The new European Union anti-terror chief appeared in front of MPs to discuss various issues, including what people are reading online.
Gilles de Kerchove told MPs he wanted to remove not illegal, undesirable websites. Setting out the action
being taken by the EU he said:
The Commissioner for Home Affairs will set up a forum to discuss with the big players -- Google, Facebook, Twitter -- how we can improve the way one removes from the internet the illegal
and if not illegal, undesirable websites.
Big Brother Watch commented:
Freedom of speech, and of the press, are essential parts of a free and democratic society. It should not be in the gift of
politicians to decide what we read or who can write it and absolutely not on the basis of what some may consider undesirable. If content is to be blocked, it should be a decision taken by a court of law and only when a clear criminal test has been met
establishing the content is illegal.
The mind boggles at what a European official might consider undesirable
The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), a self-regulatory body set up to rid the internet of child sexual abuse images, has opened itself up to judgement by a top human rights lawyer.
A human rights audit has been carried out by former Director of
Public Prosecutions Lord Ken Macdonald. He concluded the IWF's fundamental work is entirely consistent with human rights law.
Lord Macdonald pointed to ways in which the IWF could further enhance standards and processes. Nine recommendations are
made in the report published today 27 January 2014 , seven of which have been immediately agreed by the IWF Board.
Among his findings, Lord Macdonald concludes:
The IWF's fundamental work of restricting criminally obscene adult material and all child sexual abuse material is consistent with human rights law;
The IWF, although a private, industry-funded body, carries out public acts and therefore its
policies and decision-making are susceptible to judicial review, a conclusion welcomed by the IWF Board;
That the IWF should appoint a retired judge to act as an appeals commissioner and Chief Inspector to oversee disputes and inspections
respectively and the Board should contain at least one acknowledged expert in human rights law, conclusions welcomed by the IWF Board.
The IWF currently targets:
child sexual abuse content hosted anywhere in the world;
supposedly obscene adult content hosted in the UK;
non-photographic child porn images hosted in the UK.
Recommendations in the report with responses by the IWF Board
1. IWF should in future restrict its remit to child sexual abuse material
IWF Board: A decision on this item has been deferred and
will follow conversations with stakeholders [presumably the government] regarding this recommendation.
2. IWF should appoint an expert in human rights law to its Board
IWF Board: Accepted.
3. IWF should appoint a senior legal figure as its new Chief Inspector
IWF Board: Accepted.
4. IWF's appeals process should include, as a final stage, a
determination by the Chief Inspector
IWF Board: Accepted.
5. Inspections of IWF's work should take place at least every two years. The Inspection team, headed by the new Chief Inspector, should
include one expert in human rights law
IWF Board: Accepted. Inspections already take place every two years.
6. If IWF moves into more proactive investigations, its analyst training should be updated
to meet the further responsibilities inherent in an investigative role
IWF Board: Accepted.
7. In any proactive investigations, IWF should liaise closely with police
8. Proposed increases in IWF's industry funding should be maintained and expanded in order to make a move into more proactive work feasible in the longer term
IWF Board: Accepted.
9. IWF should not, at present, investigate peer-to-peer file sharing. Instead, in light of the fact that it has subsumed CEOP with the apparent intention that investigations into online child sexual abuse material should
be mainstreamed into the fight against serious crime, the National Crime Agency should now give these investigations high priority.
IWF Board: This decision has been deferred. It will follow a peer to peer consultation currently
taking place and the pilot project with Google, Microsoft, the Home Office and CEOP. The IWF will be working in partnership to identify pathways to illegal material being shared via torrent feeds and subsequently remove access via the two market leaders
in search. This project was announced on 18 November.
Chinese internet users who want to post videos to Chinese sites online will have to do so under their real names from now on, the official internet censor has said.
China's State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television
said on its website that the requirement is designed to prevent vulgar content, base art forms, exaggerated violence and sexual content in internet video having a negative effect on society , Reuters reported .
A German court has ruled today that Google must block all access in the country to images of a sadomasochistic orgy involving the former Formula One boss Max Mosley.
The pictures, taken from a video filmed by the now-defunct News of the World and
published in an article in 2008, were judged by the court to seriously violate Mosley's privacy. The paper was fined for a breach of privacy.
