In a test case that could have significant implications for Google throughout Europe the company faced off against the Spanish data protection authority in the European Court of Justice.
From the Spanish government's point of view its data protection authority is pushing for the recently articulated right (of individuals) to be forgotten by having content or data about them removed from the search index upon request. From
Google's perspective, if the court agrees with Spain, the outcome would be tantamount to granting individuals the right to censor Google.
The Spanish citizen, Mario Costeja, filed a complaint with the Spanish Data Protection Agency (AEPD) against Google and the newspaper La Vanguardia after discovering that a Google search for his name produced results referring to the auction of
real estate property seized from him for non-payment of social security contributions.
The AEPD rejected Costeja's complaint against the newspaper on the grounds that the publication of the information was legal and was protected by the right to information but, with extraordinary inconsistency, upheld his complaint his
complaint against Google, ordering the search engine to eliminate about 100 links from all future searches for Costeja's name.
Google refused to accept the ruling and filed an appeal which has now reached court.
In February 2012, Twitter introduced a policy that enables individual tweets and accounts to be blocked on a country-by-country basis. If a government submits a court order to Twitter, asking for a tweet or account to be blocked, Twitter will
comply. But the blocking will only occur in the country in question , to users throughout the rest of the world, the affected content will look no different.
This past October, Twitter enacted this policy for the first time to block tweets from the account of the German extreme right-wing group, Besseres Hannover. The German government has formally banned and seized the assets of the group, and some
of its members have been charged with inciting racial hatred and creating a criminal organization.
The group announced that it would challenge the blocking in court, but as things stand, Twitter's move to block the group's tweets was in accordance with local German law.
Twitter's general counsel, Alex MacGillivray, announced the issue on Twitter and linked to a copy of the request from German police to block the @hannoverticker account in Germany.
A Cairo court has ordered the government to block access to the video-sharing website YouTube for 30 days for carrying an anti-Islam film. Muslims across the world rioted in protest against the film.
Judge Hassouna Tawfiq ordered YouTube blocked for carrying the film, which he described as offensive to Islam.
The ruling, however, can be appealed and, based on precedent, might not be enforced. Similar orders to censor pornographic websites deemed offensive have not been enforced in Egypt because of high costs associated with technical applications but
blocking YouTube might be easier to enforce.
Human rights lawyer Gamal Eid said the decision to ban YouTube stems in large part from a lack of knowledge among judges about how the Internet works:
This verdict shows that judges' understanding of technology is weak. The judges do not realise that one wrong post on a website does not mean you have to block the entire website.
Egypt's telecoms censor says it is not viable for it to follow a court order to block YouTube in the country, and is appealing the ruling.
The order banning YouTube and some other websites for 30 days was issued by a Cairo court after it was brought to its notice that there was a proliferation of links to clips of the controversial Innocence of Muslims video, which is said to
portray the religious character Muhammad in a derogatory manner.
It appears that YouTube's willingness to censor the video in Egypt did not go far enough for the Cairo Administrative Court, said civil rights groups Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The country's Ministry of Information Technology and Communications and the National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority decided after a meeting that to block YouTube would technically affect the use of Google search in Egypt with economic
consequences to the country, according to a ministry statement.
The proposed ban on YouTube has also been criticized by the U.S. It's actually not quite clear to us at this moment how and whether that's going to be enforced across Egypt, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: But as
a general matter, you know that we reject censorship as a response to offensive speech.
Saudi Arabia's minister of media and censorship says observing the interactions of three million Saudis on Twitter is becoming difficult and calls for public involvement. Abdel Aziz Khoga, has also confirmed censorship of Twitter imposed by a
series of government bodies, the Saudi Al-Watan Online reported.
Khoga called on Saudi citizens to raise their awareness and contribute to the censorship initiative taken up by the ministry. People have to take care of what they are writing on Twitter, the minister said. It is getting harder
to observe around three million people subscribing to the social network in the kingdom, Khoga added.
Google may have to act quicker to remove potentially libellous posts from its Blogger platform following a court of appeal ruling in London.
The court ruled that a gap of five weeks between a complaint being made and the removal of allegedly defamatory comments on a blogpost could leave it open to a libel action, overturning a finding in the high court last year.
The case is being seen as a landmark action because it the first time the higher court has addressed the issue of Google's liability for defamation on its blogging platform.
In a previous case, Judge Eady said Google's responsibility for online slurs was no more than that of an unfortunate owner of a wall festooned with defamatory graffiti . Eady had noted a period of five weeks had elapsed between the
letter of complaint about the remarks and their removal by Blogger, but said while this was somewhat dilatory it was not outside the bounds of a reasonable response .
