The UK Column have issued a press release outlining their case against ATVOD:
The UK government has finally moved to directly regulate Youtube content and internet freedom of speech.
On the 2nd February 2014, the UK Column received a letter from ATVOD, the Authority for Television On Demand. ATVOD is a subsidiary of Ofcom, the UK government's communications regulator. The ATVOD letter gave notice to the UK Column that as the result
of a Statutory Instrument amendment to the 2003 Communications Act, the UK Column was required to notify ATVOD that it was running an on demand programme service , to pay a fee, and to submit to regulation.
ATVOD mainly chooses organisations to regulate based upon whether or not they are perceived to produce television-like programmes . In several television conversations between the UK Column and ATVOD, an ATVOD representative admitted that there is
no fixed standard for what constitutes television-like video content, and that their determinations are made on purely arbitrary opinion.
When asked by the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications Inquiry on Media Convergence and Its Public Policy Impact on the 5th February 2013 if [ATVOD] had trouble defining [television-like services], Ruth Evans Chairman of ATVOD replied, yes. It is an evolving art.
It is on the basis of the evolving art statement that ATVOD's claims of a light regulatory burden should be seen. At present ATVOD claims to exist in order to prevent harmful material becoming available to children and to prevent hate speech. It is
clear, though, that anyone submitting to the current light regulatory framework joins a fluid and evolving regulatory framework with potentially draconian financial penalties. The penalties allowed for through the Communications Act 2003 amount to 5% of
the regulated organisation's turnover or Â£250,000, whichever is the greater amount.
Following discussion with ATVOD, the UK Column made the decision that ATVOD's requirements would be detrimental to our freedom of speech and expression on the internet, and we would not submit to regulation by ATVOD.
ATVOD subsequently issued an enforcement notice giving the UK Column ten working days to comply with their demands. Having carefully considered our options, we decided to cease the activity which ATVOD describes as an on demand television service, and
removed all UK Column video on demand content from the internet.
UK Column co-editor Brian Gerrish says:
This represents an immediate and dangerous attack on free speech on the internet and should be of massive concern to all Youtube users, as the government seems to be moving to censor individuals directly, putting them on the same regulatory footing as
global corporations like the BBC and CNN. As a government agency, ATVOD's clearly flawed working practices and their alignment to the corporate media pose a direct threat to our personal liberty and freedoms.
UK Column co-editor Mike Robinson says:
It used to be that to produce high quality studio based video content, the financial barrier to entry was very high. Today, with television studios in a box costing as little as a few hundred pounds, ATVOD seems to be attempting to extend its remit to
even the one man band producer operating out of his bedroom. This is a dangerous road to tread.
Google has begun removing search links to content in Europe under the right to be forgotten ruling, which obliges it exclude web pages with supposedly outdated or irrelevant information about individuals from web searches.
Searches made on Google's services in Europe using peoples' names includes a section at the bottom with the phrase Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe , and a link to a page explaining the ruling by the European
court of justice (ECJ) in May 2014.
However searches made on Google.com, the US-based service, do not include the same warning, because the ECJ ruling only applies within Europe.
Google would not say how many peoples' search histories have been censored, nor how many web pages have been affected.
28th June 2014. From Alan
Not mentioned in the Guardian report is the difficulty for UK surfers of finding uncensored searches on the American site. If I'm in Italy, I can either search in Italian at google.it or, if I want to search in English and enter google.com, I get the
American site. But in this country, typing the URL for google.com redirects to google.co.uk. Looks like we Brits are particular disadvantaged by the absurd decision of twattish Euro-judges.
A Christian in southern Egypt has been sentenced to six years in prison and fined the equivalent of $840 on charges of blasphemy and contempt of Islam for simply liking a Facebook page, according to International Christian Concern.
Kerolos Shawky didn't intend to insult the Islamic religion, Rafla Zekry Rafla, a lawyer representing Kerolos, told ICC. He only clicked like on the Facebook page of Knights of the Cross .
