Internet News

 2011: July-Sept

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27th September   

Update: Rumour Mongering Tweets...

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China pressurises social networking company into setting up a team of tweet censors
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in China...All pervading Chinese internet censorship

sina weibo logoNeedled by government warnings to keep more stringent tabs on its users, China's most popular microblog Sina Weibo is taking considerable new measures to censor millions of its posts that it and authorities deem are Internet rumors.

Sina, the Internet company that operates Weibo, a Twitter-like microblog service, plans to form a rumor-busting team of about a dozen editors to sift out posts that may offend the authorities and implement a rating system to assess the likelihood that users may tweet what they shouldn't.

Sina will create a team consisting of 10 senior editors to monitor, verify, and 'clarify rumors' that may be making their way through Weibo, CEO Charles Chao said according to the state-run China News Service.

All the meddling by Party officials has made investors nervous. Sina's stock has taken a number of hits over concerns about restrictive regulations; on Sept. 20 the stock dropped 15%.

In the two years since its inception, Sina Weibo's userbase has rocketed to 200 million as of June. That number is making Communist Party officials sweat as Sina Weibo has been increasingly used as a soapbox for anti-government sentiment.

This was particularly apparent when Sina Weibo was alight with comments lambasting the government's emergency response to and handling of the recent train crash.

 

25th September   

Update: Gangs of Spies...

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Westminster Council initiate programme to monitor social networking sites for local gang activity
Link Here  full story: A Riotous Blame Game...So what is to blame for the 2011 hoodie riots

Westminster logoWestminster City Council plans to spend £ 180,000 over three years monitoring social media networks through a dedicated gangs information desk, according to reports in The Times.

According to a private council document, youth workers will collect intelligence gathered from sites such as Facebook and Twitter as a precautionary measure and consider letting instigators know they are being watched.

The document states Westminster is interested in exploring ways to spot confrontations and provide street-level intelligence and would consider working with social enterprises to monitor Blackberry Messenger, YouTube and Facebook postings to intervene and offer protection and a way out to those involved with gangs.

Cllr Nickie Aiken, cabinet member for children, young people and community protection, said:

We have known the importance of social networking sites such as facebook and twitter for some time but during the disturbances in August we saw young people rapidly organising criminal behaviour through technologies like Blackberry Messenger.

Some of our youth workers were successful in discouraging young people from getting involved in the looting in Oxford Circus. However, as part of our new Gangs Strategy we want to make this work more systematic over the next few months and will be asking young people, as the real experts, how we can best do this without spying on people.

 

23rd September   

Out of Line...

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Study shows that religious views on homosexuality are unacceptable to social media sites
Link Here

nrb logoThe National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), an organization representing the interests of Christian broadcasters and ministries, has released a report showing that social media websites are actively censoring Christian viewpoints.

According to an NRB press release, the group's study examined the practices of Apple and its iTunes App Store, Google, Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, as well as Internet service providers AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, The findings, said the NRB's senior vice president and general counsel, Craig Parshall, were ominous.

The NRB found that among the major players in new media, only Twitter had shied away from Christian opinions.

One of the most conspicuous examples of censorship the NRB found was that targeting viewpoints that challenged the notion that homosexuality is a normal and healthy lifestyle.

As reported by The New American, over the past year Apple has bowed to pressure from homosexual activists to pull two iPhone apps, one by Exodus International, a group that helps individuals leave the homosexual lifestyle, and another that included the text of a Christian document entitled the Manhattan Declaration, which among other things, makes a strong declaration of the sanctity of life, the scriptural view of traditional marriage, and the importance of religious liberty. The NRB study found that of the 425,000 or so apps available through Apple's iTunes App Store, only these two were taken down solely because of the viewpoints they expressed on homosexuality.

Among the other findings of the NRB study, part of its John Milton Project for Religious Free Speech:

  • Facebook has indicated that it will delete all instances of content that it considers to be anti-homosexual.
  • The Google for Non-Profits web tool includes a policy that excludes churches, ministries, and other faith groups that consider religion or sexual orientation in their hiring practices.
  • While virtually all major new media platforms ban what is generally referred to as hate speech, what that definition generally boils down to is unacceptable viewpoints on such issues as homosexuality.

 

22nd September   

Enemies of the Internet...

Four nations initiate a UN motion to impose a repressive 'code of conduct' on the internet
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship at the UN...United Nations debates worldwide internet censorship

UN logoChina, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have proposed an Internet code of conduct at the United Nations General Assembly. Their document calls on signatories to curb:

the dissemination of information that incites terrorism, secessionism, or extremism, or that undermines other countries' political, economic, and social stability, as well as their spiritual and cultural environment.

Syracuse professor and Internet governance expert Martin Mueller warns of the dangers such codes of conduct could pose.

That section would give any state the right to censor or block international communications for almost any reason.

 

21st September   

Update: Protest Censorship...

Yahoo! Mail found blocking emails about Wall Street protest
Link Here  full story: Social Networking Censorship in the UK...Internet censorship set to solve Britain's broken society

yahoo mail logoPresumably this is along the lines of what Dave Cameron and co are thinking when they talk about internet censorship in times of troubles.

Thinking about e-mailing your friends and neighbors about the protests against Wall Street happening right now? If you have a Yahoo e-mail account, think again. ThinkProgress has reviewed claims that Yahoo is censoring e-mails relating to the protest and found that after several attempts on multiple accounts, we too were prevented from sending messages about the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.

Over the weekend, thousands gathered for a Tahrir Square -style protest of Wall Street's domination of American politics. The protesters, organized online and by organizations like Adbusters, have called their effort Occupy Wall Street and have set up the website: www.OccupyWallSt.org. However, several YouTube users posted videos of themselves trying to email a message inviting their friends to visit the Occupy Wall St campaign website, only to be blocked repeatedly by Yahoo.

ThinkProgress emails relating to the OccupyWallSt.org protest were blocked with the following message (emphasis added):

Your message was not sent Suspicious activity has been detected on your account. To protect your account and our users, your message has not been sent. If this error continues, please contact Yahoo! Customer Care for further help. We apologize for the inconvenience.

