Sharon White, the CEO of Ofcom has put her case to be the British internet news censor, disgracefully from behind
the paywalled website of the The Times.
White says Ofcom has done research showing how little users trust what they read on social media. She said that only 39% consider social media to be a trustworthy news source, compared with 63% for newspapers, and 70% for TV.
But then again many people don't much trust the biased moralising from the politically correct mainstream media, including the likes of Ofcom.
White claims social media platforms need to be more accountable in how they curate and police content on their platforms, or face regulation.
In reality, Facebook's algorithm seems pretty straightforward, it just gives readers more of what they have liked in the past. But of course the powers that be don't like people choosing their own media sources, they would much prefer that the
BBC, or the Guardian , or Ofcom do the choosing.
Sharon White, wrote in the Times:
The argument for independent regulatory oversight of [large online players] has never been stronger.
In practice, this would place much greater scrutiny on how effectively the online platforms respond to harmful content to protect consumers, with powers for a regulator to enforce standards, and act if these are not met.
She continued, disgracefully revealing her complete contempt of the British people:
Many people admit they simply don't have the time or inclination to think critically when engaging with news, which has important implications for our democracy.
White joins a growing number of the establishment elite arguing that social media needs cenorship. The government has frequently suggested as much, with Matt Hancock, then digital, culture, media and sport secretary, telling Facebook in April:
Social media companies are not above the law and will not be allowed to shirk their responsibilities to our citizens.
Update: The whole pitch to offer Ofcom's services as a news censor
There seems to be 4 whinges about modern news reading via smart phones and all of them are just characteristics of the medium that will never change regardless of whether we have news censors or not.
Fake News: mostly only exists in the minds of politicians. No one else can find hardly any. So internet news readers are not much bothered by trying to detect it.
Passive news reading. Its far too much trouble typing in stuff on a smart phone to be bothered to go out and find stuff for yourself. So the next best thing is to use apps that do the best job in feeding you articles that are of interest.
Skimming and shallow reading of news feeds. Well there's so much news out there and the news feed algorithm isn't too hot anyway so if anything isn't quite 100% interesting, then just scroll on. This isn't going to change any time soon.
Echo chambers. This is just a put-down phrase for phone users choosing to read the news that they like. If a news censor thinks that more worthy news should be force fed into people's news readers than they will just suffer the indignity of
being rapidly swiped into touch.
Anyway this is Sharon White's take:
Picking up a newspaper with a morning coffee. Settling down to watch TV news after a day's work. Reading the sections of the Sunday papers in your favourite order.
For decades, habit and routine have helped to define our relationship with the news. In the past, people consumed news at set times of day, but heard little in between. But for many people, those habits, and the news landscape that shapes them,
have now changed fundamentally.
Vast numbers of news stories are now available 24/7, through a wide range of online platforms and devices, with social media now the most popular way of accessing news on the internet. Today's readers and viewers face the challenge to keep up. So
too, importantly, does regulation.
The fluid environment of social media certainly brings benefits to news, offering more choice, real-time updates, and a platform for different voices and perspectives. But it also presents new challenges for readers and regulators alike --
something that we, as a regulator of editorial standards in TV and radio, are now giving thought for the online world.
In new Ofcom research, we asked people about their relationship with news in our always-on society, and the findings are fascinating.
People feel there is more news than ever before, which presents a challenge for their time and attention. This, combined with fear of missing out, means many feel compelled to engage with several sources of news, but only have the capacity to do
Similarly, as many of us now read news through social media on our smartphones, we're constantly scrolling, swiping and clearing at speed. We're exposed to breaking news notifications, newsfeeds, shared news and stories mixed with other types of
content. This limits our ability to process, or even recognise, the news we see. It means we often engage with it incidentally, rather than actively.
In fact, our study showed that, after being exposed to news stories online, many participants had no conscious recollection of them at all. For example, one recalled seeing nine news stories online over a week -- she had actually viewed 13 in one
day alone. Others remembered reading particular articles, but couldn't recall any of the detail.
