Sheriff O'Carroll had told the court he did not believe Meechan had made the video only to annoy his girlfriend and ruled it was anti-Semitic. Fining Meechan, he said:
You deliberately chose the Holocaust as the theme of the video.
I also found it proved that the video contained anti-Semitic, and racist material, in that it explicitly and exclusively referred to Jews, the Holocaust and the role of the Nazis in the death of six million Jews in a grossly offensive manner. You
knew or must have known that.
The social work report on you is important. It is very favourable to you and, leaving aside the circumstances of this offence, shows you to have led a generally pro-social life thus far.
It also shows that you have learned a certain amount from your experiences and that you are of low risk of reoffending.
In these circumstances, I rule out a custodial sentence and therefore any alternative to a custodial sentence. You have a certain amount of income and other resources according to the reports. I now fine you the sum of 2£800.
Offsite Comment: Count Dankula and the death of free speech
On freedom of speech, Britain has become the laughing stock of the Western world. People actually laugh at us. I
recently gave a talk in Brazil on political correctness and I told the audience about the arrest and conviction of a Scottish man for publishing a video of his girlfriend's pug doing a Nazi salute for a joke and they laughed. Loudly. Some of them
refused to believed it was true.
Brussels may threaten social media companies with censorship laws unless they move urgently to tackle supposed 'fake
news' and Cambridge Analytica-style data abuse.
The EU security commissioner, Julian King, said short-term, concrete plans needed to be in place before the elections, when voters in 27 EU member states will elect MEPs.
Under King's ideas, social media companies would sign a voluntary code of conduct to prevent the misuse of platforms to pump out misleading information.
The code would include a pledge for greater transparency, so users would be made aware why their Facebook or Twitter feed was presenting them with certain adverts or stories. Another proposal is for political adverts to be accompanied with
information about who paid for them.
Google has released their latest transparency report, for Youtube takedowns. It contains information about the number of
government requests for terrorist or extremist content to be removed. For a number of years, the government has promoted the idea that terrorist content is in rampant circulation, and that the amount of material is so abundant that the UK police
alone are taking down up to 100,000 pieces of content a year.
These referrals, to Google, Facebook and others, come from a unit hosted at the Metropolitan Police, called CTIRU, or the Counter-Terrorism Internet Referrals Unit
. This unit has very minimal transparency about its work. Apart from claiming to have removed over 300,000 pieces of terrorist-related content over a number of years, it refuses to say how large its workforce or budget are, and has never defined
what a piece of content is.
Google and Twitter publish separate takedown request figures for the UK that must be largely from CTIRU. The numbers are much smaller than the tens of thousands that might be expected at each platform given the CTIRU figures of around 100,000
removals a year. For instance, Google reported 683 UK government takedown requests for 2,491 items through
Google and Twitter's figures imply that CTIRU file perhaps 2,000-4,000 removal requests a year, for maybe 12,000 items at most, implying a statistical inflation by CTIRU of around 1,000%.
A number of CTIRU requests
have been published on the takedown transparency database Lumen. These sometimes have more than one URL for takedown. However this alone does not explain the disparity.
Perhaps a 'piece of terrorist content' is counted as that 'piece' viewed by each person known to follow a terrorist account, or perhaps everything on a web page is counted as a piece of terrorist content, meaning each web page might contain a
Nonetheless, we cannot discount the possibility that the methodologies for reporting at the companies are in some way flawed. Without further information from CTIRU, we simply don't know whose figures are more reliable.
There are concerns that go beyond the statistics. CTIRU's work is never reviewed by a judge, and there are no appeals to ask CTIRU to stop trying to remove a website or content. It compiles a secret list of websites to be blocked on the public
estate, such as schools, departmental offices or hospitals, supplied to unstated companies via the Home Office. More or less nothing is known: except for the headline figure.
Certainly, CTIRU do not provide the same level of transparency as Google and other companies claim to be providing.
People have tried extracting further information from CTIRU, such as the content of the blacklist, but without success. Ministers have refused to supply financial information to Parliament, citing national security. ORG is the latest group to ask
for information, for a list of statistics
and a list of documents
; turned down on grounds of national security and crime prevention. In the case of statistics, CTIRU are currently claiming they hold no statistics other than their overall takedown figure; which if true, seems astoundingly lax from even a basic
The methodology for calculating CTIRU's single statistic needs to be published, because what we do know about CTIRU is meaningless without it. Potentially, Parliament and the public are be being misled; or otherwise, misreporting by Internet
platforms needs to be corrected.
A woman from Liverpool has been found guilty of sending a supposedly grossly offensive message after posting rap
lyrics on Instagram.
The post referenced lyrics from Snap Dogg's I'm Trippin' to pay tribute to a 13-year-old boy who had died in a road crash in 2017. It is not clear exactly which words were deemed to 'hate crimes' but the words 'bitch' and 'nigga' seem to be
the only relevant candidates.
Merseyside Police were anonymously sent a screenshot of the woman's Instagram update (on a public profile), which was received by hate crime unit PC Dominique Walker. PC Walker told the court the term the woman had used was grossly offensive to
her as a black woman and to the general community.
The Liverpool Echo reported that the woman's defence had argued the usage of the word had changed over time and it had been used by superstar rapper Jay-Z in front of thousands of people at the Glastonbury Festival.
The woman was given an eight-week community order, placed on an eight-week curfew and fined £585.
Prosecutors said her sentence was increased from a fine to a community order as it was a 'hate crime'.
Offsite Comment: Now it's a crime to quote rap lyrics? Censorship in Britain is out of control.
Brendan O'Neill notes that these are the lyrics she quoted:
Off a whole gram of molly, and my bitch think I'm trippin.
Now I'm clutchin' on my forty, all I can think about is drillin''.
I hate fuck shit, slap a bitch nigga, kill a snitch nigga, rob a rich nigga.'
We now live under a bizarre tyranny of self-esteem, where hurt feelings can lead to court cases, and where the easily offended can marshal the state to crush those who dared to offend them. An unholy marriage between our wimpish offence-taking
culture and a state desperate to be seen as caring and purposeful has nurtured an insidious new censorship that targets everything from comedy and rap to criticism of Islam or strongly stated political views.
The Internet Watch Foundation released its Annual Report covering 2017 on April 18, 2018 The The IWF searches for and removes online child sexual abuse imagery and the report shows that more of this disturbing material is being found than ever
Whilst the IWF concentrates on its commendable work against child abuse images it does have a wider remit to censor adult content deemed to be criminally obscene, and also to censor cartoons and other non-photographic imagery sexually depicting
However in this annual report the IWF has announced that it no longer has any remit over adult porn. It writes:
6.4 Wider remit work
5,439 reports of alleged criminally obscene adult content were made to us. Almost all were not hosted in the UK, so they were not in our remit.
3,471 reports of alleged non-photographic images of child sexual abuse were made to us. None of these images were hosted in the UK, so they were not within our remit.
One URL depicted criminally obscene adult content hosted in the UK received from a public source.
On 1 August 2017, criminally obscene adult content hosted within the UK was removed from IWF’s remit.
Presumably that role now belongs to the new internet porn censors at the BBFC. Anyway it is surely good for the IWF to rid itself of that toxic task, so it can concentrate on its good work that is supported by more or less everyone.
Russian lawmakers have proposed a draft law that would impose new obligations on the owners of public networks. Such owners with no registered
presence in Russia would be required to set up a local representative office. Other obligations would include identifying users by their mobile phone numbers, deleting fake news, and preventing the posting of materials that promote violence or
pornography, contain strong language, or otherwise breach Russian laws governing content.
This is so wrong on so many levels. Britain would undergo a mass tantrum.