And in a later update:

Yahoo's customer care Twitter account acknowledges blocking the emails, but says it was an unintentional error: We apologize 4 blocking 'occupywallst.org' It was not intentional & caught by our spam filters. It is resolved, but may be a residual delay.

[Yeah! yeah!]

 

19th September   

Update: Reflections of China...

Social networking bosses appear for questioning by parliamentary committee
Link Here  full story: Social Networking Censorship in the UK...Internet censorship set to solve Britain's broken society

home affairs committee 1Commons Home Affairs select committee, 11th September 2011

Following accusations that social media were used to play a key role in the social unrest in August, representatives from Research in Motion, Twitter and Facebook appeared for questioning by the Commons Home Affairs select committee.

Stephen Bates, Managing Director of BlackBerry's Research in Motion, Richard Allen, Director of Policy at Facebook and Alexander McGilvray of Twitter were questioned by the committee, chaired by MP Keith Vaz, regarding the role of social media in the riots which spread across the country in August, and the trio insisted that all three platforms were used as a force for good.

In the midst of the unrest, calls were made to shut down social networking, particularly BlackBerry messenger, as it was suggested that this was being used to organise violence. Cutting off Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry messenger in times of unrest seems no different to the censoring this kind of media experiences in China and oppressive countries over the world.

The committee heard that should it be necessary, all three of the representatives of the social media, who work within frameworks to condone with the law, would not resist closing down social media, but did not feel that it would be necessary.

Bates, Allen and McGilvray all said that throughout the unrest in August, social media were used in a positive way -- to contact family and friends to advise that users were safe, to help clean-up in the wake of the riots, and perhaps most importantly as a tool of communication, used to quell and correct rumours.

A key issue addressed by the committee was responsibility. Bates admitted that BlackBerry messenger had been used in a malicious way to organise crime, but stressed the need for balance when addressing the issue.

Keith Vaz advised that there may be times when closing down social media was necessary, asking Why should the government not use the powers to close down these networks if there is mass disorder and this is the only way to stop it happening.

 

18th September   

Update: Cryptic Response...

Newzbin 2 takes evasive action against the BT website blocking ordered by the UK High Court
Link Here  full story: Internet Blocking File Sharing in UK...High court dictates website block

newzbin2 logoThe operators of Usenet indexing site Newzbin2 have introduced measures to circumvent court-ordered web-blocking measures designed to render the site inoperable in the UK.

Site staff aren't revealing how the stand-alone software client works but some basic network packet analysis shows that it defeats ISP BT's Cleanfeed censorship system by using a handful of techniques including encryption.

Following a complaint from the Motion Picture Association, earlier this year a judge at London's High Court ordered leading UK ISP BT to block subscriber access to Usenet indexing site Newzbin2.

TorrentFreak ran some basic tests on the Newzbin2 client today which revealed that it does indeed defeat known features of Cleanfeed in a number of ways. Initially the client tries to resolve the site's domain name to an IP in the usual manner via DNS, but from there, and without going into too many details, an encrypted session is initiated between the client and the Newzbin2 site in a way that Cleanfeed won't like, rendering blocking impractical and snooping more or less impossible.

Perhaps from the viewpoint of the UK authorities website blocking could prove to be a bit of a nightmare as it drives more and more people to take evasive action, that will surely make general eavesdropping a whole lot more difficult.

 

16th September   

Ultimate Censorship...

Mexicans murdered for criticising drug cartels on a social networking website
Link Here

mexico bridge bodiesThe bodies of a young man and woman were found hanging from a bridge in the Mexican border town of Nuevo Laredo.

A sign hung nearby the dead bodies said the pair was killed for condemning drug cartel activity on a social networking site.

Several media outlets in Mexico self-censor out of fear that the cartels will retaliate, and that's why people turn to blogs and social networks to keep the community informed of dangers. In this case...It was a fatal decision.

 

15th September   

Update: Taste and Decency on the Internet...

Jeremy Hunt to include in law, the requirement for ISPs to offer choices for internet blocking
Link Here  full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

jeremy huntCulture secretary Jeremy Hunt has written about the contents of the next Comms Act. He outlined several of the measures in a speech to the Royal Television Society.

On topic of internet blocking of 'offensive' content he said:

When it comes to accessing material that can offend taste and decency standards in their own home, we should put consumers firmly in the driving seat.

We won't water down existing protections on traditional media, the watershed is here to stay, and I welcome  the progress made by both the UK Council for Child Internet Safety and also by ISPs who have just completed work on a draft code of practice on parental controls.

But I think we need to go further.

I will therefore consider including in the new Comms Act an obligation on ISPs to ensure all their customers make an active choice about parental controls, either at the point of purchase, or the point of account activation.

 

15th September   

Updated: Dangerous Trolling...

Another internet user jailed for trolling
Link Here  full story: Internet Trolls...Internet users jailed for trolling

dont feed the trollAn internet troll who posted abuse on Facebook memorial sites dedicated to dead children has been jailed.

Sean Duffy mocked a 15-year-old schoolgirl who committed suicide, leaving nasty messages and videos on a condolence page set up by her family.

The 25-year-old also hijacked tribute websites of three other children he had never met.

He was sentenced to 18 weeks behind bars and banned from using social networking sites for five years.

He had admitted he was hooked on the sick craze of trolling , where internet users deliberately leave abusive comments on networking sites.

One of his victim's parents hit out at Facebook, calling on the website to do more to tackle the problem after it emerged that one girl wrongly accused by others of posting the messages had attempted suicide.

Reading magistrates heard how the alcoholic, who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism surfed the internet looking for tribute sites.

Trolling is an offence under the Malicious Communications Act, which carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison.

Sentencing him  magistrate Paul Warren said: The offences are so serious only a custodial sentence could be justified.

Update: Next!

15th September 2011.  See  article from  thescotsman.scotsman.com

Another man has been charged with posting offensive images on the internet after the doctored picture of a Scottish schoolgirl, shot dead by her boyfriend, appeared on a website, established in her memory.

 

10th September   

Update: Nutter Talking Shop...

Claire Perry's parliamentary inquiry hears a few views on the subject of online child protection
Link Here  full story: Harmful Content...Parliament Inquiry: Internet And In Video Games:

Jacqui SmithThe Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection has begun to take comments from a rather predictably selective group.