Social media's attraction as a source of news also raises questions of trust, with people much more likely to doubt what they see on these platforms. Our research shows only 39% consider social media to be a trustworthy news source, compared to
63% for newspapers, and 70% for TV.
Fake news and clickbait articles persist as common concerns among the people taking part in our research, but many struggle to check the validity of online news content. Some rely on gut instinct to tell fact from fiction, while others seek
second opinions from friends and family, or look for established news logos, such as the Times. Many people admit they simply don't have the time or inclination to think critically when engaging with news, which has important implications for our
Education on how to navigate online news effectively is, of course, important. But the onus shouldn't be on the public to detect and deal with fake and harmful content. Online companies need to be much more accountable when it comes to curating
and policing the content on their platforms, where this risks harm to the public.
We welcome emerging actions by the major online players, but consider that the argument for independent regulatory oversight of their activities has never been stronger. Such a regime would need to be based on transparency, and a set of clear
In practice, this would place much greater scrutiny on how effectively the online platforms respond to harmful content to protect consumers, with powers for a regulator to enforce standards, and act if these are not met. We will outline further
thoughts on the role independent regulation could play in the autumn.
When it comes to trust and accountability, public service broadcasters like the BBC also have a vital role to play. Their news operations provide the bedrock for much of the news content we see online, and as the broadcasting regulator, Ofcom
will continue to hold them to the highest standards.
Ofcom's research can help inform the debate about how to regulate effectively in an online world. We will continue to shine a light on the behavioural trends that emerge, as people's complex and evolving relationship with the media continues to
And perhaps if you have skimmed over White's piece a bit rapidly, here is the key paragraph again:
In practice, this would place much greater scrutiny on how effectively the online platforms respond to harmful content to protect consumers, with powers for a regulator to enforce standards, and act if these are not met. We will outline
further thoughts on the role independent regulation could play in the autumn.
We recently surveyed more than 2,000 parents on our platform and found that more than half of parents allow their children to play video games for over 18s, without supervision or knowledge of the game beforehand. In contrast, just 18% said
they would let 10-14-year-olds watch an 18+ movie.
We also discovered that 86% of parents admitted that they don't follow age restrictions on video games, compared to 23% who said they didn't follow age restrictions on films.
43% of parents say they have seen a negative change in their child's behaviour since playing games aimed at adults, and 22% of the 2,171 respondents said their kids now understand and use negative or offensive language since playing these
86% of parents don't believe that games will impact their child's behaviour or outlook on life. However 62% admit they have tried to take the games away from their kids but gave them back soon after because of tantrums and 48% fear that their
child is addicted to video games.
Richard Conway, founder of Childcare.co.uk said:
It's difficult in this day and age to govern what your child is exposed to, because if your 10-year-old has friends who are playing Fortnite, which is rated 12, you want them to be included in the fun. However, it's always worth looking into
the game to see if it's suitable rather than leaving them to their own devices.
What's interesting is that the majority of parents follow film age ratings, but when it comes to video games they maybe aren't as strict. It's important to remember how impressionable children are; if they see behaviour or language in a video
game or movie, they may mimic it.
Australia's Classification Review Board has unanimously overturned the ban on the video game, We Happy Few by the main Classification Board. The appeals boards has now passed the game with the adults-only R18+ for Fantasy violence and interactive drug use.
The game's developer, Compulsion Games, has expressed sympathy for the censor board saying it wasn't sure the Board could have ruled any other way.
In an email with Kotaku Australia, Compulsion Games chief operating officer and producer Sam Abbott said he wasn't sure that the Classification Board had any room to move, given the constraints of the rating guidelines:
I think originally the board made the best decision they could given (a) the guidelines they work within, and (b) the information we provided them, Abbott said. I'm not sure I'd make a different original decision given those constraints.
Abbott went on to explain that Compulsion Games could have outlined more information about Joy -- the drug that is a centrepiece of the dystopian society in which We Happy Few is set -- including the positive and negative aspects of its
The censor board banned the game for its use of drugs in-game, under the clause about incentivised drug use including:
New skills or attribute increases, extra points, unlocking achievements, plot animations, scenes and rewards, rare or exclusive loot, or making tasks easier to accomplish,
The latter of which was the reason We Happy Few originally fell foul of in the rule. In the Board's opinion:
The game's drug-use mechanic making game progression less difficult constitutes an incentive or reward for drug-use and therefore, the game exceeds the R 18+ classification that states, drug use related to incentives and rewards is not
permitted. Therefore, the game warrants being Refused Classification.
