Prager University, a nonprofit that creates educational videos with conservative slants, has filed a lawsuit against YouTube and its
parent company, Google, alleging that the company is censoring its content.
PragerU claims that more than three dozen of its videos have been restricted by YouTube over the past year. As a result, those who browse YouTube in restricted mode -- including many college and high school students -- are prevented from viewing
the content. Furthermore, restricted videos cannot earn any ad revenue.
PragerU says that by limiting access to their videos without a clear reason, YouTube has infringed upon PragerU's First Amendment rights.
YouTube has restricted edgy content in order to protect advertisers' brands. A number of advertisers told Google that they did not want their brand to be associated with edgy content. Google responded by banning all advertising from videos
claimed to contain edgy content. It keeps the brands happy but it has decimated many an online small business.
The Reddit moderators have explained new censorship rules in the following post:
We want to let you know that we have made some updates to our site-wide rules regarding violent content. We did this to alleviate user and moderator confusion about allowable content on the site. We also are making this update so that Reddit's
content policy better reflects our values as a company.
In particular, we found that the policy regarding inciting violence was too vague, and so we have made an effort to adjust it to be more clear and comprehensive. Going forward, we will take action against any content that encourages, glorifies,
incites, or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or a group of people; likewise, we will also take action against content that glorifies or encourages the abuse of animals. This applies to ALL content on Reddit, including
memes, CSS/community styling, flair, subreddit names, and usernames.
We understand that enforcing this policy may often require subjective judgment, so all of the usual caveats apply with regard to content that is newsworthy, artistic, educational, satirical, etc, as mentioned in the policy. Context is key.
Whilst speaking about the Government's recently published Internet Safety Strategy green paper, Suzie Hargreaves of the Internet Watch Foundation
noted upcoming changes to the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS). This is a government run body that includes many members from industry and child protection campaigners. It debates many internet issues about the protection of children
which routinely touches on internet control and censorship. Hargreaves noted that the UKCCIS looks set to expand its remit. She writes:
The Government recognises the work of UKCCIS and wants to align it more closely with the Internet Safety Strategy. Renaming it the UK Council for Internet Safety (UKCIS), the Government is proposing broadening the council's remit to adults,
having a smaller and higher-profile executive board, reconsidering the role of the working groups to ensure that there is flexibility to respond to new issues, looking into an independent panel or working group to discuss the social media levy,
and reviewing available online safety resources.
There was plenty of strong language flying around on Twitter in response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Twitter got a bit
confused about who was harassing who, and ended up suspending Weinstein critic Rose McGowan for harassment. Twitter ended up being boycotted over its wrong call, and so Twitter bosses have been banging their heads together to do something.
Wired has got hold of an email outline an expansion of content liable to Twitter censorship and also for more severe sanctions for errant tweeters. Twitter's head of safety policy wrote of new measures to rolled out in the coming weeks:
Our definition of "non-consensual nudity" is expanding to more broadly include content like upskirt imagery, "creep shots," and hidden camera content. Given that people appearing in this content often do not know the material
exists, we will not require a report from a target in order to remove it.
While we recognize there's an entire genre of pornography dedicated to this type of content, it's nearly impossible for us to distinguish when this content may/may not have been produced and distributed consensually. We would rather error on the
side of protecting victims and removing this type of content when we become aware of it.
Unwanted sexual advances
Pornographic content is generally permitted on Twitter, and it's challenging to know whether or not sexually charged conversations and/or the exchange of sexual media may be wanted. To help infer whether or not a conversation is consensual, we
currently rely on and take enforcement action only if/when we receive a report from a participant in the conversation.
We are going to update the Twitter Rules to make it clear that this type of behavior is unacceptable. We will continue taking enforcement action when we receive a report from someone directly involved in the conversation.
Hate symbols and imagery (new)
We are still defining the exact scope of what will be covered by this policy. At a high level, hateful imagery, hate symbols, etc will now be considered sensitive media (similar to how we handle and enforce adult content and graphic violence).
More details to come.
