Asia Pacific Censorship News

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Offsite Article: Of indeterminate age...


Link Here 12th November 2019
South Korea court rules explicit anime and manga drawings are images of child sex abuse

See article from telegraph.co.uk

 

 

Fake news...

Thailand opens its new internet control center


Link Here 2nd November 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in Thailand...Thailand implements mass website blocking
Thailand's Digital Economy and Society (DES) Minister, Buddhipongse Punnakanta, has launched the government's 'anti-fake-news' centre at the head office of the country's state telecoms company TOT.

Buddhipongse said that any challenged infomation will be verified within two hours by the centre. The verification process is said to include both human and artificial intelligence. He added:

Some 200 organisations in our network will each send two people to serve as contact persons within 24 hours who have to receive cases and help verify whether their obtained information is true or false.

The centre will look at the top 10-20 most-shared news items or messages on social media platforms, including Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter.

People are also allowed to send information they find suspicious to the centre so it can be checked and verified with relevant organisations. The verified information will be shared through online channels.

Any information deemed as infringement will be forwarded to the Royal Thai Police for investigation.

The center will employ about 30 checkers who will target news about government policies and content that broadly affects peace and order, good morals, and national security.

 

 

Telegram from Beijing...

Hong Kong government turns to internet censorship to restrict protests


Link Here 2nd November 2019
Hong Kong has been dealt its first court ruling that censors the internet after a court ordered the banning of certain online messages related to protests.

On 31st October Hong Kong's High Court issued an interim injunction banning people from disseminating, circulating, publishing, or re-publishing on any internet-based platform or medium any information that promotes, encourages, or incites the use or threat of violence.

Two platforms were named in government press release announcing the order. A local Reddit-like forum LIHKG and the messaging app Telegram.

The government of pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam stated that these platforms and mediums have been abused to incite protesters to participate in unlawful activities, such as damaging targeted properties.

The injunction was issued at the request of Hong Kong's Secretary of Justice and the ban will be effective until 16th November when a full court judgement will be announced.

 

 

Crossing the line...

New Zealand film censor bans bad taste shoot 'em up set in Christchurch mosque murders


Link Here 31st October 2019
Full story: Games censorship in New Zealand...Gal*Gun video game banned

New Zealand's Chief Censor David Shanks has announced two bans.

The first was a document said to have been shared by the terrorist who killed two people in Halle, Germany earlier this month. It has been classified as objectionable under the Films, Videos & Publications Classification Act 1993. A live stream of the event had already been banned.

Shanks also banned is a low priced video game that puts the player in the role of a killer called Brenton Torrent with the game play consisting solely of the murder of defenceless people. He said:

The Shitposter from 2 Genderz Productions, that celebrates the livestream of the March 15 terrorist attacks in Christchurch, is classified objectionable.

The creators of this game set out to produce and sell a game designed to place the player in the role of a white supremacist terrorist killer. In this game, anyone who isn't a white heterosexual male is a target for simply existing.

This game is cheaply and crudely made, with little or no appeal in terms of the challenge of its gameplay. Everything about this game, from the name of the shooter character down to its purchase price ($14.88) makes it clear that this is a product created for and marketed to white supremacists who are interested in supporting and celebrating white extremist attacks.

...

The games producers will try to dress their work up as satire but this game is no joke.

It crosses the line.

 

 

Once Upon a Time in Censorland...

China bans Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Was it for an irreverent depiction of Bruce Lee?


Link Here 20th October 2019
Full story: Film Censorship in China...All Chinese films censored to be suitable for kids
Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood is a 2019 USA / UK comedy drama by Quentin Tarantino.
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie. BBFC link IMDb

Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood visits 1969 Los Angeles, where everything is changing, as TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) make their way around an industry they hardly recognize anymore. The ninth film from the writer-director features a large ensemble cast and multiple storylines in a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood's golden age.

A few days ago the Chinese cinema release of Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood was cancelled with just a week's notice. The film censors banned the film but did not given any explanation of the reason why.

Tarantino, who is known to be opposed to any kind of tinkering with his films and has final-cut rights included in his contract, has no plans to bring his film back to the editing bay, especially given that China has offered no explanation for what is objectionable in the film that revolves around the events leading up to the infamous Manson Family murders of 1969.

The decision to halt the release is speculated to be about Tarantino's portrayal of the late martial arts hero Bruce Lee, who was of Chinese descent. It seems that Bruce Lee's daughter, Shannon Lee, made a direct appeal to China's National Film Administration, asking that it demand changes to her father's portrayal. Friends and family of the Hollywood action star have criticized Tarantino for his portrayal of Lee, saying it doesn't resemble the real-life man and is instead a caricature.

