The upcoming UK internet porn censorship regime being introduced later this year has set the UK authorities to thinking about a more rational set of laws governing what porn is legal and what porn is illegal in the UK. It makes a lot of sense to get the
UK stall straight before the commencement of the new censorship regime.
The most contradictory area of porn law is that often referred to as 'beyond R18 porn'. This includes material historically banned by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) claiming
obscenity, ie fisting, golden showers, BDSM, female ejaculation, and famously from a recent anti censorship campaign, face sitting/breath play. Such material is currently cut from R18s, as censored and approved by the BBFC.
When the age
verification law first came before parliament, 'beyond R18' porn was set to be banned outright. However as some of these categories are commonplace in worldwide porn, then the BBFC would have had to block practically all the porn websites in the world,
leaving hardly any that stuck to R18 guidelines that would be acceptable for viewing after age verification. So the lawmakers dropped the prohibition, and this 'beyond R18' material will now be acceptable for viewing after age verification. This leaves
the rather clear contradiction that the likes of fisting and female ejaculation would be banned or cut by the BBFC for sale in UK sex shops, but would have to be allowed by the BBFC for viewing online.
This contradiction has now been squared by
the government deciding that 'beyond R18' pornography is now legal for sale in the UK. So the BBFC will now have a unified set of rules, specified by the CPS, covering both the censorship of porn sales in the UK and the blocking of foreign websites.
This legalisation of 'beyond R18' porn will surely disappoint a few censorial politicians in the House of Lords, notably Elspeth Howe. She has already tabled a private members bill to restore the ban on any foreign websites including 'beyond R18'
porn. Her bill has now been rendered mostly irrelevant.
However there is still one genre of pornography that is sticking out of line, and that is cartoon porn featuring under age characters. Such porn is widespread in anime but strictly banned
under UK law. So given the large amounts of Japanese Hentai porn on the most popular tube sites in the world, then those videos could still be an issue for the viability of the age classification regime and could still end up with all the major porn
sites in the world banned.
The new CPS censorship rules
The new rules have already come into force, they started on 28th January 2019.
A CPS spokesperson confirmed the change saying
It is not for the CPS to decide what is considered good taste or objectionable. We do not propose to bring charges based on material that depicts consensual and legal activity between adults, where no serious harm is caused and the
likely audience is over the age of 18.
The CPS will, however, continue to robustly apply the law to anything which crosses the line into criminal conduct and serious harm.
It seems a little bit rich for the CPS
to claim that It is not for the CPS to decide what is considered good taste or objectionable, when they have happily been doing exactly that for the last 30 years.
The CPS originally outlined the new rules in a public consultation that
started in July 2018. The key proposals read:
When considering whether the content of an article is “obscene”, prosecutors should distinguish between:
Content showing or realistically depicting criminal conduct (whether non-consensual activity, or consensual activity where serious harm is caused), which is likely to be obscene;
Content showing or realistically depicting other conduct which is lawful,
which is unlikely to be obscene.
Do consultees agree or disagree with the guidance that prosecutors must exercise real caution when dealing with the moral nature of acts not criminalized by law, and that the showing or realistic
depiction of sexual activity / pornography which does not constitute acts or conduct contrary to the criminal law is unlikely to be obscene?
The following conduct (notwithstanding previous guidance indicating
otherwise) will not likely fall to be prosecuted under the Act:
Activity involving bodily substances (including urine, vomit, blood and faeces)
Infliction of pain / torture
Bondage / restraint
Placing objects into the urethra
Any other sexual activity not prohibited by law
It is consensual;
No serious harm is caused;
It is not otherwise inextricably linked with other criminality; and
The likely audience is not under 18 or otherwise vulnerable.
When considering whether the content of an article is "obscene", prosecutors should distinguish between:
Content relating to criminal conduct (whether non-consensual activity, or consensual activity where serious harm is caused, or otherwise inextricably linked to criminality), which is likely to be obscene;
Content relating to other non-criminal conduct, which is unlikely to be obscene, provided the audience is not young or otherwise vulnerable.
Conduct will not likely fall to be prosecuted under the Act provided that:
It is consensual (focusing on full and freely exercised consent, and also where the provision of consent is made clear where such consent may not be easily determined from the material itself); and
serious harm is caused (whether physical or other, and applying the guidance above at paragraph 17); and
It is not otherwise inextricably linked with other criminality (so as to encourage emulation or fuelling interest or
normalisation of criminality); and
The likely audience is not under 18 (having particular regard to where measures have been taken to ensure that the audience is not under 18) or otherwise vulnerable (as a result of their
physical or mental health, the circumstances in which they may come to view the material, the circumstances which may cause the subject matter to have a particular impact or resonance or any other relevant circumstance).
Note that extreme pornography is considered illegal so will likely be considered obscene too. But the CPS adds a few additional notes of harmful porn that will continue to be illegal:
show or depict the infliction of serious harm may be considered to be obscene publications because they show criminal assault notwithstanding the consent of the victim. This includes dismemberment and graphic mutilation. It includes asphyxiation causing
unconsciousness, which is more than transient and trifling, and given its danger is serious.
So it seems that breath play will be allowed as long as it doesn't lead to unconsciousness. Another specific rule is that gags do not in
themselves imply a lack of consent:
Non-consent for adults must be distinguished from consent to relinquish control. The presence of a gag or other forms of bondage does not, without more, suffice to confirm that
sexual activity was non-consensual.
