The Russian government is offering almost 4 million rubles (about USD $100,000) to anyone who can devise a reliable way to decrypt data sent over the Tor anonymity network . A mounting campaign by the Kremlin against the open Internet, not to mention
revelations in the United States about government spying, have made Tor increasingly attractive to Russian Internet users seeking to circumvent state censorship.
Developed as a project of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory more than a decade ago, Tor
anonymizes Internet traffic by sending it through a unique configuration of nodes known as an onion routing system . Now in the hands of a nonprofit group, the project continues to receive federal funding but boasts approximately 4 million users
worldwide , among them many tech-savvy digital activists in countries where technical censorship and surveillance are prevalent. Even the U.S. State Department supports programs that train foreign political activists to use Tor to protect themselves from
the watchful eyes of authoritarian governments.
Of course, Tor is a dual-use technology . By providing people with the means to escape censorship and spying, the network is also used by people engaged in organized crime, drug trafficking,
and the exchange and sale of child pornography. Documents leaked by Edward Snowden prove that the U.S. National Security Agency has devoted significant resources to hacking Tor , in order to grab personal data about the people who use it.
government cites precisely these worrying uses of Tor when justifying its own efforts to decrypt users' data. But the anonymous nature of the network makes it difficult to know precisely who uses it, and for what, at a global scale.
unlikely, should Russia's decryption project succeed, it could endanger millions of Internet users whose interest in online anonymity is far from nefarious.
The EU's Article 29 Censorship Working Party has criticised Google for telling publishers about removed right to be forgotten links, and it wants links removed worldwide, not just on European variants of Google.
Representatives of Google, Yahoo
and Bing were called back to address issues about the way that Google was handling right to be forgotten censorship requests. It turned into a sort of public dressing down of Google for not censoring links 'properly' .
Google was criticised for
the fact that it was only removing links from the EU sites, and links could still be found on the US and other Google search pages. The EU censors feel that any EU citizen who doesn't like a particular post has the right to have all links to that story
Google was also called out because they were informing the sources of the stories that they were pulling the links (causing websites to republish new articles, which added more new links, and so on). Irish data protection
censor Billy Hawkes expressed concerns regarding Google warning sites about their links being removed.
The more they do so, it means the media organisation republishes the information and so much for the right to be
forgotten. There is an issue there.
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said it was dangerous to have companies decide what should be allowed to appear on the internet.
Internet search engines such as Google should not be left in charge of censoring history , the Wikipedia founder
has said, after the US firm revealed it had approved half of more than 90,000 right to be forgotten requests.
Jimmy Wales said it was dangerous to have companies decide what should and should not be allowed to appear on the internet.
ATVOD has published brief minutes from its May 2014 board meeting. This includes a short report on what the government is up to in its plans to censor adult porn on the internet in the name of child protection.
ATVOD board meeting minutes report:
Public policy on R18 and unclassified material
An updating report was tabled and the Board DISCUSSED the issue at length.
The Board NOTED the current position on the
initiative to reduce children's access to pornography online, with:
the introduction of legislation for UK based services to keep adult material out of reach of children;
the EU Commission encouraged to tighten up the AVMS Directive to have age verification measures
for European based adult services; and
consideration of legislation which would enable the payments industry to prevent payments to services outside Europe which allowed under 18s to view R18 equivalent material.
Recommendations for further actions had been presented to DCMS and ATVOD had had received undertakings from the Creative Industries Minister immediately prior to the publication of the ATVOD research report For Adults Only? .
Since publication of ATVOD's research, DCMS had followed up on the undertakings given. In particular, the draft Statutory Instrument relating to UK based services had been developed and it was hoped that it would be in force by the end of 2014. It would
put beyond doubt that R18 material can only be provided on an ODPS if persons under 18 will not usually see or access it.
As the Statutory Instrument would define material according to standards set by the BBFC, it was anticipated
that Ofcom, BBFC and ATVOD would agree a Memorandum of Understanding. Any additional activity for ATVOD as a result of these changes will be reflected in revisions to ATVOD's Rules and Guidance, which will require consultation.
The position on overseas providers based outside the EU had been discussed at a meeting between ATVOD, DCMS, Home Office, Ministry Of Justice, Crown Prosecution Service and the payments industry. As a result of that meeting, DCMS had agreed to consider the feasibility of introducing a licensing regime for foreign pornographic websites (similar to that being introduced for foreign gambling websites). A timetable had not been provided.
The Board AGREED that ATVOD should offer assistance to DCMS in its efforts.
The Board NOTED that the proposal had been taken up by a number of high profile third parties and that the Opposition had tabled
an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill which would establish a licensing regime for foreign porn services.
Note that the licensing provisions in Lords amendment of Criminal Justice and Courts Bill were in fact withdrawn
but it is interesting to note the devious plan being hatched by the government.
It sounds ludicrous to expect foreign companies to submit to UK licensing when it would be very unlikely that the provisions could be enforced by prosecutions launched
from Britain. However this is clearly not the point of the licensing. It is so that unlicensed foreign companies can deemed to be nominally breaking UK law (even if this can't be enforced) so as to give the banks and payment services a legal excuse to
deny payment services for at least the UK portion of the website's trade.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a new law to strengthen the country's ability to censor the internet.
Starting in 2016, the new law will require Internet operators to store Russian user data in centres within the country. Once data is
stored on Russian servers, it will be subjected to Russian laws, putting it at risk for censorship. Companies that don't comply will be blocked from the web.
