The Digital Economy Bill (DEBill) will require that porn sites verify the age of their users in order to prevent under 18s from viewing pornography. Despite concerns that this will leave porn users vulnerable to hacks and security risks, the Government
has failed to amend the Bill so that privacy is written into the legislation. Instead, Codes of Practice will place the responsibility for protecting people's privacy with porn sites not the companies supplying age verification technology.
Executive Director Jim Killock said:
Age verification is an accident waiting to happen. Despite repeated warnings, parliament has failed to listen to concerns about the privacy and security of people who want to watch legal adult content.
As we saw with the Ashley Madison leaks, the hacking of private information about people's sex lives, has huge repercussions for those involved. The UK government has failed to take responsibility for its proposals and placed the responsibility for
people's privacy into the hands of porn companies.
The Bill will also enable the creation of a censorship regime as the BBFC will be given powers to force ISPs to block legitimate websites without any judicial process. These powers were added to the Bill, when it became apparent that foreign porn sites
could not be compelled to apply age verification. During parliamentary scrutiny, they were extended to include other content, not just pornography, raising further concerns about the threat to free speech.
These new powers will put in place a vast system of censorship which could be applied to tens of thousands of adult websites. The BBFC will be under pressure to censor more and more legal content. This is a serious assault on free speech in the UK.
Almost 25,000 ORG supporters signed a petition calling for the Government to reject plans for blocking legal pornography.
A police unit to censor online insult and hate crime has been launched by London's mayor, Sadiq Khan.
The Online Hate Crime Hub is made up of five Met police officers who will try to identify, prevent and investigate online abuse. Sadiq Khan said officers would work with community 'experts' to develop the police's understanding of online hate .
The unit will cost £1.7m over two years. It is being funded by the Met and the Mayor's Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC), with £452,000 also being contributed by the Home Office Police Innovation Fund.I
Any online insult and hate crimes on the likes of Twitter and Facebook will be looked into by the unit.
City Hall said discussions were also under way with social media companies to develop appropriate online sanctions for perpetrators of online hate .
Offsite Comment: All hail Sadiq Khan's new Ministry of Truth
We're calling on social networks to be regulated and fined when they fail to protect children after it was revealed that 4 out of 5 children feel social media companies aren't doing enough to protect them
Out of 1,696 children and young people who took part in our Net Aware research, 1,380 thought social media sites needed to do more to protect them from inappropriate or harmful content. When asked about what they were coming across
on social media sites, children reported seeing:
bullying and hatred.
We're calling on Government to draw up minimum standards that internet companies must meet to safeguard children. These standards must include:
age-ratings in line with those for films set by the British Board of Film Classification
safe accounts automatically offered to under 18's -- with default privacy settings, proactive filtering of harmful content and mechanisms to guard against grooming
New Zealand's outgoing chief censor has urged the Government to hurry up and deliver the law change it proposed on
streaming services like Netflix.
Eight months since the Government announced a plan to update broadcasting rules, including making online streaming services subject to classification and content standards, chief censor Andrew Jack has revealed his frustration at what he says has been a
total lack of progress.
Jack spoke to the Herald on Sunday in the final week of his six-year tenure at the top of the classification office and cited concerns around pornography as well as how issues like suicide, rape and sexual violence are being used by entertainment
companies for commercial gain - beyond the reach of regulation. He whinged:
Nothing has actually happened, just nothing. And I have to say that is a source of significant frustration. We know some of this material is causing harm, we know the measures which can improve the situation, but nothing has actually happened.
The only entities winning out of the current situation are the entities selling depictions of sexual violence as entertainment.
In my view, you can't just announce you're going to do something, and not do it.
Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry said the Government intends to refer the bill to a select committee this year. She said:
Work on the bill has been fairly complex. It needs to be future-proofed in an era of rapid technological change, as well as being practical for existing providers and not putting barriers to the entry of new services.
In his final days as chief censor, a role he wanted to continue but was unsuccessful in seeking a third term, Jack said there were other aspects to consider, specifically around pornography and depictions of suicide and sexual violence. Jack said there
was absolutely a concern over pornography becoming an unwelcome form of sex education in young generations, though more research needed to be done to understand what exactly young Kiwis are consuming online.
