UK Parliamentary committee claims that people failing to vote the 'correct' way is nothing to do with politicians' crap policies that don't look after British people, and must be all to do with fake news
Parliament's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee has been investigating disinformation and fake news following the Cambridge Analytica data scandal and is claiming that the UK faces a democratic crisis due to the spread of
pernicious views and the manipulation of personal data.
In its first report it will suggest social media companies should face tighter censorship. It also proposes measures to combat election interference.
The report claims that the relentless targeting of hyper-partisan views, which play to the fears and prejudices of people, in order to influence their voting plans is a threat to democracy.
The report was very critical of Facebook, which has been under increased scrutiny following the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.
Facebook has hampered our efforts to get information about their company throughout this inquiry. It is as if it thinks that the problem will go away if it does not share information about the problem, and reacts only when it is pressed, the
report said. It provided witnesses who have been unwilling or unable to give full answers to the committee's questions.
The committee suggests:
1. Social media sites should be held responsible for harmful content on their services
Social media companies cannot hide behind the claim of being merely a 'platform', claiming that they are tech companies and have no role themselves in regulating the content of their sites, the committee said.
They continually change what is and is not seen on their sites, based on algorithms and human intervention.
They reward what is most engaging, because engagement is part of their business model and their growth strategy. They have profited greatly by using this model.
The committee suggested a new category of tech company should be created, which was not necessarily a platform or a publisher but something in between.
This should establish clear legal liability for the tech companies to act against harmful and illegal content on their platforms, the report said.
2. The rules on political campaigns should be made fit for the digital age
The committee said electoral law needed to be updated to reflect changes in campaigning techniques.
It suggested creating a public register for political advertising so that anybody can see what messages are being distributed online political advertisements should have a digital imprint stating who was responsible, as is required with printed
leaflets and advertisements social media sites should be held responsible for interference in elections by malicious actors electoral fraud fines should be increased from a maximum of £20,000 to a percentage of organisations' annual turnover
3. Technology companies should be taxed to fund education and regulation
Increased regulation of social media sites would result in more work for organisations such as the Electoral Commission and Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).
The committee suggested a levy on tech companies should fund the expanded responsibilities of the regulators.
The money should also be spent on educational programmes and a public information campaign, to help people identify disinformation and fake news.
4. Social networks should be audited
The committee warned that fake accounts on sites such as Facebook and Twitter not only damage the user experience, but potentially defraud advertisers.
It suggested an independent authority such as the Competition and Markets Authority should audit the social networks.
It also said security mechanisms and algorithms used by social networks should be available for audit by a government regulator, to ensure they are operating responsibly.
Offsite Comment: Now MPs want to police political discussion
Those members of parliament are half right at least. Democracy in Britain and the West is at risk today. But contrary to the wild claims in their fake-news report, the real risk does not come from Russian bloggers or shady groups farming Facebook
users' data. The big threat comes from political elitists like the cross-party clique of Remainer MPs who dominate the DCMS committee.
It looks a lot as if these MPs, like authoritarians from Moscow to Malaysia, have been inspired by the strikingly illiberal precedent set by Angela Merkel's social media law . In particular, part of the idea behind sticking social
media companies with legal liability is to scare them into going even further in muzzling free speech than the strict letter of the law requires.
Germany's highest court last week upheld legislation that offers Wi-Fi operators immunity from acts carried out by third-party users.
The decision by the Federal Court of Justice now makes it easier for individuals and businesses to offer Wi-Fi without fearing civil prosecution for acts of copyright infringement committed by others.
Prior to the ruling, because of the legal concept known as Störerhaftung, or interferer's liability, a third party who played no deliberate part in someone else's actions could be held responsible for them. As a result, Wi-Fi hot spots are
few and far between in Germany. Visitors from abroad have found themselves shut out at public venues and unable to access the web like they could in other countries.
Copyright holders are still able to get court orders requiring WiFi providers to block copyright infringing websites.
The US Federal Government is quietly meeting with top tech company representatives to develop a proposal to protect web users' privacy amid the ongoing fallout globally of scandals that have rocked Facebook and other companies.
Over the past month, the Commerce Department has met with representatives from Facebook and Google, along with Internet providers like AT&T and Comcast, and consumer advocates, sources told the Washington Post.
The goal of these meetings is to come up with a data privacy proposal at the federal level that could serve as a blueprint for Congress to pass sweeping legislation in the mode of the European Union GDPR. There are currently no laws that govern
how tech companies harness and monetize US users' data.
A total of 22 meetings with more than 80 companies have been held on this topic over the last month.
When she went to Egypt for vacation, Mona el-Mazbouh surely didn't expect to end up in prison. But after the 24-year-old Lebanese tourist posted a video in which she complained of sexual harassment--calling Egypt a lowly, dirty country and its
citizens pimps and prostitutes--el-Mazbouh was arrested at Cairo's airport and found guilty of deliberately spreading false rumors that would harm society, attacking religion, and public indecency. She was sentenced to eight years in prison.
The video that el-Mazbouh posted was ten minutes long, and went viral on Facebook, causing an uproar in Egypt. In the video, el-Mazbouh also expressed anger about poor restaurant service during Ramadan and complained of her belongings being
stolen. Egyptian men and women posted videos in response to her original video, prompting el-Mazbouh to delete the original video and post a second video on Facebook apologizing to Egyptians.
Nevertheless, Mona was arrested at the end of her trip at the Cairo airport in May 31, 2018 and charged with spreading false rumors that aim to undermine society, attack religions, and public indecency. Under Egyptian law, defaming and insulting
the Egyptian people is illegal.
Unhappy tourists have always criticized the conditions of the countries they visit; doing so online, or on video, is no different from the centuries of similar complaints that preceded them offline or in written reviews. Beyond the injustice of
applying a more vicious standard online to offline speech, this case also punishes Mona for a reaction that was beyond her control. Mona had no influence over whether her video went viral. She did not intend her language or her actions to reach a
wider audience or become a national topic of discussion. It was angry commenters' reactions and social media algorithms that made the video viral and gave it significance beyond a few angry throwaway insults.
Mona el-Mazbouh is just one of many innocent Internet users who have been caught up in the Egyptian governments' attempts to vilify and control the domestic use of online media. At minimum, she should be released from her ordeal and returned to
her country immediately. But more widely, Egypt's leaders need to pull back from their hysterical and arbitrary enforcement of repressive laws, before more people -- including the foreign visitors on which much of Egypt's economy is based -- are
Over 100,000 people have signed a petition against the release of the Netflix TV show Insatiable , accusing it of 'fat shaming'.
But to date it is still unknown what exactly is the plot line and whether there is any 'fat shaming' going on. 12 hour-long episodes of Insatiable will be released on Netflix on August 10.
Netflix describes Insatiable as a dark, twisted, revenge comedy, but will also delve into topics such as bullying, eating disorders and body image.
It follows Ryan as the unfortunately-nicknamed Fatty Patty as she gets bullied for her weight by her high school peers. After having her jaw wired shut as a result of someone punching her in the face, she undergoes a transformation and becomes
slim, hot, and vows to take revenge on the mean girls who tormented her.
Social justice warriots went on the warpath after Netflix released the official trailer for Insatiable. An online petition was subsequently created by a woman named Florence, calling for the programme to be banned. In the petition, Florence
The toxicity of this series, is bigger than just this one particular series. This is not an isolated case, but part of a much larger problem that I can promise you every single woman has faced in her life, sitting somewhere on the scale of
valuing their worth on their bodies, to be desirable objects for the male gaze. That is exactly what this series does. It perpetuates not only the toxicity of diet culture but the objectification of women's bodies.
The Flemish Tourism Board has responded to Facebook's relentless censorship of nudity in classical paintings by Peter Paul Rubens
In the satirical video, a team of Social Media Inspectors block gallery goers from seeing paintings at the Rubens House in Antwerp. Facebook-branded security--called fbi--redirect unwitting crowds away from paintings that depict nude figures. We
need to direct you away from nudity, even if artistic in nature, says one Social Media Inspector.