Violent groups (new)
We are still defining the exact scope of what will be covered by this policy. At a high level, we will take enforcement action against organizations that use/have historically used violence as a means to advance their cause. More details to come
here as well
Tweets that glorify violence (new)
We already take enforcement action against direct violent threats ("I'm going to kill you"), vague violent threats ("Someone should kill you") and wishes/hopes of serious physical harm, death, or disease ("I hope someone
kills you"). Moving forward, we will also take action against content that glorifies ("Praise be to for shooting up. He's a hero!") and/or condones ("Murdering makes sense. That way they won't be a drain on social
services"). More details to come.
Offsite Article: Changes to the way that 'sensitive' content is defined and blocked from Twitter search
Facebook and Google, along with other online publishers, may soon be required in the US to disclose funding for paid political ads.
Two US senators, Amy Klobuchar and Mark Warner, proposed a bill called The Honest Ads Act to extend the funding disclosure requirements for political ads on TV, radio, and in print, to online ads. Similar legislation is expected to be introduced
in the US House of Representatives.
Under these disclosure requirements, traditional media has to produce and reveal lists identifying organizations that have bought political adverts. If the Honest Ads Act is passed into law, top online sites, from Facebook to Twitter, will fall
under these requirements, too.
The bill is an attempt to respond to Russian efforts to influence the 2016 Presidential Election through social media.
Facebook , Google , and Twitter have all said they sold politically-oriented ads to accounts linked to Russia. Facebook has characterized the ads it sold as amplifying divisive social and political messages.
If the bill becomes law, the rules would require digital platforms averaging 50 million monthly viewers to maintain a public list of political ads purchased by a person or organization spending more than $500 cumulatively on such ads, on a
per-platform basis. And it would direct digital platforms to make all reasonable efforts to prevent foreign individuals and organizations from purchasing domestic political ads.
Article 13: Monitoring and filtering of internet content is unacceptable. Index on Censorship joined with 56 other NGOs to call for the deletion of Article
13 from the proposal on the Digital Single Market, which includes obligations on internet companies that would be impossible to respect without the imposition of excessive restrictions on citizens' fundamental rights.
Dear President Juncker,
Dear President Tajani,
Dear President Tusk,
Dear Prime Minister Ratas,
Dear Prime Minister Borissov,
Dear MEP Voss, MEP Boni
The undersigned stakeholders represent fundamental rights organisations.
Fundamental rights, justice and the rule of law are intrinsically linked and constitute core values on which the EU is founded. Any attempt to disregard these values undermines the mutual trust between member states required for the EU to
function. Any such attempt would also undermine the commitments made by the European Union and national governments to their citizens.
Article 13 of the proposal on Copyright in the Digital Single Market include obligations on internet companies that would be impossible to respect without the imposition of excessive restrictions on citizens' fundamental rights.
Article 13 introduces new obligations on internet service providers that share and store user-generated content, such as video or photo-sharing platforms or even creative writing websites, including obligations to filter uploads to their services.
Article 13 appears to provoke such legal uncertainty that online services will have no other option than to monitor, filter and block EU citizens' communications if they are to have any chance of staying in business.
Article 13 contradicts existing rules and the case law of the Court of Justice. The Directive of Electronic Commerce ( 2000/31/EC) regulates the liability for those internet companies that host content on behalf of their users. According to
the existing rules, there is an obligation to remove any content that breaches copyright rules, once this has been notified to the provider.
Article 13 would force these companies to actively monitor their users' content, which contradicts the 'no general obligation to monitor' rules in the Electronic Commerce Directive. The requirement to install a system for filtering electronic
communications has twice been rejected by the Court of Justice, in the cases Scarlet Extended ( C 70/10) and Netlog/Sabam (C 360/10). Therefore, a legislative provision that requires internet companies to install a filtering system would
almost certainly be rejected by the Court of Justice because it would contravene the requirement that a fair balance be struck between the right to intellectual property on the one hand, and the freedom to conduct business and the right to freedom
of expression, such as to receive or impart information, on the other.