Kerolos was accused of violating Article 98(f) of the Egyptian Penal Code, which prohibits ridiculing, or insulting heavenly religions or inciting sectarian strife .
The initial accusations against Kerolos are that he had somehow incited a muslim mob who vanadalised and set alight Christian shops and homese.
In a picture, a little girl is seen lifting her dress to admire her new underpants, evidence to her of her first steps in toilet training. But the tummy and underpants are considered by Instagram to be nudity. Adamo was warned by the site about posting
inappropriate content, but not being able to recognise sexual tones in her children's photos fast enough she had her account deleted before she could resolve it.
Adamo's account has since been reactivated after mounting furore. But an incident like this still begs the questioin: are photography sharing sites being unnecessarily rigid about content and prudish about flesh? Facebook, for instance, has only just
lifted its long held ban on the appearance of female nipple in breastfeeding photos. Advertisement
Indeed, there's a deliberate reluctance to involve themselves in the debate required for interpreting content. Blanket policies alleviate social media sites from needing to pay people, rather than inexpensive filter programs, to do specialised decision
making. Adamo, cofounder of a fashionable online baby boutique had over 36,000 followers of her family photo album on Instagram before her account was removed.
An identity authentication company is suggesting the UK online pornography industry adopt its technology when regulation is inevitably brought in.
Peer-to-peer sites already use Veridu's technology to rate people as trustworthy or not. It works by asking an individual to setup a profile using social media logins, in much the same way an app would ask you to sign up with your Twitter or Facebook
details. The more logins the individual provides to Veridu, the richer and more reliable its verification will be. The system will then ask if you recognise friends in your social network, look for friendship links mirrored across multiple social
networks including LinkedIn, and compare age groups in your network. For the new age verification model, it could also include Paypal details (more helpful if the user has signed up with a credit card) and other details from telecommunications providers.
Veridu promises it is not storing the data it analyses, nor using it for any purpose other than to deliver a token at the end of the process that the user can then take away and show to adult content sites -- all it will say is whether that person has
been verified as over 18, and how robust that conclusion is on a specific scale.
An ad appeared at the bottom of an article on The Independendent newspaper's website alongside other ads, each of which contained an image and text, under the heading You may also like these . A link below the ad was labelled (Keep Your Email
Private!) . The ad linked to a web page run by a third-party advertiser.
The complainant challenged whether the ad was identifiable as such.
Outbrain said they provided content recommendations, most often found at the bottom of an article on a publisher's page. Their technology meant they were able to understand how and when people consumed all forms of content and could therefore recommend
relevant material based on interests, which could be via paid-for links to third-party sites or links to other content on a publisher's own site. They did not own the websites on which the content they recommended appeared and each publisher could
dictate the layout and look and feel of content such as that placed by Outbrain. They said although the content complained about had been paid for by a third party, it was not advertising in the traditional sense and their recommendations were
better described as promoted content or promoted stories .
They said their approach was in line with industry standard practices and they used the text You may also like these and Recommended by , which appeared next to their logo, to identify that the paid-for ads linked to third-party sites. When
that logo was clicked on, users were taken to a pop up headed What are these links? , which gave information about Outbrain's service and also included the text Links to 3rd party content were paid for by an Outbrain customer . The logo
also changed colour when hovered over, to make clear that it was an interactive link. They believed the average internet user would be aware that links similar to the one they provided were clickable and that they were often used to provide additional
information. However, they said they were willing to cooperate in making changes.
ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld
The ASA understood Outbrain were responsible for the overall presentation of the contextually targeted branded content and its labelling, and acknowledged they were willing to make changes. We also acknowledged the ad appeared under the text You may
also like these and that, when viewed in its entirety, the panel of content featured the text Recommended by , which appeared next to a logo. However, we considered consumers would not necessarily realise that the various different recommendations
included formed part of the same panel and that they might not notice the Recommended by text, which appeared in the bottom corner. We also considered consumers might not realise that the logo included a link to additional information.