The move seems particularly targeted at US social networking sites like Twitter and
Facebook, that are based in the US and have previously proved elusive of Russian internet censors.
The new law came as part of a flurry of new legislation , including a law prohibiting protests. Some of the Internet operators targeted have
warned that two years is not enough time to comply with the law, according to a Agence France-Presse report.
Internet expert and blogger Anton Nossik told the Moscow Times of the data storage law:
goal is to shut mouths, enforce censorship in the country and shape a situation where Internet business would not be able to exist and function properly.
A new law imposing restrictions on users of
social media has come into effect in Russia.
It means bloggers with more than 3,000 daily readers must register with the mass media regulator, Roskomnadzor, and conform to the regulations that govern the country's larger media outlets.
includes measures to ensure that bloggers cannot remain anonymous, and states that social networks must maintain six months of data on its users. The information must be stored on servers based in Russian territory, so that government authorities can
The Australian federal government has founded a committee to inquire into law enforcement's use of the Telecommunications Act. The inquiry will specifically look into the Australian Securities and and Investments Commission (ASIC) alongside the
Australian Federal Police (AFS). The groups had initiated website blocking that was revealed in 2013 after a clumsy implementation blocked 250,000 other websites in the process.
Australian tech news site IT News first suggested federal agencies may be
taking advantage of Section 313 after a third unnamed agency was found making similar website blocking demands. The federal government refers to the third organization only as a national security agency and has repeatedly declined to disclose any
further information regarding the identity or motives behind its behavior.
Australian Greens senator Scott Ludlam issued a public statement on his website accusing the government of a secret Internet filter, referring to an unpopular
government proposal earlier that year to establish a mandatory Internet filter. Ludlam asserted that ASIC and AFP activities amounted to a filter by stealth whereby law enforcement agencies disrupted access to online content without transparency
or public statements of explanation.
After more than a year of public statements from corporations and politicians, the federal government is opening a parliamentary committee to undertake an inquiry into ASIC and AFP behavior.
investigation will address whether these agencies' uses of Section 313 have been appropriate or abusive. The current law does not explicitly require transparency, but the inquiry will review whether legal adjustments are necessary, with the committee
calling it an important public policy question. Other questions will include the authority of who can use Section 313 to block websites, circumstances in which it is appropriate, and accountability procedures.
Ofcom has published a report outlining the uptake and implementation of optional network blocking offerings from the four main broadband ISPs in the UK.
The most interesting point was the low take up of the website blocking option from 3 of the 4
Note 9 is that 4.5% of BT opted for network level blocking but another 4.5 opted for the more tailorable device level blocking in the form of software to run on each device.
Note 10 is that 33% of subscribers opted for virus blocking
but on 4% for child protection blocking.
TalkTalk made a big thing of offering network level child protection website blocking a year before the other ISPs. So presumably many of the new subscribers that particularly wanted the blocking opted for TalkTalk.
Using an 2013 estimate
of subscriber base of 7.3 million for BT, 5.2 for Sky, 4.5 for Virgin and 4.2 for TalkTalk reveals an estimate that 11.7% of new subscribers opted for network level website blocking designed for child protection.
Interesting Ofcom neglected to
mention this very important low take up in its press release accompanying the report which is reproduced in full below.
Ofcom Report on Internet safety measures - Internet Service Providers: Network level filtering measures
Ofcom has today published a for Government outlining measures the UK's largest internet service providers have put in place to help parents protect children from harmful content online.
This follows an
agreement between the Government and BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media, the four largest fixed line internet service providers (ISPs), announced in . Each ISP committed to offer new customers family-friendly network-level filtering by the end of
This is the second of three reports the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has asked Ofcom to produce on internet safety measures to protect children. The DCMS asked Ofcom to look at the approach taken
by each ISP to implement family-friendly filtering services which block content that may be inappropriate or harmful for children, rather than assess the effectiveness of the filters.
The report also describes measures taken by
ISPs to present a pre-ticked unavoidable choice to new customers on whether or not to activate the filter, and includes initial take-up data among new customers offered filters.
The filters apply to all web based internet
content, on any device that is connected to the fixed broadband network in the home.
The report finds that the four ISPs now have a network level family friendly filtering service,
which is offered to new customers. New subscribers receive a prompt from their ISP during the broadband set-up process, describing the filtering service and offering the consumer a pre-ticked option to use the filtering service.
The filters allow a user to manage access in their home to a range of internet services, helping parents to prevent their children accessing content that is not appropriate for them.
There are a number of filtering categories common to all four ISPs. Suicide and self-harm, pornography, file sharing, crime, drugs, violence and hate are covered by each provider's classification systems.
By the Government's target of December 2013, BT, Sky, and TalkTalk each offered a filtering service allowing parents to restrict categories of online content, and presented new users with the unavoidable choice of whether to activate the filters.
Virgin Media launched its network level filter in February 2014. When it launched, it was not able to implement an unavoidable choice for all new customers, and estimated this was offered to about a third (35%) of new customers.
To help address this shortfall, Virgin Media implemented additional ways for the customer to choose filtering, after the initial set-up.
The ISPs are currently working towards meeting
their commitment to Government to contact all their existing customers and present them with an unavoidable choice about whether or not to install the family friendly content filters by the end of 2014.
Ofcom is due to produce the
third in this series of reports in December 2014. This will review Ofcom's Media Literacy research from 2014 on parental strategies for protecting children online.
Specifically, it will look at how take-up, awareness of and
confidence of parents in relation to parental controls has changed since its first report published in . It will assess the broader strategies parents may adopt to improve children's online safety and will provide a more complete set of data on which to
draw clearer conclusions.
Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia state has banned websites from displaying the insignia of the Hells Angels and Bandidos motorcycle clubs.
The bright red Hells Angels lettering and the iconic winged skull or the so-called Fat Mexican of the
Bandidos gang will now be liable to prosecution according to the state interior minister, Ralf Jager:
The biker symbols must be deleted from websites or the site will be taken down. Offenders will be tracked down based
on the website and punished.
We do not want to tolerate any legal loopholes. We're applying a zero tolerance strategy. We'll use all of our available legal options in the fight against biker crime.
first banned the Hells Angels' charter in Hamburg in 1983. When a former member of the gang tried to appeal the decision in April this year, a judge ruled that public displays of the logo were forbidden throughout the entire country.
China's TV censor, SARFT (The State Administration of Radio Film and Television) is preparing to stifle Chinese Video on Demand services.
According to 21st Century Business Herald, SARFT has held talks with related agencies on the and revealed some of
its new censorship policies including that all video content must go through SARFT's uniform platform ; display of branding information of content suppliers will be prohibited; no overseas produced content or Internet user self-made content will
be allowed; all apps and hardware must be submitted to SARFT for review and approval before they reach the market.
These new ominous sounding rules have not impressed investors have precipitated a strong selloff. The price of Shenzhen-listed
Internet TV company LeTV has tumbled nearly 20% as a result and preorders for its Internet video streaming boxes have been suspended.
A French judge has ludicrously ruled against a blogger because her scathing restaurant review was too prominent in Google search results. The judge ordered that the post's title be amended and told the blogger Caroline Doudet to pay damages.
restaurant owners claimed the article's prominence was unfairly hurting their business. Doudet was sued by the owner of Il Giardino restaurant in the Aquitaine region of southwestern France after she wrote a blogpost entitled the place to avoid in
Cap-Ferret: Il Giardino .
In her article, which has now been deleted, she complained of poor service and what she said was a poor attitude on the part of the owner during a visit in August 2013. According to court documents, the review
appeared fourth in the results of a Google search for the restaurant. The judge decided that the blog's title should be changed, so that the phrase: the place to avoid was less prominent in the results.
Doudet said the decision made it a
crime to be highly ranked on search engines:
This decision creates a new crime of 'being too highly ranked [on a search engine]', or of having too great an influence'.
What is perverse, is that
we look for bloggers who are influential, but only if they are nice about people.
The judge ordered Doudet to amend the title of the blog and to pay € 1,500 to the restaurant.
Georgia Tech researchers have created a tool to monitor the accessibility of Web pages around the world that can be installed by adding a single line of code to a web page. The tool, Encore, runs when a user visits a website where the code is
installed and then discreetly collects data from potentially censored sites.
The researchers hope the data they collect will allow them to determine the wheres, whens and hows of what's blocked, as well as identify ways to get around restricted
access. Sam Burnett, the Georgia Tech Ph.D. candidate who leads the project said:
Web censorship is a growing problem affecting users in an increasing number of countries. Collecting accurate data about what sites and
services are censored will help educate users about its effects and shape future Internet policy discussions surrounding Internet regulation and control.
The measurement tool that Burnett and his adviser Nick Feamster, professor at
the Georgia Tech School of Computer Science, developed -- known as Encore -- works by collecting information about a users' Web access and censorship of various sites across other countries.
These measurements happen automatically in the
background after a page has loaded and do not affect a site's performance or a user's experience. Most users won't ever notice them or realize they are helping to measure Web accessibility, although the tool provides ways to inform users that their
browsers are conducting the measurements. Burnett said:
Encore doesn't track users' browsing behaviors or the content they visit, only whether or not a potentially censored website is reachable from where they are
People who work on Internet freedom --- ranging from policymakers to the developers of tools for improving access to information --- need accurate information about what information is
inaccessible and when it becomes blocked. Encore is the first tool that makes it possible to provide this kind of information continuously, on a global scale.
The Registered Digital Institute is a trade group which promotes digital installation and digital service providers directly to the consumer. The institutes explains its role in setting up a standard for internet website blocking for public WiFi:
During his 2013 NSPCC speech on online safety, David Cameron announced that an agreement was in place with the UK's main Wi-Fi providers to commit to applying a level of filtering across all of their standard public Wi-Fi
services, which are easily accessed by children and young people. Mr Cameron also highlighted the need to develop an industry-recognised and trusted symbol, which businesses could display to show customers that their public Wi-Fi is properly filtered.
Discussions around the development of such a scheme and symbol began 12 months ago, when the RDI were asked to work in collaboration with The UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), the Government and the UK's main Wi-Fi Providers, to design,
develop and launch the UK-wide Friendly WiFi scheme that we see today.
RDI have also outlined the level of blocking that has been implemented and how the BBFC have been involved in the censorship process:
During meetings with DCMS and the UK's main Wi-Fi providers who we worked collaboratively with to design the online safety initiative, it was suggested that we contact the BBFC. We were introduced to the BBFC's Assistant Director, David Austin who
kindly offered to assist us in the build of our specification for online content filtering. David hosted an initial meeting at the BBFC's London offices and provided what can only be described as an eye-opening view of how the BBFC operates and
independently scrutinises films and video to ensure the highest possible level of protection and empowerment.