The BBFC changes its R18 rules
The BBFC has several roles, it works in an advisory role when classifying cinema films, it works as an independent and mandatory censor when
classifying mainstream videos, but it works directly under government rules when censoring pornographic films. And in this last role, it uses unpublished guidelines based on rules provided by the CPS.
The BBFC has informed BBC News that it will
indeed use the updated CPS guidelines when censoring porn. The BBC explains:
The BBFC's guidelines forbid material judged to be obscene under the current interpretation of the Obscene Publications Act.
A spokeswoman told the BBC: Because the Obscene Publications Act does not define what types of
material are likely to be considered obscene, we rely upon guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) as to what classes of material they consider likely to be suitable for prosecution.
We are aware that the CPS have
updated their guidance on Obscene Publications today and we have now adjusted our own internal policies to reflect that revised guidance.
Myles Jackman And Pandora Blake
And a thank you to two of the leading
campaigners calling for the CPS to lighten up on its censorship rules.
Obscenity lawyer Myles Jackman, who has campaigned for these changes for a number of years, told Yahoo News UK that the change had wider
implications for the law. He said:
"It is a very impressive that they've introduced the idea of full and freely exercised consent in the law.
"Even for people with no interest in
pornography this is very important for consent and bodily autonomy."
Activist and queer porn filmmaker Pandora Blake, who also campaigned to have the ban on the depiction of certain sex acts overturned, called
the news a 'welcome improvement'. They said:
"This is a happy day for queer, feminist and fetish porn."
Acts that were banned that can now be depicted include:
The U.K. government is rushing to finalize a draft internet censorship law particularly targeting social media but key details of the proposal have yet to be finalised amid concerns about stifling innovation.
Government officials have been meeting
with industry players, MPs, peers and other groups over the past month as they try to finalise their proposals.
People involved in those discussions said there is now broad agreement about the need to impose a new duty of care on big tech
companies, as well as the need to back up their terms and conditions with the force of law.
A white paper is due be published by the end of winter. But the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which is partly responsible for writing
up the new rules alongside the Home Office, is still deliberating over key aspects with just weeks to go until the government said it would unveil an outline of its proposals.
Among the sticking points are worries that regulation could stifle
innovation in one of the U.K. economy's most thriving sectors and concerns over whether it can keep pace with rapid technological change. Another is ensuring sufficient political support to pass the law despite likely opposition from parts of the
Conservative Party. A third is deciding what regulatory agency would ultimately be responsible for enforcing the so-called Internet Safety Law.
A major unresolved question is what censorship body will be in charge of enforcing laws that could
expose big tech companies to greater liability for hosted content, a prospect that firms including Google and Facebook have fought at the European level.
Several people who spoke to POLITICO said the government does not appear to have settled on
who would be the censor, although the communications regulator Ofcom is very much in the mix, however there are concerns that Ofcom is already getting too big.
Under the proposal, online platforms would have to spend hundreds of millions of euros on
algorithmic copyright filters that would compare everything users tried to post with a database of supposedly copyrighted works, which anyone could add anything to, and block any suspected matches. This would snuff out all the small EU competitors to
America's Big Tech giants, and put all Europeans' communications under threat of arbitrary censorship by balky, unaccountable, easily abused algorithms.
The proposal also lets newspapers decide who can link to their sites, and
charge for the right to do so, in order to transfer some trifling sums from Big Tech to giant news conglomerates, while crushing smaller tech companies and marginalising smaller news providers.
With EU elections looming, every day
that passes without resumed negotiations puts the Directive further and further away from any hope of being voted on in this Parliament (and the next Parliament is likely to have a very different composition, making things even more uncertain). Already,
it would take heroic measures to take any finalised agreement into legislation: just the deadlines for translation, expert review, etc, make it a near impossibility. Within a couple of weeks, there will be no conceivable way to get the Directive voted on
before the elections.
That's why it's so important that opposition is continuing to mount for the Directive, and it certainly is.
This week, the Association of
European Research Libraries came out against the Directive, saying that the "premises both Articles are built on are fundamentally wrong" and calling on negotiators to "delete Articles 11 and 13 from the proposal."
Update: 89 organisations call for the scrpping of the link tax and censorship machines
Your Excellency Deputy Ambassador, Dear European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip Dear MEPs Voss, Adinolfi, Boutonnet, Cavada, Dzhambazki, Geringer de Oedenberg, Joulaud, Mastálka, Reda, Stihler,
We are writing you on behalf of business organisations, civil society organisations, creators, academics, universities, public libraries, research organisations and libraries, startups, software developers, EU online platforms,
and Internet Service Providers.
Taking note of the failure of the Council to find a majority for a revised negotiation mandate on Friday 18 January, we want to reiterate our position that the manifest flaws in Articles 11 and 13
of the proposal for a Copyright Directive in the Digital Single Market constitute insurmountable stumbling blocks to finding a balanced compromise on the future of Copyright in the European Union. Despite more than two years of negotiations, it has not
been possible for EU policy makers to take the serious concerns of industry, civil society, academics, and international observers such as the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression into account, as the premises both Articles are built on are
In light of the deadlock of the negotiations on Articles 11 and 13, as well as taking into consideration the cautious stance of large parts of the creative industries, we ask you to delete Articles 11 and 13
from the proposal. This would allow for a swift continuation of the negotiations, while the issues that were originally intended to be addressed by Articles 11 and 13 could be tackled in more appropriate legal frameworks than this Copyright Directive.