Google has resisted Mosley's attempts to make it block all access to the widely-circulated images,
saying that to do so sets a disturbing precedent for internet censorship.
The search engine giant said it planned to appeal today's decision from a Hamburg court, which has ordered the company to prevent any pictures, links or even
thumbnails images from the orgy to show up on the google.de site.
Negligent website blocking taking full effect in the U.K. this month is causing problems for some League of Legends users who haven't called their ISPs to opt out of the screening. It seems the patcher is trying to access a couple of URLs with
the letters S and E followed by X in them, and that's enough to get a block.
Summoner Boompje noticed this a couple of days ago , posting about it on both League of Legends' official European forums and in the game's subreddit . The offending
URLs are a couple of files---Varu sEx pirationTimer.luaobj and XerathMageChain sEx tended.luaobj.
Still, for a controversial policy that has kicked out its share of anecdotal, unintended victims, snaring a League of Legends patch shows how
unsophisticated things can be.
For anyone affected, the simplest solution is the best: just ask the ISP to turn off the filter. For kids in a household that won't remove the filter, the alternative would seem to be getting the patch as a .zip file
from a friend.
The UK's gambling censor has asked the majo rISPs to warn their customers of the illegality of unlicensed gambling websites, and the ISPs have refused, arguing that it's up to the courts or Parliament to decide on such things.
It's nice to see the
ISPs push back against the censorship and policing role that many in the British government think they should maintain.
According to the Financial Times, the Gambling Commission approached big ISPs including BT and TalkTalk asking for the
insertion of splash pages when a customer is trying to access an unlicensed gambling site, in order to warn the customer that the service is illegal.
A TalkTalk spokeswoman quoted by the FT said:
not believe that it is for ISPs to decide what content customers should access. It is really important that there is either a proper legal framework when it comes to blocking access to sites, just like with copyright infringement, or that it is down to
There is certainly a gathering momentum in the UK behind efforts to enforce the offline law online in new ways, and one has to wonder what the British government and its regulators will ask to block or police next.
Another Internet crackdown appears to be looming in Russia, where the Duma is reviewing three new pieces of proposed anti-terror legislation that could place hefty restrictions on the activities of website operators and civil society organizers.
Two of the bills address government surveillance powers---one would create new requirements obliging website operators to report on the every move of their users, while another addresses penalties for terror-related crimes. The third would set new
restrictions for individuals and organizations accepting anonymous donations through online services like PayPal, a measure that could have an especially strong impact on small civil society groups.
The first of the three bills creates new
requirements for mandatory archives and notifications, granting the federal government wide jurisdiction. The most concerning article of the bill stipulates that individuals or legal entities who [organize] the dissemination of information and
(or) the exchange of information between Internet users are obligated to store all information about the arrival, transmission, delivery, and processing of voice data, written text, images, sounds, or other kinds of action that occur when using their
website. At all times, data archives must include the most recent six months of activity.
It appears that this obligation would apply to the owners and operators of websites and services ranging from multinational services like Facebook to small
community blogs and discussion platforms.
Website organizers must also inform Russian security services when users first begin using their sites, and whenever users exchange information. Taken literally, this requirement could
create a nearly impossible task for administrators of blogs, social media sites, and other discussion platforms with large quantities of users.
The second bill would broaden police powers and raise penalties for terrorism.
third piece of legislation would place new limits on online money transfers. This draft law would raise limits on anonymous online financial transactions and ban all international online financial transactions, where the electronic money operator (e.g.,
PayPal, Yandex.Dengi, WebMoney) does not know the client's legal identity. The legislation also raises operating costs for NGOs, requiring them to report on every three thousand dollars spent in foreign donations. (Currently, NGOs must report on every
six thousand such dollars.)
All new web addresses registered in the UK will be screened for terms that signal or encourage serious sexual offences.
Nominet, the organisation that oversees all the UK's web addresses, said all domain names will be checked within 48 hours of
registration. If an address is found to contain a prohibited term it will be suspended or de-registered. Existing web addresses will also come under the new rules.
Once a domain name is registered it will be examined by a computer algorithm
looking for terms relating to sex crimes. Any address that is flagged as containing one of the prohibited words or phrases will then be checked by a human. This is to ensure that legitimate domain names are not suspended unnecessarily.
of a legitimate website, that might be flagged by the algorithm, is one set up to help victims of rape. Or where a flagged word is contained within another word. Any domain name containing a sex crime term that does not appear to have a legitimate use
would be reported to the police.
