A legal battle over the scope of US government surveillance took a turn in favour of the National Security Agency with a court opinion declaring that bulk collection of telephone data does not violate the constitution.
The judgement, in a case brought
before a district court in New York by the American Civil Liberties Union, directly contradicts the result of a similar challenge in a Washington court last week which ruled the NSA's bulk collection program was likely to prove unconstitutional and was
almost Orwellian in scale.
Friday's ruling makes it more likely that the issue will be settled by the US supreme court, although it may be overtaken by the decision of Barack Obama on whether to accept the recommendations of a White House
review panel to ban the NSA from directly collecting such data.
Judge Pauley said privacy protections enshrined in the fourth amendment of the US constitution needed to be balanced against a government need to maintain a database of records to
prevent future terrorist attacks:
The right to be free from searches is fundamental but not absolute. Whether the fourth amendment protects bulk telephony metadata is ultimately a question of reasonableness.
The American Civil Liberties Union gave notice on Thursday that it will continue its legal case challenging the constitutionality of the National Security Agency's collection of all US phone records, drawing the federal appeals courts into a decision on
the controversial surveillance.
A federal judge in New York, William Pauley, gave the NSA a critical courtroom victory last week when he found the ACLU has no traction in arguing that intercepting the records of every phone call made in the
United States is a violation of the constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizures.
As expected, on Thursday the ACLU filed notice that it will appeal Pauley's decision before the second circuit court of appeals. The civil
liberties group said in a statement that it anticipates making its case before the appellate court in the spring.
The government has a legitimate interest in tracking the associations of suspected terrorists, but tracking those associations
does not require the government to subject every citizen to permanent surveillance, deputy ACLU legal director Jameel Jaffer said in the statement.
David Cameron's Mary Whitehouse, Conservative MP Claire Perry has been campaigning for the censorship of the internet via overbroad website blocking well in excess of the claimed porn blocking.
Having got her wish granted she found out for herself,
the ISP algorithms are crap and block everything including her own website.
The Independent reports that Perry's site was among those added to the blocked list by O2's blocking system. It's thought all the mentions of porn and sex on
her site in relation to why we need such censorship was enough to flag it up as one requiring blocking.
An O2 spokesperson told The Independent that the network had since changed its filter, allowing access to a few of the many negligently blocked
Since BT activated its 'block everyhthing', adult content filters, we've seen many examples of perfectly acceptable sites being blocked.
Alisdair Calder McGregor reported last week that the LGBT+ Liberal Democrats site, hardly a den of debauchery,
had fallen victim to BT's algorithims.
The latest, and best example to date in my view is the blocking of Glasgow's St Mary's Cathedral website and the personal blog of its Provost, the Very Rev Kelvin Holdsworth, as he told us on Twitter.
Just discovered that my blog is censored by the BT web filtering parental controls. That means some can't see invitation to crib service.
Just discovered that both my blog and @thecathedral
website are blocked by David Cameron's porn filters.
Now look, @LibDems. Blog and church website have been censored by Cameron's porn filters ON YOUR WATCH! None of us must forget that.
I read both sites
regularly and, needless to say, I've never seen anything anybody should be protected from on either of them. I suspect the reason they were blocked was because Kelvin writes a lot about LGBT issues and is a passionate campaigner for equal marriage. The
Cathedral, being an inclusive and welcoming place even to atheists like me has an LGBT Group.
A filter that gets it so badly wrong is a filter that really is not worth having.
Internet privacy as important as human rights, says UN's human rights chief, Navi Pillay. She compared the uproar in the international community caused by revelations of mass surveillance with the collective response that helped bring down the apartheid
regime in South Africa.
Pillay has been asked by the UN to prepare a report on protection of the right to privacy, in the wake of the former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden leaking classified documents about UK and US spying and the
collection of personal data. She said:
I don't grade human rights. I feel I have to look after and promote the rights of all persons. I'm not put off by the lifetime experience of violations I have seen.
Combined and collective action by everybody can end serious violations of human rights ... That experience inspires me to go on and address the issue of internet [privacy], which right now is extremely troubling because the
revelations of surveillance have implications for human rights ... People are really afraid that all their personal details are being used in violation of traditional national protections.
Whistle blower Edward Snowden has delivered an alternative UK Christmas message, urging an end to mass surveillance.
The broadcast was carried on Channel 4 as an alternative to the Queen's traditional Christmas message.
focused on privacy, saying: A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. Snowden opened his two-minute message, recorded in Russia, with a reference to novelist George Orwell, author of 1984, saying the surveillance
technology described in his works was nothing compared to what we have today .
A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They'll never know what it means to have a private moment to
themselves, an unrecorded, unanalysed thought.
The conversation occurring today will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it.
Together we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance and remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying.
The government is currently trying to push a bill forcing ISPs to provide opt-out pornography filtering, however this is an issue that fails to address any real problems.
Bad parenting is the real problem, and bad parents will
simply allow the filter to be enabled and believe it protects their children, even though the filters are easily (even trivially) circumvented. Parents need to supervise and educate their children about internet use, not rely on filters of dubious
It also sets a poor precedent that objectionable content can be blocked at the ISP level in the name of protecting children, who are in fact being harmed more by poor parenting. Aside from content of a clearly
illegal nature the government should not be forcing the presence of filters at all, but instead pushing to improve the involvement of parents in a child's life, and to promote education over flimsy, disruptive, and money-wasting solutions .