The court of appeal found otherwise and said five weeks was sufficiently long to leave room for an inference adverse to Google Inc .
The Conservative Canadian government is abandoning its much-criticized internet surveillance bill, which would have allowed the government to keep tabs on its citizens and was disguised with bollox claims of fighting child pornographers. (The
authorities can already get all the warrants they need to investigate serious crimes)
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced that Bill C-30, which caused public ire over privacy, is dead. Nicholson told reporters:
We've listened to the concerns of Canadians, We will not be proceeding with Bill C-30 ... including the warrantless mandatory disclosure of basic subscriber information, or the requirement for telecommunications service providers to build
intercept capabilities within their systems.
Bill C-30 misleadingly known as the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act was introduced in Parliament less than a year ago, and it was presented as a choice that Canadians must make: to either support the bill or be on the side of
child pornographers. He can either stand with us or stand with the child pornographers, argued Public Safety Minister Vic Toews in Parliament while attacking the opposition last February.
This comment led to public outrage, raising privacy concerns across the nation.
What made the legislation dangerous was that it forced Internet service providers to have systems that allowed police to intercept and track online communications. Also, it would have permitted authorities to have warrantless access to Internet
subscriber information, including name, address, telephone number, email address and IP address.
This is a great day, critic of the bill, Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Couvukian told The Globe and Mail, This is a victory for privacy and for freedom.
Finnish Minister for Justice, Anna-Maja Henriksson, is backing extending Finland's current pornography censorship to move beyond child pornography.
Under current Finnish law, the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) maintains a blocklist of foreign sourced child pornography websites, as it cannot take direct action against them. Specifically, the Minister eyes expanding the list to involve
websites that include pornographic material showing animals, and violent porn.
The idea does not have unanimous support even within the Finnish government, however. Finland's Interior Minister, Paivi Rasanen, doubts the need to expand pornographic censorship at all. Indeed, even Finland's own child pornography blocklist
has, in the past, included websites that had nothing to do with such vile content.
To most people, animal porn also would be distasteful, if not downright sick, but does the spread of those kinds of videos or images demand the same special censorship enforcement afforded to child pornography?
Where the proposal would raise most questions however, is the inclusion of violent pornography. Who decides what violent pornography is?
A US high-school student could face a criminal conviction after posting a joke on Twitter.
In a case reminiscent of the UK's now-infamous Twitter Joke Trial , Scrimalli, 18, of Scranton, Pennsylvania has been arrested for terroristic threats after joking ahead of a local schools basketball game on 4 February:
If there is a Facebook or twitter fight tonight over the HC MV game I will just blow up the schools and students involved. #goonsquad.
The game was stopped in the first quarter and the venue evacuated. The authorities are pressing ahead with charges. Local Assistant District Attorney Gene Riccardo is quote as saying Two municipalities, two school districts have been impacted
by that decision so that's why we're going forward with these charges.
Classmates and friends on Twitter have rallied around the hashtag #PrayForTorre.
BSkyB has claimed that computer-based parental controls were not enough to protect kids who use web-based services on a variety of devices. So network-level filtering will be applied to the service at some point in 2013.
The company quietly announced its plan in a blog post by Sky brand director Lyssa McGowan:
[W]e've been investigating ways to help provide a whole-home solution in which web content can be filtered out not by a particular device, but at a household-level so that parents can define the type of access they want blocked and the
filtering will apply across all connected devices in the home.
And I'm delighted to be able to confirm that Sky has committed to offering a whole-home solution to all of our more than 4 million broadband customers. We will also introduce reporting tools to parents so they will know each and every time any
changes have been made to the settings they've applied, to ensure they are happy with the settings at all times.
It's not yet clear whether website blocking will be turned on by default but it would be most likely be offered as an option to those that request it.
In December, Prime Minister David Cameron described on-by-default network-level web filters as a crude system for blocking inappropriate content. The blocking is so overbroad and low quality that adults soon ask for the blocking to be
Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said too many investigations into comments on networks such as Twitter would have a chilling effect on free speech:
I think that if there are too many investigations and too many cases coming to court then that can have a chilling effect on free speech.
This is about trying to get the balance right, making sure time and resources are spent on cases that really do need to go to court, and not spent on cases which people might think really would be better dealt with by a swift apology and removal
of the offending tweet.
There is a lot of stuff out there that is highly offensive that is put out on a spontaneous basis that is quite often taken down pretty quickly and the view is that those sort of remarks don't necessarily need to be prosecuted.
This is not a get-out-of-jail card but it is highly relevant. Stuff does go up on a Friday and Saturday night and come down the next morning. If that is the case a lot of people will say: 'That shouldn't have happened, the person has accepted
it, but really you don't need a criminal prosecution.' It is a relevant factor.
