India's Supreme Court has ruled on three internet censorship sections of the Information Technology Act 2000 - Section 66A, Section 79 and Section 69A.
The draconian Section 66A was originally meant to tackle spam and cyber-stalking but was used by the powerful elite to crack down on online dissent and criticism.
Section 79 was meant to give immunity to internet intermediaries for liability emerging from third-party speech, but it had a chilling effect on free speech because intermediaries erred on the side of caution when it came to deciding whether the
content was legal or illegal.
And Section 69A was the web blocking or internet censorship provision, but the procedure prescribed did not adhere to the principles of natural justice and transparency. For instance, when books are banned by courts, the public is informed of
such bans but when websites are banned in India, there's no clear message from the ISP.
The Supreme Court upheld 69A, so web blocking and internet censorship in India will continue to happen in an opaque fashion which is worrying.
But on 66A and 79, the landmark judgment protects the right to free speech and expression. It struck down 66A in entirety, saying the vague and imprecise language made the provision unconstitutional and it interfered with the right of the
people to know - the market place of ideas - which the internet provides to persons of all kinds .
However, it only read down Section 79 saying unlawful acts beyond what is laid down as reasonable restrictions to the right to free speech in the Constitution obviously cannot form any part of the section. In short, the court has
eliminated any additional restrictions for speech online even though it admitted that the internet is intelligibly different from traditional media and might require additional laws to be passed by the Indian Parliament.
Major UK ISPs must now block 110 piracy related websites after a new High Court order. The latest blocking round was issued on behalf of the major record labels and targets several MP3 download sites as well as a search engine for the cloud
hosting service Mega.co.nz.
In a new wave the BPI, which represents the major record labels, has teamed up with music licensing outfit Phonographic Performance Limited to obtain an order targeting a series of MP3 download sites.
A few days ago several providers including Sky, BT and Virgin implemented the new changes, making it harder for their subscribers to reach these sites. The other ISPs are expected to follow suit during the days to come.
Thus far the sealed Court order hasn't been released to the public but the list of 17 sites was confirmed to TorrentFreak by one of the major ISPs, which preferred not to comment on the latest blocking round.
Because the ISPs have given up on defending their position in court, it is now a mere formality for copyright holders to have a pirate site banned. However, the blocking efforts are not without cost. Leaked information previously revealed that
even an unopposed application for a blocking order costs copyright holders around £14,000 per website . This brings the total costs of the requesting parties well over a million pounds.
Social media users who share content that has been subject to a legal complaint in Turkey will be punished, according an omnibus bill currently being debated in parliament.
Internet censors at the Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) will be able to decide for the removal or blocking of Internet content based on vague claims about "protection of national security and public order" in the omnibus
bill, and users who then share such content will also be punished.
On March 20, parliament approved a key article of the contentious omnibus bill that gives power to the prime minister and other ministers to shut down websites within four hours. The approval came just six months after a similar bill was
overturned by the Constitutional Court.
The TİB could enforce the ministry's request as a blanket ban of the website if deemed necessary, within a maximum four hours. The TİB would then submit the decision to the judge of a criminal court of peace within 24 hours for approval. The
judge would have to issue a ruling within 48 hours. If no verdict is issued, the ban would automatically be revoked.
According to the law, the TİB could also file criminal complaints by applying to prosecutors regarding the content of the website. ISPs or web hosts would be required to submit the necessary information to help locate those being censored through
a court order. Providers that do not identify censored account holders could be given hefty fines Authorities would also be able to revoke their provider licenses in Turkey.
A campaign organisation that circumvents Chinese website blocks has said it has come under a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) instigated by the Chinese authorities.
Greatfire called the attack an attempt to enforce censorship and noted in a tweet:
China internal docs show military, Ministries of State & Public Security and rogue operators used to wage cyberwar
Greatfire has tracked which sites are blocked in China and recently began offering a mirroring service to try to restore them for Chinese users. Similar to the campaign started by Reporters Without Borders last week, it set up content
distribution networks (CDNs) using the same hosting services as many entities on which China relies. In a statement published on its website, Greatfire said the attacks started on 17 March and added:
We are receiving up to 2.6 billion requests per hour which is about 2,500 times more than normal levels. Likely in response to a recent story in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) , we've experienced our first ever distributed denial of service
In theory, the method provided protection to Greatfire because, to be sure that the blocked websites remained inaccessible, attackers would have to take down the whole hosting service - including many sites that China wanted to remain live.
However, in practice, the attackers managed to find the individual URLs of the sites the authorities sought to block and bombarded them, in a more targeted attack, said Prof Alan Woodward of the University of Surrey. He added that keeping the
sites online would require the purchase of more bandwidth, adding that he consequently believed the Chinese authorities wanted to put financial pressure on Greatfire.