As this e-petition has received more
than 10 000 signatures, the relevant Government department have provided the following response:
In his speech on the 22 July, the Prime Minister announced a set of new measures for the internet industries to help parents keep their children safe online.
From the end of this year, when new customers set up a broadband
account, they will be prompted to set up parental controls. If a customer repeatedly clicks yes to get through the set-up quickly, filters will be automatically selected. Parental controls are easy for the account holder to change, so customers
who do not want filters can simply switch them off. In addition, parents will have the option to customise filters, so that only the categories of content that they choose will be filtered out in their household.
The Government is
aware of concerns that filters may lead to over-blocking. A UK Council for Child Internet Safety working group will look at this issue specifically and will report back to the Ministerial chairs. If a consumer or a website owner feels that a site has
been wrongly or unfairly blocked, they can seek redress directly with the relevant internet service provider (ISP).
ISPs have contracts with their customers which include good practice Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) about what may
be hosted on their servers. Most AUPs already contain a general clause which allows them to remove sites or content which contain inappropriate or offensive material, even if it is not illegal.
The Government expects these sites
to respond to complaints quickly and effectively as it is they who are best placed to deal with these issues. In the UK, we support a self-regulatory model for the internet industry as legislation can rarely adapt and change quickly enough to respond to
the constantly evolving online environment.
It is important to note that in an open society like ours, it is necessary to find the right balance between protecting the public and legitimate freedom of speech. The Government will
continue to work with ISPs and the rest of the internet industry to help people enjoy the benefits of the internet safely.
Following complaints, media attention and general realisation that O2's website blocking algorithm is shite, O2 have permanently taking down the transparency tool.
While O2 are the only company providing any transparency with their checker , this is a
bad move. People need to see how the filters work, and the checker helps them do this.
O2 claimed on the website that the facility closed for maintenance , but no doubt everyone will see through the propaganda bollox an realise the closure
is due to bad publicity for the web blocking.
Before being alerted by the media, O2 were blocking general access to Childline, the NSPCC, the Police and many others. Pink News reports that: O2 has labeled Stonewall, BBC News, the Conservative
Party and the Number 10 Downing Street website as unsuitable or uninteresting to under 12s.
What this emphasises is that transparency needs to be of right, and not something that can be withdrawn for commercial or public relations purposes.
Websites need to identify that they are blocked, or not. Complaints should not only be dealt with because of Twitter campaigns.
The former director Director of Public Prosecutions for the Crown Prosecution Service, has been active in drawing up guidelines for sensitive areas of criminal law. [But these still allowed the persecutions to continue]
Over the weekend, people were appalled to discover that BT filters supported homophobia, with a category blocking, sites where the main purpose is to provide information on subjects such as respect for a partner, abortion, gay and lesbian lifestyle,
contraceptive, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
BT have since reworded this description to remove the gay and lesbian reference , but given that their filtering is provided by an unnamed third party
supplier it seems highly unlikely that the filter itself has changed overnight -- merely the description. Such measures would never be taken against the heterosexual lifestyle - this is discrimination, pure and simple, hard-coded into our
national communications infrastructure.
Of course it's impossible to see what's been blocked other than through tedious trial and error. One website owner (@pseudomonas) asked BT on Twitter for information about whether their site
was blocked, and their experience was something like talking to a brick wall who only speaks French. The bottom line here is that even parents have no idea what they're actually blocking, and we have no way of assessing the harm caused by BT's measures.
O2 claims that its 'block everything' website censorship system has the BBFC classifying all websites. In fact the BBFC just provides a flimsy set of classification guidelines for ISPs to read (and obviously ignore)
interesting piece from Strange Things Are Happening
Despite Cameron's assurance that only the most pornographic sites would be blocked -- he specifically stated that things like The Sun 's topless Page 3 girls would not be caught by filtering -- it turns out that the companies are all using
their own systems, often supplied by filtering companies in the USA and China (yes, a nation that is home to companies that think a female nipple is obscene and a Communist dictatorship where free speech is virtually non-existent) and which use a
simplistic, catch-all method of defining porn. And of course, it's not just 'porn' that is being restricted. Adult material was the Trojan Horse used to introduce wholesale blocking of a wide variety of content.
At the moment, only O2 actually allow anyone to check which sites are blocked under their system. You can depress yourself with it here: http://urlchecker.o2.co.uk. Naturally, Strange Things Are Happening
is forbidden, listed as 'pornography' (here's a challenge -- find me a single genuinely pornographic image on this site). But the last couple of days have seen the internet digging into the filters and finding that, yes, a whole load of innocuous
sites are also blocked. These include Childline, The Samaritans, various sex education and domestic abuse sites, the British Library and even parliament.uk and gov.uk. Inevitably, it seems that pretty much every LGBT site is blocked.
Bizarrely, O2 have tried to blame this on the BBFC. The British censors have drawn up guidelines as to what is considered 'adult content' (you can read them
here and yes, they are problematic), but they're certainly not vetting individual sites, because that would require a staff a hundred times bigger than
the one they have -- but 02 have been telling people on Twitter "all websites are classified by BBFC" , which suggests that either someone doesn't understand how their own system works or that someone is being rather economical with the truth.
Because I can pretty much guarantee that the BBFC would not classify The Samaritans or Childline as 'adult content'. Oh, and guess what Mr Cameron? Page 3 is also blocked.
O2 have been explaining their crappy blocking system on
O2: @C9J Websites are classified by BBFC ( o2lin.kr/1e2NJQU )
whether 18+ or restricted for under 12 audience, or open for everyone.
