Artist and author Dennis Cooper has re-launched his popular blog after months of legal disputes with Google who censored his previous blog.
The artist posted a message on the blog's Facebook account o explain Google's reasoning for erasing his
14-year-old blog. According to Cooper, someone had reported a post on DC's Blog, which was hosted on the Google-owned Blogspot, from 10 years ago as they felt it constituted child abuse images, and Google immediately deactivated his account.
Cooper's troubles started two months ago when his Gmail was disabled without reason. He later attempted to log into his blog and received a notice saying it was suspended due to a violation of Google's terms of service. Cooper lost 10 years' worth of correspondence in his emails, all his blogposts, and a gif novel called Zac's Freight Elevator, which was slated for release in the coming months.
Cooper told the Guardian that Google originally provided no explanation for taking down his site and didn't respond to the lawyers he enlisted ; even Google employees who were fans of his work were unable to uncover what happened. According to
Cooper's Facebook post, Google began negotiating with his lawyer on 15 July and eventually agreed to provide all the data from his disabled blog, the data from his 10 years of correspondence in his Gmail account and his novel. The data from his site will
be put up on a new site, post-by-post.
An edict from the president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has effectively made it illegal for anyone in the country to use a VPN or secure proxy service.
Those caught could face jail time and fines of between 500,000 and 2,000,000 UAE dirham
(US$136,130 and $544,521). The change was announced this week by the UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan in a proclamation that amended federal laws.
The wording is ambiguous and technologically illiterate. Essentially, it seems, you
are not allowed to use systems that hide the fact that you're committing a crime or covering one up. If you're routing your network traffic through a secure VPN or proxy server, you could be breaking the law and evading the eyes of the state, and that's
now a big no-no.
You could claim you were using the VPN or proxy for legit reasons, and that no criminal activity was being committed or concealed, but since your packets were encrypted, you may have a hard time proving your innocence. The updated
law now reads:
Whoever uses a fraudulent computer network protocol address (IP address) by using a false address or a third-party address by any other means for the purpose of committing a crime or preventing its
discovery, shall be punished by temporary imprisonment and a fine of no less than Dhs 500,000 and not exceeding Dhs 2,000,000, or either of these two penalties.
The Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union has published his Opinion on data retention by EU member states. The subsequent judgment will have implications for the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) and the
Investigatory Powers Bill (IP BIll).
In his Opinion, the Advocate General said that data retention may be compatible with EU law only if data is being retained to fight serious crime and if there are strict safeguards in place. The Opinion confirmed
that he believes that EU law should apply when it comes to data retention and that member states should limit their interference with our fundamental rights to what is strictly necessary.
Executive Director of Open Rights Group, Jim Killock
The Advocate General has stated that data retention should only be used in the fight against serious crime, yet in the UK there are more than half a million requests for communications data each year. These
do not only come from police but also local councils and government departments. It is difficult to see how the Government can claim that these organisations are investigating serious crimes.
The Opinion calls for strict
safeguards yet in the UK, there is currently no judicial authorisation in the UK - police, local authorities and government departments can get internal sign off to access data. If the IP Bill is passed, data will be able to be analysed without a warrant
through an intrusive tool known as the request filter.
It may be too late to end data retention under DRIPA, which expires at the end of the year, but the Government has the opportunity to ensure that the IP Bill complies with EU
law. In particular, they should end the extension of mass data retention proposed in the Bill, which would see the UK become one of the only democracies to record its citizens' web browsing history and provide a police search engine to scour it.
Tory Drad Davis and Labour's Tom Watson originally took their case to the British High Court claiming that DRIPA sections 1 and 2 were incompatible with the public's right to respect for private life and communications and for protection
of personal data under Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter.
The court found for Davis and Watson in July 2015 but the ruling was not upheld on appeal, so Davis and Co. took their case to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
has now been promoted into Theresa May's cabinet and has inevitably dropped his criticism of mass snooping. So he has now withdrawn from this legal case.
The High Court of Paris has decided there's a limit to France's unpopular anti-copying regime: Google and Bing can't be required to block the word torrent from their search results just because BitTorrent is sometimes used for piracy.
was brought by the Syndicat National de l'Údition Phonographique, France's record industry association, nominally on behalf of several artists. SNEP wanted to use Article L336-2 of France's intellectual property law to force Google and Microsoft to
delete searches that included both 'torrent' and any of the artists' names.
The High Court in Paris didn't think filtering torrent in all of France, the Wallis and Futuna islands, New Caledonia and the French Southern and Antarctic
territories was appropriate.