The committee has heard comments from the Lucy Faithful Foundation, the Mother's Union, YoungMinds, Marie Collins Foundation, Sonia Livingstone, Professor of Social Psychology at LSE, Jacqui Smith,  the Sun's agony aunt Deidre Sanders and Jerry Barnett, managing director of the UK's largest adult VOD site.

Jacqui Smith, the disgraced former Home Secretary, had a few ideas that caught the interest. She told the Inquiry that online pornography should be made harder to access in Britain, but that the quid pro quo for helping the industry to remain profitable might be that it could help fund sex education programmes for children.

She said that the online pornography industry is not illegal, and it is being impacted by free and unregulated content on the internet . She proposed that if all adult content were only accessible to customers who specifically opted in to it through their internet service providers, then the adult industry might see its profits improved. Online porn has suffered economically in the wake of free YouTube-style sites.

She added after the inquiry. If there are restrictions put on to what people can see, that will have a beneficial effect on the industry. If government or ISPs put in place restrictions that does enable the mainstream industry to [recover economically], that would be the point at which you could apply pressure.

Smith was keen to stress that she did not propose limiting or censoring legal pornography, but that she wanted to make sure only people who were allowed to see it could do so. I genuinely don't think mainstream pornographers want young people to see their material because it risks limiting what they can make for adults, she said. She conceded that her proposal may be technically challenging.

She said that the adult industry was already in a parlous state and that it would be unlikely to be able to fund education programmes at the moment. She said that although the chances of her proposals coming to fruition are not great, there are reasonable people in the porn industry .

The committee will take evidence from ISPs next month.

 

6th September   

Update: Emergency Powers...

The Enhanced Terrorism and Investigation Measures Bill will outline powers including curfews and further restrictions on communications, association and movement.
Link Here  full story: Social Networking Censorship in the UK...Internet censorship set to solve Britain's broken society

riotThe Home Office has published draft terror legislation to be used in supposedly exceptional circumstances.

The Enhanced Terrorism and Investigation Measures Bill follows  the government's review of CT powers, published in January, that claims enhanced measures are necessary in extraordinary circumstances.

IHome Secretary Theresa May said:

So we will publish, but not introduce, legislation allowing more stringent measures, including curfews and further restrictions on communications, association and movement.

These measures will require an even higher standard of proof to be met and would be introduced if in exceptional circumstances they were required to protect the public from the threat of terrorism.

We will invite the Opposition to discuss this draft legislation with us on Privy Council terms. These powers would be enacted only with the agreement of both Houses of Parliament.'

 

3rd September   

Offsite: Emergency Powers...

Musing that David Cameron has already got the powers to turn off the internet at times of riot
Link Here  full story: Social Networking Censorship in the UK...Internet censorship set to solve Britain's broken society

riotOne of the unanswered questions arising from the August riots is whether the government needs new powers to block the use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media which were used to organise the disturbances.

Prime Minister David Cameron suggested, in the immediate aftermath of the rioting, that blocking the use of social networking communications was a policy option that was to be urgently discussed with telecommunications operators (and then implemented as a priority).

So when the Home Office says (as it has done) that no new powers are needed, then it follows that either no new powers are needed (ie, the government already has the power to block social networking communications) or the politicians have quietly gone off the idea (and have decided not to say so).

...

If I was having a bet, I think ministers might be considering the powers in the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. This is because the definition of an emergency -- which is required to trigger use of the Act's draconian powers -- clearly includes a riot, as a riot could cause serious damage to human welfare, to property and threaten lives.

Additionally, where the issue is urgent , then the Civil Contingencies Act's powers can be exercised by ministers without resort to Parliament. Although urgency is understandable in times of a crisis, these urgency provisions also minimise Parliamentary scrutiny of their use at the critical time that the powers are exercised.

...Read the full article

 

31st August   

Update: Nutter at the Helm...

Claire Perry to head yet another Parliamentary inquiry child protection on the internet
Link Here  full story: Harmful Content...Parliament Inquiry: Internet And In Video Games:

Clair Perry Parliament has announced a another inquiry into online child safety, to be headed by Conservative MP and anti-porn campaigner Claire Perry. She got noticed due to her impractical campaign to force ISPs to block porn unless people opt to receive it.

According to a press release on Claire Perry's constituency website, the inquiry will seek:

1) To understand better the extent to which children access on-line pornography and the potential for harm that this may cause

2) To determine what British Internet Service Providers have done to date to protect children online and the extent and possible impact of their future plans in this area

3) To determine what additional tools parents require to protect children from inappropriate content

4) To establish the arguments for and against network level filtering of content that would require an 18 rating in other forms of media

5) To recommend to Government the possible form of regulation required if ISPs fail to meet Recommendation no.5 from the Bailey Review.

Public evidence sessions will take place in Committee Room 7, House of Commons between 14:00 and 16:00 on September 8th and October 18th.

The inquiry will include approximately 60 MPs and gather feedback from ISPs as well as parents and many others [but probably not those who actually enjoy adult material on the internet].

A final report is expected in November 2011.

 

28th August   

Dangerous Tweets...

Social networking underpins an increase in British libel cases
Link Here

Twitter logo The growing use of social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook are thought to be the main cause of the surge after a year which saw internet-related libel cases in England and Wales rise from seven to 16.

The singer Courtney Love is among those who have fallen foul of online defamation laws. She is being sued for a second time for posting defamatory statements on Twitter. Ms Love paid $430,000 ( £ 263,000) to settle a lawsuit brought against her by the designer Dawn Simonrangkir in March after calling her a nasty lying hosebag thief on Twitter in a dispute over money.

The barrister Korieh Duodu, a media specialist with Addleshaw Goddard, said a good deal of material on the internet is written by non-professionals without any of the fact-checking in traditional media organisations: There is certainly a need for greater accountability of the providers of user-generated content. He added: People who find themselves damaged on social media sites can find it time-consuming and difficult to have the offending material removed, because many platform providers do not accept responsibility for their users' content.

The UK Government is looking to reform the law with a draft Defamation Bill, currently going through Westminster, which ministers say will help to ensure that people can state honest opinions on the internet with confidence.