In fact the BBFC guidelines on website classification are almost incompetently flimsy. They have a background that hasn't really prepared them for being used for ISP website blocking. The rules were drawn up by an obscure group (The Independent
Mobile Classification Board, IMCB) to classify content for mobile phones. This was before the internet became available on phones and was more about classifying the likes of Playboy video clips that the mobile companies had hoped to sell to their
The rules are more about video clips than wider internet conten,t and in fact the BBFC guidelines for film and video censorship map well into this initial requirement. The BBFC recently took over the mobile content censorship task and
updated the guidelines in line with current video classification rules.
Another historical characteristic of the guidelines is that they only support 2 classifications:
Available for all (not necessarily suitable for all) or
Restricted to over 18s
However the guidelines are really only based on film/video issues. They simply do not cover the myriad of issues about websites. Eg they do not speak of how website links effect the classification of websites, does a non-porn site linking to a porn
site get classified as a porn site. The guidelines speak of frequency of strong language that makes sense in the context of film or video but say nothing helpful about what frequency means in terms of a multipage website with mixed content.
One wonders how the BBFC would classify its own site given that it has an extensive database of hardcore pornography descriptions. It would be interesting if it declared itself to be age rated.
In fact it would be fascinating to get a few website rating from the BBFC.
What would be the rating of YouTube. It has loads of video 18 rated content (albeit not much hardcore porn). In reality it would be totally untenable to give YouTube
any sort of age restricted rating).
We would all be fascinated to know the rating for The Sun's website complete with Page 3.
And of course the ultimate, is know how the Daily Mail website would be officially rated.
Update: BBFC sort out O2 and their bullshit
24th December 2013. From Twitter
In response to bullshit tweets from O2, eg:
O2: @C9J Websites are classified by BBFC (
o2lin.kr/1e2NJQU ) whether 18+ or restricted for under 12 audience, or open for everyone.
The BBFC have tweeted:
working with @ O2 today to correct how they communicate the BBFC's role in classifying content available via mobile phones
We provide the Classification Framework which is applied by @ O2 & their commercial content suppliers
bbfc.co.uk/what-classific... ( http://t.co/tFiGOk8EuP )
A Singaporean news site known as Breakfast Network was forced to close down after it rejected onerous new government registration requirements. Founded by former Straits Times journalist and blogger Bertha Henson, the site features social and
political news and commentary. Henson elected to cease website operations after failing to submit documents demanded by the Media Development Authority (MDA). Despite warnings from the MDA, Breakfast Network is maintaining an online presence through its
Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Under a section of the Broadcasting (Class License) Act introduced last June , a corporate entity or website providing political commentary must register with the MDA to ensure that it does not receive foreign funding.
Aside from revealing its funding source, the website must submit the personal information of its editors and staff.
Breakfast Network was ordered by the MDA to register on or before December 17 but the website editor said the government's
technical requirements and registration forms contained too many vague provisions .
For its part, the MDA directed Breakfast Network to cease its online service, including its Facebook and Twitter publications:
Network has decided not to submit the registration form, and will therefore not be complying with the registration notification, MDA will require that Breakfast Network cease its online service.
Netizens and media groups quickly denounced the overly-intrusive requirements
imposed by the government and warned against excessive media regulation. Cherian George described the site's closure as death by red tape . Braema Mathi of the human rights group Maruah worried that the registration requirement has chilled
and reduced the space for free expression in Singapore. She continued:
As a regulator tasked with developing the media landscape in Singapore, MDA should consider the substantive impact of its decisions, not just
its own subjective intent. Registration requirements can operate to censor free expression as effectively as, and more insidiously than, outright demands to remove content.
The closure of a leading socio-political website has put a
spotlight on what the Singaporean government calls a light touch approach Internet regulation. Many groups believe this and other new policies are undermining media freedom in the country.
Google recently published an update to its semi-annual Transparency Report, and the latest figures show an ongoing increase in the efforts of governments around the world to censor content on services like Google and YouTube.
The new figures show that
governments made 3,846 takedown requests in the first half of 2013, which is up from 2,285 requests in the previous six month period, a 68% increase. Plus of course the requests that Google is not allowed to tell us about. The published requests targeted
24,737 pieces of content.
Google says it complied in only one third of the cases. Google refers to the requests as censorship and cited:
[A] worrying upward trend in the number of government requests, and
underscores the importance of transparency around the processes governing such requests.
The increase in this report appears tied to a spike in requests from Turkey, which demanded the most takedowns of any country (1,673). The second
biggest number came from the United States (545), which was followed by Brazil, Russia and India.
A new package of regulation has been passed in Italy, cutting the costs and time needed to get sites blocked or copyright infringing work removed from the internet.
The new rules, which gives internet censor, AgCom, the power to block users' access to
certain websites in the country, received the green light after a five-month long battle. The package of regulations will come into effect on 31 March next year and has received a warm welcome from the entertainment industry while drawing intense
criticism from a coalition of lawyers and activists threatening to challenge it in Italy's highest administrative court.
With the new provisions, if AgCom agrees an Italian-hosted site is infringing rights-holders' copyright, the watchdog can
order its hosting provider to remove the digital works in question. Alternatively, it can also ask ISPs to block their customers' access to the site, whether the site is hosted in Italy or not. Providers have three working days to comply with AgCom's
decision. In total, from the filing of the complaint to AgCom's verdict, the whole process should last no more than 35 days.