In a case against Google, the court found that SNEP was acting on behalf of only three artists, rather than for all of its members:
The case would not protect the interests of the
entire profession, but ensure the protection of individual interests of members who produce these three artists.
In a case against Microsoft, the court stated the requests made by SNEP were too broad:
They do not concern an identified site, but all sites accessed by the requested terms, regardless of the identification and even determining the content of the site ... The measures sought are similar to general surveillance measure
and could cause the blocking of legitimate sites.
The judgements award costs against SNEP in both cases.
The arrival of a worldwide version of Netflix has been challenging the censorship rules for TV and internet in many a nation used to being able to censor its local media.
Singapore has relaxed local rules a little to accommodate internet TV. Singapore
has 2 adult ratings that are pitched such that for example, Game of Thrones is uncut at R21 but must be cut for an M18.
Singapore's TV and internet censors at the Media Development Authority (MDA) have decided that R21 content can be shown
on internet TV provided that it is protected with an age verification system.
The new rule says that if you are an online content provider (Netflix, iTunes or Google Play, or any number of players offering K-drama or Bollywood movies), you must
provide age-check firewalls for R21 content.
Until the rule change Netflix, which started in the country in January 2016, had an advantage over local providers. It offered R21-rated shows such as the comedy, Orange Is The New Black and
period drama Marco Polo available with PIN protection. Local providers had to cut their shows for an M18 rating.
In times of trouble t is pretty standard procedure for repressive countries to close down the internet or block people communicating through social networks. And Turkey was no exception when its leaders were challenged in an attempted coup.
now Turkey is suffering an even more urgent need to censor the internet. Turkey has ordered Wikileaks to be blocked in the country after it released 300,000 emails from Erdogan's AK Party HQ.
The internet censors of the Telecommunications
Communications Board called the move an administrative measure, which is a term commonly used by the organization when blocking access to websites.
WikiLeaks managed to publish the 294,548 emails on Tuesday, despite its website being
subject to a massive cyberattack. WikiLeaks has moved forward its publication schedule in response to the [Turkish] government's post-coup purges, WikiLeaks said in the release:
We have verified the material and the
source, who is not connected, in any way, to the elements behind the attempted coup, or to a rival political party or state.
All emails which were released were attributed to akparti.org.tr , the primary domain of the main
political force in the country, and cover a period from 2010 up until July 6, 2016, just a week before the failed military coup
It's been a rough month for Internet freedom in Russia. After it breezed through the Duma, President Putin signed the Yarovaya package into law--a set of radical anti-terrorism provisions drafted by ultra-conservative United Russia
politician Irina Yarovaya, together with a set of instructions on how to implement the new rules. Russia's new surveillance law includes mandatory data retention and government backdoors for encrypted communications.
As if that
wasn't scary enough, under the revisions to the criminal code, Russians can now be prosecuted for failing to report a crime. Citizens now risk a year in jail for simply not telling the police about suspicions they might have about future terrorist
But some of the greatest confusion has come from ISPs and other telecommunication companies. These organizations now face impossible demands from the Russian state. Now they can be ordered to retain every byte of data that
they transmit, including video, telephone calls, text messages, web traffic, and email for six months--a daunting and expensive task that requires the kind of storage capacity that's usually associated with NSA data centers in Utah. Government access to
this data no longer requires a warrant. Carriers must keep all metadata for three years; ISPs one year. Finally, any online service (including social networks, email, or messaging services) that uses encrypted data is now required to permit the Federal
Security Service (FSB) to access and read their services' encrypted communications, including providing any encryption keys.
Opposition to the Yarovaya package has come from many quarters. Technical experts have been united in
opposing the law. Russia's government Internet ombudsman opposed the bill. Putin's own human rights head, Mikhail Fedotov , called upon the Senators of Russia's Federal Council to reject the bill. ISPs have pointed out that compliance would cost them
trillions of rubles .
But now the law is here, and in force. Putin has asked for a list of services that must hand over their keys. ISPs have begun to consider how to store an impossibly large amount of data. Service providers are
required to consider how to either break unbreakable encryption or include backdoors for the Russian authorities.
It is clear that foreign services will not be spared. Last week, the VPN provider, Private Internet Access (PIA),
announced that they believed their Russian servers had been seized by the Russian authorities . PIA says they do not keep logs, so they could not comply with the demand, but they have now discontinued their Russian gateways and will no longer be doing
business in the region.