We hope that you will take our suggestion on board when finalising the negotiations and put forward a balanced copyright review that benefits from wide stakeholder support in the European Union.
Europe 1. European Digital Rights (EDRi) 2. Allied for Startups 3. Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties) 4. Copyright for Creativity (C4C) 5. Create.Refresh 6. European Bureau of Library, Information and
Documentation Associations (EBLIDA) 7. European Internet Services Providers Association (EuroISPA) 8. European Network for Copyright in Support of Education and Science (ENCES) 9. European University Association (EUA) 10. Ligue des Bibliothèques
Européennes de Recherche -- Association of European Research Libraries (LIBER) 11. Open State Foundation 12. Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition Europe (SPARC Europe) Austria 13. epicenter.works -- for digital rights 14. Digital Society
15. Initiative für Netzfreiheit (IfNf) 16. Internet Service Providers Austria (ISPA Austria) Belgium 17. FusionDirectory 18. Opensides 19. SA&S -- Samenwerkingsverband Auteursrecht & Samenleving (Partnership Copyright & Society) Bulgaria 20.
BlueLink Foundation Czech Republic 21. Iuridicum Remedium (IuRe) 22. Seznam.cz Denmark 23. IT-Political Association of Denmark Estonia 24. Wikimedia Eesti Finland 25. Electronic Frontier Finland (EFFI) 26. Finnish Federation for Communications and
Teleinformatics (FiCom) France 27. April 28. Conseil National du Logiciel Libre (CNLL) 29. NeoDiffusion 30. Renaissance Numérique 31. Uni-Deal 32. Wikimédia France Germany 33. Bundesverband Deutsche Startups 34. Chaos Computer Club 35. Deutscher
Bibliotheksverband e.V. (dbv) 36. Digitalcourage e.V. 37. Digitale Gesellschaft e.V. 38. eco -- Association of the Internet Industry 39. Factory Berlin 40. Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft (FITUG e.V.) 41. Initiative gegen ein
Leistungsschutzrecht (IGEL) 42. Silicon Allee 43. Wikimedia Deutschland Greece 44. Open Technologies Alliance -- GFOSS (Greek Free Open Source Software Society) 45. Homo Digitalis Italy 46. Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights 47. Roma
Startup 48. Associazione per la Libertà nella Comunicazione Elettronica Interattiva (ALCEI) Luxembourg 49. Frënn vun der Ënn Netherlands 50. Bits of Freedom (BoF) 51. Dutch Association of Public Libraries (VOB) 52. Vrijschrift Poland 53. Centrum Cyfrowe
Foundation 54. ePanstwo Foundation 55. Startup Poland 56. ZIPSEE Digital Poland Portugal 57. Associação D3 -- Defesa dos Direitos Digitais (D³) 58. Associação Nacional para o Software Livre (ANSOL) Romania 59. APADOR-CH (Romanian Helsinki Committee) 60.
Association for Technology and Internet (ApTI) Slovakia 61. Sapie.sk Slovenia 62. Digitas Institute 63. Forum za digitalno druzbo (Digital Society Forum) Spain 64. Asociación de Internautas 65. Grupo 17 de Marzo 66. MaadiX 67. Rights International Spain
68. Xnet Sweden 69. Dataskydd.net 70. Föreningen för Digitala Fri- och Rättigheter (DFRI) United Kingdom 71. Coalition for a Digital Economy (COADEC) 72. Open Rights Group (ORG) International 73. Alternatif Bilisim Dernegi (Alternatif Bilisim) (Turkey)
74. ARTICLE 19 75. Association for Progressive Communications (APC) 76. Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) 77. COMMUNIA Association 78. Derechos Digitales (Latin America) 79. Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) 80. Electronic Information for
Libraries (EIFL) 81. Index on Censorship 82. International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) 83. Israel Growth Forum (Israel) 84. My Private Network 85. Open Knowledge International 86. OpenMedia 87. SHARE Foundation (Serbia) 88.
SumOfUs 89. World Wide Web Foundation
Russia has latched onto the usefulness of claiming fake news when censoring messages that it doesn't like.
A new law passing through parliament will punish media outlets with fines and even imprisonment for publishing 'fake news' or information
showing disrespect to government bodies and officials.
Prosecutors would be able to block websites without court orders, while publications found guilty of spreading unreliable socially-significant information would face fines of as much as
$US15,000 under a measure passed Thursday by the lower house of parliament at first reading.
A second law threatens people with up to 15 days in jail, as well as a ban on their publications, if they distribute material expressing a clear
disrespect for society, the state, the official state symbols of the Russian Federation, the Constitution of the Russian Federation and bodies exercising state power.
Facebook has banned the Theatre Royal Plymouth from using a picture to advertise one of their upcoming shows...because it had three small pictures of people showing some flesh.
The theatre featured a collaged image of the production by Phil Porter on
their social media account but they received a message to say it breached Facebook's advertising policies. The three pictures that offended Facebook were:
a male torso,
one of breasts covered by a bra and
one of a bottom.
Ironically, the show is all about internet moderators and online censorship.
God of Chaos is an outrageously funny and provocative new play about the world of online censorship. Written by Olivier-nominated playwright Phil Porter.
InternetMatters.org is group funded by UK internet and telecoms companies with the aim of promoting their role in internet safety.
