The United Nations Human Rights Council has published an advance version of a report entitled, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye
The report underlines the importance of encryption and anonymity in the digital age and calls on member states to protect their use under law.
David Kaye, a UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, seeks to shine light on complex issues by asking two questions:
Do the rights to privacy and freedom of opinion and expression protect secure online communication, specifically by encryption or anonymity?
Assuming an affirmative answer, to what extent may Governments, in accordance with human rights law, impose restrictions on encryption and anonymity?
Acknowledging that some states impose draconian measures to restrict citizens' abilities to send and impart knowledge without fear, Kaye says that journalists and activists often need specialist tools to make their voices heard.
A VPN connection, or use of Tor or a proxy server, combined with encryption, may be the only way in which an individual is able to access or share information in such environments.
Noting that individuals should be able to send and receive information beyond their borders, the rapporteur states that some member states act to deny those freedoms by restricting communications using aggressive filtering:
Encryption enables an individual to avoid such filtering, allowing information to flow across borders. Moreover, individuals do not control -- and are usually unaware of -- how or if their communications cross borders. Encryption and anonymity
may protect information of all individuals as it transits through servers located in third countries that filter content.
Anonymity has been recognized for the important role it plays in safeguarding and advancing privacy, free expression, political accountability, public participation and debate.
Some States exert significant pressure against anonymity, offline and online. Yet because anonymity facilitates opinion and expression in significant ways online, States should protect it and generally not restrict the technologies that provide
Kaye notes that several states have attempted to combat anonymity tools such as TOR, VPNs and proxies, with Russia even offering significant cash bounties for techniques which would enable it to unmask TOR users. However, due to their human
rights value, use of such tools should actually be encouraged.
Because such tools may be the only mechanisms for individuals to exercise freedom of opinion and expression securely, access to them should be protected and promoted.
States should revise or establish, as appropriate, national laws and regulations to promote and protect the rights to privacy and freedom of opinion and expression.
In respect of encryption and anonymity, Kaye says that member states should adopt policies of non-restriction or comprehensive protection , and only introduce restrictions on a proportional, court-order supported, case-by-case basis.
Adding that states and companies alike should actively promote strong encryption and anonymity, Kaye says that measures that weaken individual's online security, such as backdoors, weak encryption standards and key escrows, should be avoided.
Finally, Kaye advises member states to not only encourage the use of encryption, but also make it the norm.
So in a week where the police ARE threatening to jail innocent kids for sexting, they are asking parents not to teach their kids that the police will take them away if they are naughty.
Many an exasperated parent has told their misbehaving child to be good or the police will put them in prison. But now one police force has issued a poster urging adults not to use this common threat. The poster from Durham Constabulary reads:
Parents. Please don't tell your children that we will take them off to jail if they are bad. We want them to run to us if they are scared, not be scared of us. Thank You.
However the kids would be better advised to keep clear of the police lest they get locked up for sexting, bad taste jokes, or even just insulting posts on Twitter or Facebook.
The number of prosecutions of internet trolls has soared eightfold in the last 10 years, according to new figures. More than 1,200 people were found guilty of offences under Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 last year compared
with 143 in 2004.
The law states it is illegal to send by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other material that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character .
Statistics released by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) show that 1,501 defendants were prosecuted under the law last year - including 70 juveniles - while another 685 were cautioned.
Of those convicted, 155 were jailed - compared with just seven a decade before- and the average custodial sentence was 2.2 months.
Only once in a while does an Internet censorship law or regulation come along that is so audacious in its scope, so misguided in its premises, and so poorly thought out in its execution, that you have to check your calendar to make sure April 1
hasn't come around again. The
Draft Online Regulation Policy recently issued by the Film and Publication Board (FPB) of South Africa is such a regulation. It's as if the fabled prude Mrs. Grundy had been brought forward from the 18 th century, stumbled across hustler.com
on her first excursion online, and promptly cobbled together a law to shut the Internet down. Yes, it's that bad.