In particular, the requirement to filter content in this way would violate the freedom of expression set out in Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. If internet companies are required to apply filtering mechanisms in order to
avoid possible liability, they will. This will lead to excessive filtering and deletion of content and limit the freedom to impart information on the one hand, and the freedom to receive information on the other.
If EU legislation conflicts with the Charter of Fundamental Rights, national constitutional courts are likely to be tempted to disapply it and we can expect such a rule to be annulled by the Court of Justice. This is what happened with the
Data Retention Directive (2006/24/EC), when EU legislators ignored compatibility problems with the Charter of Fundamental Rights. In 2014, the Court of Justice declared the Data Retention Directive invalid because it violated the Charter.
Taking into consideration these arguments, we ask the relevant policy-makers to delete Article 13.
European Digital Rights (EDRi)
Associação D3 -- Defesa dos Direitos Digitais
Associação Nacional para o Software Livre (ANSOL)
Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
Association for Technology and Internet (ApTI)
Association of the Defence of Human Rights in Romania (APADOR)
Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC)
Bits of Freedom (BoF)
Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT)
Centre for Peace Studies
Coalizione Italiana Liberta@ e Diritti Civili (CILD)
Code for Croatia
Culture Action Europe
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
Estonian Human Rights Centre
Freedom of the Press Foundation
Frënn vun der Ënn
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights
Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights
Human Rights Monitoring Institute
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Without Frontiers
Hungarian Civil Liberties Union
Index on Censorship
International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR)
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
Justice & Peace
La Quadrature du Net
Media Development Centre
Miklos Haraszti (Former OSCE Media Representative)
Modern Poland Foundation
Netherlands Helsinki Committee
One World Platform
Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI)
Open Rights Group (ORG)
Plataforma en Defensa de la Libertad de Información (PDLI)
Reporters without Borders (RSF)
Rights International Spain
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
South East European Network for Professionalization of Media (SEENPM)
The Right to Know Coalition of Nova Scotia (RTKNS)
After several days of radio silence, VPN provider PureVPN has responded to criticism that it provided information which helped the
FBI catch a cyberstalker. In a fairly lengthy post, the company reiterates that it never logs user activity. What it does do, however, is log both the real and assigned 'anonymous' IP addresses of users accessing its service.
In a fairly lengthy statement, PureVPN begins by confirming that it definitely doesn't log what websites a user views or what content he or she downloads. However, that's only half the problem. While it doesn't log user activity (what sites people
visit or content they download), it does log the IP addresses that customers use to access the PureVPN service. These, given the right circumstances, can be matched to external activities thanks to logs carried by other web companies.
If for instance a user accesses a website of interest to the authorities, then that website, or various ISPs involved in the route can see the IP address doing the accessing. And if they look it up, they will find that it belongs to PureVPN. They
would then ask PureVPN to identify the real IP address of the user who was assigned the observed PureVPN IP address at the time it was observed.
Now, if PureVPN carried no logs -- literally no logs -- it would not be able to help with this kind of inquiry. That was the case last year when the FBI approached Private Internet Access for information and the company was unable to assist .
But in this case, PureVPN does keep the records of who was assigned each IP address and when, and so the user can be readily identified (albeit with the help of the user's ISP too).
It is for this reason that in TorrentFreak's annual summary of no-logging VPN providers , the very first question we ask every single company reads as follows:
Do you keep ANY logs which would allow you to match an IP-address and a time stamp to a user/users of your service? If so, what information do you hold and for how long?
Clearly, if a company says yes we log incoming IP addresses and associated timestamps, any claim to total user anonymity is ended right there and then.
While not completely useless (a logging service will still stop the prying eyes of ISPs and similar surveillance, while also defeating throttling and site-blocking), if you're a whistle-blower with a job or even your life to protect, this level
of protection is entirely inadequate.
At EFF, we see endless attempts
to misuse copyright law in order to silence content that a person dislikes. Copyright law is sadly less protective of speech than other speech regulations like defamation, so plaintiffs are motivated to find ways to turn many kinds of disputes
into issues of copyright law. Yesterday, a federal appeals court rejected one such ploy: an attempt to use copyright to get rid of a negative review.
