President Vladimir Putin has tightened his grip on the Russian Internet by signing two censorship bills into law. One bans fake news while the other makes it illegal to insult public officials.
Russia has never really been a liberal democracy. It lacks an independent judiciary, and the government has found a variety of techniques to harass and intimidate independent media in the country.
But the new legislation gives the Russian government more direct tools to censor online speech. Under one bill, individuals can face fines and jail time if they publish material online that shows a clear disrespect for society, the state, the
official state symbols of the Russian Federation, the Constitution of the Russian Federation, and bodies exercising state power. Punishments can be as high as 300,000 rubles ($4,700) and 15 days in jail.
A second bill subjects sites publishing unreliable socially significant information to fines as high as 1.5 million rubles ($23,000).
The ICO has commissioned research into consumers' attitudes towards and awareness of personal data used in online advertising.
This research was commissioned by the Information Commissioner's Office. Ofcom provided advice on the research design and analysis. The objective of this research was to understand the public's awareness and perceptions of how online advertising
is served to the public based on their personal data, choices and behaviour.
Advertising technology -- known as adtech -- refers to the different types of analytics and digital tools used to direct online advertising to individual people and audiences. It relies on collecting information about how individuals use the
internet, such as search and browsing histories, and personal information, such as gender and year of birth, to decide which specific adverts are presented to a particular person. Websites also use adtech to sell advertising space in real-time.
The research finds that more than half (54%) of participants would rather see relevant online adverts. But while 63% of people initially thought it acceptable for websites to display adverts, in return for the website being free to access, this
fell to 36% once it was explained how personal data might be used to target adverts.
New Zealand's Chief Censor David Shanks has officially classified the full 17 minute video of the fatal Christchurch shootings which occurred on Friday 15 March, as objectionable. He said:
The footage, examined under the Films, Videos & Publications Classification Act 1993, is deemed objectionable because of its depiction and promotion of extreme violence and terrorism.
I took the step of 'calling in' this video over the weekend as a mechanism to fast-track the classification process.
The video contains exceedingly graphic real life images, which could cause significant harm to those who view it, especially for victims and their families.
An urgent process is currently underway to finalise a detailed report of the Chief Censor's decision, this will be released within days.
It is illegal for anyone in New Zealand to view, possess or distribute this material in any form, including via social media platforms.
We're aware that for a time after the attacks, this video was widely available on social media and many New Zealanders saw it, sometimes without meaning to. It's important people are now clear they should not view, download or share the video.
Our priority is to mitigate the harm caused by this material to the New Zealand public, and in particular to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives in the Christchurch terror attacks.
Associated with the video, it should be noted that a lengthy manifesto document is being examined separately from the video footage and will take more time to consider.
Update: The authorities get nasty about sharing the video
One 44 year old man with alleged far right connections has been arrested and charged with two counts of distributing objectionable materials in violation of New Zealand's Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act. He is being held
Another man, an 18-year-old, is also facing charges for sharing the video.
And these two may not be the only ones in New Zealand facing charges for sharing the video. Authorities have asked Facebook for the names of others who have shared it.
Other Kiwis have reportedly lost their jobs for sharing the video with coworkers or viewing it at work, according to the New Zealand Herald .
Offsite Comment: Don't Censor the New Zealand Shooting Videos
ISPs in Australia have blocked access to dozens of websites, including 4chan and 8chan, in the name of blocking the video of last week's New Zealand mass shooting.
In Australia, ISP Vodafone said that blocking requests generally come from courts or law enforcement agencies but that this time ISPs acted on their own. Telstra and Optus also blocked the sites in Australia. Besides 4chan and 8chan, ISP-level
blocking affected the social network Voat, the blog Zerohedge, video hosting site LiveLeak, and others. The ban on 4chan was lifted a few hours later.
Raising issues of wider censorship, LiveLeak removed the offending videos but was not immediately removed from the list of censored sites.
The ISPs' decision to block access to websites was controversial as they acted to censor content without instruction from either the Australian Communications and Media Authority or the eSafety Commissioner, and most smaller service providers
have decided to keep access open.
The ISPs are facing some government pressure, though. Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison called Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone to a meeting to discuss ways to prevent distribution and livestreaming of violent videos.
New Zealand ISPs took a similar approach. The country's main iSPs, Spark, Vodafone, Vocus and 2degrees, are blocking any website which has footage of the Friday 15 March Christchurch mosque shootings. The ISPs agreed to work together to identify
and block access at [the] DNS level to such online locations, such as 4chan and 8chan.