How are parents supposed to entertain their kids if they can't spend all day on YouTube?
And what about all the privacy implications of letting social media companies have complete identity details of their users. It will be like Cambridge Analytica on speed.
Jeremy Hunt wrote to the social media companies:
Thank you for participating in the working group on children and young people's mental health and social media with officials from my
Department and DCMS. We appreciate your time and engagement, and your willingness to continue discussions and potentially support a communications campaign in this area, but I am disappointed by the lack of voluntary progress in those discussions.
We set three very clear challenges relating to protecting children and young people's mental health: age verification, screen time limits and cyber-bullying. As I understand it, participants have focused more on promoting work already underway and
explaining the challenges with taking further action, rather than offering innovative solutions or tangible progress.
In particular, progress on age verification is not good enough. I am concerned that your companies seem content with a situation where thousands of users breach your own terms and conditions on the minimum user age. I fear that you are
collectively turning a blind eye to a whole generation of children being exposed to the harmful emotional side effects of social media prematurely; this is both morally wrong and deeply unfair on parents, who are faced with the invidious choice of
allowing children to use platforms they are too young to access, or excluding them from social interaction that often the majority of their peers are engaging in. It is unacceptable and irresponsible for you to put parents in this position.
This is not a blanket criticism and I am aware that these aren't easy issues to solve. I am encouraged that a number of you have developed products to help parents control what their children an access online in response to Government's concerns
about child online protection, including Google's Family Link. And I recognise that your products and services are aimed at different audiences, so different solutions will be required. This is clear from the submissions you've sent to my
officials about the work you are delivering to address some of these challenges.
However, it is clear to me that the voluntary joint approach has not delivered the safeguards we need to protect our children's mental health. In May, the Department
for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will publish the Government response to the Internet Safety Strategy consultation, and I will be working with the Secretary of State to explore what other avenues are open to us to pursue the reforms we need.
We will not rule out legislation where it is needed.
In terms of immediate next steps, I appreciate the information that you provided our officials with last month but would be grateful if you would set out in writing your companies' formal responses, on the three challenges we posed in November. In
particular, I would like to know what additional new steps you have taken to protect children and young people since November in each of the specific categories we raised: age verification, screen time limits and cyber-bullying. I invite you to
respond by the end of this month, in order to inform the Internet Safety Strategy response. It would also be helpful if you can set out any ideas or further plans you have to make progress in these areas.
During the working group meetings I understand you have pointed to the lack of conclusive evidence in this area — a concern which I also share. In order to address this, I have asked the Chief Medical Officer to undertake an evidence review on the
impact of technology on children and young people's mental health, including on healthy screen time. 1 will also be working closely with DCMS and UKRI to commission research into all these questions, to ensure we have the best possible empirical
basis on which to make policy. This will inform the Government's approach as we move forwards.
Your industry boasts some of the brightest minds and biggest budgets globally. While these issues may be difficult, I do not believe that solutions on these issues are outside your reach; I do question whether there is sufficient will to reach
I am keen to work with you to make technology a force for good in protecting the next generation. However, if you prove unwilling to do so, we will not be deterred from making progress.
SESTA/FOSTA, a bill that president Donald Trump signed into law on April 11 continues to wreak havoc on the lives of sex workers
across the United States and abroad.
After getting kicked off of platforms like Craigslist and advertising forums or pre-emptively limiting their digital footprint on social media platforms like Twitter, thousands of sex workers joined an alternative, decentralized social media
platform called Switter, where they hoped to safely connect with and vet safe clients.
But on Wednesday, Assembly Four, the organization that developed Switter, announced that its content delivery network provided by the web-hosting company Cloudflare removed and blocked Switter.
At the time of writing, Switter has nearly 49,000 members and more than 376,500 posts, an explosion of activity since the service was launched in late March.
The BBFC is consulting on its procedures for deciding if porn websites have implemented adequately strictly such that under 18s
won't normally be able to access the website. Any websites not complying will be fined/blocked and/or pressurised by hosting/payment providers and advertisers who are willing to support the BBFC censorship.
Now I'm sure that the BBFC will diligently perform their duties with fairness and consideration for all, but the trouble is that all the horrors of scamming, hacking, snooping, blackmail, privacy etc are simply not the concern of the BBFC. It is
pointless to point out how the age verification will endanger porn viewers, it is not in their remit.
If a foreign website were to implement strict age verification and then pass over all the personal details and viewing habits straight to its blackmail, scamming and dirty tricks department, then this will be perfectly fine with the BBFC. It is
only their job to ensure that under 18s won't get through the ID checking.
There is a little privacy protection for porn websites with a presence in the EU, as the new GDPR rues have some generic things to say about keeping data safe. However these are mostly useless if you give your consent to the websites to use your
data as they see fit. And it seems pretty easy to get consent for just about anything just be asking people to tick a box, or else not be allowed to see the porn. For example, Facebook will still be allowed to slurp all you personal data even
within the constraints of GDPR, so will porn websites.
As a porn viewer, the only person who will look after you, is yourself.
The woeful flaws of this bill need addressing (by the government rather than the BBFC). We need to demand of the government: Don't save the children by endangering their parents.
At the very least we need a class of critically private data that websites simply must not use, EVER, under any circumstances, for any reason, and regardless of nominal user consent. Any company that uses this critically private data must be
liable to criminal prosecution.
Anyway there have been a few contributions to the debate in the run up to the end of the BBFC consultation.
AgeID says it wants to set the record straight on user data privacy under pending UK smut age check rules. As soon as a customer enters their login credentials, AgeID anonymises them. This ensures AgeID does not have a list of email addresses. We
cannot market to them, we cannot even see them
[You always have to be a bit sceptical about claims that anonymisation protects your data. Eg if Facebook strips off your name and address and then sells your GPS track as 'anonymised', when in fact your address and then name can be restored by
noting that you spend 12 hours a day at 32 Acacia avenue and commute to work at Snoops R Us. Perhaps more to the point of PornHub, may indeed not know that it was Damian@Green.com that hashed to 00000666, but the browsing record of 0000666 will be
stored by PornHub anyway. And when the police come along and find from the ID company that Damian@Green.com
hashes to 0000666 then the can simply ask PornHub to reveal the browsing history of 0000666.
Tell the BBFC that age verification will do more harm than good
MindGeek's age verification solution, AgeID, will inevitably have broad takeup due to their using it on their free tube sites such as PornHub. This poses a massive conflict of interest: advertising is their main source of revenue, and they have a
direct profit motive to harvest data on what people like to look at. AgeID will allow them to do just that.
MindGeek have a terrible record on keeping sensitive data secure, and the resulting database will inevitably be leaked or hacked. The Ashley Madison data breach is a clear warning of what can happen when people's sex lives are leaked into the
public domain: it ruins lives, and can lead to blackmail and suicide. If this policy goes ahead without strict rules forcing age verification providers to protect user privacy, there is a genuine risk of loss of life.
Update: Marc Dorcel Issues Plea to Participate in U.K. Age-Verification Consultation
French adult content producer Marc Dorcel has issued a plea for industry stakeholders to participate in a
public consultation on the U.K.'s upcoming age-verification system for adult content. The consultation period closes on Monday. The studio said the following about participation in the BBFC public consultation:
The time of a wild internet where everyone could get immediate and open access to porn seems to be over as many governments are looking for concrete solutions to control it.
U.K. is the first one to have voted a law regarding this subject and who will apply a total blockage on porn websites which do not age verify and protect minors. Australian, Polish and French authorities are also looking very closely into this
issue and are interested in the system that will be elected in the U.K.
