Australian phone company Telstra has decided to censor strong language from voice-to-text messages. "fuck' and 'cunt' will now be replaced by long dashes.
Such censorship is not unprecedented, as Apple has been changing "fuck' to duck on preemptive text messages since the iPhones emerged. But the Australia-based carrier had bigger plans, completely blocking out expletives.
The difference this time is that Telstra opted to use symbols as the substitutes for swear words instead of automatically rewording them like in Apple's case. This development may entail more effort on the users' part to decipher the meaning of
the censored words.
The Chinese government is trying a new technique to censor and ban mobile users that evade internet censorship in China, specifically the far west territory of Xinjiang.
Foreign messaging apps' users in China's Xinjiang territory such as WhatsApp have had their phone service shut down entirely, according to the New York Times. A text message was sent preceding the shutdown. It said that the user's cellphone
number will be shut down within the next two hours in accordance with the law.
Not only users of the downloaded foreign messaging apps such as WhatsApp or Telegram but also people employing virtual private networks (VPNs) to cloak their locations to get access to banned websites and those who failed to register their
account with the proper identification were reported in the police station.
Xinjiang is the region experiencing terrorism related to separatists from the Muslim Uyghur ethnic groups in the region. The region has been subject to extreme censorship before, with the internet totally shut down for 6 months in 2009.
Apple has refuse a US court order to hand over texts sent using iMessage between two iPhones because its encryption system leaves the company unable to comply.
The order was obtained by the US Department of Justice during an investigation over the summer and represents the first known direct face-off between the government and Apple over encryption.
The US government, led by the FBI, has been making increasingly strident calls for technology companies to stop providing ubiquitous encryption to customers. In September 2014, the director of the FBI, James Comey, specifically criticised Apple's
decision to enable end-to-end encryption in its then-new mobile operating system, iOS8, which is what prevents the company from reading its users' messages. Comey said at the time:
I like and believe very much that we should have to obtain a warrant from an independent judge to be able to take the content of anyone's closet or their smart phone. The notion that someone would market a closet that could never be opened --
even if it involves a case involving a child kidnapper and a court order -- to me does not make any sense.
Google is marketing their Android the same way: 'Buy our phone and law-enforcement, even with legal process, can never get access to it.
A study by digital analysts Juniper Research has concluded that adult smartphone users will each watch an average of 348 porn videos on their devices in 2015.
In total, the researchers estimate that 136 billion sexually explicit videos will be watched on smartphones this year. They go on to predict that the number will increase by a further 55%over the next five years, to 193 billion videos.
According to the Juniper report, titled Digital Adult Content: Market Trends, Forecasts and Revenue Opportunities 2015-2020 , the increase will be more significant in developing markets, as Wi-Fi and 4G technology become more widely
available. The rise will be less steep in western Europe. However, net growth will be at its greatest in the United States.
In the past four months, the Australian Classifications Board has labelled 220 video games, making it illegal to sell, advertise or exhibit them in the country.
Australian newspapers have been downplaying the censorship saying that it doesn't sound so bad when one realises that the amount of bans is related to the large quantities of back catologue apps being processed via a new rapid decision program,
perhaps up to 150,000 of them.
In fact that the 220 games are properly banned under censorial rules for what's allowed in adults only R18+ games. There was a lot of political opposition to allowing an adults rating at all and the final compromises rules ban games for content
that would be perfectly legal in most western countries. For instance more or less anything to do with the depiction of drugs is banned from Australian games.
Examples of banned games on the list include:
Torture the Murderer 2
Measure Bra Size Prank
Douchebag Beach Club
Pass the Grass
Time for Cocaine
Police Bus for Criminals
2015 Athletic Fruits Girls
Fun Swimming Pool Love Kiss
There are also several instances of the same game developer submitting multiple, obviously identical games (for example Weed Time submitted as Smoke a Bong FREE, Smoke a Bong, Smoke a Joint, Smoke a Joint FREE and Nose Dose ).
So it seems there are still serious discussions to be had around Australia's game censorship system, including the fact that Australia is much stricter than other countries when it comes to representations of sexual content and drugs, something
that has resulted in the blocking of a handful of high quality, well-respected games that adult players in other countries enjoy.
Over the weekend of June 20th to 21st, the results of the first three months of the International Age Rating Coalition trial were dumped into the Classification Board's database. They reveal censorship on a scale never before seen in Australia.
The first mobile game/app is listed as being banned (Refused Classification) on March 18th. At the time of writing, a total of 242 have been banned.
Interestingly, the Classification Board has chosen not to give a reason why they have been banned. Several of the banned apps have innocuous titles so perhaps there is a technical explanation such as not filling in the forms correctly.
To help consumers make informed choices on Google Play, we're introducing a new rating system for apps and games. These ratings provide an easy way to communicate familiar and locally relevant content ratings to your users and help improve app
engagement by targeting the right audience for your content.
Starting in May, consumers worldwide will see the current Google Play rating scale replaced with their local rating on the Play Store. Territories that are not covered by a specific International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) rating authority will
be assigned an age-based, generic rating.
