Reporters Without Borders takes note of a report in today's South China Morning Post revealing that leading foreign social networks and news websites will be accessible in the Shanghai free trade zone that is to be inaugurated at the end of the month.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a government source told the newspaper that, as an experiment, the authorities were on the point of allowing access to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter and the New York Times website in the Shanghai
business district of Pudong, where the free trade zone will be located.
Reporters Without Borders said:
By taking this decision, the Chinese government is acknowledging that Internet censorship is bad for
business. We regret that this lifting of censorship will apply to just a limited part of the country and that the reasons behind it are purely economic.
Targeted mainly at foreigners, this measure will probably not benefit the
Chinese population. It should be extended to all Chinese Internet users, who are now the victims of discrimination in access to information.
As in the Hong Kong free trade zone, the Chinese authorities want the Shanghai free trade
zone to attract foreign telecommunications companies that will offer their Internet connection services to companies based in the zone. The restrictions on Internet access are being lifted with the chief aim of attracting additional foreign investment,
and the measure will apply only to an area of some 30 square kilometres centred on Pudong.
Update: Just a rumour. Censorship continues unabated
China's regime doesn't want visitors reading The New York Times after all, even in the free trade zone.
The People's Daily is disputing those initial reports, insisting that internet management measures inside the Shanghai zone will be
identical to those elsewhere in China. The state-run media outlet also emphasized that the government plans to clamp down on any pornography, gambling, drugs, and smuggling within the Shanghai free trade zone, according to The Register.
Labour MP Tom Watson spoke out at the Labour Conference to criticise Ed Miliband, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and the rest of Parliament for turning a blind eye to the explosive growth in the power of the surveillance state
Speaking in the light
of a summer of revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden about the Internet surveillance programmes of British and American intelligence, he said:
We're living in the most closed system of liberal democracy in the
Western world. We have the most unaccountable intelligence services.
Parliamentary scrutiny hasn't just failed. It doesn't exist.
I can't think what any party leader has said about this. That's an absolute
disgrace. This is a callous denial of our freedom.
I have no faith in the Intelligence and Security Committee [which is charged with overseeing the UK intelligence agencies]. I hope Parliamentarians say we're not going to take it
We have to say we're not going to put up with this and build a cross-party coalition to make the intelligence services accountable for once and for all and provide oversight of a surveillance state running amok.
He was speaking at a fringe event hosted by campaign groups Open Rights Group and Big Brother Watch.
Also speaking was Paul Johnson, the Deputy Editor of The Guardian who has orchestrated their coverage of the Edward Snowden
revelations. He talked about:
The most surreal 36 hours I've ever had as a journalist where, on the orders of GCHQ, we bought masks and anglegrinders...to destroy the material [that they had from Edward Snowden].
We told them two weeks earlier it was already in New York. The whole thing was surreal. It was an entirely bizarre moment. It illustrates at heart that the British Government doesn't believe this story should have been written.
Javier Ruiz, Campaigns Director of Open Rights Group called for the start of a movement against mass surveillance:
This isn't just the responsibility of political parties. We really need to look at a
political solution that involves citizens, government and private companies.
Nick Pickles - Director of Big Brother Watch, told the audience:
How we govern data isn't fit for the Internet age.
Parliament need to drag the intelligence agencies into the open. Secrecy cannot be justified to simply prevent embarrassment. We've been telling the world to do one thing while doing a completely different thing ourselves.
Google plans to control YouTube comments by tying them to G+ accounts and incorporating algorithms such that friends comments will be displayed first and celebrity comments will be more prominent than those from riff raff
All internet connections to Sudan were cut off abruptly on Wednesday afternoon, after riots erupted in northern Khartoum over the ending of fuel subsidies.
The move to cut connections appears to have been done by the government to prevent protesters
using social media to organise riots.
Protests broke out after the Sudanese government removed fuel subsidies, with several petrol stations and a university building set on fire, Reuters reported. Security forces fired teargas to disperse dozens
of protesters who have demonstrated and set fire to a police station in Khartoum. The protests have gone on for three days after Sudan's Council of Ministers decided to stop the subsidies. That caused an immediate doubling in the price of fuel.