BBFC is the organization which will define and manage the operation. In a few weeks, the BBFC will deliver the government its age-verification guidance in order to define and detail how age-verification should comply with this new law.
BBFC wants to be pragmatic and is concerned about how end users and website owners will be able to enact this measure.
The organization has launched an open consultation in order to collect the public and concerned professionals' opinion regarding this matter here
As a matter of fact, age-verification guideline involves a major challenge for the whole industry: age-verification processor cannot be considered neither as a gateway nor a toll. Moreover, it cannot be an instrument to gather internet users'
data or hijack traffic.
Marc Dorcel has existed since 1979 and operates on numerous platforms -- TV, mobile, press, web networks. We are used to regulation authorities.
According to our point of view, the two main requirements to define an independent age-verification system that would not serve specific corporate interests are: 1st requirement -- neither an authenticated adult, nor his data should belong to any
processor; 2nd requirement -- processor systems should freely be chosen because of their efficiency and not because of their dominant position.
We are also thinking that our industry should have two requests for the BBFC to insure a system which do not create dependency:
Any age-verification processor scope should be limited to a verification task without a user-registration system. As a consequence, processors could not get benefits on any data user or traffic control, customers' verified age would
independently be stored by each website or website network and users would have to age verify for any new website or network.
If the BBFC allows any age-verification processor to control a visitor data base and to manage login and password, they should commit to share the 18+ login/password to the other certified processors. As a consequence, users would only
have one age verification enrollment on their first visit of a website, users would be able to log in with the same login/password on any age verification system to prove their age, and verified adults would not belong to any processor to avoid
In those cases, we believe that an age-verification solution will act like a MPSP (multiple payment service provider) which processes client payments but where customers do not belong to payment processors, but to the website and where credit
card numbers can be used by any processor.
We believe that any adult company concerned with the future of our business should take part in this consultation, whatever his point of view or worries are.
It is our responsibility to take our fate into our own hands.
The European Commission has outlined new requirements for telecoms companies, clouds, email service providers, and
operators of messaging apps, to produce snooping data on a specified individual within six hours of a rquest.
The proposed European Production Order will allow a judicial authority in one Member State to request electronic evidence (such as emails, text or messages in apps) directly from internet companies with an office in any Member State. The data may
be nominally held overseas but will still have to be produced.
That super-short deadline will only be imposed in the case of an emergency. Less urgent investigations have been offered a ten-day deadline.
A European Preservation Order will also be issued to stop service providers deleting data.
The Production Orders will be applicable only to crimes punishable with a maximum sentence of at least three years, but governments have been artificially increasing maximum sentences for quite a while now to ensure that relatively minor crimes
can be classed as 'serious'.
The EU Commission has cited terrorism as the justifications for the new requirements, but a 3 year maximum sentence rather suggests that the these orders will be used for more widely than just for terrorism prevention.
Russia's new war room.
Putin decrees that Russians don't play games.
Maybe it was misunderstood.
The Russian internet censor Roskomnadzor, has blocked 1,882 sites with gambling content in just a week.
The latest statistics were published by Betting Business Russia (BBR), an independent online magazine focused on the gaming and betting industry. The magazine estimates that the censor blocked 806 platforms that represent online casinos,
online lotteries or Internet poker rooms.
A large number of the blocked sites during the past week include mirror sites trying to work around previous block. The most nirrored site, with 298 blocked domains, is Fonbet, the country's largest sportsbook operator.
Despite not offering gambling content, another 172 websites were blocked in the period April 8 to April 14. The magazine explains that these sites publish information on bookmakers, casinos, gambling machines, and sweepstakes.
Earlier in March 2018, the censor blocked 7398 sites with gambling content.
Russia has strict anti-gambling laws that prohibit almost any form of betting or real-money games.
Russia's internet censor Roskomnadzor has blocked an estimated 16 million IP addresses in a massive operation against the banned
Telegram messaging app.
Telegram is widely used by the Russian political establishment, and prominent politicians and officials have openly flouted or criticised the ban. Data from the app showed several Kremlin officials had continued to sign in on Tuesday evening, four
days after a court ordered the service to be blocked.
Backed by Russia's federal security service (FSB) and a court decision, Roskomnadzor has pushed forward, banning subnets, totalling millions of IP addresses, used by Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud, two hosting sites that Telegram switched to
over the weekend to help circumvent the ban.
Andrei Soldatov, the co-author of The Red Web, an authoritative account of internet surveillance in Russia, said the campaign showed a no-holds-barred approach unconcerned with political fallout. He said:
They've decided the political costs of blocking Telegram and millions and millions of IP addresses used by Amazon and Google are not that high, Soldatov said. Once you cross the line, you can do anything. I think it means that they could move on
from Telegram to big services like Facebook and Google.
The tactic of effectively blocking all websites using a hosting company has worked in the past and the hosting companies have dropped websites as ordered by repressive politicians.
Chinese users of the Twitter-like Weibo have started an online protest with the hashtag I am gay in response to a recent government ban of gay
About 170,000 Weibo members had used the protst hashtag by midday Saturday before they were censored..
Weibo announced on Fridaythat it has launched a three-month clean-up campaign to get rid of illegal posts including manga and videos with pornographic implications, promoting violence or (related to) homosexuality. It is also targeting violent
video games, like Grand Theft Auto.
Weibo's move is perceived as a crackdown by President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party on ideas.
There can be no homosexuality under socialism? a Weibo user wrote, according to AFP. It is unbelievable that China progresses economically and militarily but returns to the feudal era in terms of ideas.
Chinese social media network Sina Weibo has backtracked from a controversial gay content ban after a massive outcry.
Last Friday the microblogging platform said that posts related to homosexuality would be taken down. It prompted a deluge of posts from outraged netizens protesting against the decision. On Monday, Sina Weibo said it would reverse the ban.
Over the weekend many in the LGBT community took to the network to protest against the decision, using hashtags such as #IAmGay# and #ScumbagSinaHelloIAmGay#.
Some tried testing the ban and uploaded pictures of themselves with partners or gay friends or relatives. Among them
was LGBT rights activist Pu Chunmei, whose impassioned post accompanied with pictures of her with her gay son quickly went viral. The picture was captioned: Be yourself, don't hide.
As of early Monday morning many such posts were still online, as censors appeared to struggle to keep up with the deluge.
Then Sina Weibo made another announcement: it said its clean-up would no longer apply to homosexual content. We thank everyone for their discussion and suggestions, the company added.
As a Moscow court ordered the ban of messenger app Telegram on April 13, 2018, Deputy Communications Minister Alexey Volin tried
to sound reassuring: those who want to keep using it, he said, will look for ways to bypass the blocking. In a rare moment of consensus with the Russian authorities, many Telegram users agreed.
Though conceived as a messenger app similar to WhatsApp, Telegram earned its popularity in Russia thanks to its "channels," a blogging platform somewhere between Twitter and Facebook which quickly attracted political commentators,
journalists and officials. Telegram channels are a booming business, they are widely used in political and corporate wars. Last year Vedomosti, a business newspaper, claimed that political ads (or damaging leaks) on Telegram's most popular
channels could cost as much as 450,000 rubles ($7,500.)
But Telegram's CEO Pavel Durov has repeatedly and vocally refused to comply with the demand of Russian security services to give up the messenger's encryption keys . And as the year-long battle between Telegram and the Russian authorities seemed
to draw to a close with the decision to block the app, reaction to the announcement has been passionate and often derisive.
Kristina Potupchik, formerly a press officer for a pro-Kremlin youth movement, wrote:
Russia has finally become the world's second largest economy after China! At least in the field of permanently blocking Telegram.