Nevertheless, we noted that marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such and considered the text You may also like these and Recommended by , as well as the information provided in the pop up and in the link below the ad,
was not sufficient to ensure it was obvious to consumers that the ad was a marketing communication. Because the ad was not obviously identifiable as marketing communication, we concluded that it was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code rules 2.1 and 2.3 (Recognition of marketing communications) and 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Outbrain to ensure future advertising placed by them was obviously identifiable as such.
Twitter has restored access inside Pakistan to dozens of tweets and accounts, after blocking them last month following official complaints about suuposed blasphemous content.
Twitter said it had changed its May 18 decision after the government failed to provide sufficient clarification. The company said in a statement:
On May 18, 2014, we made an initial decision to withhold content in Pakistan based on information provided to us by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority.
We have re-examined the requests and, in the absence of additional clarifying information from Pakistani authorities, have determined that restoration of the previously withheld content is warranted. The content is now available again in Pakistan.
Most of the offending material concerned anti-Islam accounts, but the accounts of three US porn stars were also listed.
Britain's top counter-terrorism official has been forced to reveal a secret Government policy justifying the mass surveillance of every Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Google user in the UK.
This disturbing policy was made public due to a legal challenge brought by Privacy International, Liberty, Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, Pakistani organisation Bytes for All, and five other national civil liberties
The statement, from Charles Farr, the Director General of the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism, claims that the indiscriminate interception of UK residents' Facebook and Google communications would be permitted under law because they are defined
as external communications .
Farr's statement, published today by the rights organisations, is the first time the Government has openly commented on how it thinks it can use the UK's vague surveillance legal framework to indiscriminately intercept communications through its mass
interception programme, TEMPORA.
The secret policy outlined by Farr defines almost all communications via Facebook and other social networking sites, as well as webmail services Hotmail and Yahoo and web searches via Google, to be external communications because they use
web-based platforms based in the US.
The distinction between internal and external communications is crucial. Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act ('RIPA'), which regulates the surveillance powers of public bodies, internal communications may only be
intercepted under a warrant which relates to a specific individual or address. These warrants should only be granted where there is some suspicion of unlawful activity. However, an individual's external communications may be intercepted
indiscriminately, even where there are no grounds to suspect any wrongdoing.
By defining the use of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google as external communications , British residents are being deprived of the essential safeguards that would otherwise be applied to their communications - simply because
they are using services that are based outside the UK.
Such an approach suggests that GCHQ believes it is entitled to indiscriminately intercept all communications in and out of the UK. The explanations given by Mr Farr suggest that:
GCHQ is intercepting all communications - emails, text messages, and communications sent via platforms such as Facebook and Google -- before determining whether they fall into the internal or external categories The Government
considers almost all Facebook and other social media communications, and Google searches will always fall within the external category, even when such communications are between two people in the UK Classifying communications as external allows the Government to search through, read, listen to and look at each of them. The only restriction on what they do with communications that they classify as
external is that they cannot search through such communications using keywords or terms that mention a specific British person or residence. Even though the Government is conducting mass surveillance - intercepting and scanning through all
communications in order to work out whether they are internal or external - they consider that such interception has less importance than whether a person actually reads the communication, which is where the Government believes the substantive
interference with privacy arises . The Government believes that, even when privacy violations happen, it is not an active intrusion because the analyst reading or listening to an individual's communication will inevitably forget about it
The legal challenge is brought following revelations made by Edward Snowden about the UK's global digital surveillance activities. Farr is the government's star witness in the case, which will be heard by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal between 14 and
18 July 2014. Read our arguments here.
In addition to Farr's statement, we are publishing the witness statements from Dr Gus Hosein, Executive Director of Privacy International, and Eric King, Deputy Director of Privacy International. Additional evidence submitted by Privacy International,
from Dr Ian Brown, Oxford Internet Institute, and Cindy Cohn, Legal Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, can be found here and here.
