Banning of porn sites with strict terms of service in a disservice to the people of India and will only lead people to go to risky porn sites that may contain illegal content. By Corey Price, VP of Pornhub
We are Google employees. Google must drop Dragonfly.
We are Google employees and we join Amnesty International in calling on Google to cancel project Dragonfly, Google's effort to create a censored search engine for the Chinese market that enables state surveillance.
We are among thousands of employees who have raised our voices for months. International human rights organizations and investigative reporters have also sounded the alarm, emphasizing serious human rights concerns and repeatedly calling on
Google to cancel the project. So far, our leadership's response has been unsatisfactory.
Our opposition to Dragonfly is not about China: we object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be. The Chinese government certainly isn't alone in its readiness to stifle freedom of expression, and
to use surveillance to repress dissent. Dragonfly in China would establish a dangerous precedent at a volatile political moment, one that would make it harder for Google to deny other countries similar concessions.
Our company's decision comes as the Chinese government is openly expanding its surveillance powers and tools of population control. Many of these rely on advanced technologies, and combine online activity, personal records, and mass monitoring to
track and profile citizens. Reports are already showing who bears the cost, including Uyghurs, women's rights advocates, and students. Providing the Chinese government with ready access to user data, as required by Chinese law, would make Google
complicit in oppression and human rights abuses.
Dragonfly would also enable censorship and government-directed disinformation, and destabilize the ground truth on which popular deliberation and dissent rely. Given the Chinese government's reported suppression of dissident voices, such controls
would likely be used to silence marginalized people, and favor information that promotes government interests.
Many of us accepted employment at Google with the company's values in mind, including its previous position on Chinese censorship and surveillance, and an understanding that Google was a company willing to place its values above its profits.
After a year of disappointments including Project Maven, Dragonfly, and Google's support for abusers, we no longer believe this is the case. This is why we're taking a stand.
We join with Amnesty International in demanding that Google cancel Dragonfly. We also demand that leadership commit to transparency, clear communication, and real accountability. Google is too powerful not to be held accountable. We deserve to
know what we're building and we deserve a say in these significant decisions.
The Australian Parliament has passed controversial amendments to copyright law. There will now be a tightened site-blocking regime that will tackle mirrors and proxies more effectively, restrict the appearance of blocked sites in Google
search, and introduce the possibility of blocking dual-use cyberlocker type sites.
Section 115a of Australia's Copyright Act allows copyright holders to apply for injunctions to force ISPs to prevent subscribers from accessing pirate sites. While rightsholders say that it's been effective to a point, they have lobbied hard for
The resulting Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2018 contained proposals to close the loopholes. After receiving endorsement from the Senate earlier this week, the legislation was today approved by Parliament.
Once the legislation comes into force, proxy and mirror sites that appear after an injunction against a pirate site has been granted can be blocked by ISPs without the parties having to return to court. Assurances have been given, however, that
the court will retain some oversight.
Search engines, such as Google and Bing, will also be affected. Accused of providing backdoor access to sites that have already been blocked, search providers will now have to remove or demote links to overseas-based infringing sites, along with
their proxies and mirrors.
The Australian Government will review the effectiveness of the new amendments in two years' time.
Russia's state censors have formally accused Google of breaking the law by not removing links to websites that are banned in the country.
Roskomnadzor, the state communications censor, said in a statement that the company had not connected to a database of banned sources in the country, leaving it out of compliance.
The potential penalty that Google could face is currently 700,000 roubles, or about $10,000. But Reuters reports that the Russian government has been considering more drastic actions, including fining companies up to 1 percent of annual revenue
for failing to comply with similar laws.
Deadnaming and misgendering could now get you a suspension from Twitter as it looks to sure up its safeguarding policy for people in the protected transgender category.
Twitter's recently updated censorship policy now reads:
Repeated and/or non-consensual slurs, epithets, racist and sexist tropes, or other content that degrades someone
We prohibit targeting individuals with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to dehumanize, degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category. This includes targeted misgendering or deadnaming of
According to the Ofxord English dictionary misgendering means:
Refer to (someone, especially a transgender person) using a word, especially a pronoun or form of address, that does not correctly reflect the gender with which they identify.
According to thegayuk.com:
Deadnaming is when a person refers to someone by a previous name, it could be done with malice or by accident. It mostly affects transgender people who have changed their name during their transition.
The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) calls on the European Commission to reconsider proposed legislation on E-Privacy. This is important because if the proposal is enshrined in law, it will potentially have a direct impact on the tech companies'
ability to scan their networks for illegal online child sexual abuse images and videos.
Under Article 5 of the proposed E-Privacy legislation, people would have more control over their personal data. As currently drafted, Article 5 proposes that tech companies would require the consent of the end user (for example, the person
receiving an email or message), to scan their networks for known child sexual abuse content. Put simply, this would mean that unless an offender agreed for their communications to be scanned, technology companies would no longer be able to do
Susie Hargreaves of the IWF says:
At a time when IWF are taking down more images and videos of child sexual abuse, we are deeply concerned by this move. Essentially, this proposed new law could put the privacy rights of offenders, ahead of the rights of children - children who
have been unfortunate enough to be the victim of child sexual abuse and who have had the imagery of their suffering shared online.
We believe that tech companies' ability to scan their networks, using PhotoDNA and other forms of technology, for known child sexual abuse content, is vital to the battle to rid the internet of this disturbing material.