To prevent your apps' from being listed as Unrated, sign in to your Google Play Developer Console and fill out the questionnaire for each of your apps as soon as possible. Unrated apps may be blocked in certain territories or for
Beginning May 5, 2015, all new apps and updates to existing apps will need to have a completed content rating questionnaire before they can be published. As a Google Play Developer, your compliance and participation with the new app ratings
system is required under the Google Play Developer Distribution Agreement. Apps that aren't rated using the new rating system may be removed from the Play Store.
Note: All apps and games on Google Play are required to follow the Google Play Developer Content Policy.
To receive a rating for each of your apps and games, you fill out a rating questionnaire on the Google Play Developer Console about the nature of your apps' content and receive a content rating from multiple rating authorities. The ratings
assigned to your app displayed on Google Play are determined by your questionnaire responses.
You're responsible for completing the content rating questionnaire for:
New apps submitted on the Developer Console Existing apps that are active on Google Play All app updates where there has been a change to app content or features that would affect the responses to the questionnaire
To benefit users, developers should use the assigned rating when advertising their app in each respective region, subject to display guidelines.
App ratings are not meant to reflect the intended audience. The ratings are intended to help consumers, especially parents, identify potentially objectionable content that exists within an app.
All rating icons are protected trademarks of the respective rating authority and their misuse may result in legal action.
Important: Make sure to provide accurate responses to the content rating questionnaire. Misrepresentation of your app's content may result in removal or suspension.
Rating authorities & descriptions
The bodies involved are:
The Australian Classification Board
Classifcacao Indicativa, which covers Brazil
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), which looks after North America
Pan European Game Information (Pegi), which is used by the UK and 29 other European countries
Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle, which is specific to Germany
Australian Classification Board
Generic ratings are assigned to territories without a participating authority. There is also a variant set of ages used for App ratings in South Korea.
The app store, Google Play has introduced an international rating scheme.
Developers fill in a questionnaire as to whether their app contains nudity or strong language etc and then an automated system assigns an age rating dependant on the locale. Local censorship variations will apply, eg an app might be okay for
children in one Europe, but not in the US.
In North America, ratings are based off of the ESRB ratings that are usually seen on games (though they apply to non-game apps as well). In Europe, PEGI is used, and so on. Regions without an established ratings authority will receive a generic
The automated rating system will be backed up by an app review team composed of actual human beings who will also check out disputed or controversial ratings. The team will make decisions about ratings within hours of submission.
Google is also rolling more detailed information on app publishing statuses, giving developers more insight into why their apps may not be published right away.
Public concerns seem lifted straight from feminist PC campaign literature. These are then presented as a series of 'factors' that predictably only the BBFC can arbitrate on. The rules are supposed to let websites and ISPs decide for themselves
Research carried out on behalf of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) confirms public demand for putting certain types of glamour imagery behind adult filters on mobile devices.
The BBFC has been the provider of the Mobile Classification Framework used by Mobile Network Operators in the UK to calibrate their filters since September 2013. This Classification Framework, along with the policies that underpin it, is
consistent with the standards used to classify film and videos.
Very broad patterns about the kinds of images that were thought to be unacceptable for those under 18 are highlighted in the research . An overwhelming majority of participants indicated that images containing sexualised full frontal nudity, sex
acts, or explicit sexual poses were unacceptable. Conversely, images deemed acceptable by the majority of participants tended to depict models who were wearing more clothes, or less explicitly sexualised poses.
Participants in the research showed concern for protecting children aged nine to 13 years old, because they were considered to be the most impressionable. The lack of context for glamour images is also perceived as problematic, in addition to the
nature of viewing content on devices, where parental oversight is less likely and sharing capabilities amongst peers is easy to achieve.
David Austin, Assistant Director, BBFC, said:
The public has given a clear indication of what sort of glamour imagery they would like to see restricted to adults only. We have responded to the research by publishing a policy response which we will apply when considering glamour content
under the BBFC's Classification Framework for mobile content.
Hamish MacLeod, chair of the Mobile Broadband Group, commented:
Mobile operators in the UK have been placing adult content behind access controls since 2005, in accordance with established, independent standards. The BBFC's latest research provides robust and up-to-date evidence to ensure that the standards
used will remain consistent with other media and will continue to meet public expectations
The research reflects wider attitudes around protecting children from inappropriate sexual imagery highlighted in, for example, the independent 2011 Bailey review Letting Children be Children.
The BBFC Mobile Classification Framework, adopted by the UK's four Mobile Network Operators in September 2013, defines content that is unsuitable for customers under the age of 18 and is based on the BBFC's published Classification Guidelines,
which are updated every 4/5 years and based on large scale public opinion research. The last review of the BBFC Classification Guidelines, in 2013, involved more than 10,000 members of the public from across the UK.