However, some lawyers and activists say that by speeding up the process, the new regulations pave the way for unfair
verdicts. Guido Scorza, a lawyer and expert in online law said:
Copyright is a complicate matter and I don't see how AgCom, which doesn't have a dedicated copyright team, could explore all the nuances of certain cases
with the necessary diligence in such a short time.
ISPs too are deeply concerned about the new law since they could risk a fine up to EUR250,000 if they don't comply with AgCom's rulings in time. Dino Bortolotto, president of ISP
association Assoprovider, told ZDNet:
The regulation is weighted in favour of copyright holders and doesn't even mention the costs that ISPs will bear in order to comply with orders that are likely to become more
frequent. We will devote many man-hours to operations carried out in favour of people that don't need money. It is as if we are going to work for Elton John for free.
Adult content blocking systems used by major ISPs are blocking websites offering sex education and advice on sexual health and porn addiction, the BBC has learned.
The four major internet companies have started to roll out so-called porn filters
to their users. BT launched its filter this week , Virgin has a pilot programme ahead of a full launch early in 2014, and Sky's was turned on a month ago. TalkTalk's blocking system started in May 2011.
Newsnight also discovered all the major ISPs
that have launched full default filters are also failing to block hardcore porn-hosting sites.
Among the sites TalkTalk blocked as pornographic was BishUK.com , an award-winning British sex education site, which receives more than a million
visits each year. TalkTalk also lists Edinburgh Women's Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre website as pornographic. The company also blocked a programme ran by sex education experts, taught to 81,000 American children that has been in development for
more than 20 years.
The TalkTalk system failed to block 7% of the 68 pornographic websites tested by Newsnight.
Sky's filter fared much better, blocking 99% of sites, but it did block six porn-addiction sites.
BT blocked sites
including Sexual Health Scotland , Doncaster Domestic Abuse Helpline , and Reducing The Risk , a site which tackles domestic abuse.
Justin Hancock runs BishUK and was not aware his site was being blocked by some systems until he was alerted by
Newsnight. He said:
It's really frustrating because I'm trying to provide a sex education site for young people and it's hard enough directing young people to good quality information on the internet.
They might fix my site in the short-term but what about all the other sites that are out there for young people, not just sex education sites... who are TalkTalk to say what is allowed and isn't?
Offsite Article: Why WordPress bloggers were blocked by TalkTalk, and what it tells us about Internet filtering
At the end of November a number of WordPress blog admins complained on WordPress forums that they were having problems accessing their accounts. It appeared that TalkTalk subscribers who had Wordpress blogs could not access their administration pages
over https, and so couldn't write and publish new blog posts.
The second time we met was in the Sky News studio. I know you remember me, because you described me as a "responsible pornographer". I felt dirty. I tried to put two questions to you, but you talked over them, as
politicians are trained to do. So here are those questions again:
I'm a parent: are you suggesting that my partner and I should censor our home Internet connection because we happen to have a child in the house? Should parents set their filters on or off?
How can you prevent a repeat of the huge overblocking problem that already appears on mobile networks?
Since you wouldn't answer these, I will: 1) There is no sense in a filter that affects a whole household rather than individuals; 2) You can't prevent overblocking. You can promise to, just as you can promise to stop the tide.
But you can't. It's impossible.
ATVOD held a conference on 12 December on protecting children from online porn. LSE's Benjamin De La Pava reflects on the discussion arguing that there remains little consensus upon which to base policy
A computer programmer in Christchurch is creating headlines around the world after discovering that North Korea has deleted thousands of news articles mentioning Jang Song Thaek, the former top government and party official, who was executed Thursday.
The discovery was made by Frank Feinstein who tracks North Korea's media output for a Washington website, NK News . NK News says that the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) has deleted more than 35,000 articles from its on-line archives.
deletion, the biggest ever article removal in KCNA's history, means that with the exception of a small number of articles about Kim Jong Un, the digital record of state-approved news about him reaches back only to October 2013.
In addition to the
35,000 original Korean language articles, translations in English, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese were all removed from the archives, bringing the total to nearly 100,000 deleted articles.
Reporters Without Borders has asked the Thai Ministry of Communications and Internet Technology to change its approach to updating the Computer Crime Act of 2007.
The law already authorizes the government to arrest journalists and bloggers for
political reasons. If a newly proposed amendment were adopted, the government would have even more latitude to muzzle the independent and opposition media. Reporters Without Borders said:
We support the five
journalists association which have protested the bill. The bill -- in addition to eliminating a requirement for a judicial warrant to block a website -- would allow that action without approval from the Ministry of Communications and Internet Technology,
thereby distancing the law even more from international standards.
The press freedom organization added, We request that the legislation be withdrawn in its entirety.
In a joint press release on 24 October, the Thai
Journalists Association, the Thai Broadcasting Journalists Association, Online News Providers Association, Information Technology Reporters and Academic Specialists on Computer Law Group declared that the bill would threaten the very infrastructure of
the internet and would make website operators, internet service providers and users responsible for content.
Three of the biggest payment handling companies have backed calls to cut off funds to hard-core pornographic websites that allow children access.
Visa, MasterCard and PayPal have agreed to help to lobby the Government for laws that would allow them to
refuse to process card payments to websites that do not have age restrictions, Peter Johnson, chief executive of the Authority for Television on Demand , said last night.
The VOD censor, ATVOD, has been arguing that the law would be a significant
step in stopping children being able freely to access porn. However with the amount of porn already sloshing around the world then this seems an unlikely outcome. However it will crucify smaller companies to try make a living in an industry trying to
compete with a free product.
