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 complaints.
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.
While the 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.
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 whatever.
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.
office available for 24/7 cooperation with law enforcement.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
These new 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
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
The man, surnamed Zhu and from Shaoguan city in Guangdong province, was punished on December 28 because his behaviour violated censorship rules.
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
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.