Offsite: Sudan blacks out internet to hide brutal suppression of protests
A House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee report has condemned Google's failure to adequately respond to the issue of online piracy and its refusal to block infringing websites on the grounds they might also carry legal
material. Citing the recent successful prosecution of a streaming site admin, the committee also calls for punishment in such cases to be extended to 10 years imprisonment.
During the last couple of years media industry companies have heavily
criticized Google for linking to copyright-infringing material in its search results.
Google has responded by removing many millions of links but apparently that's just not enough. In the past couple of weeks the world's largest search engine has
become a punching bag for the music and movie industries and today they find themselves battered again, this time by a British House of Commons report.
The reports finds many targets for criticism but begins with a swipe at the UK's leading
Internet rights groups. Open Rights Group
The relationship between the strength of Britain's creative industries and robust copyright laws is acknowledged by the Open Rights Group which aims radically to liberalise the
use and sharing of copyrighted content.
While we share the Open Rights Group's attachment to freedom of expression via the internet, we firmly repudiate their laissez-faire attitudes towards copyright infringement.
The report goes on to mention the creation of a new City of London Police unit dedicated to cracking down on intellectual property crime and reveals that a first-of-its-kind conference is being planned to bring players from across the
world to London to discuss enforcement issues.
But inevitably the big guns were turned on the messenger. Google in the firing line again
The Committee begins by quoting Google itself, who at the time were removing around 9 million URLs
from its indexes every month at the request of copyright holders. This was countered with information provided by the BPI who said that despite Google's alleged algorithm changes, the instances of infringing sites turning up in the top 10 results had
fallen only marginally, from 63% in August 2012 to 61% a year later. Clearly the Committee are unimpressed. The report states:
We strongly condemn the failure of Google, notable among technology companies, to provide
an adequate response to creative industry requests to prevent its search engine directing consumers to copyright-infringing websites.
We are unimpressed by their evident reluctance to block infringing websites on the flimsy
grounds that some operate under the cover of hosting some legal content. The continuing promotion by search engines of illegal content on the internet is unacceptable. So far, their attempts to remedy this have been derisorily ineffective.
We do not believe it to be beyond the wit of the engineers employed by Google and others to demote and, ideally, remove copyright infringing material from search engine results. Google co-operates with law enforcement agencies to
block child pornographic content from search results and it has provided no coherent, responsible answer as to why it cannot do the same for sites which blatantly, and illegally, offer pirated content.
We recommend that the
maximum penalty for serious online copyright theft be extended to ten years' imprisonment. Criminal offences in the online world should attract the same penalties as those provided for the physical world by the Copyright, etc. and Trade Marks (Offences
and Enforcement) Act 2002.
Finally the report criticizes the delay in implementing the controversial Digital Economy Act, stalled now for the best part of three years. In particular, the issuing of warning notices to infringers should
come sooner rather than later.
We recommend that a copyright infringement notification system envisaged by the Digital Economy Act be implemented with far greater speed than the Government currently plans. By targeting
information letters to the worst infringers, early implementation will, we believe, serve an important educative purpose which could percolate more widely.
Overall the Committee's report is a fairly disappointing and unimaginative piece of work. They offer a view of copyright that is too simplistic, one-sided and which effectively tries to reduce the debate to whether you like the creative industries or
not. They thus ignore the wider impact of new technology on citizens as creators and participants in culture, and on how markets for cultural goods can now function most effectively.
ASA get pedantic about whether under 15s are playing a football game based on guesses about appeal to children, assumptions about children's bedtimes, and whether people accurately report their age to Facebook
An in-game ad for the film The Purge , which appeared in the game app Real Football 2013 , included various scenes of violence. At one point a group of people carrying weapons approached a house, and a man's voice said, Anybody tries
to come in, you blast them. Towards the end of the ad, the man told a woman Everything is gonna be OK. She replied tearfully, Nothing is going to be OK.
A complainant challenged whether the ad was irresponsible,
because it appeared on an app that might be played by children.
Assessment: Complaint not upheld
The ASA considered that the themes of violence and fear contained in the ad were likely to cause distress
to young and early teenage children, and that care was therefore needed to ensure responsible targeting. We understood that the same ad had received a post-9 pm restriction when it was cleared for broadcast on TV, and that Universal Pictures had asked
their media agency to target those aged 15- to 24-years when placing the ad. We were satisfied that the content of the ad would be suitable for audiences aged 15 and over, and considered that Universal Pictures should have taken steps to ensure that the
ad was targeted as far as reasonably possible to that age group.