Update: Pete Johnson speaks of legislation required to ban payments to websites
the event: For Adults Only? -- protecting children from online porn conference, organised by ATVOD, there was much discussion of ways to censor the internet in the name of child protection. In particular there were further comments about blocking
payment services to adult websites. Pete Johnson, ATVOD Chief Executive, said:
The overarching message of the conference was that we all need to continue finding ways to better protect children online. That is why
ATVOD is working with Visa Europe, MasterCard, PayPal and others in the UK payments industry to design a process which would prevent payments being made to foreign websites which allow children in the UK to view hardcore pornography. The initiative
requires statutory underpinning and we are therefore discussing with Government the options for bringing this about. In the meantime, ATVOD will continue to take robust action to ensure that UK websites keep hardcore porn out of reach of children.
BT launched their new Parental Controls service , the latest ISP to roll out network level filters following the Government's push this summer.
We haven't gone through the answers in great detail yet. But from a first look,
the main similarity with Sky's answers concerns how they will deal with reports of over-blocking. Both Sky and BT say that there will be a process for responding quickly to reports, which is a start. But there's little more than that and the devil will
be in the detail. We need to be sure that site owners know who to approach, that they will speak to someone who understands the problem, and that the mistake will be fixed quickly.
Neither Sky nor BT really address the issue of
liability, either. If a business finds its site blocked for, say, a week by mistake, are they able to take any action to remedy the possible damage? BT seem to suggest that they are not responsible at all for the categorisations, pointing at the
(unnamed) third party that they are using for the service.
GreatFire.org's Free Weibo, a tool that allows you to search and find censored tweets on China's popular microblogging platform, Sina Weibo, was temporarily made available in the Apple apps store in China after being previously blocked.
who along with Martin Johnson created Great Fire, a website that monitor's censorship in China explained that Great Fire had recently updated the app, which threw the Apple censors off for a short period of time. But only a day later, the app was
The app is only blocked in the Chinese Apple store but it can be downloaded everywhere else. Furthermore, says Smith, those who were able to download Free Weibo before it was blocked are still able to use the app, problem-free.
Apple has censored a number of applications before, most recently a popular censorship circumvention tool called OpenDoor, usually pulling them quietly without much warning. With Open Door, the developers learned about the censorship only after users
brought it to their attention.
The Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP), a not-for-profit organisation funded by the US online adult industry, and the Free Speech Coalition, the US adult entertainment trade association, came together today (12 December) to discuss
the topic For Adults Only -- Protecting Children From Online Porn at The Authority of Television On Demand (ATVOD) conference.
The two invited organisations reinforced their common purpose to protect children online;
however, called for a public education campaign as the only viable alternative to blanket censorship, such as ISP blocking, based on the findings of their report Protecting Children in the Digital Age .
The report is based
on independent research and over 17 years combating the spread of child pornography, as well as learning from failed initiatives in the US. It calls for the UK government to re-think how they approach issues around children and internet pornography.
The function of government is to provide its citizens with considered evidence based Public Policy; not to cooperate with moral panics and
narrow pressure groups.
Duke was highlighting current reliance on non-scientific research, such as the Psychologies magazine survey conducted on a small sample of London school children and avoidance of academic
research such as EU Kids Online from the London School of Economics.
The ASACP, who have won awards for initiatives such as the Restricted to Adults (RTA) label, participated in the US Congressional Internet Caucus, and think
tanks on internet safety at institutions like Harvard stated:
Forced ISP blocking will not identify online sex offenders or victims of abuse, and won't prevent online sex offenders from accessing images or attempting
Spokesperson Vince Charlton, Director of European Outreach for ASACP added:
After almost 20 years in the industry, and painstaking adherence to the best academic research,
we have found the most significant impact on behaviour and safety is parental involvement in children's' digital lives. This would be achieved with an extensive public education campaign.
Creating hysteria and setting up blocks at
the ISP level will not only do little to protect children online, but also may pose additional threats because it will give parents a false sense of security.
The report offers the following recommendations on child
safety: 1)The launch of a public educational campaign to provide factual information to UK citizens on how to keep our young people safe online 2)Partnering with adult content providers and gaming sites to ensure all sites use a filtering system that
facilitates age-appropriate parental controls 3)Providing practical, evidence based, educational classes to parents covering topics from installing parental controls, to how to communicate with their children about online interactions
The report also highlights the failings of filtering technologies as a silver bullet solution to child protection online and raised serious concerns that ISP blocking could even prevent young people's access to advice and
resources on serious issues like cyber-bullying, child luring, cyber-stalking, and what to do if you are a victim of sexual or physical abuse.
French intelligence, the police and many others will be able to spy on internet users in real time and without authorisation, under a law passed on Wednesday.
The legislation, which was approved almost unnoticed, will enable a wide range of public
officials including police, gendarmes, intelligence and anti-terrorist agencies as well as several government ministries to monitor computer, tablet and smartphone use directly.
The spying clause, part of a new military programming law, comes just
weeks after France, which considers individual privacy a pillar of human rights, expressed outrage at revelations that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had been intercepting phone calls in France.
Article 13 of the new law will allow not just
the security forces but intelligence services from the defence, interior, economy and budget ministries to see electronic and digital communications in real time to discover who is connected to whom, what they are communicating and where they are.
Opponents are considering whether to refer the legislation to the constitutional court, France's highest legal authority, over the question of public freedom.