New Zealand Telecommunications Forum Chief Executive Geoff Thorn said the industry is working together to ensure this harmful content can't be viewed by New Zealanders. He acknowledged that there is the risk that some sites that have legitimate
content could have been mistakenly blacklisted, but this will be rectified as soon as possible. .
Australia and New Zealand also do not have net neutrality rules that prevent ISPs from blocking websites on their own volition
South Africa's National Assembly has officially passed the Films and Publications Amendment Bill, with the bill now scheduled to be sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa for assent.
The bill extends film censorship to online content and appoints The Film and Publications Board (FPB), the country's film censors, as arbiters of internet censorship of hate speech, revenge porn and website blocking.
Some of the other notable changes include:
Revenge porn: Under the bill, any person who knowingly distributes private sexual photographs and films without prior consent and with intention to cause the said individual harm shall be guilty of an offence and liable upon conviction.
Hate speech: The bill states that any person who knowingly distributes in any medium, including the internet and social media any film, game or publication which amounts to propaganda for war, incites imminent violence, or advocates hate
speech, shall be guilty of an offence.
Website blocking: If an internet access provider has knowledge that its services are being used for the hosting or distribution of child pornography, propaganda for war, incitement of imminent violence or advocating hatred based on an
identifiable group characteristic it shall immediately remove this content, or be subject to a fine.
According to Dominic Cull of specialised legal advice firm, Ellipsis, the bill which is on its way to president Cyril Ramaphosa is extremely badly written. He notes that the introduction bill means that there is definite potential for abuse in
terms of infringement of free speech .
One of my big objections here is that if I upload something which someone else finds objectionable, and they think it hate speech, they will be able to complain to the FPB.
If the FPB thinks the complaint is valid, they can then lodge a takedown notice to have this material removed.
These sentiments were echoed by legal expert Nick Hall of MakeGamesSA, who said:
The big question around the bill has always been enforceability and the likelihood of the FPB to do anything with it. Practically, are they going to go after small-scale YouTubers? No, probably not, as they don't have the means to do so.
Instead, my concern has always been that the legislation becomes a tool for them to use censorship.
Websites and businesses across Europe went dark yesterday in protest of disgraceful changes to copyright law being introduced by the European Union.
Ahead of a final vote on the legislation next Tuesday, March 26th, a number of European Wikipedia sites are going dark for the day, blocking all access and directing users to contact their local EU representative to protest the laws. Other major
sites, such as Twitch and PornHub, are showing protest banners on their homepages and social media. Meanwhile, any users uploading content to Reddit will be shown this notice: Critics of the Copyright Directive say it could lead to messages like
The law in question is the EU Copyright Directive, a long-awaited update to copyright law. Two provisions have been singled out by critics as dangerous to European people's freedom and livehoods.
These are Article 11, which lets publishers charge platforms if they link to their stories (the link tax'), and Article 13, which makes platforms legally responsible for users uploading copyrighted material (the so-called 'upload filter').
Article 13 is particularly dangerous, say critics. It will make all platforms hosting user-generated content legally responsible for users uploading copyrighted content. The only way to stop these uploads, say critics, will be to scan content
before its uploaded, leading to the creation of filters that will err on the side of censorship and will be abused by copyright trolls.
Wikipedia said the rules would be a "net loss for free knowledge." Volunteer editors for the German, Czech, Danish, and Slovak Wikipedias have all blacked out their sites for the day.
As well as the website blackouts , more than five million internet users have signed a petition protesting Article 13 . Marches and demonstrations are also planned in European cities across the weekend and on Monday and Tuesday before the final
Our efforts to defeat #Article13 just got a huge boost! Polish @Platforma_org will vote AGAINST the #copyright directive unless #Article13 is deleted! They're the second largest single political party in EPP after @CDU. Thanks @MichalBoni
At a press conference in Berlin, @AxelVossMdEP confirmed rumours that some press publishers have threatened parliamentarians with bad election coverage if they vote against the #copyright reform. Voss does not consider this problematic.
#Article11 #Article13 #SaveYourInternet
Pornhub posted a banner at the top of the European version of its site on Thursday, as seen in the image at the top of this page. The discussion forum Reddit204the self-described front page of the internet204and the sprawling online encyclopedia
Wikipedia also protested the planned new law, according to a Business Insider report .