The group has now published a survey supporting the government's upcoming introduction of age verification requirements
for porn websites. The results reveal:
83% feel that commercial porn sites should demand users verify their age before they're able to access content.
76% of UK parents feel there should be greater restrictions online to stop kids seeing adult content.
69% of parents of
children aged four to 16 say they're confident the government's new ID restrictions will make a difference.
However 17% disagreed with commercial porn sites requiring ID from their users. And the use of data was the biggest obstacle for those parents opposed to the plans. Of those parents who are anti-age verification, 30% said they wouldn't trust
age-verification companies with their personal data.
While 18% of parents claim they expect kids would find a way to get around age-verification and a further 13% claim they're unsure that it would actually reduce the number of children accessing
pornography. Age-verification supported by experts
People convicted of insulting people online should be named and shamed on a government register of offenders under new laws to censor social media, says an all-party committee of MPs.
The Commons petitions committee claimed new laws were needed to
combat online harms because current legislation was not fit for purpose and self-regulation by the social media firms had failed.
The committee was responding to a petition, backed by more than 220,000 people, from reality TV star and model Katie
Price who demanded new online laws and a register of offenders after her disabled son, Harvey, was viciously trolled for his condition, colour and size.
The MPs believe a criminal law, which covered online abuse and included proper recognition of
hate crimes against disabled people, will achieve what the petition is looking for from a register, as criminal convictions will show up as part of a Disclosure and Barring Service check, said the MPs.
The committee said a high proportion of
abusive content related to football with most shockingly the name of Harvey Price used by fans as an insult for someone's ability as a footballer.
Google has been fined 50 million euros by the French data censor CNIL, for a breach of the EU's data protection rules.
CNIL said it had levied the record fine for lack of transparency, inadequate information and lack of valid consent regarding ads
personalisation. It judged that people were not sufficiently informed about how Google collected data to personalise advertising and that Google had not obtained clear consent to process data because essential information was disseminated across several
documents. The relevant information is accessible after several steps only, implying sometimes up to five or six actions, CNIL said.
In a statement, Google said it was studying the decision to determine its next steps.
The first complaint
under the EU's new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was filed on 25 May 2018, the day the legislation took effect.The filing groups claimed Google did not have a valid legal basis to process user data for ad personalisation, as mandated by the
Many internet companies rely on vague wording such as 'improving user experience' to gain consent for a wide range of data uses but the GDPR provides that the consent is 'specific' only if it is given distinctly for each purpose.
Perhaps this fine may help for the protection of data gathered on UK porn users under the upcoming age verification requirements. Obtaining consent for narrowly defined data usages may mean actions could be taken to prevent user identity and browsing history from being sold on.
The India ISP Jio has upped the ante in internet porn censorship as it has decided to block the websites of VPN providers.
Following a court decision in India requiring that the country ban access to online porn, reports began to emerge in October
that internet access providers had begun blocking as many as 827 adult sites.
But now the Indian telecom firm may be going a step further, thwarting attempts by users in its 250-million strong subscriber base to find workarounds to the ban using
Virtual Private Network (VPN) software.
Jio appears to have blocked access to proxy sites where the VPN software can be downloaded, according to the report.
There are now signs that Reliance Jio may be
suffering blowback from its enthusiastic support of the porn ban, seeing an overall drop in traffic by its users for the final quarter of 2018, with the average Jio customer dropping data use from an average of 11 gigabytes per month to 10.8 gigs,
according to a report by The Hindu newspaper.
Asked whether the drop in data use by its customers was a result of the ban on porn sites, Jio official Anshuman Thakur replied, Yes, you could say that.
Jio's new subscriber signups also
dropped in the last three months of 2018, to 27.8 million new subscribers during that period, when the porn ban took effect, from 37 million in the previous quarter.
WhatsApp is limiting all its members to forwarding any single message up to five times in an effort to tackle the spread of information on the platform. Previously messages could be forwarded 20 times.
The Facebook-owned business had already
introduced the restrictions in India six months ago as a response to a number of mob lynchings blamed on fake reports spread via the app.
The restriction comes at a time WhatsApp and Facebook's other services are under scrutiny for their role in
the spread of propaganda and supposed 'fake news' which seems to mostly be a trumped up claim designed to justify censorship.
Russia's internet censor, Roskomnadzor, has filed administrative proceedings against Facebook and Twitter for failing to comply with local censorship laws.
Roskomnadzor said that the two social networks did not explain how and when they would
comply with legislation requiring them to store Russian users' personal data on servers in Russia. Roskomnadzor told CNBC:
The companies managing the social networks of Facebook and Twitter provided formal answers to
our demands to confirm the localization of personal data of Russian users in Russia. They do not contain specifics about the actual implementation of the legislation at the current moment, nor about the timing of the implementation of these standards in
In this regard, today Roskomnadzor begins administrative proceedings against both companies.
The European Council has firmly rejected the negotiating mandate that was supposed to set out Member States' position ahead of what was supposed to be the final negotiation round with the European Parliament. National governments failed to agree on a
common position on the two most controversial articles, Article 11, also known as the Link Tax, and Article 13, which would require online platforms to use upload filters in an attempt to prevent copyright infringement before it happens.