A mobile display ad for Hotspot Shield showed an image of Katy Perry and logos of YouTube, Skype, Facebook and hulu. Text stated Hotspot Shield - Access blocked sites at school - Get It Now [link]. Issue
challenged whether the ad was harmful and irresponsible, because it encouraged children to remove internet blocks while at school without the consent of their parents.
AnchorFree Inc t/a Hotspot Shield (Hotspot Shield) said the ad
was targeted at university students and not children. They said it was never possible to guarantee that someone under 16 years of age would not see an ad, but that where they could target by age, they targeted people over 18. They said they otherwise
targeted content or content categories that would be more likely to be frequented by adults. They said they never knowingly targeted children or content that was primarily consumed by them and that their aim was to upgrade users to a paid subscription,
for which children would not have the credit cards or paypal accounts to pay.
ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld
The ASA acknowledged that the ultimate aim of the ad was to encourage adult recipients to
upgrade to a paid subscription, an option that would not be available to children directly because it required payment by credit card. Nevertheless, we considered Katy Perry was likely to appeal to children and that Hotspot Shield had not demonstrated
that they had procedures in place which would prevent the ad being sent to them. If the ad was received by children, we considered it appeared to address them at school and encouraged them to remove blocks on internet sites that they would not normally
be permitted to access. Because of that, we considered the ad was harmful and irresponsible and breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Responsible advertising) and 5.1 (Children). Action
As Britain enacts laws forcing Internet companies to block access to adult content unless customers opt in, a fledgling movement is under way to bring similar laws to Canada.
If we can get a man on the moon, certainly we can figure out a way to
protect children from unwanted porn, said Winnipeg Conservative MP Joy Smith, who is formulating a private member's bill that would automatically block access to online pornography. Anyone wanting to access porn would have to contact their ISPs.
Smith hosted a recent meeting for parliamentarians and other stakeholders in Ottawa, with speakers including PC extremist Gail Dines who founded the Stop Porn Culture group, and Julia Beazley, policy analyst at the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.
They warned about the increasingly violent nature of modern pornography and its effects on young users, which Dines described in an interview as a public health emergency situation.
Jurors should face up to two years in prison if they search the internet for information about cases beyond the facts revealed in court, the Law Commission has recommended.
Judges should also be given powers to remove jurors' mobile phones, and
all internet-enabled devices must be confiscated during jury room deliberations, according to the commission's proposals for reforming contempt of court regulations.
The report suggests that the attorney general ought to take on responsibility for
ordering the media to remove previously published stories from websites if they are deemed to jeopardise a fair trial.
The Law Commission believes its proposals on removing stories from websites will not require media organisations to monitor
every trial in the country to ensure that archived stories, still available online, pose a risk to a fair trial.
By requiring the attorney general to make a formal approach to the media when it is feared there is a significant risk that previously
published material could undermine justice, the commission intends that interventions will be rare.
We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer's revelations highlighted the urgent need to
reform government surveillance practices worldwide. The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual --- rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all
cherish. It's time for a change.
For our part, we are focused on keeping users' data secure --- deploying the latest encryption technology to prevent unauthorized surveillance on our networks and by pushing back on government
requests to ensure that they are legal and reasonable in scope.
We urge the US to take the lead and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks,
transparent and subject to independent oversight. To see the full set of principles we support, visit ReformGovernmentSurveillance.com
In recent months, the extent of mass surveillance has become common knowledge. With a few clicks of the mouse the state can access your mobile device,
your email, your social networking and internet searches. It can follow your political leanings and activities and, in partnership with internet corporations, it collects and stores your data, and thus can predict your consumption and behaviour.
The basic pillar of democracy is the inviolable integrity of the individual. Human integrity extends beyond the physical body. In their thoughts and in their personal environments and communications, all humans have the right
to remain unobserved and unmolested.
This fundamental human right has been rendered null and void through abuse of technological developments by states and corporations for mass surveillance purposes.
A person under surveillance is no longer free; a society under surveillance is no longer a democracy. To maintain any validity, our democratic rights must apply in virtual as in real space.
Surveillance violates the private sphere and compromises freedom of thought and opinion.
Mass surveillance treats every citizen as a potential suspect. It overturns one of our historical
triumphs, the presumption of innocence.
Surveillance makes the individual transparent, while the state and the corporation operate in secret. As we have seen, this power is being systemically abused.
Surveillance is theft. This data is not public property: it belongs to us. When it is used to predict our behaviour, we are robbed of something else: the principle of free will crucial to democratic liberty.
WE DEMAND THE RIGHT for all people to determine, as democratic citizens, to what extent their personal data may be legally collected, stored and processed, and by whom; to obtain information on where their data is stored and how
it is being used; to obtain the deletion of their data if it has been illegally collected and stored.
WE CALL ON ALL STATES AND CORPORATIONS to respect these rights.
WE CALL ON ALL
CITIZENS to stand up and defend these rights.
WE CALL ON THE UNITED NATIONS to acknowledge the central importance of protecting civil rights in the digital age, and to create an international bill of digital rights.
WE CALL ON GOVERNMENTS to sign and adhere to such a convention.