Another source suggested that China may finally be balking at the film's violence, which is graphic at times but far less than a typical Tarantino film. However there are reports that the film had actually been approved and that the something must have happened to change the censor's mind.

 

 

Updated: Abominable gaslighting...

US/Chinese kid's cartoon banned and cut in Asian countries over propaganda reinforcing China's grab of the South China Sea


Link Here 20th October 2019
Abominable is a 2019 China / USA  children's cartoon comedy by Jill Culton and Todd Wilderman (co-director).
Starring Chloe Bennet, Albert Tsai and Tenzing Norgay Trainor. IMDb

Three teenagers must help a Yeti return to his family while avoiding a wealthy man and a zoologist who want it for their own needs.

The new animated children's movie Abominable, a co-production between the American studio DreamWorks and the Chinese company Pearl Studio, seems innocent enough. A Chinese girl finds a yeti, a mythical creature also known as the Abominable Snowman.

But in Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia, the abomination in the movie is not the yeti but an image of a map of the South China Sea. And on that map, there's a U-shaped dotted line that encompasses almost the entire South China Sea. It's known as the Nine-Dash Line.

Under international agreements, China does not have exclusive rights to the entire South China Sea. But Beijing has just simply ignored that and called it an illegitimate ruling. Now at every opportunity China presents its claims as fact.

This claim is not OK with other countries in the region:

  • The image of the map caused Vietnam to remove the movie from theaters, according to a Vietnamese official.
  • The Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. proposed to cut out the said contentious scene and even suggested a universal boycott of all @Dreamworks productions from here on. Other politicians have called for a ban but so far this has not happened
  • Malaysia's film censor has ordered the China map to be cut

Update: Banned in the Philippines

19th October 2019. See article from cebudailynews.inquirer.net

The animated film has been removed from Philippine theaters since Tuesday, the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board said in a statement.

MTRCB understands the situation brought about by the movie 'Abominable.' We wish to assure the public that the said movie is already off the Philippine market effective October 15, 2019, said MTRCB Chair Rachel Arenas.

Update: Withdrawn in Malaysia

19th October 2019. See article from ca.reuters.com

Abominable will not be released in Malaysia after its producers Universal declined to implement censor cuts to a scene showing China's nine-dash line claim to the South China Sea.

 

 

Updated: Band in China...

South Park gets totally taken down in China over a Winnie the Pooh joke


Link Here 20th October 2019
Full story: South Park...TV comedy offends the easily offenced
South Park's latest episode Band in China mocked Hollywood for shaping its content to please the Chinese government.

Beijing responded by deleting all clips, episodes and discussions of the Comedy Central show from all Chinese streaming services, social media and even fan pages.

On Monday afternoon, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone issued a statement with a faux apology about the ban:

Like the NBA , we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts, the statement reads. We too love money more than freedom and democracy. Xi doesn't look like Winnie the Pooh at all. Tune into our 300th episode this Wednesday at 10! Long live the great Communist Party of China. May the autumn's sorghum harvest be bountiful. We good now China?

The Band in CHina episode featured a pair of storylines about China. One involves Randy getting caught attempting to sell weed in China and getting sent to a work camp similar to those Beijing has been using in Xinjiang Province to hold up to a million Chinese Muslims. While he's at the work camp, Randy runs into an imprisoned Winnie the Pooh.

A second plot follows Stan, Jimmy, Kenny and Butters forming a metal band, which becomes popular and attracts the attention of a manager who wants to make a film about them. But then the script keeps changing so that the film can safely be distributed in China.

Update: The economics of censorship

19th October 2019. See article from businessinsider.com

The Chinese censorship of South Park seems that the producers will take a big hit in income as Apple pulls out of bidding for South Park streaming rights as it seeks to appease China where Apple has significant sales.

Viacom, the owner of Comedy Central's long-running animated series South Park, is looking to sell the streaming rights to the series. Sources familiar with the bidding told Bloomberg that Apple probably won't extend a bid, due to the show's recent ban in China after the second episode in season 23, Band in China included a humorous attack on Chinese censorship. China reportedly ceased all streaming and discussion of the show on its state-controlled internet.

Apple relies on Chinese manufacturing for many of its products, and China makes up a great deal of its consumer base. Thus, sources told Bloomberg that it was unlikely that Apple would want to host South Park on Apple TV+.

The articles also notes that Apple appears to be crafting a family-friendly content selection on its streaming service, with relatively non-controversial content in general.

 

 

Bountiful times for film censors in New Zealand...