The complainant reported the ad having been served to their seven-year-old son at around 9 pm, whilst he was playing the game Real Football 2013 . Whilst we
noted Universal Pictures' views on the content of Real Football 2013 , and acknowledged that the game was not explicitly targeted at children, we considered that the type of strategic gameplay described was likely to appeal to some children, and
particularly teenagers interested in football. We also noted that the figures provided by Gameloft, which indicated a high proportion of users aged 18+, were based only on those users who connected the game to their Facebook accounts and relied on
accurate self-reporting of age to that site. We therefore considered that the audience composition data provided for Real Football 2013 , whilst it suggested that the proportion of users aged under 15 was likely to be relatively low, was not in
itself sufficient to demonstrate responsible targeting of the ad.
We understood, however, that the ad had been served on a time-targeted basis, meaning that it would not be shown to users before 8 pm or after 6 am. Gameloft had
subsequently extended the restriction to begin at 9 pm. We considered that showing the ad only after 9 pm was likely to successfully minimise the risk of children aged under 15 seeing it, and that the 9 pm to 6 am time-targeting was therefore sufficient
to ensure responsible delivery of the ad. Although we welcomed Gameloft's subsequent decision to ensure the ad was not shown earlier than 9 pm, because the complaint related to a particular instance of the ad having been shown at 9 pm, we concluded that
it had not on that occasion been inappropriately targeted and was not irresponsible.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code rules 1.3 (Responsible advertising) and 4.2 (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.
for background I looked up typical bedtimes for children. The consensus is that teenagers 12+ need 8 or 9 hours sleep per night, and hence typical bedtimes are likely to be 10 to 11pm. It looks likely that a 9pm restriction will not do much to minimise
viewing by 12-14 year olds. It's not like the TV watershed where 9pm is a also a marker to warn parents that programmes might not be suitable, even when the kids are still up for a couple of hours. There is no similar convention for games that warns
parents that games after 9pm may have 15 rated ads served]
ATVOD publishes determinations that 10 adult video on demand services had breached statutory rules requiring UK video on demand providers to keep hardcore pornographic content out of reach of children and announces summit with financial industry
on blocking payments to non-UK porn services which fail to protect children
The findings by the Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD) bring to almost 30 the number of porn operators against whom the regulator has acted over the past two years.
The 10 online video on demand services - Absolute Cruelty, Belted by Beauty, Bitch Slapped, CFNM, CMNM, Frankie and Friends, Jessica Pressley, The British Institution, The Casting Room and Young Dommes -- were held to be in breach of a statutory
rule which requires that material which might seriously impair under 18's can only be made available if access is blocked to children.
The ten services offered any user access to explicit hardcore porn videos which could be viewed on-demand. Yet
the content of the videos was equivalent to that which could be sold only to adults in licensed sex shops if supplied on DVD.
The services each broke the statutory rules in two ways. Firstly, they allowed any visitor free, unrestricted access to
hardcore pornographic or BDSM video promos/trailers or still images featuring real sex in explicit detail or strong BDSM activity. Secondly, access to the full videos was open to any visitor who paid a fee. As the services accepted commonplace payment
methods -- such as debit cards -- which can be used by under 18's,
[ATVOD don't mention the fact that it is almost impossible to run a business that cannot accept commonplace payment systems, and cannot show the products
that they are selling before purchase. Who's going to risk giving credit card details to a porn website that you can't see. It would be a scammers charter].
ATVOD counsels against complacency as most websites which allow UK children to
access hardcore pornography operate from outside the UK and therefore fall outside ATVOD's remit.
ATVOD notes that Crown Prosecution Service guidance on the Obscene Publications Act makes clear that non-UK websites which offer unrestricted access
to hardcore pornography and which can be accessed from the UK are likely to be considered to be operating in breach of UK law. Such websites offer free content as a shop window to attract subscriptions mainly paid by credit and debit card. ATVOD
has therefore questioned whether it can be right for businesses which are likely to be operating illegally to draw revenues from UK bank and credit card accounts.
