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11th January

 Commented: I don't believe in censorship BUT...


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Guardian publishes a long 'BUT' calling for the censorship of Milo Yiannopoulos' Dangerous
Link Here
DangerousSam Sedgman, a pro-censorship writer commented n the Guardian:

Self-proclaimed super-villain Yiannopoulos has made a living from saying and doing hateful things, and has successfully embroiled himself in numerous headline-grabbing controversies. Whether it's saying that gay rights have made us dumber , calling transgender people mentally ill , calling rape culture a fantasy , or being banned by Twitter for allegedly encouraging trolls to attack Ghostbusters actor Leslie Jones with a tirade of racist and sexist abuse, you can usually find him saying something pathologically awful.

So when a major publishing house pays $250,000 to print the work of an alt-right figurehead like him, it gives credence to these ideas, and makes them part of the mainstream. It endorses them. It empowers everyone who agrees with them to act on their worst impulses, and spread hate speech.

Offsite Comment: English PEN backs Milo Yiannopoulos' 'right to offend'

11th January 2017 See  article from thebookseller.com

However English PEN is a campaign group that believes in free speech without the buts. The group writes:

English PEN has said Milo Yiannopoulos' right to freedom of expression must be respected, amid the furore surrounding the far-right editor's lucrative book deal with Simon & Schuster US.

Offensive ideas should be debunked and discredited, not censored, said Robert Sharp, head of campaigns and communications for the free speech organisation. He added that demands for S&S US to cancel the deal were tantamount to censorship .

The right of Mr Yiannopoulos to write and to offend is integral to the principle of freedom of expression, said Sharp. Likewise, Simon & Schuster US has the right to make an editorial judgment over whether to publish his book. Demanding that the publisher cancels the book deal amounts to a call for censorship, and should be resisted.

...Read the full article from thebookseller.com

 

5th January

 Petition: Economic Terrorism...

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Law proposed in the US would charge peaceful protesters with terrorism
Link Here
economic terrorismThis is a disaster. In late December, State Senator Doug Ericksen proposed a new law that would give authorities the ability to charge protesters with economic terrorism, and slap them with serious felony charges that could lead to jail time, just for making their voices heard.

The outrageous bill, which has now had been formally introduced for consideration during the 2017 legislative session, would make any form of protest that causes an economic disruption a class C felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison. It wouldn't just apply to people who engage in illegal acts or vandalism, it could be used to prosecute any person or group who organizes a protest that authorities deem as disruptive. Broadly interpreted, this law could apply to time honored traditions of nonviolent dissent like boycotts and civil disobedience.

We've already hit our initial goal of 50,000 signatures on the petition. But now that the bill has been introduced, we need to get even more people speaking out. If everyone reading this shares the video, we can easily get 100,000 signatures before we deliver it to the Washington State lawmakers.

Charging protesters with terrorism clearly violates the First Amendment and is an attempt to silence legitimate dissent. Please sign the petition telling lawmakers to reject this dangerous legislation.

Here's the text of the petition:

Organizing and participating in protests is a basic Constitutional right guaranteed by the First Amendment. I urge all lawmakers to reject any legislation that criminalizes protesters or labels protests as a form of economic terrorism.

Sign the petition from actionnetwork.org

 

2nd January

  Could we have a bill allowing us to sue lawmakers for crap legislation...

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Utah anti-porn senator working on a bill to let people sue pornographers for supposed harm
Link Here
todd weilerUtah's most prominent anti-porn lawmaker wants to give people the ability to sue pornographers in the hope that someone, somewhere will be able to prove that watching their product causes emotional and psychological damage.

State Senator Todd Weiler received national attention for penning a 2016 resolution declaring a public health crisis caused by pornography. He not only wants to limit access to sexually explicit material to children and teens, but he believes pornographers should be held liable for the impacts their products have on adults. He said:

Right now porn is available without any warnings and labeling, without any protections online. This would just open the valve for a cause of action. Let these attorneys go after these cases.

If the Legislature passes his proposal, he said, he expects courts to initially reject claims that pornography causes real harm: But I think, eventually, the tide will turn.

Weiler is pinning his hopes on some sort of ludicrous analogy with tobacco use, where court challenges broke through big business defence of their deadly trade. But of course there simply aren't millions of porn users dropping dead, and even anti porn campaigners haven't really come up with many harms beyond instilling bad attitudes to women.

 

26th December

 Updated: Free speech upheld even on the backpage...

CEO of Backpage.com website cleared of prostitution offences over adult service adverts posted by website users
Link Here  full story: Adult Services Ads in the US...US politicians target small ads for sex workers

backpage com logoLast month, a California judge tentatively ruled that he would dismiss charges lodged by California's attorney general against Backpage.com's chief executive and two of its former owners. After an interim scare, the judge has now issued a final judgement confirming the previous ruling and the charges have been dismissed.