First, the regulation applies, in the first instance, to films and games (regardless of subject matter), as well as to publications containing certain loosely-described forms of sex, violence and hate speech. As to these types of content:
5.1.1 Any person who intends to distribute any film, game, or certain publication in the Republic of South Africa shall first comply with section 18(1) of the Act by applying, in the prescribed manner, for registration as film or game and
5.1.2 In the event that such film, game or publication is in a digital form or format intended for distribution online using the internet or other mobile platforms, the distributor may bring an application to the Board for the conclusion of an
online distribution agreement, in terms of which the distributor, upon payment of the fee prescribed from time to time by the Minister of DOC as the Executive Authority, may classify its online content on behalf of the Board, using the Board's
classification Guidelines and the Act ...
If you are a video blogger creating films from your basement, the prospect of FPB officers knocking on your door to classify your videos probably isn't that appealing. So, being the forward-thinkers that they are, without actually providing an
exception for user-generated content (or a sensible definition of it), the FPB provides an alternative system which places the burden of classifying such content onto Internet intermediaries:
7.5 In the event that such content is a video clip on YouTube or any other global digital media platform, the Board may of its own accord refer such video clip to the Classification Committee of the Board for classification.
7.7 Upon classification, the Board shall dispatch a copy of the classification decision and an invoice payable by the online distributor within 30 days, in respect of the classification of the content in question.
A few definitions are in order here: an "online distributor" could be a South African ISP, which might have no connection with the "global digital media platform" that actually hosts the content. Nonetheless, the ISP is
assumed to have the capacity to take down the original video, and to upload a new, classified, version containing the FPB's logo:
7.10 The online distributor shall, from the date of being notified by the Board in writing of the classification decision, take down the unclassified video clip, substitute the same with the one that has been classified by the Board, and display
the Film and Publication Board Logo and classification decision as illustrated in clause 5.1.6.
Oh, but it gets worse. Since classification rules already apply to offline films, games and proscribed publications, the regulation purports to be doing nothing more than to be extending the classification scheme to online versions of those
materials, so that anyone distributing them over the Internet also has to obtain a license to do so. But then there's this:
7.4 With regard to any other content distributed online, the Board shall have the power to order an administrator of any online platform to take down any content that the Board may deem to be potentially harmful and disturbing to children of
That's right, any online platform can be ordered to take down any content distributed online that the Board may deem to be potentially harmful and disturbing . Traditional publishers are subject to no such sweeping, extrajudicial censorship
South Africa is one of Africa's largest and fastest growing economies, and for it to adopt such an extreme preemptive Internet censorship regulation would be a serious setback for South Africa's burgeoning online industry, as well as, needless to
say, a serious blow to human rights. If you are South African, or have any friends or colleagues who are, please
take action by signing the Right to Know petition, and spreading the word about this looming threat.
Russia's internet censor has written to Google, Twitter and Facebook warning them against violating Russian repressive internet laws and a spokesman said they risked being blocked if they did not comply.
Roskomnadzor said it had sent letters this week to the three US-based internet companies asking them to comply with its censorship laws. A spokesman said:
In our letters we regularly remind [companies] of the consequences of violating the legislation.
He added that because of the encryption technology used by the three firms, Russia had no way of blocking specific websites and so could only bring down particular content it deemed in violation of law by blocking access to their whole services.
To comply with the law the three firms must hand over data on Russian bloggers with more than 3,000 readers per day and take down websites that Roskomnadzor wishes to ban.
A law passed in 2014 gives Russian prosecutors the right to block, without a court decision, websites with information about protests that have not been sanctioned by authorities. Under other legislation bloggers with large followings must go
through an official registration procedure and have their identities confirmed by a government agency.
A US appeals court has overturned a controversial ruling that required YouTube to take down a video that disparaged Muslims.
One of the actresses in the film sued to take it down and won, but an appeals court has now ruled she didn't have the right to control the film's distribution.
A segment of the film titled Innocence of Muslims was released in 2012. Muslims in the Middle East responded with violent protests and death threats were made to the actors.
The latest court ruling said the order to take the movie down was unwarranted and incorrect and continued:
The appeal teaches a simple lesson -- a weak copyright claim cannot justify censorship in the guise of authorship.
Google, which owns YouTube, argued that allowing someone with a bit part in a movie to suppress the final product could set a dangerous precedent that could give anyone involved in a production the right to stop its release.