 

27th August   

Update: Didn't Even Merit Discussion...

David Cameron's Chinese style internet ban dismissed without discussion
Link Here  full story: Social Networking Censorship in the UK...Internet censorship set to solve Britain's broken society

David Cameron Theresa May met with bosses of social network sites in Westminster to discuss whether users should be blocked if they are plotting to riot or commit crimes

David Cameron's plan to shut down social networking sites to prevent disorder was ditched in a humiliating U-turn.

The Home Secretary Theresa May firmly killed off the prospect of any clampdown in the face of opposition from human rights groups and social networking companies.

In a summit with Facebook, Twitter and Research in Motion, the Home Secretary indicated that Cameron's plan did not even merit discussion.

She told the firms that she was not there to talk about restricting internet services. Instead May appealed for help, seeking advice on how law enforcement could more effectively use social media.

Social networking firms are said to have advised police to employ internet monitoring firms to help keep an eye on public chatter on the web.

The Government's retreat came after leading human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Index on Censorship, wrote to the Home Secretary voicing strong concerns about a possible clampdown. The coalition of ten human rights and free speech advocates said:

Dear Home Secretary,

We are writing to you regarding discussions scheduled to take place between the Government and some social network and communications providers following the recent civil unrest. We noted the Prime Minister's suggestion that the Government will look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.

We believe that Twitter, Research in Motion and Facebook have been invited to meet you to discuss this issue. As you know, there is existing legislation regulating the interception and disclosure of communications information, the use of communications evidence by law enforcement and restrictions on people's use of communications technology.

It is reasonable to review the existing legal regime to ensure that it appropriately fits new technologies. However, turning off, restricting or monitoring people's communications networks are matters that require extreme care and open, detailed deliberation.

We are very concerned that new measures, made in good faith but in a heated political environment, will overextend powers in ways that would be susceptible to abuse, restrict legitimate, free communication and expression and undermine people's privacy. This is especially so if proposals involve unaccountable voluntary arrangements between law enforcement and communications providers.

It is essential that any review of regulations covering communications networks happens through a public consultation, with full details of meetings between the Government and social network platforms made public as soon as possible. This should involve a genuine multi-stakeholder process that includes not only the communications providers but groups representing broader citizens' rights such as freedom of expression and privacy.

We would like to request a meeting to discuss these issues, and look forward to engaging with you further.

Yours sincerely,

Amnesty UK
Article 19
English PEN
Index on Censorship
Liberty
Open Democracy
Open Rights Group
Privacy International
and others

 

26th August   

Update: Cameron's Chinese Puzzle...

Surely the repression of speech adds to the causes of an uprising, but may disrupt the organisation of an uprising once it starts
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in China...All pervading Chinese internet censorship
China flag China has ordered a widespread crackdown on the internet in attempts to prevent uprisings like those seen in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

The secretary of the Communist Party, Liu Qi has warned ISPs that they must tighten control of online content to prevent the spread of fake and harmful information and that the internet companies should resist such information, the Associated Press reports.

It's not clear how the Chinese government expects the ISPs to control content online, but it's likely that it wants them to monitor people's online activities and disconnect those participating in the spread of dissenting views. Penalties for non-compliance could be to shut down the ISP altogether.

The government-approved Beijing Internet Media Association also called on its 104 members to police the internet for rumors or vulgar contents , saying that the public should be led toward a correct direction - the proper direction being support of the government, of course.

China's equivalent of Twitter, Sina, which has over 140 million users, has been a particular focus of censorship. The company has been forced to monitor users, with over 100 employees checking for dissenting views 24 hours a day. Of course, with such a large user base it might be impossible to censor everything.

This latest move marks one of the strictest crackdowns on internet freedom so far, which could cause even more upset and dissent amongst its citizens.

Twitter and Facebook to resist government censorship

See  article from  mediapost.com

David Cameron Facing the first true threats of censorship from the Western world, Facebook and Twitter appear ready for a fight. The major social networks are expected to offer no concessions when they meet the home secretary, Theresa May, at a Home Office summit on Thursday, the Guardian reports.

In the wake of riots and looting across England, government ministers have called for a ban on social networks during times of civil unrest. Prime Minister David Cameron has also asked that suspected rioters be banned from social networks.

The home secretary is expected to explore what measures the major social networks could take to help contain disorder -- including how law enforcement can more effectively use the sites -- rather than discuss powers to shut them down, according to the Guardian.

Facebook and Twitter are expected to strongly warn the government against introducing emergency measures that could usher in a new form of online censorship, the Guardian reports.

 

26th August   

Update: China Goes GaGa...

China announces 100 songs that must be removed from websites
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in China...All pervading Chinese internet censorship

Judas Hits by Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Take That are among 100 songs that have been placed on an internet blacklist by China's culture ministry.

Music websites have been given until 15 September to remove the offending tracks, which officials claim harm national cultural security . Those that fail to do so risk being prosecuted by the Chinese authorities.

A notice posted on the culture ministry's website said the 100 songs had not been submitted for official approval.

A 2009 directive was cited that targets supposed poor taste and vulgar content as well as copyright violations. This directive requires that alll hosted tracks have official sanction.

Most of the banned songs are from Taiwan or Hong Kong, with several from Japan. Among the Western acts:

  • Lady Gaga has six banned tracks: The Edge of Glory, Hair, Marry the Night, Americano, Judas and Bloody Mary .
  • Beyonce's Run the World (Girls)
  • Katy Perry's Last Friday Night.
  • Backstreet Boys track I Want It That Way.

 

10th August   

Mr Monkey...

Twitter user seeks to sue council about the use of substantial public funds to reveal his identity
Link Here  full story: Anonymous Tweets...Twitter and identification under court duress

mr monkeys bg logo The first Briton to have his Twitter identity forcibly revealed by a court is seeking to sue the council that blew his anonymity and force a judicial review of the case.

A review could have implications for whistleblowing websites and for a council that used public funds to unmask a perceived detractor.

In April, South Tyneside Council won an order from the Superior Court of California forcing Twitter to release details about four accounts. The council claimed the information, including contact details and IP addresses, could reveal who is behind the Mr Monkey blog, which it claimed was spreading libellous comments.