The CEO, Carl Ferrer was charged with pimping a minor, pimping, and conspiracy to commit pimping in connection to online advertisements posted on the online ads portal. California's attorney general  Kamala Harris claimed that advertisements amounted to solicitation of prostitution.

However Judge Michael Bowman agreed with the defendants, including former owners Michael Lacey and James Larkin, that they were protected, among other things, by the Communications Decency Act, and hence they were not liable for third-party ads posted by others. The ruling said:

By enacting the CDA, Congress struck a balance in favor of free speech by providing for both a foreclosure from prosecution and an affirmative defense at trial for those who are deemed an internet service provider.

Update: Double Jeopardy

26th December. See  article from theguardian.com

kamala harrisCalifornia attorney general Kamala Harris is pursuing new charges against Backpage.com website

The fresh charges, which attorney general Kamala Harris claims are based on new evidence, come after an earlier case against the website was thrown out of court.

The website advertises escort services and seems t have wound up Harris who claimed that the site operated a hotbed of illicit and exploitative activity .

Harris said she had charged Backpage executives Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey and James Larkin with 13 counts of pimping and conspiracy to commit pimping. They also are charged with 26 counts of money laundering. In the latest case, filed in Sacramento County superior court, Harris claims Backpage illegally funnelled money through multiple companies and created various websites to get around banks that refused to process transactions. (This does not seem a particularly surprising, or necessarily bad thing to do).

She also alleged that the company used photos of women from Backpage on other sites without their permission in order to increase revenue and knowingly profited from the proceeds of prostitution. And from what Harris said in a statement it seems that hers is a morality campaign against sex work. Harris said:

By creating an online brothel -- a hotbed of illicit and exploitative activity -- Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey, and James Larkin preyed on vulnerable victims, including children, and profited from their exploitation.

 

22nd December

  Fair's fair...

Obama signs law protecting the rights of US people to review commercial products
Link Here

Electronic Frontier FoundationPresident Obama recently signed the Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016 ( H.R. 5111 ), which passed both houses of Congress unanimously. The bill addresses a dangerous trend: businesses inserting clauses into their form contracts that attempt to limit their customers' ability to criticize products and services online. We're pleased to see Congress taking a big step to protect free speech online and rein in abusive form contracts.

The CRFA tackles two different ways that businesses attempt to squash their customers' reviews. The first is rather straightforward: simply inserting clauses into their form contracts saying that customers can't post negative reviews online, or imposing a fine for them. For instance, the Union Street Guest House used such a contract and attempted to fine guests over their bad reviews.

The second tactic is a bit more roundabout: businesses put a clause in their contracts saying that they own the copyright to customers' reviews. Then, when they see a review that they don't like, they file a takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). One notorious example of that trick is a form contract for doctors offered by a company called Medical Justice . The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ordered doctors to quit using such contracts in 2013 , but similar practices live on across different industries. The CRFA voids both types of contract clauses and makes it illegal for businesses to offer them.

When we've written previously about the CRFA, we've noted a potential gap in the way the law was worded . Companies may try to argue that they are allowed to craft contract clauses assigning themselves the copyright to customers' reviews so long as the reviews are not "lawful." Companies may then attempt to remove web content written by customers using the special censorship tools available to copyright owners under the DMCA, claiming that that content is not lawful (for example, because it allegedly defames the company). If courts--or service providers who receive takedown notices--accept that reasoning, then vendors could bypass the traditional protections for allegedly illegal speech, having content removed immediately under the DMCA rather than going through a court as it normally would for non-copyright speech claims. We are disappointed that Congress failed to clearly foreclose this abuse of form contracts and the DMCA takedown process.

Ultimately, though, anti-review contracts were already on very shaky legal ground before the CRFA passed, as were form contracts that included surprising transfers of copyright ownership . Courts have reliably sided with the customer's freedom to write negative reviews. We will be watching closely to see if any unscrupulous companies attempt to take advantage of the ambiguous wording in the law. If that happens, the courts should shut it down.

Despite this oversight, we're glad to see Congress standing up to the use of abusive form contracts to stifle freedom of expression. It's telling that the bill passed both chambers unanimously: in a session that's been marked by gridlock, this has been one area where lawmakers in both parties agree. We hope to see lawmakers build on this progress and protect customers in the next session of Congress via bills like the SPEAK FREE Act and the Justice for Telecommunications Consumers Act .

 

19th December

  State ransomware...

South Carolina lawmaker proposes that all computers sold in the state should be pre-loaded with some nasty internet censorship malware that can be removed by proving age and paying a ransom
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA

South CarolinaA bill filed this month by state Representative Bill Chumley would require sellers to install a digital censorship hijack on computers and other devices that access the internet to prevent the viewing of what the lawmaker considers obscene content.

The proposal also would prohibit access to any online resource that supports sex work and would require manufacturers or sellers to block any websites that supposedly facilitate trafficking.