It is remarkable that the EU is pursuing this particular detail in new legislation, which would effectively enhance the rights of possible 'offenders', at a time when the UK Home Secretary is calling on tech companies to do more to protect
children from these crimes. The only way to stop this ill-considered action, is for national governments to call for amendments to the legislation, before it's too late. This is what is in the best interests of the child victims of this
France's parliament has passed a new law empowering judges to order the immediate censorahip of 'fake news' during election campaigns.
The law, conceived by President Emmanuel Macron, was rejected twice by the senate before being passed by the parliament on Tuesday. It is considered western Europe's first attempt to officially ban material claimed to be fake.
Candidates and political parties will now be able to appeal to a judge to censor information claimed to be false during the three months before an election.
The law also allows the CSA, the French national TV censor, to suspend television channels controlled by a foreign state or under the influence of that state if they deliberately disseminate false information claimed likely to affect the ballot.
The law also states that users must be provided with information that is fair, clear and transparent on how their personal data is being used.
The website of an adult video game featuring sexualised animals has been hacked, with the information of nearly half a million subscribers stolen.
High Tail Hall is a customisable role-playing game, which features what the website describes as sexy furry characters, including buxom zebras and scantily clad lionesses.
The compromised information, including email addresses, names and order histories, resurfaced on a popular hacking forum a few months later. HTH Studio has acknowledged the breach and say that it has been fixed. The company added:
Both our internal security and web team security assures us that no financial data was compromised. The security of our users is the highest priority.
It further recommended that all users change their passwords. So although credit card data is safe users are still at risk from identity fraud, outing and blackmail.
It is the latest in a long series of hacks aimed at adult sites and demonstrates the dangers for UK porn viewers when they are forced to supply identity information to be able to browse the adult web.
The likes of Facebook and Twitter should fund the creation of a new UK watchdog to internet censor to police fake news, censorship campaigners have claimed.
Sounding like a religious morality campaign, the LSE Commission on Truth, Trust and Technology , a group made up of MPs, academics and industry, also proposed the Government should scrap plans to hand fresh powers to existing cesnors such
as Ofcom and the Information Commissioner.
The campaigners argue for the creation a new body to monitor the effectiveness of technology companies' self regulation. The body, which would be called the Independent Platform Agency, would provide a permanent forum for monitoring and
cesnorsing the behaviour of online sites and produce an annual review of the state of disinformation, the group said.
Damian Tambini, adviser to the LSE commission and associate professor in LSE's department of media and communications, claimed:
Parliament, led by the Government, must take action to ensure that we have the information and institutions we need to respond to the information crisis. If we fail to build transparency and trust through independent institutions we could see
the creeping securitisation of our media system.
Despite being blocked in China, Twitter and other overseas social media sites have long been used freely by Chinese activists and government critics to speak about otherwise censored topics...until now.
China is now extending its reach to foreign sites outside of its borders. Chinese authorities have launched a stealth crackdown over the past year.
Chinese activists and other Twitter users say they have been pressured by police to delete sensitive tweets. In some cases, Chinese authorities are getting access to delete accounts themselves.
Last Friday, Cao reported that the Twitter account of Wu Gan, a Chinese activist sentenced last December to eight years in prison for subversion, had been suddenly deleted -- erasing more than 30,000 posts representing years of political critique
and commentary. He was taken in by police over tweets critical of the Communist Party. After being held at a police station overnight, the user was made to hand over login information and watch police delete the tweets.
Mark Zuckerberg has been publishing a series of articles ddressing the most important issues facing Facebook. This is the second in the series. Here are a few selected extracts
The team responsible for setting these policies is global -- based in more than 10 offices across six countries to reflect the different cultural norms of our community. Many of them have devoted their careers to issues like child safety, hate
speech, and terrorism, including as human rights lawyers or criminal prosecutors.
Our policy process involves regularly getting input from outside experts and organizations to ensure we understand the different perspectives that exist on free expression and safety, as well as the impacts of our policies on different
communities globally. Every few weeks, the team runs a meeting to discuss potential changes to our policies based on new research or data. For each change the team gets outside input -- and we've also invited academics and journalists to join
this meeting to understand this process. Starting today, we will also publish minutes of these meetings to increase transparency and accountability.
The team responsible for enforcing these policies is made up of around 30,000 people, including content reviewers who speak almost every language widely used in the world. We have offices in many time zones to ensure we can respond to reports
quickly. We invest heavily in training and support for every person and team. In total, they review more than two million pieces of content every day. We issue a transparency report with a more detailed breakdown of the content we take down.
For most of our history, the content review process has been very reactive and manual -- with people reporting content they have found problematic, and then our team reviewing that content. This approach has enabled us to remove a lot of harmful
content, but it has major limits in that we can't remove harmful content before people see it, or that people do not report.
Accuracy is also an important issue. Our reviewers work hard to enforce our policies, but many of the judgements require nuance and exceptions. For example, our Community Standards prohibit most nudity, but we make an exception for imagery that
is historically significant. We don't allow the sale of regulated goods like firearms, but it can be hard to distinguish those from images of paintball or toy guns. As you get into hate speech and bullying, linguistic nuances get even harder --
like understanding when someone is condemning a racial slur as opposed to using it to attack others. On top of these issues, while computers are consistent at highly repetitive tasks, people are not always as consistent in their judgements.