Signed by more than 500 writers from around the world including the following from the UK:
Akkas Al-Ali, Tariq Ali, David Almond, Martin
Amis, Julian Barnes, Priya Basil, John Berger, Jane Borodale, John Burnside, Louis de Bernières, Isobel Dixon, Joanne Harris, Kazuo Ishiguro, Pico Iyer, Stephen Kelman, Hari Kunzru, Ian McEwan, David Mitchell, Stella Newman, Henry Porter, Martin
Rowson, Manda Scott, Will Self, Owen Sheers, Philip Sington, Tom Stoppard, Adam Thirwell, David Vann, Nigel Warbuton, Irvine Welsh, Jeanette Winterson, Rana Dasgupta, Anjali Joseph, Nikita Lalwani, Fadia Faqir, Hanif Kureishi, Lionel Shriver
The human rights group Amnesty International has announces that it is taking legal action against the UK government over concerns its communications have been illegally accessed by UK intelligence services.
Amnesty said it was highly likely
its emails and phone calls have been intercepted and issued a claim at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) arguing that the interception of its communications would be in breach of article 8 (right to privacy) and article 10 (right to freedom of
expression) of the Human Rights Act.
Michael Bochenek, director of law and policy for the human rights group, said:
As a global organisation working on many sensitive issues that would be of particular interest
to security services in the US and UK, we are deeply troubled by the prospect that the communications of our staff may have been intercepted.
We regularly receive sensitive information from sources in situations that mean their
co-operation with Amnesty could present a real risk to their safety and the safety of their family. Any prospect that this type of communication is being intercepted by the US and UK through their mass surveillance programmes raises substantive concerns
and presents a real threat to the effectiveness of Amnesty International's work.
Schoolchildren in the city of Krasnodar will not be able to watch a puppet theater performance of Mozart's opera The Magic Flute this year. Censors at the Federal Mass Media Inspection Service put an 18+ label on the show. The reason: In the
opera, one of the heroines wants to kill herself.
Age restrictions on access to information, including Internet sites, have been in place for more than a year in the country. But until now they had not been applied to classical works of literature and
art. Soon this might change. On Dec. 4, the Federal Mass Media Inspection Service presented a project called The Concept of Informational Security for Children. Among its stipulations is a ban that would keep minors from watching on the Internet
classical works of art that include images of the nude body in any form, and anything that might be considered erotic.
Censorship would also extend to works of literature in which the characters use alcohol and drugs or commit crimes, or in works
where there are statements destructive to the social institution of the family.
A more radical proposal in the project forbids the depiction or description of mishaps, accidents or catastrophes in television and radio news shows
before 9 p.m. If this becomes law, daytime news shows will revert to the Soviet standard of all day, all good news.
The State Duma is considering a draft law that would allow more sites to be blocked without a court order. This would be
applied to Internet sites calling for mass unrest or participation in mass events conducted in violation of the established order. In normal language, this means that announcements of unsanctioned opposition rallies on social networks would be
2nd Reading in the House of Lords for Elspeth's Howe's ludicrous bill to demand British websites implement onerous ATVOD style age verification before granting access to any 'adult' content, even MelonFarmers
Last year Elspeth Howe sponsored a private members bill that more or less mandated ISP porn blocking software along the lines of that currently being introduced. However it had a nasty twist that all pornographic images be restricted to users opting in
to porn access from their ISPs and that allowable porn sites had to implement onerous ATVOD style age verification systems such as demanding a credit card (debit cards are unacceptable) payment prior to any access to porn.
This year Howe has
reintroduced her bill with an even nastier kick in the teeth. She want all adult content, not just porn, to be restricted to sites that impose ATVOD style age verification.
The Bill receives its 2nd read in the House of Lord today. The relevant
section of the bill reads:
1 Duty to provide a service that excludes adult content
(1) Internet service providers must provide to subscribers an internet access service which
excludes adult content unless all the conditions of subsection 3 have been fulfilled.
(2) Where mobile telephone network operators provide a telephone service to subscribers, which includes an
internet access service, they must ensure this service excludes adult content unless all the conditions of subsection 3 have been fulfilled.
(3) The conditions are--
(a) the subscriber "opts-in" to subscribe to a service that includes adult content;
(b) the subscriber is aged 18 or over; and
the provider of the service has an age verification policy which meets the standards set out by OFCOM and which has been used to confirm that the subscriber is aged 18 or over.
The bill passed 2nd Reading after 3 hours of censorial politicians patting each other on the back for this ludicrously worded proposal.
Nobody was interesting in actually thinking through the consequences of the proposal. A fine example of how crap law is generated.
Sky has launched its network-level mature content blocking system.
Called Sky Broadband Shield, the blocking system is available to new and existing Sky customers from today, and will block content if they fall into one of ten categories, including
porn, self-harm and suicide. Sky isn't categorising that content itself and is instead working with Symantec.
Customers will have the option of three blocking levels - PG, 13, and 18. The adults-only setting won't block content, but, according to
Sky, will provide some defence against phishing attempts and malware.
Users can switch off filtering entirely through their My Sky settings, and parents can also tailor the block list by adding or removing specific sites, as well as switching on
or off each of the ten categories.
Since it's a network-level filter, it will implement the same blocking definitions for all devices using that connection.
Any new customers signing up to Sky from today will see a page asking them to
approve their blocking settings; the settings for 13-year-olds and up will be pre-ticked.
All of the country's mobile operators implement website blocking systems in the name of child protection. They are turned on by default, and only get removed by a minority of people, and are largely unregulated.
The most important thing to know about
these mobile website blockers, though, is this: they are terrible at their job.
Over the years, many websites have found themselves the victim of a phenomenon known as overblocking , where the filters seem to arbitrarily censor them from
millions of subscribers. This may sound like a storm in a teacup (who doesn't want to look out for kids?) but for many website owners, being hit by an overblock can be more than just irritating: it can be potentially threatening to your business.