The largest blogging platform of the world, WordPress.com, has been banned in Pakistan which a tech blog says has been done on orders of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).
According to the ProPakistani blog, who claims to have been confirmed by an anonymous source within PTA, reports that WordPress.com has been blocked due to references to the Pakistan Day. The exact nature of threat on WordPress.com that
triggered the blocking is unreported.
The blog also reports the ban might be lifted in next two days
PTA has a history of blocking websites without giving any prior notice or reason of doing so.
South Africa's Film and Publications Board (FPB) is expecting to be granted the power to order an administrator of any online platform to take down any content that the Board may deem to be potentially harmful and disturbing to children of
The censors have generated a 14-page set of draft rules for online content that would, in theory, have given it the power to order Wikipedia et al to remove images, and then send them an invoice for the cost of doing so.
For Video on Demand services, the board has proposed co-cesnorship, which will allow each streaming provider to classify its own content with an in-house team of people after they are trained, for no more than five days, by the FPB.
By June 2016, everything such streaming providers make available to South African audiences must be rated. That may prove a challenge for in-house teams too, so the FPB draft regulations make another concession -- content classified under another
system can be deemed classified by the FPB, if the regimes are sufficiently similar. In practice, a 13 (language) or 16 (nudity) classification imposed by regulators in the US or Europe will be accepted for South African use.
The censors look set to become very nasty about what the board describes as self-generated content. This, the draft rules say, could include a drawing, picture, illustration or painting; recording or any other message or communication,
including a visual presentation, placed on any distribution network including, but not confined to, the internet .
Streaming services will be responsible for their own classification expenses, and those who distribute self-generated content can expect an invoice from the FPB once it has decided to classify such content of its own accord. So it appears
that finding harmful content is the driver behind an expected eight-fold increase in the money the FPB says it will need to police the online space.
This week the department of communications, under which the FPB falls, published its budget forecasts. In the last financial year, the budget shows, the FPB spent under R1-million for online and mobile content regulation . By 2016 that is
expected to increase to R8.2-million.
The department of state security is expected to release, within weeks, a first draft of the Cybercrimes and Related Matters Bill. That law is being drafted behind closed doors, but is understood to be a clear victory for the state security
department over the department of telecommunications and the department of communications.
Thailand's military government threatened women posting photos of the lower half of their breasts, a current social media trend, saying their actions could violate the country's computer crime laws and lead to 5 years in prison.
Thailand's computer crimes act 2007 bans material that causes damage to the country's security or causes public panic or any obscene computer data which is accessible to the public .
The culture ministry said offenders faced up to five years in jail. Ministry spokesman Anandha Chouchoti said:
When people take these 'underboob selfies' no one can see their faces. So it's like, we don't know who these belong to, and it encourages others to do the same.
We can only warn people to not take it up. They are inappropriate actions.
The Intelligence and Security Committee publishes the findings of its Privacy and Security Inquiry while Open Rights Group has published its own report into the activities are GCHQ and their impact on British citizens.
The consequences of GCHQ's activities have the potential to harm society, the economy and our foreign standing. These have not been fully explored by Parliament. We hope that this report helps MPs to understand the range of GCHQ's activities and
the fact that they affect ordinary people not just those suspected of threatening national security.
Open Rights Group responded to the Intelligence and Security Committee's report into Security and Privacy. Executive Director, Jim Killock said:
The ISC's report should have apologised to the nation for their failure to inform Parliament about how far GCHQ's powers have grown. This report fails to address any of the key questions apart from the need to reform our
out-of-date surveillance laws. This just confirms that the ISC lacks the sufficient independence and expertise to hold the agencies to account.
A report published by Open Rights Group, has called for the reform of oversight mechanisms, including the Intelligence and Security Committee, so that they are truly independent, accountable to Parliament and have
sufficient technical expertise to tackle the technical, legal and ethical issues around surveillance. We also call for reform of the laws that allow surveillance to be replaced by new comprehensive surveillance legislation that complies with
human rights law and reflects the current technical landscape.
These would mean:
Targeted surveillance not mass surveillance
Prior judicial authorisation for all surveillance decisions
Increasing the legal protection for communications data so that it is the same as for the content of communications
Ending statutory definitions that are out outdated in the digital age -- such as the current distinctions between 'internal' and 'external' communications.
The conclusion from the cross-party group of senior MPs and peers on the intelligence services -- who operate within the ring of secrecy -- that Britain's complex web of surveillance laws needs replacing with a single act of parliament
would never have happened without those disclosures taking place.