Google has struck a private settlement deal with Max Mosley over images that show the ex-Formula One chief having private fun with sex workers.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Mosley and Google had agreed to end the lengthy legal row in Germany, France and the UK.
But terms of the deal between the two parties were kept secret. It's also unclear whether Google agreed to censor access to the material.
In 2013, Google was ordered by a French court to remove links to nine images of Mosley cavorting with prostitutes, none of which were pornographic. At the time, Google claimed the ruling was troubling and argued that it had serious
consequences for free expression .
And indeed the right to free speech has now given way to the right to not be offended, especially when the demand is backed up by violence. So now Google may as well give in to the demands for censorship as everyone else has anyway.
The British government sneakily changed anti-hacking laws to exempt GCHQ and other law enforcement agencies from criminal prosecution, it has been revealed.
Details of the change became apparent at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal which is hearing a challenge to the legality of computer hacking by UK law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
The Government amended the Computer Misuse Act (CMA) two months ago. It used a little-noticed addition to the Serious Crime Bill going through parliament to provide protection for the intelligence services. The change was introduced just weeks
after the Government faced a legal challenge that GCHQ's computer hacking to gather intelligence was unlawful under the CMA.
Eric King, the deputy director of Privacy International, said:
The underhand and undemocratic manner in which the Government is seeking to make lawful GCHQ's hacking operations is disgraceful.
Hacking is one of the most intrusive surveillance capabilities available to any intelligence agency, and its use and safeguards surrounding it should be the subject of proper debate. Instead, the Government is continuing to neither confirm nor
deny the existence of a capability it is clear they have, while changing the law under the radar.
ATVOD has announced actions against two adult services breached new Tory censorship laws banning material on UK video on demand services which would be banned on DVD under the police censorship rules implemented by the BBFC.
Two providers of on-line porn have fallen vicyim of new regulations banning on a UK video on demand ( VOD ) service material which would be banned on DVD. The service providers also failed to keep strong fetish videos and hardcore porn
images behind unviable and onerous age verification requirements.
Banned pornographic material made available on the UK based services included videos of whipping likely to cause more than trifling harm, and the infliction of pain on a person who 'appears' unable to withdraw consent, even if filmed under
totally consensual and safe conditions. Also repeated strong kicks to the genitals which appear to draw blood. Such material has been prohibited on UK based VOD services since 1 December 2014 under new censorship rules introduced by the Tory
The findings by the Authority for Television On Demand ( ATVOD ) are the first it has made under the new prohibited material rule introduced by Government in December and comes as ATVOD issues new guidance on the statutory rules it
enforces following a three month consultation.
The two online video on demand victims are Glasgow Mistress Megara Furie and Mistress R'eal were held to be in breach of statutory requirements incorporated into ATVOD's censorship rulebook as Rule 11 (age verification) and the new
Rule 14 (following BBFC R18 rules for VoD).
The UK based services allowed under 18s access to explicit hardcore and strong fetish porn videos which could be viewed on-demand. Yet the content of the videos was equivalent to, and in some cases went beyond, that which could be sold only to
adults in licensed sex shops if supplied on DVD.
Both services allowed any visitor free, unrestricted access to hardcore pornographic video promos or still images featuring strong fetish material and real sex in explicit detail. Access to the full videos was open to any visitor who paid a fee.
As the services accepted the most common payment methods, such as debit cards, which can be theoretically used by under 18's. However nobody seems to have actually documented any cases of any under 18s actually paying for porn with a debit card.
The operator of Glasgow Mistress Megara Furie closed the service within three days of the breaches being brought to their attention.
Enforcement action regarding the Mistress R'eal service is ongoing. If it fails to become fully compliant in accordance with a timetable set by ATVOD, the service provider will be referred to Ofcom for consideration of a sanction, a procedure
which can lead to operators being fined or having their right to provide a service suspended, as happened in relation to the service Jessica Pressley.
ATVOD has also published determinations that three further UK based adult websites - Lads Next Door, Panties Pulled Down and Montys POV , failed to keep hardcore porn videos and images beyond the reach of children.