[But this legal argument relies on under 18's being
depraved and corrupted by viewing hardcore porn. All campaigners seem to insist that massive amounts of children access porn, yet the vast majority are clearly neither depraved nor corrupt, nor seriously harmed for that matter.]
raised this issue directly with those involved in facilitating such payments and is holding a summit with the UK Cards Association, the Payments Council, the British Bankers' Association, and leading payment scheme operators on 10 October to discuss how
the financial industry's response to the problem might evolve.
The latest ATVOD victims, with full text of the ATVOD determinations are:
Australian broadcaster, ABC, says it is protesting a Facebook decision to censor a Reuters image from its latest #Knowthestory marketing campaign because it features a naked man.
ABC managing director Mark Scott tweeted the censored image which
shows a naked man facing riot police protesting against harsh Greek budget cuts in 2012.
An ABC spokesperson said the public broadcaster has asked Facebook to reverse its decision:
The ABC stands by the image in
the #knowthestory ABC News campaign, an ABC spokesperson said. We acknowledge some people might find the image a bit cheeky but we believe it is a powerful and legitimate news image and feedback indicates that Australians are indeed interested to
The ABC is disappointed with Facebook and are continuing to ask them to reverse their decision.
Facebook's rules ban nudity unless they embarrassed by publicity, in which case nudity is fine.
China has unveiled repressive new measures to stop the spread of what the government calls irresponsible rumours, threatening offenders with three years in jail if untrue posts online are widely reposted, drawing an angry response from Chinese internet
China is in the middle of yet another crackdown on what it terms online rumours , as the government tries to further repress social media and the discussion of politics.
According to a judicial interpretation issued by China's
top court and prosecutor, people will be charged with defamation if online rumours they create are visited by 5,000 internet users or reposted more than 500 times. That could lead to three years in jail.
Users of China's popular Twitter-like Sina
Weibo microblogging site expressed anger about the new rules. It's far too easy for something to be reposted 500 times or get 5,000 views. Who is going to dare say anything now? wrote one Weibo user.
Cuban artist Erik Ravelo's latest project is a personal artwork, unrelated to his career as a creative director at Benetton, has managed to outrage the easily offended.
I had people writing me, threatening me, he said in a phone
conversation with the Huffington Post. At first the project was fun but it got a little out of hand.
Los Intocables, which translates to The Untouchables, is what Ravelo refers to as a human installation, featuring a
variety of issues plaguing children around the world. Several works features both a child and an adult posed to demonstrate a contemporary evil, whether it be gun violence, molestation or the threat of nuclear war. Each work features a child being
crucified on the back of an adult, each scene attempting to tell a different story about the loss of innocence.
The human sculptures are then photographed with the child's face blurred, resulting in images as visually jarring as they are
conceptually saddening. It's art, it's communication, Ravelo explained.
Facebook obligingly have censored Ravelo's project. Halting his likes at 18,000, he has been prevented from uploading more images. I am used to governmental
censorship from Cuba but with this, he paused, my first reaction was 'woah.'
Nominet has launched a review of its registration policy for .uk domain names. The scope of the review focuses on whether there should be restrictions on the words and expressions permitted in .uk domain name registrations.
Nominet currently has
an open policy on domain registrations since 1996, which has played a key role in promoting a dynamic and open internet in the UK.
However, concerns over this approach have been raised by an internet safety commentator and subsequently reported in
the Daily Mail. Nominet was also contacted by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in relation to this issue and are keeping them informed of our actions.
The review is to be independently chaired by former Director of Public Prosecutions
Ken Macdonald QC.
Lord Macdonald will work with Nominet's policy team to conduct a series of meetings with key stakeholders, and to review and assess wider contributions from the internet community, which should be received by 4 November 2013. The
goal is to deliver a report to Nominet's board in December of this year, which will be published shortly thereafter.
Nominet are now seeking contributions from the public via this
online form in relation to this policy review.
Max Mosley was famously the victim of a spectacular 2008 sting by News of the World which posted photos and video of him participating in a sadomasochistic sex party that the paper described as a sick Nazi orgy with hookers.