Channels dedicated to Russian politics and the inner workings of the Kremlin --among the most popular on the platform-- also largely claimed they were not worried by the ban. About 85% of our users have installed one [a VPN] in the last 24
hours. If you haven't, here are the instructions, channel "Karaulny" (The Sentinel) told its 66,000+ followers.
So far, Telegram remains available in Russia, though sources have told the Interfax news agency that blocking could start as early as April 16.
Comment: Russia crosses another red line in online censorship
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns today's decision by a Moscow court to order the immediate blocking of the popular encrypted
messaging service Telegram after it refused to surrender its encryption keys to the Russian intelligence agencies. The decision represents yet another escalation in online censorship and an additional obstacle to journalism in Russia, RSF said.
Johann Bihr, the head of RSF's Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. said:
By blocking Telegram, the Russian authorities are crossing another red line in their control of the Internet. This is a major new blow to free speech in Russia. It also sends a strong intimidatory signal to the digital technology giants that are
battling with the Russian authorities. The authorities are targeting a tool that is essential for the work of journalists, especially for the confidentiality of their sources and data.
It takes 10s of 1000s of pounds for the justice system to consider the nuances of censorship and the right to be forgotten yet we hand over the task to Google who's only duty is to maximise profits for shareholders
A businessman fighting for the right to be forgotten has won a UK High Court action against Google.
The unnamed businessman who won his case was convicted 10 years ago of conspiring to intercept communications. He spent six months in jail. He as ked Google to delete online details of his conviction from Google Search but his request was turned
The judge, Mr Justice Mark Warby, ruled in his favour on Friday.
But he rejected a separate but similar claim made by another businessman who had committed a more serious crime. The other businessman, who lost his case, was convicted more than 10 years ago of conspiring to account falsely. He spent four years
Google said it would accept the rulings.
We work hard to comply with the right to be forgotten, but we take great care not to remove search results that are in the public interest, it said in a statement:
We are pleased that the Court recognised our efforts in this area, and we will respect the judgements they have made in this case.'
Explaining the decisions made on Friday, the judge said one of the men had continued to mislead the public while the other had shown remorse.
But how is Google the right organisation to arbitrate on matters of justice where it is required to examine the level of remorse shown by those requesting censorship?
A Berlin court has issued an injunction ordering Facebook not to block a user and not to delete a comment
The order appears to be the first such court intervention against censorship in Germany.
Last year a new law called the Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG) came into effect that effectively frces Facebook to over censor just in case it gets hit by ludicrously large fines. And it was an example of this over reaction by Facebook that is
being challenged in court
The comment in question was placed by Gabor B under a Basler Zeitung article that referenced anti-immigrant statements by Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister. The Germans are becoming ever more stupid, Gabor B's comment, posted in January,
read. No wonder, since they are every day littered with fake news from the left-wing Systemmedien about 'skilled workers', declining unemployment rates or Trump.
When Facebook removed his comment and hit him with a 30-day account suspension, Gabor B retained conservative Hamburg lawyer Joachim Steinhöfel who is well known for taking on free-expression cases and is running something of a crusade against
what he sees as Facebook's overenthusiastic application of the NetzDG.
The New Zealand moralist campaign group Family First have been campaigning for new laws to censor pornography.
Family First national director Bob McCoskrie is calling for an expert panel to consider health and social issues supposedly created by pornography, and somehwhat presumptively, how to solve the problems identified.
More than 22,000 people signed McCoskrie's petition, and this week he spoke to the Governance and Administration Select Committee at Parliament, where he said porn was feeding the health crisis of the digital age.
Parliament's Governance and Administration Select Committee is currently considering the petition and whether to set up an 'expert' panel.
Chief censor David Shanks seems to have been caught up in the pre-censorship momentum. He said more needs to be done to understand porn use, and the effects. Then NZ can get to work tackling the issue. He added that New Zealand needs to take a
societal approach to tackling the pervasive effects of porn, including further regulation.
As far as regulation goes, Shanks said New Zealand could consider making similar moves to the United Kingdom, where anyone wanting to watching online porn had to go through an official age verification process. An ISP-level ban, where pornography
viewers had to opt in to viewing pornographic content, could also be part of the solution.
The Office of Film and Literature Classification, headed by the chief censor, was dedicating its major research project for the year to the prevalence, and effects of porn.
Justice Minister Andrew Little said he was aware of the issues surrounding pornography use, and he was open to suggestions on what regulatory approach New Zealand could take to tackle problems. However, there was no specific legislation in the
pipeline at the moment.
Blogging has been popular in Tanzania for more than a decade, enabling writers and independent journalists to express views and report news that
might not otherwise appear in mainstream media. But as of last month, this kind of work will come with a price tag.
On March 16, 2018, the United Republic of Tanzania issued the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations demanding that bloggers must register and pay over USD $900 per year to publish online.
Application 2. These Regulations shall apply to online content including: (a) application services licensees; (b) bloggers; (c) internet cafes; (d) online content hosts; (e) online forums; (f) online radio or television; (g) social media; (h)
subscribers and users of online content; and (i) any other related online content.
The new regulations have far-reaching implications for freedom of expression and human rights. Bloggers must fill out official regulatory forms and avoid publishing prohibited content including nudity, hate speech, explicit sex acts, extreme
violence, "content that causes annoyance" fake news, and "bad language" among other restrictions.
The new regulations grant unrestrained power to the Tanzanian Communications Regulatory Authority ( TCRA ) to prescribe and proscribe. Under Part II, Number 4, TCRA then has the authority:
(a) to keep register of bloggers, online forums, online radio and online television;
(b) to take action against non-compliance to these Regulations, including to order removal of prohibited content
iAfrikan News further explains :
Online content publishers (blogs, podcasts, videos) will apply for a license at a fee of 100,000 Tanzanian Shillings (44 USD) pay an initial license fee of 1,000,000 Tanzanian Shillings (440 USD) and an annual license fee of 1,000,000 Tanzanian
Shillings (440 USD). This means to run something as simple as a personal blog (text) if you live in Tanzania, you'd have to spend an initial (approximately) $900 (USD) in license fees.
[A quick look at average salary figures on Wikipedia suggests that the average annual salary in Tanzania ia about 900,000 Tanzanian Shillings, so the licence fees are simply impossible for the majority of Tanzanians].
According to Tanzania Bloggers Network Secretary-General Krantz Mwantepele, as quoted in The Citizen, many Tanzanian bloggers cannot afford these fees because the "license applications and annual subscriptions are way beyond earnings of many
What is clear is that breaches of the new law will be punishable with a fine of "not less than five million Tanzanian shillings" (around USD $2,500), or imprisonment for "not less than 12 months or both."
Blogging as alternative news in Tanzania
Blogging emerged in Tanzania around 2007 and became popular as an alternative news platform with educated, middle class people, as well as politicians and political parties.
In Tanzania, where media historically holds strong ties to government interests, blogging opened up possibilities for individuals to establish private news outlets that proved immensely powerful in terms of reach and readership.
Before the rise of mobile apps, access to a stable Internet connected and laptop were imperative for bloggers. This set a relatively high barrier to participation for people with limited income.
Grovelling to the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees, Mark Zuckerberg apologised that Facebook had not taken a broad enough view
of its responsibility for people's public information. He ssaid:
It was my mistake, and I'm sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I'm responsible for what happens here.
Zuckerberg said its audit of third-party apps would highlight any misuse of personal information, and said the company would alert users instantly if it found anything suspicious.
When asked why the company did not immediately alert the 87 million users whose data may have been accessed by Cambridge Analytica (CA) when first told about the improper usage in 2015, Zuckerberg said Facebook considered it a closed case after CA
said it had deleted it. He apologised:
In retrospect it was clearly a mistake to believe them.