The Flemish video, as well as a cheeky open letter from the tourism board and a group of Belgian museums, asks Facebook to roll back its censorship standards so that they can promote Rubens. "Breasts, buttocks and Peter Paul Rubens cherubs
are all considered indecent. Not by us, but by you, the letter, addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, says. Even though we secretly have to laugh about it, your cultural censorship is making life rather difficult for us.
The Guardian reported that Facebook is planning to have talks with the Flemish tourist board.
Indian politicians have been admiring the effectiveness of the recent US censorship law, FOSTA that bans anything adult on the internet by making websites responsible for anything that facilitates sex trafficking. As websites can't distinguish
trafficking from adult consensual sex work then the internet companies are forced to ban anything to do with sex work and even dating.
A new session of the Indian Parliament kicked off on 18 July with the introduction of the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill .
There are a few problematic provisions in the proposed legislation, which may severely impact freedom of expression. For instance, Section 36 of the Bill, which aims to prescribe punishment for the promotion or facilitation of trafficking,
proposes a minimum three-year sentence for producing, publishing, broadcasting or distributing any type of material that promotes trafficking or exploitation. An attentive reading of the provision, however, reveals that it has been worded loosely
enough to risk criminalizing many unrelated activities as well.
The phrase any propaganda material that promotes trafficking of person or exploitation of a trafficked person in any manner has wide amplitude, and many unconnected or even well-intentioned actions can be construed to come within its ambit as the
Bill does not define what constitutes promotion. For example, in moralistic eyes, any sexual content online could be seen as promoting prurient interests, and thus also promoting trafficking.
In July 2015, the government asked internet service providers (ISPs) to block 857 pornography websites sites on grounds of outraging morality and decency, but later rescinded the order after widespread criticism. If historical record is any
indication, Section 36 in this present Bill will legitimize such acts of censorship.
Section 39 proposes an even weaker standard for criminal acts by proposing that any act of publishing or advertising which may lead to the trafficking of a person shall be punished (emphasis added) with imprisonment for 5-10 years. In effect, the
provision mandates punishment for vaguely defined actions that may not actually be connected to the trafficking of a person at all.
Another by-product of passing the proposed legislation would be a dramatic shift in India's landscape of intermediary liability laws, i.e., rules which determine the liability of platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and messaging services like
Whatsapp and Signal for hosting or distributing unlawful content.
Provisions in the Bill that criminalize the publication and distribution of content, ignore that unlike the physical world, modern electronic communication requires third-party intermediaries to store and distribute content. This wording can
implicate neutral communication pipeways, such as ISPs, online platforms, mobile messengers, which currently cannot even know of the presence of such material unless they surveil all their users. Under the proposed legislation, the fact that
human traffickers used Whatsapp to communicate about their activities could be used to hold the messaging service criminally liable.
An AI system developed by a Catholic institute in Brazil seeks out lewd pictures and digitally adds swimwear to censor the images images.
Researchers warned that while the AI was designed to be used for good, cyber criminals could one day reverse the process to erase bikinis from people's photos.
The AI was trained by software engineers at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul using 2,000 images of women. It is a type of AI known as a generative adversarial network, which that learn to perform tasks by recognising
patterns commonly found in a set of images.
Project scientist Dr Rodrigo Barros told the Register :
When we train the network, it attempts to learn how to map data from one domain - nude pictures - to another domain - swimsuit pictures. Researchers warned that while the system was designed to be used for good, cyber criminals could one day
reverse the process to erase bikinis from people's photos (stock image) Researchers warned that while the system was designed to be used for good, cyber criminals could one day reverse the process to erase bikinis from people's photos.
He added that the AI was developed to test out a novel way of censoring images on the internet.
The well known alt-right news website Infowars is preparing to launch a campaign aimed at persuading politicians to stop tech giants censoring its content.
It notes that Facebook, Google and Twitter are using algorithms to automatically clampdown on right-wing publications as well as those which support Donald Trump.
Infowars has now started its first petition on the website Change.org demanding that social media companies end censorship of alternative voices online. It is calling for a new Digital Rights Act to guarantee free speech on the internet.
We have been told that Infowars staff have approached Conservative politicians in the UK and arranged for an MP to ask a question in parliament about the issue.
Infowars is also planning to contact the White House, where its calls are likely to reach the ears of Donald Trump himself.
Paul Joseph Watson, the British editor-at-large of Infowars, told Metro.co.uk:
Since social media platforms are now de facto becoming the Internet and have formed into monopolies, the argument that they are private companies who can behave with impunity is no longer a valid argument.
We demand congressional and parliamentary scrutiny. We demand a Digital Rights Act to secure free speech online.
David Austin as penned what looks like an official BBFC campaigning piece trying to drum up support for the upcoming internet porn censorship regime. Disgracefully the article is hidden behind a paywall and is restricted to Telegraph paying
Are children protected by endangering their parents or their marriage?
The article is very much a one sided piece, focusing almost entirely on the harms to children. It says nothing about the extraordinary dangers faced by adults when handing over personal identifying data to internet companies. Not a word about the
dangers of being blackmailed, scammed or simply outed to employers, communities or wives, where the standard punishment for a trivial transgression of PC rules is the sack or divorce.
Austin speaks of the scale of the internet business and the scope of the expected changes. He writes:
There are around five million pornographic websites across the globe. Most of them have no effective means of stopping children coming across their content. It's no great surprise, therefore, that Government statistics show that 1.4 million
children in the UK visited one of these websites in one month.
The BBFC will be looking for a step change in the behaviour of the adult industry. We have been working with the industry to ensure that many websites carry age-verification when the law comes into force.
Millions of British adults watch pornography online. So age-verification will have a wide reach. But it's not new. It's been a requirement for many years for age-restricted goods and services, including some UK hosted pornographic material.
I guess at this last point readers will be saying I never knew that. I've never come across age verification ever before. But the point here is these previous rules devastated the British online porn industry and the reason people don't ever come
across it, is that there are barely any British sites left.
Are children being protected by impoverishing their parents?
Not that any proponents of age verification could care less about British people being able to make money. Inevitably the new age verification will further compound the foreign corporate monopoly control on yet another internet industry.
Having lorded over a regime that threatens to devastate lives, careers and livelihoods, Austin ironically notes that it probably won't work anyway:
The law is not a silver bullet. Determined, tech-savvy teenagers may find ways around the controls, and not all pornography online will be age-restricted. For example, the new law does not require pornography on social media platforms to be
placed behind age-verification controls.
The government is braced for criticism next week over an anticipated delay in its prospective curbs on under 18s' access to hardcore porn sites.
The current timetable culminating in the implementation of UK porn censorship by the end of the year required that the final censorship guidelines are presented to MPs before they go on holiday on Thursday. They will then be ready to approve them
when they return to work in the autumn. It sound like they won't be ready for publishing by this Thursday.
The BBFC noted that they were due to send the results of the public consultation along with the BBFC censorship rules to the government by late May of this year so presumably the government is still pondering what to do.
'Best practice' just like Facebook and Cambridge Analytica
Back in April when the BBFC initiated its rather naive draft rules for public consultation its prose tried to suggest that we can trust age verifiers with our most sensitive porn browsing data because they will voluntarily follow 'best practice'.
But in light of the major industry player, in this case Facebook, allowing Cambridge Analytica to so dramatically abuse our personal data, the hope that these people will follow best practice' is surely forlorn.
And there was the implementation of GDPR. The BBFC seemed to think that this was all that was needed to keep our data safe. But when t comes down to it all GDPR seems to have done is to train us, like Pavlov's dogs, to endlessly tick the consent
box for all these companies to do what the hell they like with our data.
Then there was a nice little piece of research this week that revealed that network level ISP filtering of porn has next to no impact on preventing young porn seekers from obtaining their kicks. The research notes seems to suggest that it is not
enough to block porn one lad because he has 30 mates whose house he can round to surf the web there, or else it only takes a few lads to be able to download porn and it will soon be circulated to the whole community on a memory stick or whatever.
