The Bangladesh and UK governments have started a process to block pornographic websites and stop publication of offensive contents in the countries.
The Bangladesh Telecommunications Division and British Board of Film Censors have formed committees to detect and block websites that contain pornography, vulgar picture and video contents, according to a news agency report.
The committees will
make a three-level technical proposal by listing such websites ad contents within a week, State Minister for Telecommunications Tarana Halim said. The process to block these will start after getting the list and proposal, she said after a meeting on
controlling offensive internet contents at the Secretariat .
A director general of telecoms regulators BTRC will head the committee, which will comprise representatives from National Telecommunication Monitoring Centre (NTMC), internet service
providers (ISPs), mobile-phone operators and law-enforcing agencies. David Austin of the BBFC will spearhead UK censorship efforts.
Tarana said the drive against internet pornography will continue even after blocking the listed porn websites. And
no doubt speaking for the UK too, she said:
The availability of internet pornography and offensive content is creating a negative social impact on all the citizens, including the adolescents.
Russia wants to step up its ability to censor the Internet, and it's turning to China for help. China's Great Firewall is the envy of the Putin regime.
The Russian government recently passed a series of measures known as Yarovaya's laws
that require local telecom companies to store all users' data for six months, and hang on to metadata for three years. And if the authorities ask, companies must provide keys to unlock encrypted communications.
There has been some skepticism as to
whether such laws would -- or even could -- be enforced but earlier this month Russia's internet censor, Roskomnadzor, blocked all public access to LinkedIn.
What's more, it is now clear that Russia has been working with authorities in charge of
censoring the Internet in China to import some aspects of the Great Firewall that have made it so successful. According to the Guardian , the two countries have been in close talks for some time, and the Chinese digital equipment maker Huawei has
been enlisted to help Russian telecom companies build the capacity necessary to comply with Yarovaya's laws.
The Liberal Democrats are to oppose plans to censor internet porn sites in the name of 'protecting the children'. Brian Paddick, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, said:
Liberal Democrats will do everything possible
to ensure that our privacy is not further eroded by this Tory government.
Clamping down on perfectly legal material is something we would expect from the Russian or Chinese governments, not our own. Of course the internet cannot
be an ungoverned space, but banning legal material for consenting adults is not the right approach.
The Internet Service Provider Association has also said moves to force providers to block adult sites that do not age verify has the
potential to significantly harm the digital economy . ISPA chair James Blessing said:
The Digital Economy Bill is all about ensuing the UK continues to be a digital world leader, including in relation to
internet safety. This is why ISPA supported the government's original age verification policy for addressing the problem of underage access of adult sites at source.
Instead of rushing through this significant policy change, we
are calling on government to pause and have a substantive discussion on how any legal and regulatory change will impact the UK's dynamic digital economy and the expectations and rights of UK Internet users.
The Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) is another reprehensible trade agreement seeking to put big corporations ahead of the people when it comes to the law of the land.
Tisa's latest wheeze is to suggest that censorship procedures adopted by social
networks should be granted impunity from criticism, reproach or even legal control via the law of the land.
Under leaked proposals from TiSA, social networks and other online services could be granted legal immunity when censoring any content, as
long as it's deemed harmful or objectionable.
The measure is one of several internet-related proposals being advanced by TiSA, according to a leaked section of the agreement published by Greenpeace and the German digital rights blog
The draft proposal, which is dated September 16, 2013, effectively guarantees online services' ability to censor such content in Europe without needing to accept any legal liability or public accountability--whether that curation is
done by a human or an algorithm.
At a time when there is so much debate about whether Facebook over censors or under censors, or that it somehow controls the thought of zombie masses, gullible to a few lies, enabling the subversion of western
democracy, it seems strange to consider granting the orgnisation impunity from law.
Of course our politicians rather prove how easy it is to overrule rational thinking with a few bullshit claims about how granting big corporations immense power,
will magically right all the wrongs of our failing economies.
In placing the BBFC as official guardians of morality, alternative depictions of sexuality such as that by the growing feminist pornography movement and the BDSM community are threatened. By Vonny Moyes See
article from thenational.scot
Reasons why the government's plan 'to protect children online' is not just dreadful but extremely alarming.