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns repeated attacks by the Chinese embassy against Swedish journalists and insists that diplomatic missions have no say in the editorial content of media in their host country.
Chinese ambassador to Sweden, Gui Congyou, has embarked on a truth crusade against the country's media since taking office in August 2017. The ambassador seems to have trouble understanding that in Sweden, a country ranked second in the RSF's
2018 World Press Freedom Index, journalists are not subject to censorship.
On the embassy's website, the ambassador recently posted a long, unsigned attack against SVT Nyheter, a major Swedish news outlet. The diplomat castigates the site for giving a platform to David Liao, Representative to the Taipei Mission in
Sweden, on February 27. Liao published an opinion piece calling support for Taiwanese democracy against Chinese threat. According to Gui Congyou, the article challenges the one China principle and amounts to serious political provocation. Beijing
is very aggressive in claiming sovereignty over the island of Taiwan, despite it having an independent government since 1949.
The attack on SVT Nyheter is indeed not an isolated incident. Since July of 2018, the Chinese Embassy in Stockholm has attacked multiple Swedish news sources. The ambassador was particularly harsh towards Swedish journalist Jojje Olsson, author
of a book on the Swedish publisher Gui Minhai, who was kidnapped in Thailand in 2015 and is still detained in China with no scheduled sentencing. Last December, he also attacked Swedish journalist and commentator Kurdo Baksi, accusing him of
instigating hatred against China.
Super Real Mahjong PV is a 2019 Japanese adventure game by MightyCraft
The console game Super Real Mahjong PV, originally released on the Sega Saturn and recently released for Switch, has been removed from Nintendo's eShop due to some scenes with insufficient censorship.
According to a notice from the publisher, Mighty Craft, Nintendo temporarily removed Super Real Mahjong PV from the eShop due to scenes with insufficient censorship as the reason. This is something that was pointed out by Japanese entertainment
rating organization CERO (Computer Entertainment Rating Organization).
The publisher says it is currently working on checking and revising the entire game, and are getting ready to have it reviewed by Nintendo.
It turns out there are some instances of the censorship rays being too thin and left some images of female breasts exposed.
Sky New Zealand has pulled fellow broadcaster Sky News Australia off air until the channel stops broadcasting clips from the Christchurch mosque shooter's Facebook live stream.
In a tweet posted on Saturday morning, Sky New Zealand, an independently-owned broadcaster, said it had decided to remove the Australian 24-hour news channel from its platform because of the footage. A channel spokeswoman said:
We stand in support of our fellow New Zealanders and have made the decision to remove Sky News Australia from our platform until we are confident that the distressing footage from yesterday's events will not be shared.
The new EU Copyright Directive will be up for its final vote in the week of Mar 25, and like any piece of major EU policy, it has been under discussion for many years and had all its areas of controversy resolved a year ago -- but then German
MEP Axel Voss took over as the "rapporteur" (steward) of the Directive and reintroduced the long-abandoned idea of forcing all online services to use filters to block users from posting anything that anyone, anywhere claimed was their
There are so many obvious deficiencies with adding filters to every message-board, online community, and big platform that the idea became political death, as small- and medium-sized companies pointed out that you can't fix the EU's internet by
imposing costs that only US Big Tech firms could afford to pay, thus wiping out all European competition.
So Voss switched tactics, and purged all mention of filters from the Directive, and began to argue that he didn't care how online services guaranteed that their users didn't infringe anyone's copyrights, even copyrights in works that had only
been created a few moments before and that no one had ever seen before, ever. Voss said that it didn't matter how billions of user posts were checked, just so long as it all got filtered.
(It's like saying, "I expect you to deliver a large, four-legged African land-mammal with a trunk, tusk and a tail, but it doesn't have to be an elephant -- any animal that fits those criteria will do).
Now, in a refreshingly frank interview, Voss has come clean: the only way to comply with Article 13 will be for every company to install filters.
When asked whether filters will be sufficient to keep Youtube users from infringing copyright, Voss said, "If the platform's intention is to give people access to copyrighted works, then we have to think about whether that kind of business
should exist." That is, if Article 13 makes it impossible to have an online platform where the public is allowed to make work available without first having to submit it to legal review, maybe there should just no longer be anywhere for the
public to make works available.
Here's what Europeans can do about this:
Pledge 2019 : make your MEP promise to vote against Article 13. The vote comes just before elections, so MEPs are extremely interested in the issues on voters' minds.