Mass Buy in
I guess the government is finding it tough to find age verification ideas that are both convenient for adult users, whilst remaining robust about preventing access by the under 18s. I think the governments needs to find a solution that will
achieve a mass buy in by adult users. If the adults don't want to play ball with the age verification process, then the first fall back position is for them to use a VPN. I know that from my use of VPNS that they are very good, and once you turn
it on then I find it gets left on all day. I am sure millions of people using VPNs would not go down well with the security services on the trail of more serious crimes than under age porn viewing.
I think the most likely age verification method proposed to date that has a chance of a mass buy-in is the AVSecure system of anonymously buying a porn access card from a local shop, and using a PIN, perhaps typed in once a day. Then they are
able to browse without further hassle on all participating websites. But I think it would require a certain pragmatism from government to accept this idea, as it would be so open to over 18s buying a card and then selling the PIN to under 18s, or
perhaps sons nicking their Dad's PINS when they see the card lying around, (or even perhaps installing a keyboard logger to nick the password).
The government would probably like something more robust where PINS have to be matched to people's proven ID. But I think pron users would be stupid to hand over their ID to anyone on the internet who can monitor porn use. The risks are enormous,
reputational damage, blackmail, fraud etc, and in this nasty PC world, the penalty of the most trivial of moral transgressions is to lose your job or even career.
A path to failure
The government is also setting out on a path when it can do nothing but fail. The Telegraph piece mentioned above is already lambasting the government for not applying the rules to social media websites such as Twitter, that host a fair bit of
porn. The Telegraph comments:
Children will be free to watch explicit X-rated sex videos on social media sites because of a loophole in a new porn crackdown, Britain's chief censor has admitted.
David Austin, chief executive of the BBFC, has been charged by ministers with enforcing new laws that require people to prove they are over 18 to access porn sites. However, writing for telegraph.co.uk, Mr Austin admitted it would not be a
silver bullet as online porn on sites such as Facebook and YouTube would escape the age restrictions. Social media companies will not be required to carry age-verification for pornographic content on their platforms. He said it was a matter for
government to review this position.
Uganda has just introduced a significant tax on social media usage. It is set at 200 shillings a day which adds up to about 3% of the average annual income if used daily.
Use of a long list of websites including Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, Tinder triggers the daily taxed through billing by ISPs.
And as you may expect Uganda internet users are turning to VPNs so that ISPs can't detect access to taxed apps and websites.
In response, the government says it has ordered local ISPs to begin blocking VPNs. In a statement, Uganda Communications Commission Executive Director, Godfrey Mutabazi said that Internet service providers would be ordered to block VPNs to
prevent citizens from avoiding the social media tax.
Mutabazi told Dispatch that ISPs are already taking action to prevent VPNs from being accessible but since there are so many, it won't be possible to block them all. In the meantime, the government is trying to portray VPNs as more expensive to
use than the tax. In a post on Facebook this morning, Mutabazi promoted the tax as the sensible economic option.
it appears that many Ugandans are outraged at the prospect of yet another tax and see VPN use as a protest, despite any additional cost. Opposition figures have already called for a boycott with support coming in from all corners of society. The
government appears unmoved, however. Frank Tumwebaze, Minister of Information Technology and Communications said:
If we tax essentials like water, why not social media?
Uganda is reviewing its decision to impose taxes on the use of social media and on money transactions by mobile phone, following a public backlash.
Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda made the announcement soon after police broke up a protest against the taxes.
President Yoweri Museveni had pushed for the taxes to boost government revenue and to restrict criticism via WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter.
The social media tax is 6000 Uganda shillings a month (£1.25), but it is represents about 3% of the average wage. Activists argue that while the amount may seem little, it represents a significant slice of what poorer people are paying for
getting online. There is also a 1% levy on the total value of mobile phone money transactions, affecting poorer Ugandans who rarely use banking services.
In a statement to parliament, Rugunda said:
Government is now reviewing the taxes taking into consideration the concerns of the public and its implications on the budget.
A revised budget is due to be tabled in parliament on 19 July.
Update: And the government continues to repress the people
The Polish government is demanding that ISPs snitch on their customers who attempt to access websites it deems illegal.
The government wants to make the restrictions stricter for unauthorised online gambling sites and will require local ISPs to inform it about citizens' attempts to access them. According to the Panoptykon Foundation, a digital rights watchdog, the
government will compile a central registry of unauthorized websites to monitor.
According to the digital rights body, the government seeks to introduce a chief snooper that would compel data from ISPs disclosing which citizens tried to access unauthorised websites. In addition, the ISPs would have to keep the smooping
requests secret from the customer.
Local organisations are unsurprisingly worried that the censorship's expansion could turn out to be the first of many steps in an online limitation escalation.
On Thursday, July 19, at 4 pm, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will urge a federal judge to put enforcement of FOSTA on hold during the pendency of its lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the federal law. The hold is needed,
in part, to allow plaintiff Woodhull Freedom Foundation, a sex worker advocacy group, to organize and publicize its annual conference, held August 2-5.
FOSTA , or the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, was passed by Congress in March. But despite its name, FOSTA attacks online speakers who speak favorably about sex work by imposing harsh penalties for any website that
might be seen as facilitating prostitution or contribute to sex trafficking. In Woodhull Freedom Foundation v. U.S. , filed on behalf of two human rights organizations, a digital library, an activist for sex workers, and a certified massage
therapist, EFF maintains the law is unconstitutional because it muzzles constitutionally protected speech that protects and advocates for sex workers and forces speakers and platforms to censor themselves.
Enforcement of the law should be suspended because the plaintiffs are likely to win the case and because it has caused, and will continue to cause, irreparable harm to the plaintiffs, EFF co-counsel Bob Corn-Revere of Davis Wright Tremaine will
tell the court at a hearing this week on the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction. Because of the risk of criminal penalties, the plaintiffs have had their ads removed from Craigslist and censored information on their websites.
Plaintiff Woodhull Freedom Foundation has censored publication of information that could assist sex workers negatively impacted by the law. FOSTA threatens Woodhull's ability to engage in protected online speech, including livestreaming and live
tweeting its August meeting, unless FOSTA is put on hold.
Judge Richard Leon of United States District Court in Washington D.C. heard Woodhull's request for a preliminary injunction that would stop the law from remaining in effect until the group's lawsuit, but did not issue a judgement. Nor did he
announce a date when he would issue a ruling.
According to one account from inside the courtroon, Leon sounded skeptical that the law had actually caused harm to the plaintiffs in the case.
Sikh leaders in India have threatened to protest over the title of a biopic because it uses the name Kaur.
Sunny Leone is a former porn star turned Bollywood actress who plays herself in web series Karenjit Kaur: The Untold Story of Sunny Leone . Kaur - Leone's real name - is used by Sikh women as a surname or middle name and symbolises gender
The web series depicts her life and premiered on 16 July for Zee5, a streaming platform in India.
In a letter to Subhash Chandra, the chairman of Essel Group which owns Zee5, Indian politician Manjinder Singh Sirsa called for the show to be pulled from the network or have the name Kaur removed from the title. But Chandra responded simply by
explaining that her name can't be changed.
Other Sikh groups and leaders have expressed similar sentiments and have threatened to protest outside the network's offices if their demands aren't met.
Nobody seems to have heard much about the progress of the BBFC consultation about the process to censor internet porn in the UK.
The sketchy timetable laid out so far suggests that the result of the consultation should be published prior to the Parliamentary recess scheduled for 26th July. Presumably this would provide MPs with some light reading over their summer hols
ready for them to approve as soon as the hols are over.
Maybe this publication may have to be hurried along though, as pesky MPs are messing up Theresa May's plans for a non-Brexit, and she would like to send them packing a week early before they can cause trouble. ( Update
18th July . The early holidays idea has now been shelved).
The BBFC published meeting minutes this week that mentions the consultation:
The public consultation on the draft Guidance on Age Verification Arrangements and the draft Guidance on Ancillary Service Providers closed on 23 April. The BBFC received 620 responses, 40 from organisations and 580 from individuals. Many of the
individual responses were encouraged by a campaign organised by the Open Rights Group.
Our proposed response to the consultation will be circulated to the Board before being sent to DCMS on 21 May.