The website Ripoff Report hosts criticism of a variety of professionals and companies, who doubtless would prefer that those critiques not exist. In order to protect platforms for speech like Ripoff Report, federal law sets a very high bar for
private litigants to collect damages or obtain censorship orders against them. The gaping exception to this protection is intellectual property claims, including copyright, for which a lesser protection applies.
One aggrieved professional named Goren (and his company) went to court to get a negative review taken down from Ripoff Report. If Goren had relied on a defamation claim alone, the strong protection of CDA 230 would protect Ripoff Report. But Goren
sought to circumvent that protection by getting a court order seizing ownership of the copyright from its author for himself, then suing Ripoff Report's owner for copyright infringement. We
filed a brief
explaining several reasons why his claims should fail, and urging the court to prevent the use of copyright as a pretense for suppressing speech.
Fortunately, the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit agreed that Ripoff Report is not liable. It ruled on a narrow basis, pointing out that the person who originally posted the review on Ripoff Report gave the site's owners irrevocable
permission to host that content. Therefore, continuing to host it could not be an infringement, even if Goren did own the copyright.
Goren paid the price for his improper assertion of copyright here: the appeals court upheld an award of over $100,000 in attorneys' fees. The award of fees in a case like this is important both because it deters improper assertion of copyright,
and because it helps compensate defendants who choose to litigate rather than settling for nuisance value simply to avoid the expense of defending their rights.
We're glad the First Circuit acted to limit the ways that private entities can censor speech online.
This summer, the Egyptian government started to block access to news websites. At last count, it had blocked more than 400 websites.
Realising that citizens are using Virtual Private Network (VPN) services to bypass such censorship, the government also started to block access to VPN websites.
In addition to this, ISPs have started using deep packet inspection (DPI) techniques in order to identify and block VPN traffic. Egypt blocked the Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) and Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) VPN protocols in
August. However, until now OpenVPN, worked fine. This allowed ordinary Egyptians to access the uncensored internet.
On 3 October, however, the situation changed. It was reported on reddit that Egypt has now blocked OpenVPN as well. It seems that ISPs are using DPI techniques to detect OpenVPN packets.
Leila has two identities, but Facebook is only supposed to know about one of them.
Leila is a sex worker. She goes to great lengths to keep separate identities for ordinary life and for sex work, to avoid stigma, arrest, professional blowback, or clients who might be stalkers (or worse).
Her "real identity"--the public one, who lives in California, uses an academic email address, and posts about politics--joined Facebook in 2011. Her sex-work identity is not on the social network at all; for it, she uses a different
email address, a different phone number, and a different name. Yet earlier this year, looking at Facebook's "People You May Know" recommendations, Leila (a name I'm using using in place of either of the names she uses) was shocked to see
some of her regular sex-work clients.
Despite the fact that she'd only given Facebook information from her vanilla identity, the company had somehow discerned her real-world connection to these people--and, even more horrifyingly, her account was potentially being presented to them as
a friend suggestion too, outing her regular identity to them.
Because Facebook insists on concealing the methods and data it uses to link one user to another, Leila is not able to find out how the network exposed her or take steps to prevent it from happening again.
Social media companies look set to be hit with a new tax to pay for schemes to raise people's awareness of the dangers
of the internet and to tackle what the government considers their worst effects.
Web firms will have a chance to give their views on the levy being proposed by Culture Secretary Karen Bradley in a public consultation.
Among the options proposed in Bradley's internet safety green paper is an industry-wide levy so social media companies and service providers fund schemes that raise awareness and counter internet harms.
The Independent understands that the Government is interested to see what action the private sector takes first -- with a voluntary funded approach possible -- before imposing any new levy on firms.
Offsite Analysis: For the forthcoming 'Digital Charter'
Broadly speaking the new paper , which will help to form a foundation for the Government's forthcoming Digital Charter , doesn't include much that would concern internet access (broadband) providers. Instead it appears to be predominantly focused
upon internet content providers (e.g. social networks like Facebook).
