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2013: January

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The Times Recommends...

Facebook as a good place to get in touch with sex workers

Link Here31st January 2013

Sex workers advertising on Facebook and Twitter Sex workers are openly using Facebook, Twitter and other social media to openly advertise their services.

Sex workers and escort agencies have created hundreds of unrestricted pages on Facebook. Now prohibitionists are claiming that they are 'thinking of the children' when having a whinge about the website.

Pages supposedly include explicit photographs, descriptions of services alongside phones numbers, addresses and prices.

Facebook has removed dozens of the pages after being contacted by The Times newspaper. The site said it has a clear set of rules and these pages broke them , but said it could only take action when offensive items were reported to them by members of the public.

The postings were also reported to Twitter, but the microblogging site declined to comment or take action. Under the company's rules, content would need to be illegal to be considered in breach of its terms and conditions. 

According to The Times, a parliamentary committee on prostitution has pledged to investigate the problem after the 'revelations'.

Mills Kelly, from George Mason University in the US, who has studied the impact of the internet on prostitution, said:

If you want an escort or sex worker in any major city in the world, Facebook is a good place to start your search.



Update: #HandThemOverOrElse...

French court orders Twitter to identify posters to hashtag threads of insults to jews

Link Here25th January 2013
Full story: Internet Censorship in France...Web blocking in the name of child protection

A French court has ordered Twitter to hand over the identities of users posting to allegedly anti-semetic Twitter hashtags or threads.

In a test case which will have widespread implications for the millions who tweet every day, the Tribunal de Grande Instance ruled it unacceptable for people to post hateful material anonymously.

This was despite lawyers for the hugely popular micro-blogging site refusing to assist detectives.

Jewish students brought the case, claiming Twitter had a moral duty to name and shame hateful posters. In October, the student bodies asked Twitter to remove a number of messages which appeared under the hashtag #unbonjuif (#agoodjew), with examples including: #agoodjew is a dead Jew. The hashtag became the third most popular in France, with thousands attacking the religion.

Alexandre Neri, Twitter's French barrister, had told the court that Twitter data is collected and stored in the United States , namely in San Francisco, where the site is based. Ms Neri said that Twitter was accordingly subject to US law , adding: Should I submit myself to the law of a different country to where I work? I don't know. Ms Neri suggested that only an American judge could decide whether a US company should hand over data to the French authorities.



Offsite Article: What is the Government's online child protection policy?...

Link Here 25th January 2013
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn
Is the Daily Mail in charge of child protection policy making?

See article from



Update: The World's Largest Data Mining Company?...

User data requests to Google at an all time high

Link Here24th January 2013
Full story: Google Transparency Reports...Google reveals the scale of copyright claims

Data from Google shows the number of requests for user information from law enforcement agencies are at an all time high.

The search giant said it had received 21,389 applications from government officers and the courts over the last six months of 2012. That is 17% up on the same period the previous year. The number of requests has risen over every half-year cycle since Google started publishing details three years ago.

Google said it handed over at least some data in 66% of the most recent cases.

The US made more requests than any other country with 8,438 submissions. Google complied fully or partially with 88% of these. By contrast all of Turkey's 149 requests and Hungary's 95 applications were rejected outright.

The UK made 1,458 requests - a very slight rise on the same period in 2011. 70% of them resulted in some information being provided.



Offsite Article: Facebook admits it is powerless to stop young users setting up profiles...

Link Here24th January 2013
Director of policy for UK and Ireland admits company has not got a mechanism for verifying the ages of young users

See article from



Educational opportunities...

Politicians have a whinge at Sugar Daddies website

Link Here23rd January 2013

Scottish politicians have called for an investigation into a website which introduces Scottish cash-strapped female students to sugar daddies in an effort to help them cover university costs.

The SeekingArrangement website claims the average college Sugar Baby receives approximately 5,000 per month to cover the cost of tuition, books and living expenses. The site describes sugar daddy dating as a mutually beneficial arrangement between seekers and finders where the sugar babies state the amount of money they expect to earn from the relationship and the sugar daddies state their budget.