Eric King, Deputy Director of Privacy International said:
Intelligence agencies cannot be considered accountable to Parliament and to the public they serve when their actions are obfuscated through secret interpretations of byzantine laws. Moreover, the suggestion that violations of the right to privacy are
meaningless if the violator subsequently forgets about it not only offends the fundamental, inalienable nature of human rights, but patronises the British people, who will not accept such a meagre excuse for the loss of their civil liberties.
James Welch, Legal Director of Liberty said:
The security services consider that they're entitled to read, listen and analyse all our communications on Facebook, Google and other US-based platforms. If there was any remaining doubt that our snooping laws need a radical overhaul there can be no
longer. The Agencies now operate in a legal and ethical vacuum; why the deafening silence from our elected representatives?
Michael Bochenek, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International said:
British citizens will be alarmed to see their government justifying industrial-scale intrusion into their communications. The public should demand an end to this wholesale violation of their right to privacy.
Shahzad Ahmad, Country Director, Bytes for All
We've always believed that Tempora enables unlawful profiling of people living outside UK. Now we've come to learn that GCHQ are also subjecting UK residents to this intrusive spying. Such an action by UK intelligence agencies is sheer violation of
people's privacy, security, freedom of expression, and assembly. Such attempts by established democracies are setting extremely worrisome precedents for repressive regimes all over the world.
Indonesian communication and informatics minister Tifatul Sembiring declared its anti-porn mission a jihad, that he says will continue to the end of time. He told the religious griup Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI):
I have often told young, religious teachers to never stop once they start jihad. A jihad may also be in the field of information.
Sembiring said that Indonesian officials have been able to block about a billion sites for carrying pornographic content, surmising that there are a minimum of three billion such sites in existence.
Antara News reported that Sembiring has come under heavy criticism after banning Vimeo wholesale.
The Turkish cartoonist Mehmet Duzenli began serving a three-month prison sentence on a charge of insulting Adnan Oktar, an extremist Muslim preacher who is well known for his creationist, anti-Zionist and holocaust-denial views.
Duzenli refused to appeal on the grounds that a decision to suspend the sentence would still prevent him from expressing himself freely in his cartoons. He Explained:
If Mr. Oktar has the right to claim that he is the Mahdi [the redeemer who is supposed to appear at the 'end times'], I have the right to say that he is lying.
Johann Bihr, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk said:
Jailing D?zenli over a cartoon is totally unacceptable. Such a disproportionate sentence is a reminder that Turkey's penal code often violates the country's own constitution as well as international conventions on freedom of information. The Turkish
authorities must urgently carry out the necessary reforms , including decriminalizing defamation and insult.
Facebook has changed its censorship rules to allow users to post photos of breastfeeding.
The change comes as the wide-ranging #FreeTheNipple online campaign has built pace in its attack against rules used to censor nudity.
Facebook's Community Standards , which outline what users are allowed to post, never included a outright ban on photos of breastfeeding. And for years cheapo Facebook censors have been banning breastfeeding photos. The usual pattern is that the
censorship is usually reversed when the censorship is escalated to higher levels of Facebook censors, who then claim it was all horrendous mistake.
Now, Facebook has ordered its moderators to consider the context of a photo or image, meaning non-sexual photos including female nipples, such as nursing mothers or women with mastectomies, will be allowed on the website.
To test the new rules, US parenting blogger Paala Secor posted a tender photo of her breastfeeding to her 4,655 Facebook followers, in which her nipple was exposed.
Inevitably less than a day later, Facebook unpublished her page and warned it could be deleted. And inevitably once the bad publicity was spotted by Facebook, she received an apology from the website in which a member of the Community Operations team
admitted the page had been accidentally removed.