Both sellers and buyers could get around the limitation, for a ransom fee. The bill would fine manufacturers that sell a device without the blocking system, but they could opt out by paying $20 per device sold. Buyers could also verify their age and pay $20 to remove the censorship software.

Money collected would go toward the Attorney General's Office's pet project  of a human trafficking task force.

Chumley's bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee. Legislators return to Columbia for a new session next month.

 

17th December

  Censorpedia...

National Coalition Against Censorship catalogues cases of censorship in a new wiki
Link Here
cropped-ncac-logo-iconOn the occasion o f Human Rights day, t he National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) announced the launch of CENSORPEDIA, a crowdsourced Wiki, cataloging over 1,200 individual censorship incidents throughout history.

Censorpedia is a tool enabling researchers, journalists, academics, students and anyone interested in free speech t o explore the current landscape of censorship in the world and delve into censorship's history.

The database ' s crowdsourced model allows anyone with relevant source materials to add a case: past, present, ongoing or resolved.

Visitors can browse or search these cases by the region in which they occurred, the grounds for censorship and the medium of expression.

The 1,200 incidents currently cataloged on Censorpedia are the product of over 20 years of contributions from NCAC staff, volunteers, artists and students to Antoni Muntadas landmark 1994 art project, The File Room.

See Censorpedia at wiki.ncac.org

 

16th December

  Fair play...

US enacts a new law to protect online reviewers from punishment by the companies being reviewed
Link Here

US SenateA new US has been signed into effect that bars businesses from punishing customers for giving bad reviews.

The Consumer Review Fairness Act ( HR 5111 ) voids any contract that involves prohibitions or penalties related to poor online reviews.

The aim of the bill, written by Reps. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Joseph Kennedy (D-MA) is to stop companies from imposing penalties on consumers who would leave negative comments on sites such as Yelp. Lance explained:

Consumers in the 21st century economy should be able to post, comment and tweet their honest and accurate feedback without fear of retribution. Too many companies are burying non-disparagement clauses in fine print and going after consumers when they post negative feedback online.

With the new law in effect, any contract that attempts to tie in a clause calling for a fine or penalty for a review would be rendered void and legally unenforceable. The law would also prevent a business from asserting intellectual property claims on the content of a review, provided no trade secrets or personally identifiable information are involved.  However  the bill does make exceptions in the case of reviews deemed to be libelous or slanderous, and also removes any protections for reviews and posts that are found to be false or misleading.

MPAA logo

MPAA

Motion Picture Association of America

Films are rated for US theatrical showings and video formats by the MPAA.

The MPAA is a trade organisation, not a state censor. Ratings are voluntary and are not sanctioned by US law. Distributors can opt out of MPAA ratings and release the film MPAA Unrated.

The MPAA are also very active in actions against film piracy.

The MPAA established the modern ratings under the presidency of Jack Valenti

MPAA Presidents:
 - Jack Valenti 1966-2004
 - Dan Glickman 2004-2010
- Chris Dodd 2011-present

MPAA Ratings:

-  G: General Audiences: All ages admitted

- PG: Parental Guidance: Some material may not be suitable for children

- PG-13: Some material may  be inappropriate for children under 13

- R: Restricted: Under 17 requires  accompanying  parent or adult guardian
[in UK terms = 17A]

- NC-17:  No one 17 and under admitted
[in UK terms = 18]

- Unrated, not an MPAA rating but a distributor opt out

Previously there was an X rating which was replaced by the NC-17 in 1990. Distributors could also opt for this X rating without submitting the film for rating. This opt out was commonly used by porn distributors and the X rating became associated with porn. The replacement NC-17 is only available for films submitted to the MPAA.

The NC-17 is commercially unattractive as many theatres and a few retailers consider  themselves 'family friendly' and therefore refuse adults-only material.

MPAA's  film rating department is called Classification and Rating administration (CARA)

Websites:
  MPAA Corporate
CARA

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ESRB logo

ESRB

Entertainment Software Ratings Board

ESRB is a US trade organisation that assigns the age and content ratings displayed on all computer and video games, enforces marketing guidelines, and advises on online privacy issues.

ESRB Ratings:

- EARLY CHILDHOOD (EC) Content that may be suitable for ages 3 and older. Contains no material that parents would find inappropriate.

- EVERYONE (E) Content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.

- EVERYONE 10+ (E10+) Content that may be suitable for ages 10 and older. Titles in this category may contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.

- TEEN (T) Content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.

- MATURE (M) Content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.  This category is particularly designed to ensure that the most adult possible can be sold at many supposedly 'family friendly' retailers who refuse to stock adults only titles

- ADULTS ONLY (AO) Content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.  Many US retailers refuse to carry AO titles

- RATING PENDING (RP) Titles have been submitted to the ESRB and are awaiting final rating. (This symbol appears only in advertising prior to a game's release.)

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