South Tyneside Councillor Ahmed Khan admits being the owner of one of the Twitter accounts, but maintains he is not Mr Monkey .

South Tyneside Council has already spent about £ 75,000 on the case. Khan is looking into the possibility of forcing a legal review into the misuse of public funds.

Khan is waiting for a court decision before taking further legal action.

 

4th August   

Update: For the Moment...

Ofcom come out against file sharing website blocking
Link Here  full story: Internet Blocking File Sharing in UK...High court dictates website block

ofcom site blockinh The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has said that the government will not bring forward regulations on site-blocking established as reserve powers in the Digital Economy Act, following a technical Ofcom report. The ministry added: We are keen to explore the issues raised by Ofcom's report and will be doing more work on what measures can be pursued to tackle online copyright infringement.

Ofcom's report effectively kicked web-blocking into the long grass. Ofcom examined various techniques and concluded that blocking discrete URLs or web addresses is not practical or desirable as a primary approach. Ofcom instead recommends something critics might see as more draconian, however:

The report says that if site-blocking is adopted, it should be at the domain level. But such a technique will become harder, when digital signing is more common. So it recommends examining further measures such as transparent proxy-blocking (cleanfeed) or hybrid routing technology:

In the medium to longer term we consider that deep packet inspection techniques are likely to provide a more robust approach to blocking than DNS. Although costly to implement today, we would expect that costs will fall as the larger ISPs invest in DPI devices for other purposes. However, for it to be part of a legislative approach the cost burden for smaller ISPs would need careful evaluation as would legal concerns related to compatibility with privacy, data protection and interception rules.

 

3rd August   

Update: XXX...

First .xxx website opens for business
Link Here  full story: ICANN XXX Domain...Long debate about allowing .xxx domain

casting xxx logo Casting.xxx has become the first porn site to go live with the .XXX domain name.

It's the first site to launch under ICM Registry's Founder Program.

Casting.xxx, billed as a site presenting amateur hardcore content.

General availability of .xxx website addresses is set for December 2011..

 

2nd August   

Update: Setting a Bad Example...

Article 19 notes that UK internet censorship will set a bad international precedent
Link Here  full story: Internet Blocking File Sharing in UK...High court dictates website block

article 19 logo The High Court's decision requiring British Telecom to block access to the file-indexing website, Newzbin.com sets a worrying international precedent against the right to freedom of expression.

The decision sets too low the threshold for ordering blocking, fails to properly balance the right to property with the right to freedom of expression, and shows no consideration for the chilling effect such a decision would have. Ordering the blocking of an entire domain name, as opposed to specific webpages, is also likely to breach the requirement for necessity in international law.

Although ARTICLE 19 supports development of clear standards related to online copyright infringement, the judgment of the English High Court on 28 July 2011 sets a worrying precedent which could have a dramatic chilling effect on legitimate online content. It is also highly likely to breach international standards of freedom of expression.

ARTICLE 19 notes with concern that the judge granted the website blocking injunction not only in relation to the studios' own films but also those of third parties who were not involved in the case, on the basis that there was no reason to believe that they would not support it. The judge accepted that the order would also prevent BT subscribers from making use of Newzbin.com for legitimate purposes, but considered that there was little evidence that the site was being used in this way.

ARTICLE 19 believes that the high court order is very likely to breach international standards for the protection of freedom of expression, in particular the principle that any restriction on freedom of expression for a legitimate aim must be proportionate.

The ruling gives short shrift to this well-established principle as follows:

  • In its judgment, the high court failed to carry out a proper balancing exercise between freedom of expression and the right to property. In particular, the judge provided very little reasoning for his conclusion that the intellectual property rights of the studios clearly outweighed the free speech rights of BT and its many UK users;
     
  • The threshold for granting such a website blocking order was set very low, despite its obviously far-reaching consequences. In particular, the studios simply had to show that BT knew that one or more persons were using its service to infringe copyright, and that was sufficient to justify an order blocking the entire site;
     
  • Moreover, little or no consideration was given to the chilling effect that the order is highly likely to have on freedom of expression and the free flow of information on the Internet, especially legitimate online content. This is borne out by the overly broad terms of the order sought, which is directed to the website's domains and sub domains rather than specific URLs deemed illegitimate. In ARTICLE 19's view, any order seeking to block access to domain names as a whole rather than specific URLs is very likely to breach the requirement of necessity under international law. In this respect, ARTICLE 19 also points out to a July 2011 report by the OSCE Special Representative for Freedom of the Media said that Arguably, the practice of banning access to entire websites, and the future publication of articles thereof (whose content is unknown at the time of access blocking) goes beyond any notion of necessary restraint in a democratic society and, instead, amounts to censorship .

ARTICLE 19 urges the establishment of clear legislative standards in this area in order to strike a fairer balance between the interests of rights holders and Internet users and better protect freedom of expression on the Internet.

 

31st July   

Updated: Sensitive Tweets...

Twitter is preparing to censor links to 'sensitive' images and pages
Link Here

Twitter logo Twitter has added a way to flag links within tweets as possibly sensitive. The company has announced that there is a new field used whenever a tweet contains a link, giving Twitter users the option to be warned before they click links that might office or age friendly.

The new feature is not functional yet, but Twitter was informing developers that it was just added and is now in the testing phase.

According to Twitter representative Taylor Singletary:

In the future, we'll have a family of additional API methods & fields for handling end-user 'media settings' [linked pages and images etc] and possibly sensitive content. To us, this seems like a feature that's long overdue, giving users the ability to control the kind of content they or their children are exposed to, letting them use Twitter without fear of being unpleasantly surprised when they click on an inappropriate link.

According to Twitter's media policy document, the company will remove media that might be considered sensitive such as nudity, violence, or medical procedures.

 

30th July   

Updated: Internet Censorship in the UK...

High Court orders BT to block Newzbin 2
Link Here  full story: Internet Blocking File Sharing in UK...High court dictates website block

Old Bailey A High Court judge has ruled that BT must block access to a website which provides links to pirated movies.

Newzbin 2 is a members-only site which aggregates a large amount of copied material found on Usenet discussion forums.