A total of 11 countries voted against the compromise text proposed by the Romanian Council presidency earlier this week: Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland and Slovenia, who already opposed a previous version of the directive,
as well as Italy, Poland, Sweden, Croatia, Luxembourg and Portugal. With the exception of Portugal and Croatia, all of these governments are known for thinking that either Article 11 or Article 13, respectively, are insufficiently protective of users'
rights. At the same time, some rightsholder groups who are supposed to benefit from the Directive are also turning their backs on Article 13.
This surprising turn of events does not mean the end of Link Tax or censorship machines,
but it does make an adoption of the copyright directive before the European elections in May less likely. The Romanian Council presidency will have the chance to come up with a new text to try to find a qualified majority, but with opposition mounting on
both sides of the debate, this is going to be a difficult task indeed.
The outcome of today's Council vote also shows that public attention to the copyright reform is having an effect. Keeping up the pressure in the coming weeks
will be more important than ever to make sure that the most dangerous elements of the new copyright proposal will be rejected.
An Arizona legislator has proposed a one off $20 fee to access porn sites, with funds going to Donald Trump's border wall.
According to a report by The Arizona Republic, state rep Gail Griffin has introduced a new bill that would force internet users
to cough up $20 just for the ability to access adult sites online. The money would go into a newly created account called the John McCain Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Fund, with the proceeds to be used for one of 10 things, and the top item
on the list of 10 is: Build a border wall between Mexico and this state or fund border security .
A similar tax has been proposed in several other states but has not yet come to fruition. Lawmakers have not made it clear how the tax will
actually be implemented but perhaps it would be along the line of ISPs blocking porn sites until the tax is paid.
India's Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology has proposed new social media censorship rules.
Open for public comment through 31 January 2019, the new rules would compel platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter to remove, within
24 hours, any unlawful content that affects the sovereignty and integrity of India.
According to a definition posted online by the Indian government last week, unlawful material includes anything that could be seen as grossly harmful, harassing,
blasphemous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, pedophilic, libelous, invasive of another's privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically objectionable, disparaging, relating or encouraging money laundering or gambling, or otherwise unlawful in any manner
The definition also covers political speech, including any content that threatens the unity, integrity, defense, security or sovereignty of India, friendly relations with foreign states, or public order, or causes incitement to the
commission of any cognisable offense or prevents investigation of any offense or is insulting any other nation.
The new rule would also mandate companies to reveal the origin of a message when asked, which violates WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption
Industry experts and civil rights activists are concerned that the new rules
are veering dangerously close to censorship, and lobbyists have already started drafting objections to file with the ministry.
Internet company Mozilla Corp came out strongly against the guidelines, stating that the proposal was a blunt and
disproportionate solution to the problem of harmful content online. Industry executives note that the guidelines would put the privacy of users at risk and would raise costs, as it would necessitate round-the-clock monitoring of content.
WhatsApp is gearing up to fight the Indian government's proposals to force tech companies to hand over the personal data and encrypted messages of Indian users.
India's internet censor and IT ministry have both proposed laws that would allow
authorities to trace the origins of encrypted messages. The legislation would also compel tech companies including Facebook, Twitter and Apple to proactively monitor and remove objectionable content posted on their platforms.
The new rules
essentially mean breaking encryption and collecting much more data than WhatsApp currently do, which amounts to mass surveillance.
A WhatsApp expert said that the app is designed to not collect or store a record of who wrote and sent every message
on the platform. The company would have to redesign its systems and revise its privacy policies in order to comply with the proposals.
And of course if WhatsApp continues to operate in repressive regimes like India and Australia then worldwide
users will be able to infer that all their messages can also be decrypted at the behest of the authorities in any country.
The Indian government's effort to block citizens from watching pornography hasn't quite worked, according to website analytics data. On the contrary, overall consumption of internet porn may have increased over the past few months with traffic shifting
to other sites and the use of proxy servers.
Fifty-nine of the banned websites, data of which was shared by SimilarWeb, a web analytics company, received an average of 1.7 billion monthly visits before the ban and the figure dropped to 0.8 billion
visits after the ban. However this drop has been more than compensated for by visits to at least 441 other websites that are not banned. These websites together received an average of 0.6 billion monthly visits before the ban and two billion after the
ban. Adding these together reveals that monthly porn site visits increased from 2.3 billion to 2.8 billion as a result of the ban.
There are other factors also contributing to why the ban is not working.
First, at least 42% of the websites
in the banned list (345 of the total 827) are still accessible on the internet if users write https instead of http in the web address. These accessible websites include the top three porn websites in India -- Xnxx, Xvideos and Pornhub.
Indians are also accessing the banned porn websites through easily available proxy networks or virtual private networks (VPN) that hide their identity and location, and in turn let users bypass any such ban. A sudden surge in the number of visits to some
of the most popular proxy service websites makes this fact evident.
For instance, proxy site kproxy.com received 2.3 million visits from India in November, according to ComScore. This was more than twice its average of 0.9 million visits in the
previous three months. The increased use of proxy services by porn consumers in India is also evident from data on Google Trends, a tool that quantifies the popularity of search queries over time. The popularity of search terms like porn proxy, porn site
proxy and porn vpn in India rose seven to 10 times in the week the ban was announced.
Third, the list of the 827 websites that were banned does not cover a wide enough range of such sites. Among the 500 most visited porn websites in India,
according to ComScore data, only 59 websites have been banned. Among the top 10, only five have been blocked.
Fearful of state censorship being imposed on internet TV, several internet TV companies that operate in India have collaborated on a set of self censorship rules.