Brandon Wade, chief executive officer and founder of the US-based site, which has two million members worldwide, said:

While some may argue that these women are just using men for their own personal gain, I believe that they are proactive in pursuing a higher education.

Unfortunately, because of the of recent tuition hikes, the college experience has become greatly unbalanced.

But Liz Smith, MSP, Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman claimed that such sites could put female students at risk.

I do not think I will be alone in having deep-seated concerns about this. I am sure there will be many parents, members of staff and indeed many students themselves who will rightly be very wary of the approach of this type of website.

Labour MSP Neil Findlay, a member of the education committee, said:

The company may like to spin this as students 'being proactive in pursuing a higher education' but I am very concerned that this may take are more sinister turn.

Updated: Corrected to absolve Scottish politicians of all blame

Thanks to Alan who kindly pointed out:

I know some Scottish politicians are sanctimonious, authoritarian dipsticks - especially the insufferable Johann Lamont and Nicola Sturgeon, but this time I think you're unfair to them. To give haggis-noshing politicians their due, they abolished tuition fees for Scottish students at Scottish universities. It's English politicians who have imposed fees that may encourage students to earn a bit of dosh as sex workers.



Offsite Article: Internet freedom in India...Open to debate...

Link Here23rd January 2013
In the aftermath of an Index on Censorship debate New Delhi, Kirsty Hughes says India's web users are standing at a crossroads

See article from



Holding Internet Companies Responsible...

Thailand's repressive internet law holds back digital enterprise

Link Here21st January 2013

Thailand's Computer Crime Act (CCA) has become a hindrance not only to free expression but also to business innovation and entrepreneurship, say academics and computer experts.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has been closely monitoring the way the CCA is being applied, particularly in conjunction with lese majeste laws. A Bangkok-based UN official said:

It's not only the issue of freedom of expression that is undermined or compromised by the two laws, but the problematic application and their ambiguous, if not vague, procedures have already led people to self-censorship and/or to jail.

The application of the CCA, enacted in 2007 by the Surayud Chulanont government following the 2006 coup, has also scared off businesses, according to Ann Lavin, director of public policy and government relations with Google:

The point is that foreign investors will not invest here because the law says the intermediary (such as a webmaster) is liable.

She said Article 15 of the CCA had cost Thailand a business fortune:

Only 1% of the web content is in Thai, there should definitely be more, but people are afraid of the laws so they don't want to create websites.

Article 15 stipulates that any service provider who intentionally supports or consents to commission of an offence under Article 14 in the computer system under his control shall receive the same punishment as prescribed in Article 14 (the same as the offender).



Offsite Article: Banged up for banging on?...

Link Here19th January 2013
Full story: Insulting UK Law...UK proesecutions of jokes and insults on social media
The arrest of an EDL leader for ranting against Islam on Facebook should worry anyone interested in freedom.

See article from



Searching for Staff Safety...

Google is careful about where it locates servers and offices so that it can refuse censorship requests without being fearful for its staff

Link Here18th January 2013
Full story: Google Transparency Reports...Google reveals the scale of copyright claims

Google will decline requests for user information from totalitarian governments in Africa that seek to crack down on online communication. Google's Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt told reporters in Nairobi:

We get these requests all the time. It is different in countries where we have servers and staff because they can be arrested and harassed. We are careful where we open offices and put our servers.



Lab Report...

The Citizen Lab find that the internet bad boy countries are united by the use of Blue Coat censorship software

Link Here18th January 2013

The Citizen Lab Internet research group, based at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, used computer servers to scan for the distinctive signature of gear made by Blue Coat Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif.

It determined that Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates employed a Blue Coat system that could be used for digital censorship.

The group also determined that Bahrain, China, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey and Venezuela used equipment that could be used for surveillance and tracking.

The authors said they wanted to alert the public that there was a growing amount of surveillance and content-filtering technology distributed throughout the Internet. The technology is not restricted from export by the State Department, except to countries that are on embargo lists, like Syria, Iran and North Korea. The group noted:

Our findings support the need for national and international scrutiny of the country Blue Coat implementations we have identified, and a closer look at the global proliferation of dual-use information and communications technology. We hope Blue Coat will take this as an opportunity to explain their due diligence process to ensure that their devices are not used in ways that violate human rights.