The landmark case is the first time that a UK ISP has been ordered to block access to such a site.

It paves the way for other sites to be blocked.

In his ruling, Justice Arnold stated: In my judgment it follows that BT has actual knowledge of other persons using its service to infringe copyright: it knows that the users and operators of Newbin2 infringe copyright on a large scale, and in particular infringe the copyrights of the Studios in large numbers of their films and television programmes.

The Motion Picture Association, which represents the likes of Warner, Disney and Fox, launched the legal action to close down Newzbin 2. MPA signalled its intention to pursue other ISPs.

The judge ruled that BT must use its blocking technology CleanFeed - which is currently used to prevent access to websites featuring child sexual abuse - to block Newzbin.

The Internet Service Providers' Association has been a fierce critic of web blocking. It said that using blocking technology, designed to protect the public from images of child abuse, was inappropriate.

Currently CleanFeed is dealing with a small, rural road in Scotland, ISPA council member James Blessing told BBC Radio 4's PM programme. Trying to put Newzbin and other sites into the same blocking technology would be a bit like shutting down the M1. It is not designed to do that.

Update: Case by Case

30th July 2011. See  article from  theregister.co.uk

BT logo BT's head of retail Simon Milner has admitted that the company is not deliriously happy , but BT won't be appealing the decision.

He told the Register that: We believe in an open internet -- we won't do any other blocking . We will never stop our customers getting to any service they want to get to. Unless a court orders us to.

Although the case went against BT, Milner points out that a test case has finally made the law clear. And since web-blocking requires a court order, he says BT is satisfied with that. Each web-blocking request will have to go before a court -- where a judge must examine it on its merits.

There's no suggestion in this judgement that BT has done anything wrong as an innocent intermediary. We said it's questionable whether an intermediary can have these obligations put on it. Now we know.

Comment: Blocking Newzbin2 paves the way for internet censorship

30th July 2011.  See  article from  guardian.co.uk by Loz Kaye

The Guardian T he court decision to allow BT to block the pirate site means Hollywood is dictating our internet policy

...

There is no good reason to believe that this will end at copyright enforcement, for example those fond of libel action will no doubt be eyeing this result with interest. One of the most depressing aspects of the case is that is the blocking is to be enacted using the system set up to address the issue of child abuse images on the net. This system was simply not made for a hugely wider remit, and frankly the use of Cleanfeed seems shockingly cynical. Assurances given that it would only ever be used for dealing with this most appalling of crimes now seem hollow

...Readv the full article

 

29th July   

Updated: A Little Censorship...

Facebook censor classic album cover
Link Here  full story: Facebook Censorship...Facebook quick to censor

Nevermind Nirvana Nirvana's Nevermind album made waves when it was released in 1991 because of its cover art which featured a naked baby boy floating in a pool, has run into censorship yet again, this time on its Facebook page.

After product shots of the album (which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this fall) were uploaded to Nirvana's Facebook page, the social networking company removed the photo citing a violation of its Terms of Use:

Facebook does not allow photos that attack an individual or group, or that contain nudity, drug use, violence or other violations of the Terms of Use.

Update: Nevermind

29th July 2011. See  article from  guardian.co.uk

As is usually the case with Facebook censorship, once their ill-considered censorship is rumbled they they rapidly change their mind and say it was alright all along.

And So Nirvana's Nevermind album cover is welcomed back on Facebook.

 

28th July   

Update: A Little Censorship...

Facebook censor classic album cover
Link Here  full story: Facebook Censorship...Facebook quick to censor

Nevermind Nirvana Nirvana's Nevermind album made waves when it was released in 1991 because of its cover art which featured a naked baby boy floating in a pool, has run into censorship yet again, this time on its Facebook page.

After product shots of the album (which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this fall) were uploaded to Nirvana's Facebook page, the social networking company removed the photo citing a violation of its Terms of Use:

Facebook does not allow photos that attack an individual or group, or that contain nudity, drug use, violence or other violations of the Terms of Use.

 

26th July   

Update: First the Torrent Sites, Then the Proxy Sites, Then...

Web blocking censorship spreads in Italy
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in Italy...Censorship affecting bloogers and the press in Italy

Italy flag Italian ISPs were forced to block a legal proxy-server website after the authorities found that proxyitalia.com could be used to access BtJunkie , The Pirate Bay , and other websites banned under Italy's copyright enforcement regime.

Italy's cybercrime police unit, the Guardia di Finanza (GdF), banned the general-purpose proxy service at the request of Cagliari deputy prosecutor, in a move which provoked widespread condemnation in the Internet community:

A UK ISPA Spokesperson said:

Blocking access to proxy servers and VPNs is not an effective means of tackling copyright infringement online and will prevent access for legitimate uses of this technology such as mobile working and securing public wireless networks.

 

25th July   

Overblocking...

US educators find that useful websites are being blocked by school filters
Link Here

Facebook logo Some US educators have said that website blocking is posing a threat to kids' education and intellectual freedom.

Filtering software and school rules designed to keep out violence and pornography are also blocking key educational and otherwise useful sites, teachers say, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google and National Geographic.

New York City's Department of Education blocked Google Images last month for what it called objectionable content but later left it up to schools whether to allow it.

The Pinellas County School Board in Florida voted unanimously to block teachers from communicating with students via Facebook or Twitter, even about school-related matters. The school board said it hopes to prevent the appearance of inappropriate contact between students and teachers via social media.

This fall, a handful of schools and libraries across the USA plan to celebrate Banned Sites Day to draw attention to the issue, according to New Canaan (Conn.) High School librarian Michelle Luhtala. The day was her idea. She says the same issues of censorship, fear and free speech that make banned books resonate also apply to social-networking sites that most public schools block: Teaching with social media shows students how to responsibly use those platforms . Blocking access in schools denies kids the chance to practice sharing their knowledge with the real world in a supervised setting.

 

22nd July   

Legislating for Teenage Tantrums...

Australian law makers consider further age restrictions on Facebook
Link Here

Facebook logo Australian attorneys-generals are discussing ways to give parents access to their kids' Facebook profiles. They will also examine an 18+ Facebook age limit.