Their recommendation that this new legal framework must be based on an explicit avowal of intrusive surveillance capabilities and spell out authorisation procedures, privacy constraints, transparency requirements, targeting criteria and the rest
is also significant.
The French authorities have used new powers to block without a court order, five websites which they claim condone terrorism.
Internet service providers have 24 hours to comply. The chairman of European Internet Service Provider OVH tweeted that his firm had not been given any warning.
The rules were approved along with other counter-terrorism measures by the French parliament last year. It is the first time they have been put to use to block websites without going through a court process.
Visitors to the sites affected are now directed to a page from the French Interior Ministry, containing a graphic of a big red hand.
Facebook has provided more details about what content can be posted on the site, and what updates will get users banned.
The new guidelines describe exactly what kind of nudity can and can't be shared, as well as including a whole section about dangerous organisations . Previously, the site only provided vague limitations about what couldn't be
The updates now explicitly outlaw fully exposed buttocks and images of female breasts if they include the nipple . The bans affect CGI nudity as well, in addition to text posts that describe sexual acts in vivid detail . The
site has also explicitly banned revenge porn.
The site explicitly says that it will allow pictures of breastfeeding women, or images showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring . Pictures of paintings , sculptures and art depicting nude people is also allowed.
Violent content is still not explicitly banned. The site tells users to warn their audience that updates include graphic violence. Facebook can add those warnings itself, but only when videos are reported.
The site will still rely on users to complain about content, and has said that it has no plans to develop technology to do so automatically.
Facebook's new rules also have special sections for criminal activity, self-injury and bullying, all of which it says it will do more to remove.
UK MPs have been advised that internet encryption services can be used in the public interest, as well as for criminal purposes. Furthermore a repressive ban on online anonymity networks such as Tor would be technologically infeasible and unwise.
The advice for MPs contradicted the Prime Minister David Cameron, who has said law enforcement should be handed the keys to encrypted communications.
One expert said the document showed Cameron's plans to be noble , but ultimately unworkable.
The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (Post), which issues advice to MPs, said that there was:
Widespread agreement that banning online anonymity systems altogether is not seen as an acceptable policy option in the UK. Even if it were, there would be technical challenges.
The report, published on Monday 9 March, cited the example of the Chinese government, which attempted to block access to Tor in order to enforce bans on unauthorised websites. In reaction, it said, the body that maintains the network, simply
added bridges that were very difficult to block , allowing people to continue accessing Tor.
The UK website blocking bonanza has started to move in a dubious direction. Several ISPs are now blocking access to websites that provide a list of Pirate Bay proxies. The sites in question do not host or link to any infringing material
themselves and are purely informational.
Following a series of High Court orders, six UK ISPs are required to block access to many of the world's largest torrent sites and streaming portals. The blocks are somewhat effective, at least in preventing subscribers from accessing the domains
directly. However, there are also plenty of workarounds.
For many sites that are blocked one or more proxy sites emerge. These proxies allow people to access the blocked sites and effectively bypass the restrictions put in place by the court.
The copyright holders are not happy with these worrounds and have asked ISPs to add the proxies to their filters, which they have done on several occasions. However, restricting access to proxies did not provide a silver bullet either as new ones
continue to appear. This week the blocking efforts were stepped up a notch and are now targeting sites that merely provide an overview of various Pirate Bay proxies.
In other words, UK ISPs now restrict access to sites for linking to Pirate Bay proxies. Among the blocked sites are piratebayproxy.co.uk , piratebayproxylist.com and ukbay.org . Both sites are currently inaccessible on Virgin Media and TalkTalk,
and other providers are expected to follow suit.
TF spoke with Dan, the operator of UKBay.org, who's baffled by the newly implemented blockade. He moved his site to a new domain to make the site accessible again, for the time being at least. Dan said:
The new blocks are unbelievable and totally unreasonable. To block a site that simply links to another site just shows the level of censorship we are allowing ISP's to get away with.
UKBay is not even a PirateBay proxy. It simply provides links to proxies. If they continue blocking sites, that link to sites, that link to sites.. there'l be nothing left.
The new additions were made as part of an existing High Court censorship order that allowed copyright holders to block The Pirate Bay, a Virgin Media spokesperson informs us.
Under the conditions of the original court order, the rightsholders have the authority to change the specific URLs or IP addresses that must be blocked by all major ISPs -- not just Virgin Media. Such changes happen on a regular basis. There is
no @extension or amendment to the original court order.
As with earlier updates, the most recent changes are being made without a public announcement, which means that we don't know precisely how many sites were added.