Nominet took this course of action after the publication of a policy review by former director of public prosecutions Lord Macdonald. However the policy added that the firm should have no role in policing
questions of taste or offensiveness on the internet .
Eleanor Bradley, chief operating officer at Nominet told the BBC that the registration service was not trying to censor the internet:
This is not about
domain names that offend, or about swear words, it is about criminal acts relating to sexual offences, she said.
Nominet has notably not published the list of potentially prohibited terms.
A cancer sufferer was accused of breaching Facebook anti-porn rules, for uploading before and after mastectomy photos to encourage women to check their breasts.
Tracy Morris lodged a complaint with the site after it blocked the pictures so no one
else could see them. Tracy said:
I had a photoshoot done when I was first diagnosed because I wanted a lasting memory of how I had once looked. After my second mastectomy I decided to have another shoot done because I
still felt beautiful -- in a different way. Losing my second breast was traumatic. It made me realise how drastic cancer is. I decided that I had to warn other women, to shock them into checking their breasts before it was too late.
She posted her photos on Facebook and received dozens of positive messages. But then Facebook sent her a message telling her it was investigating the photographs for violating its standards on nudity and pornography. She said:
I am disgusted by Facebook. If one woman checks her breasts after seeing my photos they might save a life. How can that be offensive to anyone?
Tracy tried to re-post the photos but had no success
until the Sunday Mirror contacted the site to query their removal. The photos are now visible to everybody.
Turkish police used water cannon and fired teargas to disperse hundreds of protesters that gathered in Istanbul's central Taksim Square on Saturday for a rally calling against a bill that would extend government censorship of the Internet.
rallies have been held around Turkey including the capital Ankara and coastal city of Izmir. In Ankara about 300 protesters gathered chanting slogans opposing the government and the internet bill, calling the Turkish prime minister a dictator.
Activists have called for protests against the law further limiting the use of the Internet and social media. The campaign is circulating the internet with the hashtag #sansu redurde.
The bill that includes the controversial law was
backed by a Turkish parliamentary committee on Thursday. It will be discussed by the National Assembly next week.
The new legislation allows government ministers to block websites deemed to infringe privacy, as well as force internet providers to
retain information on their users, for up to two years. The bill also mandates ISPs to restrict access to proxy sites, making circumventing the censorship nearly impossible.
The new legislation also raises fines for not removing the content
requested by the authorities. If the content is not removed within 24 hours after the request, it will be blocked by the Telecommunications Directorate (TI.B). In addition, web hosting services will be required to become part of a state-controlled
How to complain about mobile filtering over-blocking
The BBFC is now involved in how mobile internet filtering works. In this post we [the Open Rights Group] explain what role they have and how you should be able to get
over-blocking problems fixed.
Over Christmas there was an awful lot of understandable concern about mobile filters, especially the Parental Control filters provided as an optional service by O2. We wrote about this at the
time, but for now it's worth repeating that one of the biggest lessons was that mobile networks don't do a good enough job of explaining how their filters work, why and how they make decisions about what gets filtered, and how people can complain.
I thought it would be helpful to explain what role the BBFC now has, and explain how the process for complaints about over-blocking (or under-blocking) is supposed to work.
The BBFC's role involves three things:
Setting a framework that describes what should be considered adult content for the purposes of mobile phone filtering. They have defined a set of categories and explained what content will be considered blockable.
They offer advice to the mobile networks when they are setting their filters.
They run an appeals process, which is designed to resolve disputes about over- or under-blocking.
The BBFC do not classify individual sites for mobile networks or run a first-stage complaints process. And they aren't responsible for the decisions that mobile networks make about implementing the framework. It's also important to
point out that their framework and complaints procedure only applies to networks' under 18 filters - their default safety level - and not to other services provided for different age groups. For example, they do not regulate O2's Parental Controls, which
is an optional service designed for those under 12.