The Classification Review Board will issue details reasons for its decision in due course.
The Classification Review Board has now published its reasons for
overruling the censorship board's ban of We Happy Few and awarding an uncut R18+ rating instead:
Reasons for the decision
The premise of this computer game is for the playing characters to escape a fictional town where the inhabitants are in a state of Government mandated euphoria and memory loss. Although the non -playing characters appear to be happy due to
their continual use of the Joy drug, the computer game quickly establishes that this state is undesirable and the playing characters are on a quest to avoid the use of the Joy drug. The actual use of the fictitious drug as a game progression
mechanic, questions the viability of such a gameplay decision at each stage/level. The character's action in taking the drug is usually the only viable option given and while it may enable the character to pass a stage/level of the game, the
benefit is short term and is followed by a loss of memory and a reduction in health points, the depletion of the body and/or withdrawal symptoms. In the Review Board's opinion, the use of the drug is not presented as an incentive nor does it
constitute a reward for the player in achieving the aim of the computer game. In the Review Board's opinion, the interactive drug use does not exceed high, therefore the computer game can be accommodated at R 18+.
A paper has been published on the effects of network level website blocking to try and prevent
adolescents from seeking out porn.
Internet Filtering and Adolescent Exposure to Online Sexual Material
BY Andrew K. Przybylski, and Victoria Nash
Early adolescents are spending an increasing amount of time online, and a significant share of caregivers now use Internet filtering tools to shield this population from online sexual material. Despite wide use, the efficacy of filters is
poorly understood. In this article, we present two studies: one exploratory analysis of secondary data collected in the European Union, and one preregistered study focused on British adolescents and caregivers to rigorously evaluate their
utility. In both studies, caregivers were asked about their use of Internet filtering, and adolescent participants were interviewed about their recent online experiences.
Analyses focused on the absolute and relative risks of young people encountering online sexual material and the effectiveness of Internet filters.
Results suggested that caregiver's use of Internet filtering had inconsistent and practically insignificant links with young people reports of encountering online sexual material.
The struggle to shape the experiences young people have online is now part of modern parenthood. This study was conducted to address the value of industry, policy, and professional advice concerning the appropriate role of Internet filtering
in this struggle. Our preliminary findings suggested that filters might have small protective effects, but evidence derived from a more stringent and robust empirical approach indicated that they are entirely ineffective. These findings
highlight the need for a critical cost -- benefit analysis in light of the financial and informational costs associated with filtering and age verification technologies such as those now being developed in some European countries like the
United Kingdom. Further, our results highlight the need for registered trials to rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of costly technological solutions for social and developmental goals.
The write up doesn't really put its conclusions with any real context as to what is actually happening beyond the kids still being able to get hold of porn. The following paragraph gives the best clue of what is going on:
We calculated absolute risk reduction of exposure to online sexual material associated with caregivers using filtering technology in practical terms. These resultswere used to calculate the number of households which would have to be
filtered to prevent one young person, who would otherwise see sexual material online, from encountering it over a 12-month period. Depending on the form of content, results indicated that between 17 and 77 households would need to be
filtered to prevent a young adolescent from encountering online sexual material. A protective effect lower than we would consider practically significant.
This seems to suggest that if one kid has a censored internet then he just goes around to a mate's house who isn't censored, and downloads from there. He wouldn't actually be blocked from viewing porn until his whole circle of friends are
similarly censored. It only takes one kid to be able download porn, as it can then be loaded on a memory stick to be passed around.
Russia's interior minister says he wants citizens to scour the internet for
The Russian internet censor Roskomnadzor, has an ever-expanding list of banned sites featuring material that Russian authorities don't like. The list takes in everything from LGBT sites to critics of the Kremlin and sites that allegedly carry
terrorist propaganda, the main justification for many of Russia's online censorship and surveillance laws.