The EU is considering forcing websites to vet uploaded content for pirated material. Of course only the media giants have the capability to do this and so the smaller players would be killed (probably as intended)
If you've been following the slow progress of the European Commission's proposal to introduce new
upload filtering mandates for Internet platforms
, or its equally misguided plans to impose a new link tax
on those who publish snippets from news stories, you should know that the end game is close at hand. The LIBE (Civil Liberties) Committee is the last committee of the European Parliament that is due to vote on its opinion on the so-called
"Digital Single Market" proposals this Thursday October 5, before the proposals return to their home committee of the Parliament (the JURI or Legal Affairs Committee) for the preparation of a final draft.
The Confused Thinking Behind the Upload Filtering Mandate
The Commission's rationale for the upload filtering mandate seems to be that in order to address unwelcome behavior online (in this case, copyright infringement), you have to not only make that behavior illegal, but you also have to make it impossible
. The same rationale also underpins other similar notice and stay-down schemes, such as one that already
exists in Italy
; they are meant to stop would-be copyright infringement in its tracks by preventing presumptively-infringing material from being uploaded to begin with, thereby preventing it from being downloaded by anyone else.
But this kind of prior restraint on speech or behavior isn't commonly applied to citizens in any other area of their lives. You car isn't speed-limited so that it's impossible for you to exceed the speed limit. Neither does your telephone contain
a bugging device that makes it impossible for you to slander your neighbor. Why is copyright treated so differently, that it requires not only that actual infringements be dealt with (Europe's existing DMCA-like
notice and takedown system
already provides for this), but that predicted future infringements also be prevented?
More importantly, what about the rights of those whose uploaded content is flagged as being copyright-infringing, when it really isn't? The European Commission's own research, in a commissioned report that they
attempted to bury
, suggests that the harm to copyright holders from copyright infringement is much less than has been often assumed. At the very least, this has to give us pause before adopting new extreme copyright enforcement measures that will impact users'
Even leaving aside the human impact of the upload filter, European policymakers should also be concerned about the impact of the mandate on small businesses and startups. A market-leading tool required to implement upload filtering just for
audio files would cost a medium-sized file hosting company between $10,000 to $25,000 per month in license fees
alone. In the name of copyright enforcement, European policymakers would give a market advantage to entrenched large companies at the expense of smaller local companies and startups.
The Link Tax Proposal is Also Confused
The link tax proposal is also based on a false premise. But if you are expecting some kind of doctrinally sound legal argument for why a new link-tax ought to inhere in news publishers, you will be sorely disappointed. Purely and simply, the
proposal is founded on the premise that because news organizations are struggling to maintain their revenues in the post-millennial digital media space, and because Internet platforms are doing comparatively better, it is politically expedient
that the latter industry be made to subsidize the former. There's nothing more coherent behind this proposal than that kind of base realpolitik.
But the proposal doesn't even work on that level. In fact, we agree that news publishers are struggling. We just don't think that taxing those who publish snippets of news articles will do anything to help them. Indeed, the fact that
small news publishers have rejected the link tax proposal
, and that previous implementations of the link tax in Spain and Germany were dismal failures
, tells you all that you need to know about whether taxing links would really be good for journalism.
So as these two misguided and harmful proposals make their way through the LIBE committee this week, it's time to call an end to this nonsense. Digital rights group OpenMedia has launched a click-to-call tool that you can use, available in
, and Polish
. If you're a European citizen, the tool will call your representative on the LIBE committee, and if you don't have an MEP, it calls the committee chair, Claude Moraes. As the counter clicks closer to midnight on these regressive and cynical
copyright measures, it's more important than ever for individual users like you to be heard.
11th October 2017. From OpenMedia
With only 48 hours notice we received word that the vote had been delayed. Why? The content censorship measures have become so controversial that MEPs decided that they needed more work to improve them, before they would be ready to go vote.
There's never been a better time to call your MEP about these rules. This week they are back in their offices and ready to start thinking with a fresh head. The delay means we have even more time to say no to content censorship, and no to the Link
Tax. With so many people speaking up, it's clear our opponents are rattled. Now we must keep up the pressure.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd has announced a new national hub to tackle online hate crime.