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern's Christchurch Call leads to a doubling of funding for the censors


Link Here 14th October 2019
Full story: The Christchurch Call...Calls for censorship is response to New Zealand gun massacre
New Zealand's government is doubling the funding for its film censors. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the Government is doubling the funding for its Office of Film & Literature Classification so it can crack down on terrorist content alongside child exploitation images.

The package is the main domestic component of Ardern's more globally-focused Christchurch Call. The Call is a set of pledges and practices she is promoting following the Christchurch terror attack of March 15.

The $17m funding boost will go towards the Chief Censor and the Censorship Compliance Unit and will see about 17 new censors employed.

The announcement came with a bit of a barb though as it was noted that it took two days for the chief censor to rule that the livestream of the Christchurch mosque attack was objectionable, something the officials said could be sped up with new funding for his office.

Stuff.co.nz commented that the prime minister has invested serious time and political capital into her Christchurch Call program and noted that it met its first real test last week after another racist attack was livestreamed from the German city of Halle. That video was deemed objectionable by the censor and the shared protocol created by the Christchurch Call was put into action. Presumably this time round it took less than two days to decide that it is should be banned.

 

 

Breaking out...

China's Global Reach: Surveillance and Censorship Beyond the Great Firewall. By Danny O'Brien


Link Here 11th October 2019
Full story: Chinese worldwide internet censorship...China uses its software to extend its censorship reach worldwide

Those outside the People's Republic of China (PRC) are accustomed to thinking of the Internet censorship practices of the Chinese state as primarily domestic, enacted through the so-called "Great Firewall"--a system of surveillance and blocking technology that prevents Chinese citizens from viewing websites outside the country. The Chinese government's justification for that firewall is based on the concept of " Internet sovereignty. " The PRC has long declared that "within Chinese territory, the internet is under the jurisdiction of Chinese sovereignty.''

Hong Kong, as part of the "one country, two systems" agreement, has largely lived outside that firewall: foreign services like Twitter, Google, and Facebook are available there, and local ISPs have made clear that they will oppose direct state censorship of its open Internet.

But the ongoing Hong Kong protests, and mainland China's pervasive attempts to disrupt and discredit the movement globally, have highlighted that China is not above trying to extend its reach beyond the Great Firewall, and beyond its own borders. In attempting to silence protests that lie outside the Firewall, in full view of the rest of the world, China is showing its hand, and revealing the tools it can use to silence dissent or criticism worldwide.

Some of those tools--such as pressure on private entities, including American corporations NBA and Blizzard--have caught U.S. headlines and outraged customers and employees of those companies. Others have been more technical, and less obvious to the Western observers.

The "Great Cannon" takes aim at sites outside the Firewall

The Great Cannon is a large-scale technology deployed by ISPs based in China to inject javascript code into customers' insecure (HTTP) requests . This code weaponizes the millions of mainland Chinese Internet connections that pass through these ISPs. When users visit insecure websites, their browsers will also download and run the government's malicious javascript--which will cause them to send additional traffic to sites outside the Great Firewall, potentially slowing these websites down for other users, or overloading them entirely.

The Great Cannon's debut in 2015 took down Github , where Chinese users were hosting anti-censorship software and mirrors of otherwise-banned news outlets like the New York Times. Following widespread international backlash , this attack was halted.

Last month, the Great Cannon was activated once again , aiming this time at Hong Kong protestors. It briefly took down LIHKG , a Hong Kong social media platform central to organizing this summer's protests.

Targeting the global Chinese community through malware

Pervasive online surveillance is a fact of life within the Chinese mainland. But if the communities the Chinese government wants to surveill aren't at home, it is increasingly willing to invest in expensive zero-days to watch them abroad, or otherwise hold their families at home hostage.

Last month, security researchers uncovered several expensive and involved mobile malware campaigns targeting the Uyghur and Tibetan diasporas . One constituted a broad "watering hole" attack using several zero-days to target visitors of Uyghur-language websites .

As we've noted previously , this represents a sea-change in how zero-days are being used; while China continues to target specific high-profile individuals in spear-phishing campaigns , they are now unafraid to cast a much wider net, in order to place their surveillance software on entire ethnic and political groups outside China's border.

Censoring Chinese Apps Abroad

At home, China doesn't need to use zero-days to install its own code on individuals' personal devices. Chinese messaging and browser app makers are required to include government filtering on their client, too. That means that when you use an app created by a mainland Chinese company, it likely contains code intended to scan and block prohibited websites or language.

Until now, China has been largely content to keep the activation of this device-side censorship concentrated within its borders. The keyword filtering embedded in WeChat only occurs for users with a mainland Chinese phone number. Chinese-language versions of domestic browsers censor and surveill significantly more than the English-language versions. But as Hong Kong and domestic human rights abuses draw international interest, the temptation to enforce Chinese policy abroad has grown.