Zuckerberg's profuse apologies seem to have been a hit at the stock exchange but techies weren't impressed when he clammed up when asked for details on how Facebook snoops on users (and non-users).
UK Censorship Culture Secretary Matt Hancock met Facebook executives to warn them the social network is not above law.
Hancock told US-based Vice President of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert, and Global Deputy Chief Privacy Officer Stephen Deadman he would hold their feet to the fire over the privacy of British users.
Hancock pressed Facebook on accountability, transparency, micro-targeting and data protection. He also sought assurances that UK citizens data was no longer at risk and that Facebook would be giving citizens more control over their data going
Following the talks, Hancock said:
Social media companies are not above the law and will not be allowed to shirk their responsibilities to our citizens. We will do what is needed to ensure that people's data is protected and don't rule anything out - that includes further
regulation in the future.
A loss of trust in Facebook in the light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal could prompt the EU to
scrap its voluntary code of conduct on the removal of online hate speech in favour of legislation and heavy sanctions, European commission Vera Jourová said.
The EU's executive is examining how to have hateful content censored swiftly by social media platforms, with legislation being one option that could replace the current system.
JJourová said she would be grilling Sheryl Sandberg , Facebook's chief operating officer, later this week over unanswered questions about the company's past errors and future plans.
Jourove said she was wary of following the German path, because of the thin line between removing offensive material and censorship, but said all options were on the table.
President Donald Trump has signed the internet censorship FOSTA/SESTA bill into law, paving the way for more law
enforcement actions against websites that facilitate prostitution.
Websites started shutting down sex-work forums even before Trump signed the bill. Craigslist removed its Personals section, Reddit removed some sex-related subreddits, and the Erotic Review blocked any user who appears to be visiting the website
from the United States.
The bill becoming law will likely lead to more voluntary site shutdowns or law enforcement actions against sites that continue to be used for prostitution.
The SESTA and FOSTA acronyms (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act and Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) suggest that the new law is aimed at cracking down on sex trafficking. But the law barely distinguishes between trafficking and consensual sex
Operators of websites that let sex workers interact with clients could face 25 years in prison under the new law.
At Netflix, we offer a wide variety of series and films catering to an equally broad variety of tastes and
sensibilities. With that in mind, we are improving some long-standing Netflix features that provide members with the information and tools they need to make wise decisions about what's right for themselves and for their families. We're rolling out
these improvements across the many devices used by Netflix members, and across our global markets, in the coming months.
The first change involves introducing a PIN parental control for individual movies and series to give parents and guardians more specific control over what children can watch on the service. We understand that every family is different and that
parents have differing perspectives on what they feel is appropriate to watch at different ages. While we already provide PIN protection for all content at a particular maturity level for Netflix accounts, PIN protection for a specific series or
film provides families with an additional tool to make decisions they are comfortable with.
In addition, we will also begin displaying more prominently the maturity level rating for a series or film once a member hits play on a title. While these maturity ratings are available in other parts of the experience, we want to ensure members
are fully aware of the maturity level as they begin watching. We are also continuing to explore ways to make this information more descriptive and easier for our members to understand with just a quick glance.
One of the great benefits of internet TV is that it allows for amazing variety and provides viewers with complete control over their experience. At Netflix, we are proud to create and deliver to our members a large catalog of compelling stories
crossing many genres from all over the world, while also giving them great control over how and when to enjoy them. These latest steps are part of our continuous efforts to keep members better informed, and more in control, of what they and their
families choose to watch and enjoy on Netflix.
There is no shortage of hostility towards Facebook at the moment, as a result of recent revelations about their exploitation of user data and
dissemination of supposed 'fake news'.
And the Ugandan Government has taken this to a whole new level and come up with a novel approach to try and steer Ugandan social media users away from US social media like Facebook and WhatsApp; a social media tax.
The social media tax proposal has been widely mocked by Ugandan internet users and experts, but it seems that the idea, which is thought to have emanated from the long-standing Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni himself, is destined to be
His justification was that because social media apps such as Facebook and WhatsApp were developed overseas, Ugandan's are merely consumers of their services and profits from these apps are all being made overseas.
Information minister Frank Tumwebaze claimed that the Ugandan Government wanted to foster online innovation at home and claimed that by taxing these overseas services, Ugandan's would be encouraged to develop their own rival apps.
Exactly how the tax will work in practice is still unclear.
There is no shortage of hostility towards Facebook at the moment, as a result of recent revelations about their exploitation of user data
and dissemination of supposed 'fake news'.
And the Californian Government has taken this to a whole new level and come up with a tradition approach to demand that all online news in the state is censored by government approved 'fact checkers'.
California State Senator Richard Pan introduced the bill SB1424 Internet: social media: false information: strategic plan. that requires any online communication to be run through government-approved censors fact-checkers.
This bill would require any person who operates a social media Internet Web site with a physical presence in California to develop a strategic plan to verify news stories shared on its Web site. The bill would require the plan to include, among
other things, a plan to mitigate the spread of false information through news stories, the utilization of fact-checkers to verify news stories, providing outreach to social media users, and placing a warning on a news story containing false
Although the bill initially suggests that this would apply only social media companies, the definitions confirm that it would apply to all internet communications from individuals, and companies large and small. The scope is defined in the bill:
As used in this section, social media means an electronic service or account, or electronic content, including, but not limited to, videos, still photographs, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, instant and text messages, email, online services or
accounts, or Internet Web site profiles or locations.
The bill stands little chance of passing and, if it did, would face serious challenges in court as an infringement of The First Amendment, but it is astonishing that a legislator would even consider such a thing in America.
After Instagram removed a video detailing a corruption investigation into Russia's ruling elite, it's time to talk about
social networks and the Kremlin.
The one thing that compensates for the strictness of Russian laws is the lack of necessity to follow them. The Russian writer Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin may have penned this aphorism in the mid-19th century, but it's still relevant in 2018 203
especially when discussing the specifics of doing business in Russia and interacting with the Russian government.
A recent practical lesson in this reality emerged when president Putin signed the Personal Data Domestication Law (PDDL) in 2015. The PDDL, effective from 1 September 2015, demanded that every piece of personal data of Russian citizens operated by
any online service should be stored in a data warehouse within the Russian Federation's geographical borders.
This is a quite remarkable (and typical) piece of Russia's legislative absurdity. Imagine a small online store somewhere in France selling, for instance, carpets. It stores its customers' data on a cloud service without even knowing the
whereabouts of physical servers. In France? Iceland? Is the data somehow distributed throughout the globe by the hosting service provider? Even if the store managed to somehow separate its customers with Russian citizenship (and here don't forget
the homesick employees of the French embassy in Moscow ordering carpets from home, still not being subject to the PDDL), it is hard to imagine our hypothetical store would be capable to setup technical infrastructure to comply with the PDDL.
Of course, Russian legislators were not concerned with small online stores (though a verbatim reading of the PDDL leaves no chance of excluding them). The law is targeted at messaging services and social networks: Facebook, WhatsApp, Gmail, Skype
and so on. Roskomnadzor (the Russian government internet censorship agency) has been very clear 203 Facebook and Google should move their servers to Russia, making their users data and, most important, messages subject to SORM, the internet
surveillance system created and run by the Russian security services.
An online petition addressed to Google, Facebook and Twitter urging them not to comply with the PDDL and thus to protect privacy and data of their customers from the FSB was launched in summer 2015. It quickly collected over 50,000 signatures, and
some of the best known Russian internet gurus among them. It's hard to say whether the petition was effective or that the internet companies calculated their expenses for fulfilment of the PDDL, but the fact is three years later, in 2018, none of
the major players (Viber being the only exception among messengers) agreed to follow the PDDL. No sanctions from Roskomnadzor followed, though it did threaten them on a number of occasions.