Save Your Internet : contact your MEP and ask them to protect the internet from this terrible idea.
* Turn out and protest
on March 23 , two days ahead of the vote. Protests are planned in cities and towns in every EU member-state.
Since Tumblr announced its porn ban in December, many users reacted by explaining that they mainly used the site for browsing not-safe-for-work content, and they threatened to leave the platform if the ban were enforced. It now appears that many
users have made good on that threat: Tumblr's traffic has dropped nearly 30% since December.
The ban removed explicit posts from public view, including any media that portrayed sex acts, exposed genitals, and female-presenting nipples.
Despite the prevailing porn ban in Uganda, it can safely be said that pornographic materials and information has never been more consumed than now. The latest web rankings from Alexa show that Ugandans consume more pornographic materials and
information than news and government information, among other relevant materials.
The US website Porn555.com is ranked as the 6th most popular website in Uganda, ahead of Daily Monitor, Twitter, BBC among others.
The country's internet censors claim to have blocked 30 of the main porn websites so perhaps that is the reason for porn555 to be the most popular rather then the more obvious PornHub, YouPorn, xHamster etc.
A Northern Territory mayor has slammed his own council's decision to ban merchandise bearing the witty slogan CU in the NT.
T-shirts, beer stubbies, caps and thongs bearing an allusion to a rude word will banned from being displayed at Darwin's popular Nightcliff and Mindil Beach markets.
Darwin Lord Mayor Kon Vatskalis actually voted for a motion to pull the merchandise from public display but he did express misgivings about people being too easily offended. He told Daily Mail Australia:
My problem is that we live in a "I find offence society" and there's always a push to remove things from the public Where do we stop?
I'm not going to actively try to find out what's moral, what's offensive or what's not offensive.
Greens councillor Robin Knox moved the motion after receiving complaints about children seeing the CU in the NT stall. She whinged:
The market stall was next to a children's playground - it's a very family friendly market.
Thousands of people in Moscow and other Russian cities took to the streets over the weekend to protest legislation they fear could lead to widespread internet censorship in the country.
The protests, which were some of the biggest protests in the Russian capital in years, came in response to a bill in parliament that would route all internet traffic through servers in Russia, making virtual private networks (VPNs) ineffective.
Critics note that the bill creates an internet firewall similar to China's.
People gathered in a cordoned off Prospekt Sakharova street in Moscow, made speeches on a stage and chanted slogans such as hands off the internet and no to isolation, stop breaking the Russian internet. The rally gathered around 15,300 people,
according to White Counter, an NGO that counts participants at rallies. Moscow police put the numbers at 6,500.
The House of Lords Communications Committee has called for a new, overarching censorship framework so that the services in the digital world are held accountable to an enforceable set of government rules.
The Lords Communications Committee writes:
In its report 'Regulating in a digital world' the committee notes that over a dozen UK regulators have a remit covering the digital world but there is no body which has complete oversight. As a result, regulation of the digital environment is
fragmented, with gaps and overlaps. Big tech companies have failed to adequately tackle online harms.
Responses to growing public concern have been piecemeal and inadequate. The Committee recommends a new Digital Authority, guided by 10 principles to inform regulation of the digital world.
The chairman of the committee, Lord Gilbert of Panteg , said:
"The Government should not just be responding to news headlines but looking ahead so that the services that constitute the digital world can be held accountable to an agreed set of principles.
Self-regulation by online platforms is clearly failing. The current regulatory framework is out of date. The evidence we heard made a compelling and urgent case for a new approach to regulation. Without intervention, the largest tech companies
are likely to gain ever more control of technologies which extract personal data and make decisions affecting people's lives. Our proposals will ensure that rights are protected online as they are offline while keeping the internet open to
innovation and creativity, with a new culture of ethical behaviour embedded in the design of service."
Recommendations for a new regulatory approach Digital Authority
A new 'Digital Authority' should be established to co-ordinate regulators, continually assess regulation and make recommendations on which additional powers are necessary to fill gaps. The Digital Authority should play a key role in providing the
public, the Government and Parliament with the latest information. It should report to a new joint committee of both Houses of Parliament, whose remit would be to consider all matters related to the digital world.