Netflix and Indian rival Hotstar plan to adopt these rules whilst noting that the
country's laws currently do not mandate any censorship of content on online streaming platforms.
A draft of the censorship rules state that the platforms would prohibit content that shows a child engaged in real or simulated sexual activities, is
disrespectful of India's national flag or encourages terrorism. The rules also ban content which deliberately and maliciously intends to outrage religious sentiments of any class, section or community.
Amazon Prime Video will not sign the
code, though it helped draft it, as the company does not want to act in the absence of government-mandated regulation, a source said.
Participating companies will appoint a person, team or department to receive and address any consumer-related
Index on Censorship shares the widespread concerns about the proposed EU regulation on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online. The regulation would endanger freedom of expression and would create huge practical challenges for companies
and member states. Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index, said We urge members of the European Parliament and representatives of EU member states to consider if the regulation is needed at all. It risks creating far more problems than it solves. At a minimum the
regulation should be completely revised.
Following the recent agreement by the European Council on a draft position for the proposed regulation on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online, which adopted the initial
draft presented by the European Commission with some changes, the Global Network Initiative (GNI) is concerned about the potential unintended effects of the proposal and would therefore like to put forward a number of issues we urge the European
Parliament to address as it considers it further.
GNI members recognize and appreciate the European Union (EU) and member states' legitimate roles in providing security, and share the aim of tackling the dissemination of terrorist
content online. However, we believe that, as drafted, this proposal could unintentionally undermine that shared objective by putting too much emphasis on technical measures to remove content, while simultaneously making it more difficult to challenge
terrorist rhetoric with counter-narratives. In addition, the regulation as drafted may place significant pressure on a range of information and communications technology (ICT) companies to monitor users' activities and remove content in ways that pose
risks for users' freedom of expression and privacy. We respectfully ask that EU officials, Parliamentarians, and member states take the time necessary to understand these and other significant risks that have been identified, by consulting openly and in
good faith with affected companies, civil society, and other experts.
YouTube has announced new censorship rules for videos featuring pranks and challenges. Google writes in a blog post:
YouTube is home to many beloved viral challenges and pranks, like Jimmy Kimmel's Terrible Christmas Presents
prank or the water bottle flip challenge. That said, we've always had policies to make sure what's funny doesn't cross the line into also being harmful or dangerous. Our Community Guidelines prohibit content that encourages dangerous activities that are
likely to result in serious harm, and today clarifying what this means for dangerous challenges and pranks.
Q: What exactly are you clarifying related to challenges?
We've updated our external guidelines to
make it clear that challenges like the Tide pod challenge or the Fire challenge, that can cause death and/or have caused death in some instances, have no place on YouTube.
Q: What exactly are you clarifying related to pranks?
We've made it clear that our policies prohibiting harmful and dangerous content also extend to pranks with a perceived danger of serious physical injury. We don't allow pranks that make victims believe they're in serious physical
danger 203 for example, a home invasion prank or a drive-by shooting prank. We also don't allow pranks that cause children to experience severe emotional distress, meaning something so bad that it could leave the child traumatized for life.
Q: What are examples of pranks that cause children severe emotional distress?
We've worked directly with child psychologists to develop guidelines around the types of pranks that cross this line. Examples
include, the fake death of a parent or severe abandonment or shaming for mistakes.
Q: Can I appeal strikes related to dangerous challenges and pranks?
Yes, you can appeal the strike if you think the video
content doesn't violate Community Guidelines.
Q: How long is the grace period for me to review and clean up content?
The next two months -- during this time challenges and pranks that violate Community
Guidelines will be removed but the channel will not receive a strike. Additionally, content posted prior to these enforcement updates may be removed, but will not receive a strike.
The Internet is Facing a Catastrophe For Free Expression and Competition But You Could Still Tip The Balance. By Cory Doctorow
The new EU Copyright Directive is progressing at an alarming rate. This week, the EU is asking its
member-states to approve new negotiating positions for the final language. Once they get it, they're planning to hold a final vote before pushing this drastic, radical new law into 28 countries and 500,000,000 people.
majority of the rules in the new Directive are inoffensive updates to European copyright law, two parts of the Directive represent pose a dire threat to the global Internet:
Article 11: A proposal to make platforms pay for linking to news sites by creating a non-waivable right to license any links from for-profit services (where those links include more than a word or two from the story or its
headline). Article 11 fails to define "news sites," "commercial platforms" and "links," which invites 28 European nations to create 28 mutually exclusive, contradictory licensing regimes. Additionally, the fact that the
"linking right" can't be waived means that open-access, public-interest, nonprofit and Creative Commons news sites can't opt out of the system.
Article 13: A proposal to end the appearance of unlicensed copyrighted
works on big user-generated content platforms, even for an instant. Initially, this included an explicit mandate to develop "filters" that would examine every social media posting by everyone in the world and check whether it matched entries in
an open, crowdsourced database of supposedly copyrighted materials. In its current form, the rule says that filters "should be avoided" but does not explain how billions of social media posts, videos, audio files, and blog posts should be
monitored for infringement without automated filtering systems.
Taken together, these two rules will subject huge swaths of online expression to interception and arbitrary censorship, and give the largest news companies in Europe the power to decide who can discuss and criticise their reporting,
and undermining public-interest, open-access journalism.