Starmer stressed that people who wrote libellous tweets, or messages that broke court orders or were threatening, would still face prosecution.
In the case of Yildrim v Turkey the European Court of Human Rights decided that a Court order blocking access to "Google Sites" in Turkey was a violation of Article 10.
Yildrim owned and ran a website hosted by the Google Sites service, on which he published his academic work and his opinions on various matters. On 23 June 2009 the Denizli Criminal Court of First Instance ordered the blocking of an
Internet site whose owner had been accused of insulting the memory of Atatürk . The order was issued as a preventive measure in the context of criminal proceedings against the site's owner.
The blocking order was submitted for execution to the Telecommunications Directorate (TiB). Shortly afterwards, the TiB asked the court to extend the scope of the order by blocking access to Google Sites, which hosted not only the site
in question but also the applicant's site. The TiB stated that this was the only technical means of blocking the offending site, as its owner was located abroad.
The TiB blocked all access to Google Sites and Yildrim was thus unable to access his own site. All his subsequent attempts to remedy the situation were unsuccessful because of the blocking order issued by the court.
The court decided that \the effects of the measure in question had been arbitrary and the judicial review of the blocking of access had been insufficient to prevent abuses. There had therefore been a violation of Article 10 of the
Convention. The court held that Turkey was to pay the applicant 7,500 euros (EUR) in respect of non pecuniary damage.
Children are as upset by violent videos on YouTube that feature animal cruelty or beheadings and by insensitive Facebook messages from divorced parents as they are by online bullying and pornography, according to the biggest survey of young
British people and their internet use.
The research will be unveiled by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) on Tuesday, Safer Internet Day, when a charter of rights and responsibilities for children online will also be launched.
The survey, conducted for the council by academics, asked 24,000 children 25 questions about internet use, including have you ever seen anything online that has upset you? Hundreds of schools around Britain were enlisted to help canvass
the children, who were aged up to 16.
Andy Phippen, professor of social responsibility at Plymouth University, who helped to devise the report, said:
Upset is caused by a broad range of issues, very varied, and not all sexual content. One memorable answer from a primary school child who was asked what most upset him was when my Dad told me on Facebook he didn't want to see me any more.
Sonia Livingstone, professor of social psychology at the London School of Economics, told the Oxford Media Convention last month that LSE research, which asked 8,000 children aged nine to 16 about the disturbing things they had seen on the
internet, supported this picture. She added:
There is a lot of attention given to pornography and bullying on social media, but they also mentioned beheadings, flaying, cruelty to animals.
Accessing pornography online, the main concern of parents responding to a government consultation last autumn, did not feature highly in the teenagers' responses.
Russia's Safe Internet League is set to impose a walled garden of just half a million sites selected by the authorities on a trial set of internet users.
The Safe Internet League has announced that they had secured an agreement between itself, the governor of the Kostroma Region and all 29 internet services' providers that work there to conduct the experiment dubbed Clean Internet .
The experiment will start in February once providers change their user agreements so that subscribers will only have access to a so called white list of web-sites approved by the league's censors. Those who wish to venture beyond the
500,000 approved websites will have to sign an additional agreement stating that they are doing so at their own risk.
The initiative would most likely bar Kostroma victims from visiting half of all Russian web-sites, and a far larger proportion of international sites.
League censors say that web-site owners would have to file requests to list their resources among the safe content and such a move would happen only after censors check into the application. If they find pornography, violence, extremism or other
illicit or illegal content on the site it will be excluded from the white list forever.
The head of the unregistered Pirate Party of Russia, Pavel Rassudov, said the Safe Internet experiment was pure censorship and violated the Russian Constitution that guarantees the right to information access. He also pointed out that the Safe
Internet League's monopoly on censorship decisions seemed strange and creating a broader panel for the purpose would be more appropriate.
An executive from the Foundation for Development of Internet Technologies and Infrastructure, Matvey Alekseyev, also said that it was not clear who granted the league's experts the right to dictate their understanding of safety to ordinary
rather than asking visitors to its website to formally opt in to receiving cookies.
Here's the Office's reasoning on the matter:
We first introduced a notice about cookies in May 2011, and at that time we chose to ask for explicit consent for cookies. We felt this was appropriate at the time, considering that many people didn't know much about cookies and what they were
used for. We also considered that asking for explicit consent would help raise awareness about cookies, both for users and website owners. Since then, many more people are aware of cookies -- both because of what we've been doing, and other
websites taking their own steps to comply. We now consider it's appropriate for us to rely on a responsible implementation of implied consent, as indeed have many other websites.