How you can complain about overblocking
You should be able to complain direct to the relevant mobile operator. The BBFC have helpfully provided email addresses for each mobile network, which is where you should direct complaints about overblocking or underblocking in
the first instance. This contact information should also be on the mobile operators' websites. In some cases it isn't, however. For example, at the moment, O2 point people at their Twitter account or forum. As we saw over Christmas, those are not helpful
If you do not get a satisfactory resolution from the mobile network, you can then appeal to the BBFC. Details about how to do this are on the BBFC website . BBFC have committed to resolving the complaints they
receive in five working days.
What will happen after a complaint?
If the BBFC agree that a site should not be blocked by under 18 filters, in the case of over blocking, then they will inform the mobile network, who should then remove
the site from their block list. The BBFC told us that in the cases they have handled so far, the networks have responded fairly quickly to these notifications.
The same applies for under blocking - i.e. if the BBFC decide a site
should be blocked, they will inform the network and it should be added to the block list.
Things are slightly complicated with overblocking because at the moment, mobile networks are allowed to block more categories than the BBFC
have set out.
So even if the BBFC decide that a site should not be blocked against the BBFC criteria for over 18 content, the mobile networks might decide that the site should still be blocked because it falls under their
For instance, we believe most networks block information about circumvention technology, which might help people learn how to get round blocking, even though such information is not considered
blockable by the BBFC. Networks also used to block content related to tobacco or alcohol, but the BBFC framework specifically excludes sites that supply age restricted goods or services such as tobacco or alcohol. We are not currently sure if any of the
networks continue to block alcohol and tobacco.
That may lead to a fair amount of confusion if the BBFC decide something should not be blocked but the mobile network decides it still fits one of their additional categories. This
is made more tricky for consumers or website operators because the mobile networks don't publish what categories they block, so it's impossible currently for someone to know in advance of any complaint.
Mobile networks need to
be more transparent, consistent, clear and responsive
The BBFC site and process is a vast improvement on the previous code - it's clearer, more considered, and there's an added appeals process. They are taking the work
However, the issues with mobile networks' own implementation have not gone away. The BBFC's transparency, clarity and responsiveness cannot be a replacement for mobile networks' own information or process, because these
networks will be customers' or website owners' first port of call when they are looking for information or trying to complain.
It is still hard to get clear information from networks about what they block and why - for instance
what categories they filter - and it is still hard to get information about their own complaints procedure. For example, O2 point people at their Twitter account and forums, which to date have not been helpful. Three still link to the Mobile Broadband
Group code of practice, rather than the BBFC. And Everything Everywhere used to provide a list of categories filtered by their two filtering levels, but that link no longer works.
Families should be in a position to make informed
choices about what their children can access via mobile phones. At the moment, it's not really possible for a parent to get a clear idea about what a mobile networks' default safety filters do and why.
It also should be possible
for someone who runs a website that is blocked by a mobile network for no good reason to get that problem fixed quickly. They should be able to find out easily if their site is blocked on different networks. Again, at the moment that process is not clear
enough and happens too slowly.
It shouldn't be too difficult to fix these problems - it's more a question of whether mobile networks consider it important enough to spend time and resources really addressing it.
Turkey's top business group has warned that a government-led bill to increase control over the Internet is worrying and the planned regulations might lead to wide censorship of the Internet.
In a written statement, the Turkish Industry and Business
Association (TUSI.AD) noted the issues of freedom of speech, intellectual property and personal secrecy on the Internet should be delicately handled.
The TUSI.AD noted access to thousands of websites has been blocked since Law No. 5651, widely
known as the Internet Law of Turkey, came into effect in July, 2007:
The law, which results in limiting the individual's fundamental rights and freedoms, has also been subject to a 'rights violation' ruling of the
European Court of Human Rights, the statement read. In such a situation, the planned amendments to the law are concerning and will increase censorship on the Internet. The draft should be cleared of articles that could harm the fundamental rights and
freedoms and the Internet economy that is growing every day.
Some articles added to an omnibus bill submitted to Parliament last week will permit authorities to limit access to the Internet and monitor all actions by individuals
online and keep such records for two years. The draft law will permit officials to limit keywords searches more easily, meaning access to videos on video-sharing websites such as YouTube that include keywords deemed problematic by Turkish authorities
will be blocked.
All individuals' Internet records, including details about what sites they have visited, which words they have searched for on the web and what activity they have engaged in on social networking websites, will be kept for one or
two years, according to the draft law.