We learned how the BBFC had been appointed by the Mobile Broadband Group to provide an independent framework to underpin
the Mobile Operators' code of practice that was set up in 2004 for the self-regulation of content on mobiles. The Classification Framework defines content that is unsuitable for customers under the age of 18 and is based on the BBFC's Classification
Guidelines for film and video. The Classification Framework is also used to calibrate the filters used by the Operators to restrict access to internet content via mobile networks by those under 18. This was a major step forward to restrict content
accessed via mobile networks and protect children from viewing inappropriate material whilst operating their mobile devices.
Although the specified level of content filtering within the Friendly WiFi scheme is below that
which underpins the Mobile Operators code of practice, it is important that we were guided by the same technical expertise of the BBFC to support our development and advise us on future updates. The BBFC has contributed specific definitions and guided us
in the use of correct and appropriate terms relating to the filtering of pornography. This is to make sure we are able to communicate the terms correctly and have the confidence that our specification is in line with what our Customers, Industry and
The level of content filtering agreed by the main WiFi providers for their standard public WiFi offerings is the same level which has been included within the Friendly WiFi scheme. The level of filtering as
The standard public Wi-Fi offering will automatically filter the IWF list and participate in the IWF Self Certification process.
The standard public Wi-Fi offering will also include filters to block
pornography and will use generally recognised list providers to filter pornography.
No doubt the use of 'generally recognised list providers' means that the block on actual pornography will include a block on news and information websites that happen to include a few porny words in their text.
Any UK business wishing to join the Friendly WiFi scheme must meet the level of filtering standards described above. Once approved they will be authorised to display the scheme Friendly WiFi logo at their venues. At RDI,
we will be working on a number of initiatives to support our Friendly WiFi customers and the Industry. As part of our service to Licensees of our scheme, we will manage consumer enquiries and deal with issues in relation to content viewed over
public WiFi services. These may include reports of over blocking and under blocking. We are delighted that the BBFC have agreed to work with us by offering their support to handle enquiries of this nature. Their independent and technical expertise is
essential and we look forward to a strong relationship and us working together to evolve the scheme.
Earlier this year news broke that UK ISPs are set to team up with copyright holders to notify subscribers found sharing pirated material. Today the initiative has been announced officially, receiving praise from all parties involved.
optimism it may take well over a year before the first warnings are sent out.
As we previously revealed, the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP) will only apply to P2P file-sharing and will mainly focus on repeat infringers. The monitoring
will be carried out by a third-party company and unlike other warning systems there won't be any punishments. The main purpose of the warnings is to alert and educate copyright infringers, in the hope they will move over to legal alternatives.
Thus far BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media have agreed to send warnings to customers whose connections are being used for unauthorized file-sharing. Commenting on the collaboration, all four ISPs praised the educational nature of the VCAP program.
However the Prime Minister's IP advisor Mike Weatherly has already said that it's already time to think about VCAP's potential failure. He suggested that the program needs to be followed by something more enforceable, including disconnections,
fines and jail sentences.
The intelligence services are constructing vast databases out of accumulated interceptions of emails, a tribunal investigating mass surveillance of the internet has been told.
The claim emerged during a ground-breaking case
against the monitoring agency GCHQ, MI5, MI6 and the government at the investigatory powers tribunal (IPT).
Matthew Ryder QC, for Liberty and other human rights groups, told a hearing the government had not disputed that
databases gathering material that may be useful for the future is something that may be permissible under Ripa [the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000] .
If they are deemed under the legislation to be necessary
, he said, that may mean their use can stretch far into the future .
Ryder added: The government is now conceding it can gather such databases.
Hacking Online Polls and Other Ways
British Spies Seek to Control the Internet
The secretive British spy agency GCHQ has developed covert tools to seed the internet with false information, including the
ability to manipulate the results of online polls, artificially inflate pageview counts on web sites, amplif[y] sanctioned messages on YouTube, and censor video content judged to be extremist. The capabilities, detailed in documents
provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, even include an old standby for pre-adolescent prank callers everywhere: A way to connect two unsuspecting phone users together in a call.
The tools were created by GCHQ's Joint Threat
Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), and constitute some of the most startling methods of propaganda and internet deception contained within the Snowden archive. Previously disclosed documents have detailed JTRIG's use of fake victim blog posts, false flag operations, honey traps and psychological manipulation to target online activists, monitor visitors to WikiLeaks, and spy on YouTube and Facebook users.
Intelligence agency GCHQ is able to spy on Facebook and Youtube users and can manipulate online polls, according to the latest documents
allegedly leaked by fugitive CIA worker Edward Snowden.
Documents thought to have been provided by the whistleblower allegedly show that the Cheltenham-based agency has developed a set of software programmes designed to breach
users' computers and manipulate the internet.
Among the listed tools are ones capable of searching for private Facebook photographs, sending fake text messages, changing the outcome of online polls, censoring extremist material, and collating comments on Youtube and Twitter.
Some of the software enables the psychological manipulation of internet users, not unlike the controversial secret study recently undertaken with the approval of Facebook, in which the social network altered people's newsfeeds to
see if it had an effect on their emotions.
The list of programmes was revealed in a Wikipedia-style document allegedly compiled by GCHQ's Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), which was first published by The
The Registered Digital Institute (RDI), has launched what if misleadingly calls Friendly WiFi , which aims to indicate that WiFi source is highly censored and is suitable for kids. The highly censored internet feed inevitably going way beyond
porn sites will be denoted with the logo shown right.
The official blurb reads:
Friendly Wifi - Public WiFi Licensing Scheme
Last summer the Prime Minister; David
Cameron announced that a commitment had been made with the UK's main WiFi Providers that their standard public WiFi offering will automatically filter the IWF (Internet Watch Foundation) list and block pornography, by the end of August 2013.
