Residents of Xinjiang, an ethnic minority region of western China, are being forced to install spyware on their mobile phones.
On July 10, mobile phone users in the Tianshan District of Urumqi City received a mobile phone notification from the district government instructing them to install a surveillance application called Jingwang (or Web Cleansing). The message said
the app was intended to prevent [them] from accessing terrorist information.
But authorities may be using the app for more than just counter-terrorism. According to an exclusive report from Radio Free Asia, 10 Kazakh women from Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture were arrested for messages sent to a private WeChat group chat
soon after they installed the app.
The notification from police said the application would locate and track the sources and distribution paths of terrorists, along with illegal religious activity and harmful information, including videos, images, ebooks and documents.
Jingwang's website describes the application as follows:
Jingwang is a protection service with an adult and child categorization system introduced by Jiangsu Telecom. The main function is to block pornographic websites, online scams, trojan horses, and phishing sites; to alert users of how much time
they spend online; and to enable remote control of one's home network. The tool is intended to help kids develop a healthy lifestyle by building a safe web filter for the minors.
Of course, any tool with these capabilities could be used in multiple ways. For example, the app's remote control feature could enable state actors or even hackers to manipulate or steal from a person's home network.
The move is consistent with other measures of control over digital activities in the region. While stories of digital censorship in China often focus on the experiences of users in major cities in the east and south, the reality is often more
bleak for those living in remote, embattled ethnic minority regions such as Xinjiang and Tibet. Seeking to contain unrest and discontent in conflict areas, authorities often impose extreme censorship and surveillance measures and routine Internet
Authorities from Xinjiang are checking to make sure that people are using the official Jingwang application. A mobile notification demanded people install the app within 10 days. If they are caught at a checkpoint and their devices do not have
the software, they could be detained for 10 days. This is a setback on the development of technology. They forced people to use devices designed for the elderly. It is a form of confinement by through surveillance technology. We are back to Mao's
Images from mainland China also posted a product description of Jingwang which explained that the tool can negate the password requirement of a Windows operating system and access the computer hard disk with no restrictions. Once installed with
Jingwang, computers and mobiles in Xinjiang, would become electronic handcuffs.
International over-the-top (OTT) content providers have been the bane of Thai regulator National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission's (NBTC) existence over the past few months.
The supposedly independent communications censor seems to be obsessed with finding ways to curb the likes of Facebook, Google, YouTube and Alibaba. In early April it boldly suggested imposing some kind of bandwidth fee on the consumption of OTT
services, requiring OTT players to have an operating licence to run a business in Thailand and even making them pay a value-added service tax for transactions by local merchants.
The head of the broadcasting committee, Natee Sukonrat, was quoted as saying users on social media who influence public opinion will have to be reined in.
What on the surface may seem to be an effort to create a more level playing field for the mobile players could also be seen as a thinly disguised attempt to give the regulator the power to more easily monitor and censor content the government is
finding difficult to regulate. The widely-criticised proposals are merely a backhanded move to bypass current legal processes and give the regulator the authority to demand the removal of content the military-run government considers illegal
without waiting for a court order, which the government has complained is time consuming.
Facebook and co would not play ball with Thai government requests and the government was forced drop the plan to register OTT players for tax purposes. However the government said that it would push ahead to replace several weak points in the
censorship process and come up with a revised proposal in 30 days.
And now the junta's ominously named National Reform Steering Assembly this month approved an 84-page social media censorship proposal, which would require such things as fingerprint and facial scanning just to top-up a prepaid plan, all in an
effort to be able to identify those posting content to OTT services. The push for fingerprint and facial recognition is in addition to existing requirements for all SIM users to register with their 13-digit national IDs.
Commentators say the stringent rules are similar to those in use in China and Iran.
An ad on the advertiser's YouTube channel, seen in December 2016, for the mobile game app Mobile Strike , featured two women wearing bikinis and sitting on sun-loungers. They were playing the game on their phones. In another
scene, shot in slow motion, a third woman, who was wearing a swimsuit, was seen walking down a path towards them and also playing the game on her mobile phone. As she approached, she flicked her hair back from her face and then stopped and looked
into the camera. In the final scene, she approached the other two women and stood with one hand on her hip whilst looking and smiling at the two other women.
The complainant challenged whether the ad was offensive, because they believed it objectified women.
Machine Zone Inc explained that their mobile app game Mobile Strike, was a modern military-themed combat game where players could battle against other players. One important feature of the game was that it could be played on mobile devices, the
game was therefore portable and could be played anywhere. They believed the juxtaposition between what people normally did by the pool (i.e. relax and lounge) with the visuals of the players battling it out with jets and tanks was what made the
ad so striking. That theme was used in other ads for the game -- for example, players battling one another in cafes, restaurants and the launderette. The intention was to show that the Mobile Strike game could liven up a player's time spent in
everyday, sometimes boring, spaces.
They did not believe the ad objectified women. They said that because of the setting, the women were wearing bathing suits. The intention was to feature real-sized women and reference mythical warrior women like Amazons and Wonder Woman
, as the women were seen making strategic moves in battle against one another. They said they had concerns that the complainant's objection was the size of the women featured rather than what they were wearing or doing in the ad. They suspected
that had the women been typically thin models seen in ads, it was unlikely that a complaint would have been made. They had decided to feature real-sized women as a nod to their diverse player base.