Russia's ISPs, messaging services, and social media platforms have no such choice: because they cannot reasonably comply with all the demands of the Yarovaya package, they become de facto criminals
whatever their actions. And that, in turn, gives the Russian state the leverage to extract from them any other concession it desires. The impossibility of full compliance is not a bug--it's an essential feature.
Russia is not the
only nation whose lawmakers and politicians are heading in this direction, especially when it comes to requiring backdoors for encrypted communications. Time and time again, technologists and civil liberties groups have warned the United States, France ,
Holland , and a host of other nations that the anti-encryption laws they propose cannot be obeyed without rewriting the laws of mathematics. Politicians have often responded by effectively telling the Internet's experts don't worry, you'll work out a
way. Let us be clear: government backdoors in encrypted communications make us all less safe, no matter which country is holding the keys.
Technologists have sometimes believed that technical impossibility means that the laws
are simply unworkable -- that a law that cannot be obeyed is no worse than no law at all. As Russia shows, regulations that no one can comply with aren't dead-letter laws. Instead, they corrode the rule of law, leaving a rusting wreckage of partial
compliance that can be exploited by powers who will use their enforcement powers for darker and more partial ends than justice.
Russians concerned with the fall of Internet freedom, including the Society for the Protection of the
Internet (IPI), have planned a protest in cities across the country on July 26. EFF will continue to follow the situation closely as it develops.
McDonald's executives this week made the decision to filter its free WiFi service for customers. The headline reason is to block porn but no doubt thousands of useful, non-porn, websites will be caught up in the censorship.
McDonald's joins a number
of fast-food chains to block customers' ability to view websites with adult topics; others on the list include Subway and Chick-fil-A.
The censorship is attributed to a hassle by a use morality campaign group called Enough is Enough.
Not every nationwide chain has given in to pressure from the group, Starbucks has not issued any response to numerous requests from Enough Is Enough to filter wi-fi in their locations.
German police have carried out a series of raids, targeting people suspected of posting alleged hate content on social media. The co-ordinated raids on 60 addresses were the first time the authorities had acted on this issue in such an extreme way.
Police comments on the issue suggest that the target of the raids were for comments that were considered right-wing extremism. However it is difficult to interpret the background when both the police and newspaper statements are contorted by
the politically correct requirement to not mention islam.
Holger Munch, president of Germany's federal criminal police authority, the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) said: Today's action makes it clear that police authorities of the federal and state
governments act firmly against hate and incitement on the internet. He said politically motivated hate crime on the internet had increased significantly in the wake of the European refugee crisis.
Under pressure from the German authorities,
Facebook, Twitter and Google agreed at the end of last year to delete such speech from their services within 24 hours. Facebook also agreed to a series of further measures including:
Partnering with a German group of multimedia service
providers to solve the problem
Launching a task force to deal with hate speech on the internet
A propaganda campaign to promote counter speech in German, drawing in experts to develop ways to combat racism through discussions on
Quebec's plans to force ISP's to block gambling websites not approved by the province is being put to the test by a federal consumer rights group. The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) this week filed an objection to a law, passed by the
Quebec legislature earlier in the year.
The bill's supporters claim that its aim is to improve public health by forcing state residents to play on the Quebec's monopoly gaming site, Lotto-Quebec's Espace-jeux.
But critics, which
include net neutrality advocates , technology lawyers, and the ISPs themselves, have accused the Quebec government of setting a dangerous precedent by putting commercial gain above the freedom of the internet.
The plans, which were drawn up in the
provinces March 2015 budget predict the scheme will boost government revenues by $13.5 million in 2016-2017 and $27 million in subsequent years. These gains will come at the huge expense of ISP companies, which have said that the disruption to their
infrastructures would be enormous as they would have to redesign their networks from the ground up. The cost of this would be passed onto consumers.
The PIAC filing states that Quebec is in direct conflict with the1993 Federal Telecommunications
Act, which prohibits a communications provider from control[ing] the content or influence[ing] the meaning or purpose of telecommunications carried by it for the public, unless it has approval from the Canadian Radio-Television and
The Polish ministry of finance has announced an amendment to risk and hazard legislation, with plans to create a registry of illegal websites, as well as blocking websites with illegal content. According to the official announcement, the law is
supposedly ntended to protect [online] gamblers to a high standard by eliminating grey zones .
In Gazeta Wyborcza, the bills authors explained that the project is actually designed to increase revenue from the state gambling
Watchdog NGO Fundacja Panoptykon, warned that:
The idea to block websites containing illegal content raises many doubts. Just the mere creation of the tools to filter and block content of particular
sites is dangerous. The Polish constitution prohibits preventive censorship.