These filters mean that whoever accesses public WiFi is blocked from getting on certain websites, these websites will always remain blocked and filtering will also include a number of pornographic and child abuse sites.Filtering
work is now compete and the idea of a Friendly WiFi logo and scheme were developed to promote the good work that has already been carried out to protect public WiFi users online.
Retailers, restaurants, hoteliers,
transport companies and any other businesses offering public WiFi can now sign up to the new scheme and can display the Friendly WiFi logo to show their customers that the WiFi provided by them is filtered and safe for children and young people to
use. 'Friendly WiFi Logo'
The Friendly WiFi logo is available to any UK business providing public WiFi, who are committed to supporting the need for safeguarding online content. The Friendly WiFi logo
will be displayed by each business signed up to the Friendly WiFi scheme and will appear on their landing page as you sign into WiFi.
Wherever this logo is displayed on site or online, parents and young people can be
assured that, the company displaying the logo has the correct filters in place and their business broadband service meets the commitment made by the WiFi providers.
Parliament has a done a terrible thing. They've ignored a court judgment and shoved complex law through a legislative mincer in just three days.
But in doing so they won't have had
the final word. You've already shown them the growing public opposition to mass surveillance. There was incredible action from supporters: 4458 of you wrote to your MPs with even more phoning up on the day of the vote. Together we helped 49 MPs rebel
against the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill. It may have passed, but thanks to you they know that we do not agree.
Whilst Parliament swallowed Theresa May's tired arguments that terrorist plots will go undetected
and these are powers and capabilities that exist today , she failed to make a compelling argument that holding everyone's data is necessary and proportionate. Frankly, the Government was evasive and duplicitous, and they were in a hurry to
cover their tracks.
Tom Watson MP described the process as democratic banditry, resonant of a rogue state. The people who put this shady deal together should be ashamed.
And the European Court's
decision was very clear: blanket data retention is unlawful and violates the right to privacy. The courts will have the final say on whether DRIP breaches human rights. And no matter what David Cameron believes, the UK has international
obligations. The European Convention on Human Rights, the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and our own Human Rights Act -- all exist to defend our rights and are where we will be able to challenge DRIP.
We're already meeting
with lawyers and taking Counsel's advice to work out the best way to take the Government to court. We will work with every other group who is willing to help. But a major legal battle like this is going to be tough. The more resources we have, the more
we'll be able to do to stand up to DRIP.
The Internet Services Providers' Association (ISPA UK) announced the winners of the 2014 ISPAs, the UK's longest running internet industry awards, now in their 16th year. Almost fifty organisations were nominated across sixteen categories, and the
evening ended with the Internet Hero and Villain Awards, given to those who have helped or hindered the industry in the last year.
Surveillance and broadband dominated the Internet Hero and Villain shortlists, sponsored by NetLynk
Direct, with The Guardian named Hero for their work covering the PRISM revelations..
Conversely, GHCQ/NSA won the Internet Villain Award for their role in the surveillance state, a particularly important issue for industry given
yesterday's new Bill on data retention. The Guardian collected their award on the evening whilst digital rights campaigners, Big Brother Watch , picked up the award on behalf of GCHQ.
Internet Hero sponsored by NetLynk
winner: The Guardian
For their excellent reporting of mass surveillance programmes.
Internet Villain sponsored by NetLynk winner: GCHQ/NSA
For running the widest covert electronic surveillance programme in the world.
The other Internet Villain finalists were:
Charles Farr, Director of the Office of Security, Home Office For continued attempts to collect communications data in spite of the growing consensus to balance retention of data with fundamental rights.
Council For failing to rollout superfast broadband to 80% of residents as promised.
Russian Government For passing one of the most restrictive internet freedom laws in the world.
A leading music website has censored album covers by artists including Sigur Rós and Lambchop after they fell foul of a Google advertising ban on supposedly sexually explicit content.
Drowned in Sound (DiS) was told that the covers,
which include scenes of uncontroversial nudity, could no longer be shown on web pages which sit alongside Google's Adsense advertising network.
The website relies upon income from Google's advertising system and so has had to cover up the
offending artworks. DiS was told that it would be blocked from accessing Google's advertising network within days if it failed to comply.
Sean Adams, who founded DiS in 2000, said that it seems crazy that they feel they can police our editorial
and questioned whether Google might one day seek the removal of material which could seriously compromise freedom of expression.
The cover of Sigur Rós' 2008 album, Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust , which features naked
buttocks, incorporates an image by the acclaimed American photographer, Ryan McGinley.
Another offending cover, OH (Ohio) by Lambchop, features a painting called New Orleans Police Beating by Michael Peed. Its image of naked lovers is designed
to contrast scenes of intimacy with violence outside.
Google is seeking to distance itself from the porn industry. The warning to DiS seems to have been caught up in a recent Google move to ban adverts that promote graphic depictions of sexual
Singapore has become the latest in a line of countries to crack down on copyright infringement via web blocking.
The newly-passed legislation will allow copyright holders to obtain High Court orders to force local service providers to block access to
websites that flagrantly infringe copyright. How that will be determined is not yet clear.
In a statement, Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah said the new amendments will help reduce piracy and boost legal alternatives:
The prevalence of online piracy in Singapore turns customers away from legitimate content and adversely affects Singapore's creative sector. It can also undermine our reputation as a society that respects the protection of
Unsurprisingly The Pirate Bay is first on the list of sites set to be targeted by copyright holders, with KickassTorrents reportedly a close second. The law could come into force by the end of August.