Minecraft is an independently developed video game that allows users to explore a chunky three-dimensional world, mining for resources and constructing various structures out of little blocks.
This week Turkey's Family and Social Policies Ministry bizarrely decided that Minecraft should be banned.
Lats month Aysenur Islam, Turkey's family and censorship policies minister, ordered an investigation into Minecraft after being told by a journalist that players get points for killing other characters, including women. The investigation
subsequently concluded that the game does indeed encourage violence in children.
In the report sent to the ministry's legal department, it was noted that the game allowed users to build homes and bridges but that mobs had to be killed to protect these structures. In short, it is a game based on violence, the
report noted. Minecraft may also mislead children into thinking animals don't feel pain, the report found, or lead to social isolation or online bullying.
Andrew Przybylski, an experimental psychologist eloquently summed up Turkey's censorship stance:
Investigating Minecraft for being violent is the equivalent of ordering an investigation into violent Lego playing.
Online videos, pictures, posts and other content may soon find itself censored in South Africa. This is if the Film and Publications Board has its way in implementing its online censorshop policy aimed at intermet content distributed in South
The draft policy, gazetted for public comment, requires distributors to have digital content classified in terms of the board's guidelines. Producers of content would have to apply for classification before their content would be made available
A prescribed fee from R450 (£25) will be imposed upon applying for an online distribution agreement, with an expected turnaround time of 10 days for classification.
The FPB claimed it was concerned about children being exposed to unclassified content accessed through the internet and other mobile platforms.
Chief censor Sipho Risiba said distribution channels also had the responsibility to look out for unclassified content which may have any of the flagged elements guiding the board. He added that user-generated content was a problem leading to the
prevalence of offensive content such as racism, sexual, school violence videos and posts that may entice imitative acts. He claimed:
Distributors and internet service providers were not yet playing their part in warding off sex offenders and racists from their platforms.
The board will go on a national public consultation road show between April and May to allow the public to give inputs on the policy.
India's Central Board of Film 'Classification' (CBFC) has decided to ban the screening of Fifty Shades of Grey.
The distributors had submitted a pre-cut version with all the nudity missing but this was not enough for the censors. One of the chief executive of the CBFC, Shravan Kumar declined to divulge details as to why the panel refused to approve the
Previous reports suggest that the sexy dialogue was also too much for the censors to bear, particularly as the loony new chief censor is trying to ban strong language in all films.
A source from Universal Pictures talked about how filmmakers tried their best to tone down movie's sex scenes and remove all nudity in direction with the review process in India.
The announcement shouldn't shock Indian movie buffs, as CBFC's latest changing guidelines are all over the news with board posing issues to cuss words, sexually explicit content and words.
Update: Because the appeal options are not yet exhausted the CBFC bizarrely contend that the banned movie is not officially 'banned'
The Central Board of Film Censorship (CBFC) has refuted news that the film adaptation of the erotic novel, Fifty Shades Of Grey , has been banned in India.
Reportedly, the examining committee of the Censor Board recently watched the pre-cut version and claimed it to be too provocative for Indian audiences. Shravan Kumar, CEO, CBFC pedantically tried to explain that this was not an 'official' ban:
Many mainstream films don't get clearance in the first step. The producers can appeal against the decision and go for the revising committee's opinion. Even if the revising committee gives a verdict refusing certification, an appeal can be made
to Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT). The film is in the process of certification and they have to revert to us,
Twitter employees and co-founder Jack Dorsey are being threatened by supporters of Islamic State.
In an online post jihadists around the world are called upon to attack and kill Twitter staff over the company's efforts to block and ban Islamic State messages. The post says:
You started this failed war. We told you from the beginning it's not your war, but you didn't get it and kept closing our accounts on Twitter, but we always come back. But when our lions [brave men] come and take your breath, you will never come
back to life.
Although it is not possible to identify who wrote the post, Twitter seems to be taking it seriously.
Twitter has been clamping down on IS activity on its social network, in an attempt to stop the group using it as a tool for recruitment and promotion.
A Paris court has ruled that it has jurisdiction to judge a case against Facebook, which blocked the account of a French teacher who posted an image of a vagina by 19th century artist Gustave Courbet.
The court ruled that Facebook's clause that forces all users to agree that any litigation must be based in California, where the site is based, was abusive.
Facebook is being sued by a French man whose account was suspended after he posted a photo of a painting by 19th century picture by Gustave Courbet, The Origin of the World , depicting a naked woman's vagina.
The victim of Facebook's censorship filed a complaint in a French court complaining that the site could not differentiate between pornography and art.
