country's radio and television stations.
TATT caution broadcasters over the song being played as it was deemed inappropriate and denigrating to women, with particular reference to mothers.
Many have come to Gosein's defence following the release of the song including Former CEO at the Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG) Ken Ali who said he could not recall such an intervention from the regulator of the electronic media in the 43 years he has been a media practitioner.
He noted that the song was e as a too-thinly-veiled odious and divisive commentary whose street popularity stems directly from the inverse disapproval for the national leadership of its subject. Presumably referring to prime minister Keith Rowley.
He stressed that radio stations have always been guided by their own standards and values, the laws of the land, its publics and the guidelines of their respective licences.
TATT Chairman Senior Counsel Gilbert Peterson, has since denied that there was any ban on Gosein's now infamous song
He is quoted as saying that there was no political interference, and broadcasters were urged to pay due regard to the obligations of your concession and the conditions within the Draft Broadcasting Code and take appropriate action in the interest of ethical and moral standards.