Free-speech activists reckon the number of blocked websites now tops 100,000, but how best to keep adding to that list?
Russia's interior minister, Vladimir Kolokoltsev, says volunteers should step up to aid the search for banned information. Whilst speaking about the challenges faced by search and rescue volunteers, he said volunteers could help public
authorities in preventing drug abuse, combating juvenile delinquency, and monitoring the internet networks to search for banned information.
Uganda has just introduced a significant tax on social media usage. It is set at 200 shillings a day which adds up to about 3% of the average
annual income if used daily.
Use of a long list of websites including Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, Tinder triggers the daily taxed through billing by ISPs.
And as you may expect Uganda internet users are turning to VPNs so that ISPs can't detect access to taxed apps and websites.
In response, the government says it has ordered local ISPs to begin blocking VPNs. In a statement, Uganda Communications Commission Executive Director, Godfrey Mutabazi said that Internet service providers would be ordered to block VPNs to
prevent citizens from avoiding the social media tax.
Mutabazi told Dispatch that ISPs are already taking action to prevent VPNs from being accessible but since there are so many, it won't be possible to block them all. In the meantime, the government is trying to portray VPNs as more expensive to
use than the tax. In a post on Facebook this morning, Mutabazi promoted the tax as the sensible economic option.
it appears that many Ugandans are outraged at the prospect of yet another tax and see VPN use as a protest, despite any additional cost. Opposition figures have already called for a boycott with support coming in from all corners of society.
The government appears unmoved, however. Frank Tumwebaze, Minister of Information Technology and Communications said:
If we tax essentials like water, why not social media?
Uganda is reviewing its decision to impose taxes on the use of social media and on money transactions by mobile phone, following a public backlash.
Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda made the announcement soon after police broke up a protest against the taxes.
President Yoweri Museveni had pushed for the taxes to boost government revenue and to restrict criticism via WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter.
The social media tax is 6000 Uganda shillings a month (£1.25), but it is represents about 3% of the average wage. Activists argue that while the amount may seem little, it represents a significant slice of what poorer people are paying for
getting online. There is also a 1% levy on the total value of mobile phone money transactions, affecting poorer Ugandans who rarely use banking services.
In a statement to parliament, Rugunda said:
Government is now reviewing the taxes taking into consideration the concerns of the public and its implications on the budget.
A revised budget is due to be tabled in parliament on 19 July.
In the light of Australia's Classification Review Board overturning the Classification Board's ban of the video game We Happy Few ,
the Australian government is now considering whether games censorship rules need 'modernising'.
The Department of the Communications and the Arts has confirmed that talks have begun to modernise the classification guidelines. Any adjustment to the classification guidelines for computer games must be agreed by classification ministers in
all Australia's states and territories. The department also said it will consult extensively with industry stakeholders and communities.
We Happy Few an indie game, was initially banned over the prominence of the drug Joy, which underpins the game's dystopian society by being used as a method of controlling the populace. The Board's initial finding found that the presence of Joy
violated the clause on incentivised drug use:
The games developer appealed against the ban and the Classification Review Board - a separate statutory body the unanimous overturned the Classification Board's original ban resulting in an adults-only R18+ classification.
The department did not provide a timeline as to when said discussions might take place.
Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media would back the creation of an internet censor to set out a framework for internet
companies in the UK, the House of Lords Communications Committee was told.
The three major UK ISPs were reporting to a House of Lords' ongoing inquiry into internet censorship. The companies' policy heads pushed for a new censor, or the expansion of the responsibility of a current censor, to set the rules for content
censorship and to better equip children using the internet amid safety concerns .
At the moment Information Commissioner's Office has responsibility for data protection and privacy; Ofcom censors internet TV; the Advertising Standards Authority censors adverts; and the BBFC censors adult porn.
Citing a report by consultancy Communications Chambers, Sky's Adam Kinsley said that websites and internet providers are making decisions but in a non structured way. Speaking about the current state of internet regulation, Kinsley said:
Companies are already policing their own platforms. There is no accountability of what they are doing and how they are doing it. The only bit of transparency is when they decide to do it on a global basis and at a time of their choosing.
