US internet giants including Microsoft have raised the spectre of geo-blocking New Zealand if the Government proceeds with a bill for classifying streamed content.
A law requiring film ratings to apply to streaming services like Netflix and Lightbox
has raised hackles from some Silicon Valley firms. The bill mandates that certain commercial video-on-demand (CVoD) providers follow the process that broadcasting and film companies follow in classifying content or submit themselves to a
self-classification system to be developed by the Chief Censor and the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC).
But even this self classification option would require reclassifying vast back catalogs of content, some CVoD providers
say, and it might be easier for them to pull some content out of New Zealand altogether. There are also worries that streaming services might choose to leave the country rather than deal with a potentially onerous regulatory regime.
the Governance and Administration select committee raised concerns about enforceability or whether companies might just pull out. NZME's submission said news sites with paid subscriptions that aired video footage could fall under the classification
In its submission to the select committee, Microsoft warned that content it has yet to classify could be geo-blocked. Microsoft observes, however, that while the majority of content it makes available through the Microsoft Movies & TV
platform is or may be rated by the studio producing the content, where a small independent studio or filmmaker makes content available on the platform, that content may not have a rating assigned. In that situation, a provider like Microsoft is unlikely
to apply to rate the content itself (or itself develop a rating system) as it isn't in the business of reviewing the film's content in order to apply for the correct label. In the result, unobjectionable yet unrated / unlabelled content may, in some
cases, not be made available to New Zealand audiences, due to the regulatory threshold associated with rating and labelling.
The Deputy Chief Censor also did not think that providers would skip the New Zealand market because of the proposed
changes. The OFLC, in its select committee submission , said that given that this framework is low cost and simple for providers to implement, this would be unlikely to impact services provided to NZ public. We have not seen providers withdraw from other
jurisdictions due to regulation. This light-handed regulatory approach will not require providers to make significant investment to supply our relatively small market.
Facebook has blocked Singapore-based users access to the page of the State Times' Review (STR) on the orders of the Singapore government.
STR has been accused on multiple occasions by the government claiming fake news and misinformation. The latest
correction notice was served after STR posted an article containing claims about the coronavirus (Covid-19) situation that was deemed entirely untrue according to the government.
After STR failed to heed the notice, the government resorted to
ordering Facebook to block Singapore users from accessing STR's page.
Facebook complied as it said it was legally compelled to carry out the order. However, the social network told Channel NewsAsia it believed orders like this are disproportionate
and contradict the Singapore government's claim that POFMA would not be used as a censorship tool. A Facebook spokesman said:
We've repeatedly highlighted this law's potential for overreach and we're deeply concerned
about the precedent this sets for the stifling of freedom of expression in Singapore.
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.