According to the daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, the government expects the law to take effect in January 2017.
Facebook commented about issues related to showing violence, or its aftermath, on the live video streaming service, Facebook Live:
Live video allows us to see what's happening in the world as it happens. Just as it gives
us a window into the best moments in people's lives, it can also let us bear witness to the worst. Live video can be a powerful tool in a crisis -- to document events or ask for help.
We understand the unique challenges of live
video. We know it's important to have a responsible approach. That's why we make it easy for people to report live videos to us as they're happening. We have a team on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, dedicated to responding to these reports
The rules for live video are the same for all the rest of our content. A reviewer can interrupt a live stream if there is a violation of our Community Standards. Anyone can report content to us if they think it goes
against our standards, and it only takes one report for something to be reviewed.
One of the most sensitive situations involves people sharing violent or graphic images of events taking place in the real world. In those
situations, context and degree are everything. For instance, if a person witnessed a shooting, and used Facebook Live to raise awareness or find the shooter, we would allow it. However, if someone shared the same video to mock the victim or celebrate the
shooting, we would remove the video.
Live video on Facebook is a new and growing format. We've learned a lot over the past few months, and will continue to make improvements to this experience wherever we can.
Lyssa McGowan, Brand Director, Communications Products announced on the Sky Blog:
From today, Sky Broadband Shield will be automatically switched on the moment a new customer activates their Sky Broadband. At the end of last year, we
said that we wanted to do even more to help families protect their children from inappropriate content. The first time someone tries to access a filtered website, the account holder will be invited to amend the settings or turn it off altogether. It
ensures a safer internet experience for millions of homes, while still giving account holders the flexibility to choose the settings most appropriate for their households.
Our experience has shown that this Default On or as
we call it Auto On approach leads to much greater use of filtering. Last year, we adopted Auto On with some of our existing customers which we found delivered much higher engagement and usage of Sky Broadband Shield. Around two thirds of
customers we rolled it out to have continued to make use of the software. This is much higher than anyone else in the industry using other approaches. Customers are typically just asked whether they want to switch on filtering when they activate their
broadband. It means take up rates are between only 5 and 10% because customers ignore the choice put in front of them or automatically click no without considering the implications.
This is why we decided to make Auto On standard practice for all our new Sky Broadband customers including our soon to be launched new NOW TV Combo service. Furthermore over the coming months we will be contacting millions more Sky Broadband customers who haven't yet made a decision about Sky Broadband Shield. If they don't respond, we will switch it on for them and invite them to amend or switch it off themselves.
In 2014, the High Court ordered Sky, TalkTalk, BT, Virgin Media and EE to block websites dealing in counterfeit luxury products.
The ISPs appealed the case on a number of grounds, including that the court had no power to order the injunctions. That
appeal has now failed.
In their appeal, the ISPs complained that they are innocent parties and that the Court had no jurisdiction to hand down a blocking order. However, even in the event that it did have jurisdiction, the ISPs said that certain
thresholds required for an injunction had not been met.
Continuing, the ISPs said that the judge had failed to apply the correct principles in deciding whether or not to hand down an order, and that the orders made were disproportionate. Finally,
the judge should not have ordered the ISPs to foot the bill for blocking the infringing sites.
This week the Court of Appeal handed down its long awaited decision and it's almost completely good news for the brand owners.
ISPs' appeal, the Court said that High Court did indeed have the power to issue the blocking injunctions and that all the legal thresholds for doing so had been met.
Interestingly, on the issue of who would pay for the site-blocking to be carried
out, the Court of Appeal had some sympathy for the ISPs. Justice Briggs wrote:
In my judgment the cost burden attributable to the implementation of a particular blocking order should fall upon the rightsholder making
the application for it.
In circumstances where valuable intangible rights of this kind need to be protected from abuse by others, I regard it as a natural incident of a business which consists of, or includes, the exploitation of
such rights, to incur cost in their protection, to the extent that it cannot be reimbursed by appropriate orders against wrongdoers.
But that doesn't mean that the ISPs are completely off the hook. Justice Briggs said that while the
ISPs wouldn't have to pay the costs associated with implementing a blocking order, they would still have to foot the bill for designing and installing the software with which to do so whenever ordered.
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has passed a non-binding resolution that states that public access to the Internet should not be disrupted by any government or government agencies. Specifically, the statement says the same rights that
people have offline, including freedom of expression, should also be protected online.
The resolution doesn't quite come out and say that open access to the Internet is a basic human right but it serves as a slap on the wrist for some of the worst
abusers of people's rights.