Policy makers need to understand what is happening, and at the moment they don't have that.
The 13-strong House of Lords committee, chaired by Lord Gilbert of Panteg, launched an inquiry earlier this year to explore how the censorship of the internet should be improved. The committee will consider whether there is a need for new laws
to govern internet companies. This inquiry will consider whether websites are sufficiently accountable and transparent, and whether they have adequate governance and provide behavioural standards for users.
The committee is hearing evidence from April to September 2018 and will launch a report at the end of the year.
We are asking a court to declare the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 ("FOSTA") unconstitutional and prevent it from being enforced. The law was written so poorly that it actually criminalizes a
substantial amount of protected speech and, according to experts, actually hinders efforts to prosecute sex traffickers and aid victims.
In our lawsuit, two human rights organizations, an individual advocate for sex workers, a certified non-sexual massage therapist, and the Internet Archive, are challenging the law as an unconstitutional violation of the First and Fifth
Amendments. Although the law was passed by Congress for the worthy purpose of fighting sex trafficking, its broad language makes criminals of those who advocate for and provide resources to adult, consensual sex workers and actually hinders
efforts to prosecute sex traffickers and aid victims.
FOSTA made three major changes to existing law. The first two involved changes to federal criminal law:
First, it created an entirely new federal crime by adding a new section to the Mann Act. The new law makes it a crime to "own, manage or operate" an online service with the intent to "promote or facilitate" "the
prostitution of another person." That crime is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The law further makes it an "aggravated offense," punishable by up to 25 years in prison and also subject to civil lawsuits if
"facilitation" was of the prostitution of 5 or more persons, or if it was done with "reckless disregard" that it "contributed to sex trafficking." An aggravated violation may also be the basis for an individual's
civil lawsuit. The prior version of the Mann Act only made it illegal to physically transport a person across state lines for the purposes of prostitution.
Second, FOSTA expanded existing federal criminal sex trafficking law. Before SESTA, the law made it a crime to knowingly advertise sexual services of a minor or any person doing so only under force, fraud, or coercion, and also criminalized
several other modes of conduct. The specific knowledge requirement for advertising (that one must know he advertisement was for sex trafficking) was an acknowledgement that advertising was entitled to some First Amendment protection. The
prior law additionally made it a crime to financially benefit from "participation in a venture" of sex trafficking. FOSTA made seemingly a small change to the law: it defined "participation in a venture" extremely broadly
to include "assisting, supporting, or facilitating." But this new very broad language has created great uncertainty about liability for speech other than advertising that someone might interpret as "assisting" or
"supporting" sex trafficking, and what level of awareness of sex trafficking the participant must have.
As is obvious, these expansions of the law are fraught with vague and ambiguous terms that have created great uncertainty about what kind of online speech is now illegal. FOSTA does not define "facilitate", "promote",
"contribute to sex trafficking," "assisting," or supporting" -- but the inclusion of all of these terms shows that Congress intended the law to apply expansively. Plaintiffs thus reasonably fear it will be applied to
them. Plaintiffs Woodhull Freedom Foundation and Human Rights Watch advocate for the decriminalization of sex work, both domestically and internationally. It is unclear whether that advocacy is considered "facilitating" prostitution
under FOSTA. Plaintiffs Woodhull and Alex Andrews offer substantial resources online to sex workers, including important health and safety information. This protected speech, and other harm reduction efforts, can also be seen as
"facilitating" prostitution. And although each of the plaintiffs vehemently opposes sex trafficking, Congress's expressed
sense in passing the law was that sex trafficking and sex work were "inextricably linked." Thus, plaintiffs are legitimately concerned that their advocacy on behalf of sex workers will be seen as being done in reckless disregard of
some "contribution to sex trafficking," even though all plaintiffs vehemently oppose sex trafficking.