The Directive is now in the hands of the European member-states. National ministers are going to decide whether or not Europe becomes a global exporter of censorship and
surveillance. Your voice counts : when you contact your ministers, you are speaking as one citizen to another, in a national context, about issues of import to you and your neighbours. Your national government depends on your goodwill to win the
votes to continue its mandate. This is a rare moment in European lawmaking when local connections from citizens matter more than well-funded, international corporations.
If you live in Sweden, Germany, Luxembourg, or Poland:
Please contact your ministers to convey your concern about Article 13 and 11.
We've set up action pages to reach the right people, but you should tailor your message to describe who you are, and your worries. Your country has previously expressed concerns about Article 13 and 11, and may still oppose it.
The French Internet censor CNIL some time ago insisted that censorship required under the 'right to be forgotten' should be applied worldwide rather than limited to the EU. Google appealed against the court order leading to the case being sent to the
European Court of Justice.
Now opinions from the court's advocate general suggest that court will determine that the right to be forgotten does not apply worldwide. The opinions are not final but the court often follows them when it hands down its
ruling, which is expected later.
CNIL wanted Google to remove links from Google.com instead of just removing links from European versions of the site, like Google.de and Google.fr. However Maciej Szpunar warned that going further would be risky
because the right to be forgotten always has to be balanced against other rights, including legitimate public interest in accessing the information sought.
Szpunar said if worldwide de-referencing was allowed, European Union authorities would not
be able to determine a right to receive information or balance it against other fundamental rights to data protection and to privacy.
And of course if France were allowed to censor information from the entire worldwide internet then why not China,
Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia?
Africa's landscape of online free speech and dissent has gradually, but consistently, been tightened in recent years. In 2018 in particular, the cost of speaking out -- both legally and economically -- was on the rise across the continent.
This past year, the imposition of taxes and licensing fees on social media use and blogging in countries like Tanzania and Uganda made it more costly for Africans -- especially those living in poverty -- to communicate, seek
information and conduct business online.
Internet shutdowns remained a threat in times of public unrest or political transition, like elections. Chad , the Democratic Republic of Congo , Ethiopia and Mali all experienced
government-ordered internet shutdowns in 2018 that ran for several hours or a few days. And the now infamous shutdown in Cameroon claimed the world record for the longest known internet shutdown, after running discontinuously for a cumulative total of
230 days from January 2017 until March 2018.
And the arrest of journalists persists. In recent years, media workers have been jailed on charges ranging from publishing false information to exposing state secrets to terrorism .
Taken together, these three types of state control over internet access and use have made sub-Saharan Africa a place where the cost of using the internet -- and the political risks of using it to speak out -- have become too high for
many citizens to undertake. Promises of intellectual and economic empowerment heavily touted by international and intergovernmental organizations are becoming a pipe dream for too many people on the continent.
In 2018, the
governments of Uganda , Zambia and Benin imposed new taxes on social media users, leaving them struggling to pay new fees on top of already-costly internet service. Alongside an apparent desire of government leaders like Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni
to quell online gossip , these tax policies stem from a long-standing frustration with Internet-based communication applications, such as WhatsApp. Typically foreign-owned and free of charge for anyone with internet access, government actors long argued
that these apps cause revenue losses for national telecom operators who were once the primary providers (and cost beneficiaries) of these services.
At this stage in sub-Saharan Africa's telecommunications development, tools like
WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have become the dominant applications for person-to-person communication for families and businesses and distributing public alerts during emergencies. Making them more expensive may drastically reduce citizens' ability to
communicate with one another, affecting many facets of social interaction and productivity. For some citizens, the tax will cut off access entirely.
When I interviewed women living in Bwaise, a slum in Kampala, I learned that for
them, WhatsApp and Facebook are the internet. These are the only platforms they know how to use. So with the new tax, they will be cut off altogether.
Meanwhile, in Tanzania and Mozambique , new taxes have been introduced for
bloggers and small publishers that could drive many of them out of business. Tanzania's so-called blogger tax requires bloggers and independent website owners to register and pay roughly $900 USD per year to publish online. Mozambique's new scheme will
assign licensing fees of up to $3300 USD for Mozambican journalists working independently.
Tanzania's new policy led to the temporary closure of Jamii Forums , which has been dubbed both the Tanzanian Reddit and Swahili Wikileaks
-- creating big waves on the Tanzanian social media scene.
All told, these licensing and taxation schemes create economic and civic barriers that will have significant consequences for journalism, communication, commerce and free
speech in the region.
The government has published Online Pornography (Commercial Basis) Regulations 2019 which defines which websites get caught up in upcoming internet porn censorship requirements and how social media websites are excused from the censorship.
laws will come into force on the day that subsection (1) of section 14 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 comes fully into force. This is the section that introduces porn censorship and age verification requirements. This date has not yet been announced but
the government has promised to give at least 3 months notice.
So now websites which are more than one-third pornographic content or else those that promote themselves as pornographic will be obliged to verify the age of UK visitors under. However
the law does not provide any specific protection for porn viewers' data beyond the GDPR requirements to obtain nominal consent before using the data obtained for any purpose the websites may desire.
The BBFC and ICO will initiate a voluntary
kitemark scheme so that porn websites and age verification providers can be audited as holding porn browsing data and identity details responsibly. This scheme has not yet produced any audited providers so it seems a little unfair to demand that websites
choose age verification technology before service providers are checked out.