Chinese internet giant Tencent has closed 20 million accounts on its messaging app WeChat, 5% of the total, because they supposedly offered prostitution services, according to Chinese state media, who dubbed the campaign operation Thunder Strike. +
Last month, when announcing that messaging app platforms like WeChat and others would be cooperating, Chinese authorities threatened that police would hold service providers responsible if they do not fulfill their duty. +
speculates that the action may be more to do with reminding the country's growing privately owned internet companies to toe the government line. Pursuing prostitution may simply be the best way to rein in the most successful social media giants. The fact
that millions of Chinese internet users are turning to WeChat to post their thoughts, chat, and keep up with the news may be one reason for more scrutiny. China's censorship regime is still figuring out how to keep tabs on the increasingly popular chat
app, which is taking internet users away from the microblog Weibo, a platform authorities have spent years monitoring and censoring relatively successfully.
Google is set to ban advertisers from advertising hardcore pornographic services via its Adwords programme.
Google already restricts such adverts to adults only pages, but will now prohibit these adverts totally. This new prohibition will extend the current list of prohibited adverts for sex work, escorts and the like.
For the moment Google will still accept adverts for strip clubs and presumably for sex toys and softcore porn.
An email from Google reads:
Dear AdWords Advertiser,
We're writing to remind you about a change to Google's advertising policies we announced in our Policy Change Log that may affect your AdWords account
Beginning in the coming weeks, we'll no longer accept ads that promote graphic depictions of sexual acts including, but not limited to, hardcore pornography; graphic sexual acts including sex acts such as masturbation; genital, anal, and oral sexual
When we make this change, Google will disapprove all ads and sites that are identified as being in violation of our revised policy. Our system identified your account as potentially affected by this policy change. We ask that you make any necessary
changes to your ads and sites to comply so that your campaigns can continue to run.
A new Russian law will go into effect on August 1, 2014, that requires a wide array of websites and online services to register formally with the government. Sites and applications that allow Internet users to communicate will be obligated to store the
past six months of user-data on servers located inside Russia, making the information available to Russian law enforcement. Several state agencies are now involved in drafting bylaws that will determine how officials actually enforce the new Internet
Four draft bylaws are making headlines in Russian newspapers. The proposed bylaws contain three main points:
Websites and applications will be required to archive virtually every kind of information about their users (logins, email addresses, contacts lists, all changes to a user's account, a list of all accessed DNS servers, and so on). The actual content of
the messages exchanged online, however, does not need to be archived.
Sites and services that exist for personal, family, or household needs are exempt from the law, though this exception does not apply to the exchange of information of a public-political nature or to conversations where the number of
participants is indefinite . Online commerce, scientific and educational activity, and things like job searches are also exempt.
Finally, the Russian Federal Security Service (the equivalent of the American FBI) will offer websites and applications the opportunity to opt out of the data-archiving requirement, if they grant the government full, real-time access to their data. In
this case, Russian police would obtain unrestricted access to Internet users' data, which officials would themselves archive.
It is this third point that could prove the most curious in the enforcement of Russia's new Internet regulations. How many websites and applications will decide to open entirely to the government, to spare themselves the trouble and expense of selecting
and storing user-data according to the new laws? Is the Kremlin betting that it can gain full access to the RuNet by offering this loophole? Or is this a ploy by federal police to bleed the state budget of more funding, creating the need for subsidies to
Don't Spy On Us: Day of Action
7th June 2014. From 13:15.
Shoreditch Town Hall, London
The performer Stephen Fry condemned the government's failure to act over the Snowden revelations at the start of the Don't Spy on Us Day of Action in London today. In a pre-reco rded video, Fry said that using the fear of terrorism, is a duplicitous
and deeply wrong means of excusing something as base as spying on the citizens of your own country.
Marking the anniversary of the start of the Snowden revelations, the Day of Action is the biggest privacy event of 2014, with over 500 people attending the conference at Shoreditch Town Hall. Speaking at the event are high profile experts in
technology, security and human rights, from all over the world. They include Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales who said: The tide is beginning to turn as the public comes to understand just how broken the surveillance state is.