Update: Politically Correct Censorship Trending in France...

French minister still angling for censorship control over Twitter

Link Here16th January 2013
Full story: Internet Censorship in France...Web blocking in the name of child protection

After the anti-Semitic hashtag UnBonJuif (a good Jew) made its way into the trending topics of Twitter in France last October, the Association of Jewish Students in France (UEJF) began legal action against the site.

The UEJF also called for Twitter to implement a censorship system for users to report illegal content or hate speech. So far, this has been to no avail, as the US-headquartered Twitter is claiming to be bound only by US rather than local laws, which would permit such hashtags under the First Amendment.

Speaking on French TV show Medias, le magazine last week, France's minister for the digital economy Fleur Pellerin acknowledged that multinational companies like Twitter, being somehow deterritorialised , raise new challenges . Pellerin added she would like to talk directly with Twitter in order to work out a more co-operative approach to censorship. She said she would in particular like to see Twitter filtering its trending topics list.

In the meantime, the case is still with the Paris courts and the next court date will be 24 January, when a judge will rule on the case.



Exporting Internet Repression...

Chinese chat app caught out censoring messages of international users

Link Here15th January 2013

A Chinese web giant Tencent has been caught red-handed applying Chinese style internet censorship to users outside of the country.

Tencent's WeChat is one of China's rare social media apps that has gained popularity overseas. The company boasts nearly 300 million users in 100 countries and regions.

Tech blogs Tech in Asia and The Next Web both reported receiving messages saying their chat entries contained restricted words .

The Next Web tried to write the words Falun Gong , a group banned in China, and Tech in Asia attempted to send Southern Weekend , the name of a newspaper in the south of the country that is at the moment the subject of a controversy surrounding censorship. The blogs said their entries were blocked.

Tencent ludicrously claimed that the censorship was just a glitch but the explanation was widely considered to be untruthful bollox.

Tom Rafferty of the Economist Intelligence Unit told the BBC:

The latest incident... is representative of the 'growing pains' that China's internet and social media companies are likely to experience as they expand globally.

The servers of such companies are typically based in China, which means the traffic they process will always potentially be vulnerable to monitoring.

It goes against the grain of domestic censorship regulations, which show no clear signs of being loosened.

Domestic users, many of whom already baulk at the level of censorship imposed on them, would react unfavourably if Tencent were to offer unfiltered content to overseas users.



Update: That Network Moment...

One of China's army of self censorers reveals all

Link Here10th January 2013

In the past few days, China's most influential microblogging platform, Sina Weibo, has been deleting posts related to a controversial editorial, known as the Southern Weekly's New Year Greeting incident . All the related keywords, and even terms like the South (??), the first part of the newspaper's name, are unsearchable. Outraged micro-bloggers keep yelling and cursing at Sina Weibo's managers.

However, a Sina Weibo's manager, @geniune_Yu_Yang, frustrated by the pressure the Propaganda Department imposed upon him and his colleagues, came out and wrote an inside story to explain Sina's difficult position. Below is a quick translation of what he wrote:

Last night in [Sina] Weibo, apart from the Propaganda Department, my work unit was the second most popular target of netizens' verbal attack. The screen was full of the terrifying note: The micro-blog has been deleted. The platform looked like a sinking ship with thousands of holes on it. My boss, Lao Shen's [Sina] Weibo's page is full of cursing. In particular, after the Southern Weekly incident had been reported by Netease [a popular web portal] extensively yesterday, attacks on Sina's cowardice and its role as the running dog [of the Propaganda Department] reached a climax. I was so frustrated and finally fought with a famous online script-writer. After I cooled down, I reflected upon the whole thing, feeling the urge to write a long micro-blog to explain the situation in detail.

Very often, you can't see the truth when you just see the phenomena and when you are overwhelmed with anger.

