A federal judge has blocked enforcement of a Louisiana criminal law that requires online booksellers, publishers and other website owners to
electronically verify customers' ages before providing access to material that could be deemed harmful to children.
U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson granted a preliminary injunction requested by two New Orleans bookstores and other plaintiffs in a lawsuit backed by the American Civil Liberties Union. Jackson said the 2005 law's vagueness would cause a chill
on protected speech. He wrote:
A possible consequence of the chill caused by (the law) is to drive protected speech from the marketplace of ideas on the Internet
ACLU attorneys argued that the law imposes unconstitutional, overly broad restrictions on anyone who wants to distribute material over the Internet. And they questioned whether it could have any practical effect on children's access to online
pornography, or other potentially harmful material, since the law only applied to material published in Louisiana.
The Haystack is a new documentary
, released today by Scenes of Reason
, bringing together leading lights for and against the UK's Investigatory Powers Bill. This unprecedented piece of legislation, which is now under parliamentary scrutiny, seeks to affirm and expand the surveillance remit of UK security services and other
departments, including new powers for the police to access internet connection records -- a database of the public's online activity over the previous 12 months.
The film provides an excellent roundup of arguments on both sides of the tortuous surveillance debate, including Conservative MP Johnny Mercer echoing the well-worn refrain, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. Jim Killock of the
Open Rights Group
, speaking at the film's launch, quipped that Mr Mercer might feel a bit different if it were the left-wing government of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell wielding these powers. Indeed, as far-right parties attract support around Europe and the world,
the likelihood increases of tremendous state surveillance becoming the plaything of ever more abusive regimes.
The immense capabilities contained within the bill are unpalatable in the hands of any authority -- they are all too easily harnessed to undermine perfectly reasonable political opposition and judicial work. By way of example, the film outlines one such
case where the current UK government improperly gained access to privileged details of a court case against it. In this light, the bill seems an intolerable threat to democracy and free expression.
Voices of concern from the security community , such as Sir David Omand, ex-GCHQ chief, explain that precautions against terrorism require more spying. Others reject this, noting that security services have failed to act on intelligence when they do have
it -- spending enormous sums on digital surveillance only reduces their efficacy in the realm of traditional detective work. Moreover, those costs, to be borne by government and industry, are excessive at a time of cuts to other public services designed
to protect us from more conventional enemies, such as disease.
The debate is winding -- this film helps straighten things out.
Malaysia's Communications and Multimedia Ministry has formally proposed legal amendments to the Attorney General that would require the country's
political blogs and online news portals to register with the government. Minister Salleh Said Keruak unconvincingly denies that the legislation amounts to censorship, arguing that the proposal is designed to preserve the Internet as a tool for promoting
Malaysia's economic growth, and meant to protect the country against internal divisions brought about by misleading information published online, he says.
Human rights groups and media freedom advocates denounced the proposal as a curtailment of free speech, saying the move reverses the government's earlier stated commitment to promoting Internet freedom.
Critics of Malaysia's ruling political party say the push to force political blogs to register with the state is a desperate tactic meant to silence dissent. Since last year, the government has struggled against a corruption scandal that's sparked mass
protests across the country. Internet users, including bloggers, are some of the prime minister's most vocal detractors, accusing him of ill-gotten gains in several dubious transactions. State censors have already blocked a handful of news websites for
reporting allegedly unverified information about the corruption issue.
Many bloggers who fear the proposed amendments recall recent comments by the communications minister, who said Internet freedom is a privilege , not a right, and is something the government can curtail.:
Even those of us who care little or nothing about the sex lives of celebrities should care about the latest farcical attempt by the
English courts to use an injunction to gag a tabloid newspaper.
The case sets a potentially dangerous new standard in allowing judges to screw over press freedom and dictate what the public should be allowed to know. The judicial campaign to impose a privacy law by the back door is the big issue we should all be
concerned with, behind the squalid details of celebrity scandal.
Update: Google forced to censor links to the not very secret celebrity scandal
Google has removed links to articles about the celebrity couple at the centre of a injunction in response to legal demands. Searches for the names of either person return notices at the bottom of the page saying results have been removed. Links are still
available when accessing Google from outside the UK (or maybe EU).
Google's removal notices in this case are of the form normally used for taking down links to copyrighted information and are different to the messages Google posts when it censors links under EU right to be forgotten rules.
The Daily Mail reported that an online privacy firm claiming to be acting on behalf of the couple had complained about more than 150 links.
Offsite Article: Google not censoring links to the not very secret celebrity scandal
Maria Miller, the Conservative former culture secretary and equalities minister has claimed that Britain needs better internet laws to
stop online abuse that may be creating a nightmare for society in future.
Now the chair of the Commons women and equalities committee, she said the government needed to wake up to some of the problems the internet was creating, from vile abuse on social media to easy sharing of violent explicit images among young people.
In 2014, ministers quadrupled the maximum six-month prison term for internet insults to two years. The time limit for prosecutions has also been extended to three years.
Miller now says that the laws around insult and harm on the internet could be updated further and internet companies could do more to act against threatening and abusive material online. She claimed:
We need better laws and we need better enforcement. Government needs to stop allowing internet providers from hiding behind arguments about the protection of free speech.
The problem is rooted in the fact that many internet companies won't acknowledge that they can challenge, and should stop, criminal behaviour, saying they are just like the postal service and can't help that people use their services for criminal
activity, that it's not their problem. It is their problem and we need to sit up, take notice and realise that we are creating a nightmare future.
People are unleashing their inner venom in a way I just do not think is healthy for society. We have got to have an honest debate about this. Too many people in government are saying it is all about freedom of speech and it is not.