21st November 2016
From a Melon Farmers reader
It's already been announced that the government are to press ahead with their controversial plans to create a huge
database of the all the activities of every internet user in the UK . Every time you visit any website, the time and date and the name of the website will be recorded. There are no exemptions.
system of blanket surveillance has not been used or proposed in any other country.
You might think then, that after such an announcement, they would have been a little muted for a short while in proposing yet more
heavy handed legislation aimed at the internet. Not a bit of it. Now they really seem to have the bit between their teeth and are charging full steam ahead with, if possible, even more draconian powers.
In the 1980's, as a result
of the backlash against video nasties , the government handed complete censorship of all video media to the British Board of Film Censors, now renamed the British Board of Film Classification (because they don't like to be thought of as censors).
A bit like the ministry of propaganda preferred to be called the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell's 1984. Appropriately enough, this bill was made law in 1984.
Now, the latest proposal is to effectively hand censorship of
the entire internet over to the same people!
The argument is that if a website which is unsuitable for children does not have adequate checks in place to verify the users age, the BBFC will be able to block it. This
might sound reasonable in theory but in practice it will culminate in a monstrous invasion of internet freedom and dangers for internet users. Here's why:
Most people know that such controls can be effectively by-passed with use of a proxy servers, or on a phone or tablet a simple app which redirects internet traffic through a secure unfiltered connection. The problem with this is
that it introduces a whole new level of risk and exposure to criminality. Traffic can be routed, without the user knowing, via servers which are known to contain criminal content thus giving the appearance that the user has been accessing child
pornography, terrorist information or other material which could incriminate them.
Amongst the honest firms who run proxy servers there are con-men and criminals waiting to catch the unwary. Ransom demands and other
criminal activity is often the actual business which is sitting behind a link for what appears to be a proxy server. If you don't believe me, please do your own research.
Identification will be a nightmare. Making porn or
other websites take credit or debit card details as a check of age is preposterous. Very few people would want to trust giving their credit or debit card details to a website just to even see what is on it.
It's even been
suggested that these websites could cross check the UK electoral roll. How's that supposed to work? Presumably not so anybody can give the name and address of someone they dislike and that goes down on the government's list of names and addresses of
people who've visited dodgy websites?
The BBFC can not just censor but entirely block any web site that contains anything they disagree with! For example if the site contains anything which they would not allow in a BBFC
certificated video. They would argue that it was their duty . Since a website containing any nudity at all, or discussion of sex, or any other thing which is not suitable for children , should be behind an age protected barrier, this will
allow them to block any web site they wish. If a site with discussion about something which is not suitable for a small child, say in the US or Canada, cannot be bothered to deal with the BBFC, it can simply be blocked completely in the UK if the owners
do not cravenly submit to the demands of a government censor in another country! Not that the websites will probably care, having written off internet users in the UK the same way as they would people who are blocked from access by any other dictatorial
government around the world.
In addition to websites being blocked, if a server contains a small amount of anything which is unsuitable for children, the domain itself, containing many other web sites, can be blocked. Because
most countries in the world are more broad minded and less adamant about state control of what people see than the UK, nobody else will have noticed that UK users are being blocked from access to perfectly normal information just because their domain has
Who is going to pay for this work to be done? The BBFC can currently pay for their video censorship work because the Video Recordings Act requires that by law firms in the UK have no option but to pay their
fees ranging from several thousand pounds for each video submitted.
How do you think the BBFC is going to get on with the owners of foreign websites?
Ah, hello Mr Dirty Website Owner,
this is the BBFC here, we want you to follow our regulations and pay us or fees or I'm afraid I'll have to inform you that her majesty's government will block UK users from access to your website.
Mr Dirty Website
Owner's response is something which you can probably imagine yourself. It probably involves some rather colourful language telling the BBFC where they can stick their regulations and fees.
The government has
already required ISPs to provide filtered child friendly internet connections for anyone who wants it. However, since the population have generally been less than enthusiastic about uptake of filtered internet connections the government has
decided that this is not good enough and so you *will* have a censored internet connection *and like it* even though 70% of households in the UK have no children.