The vast majority of mistakes we make are due to errors enforcing the nuances of our policies rather than disagreements about what those policies should actually be. Today, depending on the type of content, our review teams make the wrong call in
more than 1 out of every 10 cases.
Proactively Identifying Harmful Content
The single most important improvement in enforcing our policies is using artificial intelligence to proactively report potentially problematic content to our team of reviewers, and in some cases to take action on the content automatically as
This approach helps us identify and remove a much larger percent of the harmful content -- and we can often remove it faster, before anyone even sees it rather than waiting until it has been reported.
Moving from reactive to proactive handling of content at scale has only started to become possible recently because of advances in artificial intelligence -- and because of the multi-billion dollar annual investments we can now fund. To be clear,
the state of the art in AI is still not sufficient to handle these challenges on its own. So we use computers for what they're good at -- making basic judgements on large amounts of content quickly -- and we rely on people for making more complex
and nuanced judgements that require deeper expertise.
In training our AI systems, we've generally prioritized proactively detecting content related to the most real world harm. For example, we prioritized removing terrorist content -- and now 99% of the terrorist content we remove is flagged by our
systems before anyone on our services reports it to us. We currently have a team of more than 200 people working on counter-terrorism specifically.
Some categories of harmful content are easier for AI to identify, and in others it takes more time to train our systems. For example, visual problems, like identifying nudity, are often easier than nuanced linguistic challenges, like hate speech.
Our systems already proactively identify 96% of the nudity we take down, up from just close to zero a few years ago. We are also making progress on hate speech, now with 52% identified proactively. This work will require further advances in
technology as well as hiring more language experts to get to the levels we need.
In the past year, we have prioritized identifying people and content related to spreading hate in countries with crises like Myanmar. We were too slow to get started here, but in the third quarter of 2018, we proactively identified about 63% of
the hate speech we removed in Myanmar, up from just 13% in the last quarter of 2017. This is the result of investments we've made in both technology and people. By the end of this year, we will have at least 100 Burmese language experts reviewing
Discouraging Borderline Content
One of the biggest issues social networks face is that, when left unchecked, people will engage disproportionately with more sensationalist and provocative content. This is not a new phenomenon. It is widespread on cable news today and has been a
staple of tabloids for more than a century. At scale it can undermine the quality of public discourse and lead to polarization. In our case, it can also degrade the quality of our services.
ur research suggests that no matter where we draw the lines for what is allowed, as a piece of content gets close to that line, people will engage with it more on average -- even when they tell us afterwards they don't like the content.
This is a basic incentive problem that we can address by penalizing borderline content so it gets less distribution and engagement. By making the distribution curve look like the graph below where distribution declines as content gets more
sensational, people are disincentivized from creating provocative content that is as close to the line as possible.
The category we're most focused on is click-bait and misinformation. People consistently tell us these types of content make our services worse -- even though they engage with them. As I mentioned above, the most effective way to stop the spread
of misinformation is to remove the fake accounts that generate it. The next most effective strategy is reducing its distribution and virality.
Interestingly, our research has found that this natural pattern of borderline content getting more engagement applies not only to news but to almost every category of content. For example, photos close to the line of nudity, like with revealing
clothing or sexually suggestive positions, got more engagement on average before we changed the distribution curve to discourage this. The same goes for posts that don't come within our definition of hate speech but are still offensive.
This pattern may apply to the groups people join and pages they follow as well. This is especially important to address because while social networks in general expose people to more diverse views, and while groups in general encourage inclusion
and acceptance, divisive groups and pages can still fuel polarization. To manage this, we need to apply these distribution changes not only to feed ranking but to all of our recommendation systems for things you should join.
One common reaction is that rather than reducing distribution, we should simply move the line defining what is acceptable. In some cases this is worth considering, but it's important to remember that won't address the underlying incentive
problem, which is often the bigger issue. This engagement pattern seems to exist no matter where we draw the lines, so we need to change this incentive and not just remove content.
Building an Appeals Process
Any system that operates at scale will make errors, so how we handle those errors is important. This matters both for ensuring we're not mistakenly stifling people's voices or failing to keep people safe, and also for building a sense of
legitimacy in the way we handle enforcement and community governance.
We began rolling out our content appeals process this year. We started by allowing you to appeal decisions that resulted in your content being taken down. Next we're working to expand this so you can appeal any decision on a report you filed as
well. We're also working to provide more transparency into how policies were either violated or not.
The closed-door trilogue efforts to finalise the EU Copyright Directive continue. The Presidency of the Council, currently held by Austria, has now circulated among the EU member state governments a new proposal for a compromise between the
differing drafts currently on the table for the controversial Articles 11 and 13.
Under this latest proposal, both upload filters and the link tax would be here to stay -- with some changes for the better, and others for the worse.
Let's recall: In its final position, the European Parliament had tried its utmost to avoid specifically mentioning upload filters, in order to avoid the massive public criticism of that measure. The text they ended up with, however, was even
worse: It would make online platforms inescapably liable for any and all copyright infringement by their users, no matter what action they take. Not even the strictest upload filter in the world could possibly hope to catch 100% of unlicensed
This is what prompted YouTube's latest lobbying efforts in favour of upload filters and against the EP's proposal of inescapable liability. Many have mistaken this as lobbying against Article 13 as a whole -- it is not. In Monday's Financial
Times, YouTube spelled out that they would be quite happy with a law that forces everyone else to build (or, presumably, license from them) what they already have in place: Upload filters like Content ID.