So assuming that the response was sent to the government on the appointed day then someone has been sitting on the results for quite a long time now.
Meanwhile its good to see that people are still thinking about the monstrosity that is coming our way. Ethical porn producer Erica Lust has been speaking to News Internationalist. She comments on the way the new law will compound MindGeek's
monopolitistc dominance of the online porn market:
The age verification laws are going to disproportionately affect smaller low-traffic sites and independent sex workers who cannot cover the costs of installing age verification tools.
It will also impact smaller sites by giving MindGeek even more dominance in the adult industry. This is because the BBFC draft guidance does not enforce sites to offer more than one age verification product. So, all of MindGeeks sites (again,
90% of the mainstream porn sites) will only offer their own product; Age ID. The BBFC have also stated that users do not have to verify their age on each visit if access is restricted by password or a personal ID number. So users visiting a
MindGeek site will only have to verify their age once using AgeID and then will be able to login to any complying site without having to verify again. Therefore, viewers will be less likely to visit competitor sites not using the AgeID
technology, and simultaneously competitor sites will feel pressured to use AgeID to protect themselves from losing viewers.
Against all the odds, but with the support of nearly
a million Europeans , MEPs voted earlier this month to
reject the EU's proposed copyright reform--including controversial proposals to create a new "snippet" right for news publishers, and mandatory copyright filters for sites that published user uploaded content.
The result was a vote on July 5th of all MEPS, which ended in a 318 against 278 victory in favour of withdrawing the Parliament's support for the languages. Now all MEPs will have a chance in September to submit new amendments and vote on a final
text -- or reject the directive entirely.
While re-opening the text was a surprising set-back for Article 13 and 11, the battle isn't over: the language to be discussed on in September will be based on
the original proposal by the European Commission, from two years ago -- which included the first versions of the copyright filters, and snippet rights. German MEP Axel Voss's controversial modifications will also be included in the debate,
and there may well be a flood of other proposals, good and bad, from the rest of the European Parliament.
There's still sizeable support for the original text: Article 11 and 13's loudest proponents, led by Voss, persuaded many MEPs to support them by arguing that these new powers would restore the balance between American tech giants and Europe's
newspaper and creative industries -- or "close the value gap", as their arguments have it.
But using mandatory algorithmic censors and new intellectual property rights to restore balance is like Darth Vader bringing balance to the Force: the fight may involve a handful of brawling big players, but it's everybody else who would have to
deal with the painful consequences.
That's why it remains so vital for MEPs to hear voices that represent the wider public interest.
academics , and redditors, everyone from small Internet businesses and celebrity Youtubers, spoke up in a way that was impossible for the Parliament to ignore. The same Net-savvy MEPs and activists that wrote and fought for the GDPR put
their names to challenge the idea that these laws would rein back American tech companies. Wikipedians stood up and were counted: seven independent, European-language encyclopedias consensed to
shut down on the day of the vote. European alternatives to Google, Facebook and Twitter argued that
would set back their cause . And
European artists spoke up that the EU shouldn't be setting up censorship and ridiculous link rights in their name.
To make sure the right amendments pass in September, we need to keep that conversation going. Read on to find out what you can do, and who you should be speaking to.
Who Spoke Up In The European Parliament?
As we noted last week, the decision to challenge the JURI committee's language on Article 13 and 11 last week was not automatic -- a minimum of 78 MEPs needed to petition for it to be put to the vote. Here's
the list of those MEPs who actively stepped forward to stop the bill. Also heavily involved was Julia Reda, the Pirate Party MEP who worked so hard on making the rest of the proposed directive so positive for copyright reform, and then
re-dedicated herself to stopping the worst excesses of the JURI language, and
Marietje Schaake , the Parliament's foremost advocate for human rights online.
These are the core of the opposition to Article 13 and 11. A look at that list, and the
final list of votes on July 5th, shows that the proposals have opponents in every corner of Europe's political map. It also shows that every MEP who voted for Article 13 and 11, has someone close to them politically who knows why it's
What happens now?
In the next few weeks, those deep in the minutiae of the Copyright directive will be crafting amendments for MEPs to vote on in September. The tentative schedule is that the amendments are accepted until Wednesday September 5th, with a vote at
12:00 Central European Time on Wednesday September 12th.
The European Parliament has a fine tradition of producing a rich supply of amendments (the GDPR had thousands). We'll need to coalesce support around a few key fixes that will keep the directive free of censorship filters and snippet rights
language, and replace them with something less harmful to the wider Net.
Julia Reda already proposed amendments. And one of Voss' strongest critics in the latest vote was Catherine Stihler, the Scottish MEP who had created and passed consumer-friendly directive language in her committee, which Voss ignored. (Here's
barnstorming speech before the final vote.)
While we wait for those amendments to appear, the next step is to keep the pressure on MEPs to remember what's at stake -- no mandatory copyright filters, and no new ancillary rights on snippets of text.
In particular, if you
talk to your MEP , it's important to convey how you feel these proposals will affect you . MEPs are hearing from giant tech and media companies. But they are only just beginning to hear from a broader camp: the people of the Internet.
Sharon White, the CEO of Ofcom has put her case to be the British internet news censor, disgracefully from behind the paywalled website of the The Times.
White says Ofcom has done research showing how little users trust what they read on social media. She said that only 39% consider social media to be a trustworthy news source, compared with 63% for newspapers, and 70% for TV.
But then again many people don't much trust the biased moralising from the politically correct mainstream media, including the likes of Ofcom.
White claims social media platforms need to be more accountable in how they curate and police content on their platforms, or face regulation.
In reality, Facebook's algorithm seems pretty straightforward, it just gives readers more of what they have liked in the past. But of course the powers that be don't like people choosing their own media sources, they would much prefer that the
BBC, or the Guardian , or Ofcom do the choosing.
Sharon White, wrote in the Times:
The argument for independent regulatory oversight of [large online players] has never been stronger.
In practice, this would place much greater scrutiny on how effectively the online platforms respond to harmful content to protect consumers, with powers for a regulator to enforce standards, and act if these are not met.
She continued, disgracefully revealing her complete contempt of the British people:
Many people admit they simply don't have the time or inclination to think critically when engaging with news, which has important implications for our democracy.
White joins a growing number of the establishment elite arguing that social media needs cenorship. The government has frequently suggested as much, with Matt Hancock, then digital, culture, media and sport secretary, telling Facebook in April:
Social media companies are not above the law and will not be allowed to shirk their responsibilities to our citizens.
Update: The whole pitch to offer Ofcom's services as a news censor
There seems to be 4 whinges about modern news reading via smart phones and all of them are just characteristics of the medium that will never change regardless of whether we have news censors or not.
Fake News: mostly only exists in the minds of politicians. No one else can find hardly any. So internet news readers are not much bothered by trying to detect it.
Passive news reading. Its far too much trouble typing in stuff on a smart phone to be bothered to go out and find stuff for yourself. So the next best thing is to use apps that do the best job in feeding you articles that are of interest.
Skimming and shallow reading of news feeds. Well there's so much news out there and the news feed algorithm isn't too hot anyway so if anything isn't quite 100% interesting, then just scroll on. This isn't going to change any time soon.
Echo chambers. This is just a put-down phrase for phone users choosing to read the news that they like. If a news censor thinks that more worthy news should be force fed into people's news readers than they will just suffer the indignity of
being rapidly swiped into touch.
Anyway this is Sharon White's take:
Picking up a newspaper with a morning coffee. Settling down to watch TV news after a day's work. Reading the sections of the Sunday papers in your favourite order.
For decades, habit and routine have helped to define our relationship with the news. In the past, people consumed news at set times of day, but heard little in between. But for many people, those habits, and the news landscape that shapes them,
have now changed fundamentally.
Vast numbers of news stories are now available 24/7, through a wide range of online platforms and devices, with social media now the most popular way of accessing news on the internet. Today's readers and viewers face the challenge to keep up.
So too, importantly, does regulation.