Websites will be forced to join some sort of registration body controlled by the government. In addition the government has specified that ISPs must censor nominated websites more quickly, and for the
implemented blocking to be more robust against simple circumvention techniques currently used by Turkish people to work around government censorship.
The European Parliament has wrapped up its inquiry into mass surveillance. In a draft report, politicians are being hard on all sides - the US government, the NSA, but also on hesitant EU governments and companies.
The report says that the recent
revelations in the press by whistleblowers and journalists, together with the expert evidence given during the inquiry, have resulted in:
Compelling evidence of the existence of far-reaching, complex and highly
technologically advanced systems designed by US and some Member States' intelligence services to collect, store and analyze communication and location data and metadata of all citizens around the world on an unprecedented scale and in an indiscriminate
and non-suspicion-based manner.
The authors explicitly point at Britain's signals intelligence agency GCHQ and its upstream surveillance activity (Tempora program) as well as decryption program (Edgehill), and add that it's quite
likely that programs of a similar nature as the NSA's and GCHQ's exist - even if on a more limited scale - in countries like France, Germany and Sweden:
The fight against terrorism can never in itself be a
justification for untargeted, secret and sometimes even illegal mass surveillance programs.
Claude Moraes and his fellow rapporteurs showed themselves unconvinced that the NSA's only goal is the fight against terrorism, as the US
government has claimed. In their draft report, European politicians suspect that there are instead other power motives, such as political and economic espionage.
Moraes wrote that privacy is not a luxury right, but the ...
foundation stone of a free and democratic society. Above all, the draft report condemns the vast, systemic, blanket collection of the personal data of innocent people.
Here at TF we've long been opponents of website blocking. It's a blunt instrument that is prone to causing collateral damage and known for failing to achieve its stated aims. We recently discovered that
thanks to Sky's Broadband Shield filtering system, TorrentFreak is now blocked on one of the UK's largest ISPs by users who think they are protecting their kids.
Our crimes are the topics we cover. As readers know we write about
file-sharing, copyright and closely linked issues including privacy and web censorship. We write about the positives and the negatives of those topics and we solicit comments from not only the swarthiest of pirates, but also the most hated anti-piracy
people on the planet.
If the MPAA, RIAA, FACT, BPI, RightsAlliance, BREIN and every DMCA takedown company on earth want to have their say they can do that, alongside the folks at The Pirate Bay. We won't deny anyone their voice,
whether it's someone being raided by the police or the people who instigated the raid. Getting the news out is paramount.
We are not scared to let anyone have their say and we embrace free speech. But apparently the people at Sky
and their technology masters at Symantec believe that we should be denied our right to communicate on the basis that we REPORT NEWS about file-sharing issues.
That's just utter nonsense.
about viruses and malware ALL THE TIME, so are they placed in the malware and virus category? Of course not. Thanks to their very own self-categorization process they wear the Technology and Telecommunication label. Is their website blocked by any
of their own filters? I won't even bother answering that.
Examining other sites helpfully categorized by Symantec and blindly accepted by Sky reveals no more clarity either. UK ISP Virgin Media runs its own Usenet access,
customers can find it at news.virginmedia.com. From there it's possible to download every possible copyrighted movie and TV show around today, yet that service is listed by Symantec as a Technology and Telecommunication / Portal site.
Download.com, possibly the world's largest distributer of file-sharing software, is also green-lighted through.
On the other hand, TorrentFreak -- which neither offers or links to copyrighted files and hosts no file-sharing
software whatsoever -- is blocked for any Sky household filtered for under 18s? Really? Our news site is suitable for all ages yet when Sky's teenager filter is turned on we are put on the same level as porn, suicide, self harm, violence and gore.
Sky has inevitably removed a block on TorrentFreak, after its crap new network-level filter negligently classified the news outlet as a file-sharing site. No doubt there are thousands more websites being unfairly blocked that don't quite have
the influence of TorrentFreak.
Though intended to block unsuitable content for children such as porn, gambling or violent sites, the filter also appears to be blocking legitimate sites. Sky doesn't categorise sites itself, instead working with
Pirate Bay is developing a new tool that doesn't rely on domain names. Instead, users will serve as the P2P hosts of the sites, with the system running its own alternative DNS. The new tool will create its own P2P network through which sites can be
accessed without restrictions. A Pirate Bay insider explained:
The goal is to create a browser-like client to circumvent censorship, including domain blocking, domain confiscation, IP-blocking. This will be accomplished by
sharing all of a site's indexed data as P2P downloadable packages, that are then browsed/rendered locally.