1. If we don't delete your post, the alternative is that your account will be banned. This platform belongs to the public. It has changed our life and can exercise influence on the society and government through the spread of opinion. On the one hand, we have millions of netizens, on the other hand, we have, not Sina [Weibo, but the government and the authorities]. Since the day [around the end of March 2012] when Sina Weibo suspended its comments function for three days, a special group of people have the authority to decide on the criteria for giving out alert signals, and can make [Sina] Weibo go game-over as simply as treading on some ants without giving a damn about people's needs. When they issue urgent orders (like the Emperor's 18 golden orders in ancient time), you have to execute them.

We need [Sina] Weibo to deliver voices. But a hand is manipulating behind us. Someone is doomed to be sacrifice in this game. We live in a country full of special and sensitive barriers and we have to operate within a set of rules.

2. With such background, we have the second thesis: The strategy on deletion and distribution. Please think about this: You guys keep posting messages like machines, and the micro-blog secretaries keep deleting them. If we don't delete messages one by one and suspend accounts, we could have saved more time and energy. We could have served better as the running dog. You can see the messages before they are deleted, right? You still have your account functioning, right? You are all experienced netizens, you know that the technology allows us to delete messages in a second. Please think carefully on this.

3. In some cases, other platforms have more space than Sina. Sina is the biggest tree and everyone is using the platform. Classmate Xuan [, nickname for the Propaganda Department,] will watch every single act. Once the leaves of the tree move, the bell rings. The way we receive orders is similar to the way the Catholic Father in the movie Cinema Paradiso rings his hand bell whenever there is a kissing scene. We have to take orders whenever we hear the ringing bell.

Before this incident occurred, and at its very early stages, we were under a lot of pressure. We tried to resist and let the messages spread. This is our accomplishment already. Our official account @Sina_Media reported on the suspension of the Southern Weekly instantly, and the news was retweeted by @headline_news, which was again retweeted again 30,000 times in 10 mins. Then we got the order from Classmate Xuan and we had to delete it. Fortunately, the message had been distributed. A friend from Penguin website left a warm message in my microblog: This is a battle. Sina [Weibo] is a human flesh shield. It is a courageous act.

4. Expectedly, my bosses have to go through tea session [euphemism for police interview] again. I have to stop here.



Searching for a Cut...

French ISP told to stop blocking Google adverts

Link Here8th January 2013

A large ISP in France which reconfigured the broadband routers of its subscribers to automatically block Google's Adwords/Adsense adverts has had to abandon its plans after getting into trouble with the French Government.

The ISP Free's motivation for the blocking appears to have been an attempt to protest against the principle of net neutrality, whereby ISPs have little say in how traffic is routed through its networks. The company feels that it is being constrained in its ability to generate revenue whilst companies such Google rake in profits from consumers. Controversially, their answer is to seek to control, or block, such services until such time as they can get a cut. Free has already reportedly complained about the dominance of Google's Adwords system.

However the move angered advertising and media groups whose business model depends on ad distribution, prompting them to enlist the help of the French Government to get the blocking reversed.

In a news conference reported by the New York Times, the Government made plain that such blocking was unacceptable and ordered Free to restore access to ad content. Digital economy minister, Fleur Pellerin said in a staement:

An Internet service provider cannot unilaterally implement such blocking. This kind of blocking is inconsistent with a free and open Internet, to which I am very attached.

Free said it would end the blocking of ads immediately.



Archive Censorship...

Newspapers and Broadcasters speak out against court powers to ban website content that may be prejudicial to trials

Link Here7th January 2013

A coalition of national newspapers and broadcasters are to warn against possible changes to contempt laws that could see courts given new powers to order the removal of archive stories from their websites.

A Law Commission consultation paper on reforming contempt of court legislation has raised fears in the media industry that the proposals could fundamentally alter criminal reporting in the digital age.

The Media Lawyers Association (MLA), which represents newspapers and broadcasters, is expected to submit a response expressing concerns about a number of the proposals set out in the Law Commission's consultation paper.

Crown court judges could be given the power to order newspapers and broadcasters to temporarily remove potentially prejudicial material even if it was first published years ago, according to proposals put out for consultation by the Law Commission.

Santha Rasaiah, a director at the Newspaper Society said:

It would be unnecessary, disproportionate and onerous to introduce courts orders which would effectively require that the local media routinely identify and remove material from their archives.