The fluid environment of social media certainly brings benefits to news, offering more choice, real-time updates, and a platform for different voices and perspectives. But it also presents new challenges for readers and regulators alike --
something that we, as a regulator of editorial standards in TV and radio, are now giving thought for the online world.
In new Ofcom research, we asked people about their relationship with news in our always-on society, and the findings are fascinating.
People feel there is more news than ever before, which presents a challenge for their time and attention. This, combined with fear of missing out, means many feel compelled to engage with several sources of news, but only have the capacity to do
Similarly, as many of us now read news through social media on our smartphones, we're constantly scrolling, swiping and clearing at speed. We're exposed to breaking news notifications, newsfeeds, shared news and stories mixed with other types of
content. This limits our ability to process, or even recognise, the news we see. It means we often engage with it incidentally, rather than actively.
In fact, our study showed that, after being exposed to news stories online, many participants had no conscious recollection of them at all. For example, one recalled seeing nine news stories online over a week -- she had actually viewed 13 in
one day alone. Others remembered reading particular articles, but couldn't recall any of the detail.
Social media's attraction as a source of news also raises questions of trust, with people much more likely to doubt what they see on these platforms. Our research shows only 39% consider social media to be a trustworthy news source, compared to
63% for newspapers, and 70% for TV.
Fake news and clickbait articles persist as common concerns among the people taking part in our research, but many struggle to check the validity of online news content. Some rely on gut instinct to tell fact from fiction, while others seek
second opinions from friends and family, or look for established news logos, such as the Times. Many people admit they simply don't have the time or inclination to think critically when engaging with news, which has important implications for
Education on how to navigate online news effectively is, of course, important. But the onus shouldn't be on the public to detect and deal with fake and harmful content. Online companies need to be much more accountable when it comes to curating
and policing the content on their platforms, where this risks harm to the public.
We welcome emerging actions by the major online players, but consider that the argument for independent regulatory oversight of their activities has never been stronger. Such a regime would need to be based on transparency, and a set of clear
In practice, this would place much greater scrutiny on how effectively the online platforms respond to harmful content to protect consumers, with powers for a regulator to enforce standards, and act if these are not met. We will outline further
thoughts on the role independent regulation could play in the autumn.
When it comes to trust and accountability, public service broadcasters like the BBC also have a vital role to play. Their news operations provide the bedrock for much of the news content we see online, and as the broadcasting regulator, Ofcom
will continue to hold them to the highest standards.
Ofcom's research can help inform the debate about how to regulate effectively in an online world. We will continue to shine a light on the behavioural trends that emerge, as people's complex and evolving relationship with the media continues to
And perhaps if you have skimmed over White's piece a bit rapidly, here is the key paragraph again:
In practice, this would place much greater scrutiny on how effectively the online platforms respond to harmful content to protect consumers, with powers for a regulator to enforce standards, and act if these are not met. We will outline
further thoughts on the role independent regulation could play in the autumn.
YouTube has banned Erika Lust's series In Conversation with Sex Workers.
There was NO explicit content, NO sex, NO naked bodies, NO (female) nipples or anything else that breaks YouTube's strict guidelines in the series, Lust wrote on her website. It was simply sex workers speaking about their work and experiences.
Presumably the censorship is inspired by the US FOSTA internet censorship where YouTube would be held liable for content that facilitates sex trafficking. It is cheaper and easier for YouTube to take down any content that could in anyway
connected to sex trafficking than spend time checking it out.
Erika Lust, a Barcelona-based erotic filmmaker, wrote in a blog post on Wednesday that YouTube terminated her eponymous channel on July 4, when it had around 11,000 subscribers. The ban came after an interviewee for the company's series In
Conversation With Sex Workers, which had been on YouTube for about a week, tweeted to promote her involvement in the film. Within hours of that tweet the channel was terminated, citing violation of community guidelines.
A paper has been published on the effects of network level website blocking to try and prevent adolescents from seeking out porn.
Internet Filtering and Adolescent Exposure to Online Sexual Material
BY Andrew K. Przybylski, and Victoria Nash
Early adolescents are spending an increasing amount of time online, and a significant share of caregivers now use Internet filtering tools to shield this population from online sexual material. Despite wide use, the efficacy of filters is poorly
understood. In this article, we present two studies: one exploratory analysis of secondary data collected in the European Union, and one preregistered study focused on British adolescents and caregivers to rigorously evaluate their utility. In
both studies, caregivers were asked about their use of Internet filtering, and adolescent participants were interviewed about their recent online experiences.
Analyses focused on the absolute and relative risks of young people encountering online sexual material and the effectiveness of Internet filters.
Results suggested that caregiver's use of Internet filtering had inconsistent and practically insignificant links with young people reports of encountering online sexual material.
The struggle to shape the experiences young people have online is now part of modern parenthood. This study was conducted to address the value of industry, policy, and professional advice concerning the appropriate role of Internet filtering in
this struggle. Our preliminary findings suggested that filters might have small protective effects, but evidence derived from a more stringent and robust empirical approach indicated that they are entirely ineffective. These findings highlight
the need for a critical cost -- benefit analysis in light of the financial and informational costs associated with filtering and age verification technologies such as those now being developed in some European countries like the United Kingdom.
Further, our results highlight the need for registered trials to rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of costly technological solutions for social and developmental goals.
The write up doesn't really put its conclusions with any real context as to what is actually happening beyond the kids still being able to get hold of porn. The following paragraph gives the best clue of what is going on:
We calculated absolute risk reduction of exposure to online sexual material associated with caregivers using filtering technology in practical terms. These resultswere used to calculate the number of households which would have to be
filtered to prevent one young person, who would otherwise see sexual material online, from encountering it over a 12-month period. Depending on the form of content, results indicated that between 17 and 77 households would need to be
filtered to prevent a young adolescent from encountering online sexual material. A protective effect lower than we would consider practically significant.
This seems to suggest that if one kid has a censored internet then he just goes around to a mate's house who isn't censored, and downloads from there. He wouldn't actually be blocked from viewing porn until his whole circle of friends are
similarly censored. It only takes one kid to be able download porn, as it can then be loaded on a memory stick to be passed around.
Russia's interior minister says he wants citizens to scour the internet for banned material.
The Russian internet censor Roskomnadzor, has an ever-expanding list of banned sites featuring material that Russian authorities don't like. The list takes in everything from LGBT sites to critics of the Kremlin and sites that allegedly carry
terrorist propaganda, the main justification for many of Russia's online censorship and surveillance laws.
Free-speech activists reckon the number of blocked websites now tops 100,000, but how best to keep adding to that list?
Russia's interior minister, Vladimir Kolokoltsev, says volunteers should step up to aid the search for banned information. Whilst speaking about the challenges faced by search and rescue volunteers, he said volunteers could help public
authorities in preventing drug abuse, combating juvenile delinquency, and monitoring the internet networks to search for banned information.
The new 45-article cybercrime law, named the Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes law, is divided into two parts. The first part of the bill stipulates that service providers are obligated to retain user information (i.e. tracking data)
in the event of a crime, whereas the second part of the bill covers a variety of cybercrimes under overly broad language (such as threat to national security).
Article 7 of the law, in particular, grants the state the authority to shut down Egyptian or foreign-based websites that incite against the Egyptian state or threaten national security through the use of any digital content, media, or
advertising. Article 2 of the law authorizes broad surveillance capabilities, requiring telecommunications companies to retain and store users' data for 180 days. And Article 4 explicitly enables foreign governments to obtain access to
information on Egyptian citizens and does not make mention of requirements that the requesting country have substantive data protection laws.
Supporters of the US internet censorship law FOSTA were supposedly attempting to target pimps and traffickers, but of course their target was the wider sex work industry. Hence they weren't really interested in the warning that the law would make
it harder to target pimps and sex traffickers as their activity would be driven off radar.
Anyway it seems that the police at least have started to realise that the warning is coming true, but I don't suppose this will bother the politicians much.
Over in Indianapolis, the police have just arrested their first pimp in 2018, and it involved an undercover cop being approached by the pimp. The reporter asks why there have been so few such arrests, and the police point the finger right at the
shutdown of Backpage:
The cases, according to Sgt. John Daggy, an undercover officer with IMPD's vice unit, have just dried up. The reason for that is pretty simple: the feds closed police's best source of leads, the online personals site Backpage, earlier this year.