It's basically a browser-like app that uses webkit to render pages, BitTorrent to download the content while storing
All further site updates are incremental, so people don't end up downloading the entire site day after day.
The new software will be released as a standalone application as well as Firefox
and Chrome plugins.
Since the site data comes from other peers, there is no central IP-address that can be blocked by Internet providers. Site owners will still offer webseeds to speed up loading, but sites are fully accessible when these are
Another important change is that the new software will not use standard domain names. Instead, it will use its own fake DNS system that will link the site's name to a unique and verified public key. The system will also establish a
registry of website names with payment being via Bitcoin.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron wants all Internet providers to block adult content by default, to protect the children. This filtering requirement is controversial for a number of reasons, not least due to ISPs' filters targeting a wide range of other
content too. Sky's newly launched Broadband Shield, for example, blocks numerous legitimate file-sharing related sites including uTorrent and BitTorrent.com, download portals for Linux distributions, and even TorrentFreak.
While most of the
discussion has focused on porn, Sky's filter -- and those operated by other ISPs -- actually block a much wider range of content. Sky's The 13-years-old-and-over setting is ticked by default, which also includes dating, anonymizers,
file-sharing and hacking.
In other words, those customers who don't opt out from the 'porn filter will also have file-sharing sites and services blocked. A quick round on the internet reveals that this category is rather inclusive, and not limited
to pirate sites.
Among the blocked sites are BitTorrent.com, who work with Madonna and other artists on a regular basis to release free-to-download content. The same is true for other BitTorrent clients including uTorrent, Transmission and Vuze.
Tribler , which is developed at Delft University of Technology with EU taxpayer money, is filtered as well.
Websites which offer perfectly legitimate content via P2P downloads are also filtered by Sky's default settings. This includes VODO , the
distribution platform for indie filmmakers, the download page of the Linux-based Fedora, as well as the download portal Linuxtracker .
In addition, several websites that merely write news about file-sharing issues are blocked by the filter too,
including TorrentFreak .
TorrentFreak spoke with the Open Rights Group (ORG), who have been very critical of the filtering schemes in the UK. According to Executive Director Jim Killock, Sky is not the only problem here, as other UK ISPs employ
overbroad blocking schemes, including the older mobile network filters. To find out what is being blocked exactly, ORG has been building its own checking tools , as well as a website where false positives can be reported.
Whether anything can be
done against the overblocking and false positives that are reported remains to be seen. For now all legitimate file-sharing services and sites remain blocked, including the article you are reading right now.
The Russian internet censor is threatening to block entire website hosts if they refuse to take down content that Russia does not like. US-based CloudFlare, a hosting company servicing at least 750,000 sites is on the blacklist.
Roskomnadzor is the
body responsible for maintaining Russia's Internet blacklist. Sites can be placed on the blacklist for any number of reasons, from promoting drugs, crime and suicide, to failing to respond to rightholders complaints under the anti-piracy legislation
passed earlier this year.
There are already tens of thousands of sites (including file-sharing portals) already on the list but if Roskomnadzor carries through on its latest threats the situation could quickly accelerate out of all proportion.
The problem, the censor says, is being caused by foreign hosts and service providers, mainly in the United States, who are refusing to disable access to a range of content that is illegal in Russia. Sites apparently hop around from
location to location, but within the same provider, testing Roskomnadzor's patience. Spokesman Vadim Ampelonsky Said:
We have serious questions about a particular group of providers offering such sites hosting
services. We ask them to block content, but they refuse to cooperate with us.
As a result Roskomnadzor says it is considering blocking a range of overseas hosts for failing to comply. They include Ukrainian host Vedekon.ua, Endurance
International (US), Hostnoc (US), DataShack (US), Infinitie (US), and the torrent and file-sharing friendly OVH (France) and Voxility (Romania).
Rounding off the Russian list is CloudFlare , a US-based CDN company that assists many hundreds of
thousands of sites worldwide. Back in March, CloudFlare experienced technical difficulties which resulted in 750,000 sites being taken offline. If the Russian's block CloudFlare, similar numbers of sites would be rendered locally inaccessible.