Why so? Dura lex, sed lex, surely? The legislation could be perfectly absurd, yet still it might be hard for a western reader to imagine how a corporation (with all its lawyers and compliance departments) could just disobey it and walk away. But
this is Russia 203 not a democracy, but an authoritarian regime. And there is no rule of law, but the rule of political momentum.
Shutting down Twitter in Russia, where politicians loyal to Putin have accounts and enjoy tweeting, or including Instagram on Roskomnadzor's blacklist (which would imply an immediate block by any ISP in Russia), making million of young Instagram
users unhappy just before the parliamentary and presidential elections 203 any decision of this kind has to be approved by the Russian president himself. No court and no other part of the regime would dare to take responsibility given the possible
political consequences. Anything that could make people unhappy and drive them to the streets is decided by Putin. This is the way an autocracy operates.
Once you realise this fact, it's easy to see why LinkedIn was selected by Roskomnadzor as the first victim of PDDL in summer 2016.
Indeed, LinkedIn is still the only victim. It was selected by Roskomnadzor carefully: sure, it's a big brand, with an even a bigger one behind it (Microsoft), but LinkedIn's popularity in Russia has been limited to a small part of the white-collar
audience working for or doing business with western companies. A rather small audience. And what's more important: this is not the kind of audience that would march on the streets against internet censorship. LinkedIn was chosen to scare off
larger players. On the technical and legal side, there was absolutely no difference between how LinkedIn and how Facebook stored and dealt with the personal data of their Russian users. The only thing that made a difference was politics.
This PDDL case has been an important lesson, and it's a pity that not everyone has learnt it for good. In February, Alexey Navalny, the Russian opposition leader unlawfully banned from the presidential election, but who remains Putin's most
prominent and feared critic, published a video proving that Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with close ties to US lobbyist Paul Manafort, secretly met with Sergey Prikhodko, deputy prime minister of Russian government who oversees foreign
policy. Indeed, the leaked conversation happened during a yacht trip off the Norwegian coast in August 2016. Several escort girls were also present.
This could be the missing link between Manafort and Putin 203 and perhaps it was, judging from the Russian government's reaction. The day after Navalny's investigation was published online on YouTube and Instagram, a court in the small southern
Russian city of Ust'-Labinsk (which happens to be Deripaska's hometown) decided that Navalny's video violated the oligarch's and deputy prime minister right to a private life (!). It ordered every instance of the video to be blacklisted by
Roskomnadzor, effective immediately. This pace was record-breaking: usually any lawsuits relating to violation of an individual's right to a private life take years. For instance, in summer 2016, the FSB leaked footage of Navalny fishing with his
family on a lake. This surveillance video was included as part of a documentary on a state-owned TV-channel, and used as evidence that opposition leader spends his vacation in too chic a manner. The court is still due to set a hearing date.
But what does it mean when Roskomnadzor is required to block some video from the technical point of view? When a website is blacklisted, it is included on the registry of forbidden content, which Roskomnadzor updates several times a day and
distributes among all Russians ISPs. The latter face huge fines or the revocation of their license if they fail to restrict access their customers' access to every website included in the registry. If a website uses HTTPS, a secure connection
protocol, though, the ISP doesn't possess the information concerning which exact URL a user is trying to reach. Technically, in the Deripaska case, only two entries on Navalny's blog have been included in the blacklist registry, but all the ISPs
blocked the entire domain of Navalny.com (some of them even blocked all the subdomains, including the website of Navalny's presidential campaign). They simply had no choice. Similarly, should any single YouTube video be included in the registry,
YouTube will become inaccessible for customers of Russian ISPs on the same day. Should any Instagram story be put on the blacklist, millions of Instagram users will get angry. This is already politics.
Thus, having a valid (albeit speedy) court decision beforehand, Roskomnadzor immediately blacklisted navalny.com and a few dozen other websites which dared to publish Navalny's investigation 203 but not the YouTube and Instagram videos with
exactly the same information and mentioned in the same court decision alongside other prohibited URLs. At the end of the day, Roskomnadzor are not fools: they are well aware of the risk of shutting down YouTube 203 this kind of action nearly led
to a coup in Brazil recently. Instead, Roskomnadzor started sending emails. They informed YouTube and Instagram that Navalny's video is recognised as illegal in Russia and asked them to remove it voluntarily. YouTube contacted Navalny's office and
asked him to remove it. Navalny refused. Youtube refused also. Instagram took the video down without even attempting to contest Roskomnadzor's email. Roskomnadzor threatened Google with sanctions because of YouTube's disobeyal. Google ignored it.
A month later, the video (which has over seven million views) is still freely accessible on the YouTube. No sanctions were applied to Google. After two weeks of threats, Roskomnadzor officially admitted it is not considering shutting down YouTube
in Russia. So Google, via YouTube, has outplayed internet censorship and once again, as in the case of PDDL, proven its readiness to put its customers' interests first. Meanwhile, Facebook, in the form of Instagram, should be considered a company
that is ready to help Putin clean up the Manafort mess by censoring material online.
Legal compliance shouldn't be the only way of doing business in authoritarian states, where the regime can easily undertake unlawful actions to pursue political goals. Politics is another consideration. So is protecting your customers.
The US authorities have taken control of a classified adverts website used by sex workers to advertise their services.
A notice was posted on Backpage.com's various international front pages late last week to inform visitors.
The site had previously shut down the adult section of its US site, but critics had alleged that prostitution ads had simply moved to other pages.
The authorities claim that some of the adverts were for trafficked sex workers, but such claims are generally hyped up by those campaigning to prohibit adult consensual sex work and rarely amount to any more than a few cases when properly
The US media has also reported that Backpage's co-founder Michael Lacey was arrested last week and his home raided.
The Californian authorities had previously attempted to close Dallas-based Backpage.com in 2016, when the state prosecuted the business's chief executive and two ex-owners - including Mr Lacey - over claims they had committed pimping offences and
generated millions of dollars by hosting sex trade ads. However, the case was dismissed on the grounds that the US's Communications Decency Act said that publishers should not be held responsible for content created solely by their users.
But last month, Congress passed a new law, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (Fosta). It states that websites that facilitate traffickers in advertising the sale of unlawful sex acts should no longer be granted the
It has been reported that President Trump will sign a Senate-approved version of the act into law this week.
The European Commission proposes designating internet censors, which it euphemistically calls 'trusted flaggers', and then requiring internet hosting companies to censor whatever the 'trusted flaggers' say
The EU Commission has recommended an internet censorship decision sounding like something straight out of China. The
system consists of designating police, state censors, commercial censors acting for the state, and perhaps independent groups like the IWF. These are euphemistically known as trusted flaggers.
Website and content hosting companies will then be required to remove any content (nominally illegal content) in a timely manner.
The IWF usefully summarises the proposals as follows:
The EU Commission's proposals to tackle illegal content online include:
Hosting providers and Member States being prepared to submit all monitoring information to the Commission, upon request, within six months (three months for terrorist content) in order for the Commission to assess whether
further legislation is required.
Recommends introducing definitions for "illegal content" and "trusted flaggers".
Fast track procedures should be introduced for materials referred by trusted flaggers.
Hosting providers to publish a list of who they consider to be a "trusted flagger".
Automated takedown of content is encouraged, but should have safeguards such as human oversight.
Terrorist content should be removed within one hour.
The government has announced a new Offensive Weapons Bill, which will be brought forward within weeks. It will ban the sale of the most
dangerous corrosive products to under-18s and introduce restrictions on online sales of knives. It will also make it illegal to possess certain offensive weapons like zombie knives and knuckle-dusters in private.