Following enforcement action by ATVOD, the operator of the Lads Next Door service acted to bring the website into compliance with the relevant Rule. The operators of Panties Pulled Down and Montys POV failed to become fully compliant in
accordance with a timetable set by ATVOD. The service providers have therefore been referred to Ofcom for consideration of a sanction.
The latest rulings come as ATVOD publishes new guidance on the rules it enforces. Publication of the new guidance follows a three month consultation which began when the new censorship rules came into force.
Comment: ATVOD, the self appointed Pornfinder General
Critics of the new rules have long argued online viewers of niche pornography are still able to access content banned in the UK by watching videos filmed abroad, and new rules amounts to arbitrary censorship , while Myles Jackman, a
British obscenity lawyer said that the case showed regulators were making up their interpretation of obscenity laws as they go along .
A spokesperson for Backlash UK, which is campaigning to defend freedom of sexual expression, added:
Atvod have erected themselves - pun intended - as the UK's Pornfinder General.... The sole purpose of this new puritanism is mass control and surveillance, under the pretence of protection.
Megara Furie, who describes herself as a professional dominatrix, said that she had taken her site down immediately after she was informed by the censor. She now uses a more robust third-party operator to host her videos. She said:
The banned material, as far as I am aware was one ball kick, which resulted in the equivalent of a shaving cut and lots of blood because it was a testicle. I was happy to take that down. It was an eye-opener and I'll now be more selective about
my content. I wasn't aware I was breaching the rules.
Comment: Mistress R'eal appeals against ATVOD censorship
Mistress R'eal, the dominatrix whose scenes on Clips4Sale.com were the subject of a recent ATVOD probe and determination, has appealed the U.K. video-on-demand regulator's decision that she breached Rule 14.
With her appeal, Mistress R'eal also is challenging the legitimacy of the AVMS 2014 law. Currently, she faces a £10,000 fine and a ban on streaming online.
The videos that breached Rule 14 are:
A Bullwhipping in the Woods, parts 1 and 2,
Double Domme CBT and Pegs.
The scenes are explicit in the films, but they are like most BDSM content shown on a countless number of websites. For example, in Double Domme CBT and Pegs, a man is retrained against a cross and has weights attached to his bound scrotum,
several pegs attached to his body, and a violet wand played over his genitals,. While his arms appear to be free initially, it's implied (and seems to be the case) that his wrists are restrained quite early in the clip. He is also gagged (and
appears to be unable to speak with any real clarity) and has his legs bound. Hence his means of clearly indicating a withdrawal of consent is not apparent.
Mistress R'eal yesterday appealed against ATVOD's ruling that her site is in breach of regulations on the basis that the AVMS 2014 is not valid. Her appeal, according to SexAndCensorship.org , says the following:
I submit that the Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014, which introduced sections 368E(2) and (3) into the Communications Act 2003, were made ultra vires the Secretary of State's power to pass secondary legislation under section 2(2) of
the European Communities Act 1972. Section 2(2) gives the Secretary of State the power to pass secondary legislation for the purpose of implementing any EU obligation or for the purpose of dealing with matters arising out of or related to EU
obligations. I note that the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (2010/13/EU) imposes an obligation on Member States to prohibit hate speech on ODPS (Art. 6); by contrast, it does not contain any obligation to ban content that may be harmful to
minors from ODPS, only an obligation to ensure that access to such content is appropriately restricted (Article 12). In the premises, I fail to see how the 2014 Regulations (and, by extension, section 368E(2) & (3) of the 2003 Act), could be
said to implement an obligation in the AVMS Directive or to deal with matters arising out of related to that Directive. The 2014 Regulations plainly go well beyond the scope of the directive -- and, in doing so, subvert the appropriate
democratic process for dealing with an important human rights (free speech) issue. In light of the foregoing, I submit that the 2014 Regulations and sections 368E(2)-(3), CA2003 are void -- as so, by extension, is ATVOD's Rule 14, which is based
solely on the aforementioned sections of the Communications Act 2003.
For those seeking to censor information online, the weakest link is often precisely that--the humble hyperlink. Censoring or imposing costs or conditions on linking to information can be just as effective, and often easier, than controlling
the information at its source. But without the freedom to link, the World Wide Web falls apart into a mass of disconnected threads.