Jack spoke of complains about the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why:
I can't talk specifically about the series you talked about because the classification office has called that in and is in the process of deciding whether that needs to be subject to a restriction or a warning on it.
Historically as a country we've tried the 'let's not talk about it' approach [to suicide] which has not been successful. We've an appalling rate of youth suicide.
Where those issues are dealt with in a positive way, it's a really good thing. But it's where you get depictions of suicide which are instructional, or two-dimensional or suggest it's a viable option for dealing with some of the tribulations life
sometimes deals at you.
The Russian government is preparing to scale-up its war on people accessing blocked webssites by hitting services that provide workarounds. A new bill
developed by the government requires VPNs and other anonymizing services to stop providing access to blocked domains. If they do not, they themselves will also be blocked. Search engines also face sanctions for linking to banned sites.
When it comes to blocking websites, Russia is quickly emerging as a world leader. Tens of thousands of sites are now blocked in the country on copyright infringement and a wide range of other censorship grounds.
Of course, Russian citizens are not always prepared to be constrained by their government, so large numbers of people regularly find ways to circumvent ISP blockades. The tools and methods deployed are largely the same as those used in the West,
including VPNs, proxies, mirror sites and dedicated services such as Tor.
To counter this defiance, the Russian government has been considering legislation to tackle sites, tools and services that provide Internet users with ways to circumvent blockades. According to local news outlet Vedomosti , that has now resulted in a
tough new bill.
Russia's plan is to issue a nationwide ban on systems and software that allow Internet users to bypass website blockades previously approved by telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor. This means that if a VPN, proxy or similar tool unblocks torrent site
RuTracker, for example, it will be breaking the law. As a result, it too will find itself on Russia's banned site list.
The publication says it has confirmed the bill's existence with a federal official and several Internet service provider sources.
As previously reported , Russia also has search engines in its sights. It wants to prevent links to banned sites appearing in search results, claiming that these encourage people to access banned material. The new bill reportedly lays out a new framework
which will force search engines to remove such links. Failing to do so could result in fines of up to $12,400 per breach, clearly a significant issue for companies such as Google and local search giant Yandex.
The German broadcasting authority, the Landesmedienanstalt , has issued a temporary ruling requiring streamers using services such as Twitch and YouTube
to obtain a broadcasting license to avoid penalties. This license, known in German as the Rundfunklizenz , can cost anywhere from 1000 to 10,000 euro to obtain.
The news comes after popular Twitch streaming channel PietSmiet said it was told it will need a license by April 30 if it wants to continue streaming. The changes apply to all online streamers with a very low threshold of 500 or more followers.
More than a dozen state legislatures are considering a bill called the " Human Trafficking Prevention Act
," which has nothing to do with human trafficking and all to do with one man's crusade against pornography at the expense of free speech.
At its heart, the model bill would require device manufacturers to pre-install "obscenity" filters on devices like cell phones, tablets, and computers. Consumers would be forced to pony up $20 per device in order to surf the Internet without
state censorship. The legislation is not only technologically unworkable, it violates the First Amendment and significantly burdens consumers and businesses.
Perhaps more shocking is the bill's provenance. The driving force behind the legislation is a man named Mark Sevier, who has been using the alias "Chris Severe" to contact legislators.
According to the Daily Beast
, Sevier is a disbarred attorney who has sued major tech companies, blaming them for his pornography addiction, and sued states for the right to marry his laptop. Reporters Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny uncovered a lengthy legal history for Sevier,
including an open arrest warrant and stalking convictions, as well as evidence that Sevier misrepresented his own experience working with anti-trafficking non-profits.
The bill has been introduced in some form Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming. We recommend that any legislator who has to consider this bill read the Daily
But that's not why they should vote against the Human Trafficking Prevention Act. They should kill this legislation because it's just plain, awful policy. Obviously, each version of the legislation varies, but here is the general gist.
Manufacturers of Internet-connected devices would have to pre-install filters to block pornography, including "revenge porn." Companies would also have to ensure that all child pornography, "revenge pornography," and "any hub
that facilitates prostitution" are rendered inaccessible. Most iterations of the bill require this filtering technology to be turned on and locked in the on position, by default.