The government notes that the new legislation will form part of the government's Serious Violence Strategy, which will be launched tomorrow.
Along with other issues the Serious Violence Strategy will examine how social media usage can drive violent crime and focus on building on the progress and relationships made with social media providers and the police to identify where we can take
further preventative action relevant to tackling serious violence.
When the strategy is launched tomorrow, the Home Secretary will call on social media companies to do more to tackle gang material hosted on their sites and to make an explicit reference to not allowing violent gang material including music and
video on their platforms.
TruNews is a 'YouTube channel run by the outlandish evangelist Rick Wiles. It has just been targetted by Google's censorship
policies nad has been kicked into the unsearchable long grass.
Perhaps banned for being 'fake news' but in reality it is a little too unbelievable to even count as 'fake'. freethinker.co.uk
offer an amusing description of why the channel has been censored:
Why? Because Wiles's broadcasts are so damned nutty they serve as a warning to viewers that this is what happens when people's brain's are running on Jesus.
Of course, Wiles is even more miffed. He alludes to Google not following its 'don't be evil' mantra:
I have warned for years that a spirit of Nazism is rising up inside the USA. The new Nazis are here. America is on the verge of a French Revolution-style upheaval during which leftist mobs will seek to execute Christians and conservatives in
order to purge American society.
But this isn't the only example of Google being 'evil'.
from YouTube titled YouTube Admits Not Notifying Subscribers & Screwing With Algorithms
Jimmy Dore notes that independent news sites often no longer qualify for monetisation, they are booted into the unsearchable long grass (as noted by TruNews) and now Google no longer informs subscribers when new videos are added. He contends that
the powers that be want news videos from mainstream media to be the dominant news source for YouTube viewers.
YouTube-MP3 was the world's largest YouTube-ripping service but last year it shut down following a lawsuit filed by the world's largest record labels. But what about companies that supply rip-it-yourself downloading tools
The US has passed laws FOSTA/SESTA that make internet websites responsible for any user content related to sex trafficking.
Websites can't distinguish sex trafficking from adult consensual sex work information so have respponded in the only way they can be banning all sex work related content, just in case.
Cityvibe shut down completely,
the Erotic Review, the Yelp of the sex trade where men rate their experiences with sex workers, shut down advertisement boards in the United States,
NightShift shut down to review policies,
VerifyHim shut down its newsreel,
Craigslist personals section was shut down,
Reddit's prostitution-related subreddits were marked private and the site instituted new policies banning the sale of sex acts and drugs,
Google reportedly deleted its publicly shared commercial sex-related advertising,
WordPress.com reportedly removed its commercial sex-related advertising sites,
Paypal reportedly disabled advertised accounts for commercial sex-related payment,
Rubmaps, Erotic Monkey, and USA Sex Guide had extended maintenance periods over the weekend, suggesting upcoming changes due to the new law,
Microsoft is issuing new Terms of Service effective May 1st covering all of its platforms, including Skype and Xbox, to urge users not to use the services to share pornography or criminal activity.
The sex trafficking sites Cityxguide and Backpage were reportedly seeing a surge in use by sex workers as the other sites shut down.
Perhaps there's an opportunity for European companies to get a look in and offer replacement services to the US.
China's VPN ban came into effect on March 31, 2018, but virtual private network providers are still claiming their users have access to their services in the country.
NordVPN has reportied a lack of information from Chinese authorities about how and when exactly the ban will be implemented. The company also said businesses have reported that so far there have been no announcements from authorities about the
ban. The company commented:
We understand the concern of local and international businesses in China, as well as the needs of scholars, scientists, students, and others who vitally need VPNs to freely access the World Wide Web,
Perhaps the rest of the world would well appreciate Chinese VPN blocking, it must surely make trade a bit tougher for Chinese companies to be cut off from the world.
Today's headlines are dominated by the role of misinformation campaigns or "fake news" in undermining democracy in the West. From ongoing accusations of Russian meddling in Trump's election to Russian efforts to sway the Brexit and
French Presidential election votes, these countries are confronting "fake news" as an ongoing and urgent threat to democracy. Yet in Latin America, where misinformation campaigns have prevailed throughout the twentieth century, concerns
over "fake news" are hardly new . Latin American media concentration, disinformation campaigns, and biased coverage have long undermined informed civic discourse .
"Fake News" as a pretext for curbing free expression in Latin America
In 2018, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia and Costa Rica, among others, will undergo electoral processes involving their respective presidencies. These governments are beginning to exploit concerns over "fake news," as though it were
a novel phenomenon, in order to adopt proposals to increase state control over online communications and expand censorship and Internet surveillance. Such rhetoric glosses over the fact that propaganda from traditional Latin American media
monopolies has long been the norm in the region, and that Internet companies have played a critical role in counterbalancing this power dynamic. Frank La Rue, the former UN Special Rapporteur on Free Expression, remarked at the 2017 Internet
Governance Forum on the inherent risks of importing the term "fake news" to Latin America:
I don't like the term "fake news" because I think there is a bit of a trap in it. We are confronting campaigns of misinformation. So we should talk about information and disinformation.
La Rue believes that when distinctions between fake and real news are drawn, they are done ultimately to dissuade the public from reading news or thinking independently. He argues that "the problem again is that fake news becomes a perfect
excuse to just silence or shut down any alternative or any dissident voice." To respond to this threat, EFF co-signed an open letter along with other 34 Latin American NGOs at the end of last year.
When Brazil set up a council to counter fake news, the Army and the Brazilian intelligence agency--entities with a long track record of crushing minority or dissenting voices--were invited to join. The specter of "fake news" has also
been a pretext for draconian bills in Brazilian parliament. The latest one, a recent proposal of unknown authorship , led to a great controversy when it was submitted to the Communication Council of National Congress' analysis without prior
notice. The text defined as a crime the creation or sharing of false news, imposing detention penalties for those who propagate information the government deemed false. It also sought to modify a key component of Brazilian civil rights framework,
the Marco Civil da Internet, by making companies liable for failing to remove or block reported posts within 24 hours or for not providing an easy tool by which the user can check whether the news is trustworthy. Internet companies would be
subject to a staggering fine of up to 5% of their revenue in the previous fiscal year if they failed to remove content. Although the proposal was withdrawn as a reaction to public outcry, other bills with similar content remain in the parliament.
Mexico is also approaching election season; the country is set to hold the largest election in its history. In July 2018, Mexicans will elect not only a new president but also all federal legislators and nine state governors. The country's
National Election Institute (INE) has recently signed an agreement with Facebook Ireland to fight fake news. The INE is expected to sign similar agreements with Google and Twitter. The agreement , a copy of which was obtained by the newspaper El Universal
, includes the use of Facebook's tools to measure civic participation, access to real-time data of voting results granted by INE, and the provision of a physical space in the Institute's office where, on election day, the company is expected
to perform activities such as posting live videos. While neither party is meant to get involved in deciding what is true or false, transparency is a must. Luis Fernando Garcia, of Mexican NGO Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales, told EFF:
We need complete transparency about the nature of the relationship between INE and Facebook. Facebook should also refrain from adopting measures that discriminate against some media outlets and benefit others in the name of combating "fake
We need an Internet where we are free to meet, create, organize, share, associate, debate and learn. And we also need elections to be free from manipulation. As we have said before , people should be empowered by the tools they use, not left
passive by others' use of such technology. But platforms should remain wary of purporting to validate news even in the face of calls to do so; if they assume this role, it will raise obvious concerns about how they'll respond to political
Like "fake news," policies around hate speech are often used as cover for censorship. It has served as a convenient pretext for advancing a repressive Honduran draft bill on Internet content regulation. After fraud accusations marred
2017 Honduras' presidential elections, Honduras finds itself in a grave political crisis. Amidst the turbulence, a bill regulating online speech was introduced in the Honduran National Congress in February 2018. The bill, which was widely
criticized by civil society , provides broad leeway for Internet companies to block Internet content in the name of protecting users from hate speech, discrimination, or insults. The bill compels companies to take down third-party content within
24 hours in order not to be fined or even find their services blocked. This pro-censorship bill has also spurred recent debates on the creation of a national cybersecurity committee assigned to deal with, among other issues, fake news.