They said they had run the ad globally for a number of months and had not received any other complaints about it. In fact, they said they had received considerable support from their players for featuring real-sized women in their ad, as they
were often under represented.
YouTube said the ad did not violate their Community Guidelines or Advertising Policies. They said the ad had been served through AdWords, a self-administered system and it was the advertiser's responsibility to choose appropriate targeting of
their ads, as well as to abide by applicable law and regulations, including the CAP Code.
ASA Assessment. Complaint Upheld
The ASA noted that the images of the women wearing swimwear bore no relation to the product being advertised -- a combat-themed mobile game app. We also noted that in some of the scenes, the mannerisms of the women were seductive or
sexually-charged. For example, in one scene, a woman wearing a thong bikini was seen walking towards a sun lounger and the camera angle was taken from below and behind so that as she walked into the scene, only her legs and her thong bikini
bottoms were in view. We noted that another scene featuring one of the women wearing a swimsuit was shot in slow motion, and the emphasis was on her body rather than the mobile game app she was playing. One of the camera angles was shot side-on
which highlighted her waist and chest. As she approached the camera, she flicked her hair back, stopped and looked seductively into the camera. We noted that the ad featured plus-sized models but we considered that fact was irrelevant. For those
reasons, we considered that the ad objectified women and was therefore offensive.
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Machine Zone Inc to ensure that its ads in future did not objectify women and cause offence.
The mobile phone companies use an algorithmic approach to the blocking of websites for mobile device users who are under 18 or else adults who have not got themselves verified as adults.
The BBFC acts to decide appeals against the phone company decisions. Note that the only options available to the BBFC are for websites to made available to all or else restricted to verified adults.
The BBFC commendably publish these appeal decisions.
From the latest batch of two appeals in the preceding 3 months, the BBFC have considered
The Urban Dictionary provides factual definitions of slang terms which often involves string language and sex references. For Example:
the idea that censorship is bullshit....nothing needs to be censored.....if you don't want to watch swearing, violence, or sexual content, DON'T WATCH IT! simple as that.....nobody is making you watch it.....they have disclaimers for a
reason....and if you don't want your kids watching that shit, tell your kids what they can and cannot watch.....and if they don't listen to you then you are a bad parent for not teaching your kids to do what you say.
every time i watch tv there's nothing but censorshit everywhere.
that movie sucked because of the censorshit.
The BBFC advised that the website should be blocked to under 18s, explaining:
We noted that it was an online dictionary of slang words and phrases. While a broad range of terms were explained (with definitions from a broad range of contributors), we found that very strong language and sex references were present in a
significant minority of these explanations. Sex references included crude descriptions of activities including masturbation, oral sex, and urination and defecation during sex. In addition, there were references to rape and paedophilia, and
definitions of discriminatory terms, which were delivered in an irreverent tone intended to shock or amuse. Given the crude and potentially offensive nature of this content, and the lackof context that accompanied it, we did not consider the
website suitable for people under the age of 18.
It seems bizarre that teenagers should be blocked from a dictionary explaining their own terms, but there you go, that's censorshit for you.
The website owner contacted the BBFC to complain that the site was blocked by adult filters despite, in the complainantís view, containing no material that would restrict it to access by adults only.
The BBFC viewed the website on 21 and 22 November 2016. We noted that it was a politically minded site containing a large number of articles and posts. While the views expressed may be subject to debate, and some people will disagree with the
positions of the articles and blogs, they were nonetheless expressed in the spirit of providing a legitimate side to an argument. We found no content on the site that would we would classify 18.
Daniel Pipes has written up the tale of the censorship of his website by O2:
O2, the second-largest mobile telecommunications provider in the United Kingdom, has banned my website, ostensibly only to those under 18 years of age but in fact to everyone using O2.
The fine print reads: "To prove your age you'll need to have your credit card handy. Click Continue below or call our free automated service on 61018 ." In other words, you have to go to immense trouble to read or see my work,
something presumably few internet surfers will bother to do. (This is particularly odd when one recalls that O2 already has the credit card of nearly every one of its customers.)
In contrast, O2 makes available without having to prove anything no end of Islamist and related websites, including such anti-Zionist delights as Al-Muntada Trust, the Palestinian Forum in Britain, and Friends of Al-Aqsa.
On December 23, Apple removed the Chinese versions of the newspaper's apps as well as their English counterparts in an act of compliance with a censorship order from the Chinese government.
An Apple spokesperson Fred Sainz issued this statement to TechCrunch:
For some time now the New York Times app has not been permitted to display content to most users in China and we have been informed that the app is in violation of local regulations. As a result, the app must be taken down off the China App
Iran has blocked the popular Clash of Clans mobile game app.
Government internet censors called for restrictions citing a report from psychologists, who said it encouraged violence and tribal conflict. The censors claim that the app could also negatively affect family life if teenagers got addicted to the
In a statement, Iran's deputy attorney general Dr Abdolsamad Khoramabadi said the vast majority of the committee backed the call to limit who could play the app.
Some Iran-based players said local reports had suggested that an age limit would be imposed, but for now the game is blocked for everybody, (bar those using VPNs and the like).