In a hearing on January 22, Facebook's lawyer Caroline Lyannaz argued that the site did not fall under French jurisdiction as users have to sign a clause agreeing that only a California court can rule in disputes relating to the firm.
The teacher's lawyer, Stephane Cottineau, said the California jurisdiction claim was an abusive clause as none of the 22 million Facebook users in France can ever take recourse to French legal jurisdiction in the event of a dispute .
WordPress has scored an important victory in court against a man who abused the DMCA to censor an article of a critical journalist. The court agreed that the takedown request was illegitimate and awarded WordPress roughly $25,000 in damages and
Automattic, the company behind the popular WordPress blogging platform challenged the abuse of the takedown process and decided to take a stand in court, together with student journalist Oliver Hotham who had one of his articles on WordPress
censored by a false takedown notice .
Hotham wrote an article about Straight Pride UK which included a comment he received from the organization's press officer Nick Steiner. The latter didn't like the article Hotham wrote, and after publication Steiner sent WordPress a
takedown notice claiming that it infringed his copyrights.
WordPress and Hotham took the case to a California federal court where they asked to be compensated for the damage this abuse caused them.
Automatic argued that as an online service provider it faces overwhelming and crippling copyright liability if it fails to take down content. People such as Steiner abuse this weakness to censor critics or competitors. WordPress explained:
Steiner's fraudulent takedown notice forced WordPress to take down Hotham's post under threat of losing the protection of the DMCA safe harbor. Steiner did not do this to protect any legitimate intellectual property interest, but in an attempt
to censor Hotham's lawful expression critical of Straight Pride UK. He forced WordPress to delete perfectly lawful content from its website. As a result, WordPress has suffered damage to its reputation.
After reviewing the case United States Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero wrote a report and recommendation in favor of WordPress and Hotham, and District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton issued a default judgment this week.
The court finds the report correct, well-reasoned and thorough, and adopts it in every respect, Judge Hamilton writes.
It is Ordered and Adjudged that defendant Nick Steiner pay damages in the amount of $960.00 for Hotham's work and time, $1,860.00 for time spent by Automattic's employees, and $22,264.00 for Automattic's attorney's fees, for a total award of
TorrentFreak comments that the case is mostly a symbolic win, but an important one. It should serve as a clear signal to other copyright holders that false DMCA takedown requests are not always left unpunished.
Belarus has moved to block access to all Internet anonymizers in the country, including Tor. The country's Communications Ministry published a new decree that mandates how access to certain online resources should be limited by Internet
providers at the request of the state. Some of the limitations deal directly with anonymizing services. The decree reads:
The state inspection, upon discovering Internet resources, anonymizing services (proxy-servers, anonymous networks like Tor and others), that allow Internet users to access online resources whose identifiers are included on the limited access
list, will add the identifiers of these Internet resources and anonymizing services to the list as well.
Internet users typically use anonymizing services to circumvent government censorship and reach online resources banned inside Belarus, including many of the opposition websites.
Tor statistics indicate that anywhere between 6,000 and 8,000 users in Belarus use Tor directly on a daily basis, with more connecting through bridges. According to Anton Nesterov , an anticensorship activist, in order to prevent access to Tor,
officials will likely attempt to block the so-called guard nodes, the first nodes in the circuit through which a user would connect to route encrypted traffic further. They can just block torproject.org and stop there, but if they talk about
blocking Tor, blocking nodes is what it means, says Nesterov.
Russia has also been considering a ban on VPNs and anonymizers. At the start of February, Leonid Levin, an MP heading the parliamentary committee on information policy and communications, suggested that access to anonymization and circumvention
tools such as Tor, VPNs, and proxy-servers needs to be restricted.
Gordon Hessler directs this 1960s horror starring Vincent Price. Lord of the manor Julian Markham (Price) is ashamed of his mutilated brother Edward (Alistair Williamson) and keeps him hidden away from public view in the
tower of his vast house. However, when Edward escapes he attempts to get his revenge on his overbearing brother. The cast also includes Christopher Lee, Rupert Davies and Sally Geeson.
Social networking and news site Reddit has said it will remove photos, videos and links with explicit content if the person in the image complains that permission has not been given for it to be posted.
Until now, Reddit has had a hands-off approach to privacy, largely allowing its 160m users to police their own forums within certain guidelines such as no child pornography or spam.
The change comes about six months after hackers obtained nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities and posted them to social media sites including Reddit and Twitter.
Effective 10 March, Reddit will prohibit any photograph, video or digital image of a person who is nude or engaged in a sexual act if the subject has not given permission for it to be used. Anyone who wants an image of themselves removed from the
site can email email@example.com.