If this truly was a matter of protecting children, then the
problem would lie with the 10 to 15 % of homes with children, where the adults have not switched on the filters. It would be far more sensible to amend the law to require homes where children are present to have the filters switched on. But this just
proves that it *isn't* just a matter of protecting children, what they really want is *total* control, and you don't get that with a opt in scheme. The plan is to censor the internet to the extent that these filtered connections are no longer
Going back to proxy servers again, since this is such an easy way to avoid the censorship, and since, unfortunately, proxy servers allow access to anything, even stuff 99.9% of people really don't want to see, this
will give the government a *perfect excuse* to ban proxy servers as well. And there you have it: TOTAL INTERNET CENSORSHIP. You could probably still download and install a proxy server, but if you are detected using it you could be marched down to the
local police station for questioning, and since there is no excuse to be using a proxy server as they will be illegal, they can assume you were planning a terrorist attack or watching child pornography and throw you in jail. Sorry, I mean detain you in a
cell pending trial, for the public good.
WAKE UP BRITAIN! Please don't allow the control freaks to take over your county. Print this article out, send it to your MP - don't let MPs simply be carried along by misguided nanny state meddling in basic democratic freedom under
the guise of protecting the children . The onus should be on parents to switch on the filters that have already been provided, not treat every adult in the UK as a child.
This proposed legislation is a
continuation of the very slippery slope towards total state surveillance and control which has already been approved. If you don't stand up to this next level of state control, what will they think they can get away with next?
Don't take this warning lightly, unless enough people object they will steamroller ahead with it and you
will loose your freedom. Unless you want your internet to be suitable for a pre school toddler with a vast number of other harmless pages and websites blocked as a result, send this article to your MP now and ask for his or her comments.
Internet freedom around the world declined in 2016 for the sixth consecutive year.
Two-thirds of all internet users -- 67 percent -- live in countries where criticism of the government, military, or
ruling family are subject to censorship.
Social media users face unprecedented penalties, as authorities in 38 countries made arrests based on social media posts over the past year. Globally, 27 percent of all internet users
live in countries where people have been arrested for publishing, sharing, or merely "liking" content on Facebook.
Governments are increasingly going after messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram, which can spread
information quickly and securely.
Internet freedom has declined for the sixth consecutive year, with more governments than ever before targeting social media and communication apps as a means of halting the rapid dissemination of information, particularly during
The increased controls show the importance of social media and online communication for advancing political freedom and social justice. It is no coincidence that the tools at the center of the current
crackdown have been widely used to hold governments accountable and facilitate uncensored conversations. Authorities in several countries have even resorted to shutting down all internet access at politically contentious times, solely to prevent users
from disseminating information through social media and communication apps, with untold social, commercial, and humanitarian consequences.
Some communication apps face restrictions due to their encryption features, which make it
extremely difficult for authorities to obtain user data, even for the legitimate purposes of law enforcement and national security. Online voice and video calling apps like Skype have also come under pressure for more mundane reasons. They are now
restricted in several countries to protect the revenue of national telecommunications firms, as users were turning to the new services instead of making calls through fixed-line or mobile telephony.
Britain's minister of censorship culture has said that the government will move block the vast majority of internet porn, both domestic and foreign.
Culture Secretary Karen Bradley threatened:
We made a promise to keep children
safe from harmful pornographic content online and that is exactly what we are doing. Only adults should be allowed to view such content and we have appointed a regulator, BBFC, to make sure the right age checks are in place to make that happen. If sites
refuse to comply, they should be blocked.
In fulfilling this manifesto commitment and working closely with people like (MPs) Claire Perry and Kit Malthouse who have worked tirelessly on internet safety issues, we are protecting children from the
consequences of harmful content.
The powers will be brought forward in amendments to the Digital Economy Bill later this month.