In this latest draft, the Council Presidency sides with YouTube, going back to rather explicitly prescribing upload filters. The Council proposes two alternative options on how to phrase that requirement, but they match in effect:
Platforms are liable for all copyright infringements committed by their users, EXCEPT if they
cooperate with rightholders
by implementing effective and proportionate steps to prevent works they've been informed about from ever going online determining which steps those are must take into account suitable and effective technologies
Under this text, wherever upload filters are possible, they must be implemented: All your uploads will require prior approval by error-prone copyright bots .
On the good side, the Council Presidency seems open to adopting the Parliament's exception for platforms run by small and micro businesses . It also takes on board the EP's better-worded exception for open source code sharing platforms like
On the bad side, Council rejects Parliament's efforts for a stronger complaint mechanism requiring reviews by humans and an independent conflict resolution body. Instead it takes on board the EP's insistence that licenses taken out by a platform
don't even have to necessarily cover uses of these works by the users of that platform. So, for example, even if YouTube takes out a license to show a movie trailer, that license could still prevent you as an individual YouTuber from using that
trailer in your own uploads.
Article 11 Link tax
On the link tax, the Council is mostly sticking to its position: It wants the requirement to license even short snippets of news articles to last for one year after an article's publication, rather than five, as the Parliament proposed.
In a positive development, the Council Presidency adopts the EP's clarification that at least the facts included in news articles as such should not be protected. So a journalist would be allowed to report on what they read in another news
article, in their own words.
Council fails to clearly exclude hyperlinks -- even those that aren't accompanied by snippets from the article. It's not uncommon for the URLs of news articles themselves to include the article's headline. While the Council wants to exclude
insubstantial parts of articles from requiring a license, it's not certain that headlines count as insubstantial. (The Council's clause allowing acts of hyperlinking when they do not constitute communication to the public would not apply to such
cases, since reproducing the headline would in fact constitute such a communication to the public.)
The Council continues to want the right to only apply to EU-based news sources -- which could in effect mean fewer links and listings in search engines, social networks and aggregators for European sites, putting them at a global disadvantage.
However, it also proposes spelling out that news sites may give out free licenses if they so choose -- contrary to the Parliament, which stated that listing an article in a search engine should not be considered sufficient payment for reproducing
snippets from it.
The French President, Emmanuel Macron has announced a plan to effectively embed French state censors with Facebook to learn more about how to better censor the platform. He announced a six-month partnership with Facebook aimed at figuring out how
the European country should police hate speech on the social network.
As part of the cooperation both sides plan to meet regularly between now and May, when the European election is due to be held. They will focus on how the French government and Facebook can work together to censor content deemed 'harmful'.
It's a pilot program of a more structured engagement with the French government so that both sides can better understand the other's challenges in dealing with the issue of hate speech online. The program will allow a team of regulators, chosen
by the Elysee, to familiarize [itself] with the tools and processes set up by Facebook to fight against hate speech. The working group will not be based in one location but will travel to different Facebook facilities around the world, with
likely visits to Dublin and California. The purpose of this program is to enable regulators to better understand Facebook's tools and policies to combat hate speech and, for Facebook, to better understand the needs of regulators.
Pornographic Websites: Age Verification - Question
House of Lords on 5th November 2018 .
Baroness Benjamin Liberal Democrat
To ask Her Majesty 's Government what will be the commencement date for their plans to ensure that age-verification to prevent children accessing pornographic websites is implemented by the British Board of Film Classification .
Lord Ashton of Hyde The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
My Lords, we are now in the final stages of the process, and we have laid the BBFC 's draft guidance and the Online Pornography (Commercial Basis) Regulations before Parliament for approval. We will ensure that there is a sufficient period
following parliamentary approval for the public and the industry to prepare for age verification. Once parliamentary proceedings have concluded, we will set a date by which commercial pornography websites will need to be compliant, following an
implementation window. We expect that this date will be early in the new year.
I thank the Minister for his Answer. I cannot wait for that date to happen, but does he share my disgust and horror that social media companies such as Twitter state that their minimum age for membership is 13 yet make no attempt to restrict some
of the most gross forms of pornography being exchanged via their platforms? Unfortunately, the Digital Economy Act does not affect these companies because they are not predominantly commercial porn publishers. Does he agree that the BBFC needs to
develop mechanisms to evaluate the effectiveness of the legislation for restricting children's access to pornography via social media sites and put a stop to this unacceptable behaviour?
Lord Ashton of Hyde
My Lords, I agree that there are areas of concern on social media sites. As the noble Baroness rightly says, they are not covered by the Digital Economy Act . We had many hours of discussion about that in this House. However, she will be aware
that we are producing an online harms White Paper in the winter in which some of these issues will be considered. If necessary, legislation will be brought forward to address these, and not only these but other harms too. I agree that the BBFC
should find out about the effectiveness of the limited amount that age verification can do; it will commission research on that. Also, the Digital Economy Act itself made sure that the Secretary of State must review its effectiveness within 12 to
Lord Griffiths of Burry Port Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Wales)
My Lords, once again I find this issue raising a dynamic that we became familiar with in the only too recent past. The Government are to be congratulated on getting the Act on to the statute book and, indeed, on taking measures to identify a
regulator as well as to indicate that secondary legislation will be brought forward to implement a number of the provisions of the Act. My worry is that, under one section of the Digital Economy Act , financial penalties can be imposed on those
who infringe this need; the Government seem to have decided not to bring that provision into force at this time. I believe I can anticipate the Minister 's answer but--in view of the little drama we had last week over fixed-odds betting
machines--we would not want the Government, having won our applause in this way, to slip back into putting things off or modifying things away from the position that we had all agreed we wanted.