Over the last month or so, I've been documenting the process we've been going through after we discovered that Orange was overblocking GigaOM and preventing mobile readers from accessing our site . We did manage to get the block lifted , but what
became even more frustrating than the overblock itself was trying to understand why it had happened.
But now, it turns out, we may have an actual answer --- and it's proof positive of the totally ludicrous, crude nature of the filtering that goes
on. Here's the bottom line: Orange's child protection filter, Safeguard, simply prevents people from reading anything that looks like a blog.
The company sent me an official statement explaining their position (my emphasis):
We would urge websites who feel they have been incorrectly categorised, or those who would like to register a complaint, to use the feedback tool provided on the Orange Safeguard landing page users are presented with when a site is
blocked. We will aim to investigate and rectify any problems as quickly as possible. GigaOM was blocked by our third party monitoring system as it was categorised incorrectly as a blog,
So, essentially, Safeguard divides the web into
categories of content. Some of it is OK: things like news services or big, well-known websites. Meanwhile, pretty much any site that's categorized as containing user-generated content gets filtered by default --- and that includes blogs, forums, chat
sites and many more. That's it.
Future advisory notes from the Attorney General will be published to help prevent social media users from committing a contempt of court placeholder
Advisory notes from the Attorney General will be published on the gov.uk website
and twitter from today to help prevent social media users from committing a contempt of court, Dominic Grieve QC MP has announced.
The advisories, which have previously only been issued to print and broadcast media outlets on a
not for publication basis, are designed to make sure that a fair trial takes place and warn people that comment on a particular case needs to comply with the Contempt of Court Act 1981.
The change in policy is designed to help
inform the public about the legal pitfalls of commenting in a way which could be seen as prejudicial to a court case or those involved.
Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC MP said:
social media sites like Twitter and Facebook mean that individuals can now reach thousands of people with a single tweet or post. This is an exciting prospect, but it can pose certain challenges to the criminal justice system.
days gone by, it was only the mainstream media that had the opportunity to bring information relating to a court case to such a large group of people that it could put a court case at risk. That is no longer the case, and is why I have decided to publish
the advisories that I have previously only issued to the media.
This is not about telling people what they can or cannot talk about on social media; quite the opposite in fact ...BUT... it's designed to help
facilitate commentary in a lawful way. I hope that by making this information available to the public at large, we can help stop people from inadvertently breaking the law, and make sure that cases are tried on the evidence, not what people have found
This change also brings more openness to Government's dealings with the media so that both sides can be accountable to the public for what they do and say.
The advisories will be
published on the Attorney General's Office (AGO) section of the gov.uk website and also through the AGO's twitter feed, @AGO_UK
Campaigners of End Violence Against Women Coalition have called for the Dangerous Pictures Act to be extended to all types of extreme violence.
This follows news that Jamie Reynolds has admitted murdering Shropshire teenager Georgia Williams. It was
revealed that Reynolds viewed violent pornography and had a history of threatening behaviour towards women.
This week Stafford Crown Court heard that Reynolds had taken photographs before, during and after Georgia's death. He also stockpiled up to
50 pictures of girls he had found on social networking sites whose heads he had superimposed onto explicit images. He had also written down his sick fantasies in stories and frequently viewed pornography depicting extreme violence.
campaign manager of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said extreme pornography freely available on the internet was normalising the sexual fantasies of boys and young men . And she said the law should be extended to cover other types of
Index on Censorship is writing to you ahead of Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger's appearance before the Home Affairs Select Committee's hearing on counter terrorism.
that the Guardian's publication of details of GCHQ's digital surveillance techniques has been very much in the public interest.
Mass data retention and monitoring is a hugely important issue. As more and more of our lives are
lived online, it is only right that British people should know how and why the security services gather and monitor digital information. We should be able to debate whether the security services are acting legitimately, legally and proportionately, or
are going beyond what is suitable and proper in any democratic, rights-based society. The Guardian's revelations should be the beginning of a public debate on how this work is done, and with what oversights.
We are concerned that
rather than a debate being opened up, the focus has instead been on criticising the Guardian's work, with even the Prime Minister threatening to take action against the newspaper if it did not take ?social responsibility?. Index on Censorship maintains
that the Guardian has shown great social responsibility in investigating, reporting and publishing the details of this story, having maintained open communication with security services and the DA Notice committee.
has also lived up to the responsibility of a free press to reveal facts and issues of interest to the public. A British newspaper should be able to report on these issues without fear of retribution. But comments made by politicians and the security
services made have led many round the world to question Britain's commitment to press freedom. For example, the New-York based Committee to Protect Journalists rightly pointed out that: ?Governments around the world look to the UK as a model for media
policies, but in this case, Cameron seems to be taking a page from the book of less enlightened governments that invoke social responsibility to ward off valid criticism.?
Finally, Index on Censorship is troubled by the use
of counter-terror measures to detain David Miranda, the partner of former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald. We believe the use of terror legislation to obtain journalistic materials, without court oversight, is a threat to free expression and to
anyone involved in journalism. As part of a coalition of newspapers, journalists? organisations and campaigners which submitted an intervention to the judicial review of Mr Miranda's detention at Heathrow airport, we are concerned that using Schedule 7
of the Terrorism Act 2000 against people engaged in journalistic activities runs a real risk of conflating journalism--particularly journalism investigating the intelligence services--with terrorism.