That's why EFF is joining the
Save the Link network, a new, broad, cross-sector coalition of groups, convened by Canada's OpenMedia.ca (
press release here ). Together we are concerned about mounting threats, from various sources, to our freedom to build the strong, interlinked Web that has become the greatest knowledge repository in history.
One of the most pressing threats, and the reason for the launch of the network now, are proposals for limitations on freedom to link in Europe, in the context of debate over Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Julia Reda's report on the
revision of the European copyright directive. Julia's original report contained this strong affirmation of freedom to link:
Stresses that the ability to freely link from one resource to another is one of the fundamental building blocks of the internet; calls on the EU legislator to make it clear that reference to works by means of a hyperlink is not subject to
exclusive rights, as it does not consist in a communication to a new public.
But amongst more than 500 proposed amendments to the report that other MEPs have put forward and which are currently under debate, are
some pernicious proposals to limit this freedom. One example is an amendment proposed by French MEP Virginie Rozière and Luxembourgish Mady Delvaux, which would add a proviso that:
this option must be strictly limited to links which lead to freely available content; [and] observes that the online intermediaries liability regime applicable to links to illicit content should be tightened up, particularly by revising the
Another proposal by British MEP Mary Honeyball would curtail the right as follows:
but stresses that under certain circumstances, embedding and linking may be prejudicial to the rights of the creator;
And a third by Bulgarian and UK MEPs Angel Dzhambazki and Sajjad Karim:
highlights the importance of enhanced user information regarding obligations for anyone who knowingly provides hyperlinks to unauthorised content or links that circumvent paywalls ...
Such proposals, even if they make it into the European Parliament's final report, will not in themselves make any change to European law. But nevertheless, they send the wrong message to the European Commission which will be preparing the next
revision of the EU Copyright Directive. That false message is that Internet intermediaries such as search engines and Web hosts are enemies, rather than partners of content creators.
Although these European developments provided the stimulus for the launch of the Save the Link network this week, the site also highlights threats to our freedom to link from three other continents, and will enable participants to publicize and
mobilize against new censorship threats as they arise. Social media outreach resources like the one shown above are available on the
Save the Link website for you to spread the word and tell policymakers that you stand in solidarity with other users in upholding our freedom to link.
A comic character based on Dorset's Cerne Abbas Giant has had to be censored because it showed his genitalia.
Eco Comics said it had been forced to alter the ancient naked chalk hill figure in its online comic because some outlets had refused to release it. The comic said the Cerne Giant's rather renowned region would be fully concealed in an
The giant features in the comic's Englishman series. A spokesperson for the comic said:
It seems a sad indictment of the times when a legendary landmark like the Cerne Giant - which any man, woman or child can visit any day of the week - must be covered up in a comic book.
Through pressure, our hand has been forced. Outlets, particularly in the US, refuse any form of nudity in comic books.
Rights-holders to Saturday's Mayweather v Pacquiao boxing match have been manoeuvering to oppose low quality recordings of the bout shared via the new video streaming app, Periscope. Streamed footage is often poor quality, but sufficient to
follow what is going on.
But for the moment, TV networks HBO and Showtime were unable to prevent the action being streamed live. The firms had charged the public a record $89.95 to watch the fight in standard definition and an additional $10 in high definition. The fight
was screened by Sky Box Office for the cheaper price of £19.95 in the UK.
Unlike other live streaming services, such as YouTube and UStream, Periscope does not provide tools to let content owners force the removal of copyright-infringing content in near-real time. Instead, it requires that they file individual takedown
requests, which take longer to process.
HBO has previously expressed its displeasure following reports of Periscope being used to rebroadcast the opening episode of the latest series of Game of Thrones:
In general, we feel developers should have tools which proactively prevent mass copyright infringement from occurring on their apps and not be solely reliant upon notifications.
Periscope is owned by Twitter, from whom a spokesman commented:
Broadcasting content that is protected by copyright is a clear violation of our content policy. We received 66 reports from rights-holders and took action against 30 broadcasts in response to the reports. The remaining broadcasts had already
ended and were no longer available. We were able to respond within minutes.