Lord Ashton of Hyde
My Lords, I completely understand where the noble Lord is coming from but what he said is not quite right. The Digital Economy Act included a power that the Government could bring enforcement with financial penalties through a regulator. However,
they decided--and this House decided--not to use that for the time being. For the moment, the regulator will act in a different way. But later on, if necessary, the Secretary of State could exercise that power. On timing and FOBTs, we thought
carefully--as noble Lords can imagine--before we said that we expect the date will be early in the new year,
Lord Addington Liberal Democrat
My Lords, does the Minister agree that good health and sex education might be a way to counter some of the damaging effects? Can the Government make sure that is in place as soon as possible, so that this strange fantasy world is made slightly
Lord Ashton of Hyde
The noble Lord is of course right that age verification itself is not the only answer. It does not cover every possibility of getting on to a pornography site. However, it is the first attempt of its kind in the world, which is why not only we
but many other countries are looking at it. I agree that sex education in schools is very important and I believe it is being brought into the national curriculum already.
The Earl of Erroll Crossbench
Why is there so much wriggle room in section 6 of the guidance from the DCMS to the AV regulator? The ISP blocking probably will not work, because everyone will just get out of it. If we bring this into disrepute then the good guys, who would
like to comply, probably will not; they will not be able to do so economically. All that was covered in British Standard PAS 1296, which was developed over three years. It seems to have been totally ignored by the DCMS. You have spent an awful
lot of time getting there, but you have not got there.
Lord Ashton of Hyde
One of the reasons this has taken so long is that it is complicated. We in the DCMS , and many others, not least in this House, have spent a long time discussing the best way of achieving this. I am not immediately familiar with exactly what
section 6 says, but when the statutory instrument comes before this House--it is an affirmative one to be discussed--I will have the answer ready for the noble Earl.
Lord West of Spithead Labour
My Lords, does the Minister not agree that the possession of a biometric card by the population would make the implementation of things such as this very much easier?
Lord Ashton of Hyde
In some ways it would, but there are problems with people who either do not want to or cannot have biometric cards.
Following the conclusion of their consultation period, the BBFC have issued new age verification guidance that has been laid before Parliament. It is unclear why, if the government now recognises that privacy protections
like this are needed, the government would also leave the requirements as voluntary.
The new code has some important improvements, notably the introduction of a voluntary scheme for privacy, close to or based on a GDPR Code of Conduct. This is a good idea, but should not be put in place as a voluntary
arrangement. Companies may not want the attention of a regulator, or may simply wish to apply lower or different standards, and ignore it. It is unclear why, if the government now recognises that privacy protections like this are needed, the
government would also leave the requirements as voluntary.
We are also concerned that the voluntary scheme may not be up and running before the AV requirement is put in place. Given that 25 million UK adults are expected to sign up to these products within a few months of its
launch, this would be very unhelpful.
Parliament should now:
Ask the government why the privacy scheme is to be voluntary, if the risks of relying on general data protection law are now recognised;
Ask for assurance from BBFC that the voluntary scheme will cover the all of the major operators; and
Ask for assurance from BBFC and DCMS that the voluntary privacy scheme will be up and running before obliging operators to put Age Verification measures in place.
The Digital Economy Act does not allow the BBFC to judge age verification tools by any standard other than whether or not they sufficiently verify age. We asked that the BBFC persuade the DCMS that statutory requirements for
privacy and security were required for age verification tools.
The BBFC have clearly acknowledged privacy and security concerns with age verification in their response. However, the BBFC indicate in their response that they have been working with the ICO and DCMS to create a
voluntary certification scheme for age verification providers:
"This voluntary certification scheme will mean that age-verification providers may choose to be independently audited by a third party and then certified by the Age-verification Regulator. The third party's audit will
include an assessment of an age-verification solution's compliance with strict privacy and data security requirements."
The lack of a requirement for additional and specific privacy regulation in the Digital Economy Act is the cause for this voluntary approach.
While a voluntary scheme above is likely to be of some assistance in promoting better standards among age verification providers, the "strict privacy and data security requirements" which the voluntary scheme
mentions are not a statutory requirement, leaving some consumers at greater risk than others.
Sensitive Personal Data
The data handled by age verification systems is sensitive personal data. Age verification services must directly identify users in order to accurately verify age. Users will be viewing pornographic content, and the data
about what specific content a user views is highly personal and sensitive. This has potentially disastrous consequences for individuals and families if the data is lost, leaked, or stolen.
Following a hack affecting Ashley Madison -- a dating website for extramarital affairs -- a number of the site's users were driven to suicide as a result of the public exposure of their sexual activities and interests.
For the purposes of GDPR, data handled by age verification systems falls under the criteria for sensitive personal data, as it amounts to "data concerning a natural person's sex life or sexual orientation".