Porn websites will be allowed to stay open if they adopt onerous age validation but as yet no one
has come up with a solution that is accurate, cheap, convenient and secure enough to be viable. The only currently acceptable method is to allow porn only to those willing to pay with credit cards, (debit cards not allowed). Not only do you have to
go through the hassle of filling in credit card details, you have to trust potentially dodgy foreign websites with your ID information, you have to pay before being able to see what is on offer. Needless to say, the UK adult online trade that has been
subjected to this suffocating censorship regime have been forced to either go bankrupt or go abroad.
The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), will be given powers to make ISPs censor porn sites which do not put age checks in place to make
them inaccessible to children.
On a slightly more positive note The BBFC said any verification mechanism must provide assurances around data protection and it would consider those that already exist and ones currently being developed. It is
understood the government is working with the BBFC to determine the best mechanism that confirms eligibility rather than identifying the user.
The Investigatory Powers Bill (IP Bill) has now been passed by both House of Parliament and is expected to become law within the next few weeks.
Executive Director Jim Killock responded:
The passing of the IP
Bill will have an impact that goes beyond the UK's shores. It is likely that other countries, including authoritarian regimes with poor human rights records, will use this law to justify their own intrusive surveillance powers.
The IP Bill will put into statute the powers and capabilities revealed by Snowden as well as increasing surveillance by the police and other government departments. There will continue to be a lack of privacy protections for international data sharing arrangements with the US. Parliament has also failed to address the implications of the technical integration of GCHQ and the NSA.
While parliamentarians have failed to limit these powers, the Courts may succeed. A ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union, expected next year, may mean that parts of the Bill are shown to be unlawful and need to be
ORG and others will continue to fight this draconian law.
About the IP Bill
In the wake of the Snowden revelations, three separate inquiries called for new surveillance laws in the UK. It
was recognised that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) had failed to limit surveillance and allowed the creation of surveillance programmes without parliamentary debate or assent. In response, the Government published the draft IP Bill in
The IP Bill is a vast piece of legislation that will extend not limit surveillance in the UK. It will mean that:
Internet Service Providers could be obliged to store their customers' web browsing history for a year. The police and government departments will have unprecedented powers to access this data through a search engine that could be used for profiling.
The security services will continue to have powers to collect communications data in bulk.
The police and security services will have new hacking powers.
The security services can access and analyse public and private
databases, even though the majority of data will be held about people who are not suspected of any crimes.
For more information about the Bill and what it means, visit ORG's campaign hub .
The professional social network LinkedIn is the first casualty of a Russian law that requires control of foreign websites via their Russian data being stored on a server located in Russia. This ensures that there is a local access point should the
authorities wish to view the internet activity of Russian users.
LinkedIn's days in Russia are now said to be numbered, after a Moscow court gave the Russian internet censor Roskomnadzor permission to block the professional social network. The company
hasn't moved its servers to Russia, and kept storing information about third parties who are not registered users of the network, thus failing to comply with another section of the new law.
The website will be blocked as soon as Roskomnadzor
receives the reasoning (that accompanies) the court decision, after which LinkedIn will be added to a list of websites refusing to comply with personal data laws,
Russian President Vladimir Putin's Internet advisor German Klimenko told
Kommersant that large companies had enough time to migrate their data. This not only concerns Facebook and Twitter, he added, singling out the social media platforms, which haven't complied with the law so far either, this applies to all
Social network LinkedIn is now set to be blocked today in Russia. The country's internet censor, Roskomnadzor, said
LinkedIn would be unavailable in the country within 24 hours.
Some internet providers have already cut access to the site, which has more than six million members in Russia.
In 2014, Russia introduced legislation requiring social networks
to store the personal data of Russian citizens on Russian web servers. It is the first time the law has been enforced against a US-based social network.
The U.S. government said on Friday it was deeply concerned over Russia's decision to block
public access to networking site LinkedIn, saying it created a precedent that could be used to justify blocking other sites operating in Russia.
Maria Olson, spokeswoman at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, said Washington urged the Russian authorities
to restore access immediately to LinkedIn, and said the restrictions harmed competition and the Russian people.
Yvette Cooper MP is Chair of parliament's Home Affairs Committee. The Committee is today holding a session hearing views about hate crime, including a session specifically on Islamophobia in the coming weeks.
