The New Zealand has been debating how to censor internet TV in the country, and it seems to have resulted in the likes of Netflix being able to self-classify their content.
The initial thought was that New Zealand's film censors at the Office of Film
and Literature Classification should be given the job, but the likely expense seems to have swayed opinions.
Internal Affairs Tracey Martin has a bill in select committee which will make New Zealand classification labels like R16 mandatory for
commercial on-demand video content such as Netflix, Lightbox, and the iTunes movie store. Mandatory classification will require some sort of fee for the providers which is yet to be established. The current fee is more than $1100 for an unrated film.
Officials from the Department of Internal Affairs in a regulatory impact statement said the mandatory classification presented a risk that content providers may withdraw from the market due to an increased compliance burden should they be required to classify all content via the current process. Officials also noted the risk of content providers would pass on the cost of classification to consumers through higher prices.
Officials noted that an approach that allowed the providers to classify their own content using a method prescribed by the censorship office should mitigate that risk and that no provider had yet threatened to leave the market.
In the end the
Government opted to allow providers to self-classify, going against the wishes of the Children's Commissioner and the OFLC which wanted the current process followed.
One of China's longest-running independent film festivals has decided to shut down against the backdrop of mounting government censorship.
The China International Film Festival (CIFF) announced:
We believe that
under current local organizational conditions it is impossible to organize an effective film festival that has a pure, independent spirit.
The CIFF was founded in the eastern city of Nanjing in 2003 and has been staged 14 times. It
had screened films on sensitive subjects such as homosexuality and controversies surrounding the massive Three Gorges Dam project in central China.
Hong Kong's South China Morning Post quoted Zhang Xianmin, a Beijing Film Academy professor and the
festival's key organizer, as saying the shutdown takes China back to a more restricted era for film. Zhang added:
We just went back to 20 years ago, when there was no room and opportunity for independent films.
Norway Today has reported about the latest attempt by Chinese citizens to censor material in other countries It involves a delegation of more than 40 Chinese cross-country skiers, along with 15 coaches and managers, who are in the Norwegian
municipality of Meråker to train for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics:
The Chinese visitors have whinged about books in the local library that are banned in China. Among the books the delegation wanted removed is one about the Falun Gong movement that
has been banned in China since 1999.
Thankfully the library has refused categorically to remove any books. The library manager said:
We have freedom of speech in Norway so that was completely out of the
question. It's only a small incident, easily overlooked. But if it can happen in a tiny local library in the depths of Norway, just because a few Chinese skiers were training there, it is highly likely to start happening in other places, where more
Chinese citizens are present, and where China has greater economic and political influence.
Chinese authorities have approved a new set of comprehensive regulations that expand the scope of online censorship, emphasize the prohibition of 'negative' content and make platforms more liable for content violations.
China previously had very
detailed censorship laws laying out exactly what was banned and what part of the internet the rule applied to. The new Provisions on the Governance of the Online Information Content Ecosystem rationalises them into more general rules that apply to
the entire internet.
The new rules were approved in mid-December and will take effect in March. They apply to everyone and have noted that anyone who posts anything to the internet si to be considered a content producer.
Jeremy Daum, senior
fellow at the Yale Law School's Paul Tsai China Center notes that the new laws for what counts as illegal or now 'negative content' are quite vague. The document lays out what constitutes illegal content in sweeping terms. Content that undermines ethnic
unity or undermines the nation's policy on religions is forbidden, as is anything that disseminates rumors that disrupt economic or social order or generally harms the nation's honor and interests, among other rules.
The new regulations then go on to
dictate that content producers must employ measures to prevent and resist the making, reproduction or publication of negative information. This includes the following:
the use of exaggerated titles, gossip,
improper comments on natural disasters, major accidents, or other disasters,
anything with sexual innuendo or that is readily associated with sex, gore or horror,
or things that would
push minors towards behaviors that are unsafe or violate social mores.
Platforms are the ones responsible for policing all these restrictions, the rules say, and should establish mechanisms for everything from reviewing content and comments to real-time inspections to the handling of online rumors. They are to have
designate a manager for such activities and improve related staff.
Most national retailers in Thailand have just stopped handing out free plastic carrier bags to shoppers on January 1st
In the run up to the big day Thai TV added plastic bags to their list of social vices that must be optically censored, previously
guns, alcoholic drinks, and cigarettes.
Perhaps the TV companies would have more of an effect blurring out cars, motorbikes, airplanes, air conditioners and meat.
Anyway the censorship has caused much derision on social media and the Thai
environment minister stepped in to support the censorship.
National Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa said it was easy for the online community to criticise this act of self-censorship by TV stations. He defended the
broadcasters' "well intentioned" efforts by comparing it to the censorship of alcohol and cigarettes.
The BBC has posted an interesting review of internet and general control freakery in China. One interesting idea was the use of numbers for hash tag rallying calls as numbers can be pretty hard to censor by text filtering. The BBC explains:
Late last year, the term 996 cropped up on a number of social media microblogs and forums, originally by workers in China's tech industry as a subtle way to vent their frustrations at the excessive amount of work they were
expected to do.
The Chinese censors struggle to censor number sequences, given that they can often be innocuous. Consequently, Weibo users were able to use the term 996 to complain openly that their employer was violating China's
labour laws by making them work some 72 hours a week: from 9am to 9pm, six days a week.
But the phrase has now seen expanded usage beyond the tech industry, especially among China's young, who complained that overtime has become
Japanese politician Yamada Taro has proposed changes to Criminal Code 175, so that hentai and pornography would no longer be censored.
Article 175 of Japan's Criminal Code is to prevent the distribution and sale of of indecent material, including
pornography. This leads to a curious situation in which adult material must be partially censored, usually across genitalia.
For nearly 10 years, the industry standard was to obscure, blur or pixellate the crown of the penis (the part that funnels
out near the tip,) and clitoris, and instances of physical contact that constitutes sexual intercourse (i.e. insertions of objects into the vagina or the rectum).
The law also results in other oddities, such as the broadcast version of Jojo's
Bizzare Adventure censoring Jotaro Kujo smoking as he is 17 (Japan's minimum smoking age is 18). The censorship was done via a heavy shadow across the lower-half of his face.
While this debate might be taking place in Japan, the outcome of
this debate may impact the quality of entertainment you enjoy in your own home nation. After all, many agree that Japan is at the vanguard for many forms of visual entertainment. Even those that dislike Japanese erotic fantasy will agree, Japan boasts
tremendous diversity in the realm of fiction that is unavailable else where.
In 2019, one Japanese politician would take many by surprise. Yamada Taro of the Liberal Democratic Party (the same party as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe)
successfully gained a seat in the Japanese House of Councillors with 540,000 votes. He heavily appealed to the otaku voters being an obsessive fan, usually of anime and manga.
Since Yamada's proposal is still in it's infancy, there has not been
any outspoken support or opposition at this time. The changes would be strictly to pornography and hentai, while content involving real under-aged individuals and those who do not give their consent, will of course, remain illegal to distribute in Japan.
Two particular groups would likely be the biggest opposition to the law being changed. One of these was the Nihon Ethics of Video Association. Acting as the Japanese equivalent of the ESRB or PEGI, they act as rating organization for videos in
Japan. On proposes that they would not be in favor of the ban, as they would lose their job. The other likely opposition group is the Japanese Parent/Teacher Association (PTA).