It will be run by police officers for the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) with the aim of ensuring that online cases are managed effectively and efficiently.
The hub will receive complaints through Truevision, the police website for reporting hate crime, following which they will be assessed and assigned to the local force for investigation. Specialist officers will provide case management and support
and advice to victims of online hate crime.
Its functions will include combining duplicate reports, trying to identify perpetrators, referring appropriate cases to online platforms hosting relevant content, providing evidence for local recording and response, and updating the complainant on
progress. It will also provide intelligence to the National Intelligence Model, the police database that gathers intelligence on a range of crimes.
The Home Office said the hub will ensure all online cases are properly investigated and will help to increase prosecutions for online hate crimes. It should also simplify processes and help to prevent any duplication in investigations.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said:
The national online hate crime hub that we are funding is an important step to ensure more victims have the confidence to come forward and report the vile abuse to which they are being subjected.
The hub will also improve our understanding of the scale and nature of this despicable form of abuse. With the police, we will use this new intelligence to adapt our response so that even more victims are safeguarded and perpetrators punished.
The hub is expected to be operational before the end of the year.
The trouble with politicians claiming that censorship is the answer, is that when the censorship inevitably fails to solve the problem, they can never admit fallibility, and so their only answer is to censor more
Home secretary Amber Rudd used her keynote speech at the Conservative party conference in Manchester to announce new laws,
which would see anyone caught repeatedly watching extremist content on the internet to face up to 15 years jail.
At present laws prohibiting material that could be useful to terrorists only apply to hardcopy or downloaded material . They do not apply to material that is not actually in one's possession.
Security and digital rights experts have dumped on the home secretary's proposal for the new laws, calling the move incredibly dangerous. Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group, said:
This is incredibly dangerous. Journalists, anti-terror campaigns and others may need to view extremist content, regularly and frequently.
People tempted towards extremism may fear discussing what they have read or seen with anyone in authority. Even potential informants may be dissuaded from coming forward because they are already criminalised.
Martha Spurrier, director of Liberty, said:
This shocking proposal would make thoughtcrime a reality in the UK. Blurring the boundary between thought and action like this undermines the bedrock principles of our criminal justice system and will criminalise journalists, academics and many
other innocent people.
We have a vast number of laws to tackle terror. The Government's own reviewer of terror legislation Max Hill QC has said repeatedly that we need fewer, not more. A responsible Home Secretary would listen to the evidence -- not grandstand for
cheap political points at the expense of our fundamental freedoms.
In terms of how people would be identified -- it's hard for us to say without seeing more detail about the proposals. It's likely identifying people would mean intrusive surveillance measures like those in the Investigatory Powers Act. In terms
of enforceability -- it's likely to be really difficult because so many people will be caught up who have a legitimate reason and will then run that defence.
Shashank Joshi, a research fellow at the security think tank RUSI, told BuzzFeed News that Rudd's proposal lacked specific detail and ran the risk of criminalising parts of some newspapers:
The risk is that [Rudd] runs into the same problems as her predecessor, Theresa May, did in 2015, when she sought to ban 'extremism', Joshi said. These are broad and nebulous terms, and they require very careful definition in order to avoid
curbing legitimate free speech.
Otherwise we would risk criminalising some of the material that appears in certain mainstream newspaper columns.
Amber Rudd also decided to bang on about prohibiting encryption, even rather haplessly admitting that she did not understand who it worked.
Again campaigners were not impressed. Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group, noted:
Amber Rudd needs to be realistic and clear about what she wants. It is no better saying she wishes to deny criminals the use of encryption than to say she wishes to deny them access to gravity. And if she succeeds in pushing them off major
platforms, terrorists may end up being harder to detect.
Lib Dem Ed Davey also weighed in:
Encryption keeps us all secure online. It allows businesses to operate and thrive securely. Any weakening of encryption will ultimately make us all less safe. For if you weaken encryption, you run the risk of letting in the bad guys
But this Conservative government can only see things in black and white -- ignoring the realities of technology. The Home Secretary's key note speech called on tech giants to work together and, with government, to take down extremist content
faster than ever before. My party completely support her in that mission. The only way we will defeat this scourge is to band together -- exchange information, invest in new technologies and present a united front.