While the resolution had overwhelming support from most countries, the usual suspects opted to vote no. In addition to Russia, China and Saudi Arabia, South Africa and India also failed to offer their support.
no voters even had the nerve to ask the UNHRC to strike a passage that condemns unequivocally measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to our dissemination of information online. That effort was thankfully rejected by at least 70
No one is expecting a non-binding resolution to make any real difference in some of the countries where public Internet access is often censored, but at the very least this sends a message that most of the world is against such
The Government has published a document summarising responses to its proposals to mandate restrictive age validation requirements for porn websites. 48% of responses opposed the proposals whilst 44% agreed with the proposals. However the government
made clear that they will proceed with the proposed censorship law. The consultation document reads:
It is clear from our analysis of the consultation responses that this is an issue which tends to polarise opinion,
with strongly held views on either side. Overall, there was a roughly even split between those supporting age verification (44%) and those not in favour (48%). Responses from individuals made up the vast majority of those which were submitted via our
online questionnaire (94%). Over half of the individuals were men, the majority of whom were between 18 and 34 years old.
Crucially, however, many of the key organisations we work with in the online child protection sphere
children's charities, support and advice groups, the BBFC, internet service providers, and payment service firms and credit card companies indicated their support for the proposals, and the overriding policy goal of protecting children online.
Over a quarter (26%) of the individuals who responded indicated that they are parents or carers, and 23% of individuals said that they work with children (in the education and health sectors, working in or with churches, in voluntary
roles, mentoring, and as researchers). In both groups, a majority supported the Government's approach.
Notably, pornography providers who responded to the consultation also stated their support for the protection of children
online, and (with caveats) the introduction of age verification controls to protect children from content which is not appropriate for them.
As was set out in our consultation, the Government's preferred approach to delivering
this commitment is to establish a new law, requiring age verification (AV) controls for online pornography this was the manifesto commitment, and following consideration of the consultation responses, remains the Government's intention.
To underpin this, we will also establish a new regulatory framework, and we will ensure a proportionate approach by enabling the regulator to act in a sufficiently flexible and targeted way.
of the responses to the consultation, Government will now take several next steps. We will:
Bring forward legislation, in the Digital Economy Bill, to establish a new law requiring age verification for commercial pornographic websites and applications containing still and moving images, and a new regulatory framework to
Continue to work with payments firms and ancillary companies to ensure that the business models and profits of companies that do not comply with the new regulations can be undermined
Maintain ongoing engagement with pornography providers, age verification providers, and other parts of the industry, to ensure that the regulatory framework is targeted and proportionate, to achieve maximum impact and to enable compliance
Continue to work on broader internet safety issues, including work led by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), and raising awareness and resilience
And indeed the new censorship law is included in the Digital Economy Bill introduced on 5th July 2016. Section 3 outlines the setting up of an internet porn censor and the remainder sets out website censorship options and financial penalties for
contravening websites, their payment providers and advertisers.
The government is planning on passing the bill into law in spring 2017.
15 Internet pornography: requirement to prevent access by persons under the age of 18
16 Meaning of pornographic material
17 The age-verification
regulator: designation and funding
18 Parliamentary procedure for designation of age-verification regulator
19 Age-verification regulator's power to require information
20 Enforcement of sections 15 and 19
21 Financial penalties
22 Age-verification regulator's power to give notice of contravention to payment
service providers and ancillary service providers
23 Exercise of functions by the age-verification regulator
24 Requirements for notices given by regulator under this
Israeli Government ministers have accused Facebook of failing to tackle inciteful posts against the country.
Public security minister Gilad Erdan said Facebook had set a very high bar for removing inciteful content .
minister Ayelet Shaked wants social media companies to pre-emptively remove content which Israel considers to be a security threat. She said:
We want the companies... to remove posts by terrorist groups and incitement
to terrorism without us having to flag each individual post, in just the same manner, for example, that they today do not allow posts and pages with child pornography, she told Israel's Army Radio.
Facebook said it worked closely with
Israel to tackle threatening content.
China has replaced its internet censor, Lu Wei, the hard-liner responsible for an effectively oppressive censorship system.
Lu wielded expansive powers as head of the Central Leading Group for Cyberspace Affairs since 2014, dictating what 700 million
Chinese Internet users may view online and acting as gatekeeper for technology companies wishing to do business in China.
His successor will be his deputy, former propaganda official Xu Lin, the official Xinhua News Agency has reported. Lu will
keep his concurrent position as deputy head of the party's propaganda department.
Observers believe that the general direction of Chinese technology policy will not change under the Xi administration.