The third change significantly undercut the protections of one of the Internet's most important laws, 47 U.S.C. § 230, originally a provision of the Communications Decency Act, commonly known simply as Section 230 or CDA 230:
FOSTA significantly undermined the legal protections intermediaries had under 42 U.S.C. § 230, commonly known simply as Section 230. Section 230 generally immunized intermediaries form liability arising from content created by others--it was
thus the chief protection that allowed Internet platforms for user-generated content to exist without having to review every piece of content appearing posted to them for potential legal liability. FOSTA undercut this immunity in three
significant ways. First, Section 230 already had an exception for violations of federal criminal law, so the expansion of criminal law described above also automatically expanded the Section 230 exception. Second, FOSTA nullified the immunity
also for state criminal lawsuits for violations of state laws that mirror the violations of federal law. And third, FOSTA allows for lawsuits by individual civil litigants.
The possibility of these state criminal and private civil lawsuit is very troublesome. FOSTA vastly magnifies the risk an Internet host bears of being sued. Whereas federal prosecutors typically carefully pick and choose which violations of law
they pursue, the far more numerous state prosecutors may be more prone to less selective prosecutions. And civil litigants often do not carefully consider the legal merits of an action before pursing it in court. Past experience teaches us that
they might file lawsuits merely to intimidate a speaker into silence -- the cost of defending even a meritless lawsuit being quite high. Lastly, whereas with federal criminal prosecutions, the US Department of Justice may offer clarifying
interpretations of a federal criminal law that addresses concerns with a law's ambiguity, those interpretations are not binding on state prosecutors and the millions of potential private litigants.
FOSTA Has Already Censored The Internet
As a result of these hugely increased risks of liability, many platforms for online speech have shuttered or restructured. The following as just two examples:
Two days after the Senate passed FOSTA, Craigslist eliminated its Personals section, including non-sexual subcategories such as "Missed Connections" and "Strictly Platonic." Craigslist
this change to FOSTA, explaining "Any tool or service can be misused. We can't take such risk without jeopardizing all our other services, so we are regretfully taking craigslist personals offline. Hopefully we can bring them back some
day." Craigslist also shut down its Therapeutic Services section and will not permit ads that were previously listed in Therapeutic Services to be re-listed in other sections, such as Skilled Trade Services or Beauty Services.
VerifyHim formerly maintained various online tools that helped sex workers avoid abusive clients. It described itself as "the biggest dating blacklist database on earth." One such resource was JUST FOR SAFETY, which had screening
tools designed to help sex workers check to see if they might be meeting someone dangerous, create communities of common interest, and talk directly to each other about safety. Following passage of FOSTA, VerifyHim took down many of these
tools, including JUST FOR SAFETY, and explained
that it is "working to change the direction of the site."
Plaintiff Eric Koszyk is a certified massage therapist running his own non-sexual massage business as his primary source of income. Prior to FOSTA he advertised his services exclusively in Craigslist's Therapeutic Services section. That forum
is no longer available and he is unable to run his ad anywhere else on the site, thus seriously harming his business. Plaintiff the Internet Archive fears that it can no longer rely on Section 230 to bar liability for content created by third
parties and hosted by the Archive, which comprises the vast majority of material in the Archive's collection, on account of FOSTA's changes to Section 230. The Archive is concerned that some third-party content hosted by the Archive, such as
archives of particular websites, information about books, and the books themselves, could be construed as promoting or facilitating prostitution, or assisting, supporting, or facilitating sex trafficking under FOSTA's expansive terms. Plaintiff
Alex Andrews maintains the website RateThatRescue.org, a sex worker-led, public, free, community effort to share information about both the organizations and services on which sex workers can rely, and those they should avoid. Because the site
is largely user-generated content, Andrews relies on Section 230's protections. She is now concerned that FOSTA now exposes her to potentially ruinous civil and criminal liability. She has also suspended moving forward with an app that would
offer harm reduction materials to sex workers. Human Rights Watch relies heavily on individuals spreading its reporting and advocacy through social media. It is concerned that social media platforms and websites that host, disseminate, or allow
users to spread their reports and advocacy materials may be inhibited from doing so because of FOSTA.
And many many others are experiencing the same uncertainty and fears of prosecution that are plaguing other advocates, service providers, platforms, and platform users since FOSTA became law.