The idea was first proposed by a South Australian Family First MP, Dennis Hood, and is being championed by South Australian Attorney-General John Rau.

Rau argued that giving parents assistance to supervise their children on Facebook would help protect against online predators and limit access to unsuitable material.

But Susan McLean, who was Victoria Police's first cyber safety officer and is now an online safety consultant, said:

The proposal was ill-informed and it shows a total lack of understanding of what the internet is. It's not Facebook's fault that there are problems on Facebook. You can't legislate against stupidity or poor parenting or anything like that. It would be nice but it can't be done and it breaks down any level of trust that you should be trying to develop with your kids.

At their meeting today, the country's top lawmakers will consider requiring proof of age checks and even raising the age limit to 18, federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland confirmed.

Rau said:

Age verification is something that various platforms deal with and I can't see why it should be beyond the wit of Facebook to do the same thing, if that was the solution people wanted.

I think people need to understand that just because they are operating in the virtual world, that is on the internet, it does not mean that there should not be boundaries or rules or standards of behaviour.

 

21st July   

Open to .XXX...

Singapore government claims that it will not generally block .xxx websites
Link Here
Singapore flag The Singapore government has indicated it has no plans to block access to the .xxx top-level domain, the Straits Times has reported.

As a symbolic statement of our community's stand on harmful and undesirable content on the Internet, the Media Development Authority has mandated that ISPs block 100 sites. The list of banned sites is not limited to porn and will not be expanded to include .xxx sites. The article also quotes MDA deputy director for regulations. Yuvarani Thangavelu, as saying the MDA will go after locally hosted pornographic .xxx sites, to get these sites taken offline.

Regarding the legality of porn in the country, the Straits Times stated, It is illegal under the Films Act to possess pornographic material, and those found with it can be fined thousands of dollars. However, the Government has said previously it would not pro-actively hunt down those who download pornographic material.

 

18th July   

Update: Passing the Final Buck...

In the absence of any official interest, UK ISPs are told to censor suicide websites
Link Here  full story: Suicide Censorship...UK government proposes to ban suicide information
paul burstow Websites that encourage people to commit suicide or make death pacts with strangers must be closed down, ministers will insist this week.

In the absence of any official organisation to monitor such websites, ISPs are to be told they have an obligation to shut down these chatrooms and forums, as part of the Government's suicide prevention strategy.

Promoting suicide is already outlawed under the 1961 Suicide Act, but this has never been used to prosecute a website operator. Officials say the law does not apply only to face-to-face meetings, and should be enforced more rigorously if companies fail to shut down offending websites.

Health Minister Paul Burstow said:

One of the nastier sides of social media is the emergence of websites which are almost coaching people into how to commit suicide and offering the possibility of pacts with other people to commit suicide -- really evil stuff.

Websites begin in a therapeutic way - I think because the people who run them think it's a place for people to share how they feel when they are very low and don't have much hope in life.

Then they move from being therapeutic to being supportive, a friend network. But the end result is it becomes a closed circle... nobody on those websites is going to confess to anybody outside.

It becomes a depressive circle of people talking about all types of things, which give them knowledge - because the sites give you various ways of taking life if that is the decision you chose - and friendship with people thinking the same way.

They use all kinds of words like 'Catching the bus or Making the journey - slang words - other people might not understand.'

 

14th July   

PhotoDNA...

Microsoft develops software to better compare pictures on the internet against a database of known illegal images
Link Here

photodna logo The FBI and the US Department of Justice have announced that, as far as they were concerned, notice and take down now had almost zero value as an aid to law enforcement re child porn. The highly organised, technically literate distributors have by and large deserted publicly accessible places, burrowing deep into file sharing environments, peer-to-peer networks and closed groups of one kind or another. Police work today in this field is principally covert, intelligence led.

Obviously the US Government was not saying they were indifferent to the images remaining on public view. Getting them off any and all parts of the internet remains an important goal of policy for everyone, particularly the child protection community. The Feds were simply pointing out that the amount of time and money devoted to notice and take down was disproportionate to the benefits obtained in terms of reducing the total volume of illegal activity or helping to secure convictions.

Step forward Microsoft. They have described new software they had developed. It's called PhotoDNA. Microsoft will give it away free to appropriate companies.

Every image stored on a computer can already be reduced to a nearly unique hash value . There are various programmes around that can pick up and read these values and compare them with known illegal images. The trouble is if anyone does anything as elementary or obvious as edit the picture, even by the tiniest fraction it then takes on a totally different hash value. The picture then goes undetected.

By contrast PhotoDNA looks at what makes the picture what it is i.e. the visual content. Thus, even if the picture changes format, shape, size or colour, within certain generous tolerances it will still be picked up. Using the parameters Microsoft recommends the chances of the software making a mistake seemingly are around 1 in 10 billion.

It may be several years before we see how well PhotoDNA works at scale around the world. Using a database of illegal images supplied by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Facebook is currently trialling it in an environment in which between 200 and 300 million new pictures go up every day. The early signs are good.

PhotoDNA in the wrong hands might be a worry. It could be used to prevent publication of a cartoon of the King or the Archbishop. Microsoft is fully aware of this and will be watching like hawks how their licences are deployed.

 

13th July   

Update: Blockage Optional...

European Parliament committee rules that EU states can impose website blocking but it is not to be made mandatory
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in EU...EU proposes mandatory cleanfeed for all member states

EU flag The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) of the European Parliament has adopted a compromise text agreed with the Council and the Commission on the draft Child Sexual Exploitation Directive. The compromise text allows Member States to introduce mandatory blocking measures for Internet sites containing child abuse images, but does not require them as the Council had proposed.

Article 21: Measures against websites containing or disseminating child pornography:

  1. Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure the prompt removal of webpages containing or disseminating child pornography hosted in their territory and to endeavour to obtain the removal of such pages hosted outside of their territory.
     
  2. Member States may take measures to block access to webpages containing or disseminating child pornography towards the Internet users in their territory. These measures must be set by transparent procedures and provide adequate safeguards, in particular to ensure that the restriction is limited to what is necessary and proportionate, and that users are informed of the reason for the restriction. These safeguards shall also include the possibility of judicial redress.