We've been a little bit blinded lately because they shut Backpage down. I get the reasoning behind it, and the ethics behind it, however, it has blinded us. We used to look at Backpage as a trap for human traffickers and pimps.
With Backpage, we would subpoena the ads and it would tell a lot of the story. Also, with the ads we would catch our victim at a hotel room, which would give us a crime scene. There's a ton of evidence at a crime scene. Now, since [Backpage] has
gone down, we're getting late reports of them and we don't have much to go by.
Jeremy Wright has been appointed as the new Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
He is the government minister in charge of the up 'n' coming regime to censor internet porn. He will also be responsible for several government initiatives attempting to censor social media.
He is a QC and was previously the government's Attorney General. His parliamentary career to date has not really given any pointers to his views and attitudes towards censorship.
The previous culture minister, Matt Hancock has move upwards to become minister for health. Perhaps in his new post he can continue to whinge about limiting what he considers the excessive amount of screen time being enjoyed by children.
Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media would back the creation of an internet censor to set out a framework for internet companies in the UK, the House of Lords Communications Committee was told.
The three major UK ISPs were reporting to a House of Lords' ongoing inquiry into internet censorship. The companies' policy heads pushed for a new censor, or the expansion of the responsibility of a current censor, to set the rules for content
censorship and to better equip children using the internet amid safety concerns .
At the moment Information Commissioner's Office has responsibility for data protection and privacy; Ofcom censors internet TV; the Advertising Standards Authority censors adverts; and the BBFC censors adult porn.
Citing a report by consultancy Communications Chambers, Sky's Adam Kinsley said that websites and internet providers are making decisions but in a non structured way. Speaking about the current state of internet regulation, Kinsley said:
Companies are already policing their own platforms. There is no accountability of what they are doing and how they are doing it. The only bit of transparency is when they decide to do it on a global basis and at a time of their choosing. Policy
makers need to understand what is happening, and at the moment they don't have that.
The 13-strong House of Lords committee, chaired by Lord Gilbert of Panteg, launched an inquiry earlier this year to explore how the censorship of the internet should be improved. The committee will consider whether there is a need for new laws to
govern internet companies. This inquiry will consider whether websites are sufficiently accountable and transparent, and whether they have adequate governance and provide behavioural standards for users.
The committee is hearing evidence from April to September 2018 and will launch a report at the end of the year.
We are asking a court to declare the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 ("FOSTA") unconstitutional and prevent it from being enforced. The law was written so poorly that it actually criminalizes a
substantial amount of protected speech and, according to experts, actually hinders efforts to prosecute sex traffickers and aid victims.
In our lawsuit, two human rights organizations, an individual advocate for sex workers, a certified non-sexual massage therapist, and the Internet Archive, are challenging the law as an unconstitutional violation of the First and Fifth
Amendments. Although the law was passed by Congress for the worthy purpose of fighting sex trafficking, its broad language makes criminals of those who advocate for and provide resources to adult, consensual sex workers and actually hinders
efforts to prosecute sex traffickers and aid victims.
FOSTA made three major changes to existing law. The first two involved changes to federal criminal law:
First, it created an entirely new federal crime by adding a new section to the Mann Act. The new law makes it a crime to "own, manage or operate" an online service with the intent to "promote or facilitate" "the
prostitution of another person." That crime is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The law further makes it an "aggravated offense," punishable by up to 25 years in prison and also subject to civil lawsuits if
"facilitation" was of the prostitution of 5 or more persons, or if it was done with "reckless disregard" that it "contributed to sex trafficking." An aggravated violation may also be the basis for an individual's
civil lawsuit. The prior version of the Mann Act only made it illegal to physically transport a person across state lines for the purposes of prostitution.
Second, FOSTA expanded existing federal criminal sex trafficking law. Before SESTA, the law made it a crime to knowingly advertise sexual services of a minor or any person doing so only under force, fraud, or coercion, and also criminalized
several other modes of conduct. The specific knowledge requirement for advertising (that one must know he advertisement was for sex trafficking) was an acknowledgement that advertising was entitled to some First Amendment protection. The prior
law additionally made it a crime to financially benefit from "participation in a venture" of sex trafficking. FOSTA made seemingly a small change to the law: it defined "participation in a venture" extremely broadly to
include "assisting, supporting, or facilitating." But this new very broad language has created great uncertainty about liability for speech other than advertising that someone might interpret as "assisting" or
"supporting" sex trafficking, and what level of awareness of sex trafficking the participant must have.
As is obvious, these expansions of the law are fraught with vague and ambiguous terms that have created great uncertainty about what kind of online speech is now illegal. FOSTA does not define "facilitate", "promote",
"contribute to sex trafficking," "assisting," or supporting" -- but the inclusion of all of these terms shows that Congress intended the law to apply expansively. Plaintiffs thus reasonably fear it will be applied to
them. Plaintiffs Woodhull Freedom Foundation and Human Rights Watch advocate for the decriminalization of sex work, both domestically and internationally. It is unclear whether that advocacy is considered "facilitating" prostitution
under FOSTA. Plaintiffs Woodhull and Alex Andrews offer substantial resources online to sex workers, including important health and safety information. This protected speech, and other harm reduction efforts, can also be seen as
"facilitating" prostitution. And although each of the plaintiffs vehemently opposes sex trafficking, Congress's
expressed sense in passing the law was that sex trafficking and sex work were "inextricably linked." Thus, plaintiffs are legitimately concerned that their advocacy on behalf of sex workers will be seen as being done in reckless
disregard of some "contribution to sex trafficking," even though all plaintiffs vehemently oppose sex trafficking.
The third change significantly undercut the protections of one of the Internet's most important laws, 47 U.S.C. § 230, originally a provision of the Communications Decency Act, commonly known simply as Section 230 or CDA 230:
FOSTA significantly undermined the legal protections intermediaries had under 42 U.S.C. § 230, commonly known simply as Section 230. Section 230 generally immunized intermediaries form liability arising from content created by others--it was
thus the chief protection that allowed Internet platforms for user-generated content to exist without having to review every piece of content appearing posted to them for potential legal liability. FOSTA undercut this immunity in three
significant ways. First, Section 230 already had an exception for violations of federal criminal law, so the expansion of criminal law described above also automatically expanded the Section 230 exception. Second, FOSTA nullified the immunity
also for state criminal lawsuits for violations of state laws that mirror the violations of federal law. And third, FOSTA allows for lawsuits by individual civil litigants.
The possibility of these state criminal and private civil lawsuit is very troublesome. FOSTA vastly magnifies the risk an Internet host bears of being sued. Whereas federal prosecutors typically carefully pick and choose which violations of law
they pursue, the far more numerous state prosecutors may be more prone to less selective prosecutions. And civil litigants often do not carefully consider the legal merits of an action before pursing it in court. Past experience teaches us that
they might file lawsuits merely to intimidate a speaker into silence -- the cost of defending even a meritless lawsuit being quite high. Lastly, whereas with federal criminal prosecutions, the US Department of Justice may offer clarifying
interpretations of a federal criminal law that addresses concerns with a law's ambiguity, those interpretations are not binding on state prosecutors and the millions of potential private litigants.
FOSTA Has Already Censored The Internet
As a result of these hugely increased risks of liability, many platforms for online speech have shuttered or restructured. The following as just two examples:
Two days after the Senate passed FOSTA, Craigslist eliminated its Personals section, including non-sexual subcategories such as "Missed Connections" and "Strictly Platonic." Craigslist
attributed this change to FOSTA, explaining "Any tool or service can be misused. We can't take such risk without jeopardizing all our other services, so we are regretfully taking craigslist personals offline. Hopefully we can bring
them back some day." Craigslist also shut down its Therapeutic Services section and will not permit ads that were previously listed in Therapeutic Services to be re-listed in other sections, such as Skilled Trade Services or Beauty
VerifyHim formerly maintained various online tools that helped sex workers avoid abusive clients. It described itself as "the biggest dating blacklist database on earth." One such resource was JUST FOR SAFETY, which had screening
tools designed to help sex workers check to see if they might be meeting someone dangerous, create communities of common interest, and talk directly to each other about safety. Following passage of FOSTA, VerifyHim took down many of these
tools, including JUST FOR SAFETY, and
explained that it is "working to change the direction of the site."