This is terrible for consumer choice because it forces people to purchase a software product they don't necessarily want. It's also terrible for free speech because it restrains what you can see. Because of the risk of legal liability, companies are more
likely to over-censor, blocking content by default rather than giving websites the benefit of the doubt. The proscriptions are also technologically unworkable: for example, an algorithm can hardly determine whether an item of pornography is
"revenge" or consensual or whether a site is a hub for prostitution.
To be clear, unlocking such filters would not just be about accessing pornography. A user could be seeking to improve the performance of their computer by deleting unnecessary software. A parent may want to install premium child safety software, which
may not play well with the default software. And, of course, many users will simply want to freely surf the Internet without repeatedly being denied access to sites mistakenly swept up in the censorship net.
A Censorship Tax
The model bills would require consumers to pay a $20 fee to unlock each of their devices to exercise their First Amendment rights to look at legal content. Consumers could end up paying a small fortune to unlock their routers, smartphones, tablets, and
Anyone who wants to unlock the filters on their devices would have to put their request in writing. Then they'd be required to show ID, be subjected to a "written warning regarding the potential dangers" of removing the obscenity filter, and
then would have to sign a form acknowledging they were shown that warning. That means stores would be maintaining private records on everyone who wanted their "Human Trafficking" filters removed.
The Censorship Machine
The bill would force the companies we rely upon to ensure open access to the Internet to create a massive censorship apparatus that is easily abused.
Under the bill, tech companies would be required to operate call centers or online reporting centers to monitor complaints that a particular site isn't included in the filter or complaints that a site isn't being properly filtered. Not only that, but the
bill specifically says they must "ensure that all child pornography and revenge pornography is inaccessible on the product" putting immense pressure on companies to aggressively and preemptively block websites to avoid legal liability out of
fear of just one illegal or forbidden image making it past their filters. Social media sites would only be immune if they also create a reporting center and "remain reasonably proactive in removing reported obscene content."
It's unfortunate that the Human Trafficking Prevention Act has gained traction in so many states, but we're pleased to see that some, such as Wyoming, have already rejected it. Legislators should do the right thing: uphold the Constitution, protect
consumers, and not use the problem of human trafficking as an excuse to promote this individual's agenda against pornography.
German ministers have recently approved plans to fine technology companies if they fail to censor posts that are
claimed to be hate speech or 'fake news'.
The law introduces fines to the tune of approximately £42.7m if technology companies do not censor complalined about posts within 24 hours of it being reported (or seven days to deal with less clear-cut cases). The approval comes one month after the
draft law, the Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz, was unveiled.
Google, Facebook and Twitter are likely to be particularly affected.
Many have raised concerns over the censorship process. The head of the Digital Society Association, Volker Tripp, said: It is the wrong approach to make social networks into a content police.
The implementation of the law will now mean that all contended posts will now be rapidly and routinely removed regardless of the voracity of the complaint. After all this is the age when complainants are always right.
Germany has approved a draft law that will enable businesses to run open WiFi hotspots without being held liable for
the copyright infringements of their customers. Copyright holders will still have the ability to request that certain sites are blocked to prevent repeat infringement.
In most jurisdictions it's standard practice for those who commit online copyright infringement to be held responsible for their own actions. However in Germany there is a legal concept known as Störerhaftung (interferer liability) where a third
party who played no intentional part in someone else's infringements can be held responsible for them. This type of liability has raised its head in a number of file-sharing cases where WiFi owners have been considered liable for other people's piracy.
As a direct result of this precarious legal position, Germany has found itself trailing behind its European neighbors when it comes to providing public Internet hotspots. Some have described the situation as an embarrassment for one of the most advanced
countries in the world.
Under pressure and in response to a European Court of Justice opinion on the matter last March, the government eventually decided to rescind liability for open WiFi operators. Since then the government has been working on changes to local law to bring it
into line with EU standards. A third draft presented by Brigitte Zypries, Minister for Economics and Energy, has now been adopted by the cabinet.
Should the amendments receive parliamentary approval, businesses will be free to offer open WiFi to their customers, without fear of being held liable for their actions. They will also be able to offer truly open WiFi, with no requirement to verify the
identities of users or have them log in with a password.
While copyright holders won't be pleased by the changes, they will still have opportunities to clamp down on infringement. If a certain WiFi location is connected with online piracy, a properly filed complaint will require the operator to bar access to
websites connected with the infringement.