It is of critical importance that any accreditation scheme for age verification providers, or GDPR code of conduct if one is established, is in place and functional before enforcement of the age verification provisions in
the Digital Economy Act commences. All of the major providers who are expected to dominate the age verification market should undergo their audit under the scheme before consumers will be expected to use the tool. This is especially true when
considering the fact that MindGeek have indicated their expectation that 20-25 million UK adults will sign up to their tool within the first few months of operation. A voluntary accreditation scheme that begins enforcement after all these people
have already signed up would be unhelpful.
Consumers should be empowered to make informed decisions about the age verification tools that they choose from the very first day of enforcement. No delays are acceptable if users are expected to rely upon the scheme to
inform themselves about the safety of their data. If this cannot be achieved prior to the start of expected enforcement of the DE Act's provisions, then the planned date for enforcement should be moved back to allow for the accreditation to be
Issues with Lack of Consumer Choice
It is of vital importance that consumers, if they must verify their age, are given a choice of age verification providers when visiting a site. This enables users to choose which provider they trust with their highly
sensitive age verification data and prevents one actor from dominating the market and thereby promoting detrimental practices with data. The BBFC also acknowledge the importance of this in their guidance, noting in 3.8:
"Although not a requirement under section 14(1) the BBFC recommends that online commercial pornography services offer a choice of age-verification methods for the end-user".
This does not go far enough to acknowledge the potential issues that may arise in a fragmented market where pornographic sites are free to offer only a single tool if they desire.
Without a statutory requirement for sites to offer all appropriate and available tools for age verification and log in purposes, it is likely that a market will be established in which one or two tools dominate. Smaller
sites will then be forced to adopt these dominant tools as well, to avoid friction with consumers who would otherwise be required to sign up to a new provider.
This kind of market for age verification tools will provide little room for a smaller provider with a greater commitment to privacy or security to survive and robs users of the ability to choose who they trust with their
We already called for it to be made a statutory requirement that pornographic sites must offer a choice of providers to consumers who must age verify, however this suggestion has not been taken up.
We note that the BBFC has been working with the ICO and DCMS to produce a voluntary code of conduct. Perhaps a potential alternative solution would be to ensure that a site is only considered compliant if it offers users a
number of tools which has been accredited under the additional privacy and security requirements of the voluntary scheme.
GDPR Codes of Conduct
A GDPR "Code of Conduct" is a mechanism for providing guidelines to organisations who process data in particular ways, and allows them to demonstrate compliance with the requirements of the GDPR.
A code of conduct is voluntary, but compliance is continually monitored by an appropriate body who are accredited by a supervisory authority. In this case, the "accredited body" would likely be the BBFC, and the
"supervisory authority" would be the ICO. The code of conduct allows for certifications, seals and marks which indicate clearly to consumers that a service or product complies with the code.
Codes of conduct are expected to provide more specific guidance on exactly how data may be processed or stored. In the case of age verification data, the code could contain stipulations on:
Appropriate pseudonymisation of stored data;
Data and metadata retention periods;
Data minimisation recommendations;
Appropriate security measures for data storage;
Security breach notification procedures;
Re-use of data for other purposes.
The BBFC's proposed "voluntary standard" regime appears to be similar to a GDPR code of conduct, though it remains to be seen how specific the stipulations in the BBFC's standard are. A code of conduct would also
involve being entered into the ICO's public register of UK approved codes of conduct, and the EPDB's public register for all codes of conduct in the EU.
Similarly, GDPR Recital 99 notes that "relevant stakeholders, including data subjects" should be consulted during the drafting period of a code of conduct - a requirement which is not in place for the BBFC's
It is possible that the BBFC have opted to create this voluntary scheme for age verification providers rather than use a code of conduct, because they felt they may not meet the GDPR requirements to be considered as an
appropriate body to monitor compliance. Compliance must be monitored by a body who has demonstrated:
Their expertise in relation to the subject-matter;
They have established procedures to assess the ability of data processors to apply the code of conduct;
They have the ability to deal with complaints about infringements; and
Their tasks do not amount to a conflict of interest.
Parties Involved in the Code of Conduct Process
As noted by GDPR Recital 99, a consultation should be a public process which involves stakeholders and data subjects, and their responses should be taken into account during the drafting period:
"When drawing up a code of conduct, or when amending or extending such a code, associations and other bodies representing categories of controllers or processors should consult relevant stakeholders, including data
subjects where feasible , and have regard to submissions received and views expressed in response to such consultations."
The code of conduct must be approved by a relevant supervisory authority (in this case the ICO).
An accredited body (BBFC) that establishes a code of conduct and monitors compliance is able to establish their own structures and procedures under GDPR Article 41 to handle complaints regarding infringements of the code, or
regarding the way it has been implemented. BBFC would be liable for failures to regulate the code properly under Article 41(4),
 however DCMS appear to have accepted the principle that the government would need to protect BBFC from such liabilities.
GDPR Codes of Conduct and Risk Management
Below is a table of risks created by age verification which we identified during the consultation process. For each risk, we have considered whether a GDPR code of conduct may help to mitigate the effects of it.
User identity may be correlated with viewed content.
This risk can never be entirely mitigated if AV is to go ahead, but a CoC could contain very strict restrictions on what identifying data could be stored after a successful age verification.
Identity may be associated to an IP address, location or device.
It would be very difficult for a CoC to mitigate this risk as the only safe mitigation would be not to collect user identity information.