The number of restrictions placed on the Internet in Russia since Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin in 2012 is daunting. What's been outlawed and what's still legal on the RuNet? To help people keep track of what's what in Russian cyberspace,
RuNet Echo has compiled a chronological list of the most important laws to hit the Russian Internet in the past two years. For each law, readers can find links to the legislation's full text in Russian, as well as RuNet Echo articles in English
describing the details and significance of each initiative.
The law that launched a thousand ships: creating the RuNet Blacklist
Signed by Putin on July 28, 2012. This is law that launched the crackdown on Internet
freedom in Russia. The law created a government registry for websites found to contain materials deemed harmful to children. Illegal content under this law includes child pornography, drug paraphernalia, and instructions about self-harm. Without a court
order, Russia's federal communications agency is able to add to the registry any website hosting such material. Later laws have allowed police to blacklist other kinds of websites, too, using the infrastructure created here.
Signed on July 2, 2013. Often referred to as the "Russian SOPA," this is an anti-piracy
law that allows courts to block websites accused of hosting stolen intellectual property. What ultimately reached Putin's desk in July 2013 was a somewhat watered-down version of the initial legislation, which called for applying the law to a wide
variety of content. (The law's final text addressed only stolen films.) The Russian Parliament is poised , however, to pass a new bill later this year that
will expand the law's application to music, e-books, and software.
Signed on December 28, 2013. This law gives
Russia's Attorney General the extrajudicial power to add to the RuNet Blacklist any websites containing "calls to riots, extremist activities, the incitement of ethnic and (or) sectarian hatred, terrorist activity, or participation in public events
held in breach of appropriate procedures." In March 2014, police used this law to block four major opposition
websites, including three news portals and the blog of Russia's most prominent anti-corruption activist. Since the law passed last year, the Attorney General as blacklisted 191
different Web addresses .
The law that got away: policing news-aggregators
In April 2014, Putin revealed
at a public forum that the government was investigating the legal status of online news-aggregation services like Yandex News. In May, a Duma deputy asked the Russian Attorney General to issue a ruling about the status of Yandex News, to determine if
the state should regulate such websites as mass media outlets. In early June, Yandex's CEO joined Putin onstage at a forum on Internet entrepreneurship, where the two
chatted amicably about the RuNet's economic potential. On July 1, Russian newspapers
reported that the Attorney General does not consider news-aggregation to qualify as mass media, aborting the Duma's effort to impose new regulations on Yandex News and
The anti-terrorism package, aka "the Bloggers Law"
Signed on May 5, 2014. This package consisted of three separate
laws, hurried through the Duma after terrorist attacks in the city of Volgograd in December 2013. Two of the laws added new Internet regulations, creating restrictions on
electronic money transfers (banning all foreign financial transactions involving anonymous parties) and extensive requirements
for governing the activity of "popular bloggers" and the data retention of certain websites and online networks. The "law on bloggers" takes effect on August 1, 2014, creating a new registry especially for citizen-media outlets with
daily audiences bigger than three thousand people. Bloggers added to this registry face a series of new regulations (against obscene language, libel, and so on), increasing their vulnerability to criminal prosecution.
Signed on June 28, 2014. This law allows the government to hand down five-year prison
sentences to people who re-disseminate extremist materials online. The "law against retweets" codifies an existing police practice, but making the policy official could increase the number of such prosecutions in the future.
Passed by the Duma on July 4, 2014. This legislation still awaits the Senate's approval and Putin's
signature. The law, if passed, will require all websites that store user data about Russian citizens to house that data on servers located inside Russia. According to the legislation's logic, websites will be barred from storing Russian users' personal
data anywhere outside of Russia (though the law's actual text is somewhat vague on this point, perhaps because of jurisdictional limitations on what Russia can mandate outside its borders). The law applies to a wide variety of websites, ranging from
e-booking services to Facebook, affecting any website or online service operating on the concept of "users."
Emergency legislation will be brought in next week to force phone and internet companies to continuing logging customer calls, texts and internet use.
Ministers claim it is necessary so police and security services can access the data they need after
a legal ruling which declared existing powers invalid. The proposed law has the backing of Labour and the coalition parties.
A recent ruling of the European Court of Justice has removed the obligation on telecoms companies to retain records of
when and who their customers have called, texted and emailed, and which websites they visit.
Thailand's censorship regime has grown ever more pervasive since the military took over last month, with punishments aimed at both speakers and consumers of prohibited media.
According to the regime's own reports, hundreds of
new websites have been added to the Thai government's official blacklist including politics and news sites covering the coup. Now the authorities are deceiving Internet users into disclosing their personal details, including email addresses and Facebook
profile information, when they try to visit these prohibited sites.
Under Thailand's national web blocking infrastructure, Net users attempting to visit blocked sites in Thailand are redirected to a government web landing page,
managed by the country's Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD).
After the coup, the Thai Netizen Network, a local digital rights group, noticed that the TCSD block page had sprouted two new graphics: a blue close button,
and a Login with Facebook icon. Both lead to what appears to be a Facebook Login page, where users are asked for permission to hand over personal information stored in their Facebook profile --- without any indication, in Thai or English, of where that
data was being sent, or for what purpose. In fact, the Login app was being run by TCSD itself, which used Facebook's application platform to collect the details of Facebook users visiting to the landing page.