Plaintiff Eric Koszyk is a certified massage therapist running his own non-sexual massage business as his primary source of income. Prior to FOSTA he advertised his services exclusively in Craigslist's Therapeutic Services section. That forum is
no longer available and he is unable to run his ad anywhere else on the site, thus seriously harming his business. Plaintiff the Internet Archive fears that it can no longer rely on Section 230 to bar liability for content created by third
parties and hosted by the Archive, which comprises the vast majority of material in the Archive's collection, on account of FOSTA's changes to Section 230. The Archive is concerned that some third-party content hosted by the Archive, such as
archives of particular websites, information about books, and the books themselves, could be construed as promoting or facilitating prostitution, or assisting, supporting, or facilitating sex trafficking under FOSTA's expansive terms. Plaintiff
Alex Andrews maintains the website RateThatRescue.org, a sex worker-led, public, free, community effort to share information about both the organizations and services on which sex workers can rely, and those they should avoid. Because the site is
largely user-generated content, Andrews relies on Section 230's protections. She is now concerned that FOSTA now exposes her to potentially ruinous civil and criminal liability. She has also suspended moving forward with an app that would offer
harm reduction materials to sex workers. Human Rights Watch relies heavily on individuals spreading its reporting and advocacy through social media. It is concerned that social media platforms and websites that host, disseminate, or allow users
to spread their reports and advocacy materials may be inhibited from doing so because of FOSTA.
And many many others are experiencing the same uncertainty and fears of prosecution that are plaguing other advocates, service providers, platforms, and platform users since FOSTA became law.
We have asked the court to preliminarily enjoin enforcement of the law so that the plaintiffs and others can exercise their First Amendment rights until the court can issue a final ruling. But there is another urgent reason to halt enforcement of
the law. Plaintiff Woodhull Freedom Foundation is holding its annual Sexual Freedom Summit August 2-, 2018. Like past years, the Summit features a track on sex work, this year titled "Sex as Work," that seeks to advance and promote the
careers, safety, and dignity of individuals engaged in professional sex work. In presenting and promoting the Sexual Freedom Summit, and the Sex Work Track in particular, Woodhull operates and uses interactive computer services in numerous ways:
Woodhull uses online databases and cloud storage services to organize, schedule and plan the Summit; Woodhull exchanges emails with organizers, volunteers, website developers, promoters and presenters during all phases of the Summit; Woodhull has
promoted the titles of all workshops on its Summit
website ; Woodhull also publishes the biographies and contact information for workshop presenters on its website, including those for the sex workers participating in the Sex Work Track and other tracks. Is publishing the name and contact
information for a sex worker "facilitating the prostitution of another person"? If it is, FOSTA makes it a crime.
Moreover, most, if not all, of the workshops are also promoted by Woodhull on social media such as Facebook and Twitter; and Woodhull wishes to stream the Sex Work Track on Facebook, as it does other tracks, so that those who cannot attend can
benefit from the information and commentary.
Without an injunction, the legality under FOSTA of all of these practices is uncertain. The preliminary injunction is necessary so that Woodhull can conduct the Sex as Work track without fear of prosecution.
It is worth emphasizing that Congress was repeatedly warned that it was passing a law that would censor far more speech than was necessary to address the problem of sex trafficking, and that the law would indeed hinder law enforcement efforts and
pose great dangers to sex workers. During the Congressional debate on FOSTA and SESTA, anti-trafficking groups such as
Freedom Network and the
International Women's Health Coalition issued statements warning that the laws would hurt efforts to aid trafficking victims, not help them.
Even Senator Richard Blumenthal, an original cosponsor of the SESTA (the Senate bill) criticized the new Mann Act provision when it was proposed in the House bill, telling
Wired "there is no good reason to proceed with a proposal that is opposed by the very survivors it claims to support." Nevertheless, Senator Blumenthal ultimately voted to pass FOSTA.
In support of the
preliminary injunction , we have submitted the declarations of several experts who confirm the harmful effects FOSTA is having on sex workers, who are being driven back to far more dangerous street-based work as online classified sites
disappear, to the loss of online "bad date lists" that informed sex workers of risks associated with certain clients, to making sex less visible to law enforcement, which can no longer scour and analyze formerly public websites where
sex trafficking had been advertised. For more information see the Declarations of
Dr. Alexandra Lutnick ,
Prof. Alexandra Frell Levy , and
Dr. Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco .
On July 1, the Ugandan government began enforcing a new law that imposes a 200 shilling [US$0.05, 2£0.04] daily levy on people using internet messaging platforms, despite protests to the contrary from local and international online free speech
This move, according to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, has the dual purpose of strengthening the national budget and also curtailing gossip by Ugandans on social media. It was also popular among local telecom providers, who do not directly
benefit from the use of foreign-based over-the-top services such as Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp.
The polic was preceded with an order to register all new mobile SIM cards with the National Biometric Data Centre. The measure also forces Ugandans to only use mobile money accounts in order to recharge their SIM cards and makes it mandatory to
pay a one percent levy on the total value of transaction on any mobile money transaction .
These new policies make it more costly for Ugandans -- especially those living in poverty -- to communicate and perform everyday tasks using their mobile devices.
On July 2, civil society and legal advocates in Uganda filed a court challenge against the law, arguing that it violates the country's constitution.
A protester demonstrates his opposition to Uganda's social media tax at a gathering on July 6, 2018.
On July 6, concerned citizens and civil society advocates issued a joint press statement [see below] calling on Ugandans to avoid paying the tax by using alternate methods to exchange money and access social media, and to join a National Day of
Peaceful Protest Against Unfair Taxation on Wednesday, July 11, 2018.
The Global Voices community and our network of friends and allies wish to support this and other efforts to demand an end to the tax. We believe that this tax is simply a ploy to censor Ugandans and gag dissenting voices.
We believe social media should be freely accessible for all people, including Ugandans. The Ugandan social media tax must go!
On Monday, July 9, beginning at 14:00 East Africa Time, we plan to tweet at community leaders, government and diplomatic actors, and media influencers to increase awareness and draw public attention to the issue. We especially encourage fellow
bloggers and social media users all over the world to join us.
One moment Facebook's algorithms are expected to be able to automatically distinguish terrorism support from news reporting or satire, the next moment, it demonstrates exactly how crap it is by failing to distinguish hate speech from a profound,
and nation establishing, statement of citizens rights.
Facebook's algorithms removed parts of the US Declaration of Independence from the social media site after determining they represented hate speech.
The issue came to light when a local paper in Texas began posting excerpts of the historic text on its Facebook page each day in the run up to the country's Independence Day celebrations on July 4.
However when The Liberty County Vindicator attempted to post its tenth extract, which refers to merciless Indian savages, on its Facebook page the paper received a notice saying the post went against its standards on hate speech.
Facebook later 'apologised' as it has done countless times before and allowed the posting.
As we have been covering in the last couple of articles, a controversial EU Copyright Directive has been under discussion at the European Parliament, and in a surprising turn of events,
it voted to reject fast-tracking the tabled proposal by the JURI Committee which contained controversial proposals, particularly in
Art 11 and
Art 13 . The proposed Directive will now get a full discussion and debate in plenary in September.
I say surprising because for those of us who have been witnesses (and participants) to the Copyright Wars for the last 20 years, such a defeat of copyright maximalist proposals is practically unprecedented, perhaps with the exception of
SOPA/PIPA . For years we've had a familiar pattern in the passing of copyright legislation: a proposal has been made to enhance protection and/or restrict liberties, a small group of ageing millionaire musicians would be paraded supporting
the changes in the interest of creators. Only copyright nerds and a few NGOs and digital rights advocates would complain, their opinions would be ignored and the legislation would pass unopposed. Rinse and repeat.