David Burgess, deputy general counsel for the Independent, i and London Evening Standard, said the emphasis should be on judicial directions to the jury not to research material outside court:

The focus should not be on court orders controlling archives. When seeking to secure a fair trial, firm and clear judicial directions to the jury not to undertake independent internet searches is the sensible approach.

Only in very unusual cases should such instructions be supported or supplemented by court orders. In addition, when asserting that an archive publication creates a substantial risk that the course of justice will be seriously impeded or prejudiced the applicant should be forced to demonstrate why judicial directions to the jury would not be effective in each individual case.



Trending Censorship...

French minister for political correctness calls for the censorship and moderation of Twitter

Link Here4th January 2013

A series of insulting hashtags on Twittersseems to have prompted France's minister for political correctness into calling for the censorship of Twitter.

#SiMonFilsEstGay ( If my son is gay ) trended on Twitter for days in France recently. Before that, #unjuifmort ( a dead Jew ), #unbonjuif ( a good Jew ) and #SiMaFilleRame'neUnNoir ( If my daughter brings home a Black ) have come to the attention of the authorities.

Now Najat Belkacem-Vallaud, Minister of Women's Rights, said that Twitter must begin to censor hate speech. She argued that this sort of speech is illegal according to national law in the French newspaper Le Monde:

At a moment when the government is implementing an action plan against violence and discrimination committed for reasons of sexual orientation or gender identity, I want, without prejudice to any legal action, to call upon Twitter's sense of responsibility, so that it can contribute to the prevention and the avoidance of misbehavior like this.

I want us to be able to work together, along with the most important associated agencies, to put in place alerts and security measures that will ensure that the unfortunate events that we have witnessed in recent weeks will not occur again.

Belkacem-Vallaud adds that freedom of expression cannot be used with impunity, because homophobia and racism can quickly lead to violence. Children who are homosexual are put at risk when such discussions are spread without moderation on the Internet.

Jason Farago in the Guardian explains how the French minister is going beyond mere prosecution for those who post such tweets and now wants Twitter to take steps to help prosecute hate speech by reform[ing] the whole system by which Twitter operates , including her demand that the company put in place alerts and security measures to prevent tweets which French officials deem hateful.



Update: The Great Firewall of Pakistan...

Pakistan considers what to do with an expensive new internet censorship toy bought in from China

Link Here3rd January 2013
Full story: Internet Censorship in Pakistan...internet website blocking

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and the Ministry of Information Technology are debating how to use a new system to censor websites and their contents.

The system is being imported from China and is expected to control internet traffic and activities across the country as per PTA policies.

PTA have been holding consultations over this new project with other parties interested in censorship including the Ministry of Interior, the Armed Forces of Pakistan, various intelligence agencies and NTSC.

Sources privy to the Ministry for Information Technology told Pakistan Today that the ministry had a few reservations regarding the system, its capabilities and above all its massive cost.

According to details about the project, a central point would be established by PTA from where all internet traffic inside the country would flow and supposedly objectionable content and pornographic websites would be blocked from there. Under the new mechanism, URL filtering software worth $ 5 million would also be installed at four landing stations of submarine cable which would control internet content on mobile phones as well.

According to media reports, various objections are being raised by groups who contend that, emails, mobile phone internet traffic and mobile phone calls would then be monitored by the government.

PTA Chairman Farooq Ahmed Khan denied such surveillance but confirmed that in the next 60 days a new mechanism for blocking un-Islamic, pornographic and blasphemous material from websites will be activated.



Bad Reviews Stand...

A Virginia Supreme Court judge rules that bad internet reviews cannot be censored without proof of false statements

Link Here3rd January 2013

Many businesses complain when they get bad reviews on Yelp. On Wednesday there was a court ruling on whether they can censor the reviews.

The Virginia Supreme Court ruled that merchants have no right to automatically censor a bad review on Yelp. They must first prove the statements are false.

In the Virginia case, a business claimed that a customer falsely accused him of theft via a review. A lower court judge ordered the customer to take the statements off Yelp, but now the high court said that violates free speech. The business must first prove the reviewer's statements are libelous

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