The ruthless efficiency with which the Spanish government censored the Internet ahead of the referendum on Catalonian independence foreshadowed the
severity of its crackdown at polling places on October 1 . We have previously written about one aspect of that censorship; the raid of the .cat top-level domain registry . But there was much more to it than that, and many of the more than 140
censored domains and Internet services continue to be blocked today.
It began with the seizure of the referendum.cat domain, the official referendum website, on September 13 by the Guardia Civil (Spanish military police), pursuant to a warrant issued by the Supreme Court of Catalonia. Over the ensuring days this
order was soon extended to a number of other and unofficial mirrors of the website, such as ref1oct.cat , ref1oct.eu , which were seized if they were hosted at a .cat domain, and blocked by ISPs if they were not. (The fact that Spanish ISPs
already blocked websites such as the Pirate Bay under court order enabled the blocking of additional websites to be rolled out swiftly.)
One of these subsequent censorship orders, issued on September 23 , was especially notable in that it empowered the Guardia Civil to block not only a list of named websites, but also any future sites with content related to content about the
referendum, publicized on any social network by a member of the Catalonian Government. This order accelerated the blocking of further websites without any further court order. These apparently included the censorship of non-partisan citizen
collectives (e.g. empaperem.cat ) and other non-profit organizations ( assemblea.cat , webdelsi.cat , alerta.cat ), and campaign websites by legal political parties ( prenpartit.cat ).
On Friday a separate court order was obtained requiring Google to remove a voting app from the Google Play app store. Similar to the September 23 order, the order also required Google to remove any other apps developed by the same developer. Those
violating such orders by setting up mirrors, reverse proxies, or alternative domains for blocked content were summoned to court and face criminal charges . One of these activists also had his GitHub and Google accounts seized.
On the day of the referendum itself, the Internet was shut down at polling places in an effort to prevent votes from being transmitted to returning officers.
Throughout this unrest, a group of activists sharing the Twitter account @censura1oct has been verifying the blocks from multiple ISPs, and sharing information about the technical measures used. All of the censorship measures that were put in
place in the leadup to the referendum appear to remain in place today, though we don't know for how much longer. The Spanish government no doubt hopes that its repression of political speech in Catalonia will be forgotten if the censored sites
come back online quickly. We need to ensure that that isn't the case.
The Spanish government's censorship of online speech during the Catalonian referendum period is so wildly disproportionate and overbroad, that its violation of these instruments seems almost beyond dispute.
Germany's new internet censorship law came into force on 1st October. The law nominally targets 'hate speech', but massively high penalties coupled
with ridiculously short time scales allowed to consider the issues, mean that the law ensures that anything the authorities don't like will have to be immediately censored...just in case.
Passed earlier this summer, the law will financially penalize social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, if they don't remove hate speech, as per its definition in Germany's current criminal code within 24 hours. They will be
allowed up to a week to decide for comments that don't fall into the blatant hate speech category. The top fine for not deleting hate speech within 24 hours is 50 million euro though that would be for repeatedly breaking the law, not for
Journalists, lawyers, and free-speech advocates have been voicing their concerns about the new law for months. They say that, to avoid fines, Facebook and others will err on the side of caution and just delete swathes of comments, including ones
that are not illegal. They worry that social media platforms are being given the power to police and effectively shut down people's right to free opinion and free speech in Germany.
The German Journalists Association (DJV) is calling on journalists and media organizations to start documenting all deletions of their posts on social media as of today. The borders of free speech must not be allowed to be drawn by profit-driven
businesses, said DJV chairman Frank 3cberall in a recent statement.
Reporters Without Borders also expressed their strong opposition to the law when it was drafted in May, saying it would contribute to the trend to privatize censorship by delegating the duties of judges to commercial online platforms -- as if the
internet giants can replace independent and impartial courts.
In a glass tower in a trendy part of China's eastern city of Tianjin, hundreds of young people sit in front of computer screens, scouring the internet for videos and messages that run counter to Communist Party doctrine