It all seems extraordinarily dangerous for porn users to submit their identity to adult websites or age verification providers without any protection under law. The BBFC
has offered worthless calls for these companies to handle data responsibly, but so many of the world's major website companies have proven themselves to be untrustworthy, and hackers, spammers, scammers, blackmailers and identity thieves are hardly
likely to take note of the BBFC's fine words eg suggesting 'best practice' when implementing age verification.
Neil Brown, the MD of law firm decoded.legal told Sky News:
It is not clear how this age
verification will be done, and whether it can be done without also have to prove identity, and there are concerns about the lack of specific privacy and security safeguards.
Even though this legislation has received quite a lot of
attention, I doubt most internet users will be aware of what looks like an imminent requirement to obtain a 'porn licence' before watching pornography online.
The government's own impact assessment recognises that it is not
guaranteed to succeed, and I suspect we will see an increase in advertising from providers in the near future.
It would seem particularly stupid to open one up to the dangers of have browsing and identity tracked, so surely it is time
to get oneself protected with a VPN, which enables one to continue accessing porn without having to hand over identity details.
A repressive new internet censorship took effect at the beginning of 2019. I demands that data about Vietnam users is held locally in the country so that the Government is able to lodge censorship requests to remove content that it does not like and to
hand over local account details of users that it wants to pursue.
Facebook has refused to go along with some of these provisions and has already been threatened by the government. claiming that Facebook violated the new law by not removing what it
says is anti-government content.
According to a report published by state-controlled media Vietnam News, the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) accused Facebook of allowing personal accounts to post slanderous content,
anti-government sentiment and libel and defamation of individuals, organisations and State agencies. The report noted:
Facebook had not reportedly responded to a request to remove fanpages provoking activities against
the State at the request of authorities.
The MIC reported that the government had sent emails repeatedly asking Facebook to remove distorted and misleading content, but the platform delayed removal of the content, saying it didn't
violate its community standards. The MIC also said that Facebook refused to hand over account data it sought for the associated accounts.
Vietnam News said that authorities are still gathering evidence of Facebook's infringements.
The BBFC has just published a very short list of adjudications responding to website blocking complaints to mobile ISPs during the last quarter of 2018.
There are several cases where innocuous websites were erroneously blocked by ISPs for no apparent
reason whatsoever and a quick check by a staff member would have sorted out without the need to waste the BBFC's time. These sites should get compensation from the for grossly negligent and unfair blocking.
The only adjudication of note was that
the general archive website archive.org which of course keeps a snapshot of a wide range of websites including some porn.
The BBFC noted that this was the second time that they have taken a look at the site::
The BBFC provided a further adjudication when we viewed the website on 10 October 2018. As in September 2015, we determined that the site was a digital archive which hosted a range of media including video, books and
articles. We found a range of pornography across the archive which featured explicit images of sexual activity, in both animated and non-animated contexts. The site also contained repeated uses of very strong language. Additionally, out of copyright film
and video material which the BBFC has passed 18 was also present on the site.
As such, we concluded that we would continue to classify the site 18.
It is interesting to note that the BBFC have never been asked
to adjudicate about similarly broad websites where it would be totally untenable to come to the same 18 rated but correct conclusion, eg google.com, youtube.com, twitter.com. They would all have to be 18 rated and it would cause untold trouble for
everybody. I wonder who decides 'best not go there'?
A Chinese VPN user has been fined for accessing overseas websites censored by the government.
Chinese authorities have issued a disciplinary warning to a Guangdong man and ordered him pay a fine of 1,000 yuan (US$164) for setting up (presumably
meaning using) an unauthorised Virtual Private Network (VPN) service to connect to international websites.
The man, surnamed Zhu and from Shaoguan city in Guangdong province, was punished on December 28 because his behaviour violated censorship
Individuals and organisations can only connect to international networks through channels provided by the government, according to regulations listed on the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology's website.
Netflix has removed an episode of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj from its Saudi catalog, after the Kingdom's government took offence to a segment criticizing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
In the episode, the Muslim American comedian
blasts Saudi Arabia's role in the war in Yemen and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Embassy in Turkey.
According to the Financial Times, the removal was not motivated by Saudi cash, but by legal threats. The streaming giant
told the FT that it removed the episode after receiving a complaint from the Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission.
The commission claimed that the episode violated a cybercrime law forbidding the production, preparation,
transmission, or storage of material impinging on public order, religious values, public morals, and privacy.
While the episode was pulled from Netflix, Saudi viewers keen for some anti-government comedy can watch it on Youtube, which is not
blocked in the country. The censored episode is still available in the US.
A US federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit that Google's non-consensual use of facial recognition technology violated users' privacy rights, allowing the tech giant to continue to scan and store their biometric data.
The lawsuit, filed in 2016,
alleged that Google violated Illinois state law by collecting biometric data without their consent. The data was harvested from their pictures stored on Google Photos.
The plaintiffs wanted more than $5 million in damages for hundreds of thousands
of users affected, arguing that the unauthorized scanning of their faces was a violation of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, which completely outlaws the gathering of biometric information without consent.
Google countered claiming
that the plaintiffs were not entitled to any compensation, as they had not been harmed by the data collection. On Saturday, US District Judge Edmond E. Chang sided with the tech giant, ruling that the plaintiffs had not suffered any concrete harm, and
dismissing the suit.
As well as allowing Google to continue the practice, the ruling could have implications for other cases pending against Facebook and Snapchat. Both companies are currently being sued for violating the Illinois act.