Thai authorities have
long claimed that foreign companies should comply with all their demands for removing content and handing over personal data. Facebook has consistently refused such requests. By misleading users to click through the permissions-granting first page of its
Facebook application, Thai authorities have been gathering the type of user information that Facebook's legal department has long refused to hand over.
explanation is a violation of Facebook's own platform policies, and the Crime Suppression Division's app has now been suspended by Facebook at least twice. The first Login app was removed shortly after the Thai Netizen Network published details of its
deceptive appearance. An identical app which subsequently replaced it on the page was suspended by Facebook after less than a week of operation.
Facebook's own public app statistics pages show that these two apps managed to scoop
up hundreds of Thai email addresses before being shut down. Did these Internet users understand that they were handing over their names and email addresses as potential witnesses to future prosecutions?
On Wednesday, June 25th , the long-running San Francisco area sex worker advertising/community website MyRedbook was seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Two employees were arrested and the site, which featured listings and discussions forums
for sex workers; a review section, and a bad date list, was shut down.
CNN is reporting that the raid was part of Operation Cross Country , a national anti-trafficking effort. CNN cites an anonymous law enforcement source saying that some of
the children rescued in the sweep were identified through My Redbook. However, the F.B.I's indictment of My Redbook cites no trafficking charges. Both suspects are charged with one count of interstate travel in the aid of a racketeering enterprise, and
one is charged with 24 counts of money laundering.
A statement from the F.B.I describes the grounds for its actions:
According to information available on the publically accessible website as of the date of its
seizure by the FBI, myredbook.com purported to provide Escort, Massage, and Strip Club Reviews. Instead, however, the website hosted advertisements for prostitutes, complete with explicit photos, lewd physical descriptions, menus of sexual services,
hourly and nightly rates, and customer reviews of the prostitutes' services.
The Indictment seeks the forfeiture of more than $5 million in property and money derived from the facilitation of prostitution, as well as the Internet
domain names myredbook.com and sfredbook.com.
As my Redbook was a free service for sex workers, allowing workers to advertise services in a safe environment and to screen potential clients, it is the most marginalised sex workers who
are likely feeling the biggest impact. Sex workers of The Sex Workers' Outreach Project addressed this concern with the following statement on their website :
We are very alarmed by the seizure of Myredbook. Many Bay
Area sex workers have been able to improve their working conditions by using Myredbook as the site provided a private, discreet venue for negotiations that otherwise often happen in a public venues or on the street. Now that the only free local online
female sex worker ad hosting site is gone, where will people go to work? We are very concerned for those who may be forced into more dangerous working conditions at this time.
Today we also lost extensive online forums for a
community of sex workers to keep each other safe, screen clients, and blacklist predators. Myredbook also hosted resource guides for sex workers who were struggling and created a venue for community counseling for those in need. Many local outreach
organisations used this forum to connect with vulnerable sex workers.
While we are certainly concerned with the issue of sex trafficking, this misguided effort only pushes the most marginalised of us further into the underground.
The current anti trafficking moral panic is causing so much unnecessary harm, which we will continue to see as a result of this seizure. Sex workers want to end trafficking. The answer is the decriminalisation of prostitution, which would effectively end
the black market, and give workers the ability to unionise and report crimes committed against and around us. It would then be much easier to see the difference between choice and coercion or force. Increasing criminalisation of poor working women in the
Bay Area is a dangerous move and the most marginalised of us will suffer the worst.
Comment: Why Everyone Should be Concerned By the Seizure of MyRedBook.Com
Last week, an online community for sex workers disappeared from the Internet. Visit SFRedbook.com, MyPinkBook.com, or MyRedBook.com right now, and you'll only find the seals of the law enforcement agencies--the FBI, the DOJ, and the IRS--that seized the
sites as part of a prostitution and money laundering investigation.
The seizure is part of a disturbing trend of targeting sex workers, but more than that, it is an attack on the rights to free speech and free association
exercised by a diverse group of people, many of whom have nothing to do with the alleged crimes.
MyRedBook and its companion sites served a large and diverse community of sex workers. The sites functioned as social media
platforms, with discussion boards for users in topics from politics to financial tips. It also served as a resource guide with information ranging from explanations of the law as it pertains to sex work to health information. For archived versions of the
forums sex workers no longer have access to, click here .
These sites were essential tools for First Amendment protected speech and association--especially important for a community that values its privacy for a variety of
legitimate reasons. This platform has been pulled out from under the feet of this community. As the Bay Area Sex Worker Outreach Project (SWOP) said in a statement:
Today we also lost extensive online forums for a
community of sex workers to keep each other safe, screen clients, and blacklist predators. Myredbook also hosted resource guides for sex workers who were struggling and created a venue for community counseling for those in need. Many local outreach
organizations used this forum to connect with vulnerable sex workers.
To compound the destruction of this indispensible forum, the users of these sites now have cause to worry that their private information, such as
IP addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses, may be in the hands of the FBI. In fact, news reports specifically note : [FBI]Agents seized several boxes of evidence @ including business documents and computer hardware.
SWOP spokesperson Kristina Dolgin put it mildly when she said ,
It's a very scary thing.
EFF has always supported freedom of association and free speech, no matter who is doing the talking. In fact, these rights are especially important for controversial groups. That's why we are so
concerned to see these sites shut down--especially on the heels of the bank account closures of sex workers nationwide.
It's true that in many states, some forms of sex work are illegal. But sex workers have First Amendment rights
to speak out about the issues that concern them, to advocate for changes in the law, to counsel each other, to discuss the issues that are important to them, and to advertise legally permissible services. And sex workers have First Amendment rights to
associate with each other on Internet forums and elsewhere.