Cooper said in a statement introducing the
No one should ever find themselves targeted by violence or hatred because of the colour of their skin, their religion, gender, sexuality or disability.
Yet we are seeing reports of
rising hate crime linked to political events like the US Presidential Election or the EU referendum - from the terrible murder of a Polish man in Essex, to assaults on young Muslim women on US university campuses.
campaign, and the reports of hate crime in the US since the election, should be a warning to all of us about the dangers of whipping up hatred and prejudice.
In a democracy, political disagreement should never provoke violence,
hatred or discrimination. Campaigners and political leaders have a responsibility to ensure their rhetoric does not inflame prejudice or become a licence for hate crime.
We are concerned by reports of increasing hate crime in
Britain over the last few years, including increasing online threats, harassment and abuse. And we want to examine far right extremism in Britain, and the threat it poses.
We want to look at whether and why hate crimes have
increased, at what can be done to prevent and prosecute hate crime. Victims should have the confidence to know that if they report incidents, they will be taken seriously by the criminal justice system. And because this no longer only happens on the
streets, the Committee will be assessing how social media companies can use their technological capabilities and resources to respond to a tide of hate. Online and offline hate crime can no longer be seen as separate, they are intrinsically linked and
must be tackled together.
Political debate -- in this country and around the world -- should be strong and robust ...BUT... should seek to calm tensions, not inflame them. Free speech is a fundamental right in the UK
and it should be afforded to everyone --free from intimidation and abuse.
Users around the world have been outraged by the European Commission's proposal to require websites to enter into Shadow Regulation agreements with copyright
holders concerning the automatic filtering of user-generated content . This proposal, which some are
calling RoboCopyright and others Europe's #CensorshipMachine , would
require many Internet platforms to integrate content scanning software into their websites to alert copyright holders every time it detected their content being uploaded by a user, without any consideration of the context.
are right to be mad. This is going to result in the wrongful blocking of non-infringing content, such as the fair use dancing baby video . But that's only the start
of it. The European proposal may also require images and text -- not just video -- to be automatically blocked on copyright grounds. Because automated scanning technologies are unable to evaluate the applicability of copyright exceptions, such as fair
use or quotation, this could mean no more image macros , and no more reposting of song lyrics or excerpts from news articles to social media.
scanning technologies are in place, it will also become far easier for repressive regimes around the world to demand that Internet platforms scan and filter content for purposes completely unrelated to copyright enforcement -- such as suppressing
political dissent or enforcing anti-LGBT laws. Even when used as originally intended, these automated tools are also notoriously ineffective, often catching things they shouldn't, and failing to catch things they intend to. These are among the reasons
why this new automatic censorship mechanism would be vulnerable to legal challenge under Europe's Charter of Fundamental Rights, as we explained in our
last post on this topic .
A Filtering Mandate Infringes the Manila
Principles on Intermediary Liability
According to the Manila Principles (emphasis added):
Intermediaries should be shielded
from liability for third-party content
Any rules governing intermediary liability must be provided by laws, which must be precise, clear, and accessible.
Intermediaries should be immune from liability for third-party content in
circumstances where they have not been involved in modifying that content.
Intermediaries must not be held liable for failing to restrict lawful content.
Intermediaries must never be made
strictly liable for hosting unlawful third-party content, nor should they ever be required to monitor content proactively as part of an intermediary liability regime .
Forcing Internet platforms ( i.e ., intermediaries) into private deals with copyright holders to automatically scan and filter user content is, effectively, a requirement to proactively monitor user content. Since
sanctions would apply to intermediaries who refuse to enter into such deals, this amounts to an abridgment of the safe harbor protections that intermediaries
otherwise enjoy under European law . This not only directly contravenes the Manila Principles, but
also Europe's own E-Commerce Directive.
The Manila Principles don't ban proactive monitoring obligations for the sake of the Internet intermediaries; the ban is to protect users. When an Internet platform is required to vet
user-generated content, it has incentive to do so in the cheapest manner possible, to ensure that its service remains viable. This means relying on
error-prone automatic systems that place copyright holders in the position of Chief Censors of the Internet. The proposal also provides no
recourse for users in the inevitable cases where automated scanning goes wrong.