An age verification provider could track users across all the websites it's tool is offered on.
Strict rules could be put in place about what data an age verification provider may store, and what data it is forbidden from storing.
Users may be incentivised to consent to further processing of their data in exchange for rewards (content, discounts etc.)
Age verification tools could be expressly forbidden from offering anything in exchange for user consent.
Leaked data creates major risks for identified individuals and cannot be revoked or adequately compensated for.
A CoC can never fully mitigate this risk if any data is being collected, but it could contain strict prohibitions on storing certain information and specify retention periods after which data must be destroyed, which may
mitigate the impacts of a data breach.
Risks to the user of access via shared computers if viewing history is stored alongside age verification data.
A CoC could specify that any accounts for pornographic websites which may track viewed content must be strictly separate and not in any visible way linked to a user's age verification account or data that confirms their
Age verification systems are likely to trade off convenience for security. (No 2FA, auto-login, etc.)
A CoC could stipulate that login cookies that "remember" a returning user must only persist for a short time period, and should recommend or enforce two-factor authentication.
The need to re-login to age verification services to access pornography in "private browsing" mode may lead people to avoid using this feature and generate much more data which is then stored.
A CoC cannot fix this issue. Private browsing by nature will not store any login cookies or other objects and will require the user to re-authenticate with age verification providers every time they wish to view adult
Users may turn to alternative tools to avoid age verification, which carry their own security risks. (Especially "free" VPN services or peer-to-peer networks).
Many UK adults, although over 18, will be uncomfortable with the need to submit identity documents to verify their age and will seek alternative means to access content. It is unlikely that many of these individuals will
be persuaded by an accreditation under a GDPR code.
Age verification login details may be traded and shared among teenagers or younger children, which could lead to bullying or "outing" if such details are linked to viewed content.
Strict rules could be put in place about what data an age verification provider may store, and what data it is forbidden from storing.
Child abusers could use their access to age verified content as an adult as leverage to create and exploit relationships with children and teenagers seeking access to such content (grooming).
This risk will exist as long as age verification is providing a successful barrier to accessing such content for under-18s who wish to do so.
The sensitivity of content dealt with by age verification services means that users who fall victim to phishing scams or fraud have a lower propensity to report it to the relevant authorities.
A CoC or education campaign may help consumers identify trustworthy services, but it can not fix the core issue, which is that users are being socialised into it being "normal" to input their identity details
into websites in exchange for pornography. Phishing scams resulting from age verification will appear and will be common, and the sensitivity of the content involved is a disincentive to reporting it.
The use of credit cards as an age verification mechanism creates an opportunity for fraudulent sites to engage in credit card theft.
Phishing and fraud will be common. A code of conduct which lists compliant sites and tools externally on the ICO website may be useful, but a phishing site may simply pretend to be another (compliant) tool, or rely on the
fact that users are unlikely to check with the ICO every time they wish to view pornographic content.
The rush to get age verification tools to market means they may take significant shortcuts when it comes to privacy and security.
A CoC could assist in solving this issue if tools are given time to be assessed for compliance before the age verification regime commences .
A single age verification provider may come to dominate the market, leaving users little choice but to accept whatever terms the provider offers.
Practically, a CoC could mitigate some of the effects of an age verification tool monopoly if the dominant tool is accredited under the Code. However, this relies on users being empowered to demand compliance with a CoC,
and it is possible that users will instead be left with a "take it or leave it" situation where the dominant tool is not CoC accredited.
Allowing pornography "monopolies" such as MindGeek to operate age verification tools is a conflict of interest.
As the BBFC note in their consultation response, it would not be reasonable to prohibit a pornographic content provider from running an age verification service as it would prevent any site from running their own tool.
However, under a CoC it is possible that a degree of separation could be enforced that requires an age verification tools to adhere to strict rules about the use of data, which could mitigate the effects of a large pornographic content
provider attempting to collect as much user data as possible for their own business purposes.
 "Infringements of the following provisions shall, in accordance with paragraph 2, be subject to administrative fines up to 10 000 000 EUR, or in the case of an undertaking, up to 2
% of the total worldwide annual turnover of the preceding financial year, whichever is higher: the obligations of the monitoring body pursuant to Article 41(4)."
 "contingent liability will provide indemnity to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) against legal proceedings brought against the BBFC in its role as the age
verification regulator for online pornography."
Microsoft has just inflicted a new 'code of conduct' that prohibits customers communicating nudity, bestiality, pornography, offensive language, graphic violence and criminal activity, whilst allowing Microsoft to steal the money in your
If users are found to have shared, or be in possession of, these types of content, Microsoft can suspend or ban the particular user and remove funds or balance on the associated account.
It also appears that Microsoft reserves the right to view user content to investigate violations to these terms. This means it has access to your message history and shared files (including on OneDrive, another Microsoft property) if it thinks
you've been sharing prohibited material.
Unsurprisingly, few users are happy that Microsoft is willing to delve through their personal data.
Microsoft has not made it clear if it will automatically detect and censor prohibited content or if it will reply on a reporting system. On top of that, Microsoft hasn't clearly defined its vague terms. Nobody is clear on what the limit on
offensive language is.
Facebook has files a patent that describes a method of using the devices of Facebook app users to identify various wireless signals from the devices of other users.