The Norwegian punk band Slutface have revealed they've changed their name to use the Norwegian specific letter 'ø'
instead of the 'u'. The original name was causing censorship problems on social media.
If I remember my Norwegian correctly, the replacement letter has exactly the same sound as the original.
Sl ø tface said in an official statement that the change had not changed their "political and feminist message" in the slightest.:
We just hope to reach more people with our lyrics and message by changing one silly letter of our name and thereby avoiding censorship.
Also we like the connection to our Nordic roots and hope we can trick Mark Zuckerberg into promoting SLØTFACE music. Løv Sløts.
Berlin Police completed a large scale raid on internet users Wednesday. Police ransacked ten separate apartments. Nine people
were arrested and are accused of posting messages critical of migrants, migrant helpers and some anti-semitic slogans on social networks like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter.
The men were not connected by membership of far right groups. Police spokesman Stefan Redlich said that while many of the men shared anti-migrant views, the men do not know each other according to previous findings, and there was no evidence of
any planned conspiracy to commit crime among them. Redlich justified the raids saying they were maybe, people who just once expressed their hate-opinion.
Police announced that the raids show Germans that they are not as safe online as they might think. They say that anyone who says something xenophobic, spreads hate toward migrants, or shares what they consider to be xenophobic music, may be next on the
list of apartments to be raided in the future.
A draft copy of a US law to criminalize strong encryption has been leaked online. And the internet is losing its shit.
The proposed legislation hasn't been formally published yet: the document is still being hammered out by the Senate intelligence select committee. The proposal reads:
The underlying goal is simple, when there's a court order to render technical assistance to law enforcement or provide decrypted information, that court order is carried out. No individual or company is above the law. We're still in the process of
soliciting input from stakeholders and hope to have final language ready soon.
The draft legislation, first leaked to Washington DC insider blog The Hill, is named the Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016 , and would require anyone who makes or programs a communications product in the US to provide law enforcement with
any data they request in an intelligible format, when presented with a court order.
The bill stems from Apple's refusal to help the FBI break into the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone, but goes well beyond that case. The bill would require companies to either build a backdoor into their encryption systems or use an encryption method that
can be broken by a third party.
On example of the tech community response was from computer forensics expert Jonathan Dziarski who said:
The absurdity of this bill is beyond words. Due to the technical ineptitude of its authors, combined with a hunger for unconstitutional governmental powers, the end result is a very dangerous document that will weaken the security of America's technology
At least two other countries--Pakistan and Turkey--already have versions of such laws on the books. The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority has previously instructed the country's internet service providers to ban encrypted communication, though it's
largely VPN use, which can be used to circumvent location-based internet censorship, that has been actively restricted there, and WhatsApp is still popular. Turkey takes the anti-encryption law on its books more seriously, and used it to initially charge
Vice journalists arrested in southeastern Turkey in September 2015.
Meanwhile, France's National Assembly passed a bill in May to update its Penal Code to fine companies that don't find a way to undo their own encryption when served with a warrant in a terrorism investigation. The french? Senate version of this bill
excludes this provision, and seven members from each house will now begin a compromise.
Thanks to the attention brought to the importance of encryption via Apple vs FBI from Fight for the Future and other strong voices, Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016 - one of the worst national security bills ever drafted - is stalled.
The Hungarian ruling party wants to ban all working crypto. The parliamentary vice-president from Fidesz has asked parliament to:
Ban communication devices that [law enforcement agencies] are not able to surveil despite having the legal authority to do so.
Since any working cryptographic system is one that has no known vulnerabilities, whose key length is sufficient to make brute force guessing impractical within the lifespan of the universe, this amounts to a ban on all file-level encryption and
end-to-end communications encryption, as well as most kinds of transport encryption (for example, if your browser makes a SSL connection to a server that the Hungarian government can't subpoena, it would have no means of surveiling your communication).
After a long debate, the South African government has decided to maintain its prohibition of online casino gambling. This was revealsed in a
policy document released by the Department of Trade and Industry.
South Africa allows online sports betting though, and this will be allowed to continue. Now National Gambling Act amendments will order ISPs to ban all access to casino websites and forbid financial institutions to process any banking transactions.
Enforcement responsibilities will be undertaken by the National Gambling Regulator.
Fang Binxing is known as the 'father' of Chine's repressive censorship infrastructure known as the Great Firewall of China. He has
been caught evading his own monstrosity during an institute lecture on South Korean internet censorship.
According to local reports, Binxing attempted to display a South Korea website, which he said showed the views of South Koreans attempting to build similar infrastructure to China's firewall, but was blocked by said censorship system. Fang then had to
resort to setting up a virtual private network (VPN) to circumvent the censorship, in full view of the lecture attendees, to display the site.
Ming Pao, a Hong Kong-newspaper, said that the university terminated a planned discussion session after Fang was criticised within the lecture and later resoundingly mocked online for having to circumvent his own creation, labelling it as an embarrassing
display of the Chinese mainland's censorship regime
A little-publicized bill that is making its way through Quebec's legislative process will put an end to the concept of a free and open Internet.
Bill 74 includes a provision that seeks to force Internet service providers to block Quebecers' access to online gambling sites that aren't approved by the government.
The province's finance minister claims the bill is necessary to protect the health and safety of Quebecers because illegal sites don't apply the same responsible gaming rules as sites run by the government and pose a risk to the population.
Critics explain that the Internet-censoring legislation is a way for Quebec's state-owned gambling authority to block competition and could lead to governments across the country deciding what citizens can and can't view online. Law experts say the
legislation violates freedom of expression, contradicts federal telecommunications law and will likely be challenged in court by Internet companies and civil rights groups.
Quebec's government-run gambling authority, Loto-Quebec, has been losing money to online gaming competitors, according to the 2015-16 budget documents.