Civil liberties groups will be pleased at having defeated mandatory blocking across Europe, but disappointed at having failed to ensure that judicial authority is required before an ISP can be forced to block an Internet address.

The draft Directive is due to be adopted in the Autumn.

 

11th July   

Update: World Censors...

US claims censorship rights to .com domains
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA

homeland security logo British website owners could face extradition to the US on piracy charges even if their operation has no connection to America and does something which is most probably legal in the UK, the official leading US web anti-piracy efforts has told the Guardian.

The US's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) is targeting overseas websites it believes are breaking US copyrights whether or not their servers are based in America or whether there is another direct US link, said Erik Barnett, the agency's assistant deputy director.

As long as a website's address ends in .com or .net, if it is implicated in the spread of pirated US-made films, TV or other media it is a legitimate target to be closed down or targeted for prosecution, Barnett said. While these web addresses are traditionally seen as global, all their connections are routed through Verisign, an internet infrastructure company based in Virginia, which the agency believes is sufficient to seek a US prosecution.

As well as sites that directly host or stream pirated material, ICE is also focusing on those that simply provide links to it elsewhere. There remains considerable doubt as to whether this is even illegal in Britain, the only such case to be heard before a British court, involving a site called TV-Links, was dismissed by a judge in February last year.

Barnett, in an interview with the Guardian, explained the broader thinking behind it: By definition, almost all copyright infringement and trademark violation is transnational. There's very little purely domestic intellectual property theft, he said.

Civil rights and internet freedom organisations said they were alarmed at the apparent intention to enforce US copyright laws around the globe.

Isabella Sankey, director of policy for Liberty, said: Many countries, including the US, are increasingly asserting jurisdiction over alleged actions that take place in other parts of the world. The internet increases our risk of falling foul of the law, making it possible to commit an offence on the other side of the world without even leaving your bedroom.

She called on the government to amend the UK's extradition agreement with the US so a British judge could decide where an alleged crime should be best tried: It would allow UK courts to bar extradition in the interests of justice where conduct leading to an alleged offence has quite clearly taken place on British soil .

 

6th July   

Update: Half-Baked...

New Australian website blocking is easy to circumvent
Link Here  full story: Website Blocking in Australia...Stephen Conroy's attempt at internet censorship

optus logo Optus, Australia's second largest telco, has confirmed recent rumors that the voluntary filtering technology it is rolling out in the upcoming weeks can be easily circumvented by users.

In response to a question whether a work-around to the Uptus filer was possible by simply using a different DNS server than the default setting on the user's PC, a company spokesperson said: That's correct. It's a feature of the Interpol list.

The ease of circumvention led a critic of the plan, Electronic Frontiers Association spokesperson Stephen Collins, to wonder why the filter was being unveiled in the first place. With such a trivial circumvention, Optus' implementation of this block list is worse than ineffective, it's also misleading on a grand scale, he said, adding, Nobody will be protected from criminals by this, and worse, for those customers who believe they are protected, their kids or anyone else using their internet connection will bypass this with less than 30 seconds effort. Optus should be ashamed of themselves; first for implementing this list and trying to have their customers believe it would work and second for doing such a half-baked job.

 

5th July   

Transparency Report...

Reporting governments asking Google to take down internet content
Link Here

Google logo Google have created a report to keep the world informed about governments requesting Google to remove content fro various reasons.

Google explain:

Like other technology and communications companies, Google regularly receives requests from government agencies and federal courts around the world to remove content from our services and hand over user data. Our Government Requests tool discloses the number of requests we receive from each government in six-month periods with certain limitations.

Some content removals are requested due to allegations of defamation, while others are due to allegations that the content violates local laws prohibiting hate speech or pornography. Laws surrounding these issues vary by geographic region, and the requests reflect the legal context of a given jurisdiction. We hope this tool will be helpful in discussions about the appropriate scope and authority of government requests.

The latest report shows that the British government lead the world in requests to Google to take down internet content. The top 3 is:

  1. UK made 38 requests to Google to remove 93518 items of data
  2. South Korea made 139 requests to remove 32152 items of data
  3. Brazil made 263 request to remove 12363 items of data.

Brazil have been suffering a long courtroom battle as celebrities seem to think that they can get Google to hide links to embarrassing things that the celebs have done.

There are some internet reports suggesting that some of the UK's requests have been related to financial scams.

 

5th July   

Offsite: Creative Commons...

Content made available for internet use but with attribution required and with restrictions
Link Here

creative commons logo A campaign has been launched to help people avoid breaking the law when they post pictures, music and videos online.

Copyright group Creative Commons has published a guide to identifying material that can be used freely without getting sued.

It is also advises individuals how to protect content they have made themselves.

Around 500 million pieces of work are currently covered by Creative Commons.

The free-to-use legal licenses add a range of protections to content.

At one end of the scale, a rights holder can chose to share their property with anyone, and let them do what they like with it. Stricter versions of the licences protect material from being manipulated or used for commercial purposes.

...Read the full article

 

2nd July   

Update: Chilling Effect...

Alaska fails in its attempt to make the internet only fit for children
Link Here
Alaska state seal A federal judge in Alaska has struck down as unconstitutional a state law criminalizing the electronic distribution of adult material to minors.

The judge said the broadly written law could have a chilling effect on free speech. He said people communicating online have no reasonable way to know the age of those accessing their communications.

Beistline said the state has a compelling interest in protecting minors but said the government may not reduce the adult population to only what is fit for children.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by a group that included bookstores, a photographer, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and ACLU of Alaska.

 

2nd July   

Kiss and Make Up...

Facebook censors classic gay kiss and then apologises
Link Here

sailor kiss Inspired by the classic V-J Day in Timesquare photograph taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt, a photograph was posted in celebration of New York's passing of the marriage equality bill.

The clever pic was liked by hundreds of Facebook users before being taken down by Facebook. Sharers of the photo received a message from Facebook stating the picture held:

content that is pornographic or contains nudity, or is inappropriately sexual.

After the backlash from their users, Facebook inevitably issued an apology stating:

Upon investigation, we concluded the photo does not violate our guidelines and was removed in error. We apologize for the inconvenience.

 

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