But something has changed, and a wide coalition has managed to defeat powerful media lobbies for the first time in Europe, at least for now. How was this possible?
The main change is that the media landscape is very different thanks to the Internet. In the past, the creative industries were monolithic in their support for stronger protection, and they included creators, corporations, collecting societies,
publishers, and distributors; in other words the gatekeepers and the owners were roughly on the same side. But the Internet brought a number of new players, the tech industry and their online platforms and tools became the new gatekeepers.
Moreover, as people do not buy physical copies of their media and the entire industry has moved towards streaming, online distributors have become more powerful. This has created a perceived imbalance, where the formerly dominating industries
need to negotiate with the new gatekeepers for access to users. This is why creators complain about a
value gap between what they perceive they should be getting, and what they actually receive from the giants.
The main result of this change from a political standpoint is that now we have two lobbying sides in the debate, which makes all the difference when it comes to this type of legislation. In the past, policymakers could ignore experts and digital
rights advocates because they never had the potential to reach them, letters and articles by academics were not taken into account, or given lip service during some obscure committee discussion just to be hidden away. Tech giants such as Google
have provided lobbying access in Brussels, which has at least levelled the playing field when it comes to presenting evidence to legislators.
As a veteran of the Copyright Wars, I have to admit that it has been very entertaining reading the reaction from the copyright industry lobby groups and their individual representatives, some almost going apoplectic with rage at Google's
intervention. These tend to be the same people who spent decades lobbying legislators to get their way unopposed, representing large corporate interests unashamedly and passing laws that would benefit only a few, usually to the detriment of
users. It seems like lobbying must be decried when you lose.
But to see this as a victory for Google and other tech giants completely ignores the large coalition that shares the view that the proposed Articles 11 and 13 are very badly thought-out, and could represent a real danger to existing rights. Some
of us have been fighting this fight when Google did not even exist, or it was but a small competitor of AltaVista, Lycos, Excite and Yahoo!
At the same time that more restrictive copyright legislation came into place, we also saw the rise of free and open source software, open access, Creative Commons and open data. All of these are legal hacks that allow sharing, remixing and
openness. These were created precisely to respond to restrictive copyright practices. I also remember how they were opposed as existential threats by the same copyright industries, and treated with disdain and animosity. But something wonderful
happened, eventually open source software started winning (we used to buy operating systems), and Creative Commons became an important part of the Internet's ecosystem by propping-up valuable common spaces such as Wikipedia.
Similarly, the Internet has allowed a great diversity of actors to emerge. Independent creators, small and medium enterprises, online publishers and startups love the Internet because it gives them access to a wider audience, and often they can
bypass established gatekeepers. Lost in this idiotic "Google v musicians" rhetoric has been the threat that both Art 11 and 13 represent to small entities. Art 11 proposes a new publishing right that has been proven to affect smaller
players in Germany and Spain; while Art 13 would impose potentially crippling economic restrictions to smaller companies as they would have to put in place automated filtering systems AND redress mechanisms against mistakes. In fact, it has been
often remarked that Art 13 would benefit existing dominant forces, as they already have filtering in place (think ContentID).
Similarly, Internet advocates and luminaries see the proposals as a threat to the Internet, the people who know the Web best think that this is a bad idea. If you can stomach it,
read this thread featuring a copyright lobbyist attacking Neil Gaiman, who has been one of the Internet celebrities that have voiced their concerns about the Directive.
copyright experts who almost never intervene in digital rights affairs the have been vocal in their opposition to the changes.
And finally we have political representatives from various parties and backgrounds who have been vocally opposed to the changes. While the leader of the political opposition has been the amazing Julia Reda, she has managed to bring together a
variety of voices from other parties and countries. The vitriol launched at her has been unrelenting, but futile. It has been quite a sight to see her opponents both try to dismiss her as just another clueless young Pirate commanded by Google,
while at the same time they try to portray her as a powerful enemy in charge of the mindless and uninformed online troll masses ready to do her bidding.
All of the above managed to do something wonderful, which was to convey the threat in easy-to-understand terms so that users could contact their representatives and make their voice heard. The level of popular opposition to the Directive has been
a great sight to behold.
Tech giants did not create this alliance, they just gave various voices access to the table. To dismiss this as Google's doing completely ignores the very real and rich tapestry of those defending digital rights, and it is quite clearly
patronising and insulting, and precisely the reason why they lost. It was very late until they finally realised that they were losing the debate with the public, and not even the last-minute deployment of musical dinosaurs could save the day.
But the fight continues, keep contacting your MEPs and keep applying pressure.
So who supported internet censorship in the EU parliamentary vote?
Mostly the EU Conservative Group and also half the Social Democrat MEPs and half the Far Right MEPs
In May, Tanzanian bloggers lost an appeal that had temporarily suspended a new set of regulations granting the country's Communication Regulatory Authority discretionary powers to censor online content.
Officially dubbed the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations, 2018 , the statute requires online content creators -- traditional media websites, online TV and radio channels, but also individual bloggers and podcasters
-- to pay roughly two million Tanzanian shillings (930 US dollars) in registration and licensing fees.
They must store contributors' details for 12 months and have means to identify their sources and disclose financial sponsors. Cyber cafes must install surveillance cameras, and all owners of electronic mobile devices, including phones, have to
protect them with a password. Failure to comply with the regulations -- which also forbid online content that is indecent, annoying, or that leads to public disorder -- will result in a five million Tanzanian shillings (2,202 US dollars) fine, a
jail term of not less than a year or both.
These new regulations are already forcing young content creators--and often poorer ones--offline. For a country like Tanzania, whose GDP per capita is 879 US dollars --and where approximately 70% of the population lives on less than two dollars a
day--the financial burden of these new laws means it is impossible to continue blogging.
Today we're releasing our latest desktop browser Brave 0.23 which features Private Tabs with Tor, a technology for defending against network surveillance. This new functionality, currently in beta, integrates Tor into the browser and gives users
a new browsing mode that helps protect their privacy not only on device but over the network. Private Tabs with Tor help protect Brave users from ISPs (Internet Service Providers), guest Wi-Fi providers, and visited sites that may be watching
their Internet connection or even tracking and collecting IP addresses, a device's Internet identifier.
Private Tabs with Tor are easily accessible from the File menu by clicking New Private Tab with Tor. The integration of Tor into the Brave browser makes enhanced privacy protection conveniently accessible to any Brave user directly within the
browser. At any point in time, a user can have one or more regular tabs, session tabs, private tabs, and Private Tabs with Tor open.
The Brave browser already automatically blocks ads, trackers, cryptocurrency mining scripts, and other threats in order to protect users' privacy and security, and Brave's regular private tabs do not save a user's browsing history or cookies.
Private Tabs with Tor improve user privacy in several ways. It makes it more difficult for anyone in the path of the user's Internet connection (ISPs, employers, or guest Wi-Fi providers such as coffee shops or hotels) to track which websites a
user visits. Also, web destinations can no longer easily identify or track a user arriving via Brave's Private Tabs with Tor by means of their IP address. Users can learn more about how the Tor network works by watching this video.
Private Tabs with Tor default to DuckDuckGo as the search engine, but users have the option to switch to one of Brave's other nineteen search providers. DuckDuckGo does not ever collect or share users' personal information, and welcomes anonymous
users without impacting their search experience 204 unlike Google which challenges anonymous users to prove they are human and makes their search less seamless.
In addition, Brave is contributing back to the Tor network by running Tor relays. We are proud to be adding bandwidth to the Tor network, and intend to add more bandwidth in the coming months.
Instagram has apologised for censoring a photo of two men kissing for violating community guidelines.
The photo - featuring Jordan Bowen and Luca Lucifer - was taken down from photographer Stella Asia Consonni's Instagram.
A spokesperson for the image sharing site regurgitated the usual apology for shoddy censorship saying
This post was removed in error and we are sorry. It has since been reinstated.
The photo was published in i-D magazine as part of a series of photos by Stella exploring modern relationships, which she plans to exhibit later this year. It only reappeared after prominent people in fashion and LGBT+ rights raised awareness
about the removal of the photo.