The BBFC's policy response to the research (outlined below) covers situations where the BBFC is considering where to draw the line in relation to the classification of glamour content at the adult category or below the adult category, delivered
via mobile networks. The policy takes into account that the content generally features little or no context. The BBFC's consideration is relevant to whether that content sits behind or in front of adult filters operated by the UK's Mobile Network
About the research 'Filtering Glamour Content on Mobile Devices for Under 18 year olds'
The research was carried out by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the BBFC. The methodology of the research comprises an online quantitative survey plus qualitative focus group based research.
The online quantitative survey showed 1,000 participants 30 images and four short video clips. Quotas were in place to ensure participants were a representative spread across Great Britain and includied those with children in their household; 25%
with children at home and 75% without children at home, to reflect the proportion of households in the UK with children under the age of 16 years. The participants were asked whether each should be placed behind an age filter so only 18+ year
olds could access it on mobile devices.
The second qualitative stage of the research comprised of eight single gender mini focus groups in four locations across Great Britain, plus a trio interview. The qualitative stage recruited a mixture of ethnicities, ages, demographics and
lifestages (e.g parents with children at home, non-parents, parents with children who have left home). The focus groups took place in London, Portsmouth, Leeds and Edinburgh.
PUBLIC ACCEPTABILITY OF GLAMOUR IMAGES ON MOBILE DEVICES:
THE BBFC'S POLICY RESPONSE
Research carried out on behalf of the BBFC in 2014 demonstrates that members of the public are concerned by children and young people accessing certain "glamour" content which, in their view, is inappropriate and even has the potential
to cause harm. The public was concerned in particular by glamour content, both still images and videos, that features a sexual invitation and/or an intention to sexually arouse the viewer. The public argued that the sexual invitation may consist
of either one strong sexual element or a mixture of less individually salient elements that combine to make a sexual invitation.
There is support for the use of adult filters to prevent, as far as possible, those under 18 accessing such content.
Some members of the public participating in this research noted the specific nature of viewing content on a mobile device. They considered that the nature of these devices enables children and young people to evade parental oversight, to
decontextualise images and to share them among peer groups. These issues are more problematic in glamour content than other genres, as there is no context or narrative provided for the viewer. Respondents therefore urged the BBFC to take into
account the particular nature of viewing glamour content on mobile devices.
B. The response of the BBFC
The response outlined below covers situations where the BBFC is considering where to draw the line in relation to the classification, delivered via mobile networks, of glamour content at the adult category or below the adult category. This
content generally features little or no context. The BBFC's consideration is relevant to calibrating the filters used by the UK's Mobile Network Operators to restrict access to internet content.
The response does not cover the classification of sex, sex references and nudity in other contexts (for example narrative or documentary films) which may involve richly contextualised material.
The BBFC is unlikely to classify below 18 glamour content, both still images and video, featuring:
A sexual invitation
An intention to sexually arouse the viewer
The following content is unlikely to be acceptable for under 18 year olds to view on a mobile device in a glamour context:
Full frontal nudity in a sexualised manner, or exposure of the genitals
Sexual poses that imply readiness for sex or draw attention to sex organs whether exposed or not, (for example a woman bending over and/or spreading her legs) which heighten the sexual invitation or the arousing nature of an image
Unambiguous sexual fetish themes in an obvious or sustained manner
Beyond these elements, the public remains concerned by the cumulative impact of layering of sexual elements that it wants the BBFC to take into consideration alongside other factors. These include images that:
Play to male fantasies, such as 'girl on girl'
Objectify women and which are primarily about sexual arousal for the viewer, evoking ideas about female exploitation and inequality
Convey an obvious sexual invitation, such as 'come hither', sultry and sexual facial expressions
Feature non explicit but clearly sexual poses
Link sex and with other adult themes, such as drinking or gambling
The BBFC will take account of these factors in considering the classification of glamour material featuring such content.
Thailand's telecoms police plan to make it mandatory to register all mobile-phone SIM cards and then to use mobile phone numbers as personal ID for access to public Internet nationwide.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has said it will ask Cabinet to approve a plan to register prepaid mobile phone users as part of the national censorship policy. NBTC secretary general Takorn Tantasith explained:
SIM registration is the first step to force all to have individual numbers, then the next step is the 'Single Sign On' policy.
The policy will require users of mobile phones to register their user name and password to access the Internet on all networks nationwide.
The agency would propose the plan, known as Single Sign On , to Cabinet to enact the registration process within six months.
Years ago, the NBTC tried to impose controls requiring operators to register the details of people who buy new prepaid SIM cards but few consumers cooperated, as they were reluctant to provide copies of their ID cards. But now the NBTC has
suggested to method to make the registration process a little more practical.
Business operators who sell SIM cards will download an app onto their mobile phones. They will use the app to take a picture of the SIM card code and the buyer's ID card. The app will then immediately send data to the NBTC's computer server,
connected with the servers of the five telecom operators. The NBTC server will verify the identity-card information and, if correct, send the verified data back to the telecom operator's server, to activate the SIM card. The data will not be
stored on mobile phones of shop staff. Expats who don't have Thai ID cards can use passports.