That doesn't mean there should be no way to flag copyright-infringing content online. Most popular platforms already have systems in place that allow
their users to flag content --for copyright infringement or terms of service or community standards violations. In Europe, the United States, and many other countries , the law also requires platform operators to address infringement notices from
copyright owners; even this is the subject of considerable abuse by automated systems . We can expect to
see far more abuse when automated copyright bots are also put in charge of vetting the content that users upload.
Europe's mandatory filtering plans would give far too much power to copyright holders and create onerous new
barriers for Internet platforms that seek to operate in Europe. The automated upload filters would become magnets for abuse -- not only by copyright holders, but also governments and others seeking to inhibit what users create and share online.
If you're in Europe, you can rise up and take action using the write-in tool below, put together by the activists over at OpenMedia. This tool will allow you to send Members of the European Parliament your views on this repressive
proposal, in order to help ensure that it never becomes law.
Spain's ruling Popular Party (PP) has presented a censorship proposal to Congress that could result in the banning of memes, social network users' way of gaining comic revenge on the politicians that rule our lives.
The censorship law will target the
spreading of images that infringe the honour of a person , by demanding that the butt of the joke gives permission for their images to be used in that way
The proposal is a disgraceful attack against the sometimes irreverent humour and
political expression in memes, many of which have poked fun at the PP's leader and conservative prime minister, Mariano Rajoy.
Sources from the PP haves said that the proposal is merely an idea at this stage, and tries to deflect criticism by
noting that it does not censor memes that are non-insulting.
So far the only impact of the reform proposal is to have sparked a fresh wave of memes aimed at Rajoy and the PP government, with dozens of social network users posting new gags
accompanied by the hashtag #SinMemesNoHayDemocracia - no democracy without memes.
China has passed a new internet censorship law mopping up a few more prohibitions somehow overlooked by previous censorship laws.
The legislation takes away the last vestiges of anonymity for China's 710 million internet users, and ensures that
the state has the right to censor certain types of content -- or even shut down large sections of the local internet -- in the name of national security.
Internet users must not engage in such activities as the overturn of the socialist system,
disseminating violent, obscene or sexual information, or disseminating false information to disrupt the economic or social order.
All network operating companies in China will have to store users' logs for six months and pass a
security check if they want to take that data outside national borders. They must also give technical support and assistance to public security organs and state security organs, when preserving national security and investigating crimes.
Thangam Debbonaire, a Labour MP from Bristol proposed a ludicrous amendment to the Digital Economy Bill suggesting that online distributors of porn should be jailed if they were aware, or should have been aware of anybody being coerced in its production.
She also suggested prison time for distributors of films which depict people being forced to perform painful and dangerous acts.
She told the Bristol Post that evidence showed that some people in the adult film industry were forced to do things
that were painful, dangerous and causing long standing damage . Others were being sold into the trade, she claimed.
She acknowledged that there were already laws in place which drew a clear line that having sex with someone
trafficked or coerced was unacceptable . I believe this now needs to be applied to pornography, Debbonaire said. She also asked whether it was time to set-up a censor so that viewers can be sure that they are not watching a sexual assault
taking place on screen.
Culture Minister Matthew Hancock replied to the MP, patronisingly 'praising' her powerful and passionate speech . He said that, while he entirely supported the thrust of the argument , but he believed her
suggestion fell into technical difficulties .
Hancock said many of the restrictions being called for by Debbonaire were covered, or even taken further, by existing legislation , especially the Modern Slavery Act, which was introduced
last year. He also said it could be difficult to prove whether a distributor of online porn knew that someone who featured in one of their films had been trafficked. Hancock added:
I'm concerned that the offence
could be difficult to prosecute.
To show that someone 'knew or should have known' that someone had been exploited could be difficult. It could be quite a tenuous link between those people [the distributor] and the people
responsible for the trafficking themselves.
Debbonaire withdrew the amendment. She told the Post she wanted to highlight the issue of coercion to those who watch pornography.