Author and co-founder of the Open Rights Group, Cory Doctorow said:
Freedom from surveillance is essential to freedom itself. The freedom to think, to speak and to have discourse without fear of reprisal or judgement is at the core of democracy itself.
Security technologist and author, Bruce Schneier said:
We have to choose between surveillance or security: an internet that is vulnerable to all attackers or an internet that is secure for all users. In our interconnected world, security is more important.
The day of action was organised by the Don't Spy on Us Campaign, a coalition of privacy, free expression and digital rights organisations, that is calling for the government to put an end to mass surveillance by GCHQ.
Don't Spy on Us is calling for:
an inquiry to report before the next general election to investigate the extent to which the law has failed
new legislation that will make the security agencies accountable to our elected representatives.
judges not the Home Secretary to decide when spying is justified
an end to mass surveillance in line with our 6 principles (No surveillance without suspicion, Transparent laws not secret laws, Judicial not political authorisation, Effective democratic oversight, The right to redress, A secure web for all).
Thomas Hughes, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19:
"All of us have a right to free expression and a right to privacy, but these are violated by arbitrary mass surveillance programmes that assume guilt over innocence. If the UK, which prides itself on being an open and democratic nation,
continues to carry out mass surveillance on this scale, it gives carte blanche to oppressive regimes to keep spying on their citizens, restricting the space for free expression."
Emma Carr, acting director of Big Brother Watch:
"On the first anniversary of the spying revelations, we call on the Government to publicly recognise that the UK's surveillance law urgently needs reviewing and that the oversight mechanisms need strengthening. Without affirmative action the
Government will certainly find that the general public's faith in politicians to properly monitor how the security agencies are using surveillance powers will diminish. The law is out of date, the oversight is weak and the reporting of what happens is
patchy at best. The public is right to expect better and it is high time that the Government stops burying its head in the sand and accept that the current status quo must change."
Jo Glanville, Director, English PEN:
"The protection of the right to a private life is crucial for freedom of expression. None of us can freely exchange or record information and ideas without the expectation of privacy. Its been a year since we found out that GCHQ has been
engaging in blanket, unwarranted surveillance and our politicians have conspicuously failed to address our concerns or to protect our rights. They need to act now."
Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty:
"The game is up and the authorities busted on blanket surveillance pursued without democratic debate let alone legal authority. Now those in power need to know that we care. Events like 'Don't Spy On Us' are an important part of demonstrating that
fundamental breaches of trust have consequences."
Jim Killock, Open Rights Group:
"We've had a year of inaction, delay and obfuscation from the government. They can't avoid answering these questions forever. They're undermining everyone's confidence in the security services, parliament and the technologies we use
Gus Hosein, Executive Director of Privacy International:
Secret surveillance is an anathema to a democratic society, as no real debate can take place without an informed public. The Snowden documents have been critical in sparking this debate, and we must now advocate for laws that make the State's actions
transparent, subject to independent authorisation and effective oversight, and outline clear legal frameworks in accordance with democratic principles.
One year ago, we learned that the internet is under surveillance, and our activities are being monitored to create permanent records of our private lives -- no matter how innocent or ordinary those lives might be.
Today, we can begin the work of effectively shutting down the collection of our online communications, even if the US Congress fails to do the same. That's why I'm asking you to join me on June 5th for Reset the Net, when people and companies all over
the world will come together to implement the technological solutions that can put an end to the mass surveillance programs of any government. This is the beginning of a moment where we the people begin to protect our universal human rights with the laws
of nature rather than the laws of nations.
We have the technology, and adopting encryption is the first effective step that everyone can take to end mass surveillance. That's why I am excited for Reset the Net -- it will mark the moment when we turn political expression into practical action, and
protect ourselves on a large scale.
Join us on June 5th, and don't ask for your privacy. Take it back.