10 principles for regulation
The 10 principles identified in the committee's report should guide all regulation of the internet. They include accountability, transparency, respect for privacy and freedom of expression. The principles will help the industry, regulators, the
Government and users work towards a common goal of making the internet a better, more respectful environment which is beneficial to all. If rights are infringed, those responsible should be held accountable in a fair and transparent way.
Recommendations for specific action Online harms and a duty of care
A duty of care should be imposed on online services which host and curate content which can openly be uploaded and accessed by the public. Given the urgent need to address online harms, Ofcom's remit should expand to include responsibility for
enforcing the duty of care.
Online platforms should make community standards clearer through a new classification framework akin to that of the British Board of Film Classification. Major platforms should invest in more effective moderation systems to uphold their
Users should have greater control over the collection of personal data. Maximum privacy and safety settings should be the default.
Data controllers and data processors should be required to publish an annual data transparency statement detailing which forms of behavioural data they generate or purchase from third parties, how they are stored, for how long, and how they are
used and transferred.
The Government should empower the Information Commissioner's Office to conduct impact-based audits where risks associated with using algorithms are greatest. Businesses should be required to explain how they use personal data and what their
The modern internet is characterised by the concentration of market power in a small number of companies which operate online platforms. Greater use of data portability might help, but this will require more interoperability.
The Government should consider creating a public-interest test for data-driven mergers and acquisitions.
Regulation should recognise the inherent power of intermediaries.
Russia's parliament has advanced repressive new internet laws allowing the authorities to jail or fine those who spread supposed 'fake news' or disrespect government officials online.
Under the proposed laws, which still await final passage and presidential signature, people found guilty of spreading indecent posts that demonstrate disrespect for society, the state, (and) state symbols of the Russian Federation, as well as
government officials such as President Vladimir Putin, can face up to 15 days in administrative detention. Private individuals who post fake news can be hit will small fines of between $45 and $75, and legal entities face much higher penalties of
up to $15,000, according to draft legislation.
The anti-fake news bill, which passed the Duma, or lower house of parliament, also compels ISPs to block access to content which offends human dignity and public morality.
It defines fake news as any unverified information that threatens someone's life and (or) their health or property, or threatens mass public disorder or danger, or threatens to interfere or disrupt vital infrastructure, transport or social
services, credit organizations, or energy, industrial, or communications facilities.
New Zealand's archaic law prohibiting the publication of material which may vilify or insult Christianity has been repealed in Parliament.
Previously it was an offence in New Zealand to publish anything which may be considered blasphemous libel, meaning to condemn Christ or Christianity. The offence of blasphemous libel had not been prosecuted in New Zealand since 1922
Justice Minister Andrew Little commented:
This obsolete provision has no place in a modern society which protects freedom of expression.
Laws should be relevant to modern society and the last time a blasphemous libel case was considered, in 1998, the Solicitor-General rejected it. The view was expressed that it would be inconsistent with the freedom of expression as protected by
the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.
No doubt New Zealand still has a modern day equivalent that can be used to prosecute insults or criticism of religion.
A computer game called Rape Day has been added to the Steam games distribution website for release next month.
The rather incendiary title is coupled with a no frills description noting that game is a dark comedy and power fantasy where players can rape and murder during a zombie apocalypse. However Rape Day is not quite the immersive experience that will
be luridly described by newspapers, it is a visual novel game with still images and story choices, but no animation or voice acting.
The Rape Day developers, Desk Plant, say the game will have more than 500 images, 7,000 words of story and evil choices. Players will choose from options in a pre-written story to progress through the game. Rape Day isn't actually animated
either, each scene is told with a sequence of still images, with written dialogue and story choices. The game is more like a choose your own adventure book with multiple paths than a traditional video game where a player controls their character.
The game is a digital-only release and has no official rating. Those without a Steam account cannot see the game at all as it has been removed from appearing in the searches of non-members. Subscribers can then see a preview page with 25
screenshots of the game, which include nude women being sexually assaulted and held at gun point.
No doubt this will test Steam's resolve in allowing games with sexual themes. This is quite a recent policy change inspired by a fans backlash against its previously over strict censorship rules. Of course it now have to weigh the fans backlash
against a backlash from campaigners who aren't customers. The title has caused a long debate on Steam's forums
Rape Day has had its release cancelled on gaming platform Steam after thousands of people signed online petitions calling for it to be banned. In a statement, Valve, the company which owns Steam, said it had removed the game because it poses
unknown costs and risks.
Desk Plant, the creator of the game, has said it will look for another platform to take it