Efforts to keep "fake news" in check are spreading across Latin America. Disinformation campaigns cannot serve to wreck democracy and free speech. EFF will be monitoring this issue as this year's Latin American elections progress.
An almost theological question for, what will AI make of religion? What will it make of people who proclaim peace whilst inciting violence; who preach tolerance whilst practising intolerance; and whose hypocrisy about sexuality is simply perverse?
Anyway, Facebook have excelled themselves by banning an image of Jesus Christ on the cross in a context of religious education.
A post on the Franciscan University blog explains:
We posted yesterday a series of ads to Facebook to promote our online MA Theology and MA Catechetics and Evangelization programs.
One ad was rejected, and an administrator of our Facebook page noticed this rejection today. The reason given for the rejection?
Your image, video thumbnail or video can't contain shocking, sensational, or excessively violent content.
Our ad was rejected because it contained:
excessively violent content
What was the offending image?
And indeed, the Crucifixion of Christ was all of those things. It was the most sensational action in
history: man executed his God.
It was shocking, yes: God deigned to take on flesh and was obedient unto death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8)
And it was certainly excessively violent: a man scourged to within an inch of his life, nailed naked to a cross and left to die, all the hate of all the sin in the world poured out its wrath upon his humanity.
Although the university owned up to the 'violent' image Facebook then decided that of course the image wasn't violent and yet again issued a grovelling apology for its shoddy censorship process. So do you think AI censorship process will be any
One of the more understated but intriguing statements in Zuckerberg's Vox interview this past Monday was his public
acknowledgement at long last that the company uses computer algorithms to scan all of our private communications on its platform, including Facebook Messenger. While users could always manually report threatening or illegal behavior and
communications for human review, Zuckerberg acknowledged for the first time that even in private chat sessions, Facebook is not actually a neutral communications platform like the phone company that just provides you a connection and goes away --
Facebook's algorithms are there constantly monitoring your most private intimate conversations in an Orwellian telescreen that never turns off.
The company emphasized in an interview last year that it does not use mine private conversations for advertising, but left open the possibility that they might scan them for other purposes.
In his interview this week, Zuckerberg offered that in cases where people are sending harmful and threatening private messages our systems detect that that's going on. We stop those messages from going through. His reference to our systems detect
suggested this was more than just humans manually flagging threatening content. A spokesperson confirmed that in this case the first human recipients of the messages had manually flagged them as violations and as large number of users began
flagging the same set of messages, Facebook's systems deleted future transmission of them. The company had previously noted that it uses similarity detection for its fake news and other filters, both matching exact duplicates and highly similar
content. The company confirmed that its fingerprinting algorithms (which the company has previously noted include revenge porn, material from the shared terrorism database and PhotoDNA) are applied to private messages as well.
Over the last few years the European Union has been working on revising its rules on copyright . But the latest
proposal from the head of the copyright committee would deny creators the right to refuse remuneration -- the right to share a work without getting paid -- which could undermine the use of CC licenses if approved.
Ever since the European Commission released a lackluster draft Directive on copyright in 2016, Creative Commons, Communia Association , and dozens of other organisations have been engaging policymakers in the Parliament to make crucial changes in
order to protect user rights and the commons, enable research and education, and promote creativity and business opportunities in the digital market.
But as evidenced by the latest proposal, the direction of the copyright reform seems to be getting worse, not better. This week Axel Voss, the lead member of the European parliament (MEP) for the influential legal affairs committee, released his
own proposed changes to an especially controversial part of the draft Directive, Article 11. This is the provision that would introduce an additional right for press publishers to extract fees from news aggregators for incorporating short snippets
of--or even linking to--their content.
This press publisher's right (also commonly known as the "Link Tax") already poses a significant threat to an informed and literate society. But Voss wants to amplify its worst features by asserting that press publishers will
receive--whether they like it or not--an "inalienable right to obtain an [sic] fair and proportionate remuneration for such uses." This means that publishers will be required to demand payment from news aggregators.
This inalienable right directly conflicts with publishers who wish to share freely and openly using Creative Commons licenses. As we've warned before , an unwaivable right to compensation would interfere with the operation of open licensing by
reserving a special and separate economic right above and beyond the intention of some publishers. For example, the Spanish news site eldiario.es releases all of their content online for free under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike
license . By doing so, they are granting to the public a worldwide, royalty-free license to use the work under certain terms. Other news publishers in Europe using CC licenses that could also find themselves swept up under this new provision
include La Stampa , 20 Minutos , and openDemocracy .
Forcing publishers who use CC to accept additional inalienable rights to be remunerated violates the letter and spirit of Creative Commons licensing and denies publishers the freedom to conduct business and share content as they wish. The proposal
would pose an existential threat to the over 1.3 billion CC-licensed works online, shared freely by hundreds of millions of creators from around the world.
We support authors and creators, and we firmly believe in their right to choose to share, or to seek compensation for all or some uses of their works. At the same time, we must find solutions that also honor those au thors who choose to share with
few or no restrictions.
Voss' proposal must be rejected, and Article 11 should be deleted . It's been clear all along that an additional right for press publishers won't do much of anything to support quality journalism or grow the digital single market. Instead, it will
negatively affect access to information and the ability for publishers to share using the platforms, technologies, and terms beneficial to them.
Nasim Najafi Aghdam, the woman who allegedly opened fire at YouTube's headquarters in a suburb of San Francisco, injuring three before killing
herself, was apparently furious with the video website because it had stopped paying her for her clips.
No evidence had been found linking her to any individuals at the company where she allegedly opened fire on Tuesday.
Two of the three shooting victims from the incident were released from hospital on Tuesday night. A third, is currently in serious condition.
Aghdam's online profile shows she was a vegan activist who ran a website called NasimeSabz.com, meaning Green Breeze in Persian, where she posted about Persian culture and veganism, as well as long passages critical of YouTube .
Her father, Ismail Aghdam, told the Bay Area News Group from his San Diego home on Tuesday that she was angry with the Google-owned site because it had stopped paying her for videos she posted on the platform, and that he had warned the police
that she might be going to the company's headquarters.
Malaysia passed a repressive new law today that would punish citizens on social media or those working at a digital publication for publishing
material deemed to be 'fake news' with a 500,000 ringgit ($123,000) fine and a possible a prison sentence of up to six years.
Led by Prime Minister Najib Razak, the Anti-Fake News bill passed in parliament today despite opponents who had criticized the bill for impeding free speech and attempting to censor the prime minister's involvement in a multibillion-dollar
A draft of the bill had specified a prison sentence of up to 10 years as punishment, but the government toned it down to six in the finalized version. 'Fake news' cases will be handled by a court process. Violators could even include those outside
of Malaysia as long as they're writing about the country or its people.
The Malaysian law defines fake news as news, information, data and reports which is or are wholly or partly false. News includes stories, video, and audio content.
A US government effort to fight online sex trafficking has cleansed many sites of personal ads and consensual eroticism, in a shift advocates say amounts to dangerous censorship. By Erin McCormick in San Francisco