What I really want is
for the men, and some women, that consume porn to stop and think, what is it that I'm watching? I want people to start thinking and asking questions like, is there a safe way to be involved in the production of porn?
A group of MPs have tabled an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill that would force pornography websites to be blocked by ISPs if they fail to verify the age of their users.
This is the second time such amendments have been suggested. The MPs
involved are Claire Perry, David Burrowes, Fiona Bruce, Derek Thomas, Jeremy Lefroy, Caroline Ansell, Heidi Allen, Andrew Selous, Iain Duncan Smith, Maria Miller, Fiona Mactaggart.
Open Rights Group Executive Director Jim Killock said:
Perhaps these MPs have realised that plans to make all adult websites apply age verification are unworkable as foreign porn sites may simply not comply. They are now suggesting that websites who don't comply should be
blocked -- even though their content is perfectly legal.
While child protection is important, this proposal is disproportionate. Censorship of this kind should be reserved for illegal and harmful content.
We are talking about potentially thousands of websites with legal material being censored, something that is unprecedented in the developed world.
The Digital Economy Bill has proposed that all pornography websites should be forced to verify the age of their users. This has sparked concerns that the privacy of adults could be violated. It is not yet clear how age verification
will be implemented but it could lead to the collection of data on everyone who visits a porn website. This kind of information could be vulnerable to Ashley Madison style data breaches.
The Open Rights Group further commented:
The amendment has been tabled because MPs understand that age verification cannot be imposed upon the entire mostly US-based pornographic industry by the UK alone. In the USA, age verification has been seen by the courts as an infringement on the
right of individuals to receive and impart information. This is unlikely to change, so use of age verification technologies will be limited at best.
However, the attempt to punish websites by blocking them is also a punishment
inflicted on the visitors to these websites. Blocking them is a form of censorship, it is an attempt to restrict access to them for everyone. When material is restricted in this way, it needs to be done for reasons that are both necessary for the goal,
and proportionate to the aim. It has to be effective in order to be proportionate.
The goal is to protect children, although the level of harm has not been established. According to OfCom: More than nine in ten parents in 2015
said they mediated their child's use of the internet in some way, with 96% of parents of 3-4s and 94% of parents of 5-15s using a combination of: regularly talking to their children about managing online risks, using technical tools, supervising their
child, and using rules or restrictions. (1)
70% of households have no children. These factors make the necessity and proportionality of both age verification and censorship quite difficult to establish. This issue affects 30%
of households who can choose to apply filters and use other strategies to keep their children safe online.
It is worth remembering also that the NSPCC and others tend to accept that teenagers are likely to continue to access
pornography despite these measures. They focus their concerns on 9-12 years olds coming across inappropriate material, despite a lack of evidence that there is any volume of these incidents, or that harm has resulted. While it is very important to ensure
that 9-12 year olds are safe online, it seems more practical to focus attention directly on their online environment, for instance through filters and parental intervention, than attempting to make the entire UK Internet conform to standards that are
acceptable for this age group.
That MPs are resorting to proposals for website blocking tells us that the age verification proposals themselves are flawed. MPs should be asking about the costs and privacy impacts, and why such a
lack of thought has gone into this. Finally, they should be asking what they can do to help children through practical education and discussion of the issues surrounding pornography, which will not go away, with or without attempts to restrict access.
The Investigatory Powers Bill is one step closer to becoming law after it was passed by the House of Lords yesterday.
Open Rights Group's Executive Director, Jim Killock, responded:
The UK is
one step closer to having one of the most extreme surveillance laws ever passed in a democracy.
Despite attempts by the Lib Dems and Greens to restrain these draconian powers, the Bill is still a threat to the British public's
right to privacy.
The IP Bill is a comprehensive surveillance law that was drafted after three inquiries highlighted flaws in existing legislation. However, the new Bill fails to restrain mass surveillance by the
police and security services and even extends their powers. Once passed, Internet Service Providers could be obliged to store their customers' web browsing history for a year. The police and government departments will have unprecedented powers to access
this data through a search engine that could be used for profiling. The Bill will also allow the security services to continue to collect communications data in bulk and could see Internet security weakened by allowing mass hacking.