It explains how Facebook could use those signals to measure exactly how close the two devices are to one another and for how long, and analyses that data to infer whether it is likely that the two users have met. The patent also suggests the app
could record how often devices are close to one another, the duration and time of meetings, and can even use its gyroscope and accelerometer to analyse movement patterns, for example whether the two users may be going for a jog, smooching or
catching a bus together.
Facebook's algorithm would use this data to analyse how likely it is that the two users have met, even if they're not friends on Facebook and have no other connections to one another. This might be based on the pattern of inferred meetings, such
as whether the two devices are close to one another for an hour every Thursday, and an algorithm would determine whether the two users meeting was sufficiently significant to recommend them to each other and/or friends of friends.
I don't suppose that Facebook can claim this patent though as police and the security services have no doubt been using this technique for years.
Speaking at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, has launched a campaign to persuade governments, companies and individuals to sign a Contract for the Web with a set of principles intended to
defend a free and open internet.
Contract for the Web CORE PRINCIPLES
The web was designed to bring people together and make knowledge freely available. Everyone has a role to play to ensure the web serves humanity. By committing to the following principles, governments, companies and citizens around the world can
help protect the open web as a public good and a basic right for everyone.
Ensure everyone can connect to the internet so that anyone, no matter who they are or where they live, can participate actively online.
Keep all of the internet available, all of the time so that no one is denied their right to full internet access.
Respect people's fundamental right to privacy so everyone can use the internet freely, safely and without fear.
Make the internet affordable and accessible to everyone so that no one is excluded from using and shaping the web.
Respect consumers' privacy and personal data so people are in control of their lives online.
Develop technologies that support the best in humanity and challenge the worst so the web really is a public good that puts people first.
Be creators and collaborators on the web so the web has rich and relevant content for everyone.
Build strong communities that respect civil discourse and human dignity so that everyone feels safe and welcome online.
Fight for the web so the web remains open and a global public resource for people everywhere, now and in the future.
We commit to uphold these principles and to engage in a deliberative process to build a full "Contract for the Web", which will set out the roles and responsibilities of governments, companies and citizens. The challenges facing the web
today are daunting and affect us in all our lives, not just when we are online. But if we work together and each of us takes responsibility for our actions, we can protect a web that truly is for everyone.
The advert censors of ASA have published a five year strategy, with a focus on more censorship of online advertising including exploring the use of machine learning in regulation.
The strategy will be officially launched at an ASA conference in Manchester, entitled The Future of Ad Regulation.
ASA explains the highlights of its strategy:
We will prioritise the protection of vulnerable people and appropriately limiting children and young people's exposure to age-restricted ads in sectors like food, gambling and alcohol We will listen in new ways, including research, data-driven
intelligence gathering and machine learning 203 our own or that of others - to find out which other advertising-related issues are the most important to tackle We will develop our thought-leadership in online ad regulation, including on
advertising content and targeting issues relating to areas like voice, facial recognition, machine-generated personalised content and biometrics We will explore lighter-touch ways for people to flag concerns We will explore whether our
decision-making processes and governance always allow us to act nimbly, in line with people's expectations of regulating an increasingly online advertising world We will explore new technological solutions, including machine learning, to improve
Online trends are reflected in the balance of our workload - 88% of the 7,099 ads amended or withdrawn in 2017 following our action were online ads, either in whole or in part. Meanwhile, two-thirds of the 19,000 cases we resolved last year were
about online ads.
Our guiding principle is that people should benefit from the same level of protection against irresponsible online ads as they do offline. The ad rules apply just as strongly online as they do to ads in more traditional media.
Our recent rebalancing towards more proactive regulation has had a positive impact, evidenced by steep rises in the number of ads withdrawn or changed (7,009 last year, up 47% on 2016) and the number of pieces of advice and training delivered to
businesses (on course to exceed 400,000 this year). This emphasis on proactive regulation -- intervening before people need to complain about problematic ads -- will continue under the new strategy.
The launch event - The Future of Ad Regulation conference - will take place at Manchester Central Convention Complex on 1 November. Speakers will include Professor Tanya Byron, Reg Bailey, BBC Breakfast's Tina Daheley, Marketing Week's Russell
Parsons, ASA Chief Executive Guy Parker and ASA Chairman David Currie.
Online ASA Chief Executive, Guy Parker said:
We're a much more proactive regulator as a result of the work we've done in the last five years. In the next five, we want to have even more impact regulating online advertising. Online is already well over half of our regulation, but we've more
work to do to take further steps towards our ambition of making every UK ad a responsible ad.
Lord Currie, Chairman of the ASA said:
The new strategy will ensure that protecting consumers remains at the heart of what we do but that our system is also fit for purpose when regulating newer forms of advertising. This also means harnessing new technology to improve our ways of
working in identifying problem ads.
Prior to Google's bosses being called in to answer for its policy to silence conservative voices, it has filed a statement to court saying that even if it does discriminate on the basis of political viewpoints. It said:
Not only would it be wrong to compel a private company to guarantee free speech in the way that government censorship is forbidden by the Constitution, but it would also have disastrous practical consequences.
Google argued that the First Amendment appropriately limits the government's ability to censor speech, but applying those limitations to private online platforms would undermine important content regulation. If they are bound by the same First
Amendment rules that apply to the government, YouTube and other service providers would lose much of their ability to protect their users against offensive or objectionable content -- including pornography, hate speech, personal attacks, and