TikTok is one of the largest and fastest-growing global social media platforms spun out of Beijing. It heavily moderates its content, and supposedly has localized censors for different jurisdictions . But following a government crackdown on "short video" platforms at the beginning of this year , news outlets began reporting on the lack of Hong Kong-related content on the platform . TikTok's leaked general moderation guidelines expressly forbid any content criticizing the Chinese government, like content related to the Chinese persecution of ethnic minorities, or about Tiananmen Square.

Internet users outside the United States may recognise the dynamic of a foreign service exporting its domestic decision-making abroad. For many years, America's social media companies have been accused of exporting U.S. culture and policy to the rest of the world: Facebook imposes worldwide censorship of nudity and sexual language , even in countries that are more culturally permissive on these topics than the U.S. Most services obey DMCA takedown procedures of allegedly copyright-infringing content, even in countries that have had alternative resolution laws. The influence that the United States has on its domestic tech industries has led to an outsized influence on those companies' international user base.

That said, U.S. companies have, as with developers in most countries, resisted the inclusion of state-mandated filters or government-imposed code within their own applications. In China, domestic and foreign companies have been explicitly mandated to comply with Chinese censorship under the national Cybersecurity Law passed in 2017 , which provides aggressive yet vague guidelines for content moderation. China imposing its rules on global Chinese tech companies differs from the United States' influence on the global Internet in more than just degree.

Money Talks: But Critics Can't

This brings us to the most visible arm of the China's new worldwide censorship toolkit: economic pressure on global companies. The Chinese domestic market is increasingly important to companies like Blizzard and the National Basketball Association (NBA). This means that China can use threats of boycotts or the denial of access to Chinese markets to silence these companies when they, or people affiliated with them, express support for the Hong Kong protestors.

Already, people are fighting back against the imposition of Chinese censorship on global companies. Blizzard employees staged a walk-out in protest, NBA fans continue to voice their support for the demonstrations in Hong Kong, and fans are rallying to boycott the two companies. But multi-national companies who can control their users' speech can expect to see more pressure from China as its economic clout grows.

Is China setting the Standard for Global Enforcement of Local Law?

Parochial "Internet sovereignty' has proven insufficient to China's needs: Domestic policy objectives now require it to control the Internet outside and inside its borders.

To be clear, China's government is not alone in this: rather than forcefully opposing and protesting their actions, other states--including the United States and the European Union-- have been too busy making their own justifications for the extra-territorial exercise of their own surveillance and censorship capabilities.

China now projects its Internet power abroad through the pervasive and unabashed use of malware and state-supported DDoS attacks; mandated client-side filtering and surveillance; economic sanctions to limit cross-border free speech; and pressure on private entities to act as a global cultural police.

Unless lawmakers, corporations, and individual users are as brave in standing up to authoritarian acts as the people of Hong Kong, we can expect to see these tactics adopted by every state, against every user of the Internet.

 

 

Government deemed 'fake news' banned...

New internet censorship law comes into force in Singapore


Link Here 4th October 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in Singapore...Heavy handed censorship control of news websites
Singapore's sweeping internet censorship law, claimed to be targeting 'fake news' came into force this week. Under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill , it is now illegal to spread statements deemed false under circumstances in which that information is deemed prejudicial to Singapore's security, public safety, public tranquility, or to the friendly relations of Singapore with other countries, among numerous other topics.

Government ministers can decide whether to order something deemed fake news to be taken down, or for a correction to be put up alongside it. They can also order technology companies such as Facebook and Google to block accounts or sites spreading the information that the government doesn't ike.

The act also provides for prosecutions of individuals, who can face fines of up to 50,000 SGD (over $36,000), and, or, up to five years in prison.

 

 

A couple of steps ahead of the UK...

China adds new surveillance requirements for internet users to submit to a facial scan before internet connection


Link Here 3rd October 2019
Full story: Mass snooping in China...Internet and phone snooping in China

China has stepped up its internet censorship by demanding its citizens pass a facial-recognition test to be able to use web services.

People who want to have the internet installed at home or on their phones must have their faces scanned by the Chinese authority to prove their identities, according to a new regulation.

The rule, which will take effect on December 1, is said to be part of the social credit system which rates the Chinese citizens based on their daily behaviour.

Chinese citizens are also banned from re-selling their SIM cards by the regulation to prevent unregistered users from making calls from mobile phones.

China has been building the world's largest facial-recognition surveillance system.The Big-Brother-style scheme is powered by hundreds of millions of AI street cameras aiming to identify any of the country's citizens within three seconds.

 

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