The High Court
ruled that there was no evidence that the sex party had been intended to be an enactment of Nazi behavior or adoption of any of its attitudes. It also found that there had been no public interest or other justification for the
The court ordered News of the World to remove the material in question from its Web site, naturally, and there the story might have ended. Except, of course, that the photos and video continue to live on the Internet,
via social media and on Web sites maintained by individuals.
Although initially deserving of sympathy for the intrusion, Mosley has been calling for the repressive censorship of the internet in his vindictive quest to get the genie put back in the
Mosley has asked a Paris court during the past week to order Google to create an algorithm to somehow censor all such photos from its service and search engine, now and forever. His lawyer told the court, the Tribunal de Grande Instance,
that if Google France refused to remove the offending images it should face fines.
Google responded in a statement, noting that it had always honoured his requests to remove links to material that obviously violated the High Court order:
We sympathize with Mr. Mosley's situation, But his proposal to filter the Web would censor legitimate speech, restrict access to information, and stifle innovation.
Google noted that there was already a
solution to the problem: Going after the actual publishers of the material, and working with Google through our existing and effective removals process.
The French court said it would issue a ruling on Oct. 21. Mosley has filed a similar
case in Hamburg that is to be heard this month.
Australia's Coalition has made a couple of last minute changes of mind about its internet censorship policy.
Under a last-minute plan, which was not accompanied by any press release or announcement, Australian mobile phone and ISPs would be required
to censor adult content on the internet unless users opt out.
But by Thursday evening, the Coalition's communications spokesman, Malcolm Turnbull, announced the policy had been changed so that users would opt in if they wanted websites to
All I can say to you is mistakes happen. As soon as I became aware of the policy having been released in the form it was I took steps to
The opting in to website blocking policy had received the tick of approval from Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and other senior Liberals before being released, but was apparently misunderstood by those who first presented
The ISP TalkTalk has told education minister Sarah Teather that the government should downplay its focus on pornography blocking and try to stop suicide sites instead, the Guardian learned.
In a meeting with Teather, who as an MP led a campaign
against the sexualisation of children, TalkTalk chief executive Dido Harding said:
Suicide is more important to parents than porn, so why mandate [filters against] porn and not suicide?
notes from the meeting in May 2012, released under a Freedom of Information request, Harding said that the government's plan to make users choose whether to opt in or out of being able to access sites designated as porn would be ineffective.
David Cameron has said that he wants to see ISPs being more proactive over pornography. But a source at one ISP criticised Cameron's overt focus on pornography and claimed politicians and the media are absolutely obsessed with it .
TalkTalk spokesperson said suicide was the most commonly blocked subject matter by customers using its Homesafe content filtering software, followed by self-harm, pornography, weapons and violence in that order.
By 2010, suicide had become the
single biggest caused of death for those aged 15-49 in the developed world, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
India's Supreme Court has ordered the government to take steps to block porn sites and has granted four weeks to produce a plan.
The court was hearing a petition filed by the morality campaigner Kamlesh Vaswani who claimed that although watching
obscene videos is not an offence, pornographic sites should be banned as they are one of the major causes for crime against women.
The petition alleged that over 20 crore porn videos or clippings are freely available in the market, which are
directly been downloaded through Internet or other video CDs.
The sexual content that kids are accessing today is far more graphic, violent, brutal, deviant and destructive and has put entire society in danger so also
safety threats to public order in India.
The petitioner most respectfully submits that most of the offences committed against women/girls/children are fuelled by pornography. The worrying issue is the severity and gravity of the
images are increasing. It is a matter of serious concern that prepubescent children are being raped.
The petition also asked that watching and sharing obscene videos should be made non-bailable and cognisable offence.
A repressive law banning Vietnamese online users from discussing current affairs has come into effect.
The decree, known as Decree 72, says blogs and social websites should not be used to share news articles, but only personal information. It also
prohibits the online publication of material that opposes the Vietnamese government or harms national security .
The law also requires foreign internet companies to keep their local servers inside Vietnam.
It has been widely
criticised by internet companies and human rights groups, as well as the US government. Last month the US embassy in Hanoi said it was deeply concerned by the decree's provisions , arguing that fundamental freedoms apply online just as they do
The Asia Internet Coalition, an industry group that represents companies including Google and Facebook, said the move would stifle innovation and discourage businesses from operating in Vietnam .