As society changes, its values and laws change as well. But the oppression of disfavored groups uses the same tactics. Today, sex workers are being oppressed, but it will
be a different group tomorrow. When we allow any group to be silenced and targeted, we are paving the way for it to happen again.
EFF is keeping an eye on what happens in the case, and the ripple effect in the sex worker community
as the criminal charges associated with this seizure move forward. In the meantime, we've compiled a list of resources and strategies sex workers can use to protect their anonymity.
A debate has erupted around revenge pornography and whether new legislation is required to tackle the problem of jilted lovers posting sexually explicit photographs online. Whilst there is no doubt that these occurrences are deeply
damaging and upsetting for the individuals involved, the Government must ensure that any new laws created to police what is posted on the internet is done so with a clear head and not in the heat of the moment.
A draft bill for the modernization of Swiss copyright law will be presented for public consultation in the coming months. While downloading for personal use will remain legal, uploading infringing content via BitTorrent will not. In addition to
infringement warnings for Internet subscribers, the blocking of obviously illegal sites is also on the table.
The Federal Council says its aim is to improve the situation for creators without impairing the position of consumers, so there is an
element of give-and-take in the proposals for file-sharing, with a focus on balance and careful consideration given to data protection issues.
Current download-and-share-with-impunity will be replaced with an acceptance of downloading for
personal use, but with uploading specifically outlawed. This means that while downloading a pirated album from a cyberlocker would be legal, doing so using BitTorrent would be illegal due to inherent uploading.
While commercial level infringers
can already be dealt with under Swiss law, the proposals seek to lower the bar so that those who flout an upload ban on a smaller but persistent scale can be dealt with. It has been recommended that this should be achieved by sending warning notices to
infringers via their ISPs. Only when a user fails to get the message should his or her details be handed over to rightsholders for use in civil proceedings.
Other recommendations are that Internet providers will not only be required to remove
infringing content from their platforms, but also prevent that same content from reappearing, a standard that U.S. rightsholders are currently pressuring Google to adopt.
Additionally, in serious cases authorities should be able to order the
blocking of obviously illegal content or sources . Any new obligations on service providers would be balanced by granting them with exemption from liability.
A Porsche broker, a political blogger and a mum hoping to read an article about post pregnancy care
are among those that have been affected by Internet filters, designed to protect young people from adult content.
In 2012 we published the
Mobile Filtering Report , investigating the way default blocking on mobile phones was
denying people access to important information. We reported on what has seemed like rather arbitrary censorship, such as the New
Wine church block. ORG analysed and drew examples from our site at blocked.org.uk which originally allowed people to submit when they found that a site had been blocked.
Now the full extent of Internet blocking can be revealed by our relaunched Blocked project .
Any web users can use the free checking tool
on www.blocked.org.uk where they can instantly check to see if a website has been blocked by filters. Our tool checks the submitted url for blocks across the main Internet networks
on both broadband and phone. We have test lines from 3, Andrews & Arnold, BT, Everything Everywhere, O2, Plusnet, Sky Broadband, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Vodafone.
Through the Blocked project we wanted to find out about the
impact of web filters. So far Open Rights Group has tested over 100,000 sites and found that over 19,000 - almost one in five - are blocked by one ISP or another. The problem of overblocking is not going away. Different ISPs are blocking different
sites and the result is that many people, from businesses to bloggers, are being affected because people can't access their websites.
We've found that there is a lack of information about how to get sites unblocked. Mother-of-one
Marielle, said she was 'humiliated' when she visited the Three store to find out how she could order to access an article about post-partum care on her phone: "The manager told me that I couldn't access filtered articles without entering a 4 digit
pin every time I wanted to read a filtered article because I had a PAYG plan." Marielle submitted a report to Three saying that the article had been incorrectly blocked but didn't get a response.
There are more
personal stories on the Blocked site and we'd like to hear from you if you've been affected by filters.
We'd like to thank our supporters
who committed to make this project happen. ORG's team of technical volunteers worked with us to build the systems and software for this project and we're very grateful for their time. We couldn't have done this without the support of our community,
so thank you.
Spread the word: @We
want as many people as possible to talk about how filtering effects them. It's only through being vocal that we'll be able to change the Government's attitude to Internet censorship.
Join ORG: By
joining ORG you can help us continue to provide Blocked for free and support our on-going development of the tool.
The government has abandoned plans to give itself powers to order media organisations to remove articles from their online archives. A clause in the criminal justice and courts bill would have enabled the attorney general, currently Dominic Grieve QC, to
order newspapers and other publishers to take down past articles on the grounds that their continued presence would create a danger of contempt if jurors in a court case searched for information on the internet.
Media organisations, including the
Guardian, had opposed the move. In written evidence to MPs last year, they said:
We fear that the introduction of statutory powers could lead to the use of notices becoming standard practice leading to the courts and
media becoming inundated with requests to take down material.
This has serious practical implications for the resourcing and maintenance of and public access to the archives of both national and regional media.
The plan originated in a proposal from the Law Commission two years ago which argued that courts should be armed with powers compelling media organisations to take down old stories from electronic archives in order to remove potentially prejudicial
A statement from the attorney general's office confirmed the decision to abandon the proposal. It said:
The governmen recognises the disquiet surrounding the proposal. Given that this measure was
designed to assist the media, it is significant that representatives of the media consider that this provision does not do so.
Whilst the government considers that the notice provision would be an improvement for the media, courts
and attorneys general alike, it is satisfied that the existing law will continue to provide satisfactory protection to the integrity of legal proceedings.