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
Amazon has banned a book by Tommy Robinson. Mohammed's Koran: Why Muslims kill for Islam which he co-authored with Peter McLoughlin has now been removed from the store. According to McLoughlin the book was removed from the Amazon
database last month, and even second hand versions cannot now be sold. Despite scathing reviews the author said it was the No.1 best-selling exegesis of the Koran.
Amazon joins a long list of internet giants that have banned Tommy Robinson with only YouTube currently giving him a platform.
Robinson has accused major companies and media outlets, including the BBC , of censorship for removing his content which he claims should be protected under freedom of speech. He wrote:
This is the twenty-first century equivalent of the Nazis taking out the books from university libraries and burning them.
A spokesman for Amazon said:
As a bookseller, we provide our customers with access to a variety of viewpoints, including books that some customers may find objectionable. That said, we reserve the right not to sell certain inappropriate content.
It is difficult to see how such censorship will soothe a divided society. Surely it will mean that people leaning towards progressive politics will see less that opposes their viewpoint. But on the other side of the coin decisions like this will
add to the anger of substantial numbers of people sympathetic to Tommy Robinson's views. They will likely feel that the silencing of Tommy Robinson is equivalent to the silencing of his supporters.
The idea is that the government of any European Member State will be able to order any website to remove content considered "terrorist". No independent judicial authorisation will be needed to do so, letting governments abuse the wide
definition of "terrorism". The only thing IMCO accepted to add is for government's orders to be subject to "judicial review", which can mean anything.
In France, the government's orders to remove "terrorist content" are already subject to "judicial review", where an independent body is notified of all removal orders and may ask judges to asses them. This has not been of much
help: only once has this censorship been submitted to a judge's review. It was found to be unlawful, but more than one year and half after it was ordered. During this time, the French government was able to abusively censor content, in this case,
far-left publications by two French Indymedia outlets.
Far from simplifying, this Regulation will add confusion as authorities from one member state will be able to order removal in other one, without necessarily understanding context.
Unrealistic removal delays
Regarding the one hour delay within which the police can order a hosting service provider to block any content reported as "terrorist", there was no real progress either. It has been replaced by a deadline of at least eight hours, with
a small exception for "microentreprises" that have not been previously subject to a removal order (in this case, the "deadline shall be no sooner than the end of the next working day").
This narrow exception will not allow the vast majority of Internet actors to comply with such a strict deadline. Even if the IMCO Committee has removed any mention of proactive measures that can be imposed on Internet actors, and has stated that
"automated content filters" shall not be used by hosting service providers, this very tight deadline, and the threat of heavy fines will only incite them to adopt the moderation tools developed by the Web's juggernauts (Facebook and
Google) and use the broadest possible definition of terrorism to avoid the risk of penalties. The impossible obligation to provide a point of contact reachable 24/7 has not been modified either. The IMCO opinion has even worsened the financial
penalties that can be imposed: it is now "at least" 1% and up to 4% of the hosting service provider's turnover.
The next step will be on 11 March, when the CULT Committee (Culture and Education) will adopt its opinion.
The last real opportunity to obtain the rejection of this dangerous text will be on 21 March 2019, in the LIBE Committee (Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs). European citizens must contact their MEPs to demand this rejection. We have
dedicated page on our website with an analysis of this Regulation and a tool to directly contact the MEPs in charge.
Starting today, and for the weeks to come, call your MEPS and demand they reject this text.
German Data Privacy Commissioner Ulrich Kelber is also a computer scientist, which makes him uniquely qualified to comment on the potential consequences of the proposed new EU Copyright Directive. The Directive will be voted on at the end of this
month, and its
Article 13 requires that online communities, platforms, and services prevent their users from committing copyright infringement, rather than ensuring that infringing materials are speedily removed.
In a new
official statement on the Directive (
English translation ), Kelber warns that Article 13 will inevitably lead to the use of automated filters, because there is no imaginable way for the organisations that run online services to examine everything their users post and determine
whether each message, photo, video, or audio clip is a copyright violation.
Kelber goes on to warn that this will exacerbate the already dire problem of market concentration in the tech sector, and expose Europeans to particular risk of online surveillance and manipulation.
That's because under Article 13, Europe's online companies will be
required to block all infringement , even if they are very small and specialised (the Directive gives an online community three years' grace period before it acquires this obligation, less time if the service grosses over ?5m/year). These
small- and medium-sized European services (SMEs) will not be able to afford to license the catalogues of the big movie, music, and book publishers, so they'll have to rely on filters to block the unlicensed material.
But if a company is too small to afford licenses, it's also too small to build filters. Google's Content ID for YouTube cost a reported ?100 million to build and run, and it only does a fraction of the blocking required under Article 13. That
means that they'll have to buy filter services from someone else. The most likely filter vendors are the US Big Tech companies like Google and Facebook, who will have to build and run filters anyway, and could recoup their costs by renting access
to these filters to smaller competitors.
As Kelber explains, this means that Europeans who use European services in the EU will nevertheless likely have every public communication they make channeled into offshore tech companies' servers for analysis. These European services will then
have to channel much of their revenues to the big US tech companies or specialist filter vendors.
So Article 13 guarantees America's giant companies a permanent share of all small EU companies' revenues and access to an incredibly valuable data-stream generated by all European discourse, conversation, and expression. These companies
have a long track record of capitalising on users' personal data to their advantage, and between that advantage and the revenues they siphon off of their small European competitors, they are likely to gain permanent dominance over Europe's
Kelber says that this is the inevitable consequence of filters, and has challenged the EU to explain how Article 13's requirements could be satisfied without filters. He's called for "a thoughtful overhaul" of the bill based on
"data privacy considerations," describing the market concentration as a "clear and present danger."
We agree, and so do millions of Europeans. In fact,
the petition against Article 13 has attracted more signatures than any other petition in European history and is on track to be the most popular petition in the history of the human race within a matter of days.
With less than a month to go before the final vote in the European Parliament on the new Copyright Directive, Kelber's remarks couldn't be more urgent. Subjecting Europeans' communications to mass commercial surveillance and arbitrary censorship
is bad for human rights and free expression, but as Kelber so ably argues, it's also a disaster for competition.
Thailand's military-controlled parliament has unanimously passed a new Cybersecurity Act to give the junta deeper control over the internet.
The act allows the National Cybersecurity Committee, run by Thailand's generals, to summon individuals for questioning and enter private property without court orders in case of actual or anticipated 'serious cyber threats'. Court warrants are
not required for action in emergency cases and criminal penalties will be imposed on those who do not comply with official orders.
The authorities can now search and seize data and hardware without a warrant if a threat is identified by the unaccountable body.