We have asked the court to preliminarily enjoin enforcement of the law so that the plaintiffs and others can exercise their First Amendment rights until the court can issue a final ruling. But there is another urgent reason to halt enforcement
of the law. Plaintiff Woodhull Freedom Foundation is holding its annual Sexual Freedom Summit August 2-, 2018. Like past years, the Summit features a track on sex work, this year titled "Sex as Work," that seeks to advance and promote
the careers, safety, and dignity of individuals engaged in professional sex work. In presenting and promoting the Sexual Freedom Summit, and the Sex Work Track in particular, Woodhull operates and uses interactive computer services in numerous
ways: Woodhull uses online databases and cloud storage services to organize, schedule and plan the Summit; Woodhull exchanges emails with organizers, volunteers, website developers, promoters and presenters during all phases of the Summit;
Woodhull has promoted the titles of all workshops on its Summit website
; Woodhull also publishes the biographies and contact information for workshop presenters on its website, including those for the sex workers participating in the Sex Work Track and other tracks. Is publishing the name and contact information
for a sex worker "facilitating the prostitution of another person"? If it is, FOSTA makes it a crime.
Moreover, most, if not all, of the workshops are also promoted by Woodhull on social media such as Facebook and Twitter; and Woodhull wishes to stream the Sex Work Track on Facebook, as it does other tracks, so that those who cannot attend can
benefit from the information and commentary.
Without an injunction, the legality under FOSTA of all of these practices is uncertain. The preliminary injunction is necessary so that Woodhull can conduct the Sex as Work track without fear of prosecution.
It is worth emphasizing that Congress was repeatedly warned that it was passing a law that would censor far more speech than was necessary to address the problem of sex trafficking, and that the law would indeed hinder law enforcement efforts
and pose great dangers to sex workers. During the Congressional debate on FOSTA and SESTA, anti-trafficking groups such as
and the International Women's Health Coalition
issued statements warning that the laws would hurt efforts to aid trafficking victims, not help them.
Even Senator Richard Blumenthal, an original cosponsor of the SESTA (the Senate bill) criticized the new Mann Act provision when it was proposed in the House bill, telling
"there is no good reason to proceed with a proposal that is opposed by the very survivors it claims to support." Nevertheless, Senator Blumenthal ultimately voted to pass FOSTA.
In support of the preliminary injunction
, we have submitted the declarations of several experts who confirm the harmful effects FOSTA is having on sex workers, who are being driven back to far more dangerous street-based work as online classified sites disappear, to the loss of
online "bad date lists" that informed sex workers of risks associated with certain clients, to making sex less visible to law enforcement, which can no longer scour and analyze formerly public websites where sex trafficking had been
advertised. For more information see the Declarations of Dr. Alexandra Lutnick
, Prof. Alexandra Frell Levy
, and Dr. Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco
One moment Facebook's algorithms are expected to be able to automatically
distinguish terrorism support from news reporting or satire, the next moment, it demonstrates exactly how crap it is by failing to distinguish hate speech from a profound, and nation establishing, statement of citizens rights.
Facebook's algorithms removed parts of the US Declaration of Independence from the social media site after determining they represented hate speech.
The issue came to light when a local paper in Texas began posting excerpts of the historic text on its Facebook page each day in the run up to the country's Independence Day celebrations on July 4.
However when The Liberty County Vindicator attempted to post its tenth extract, which refers to merciless Indian savages, on its Facebook page the paper received a notice saying the post went against its standards on hate speech.
Facebook later 'apologised' as it has done countless times before and allowed the posting.
France's online gaming authority (ARJEL, Autorité de Régulation des Jeux En Ligne) has decided that loot boxes in
premium-priced games are not gambling. It determined that loot boxes are not legally considered gambling, and therefore are not gambling.
However, ARJEL will continue to monitor the matter and is also calling for more unilateral support from the European Union in order to achieve a sound consensus on whether or not to consider loot boxes gambling.
According to ARJEL, the fact that you can't readily cash out your rewards from loot boxes for real-world currency means that in the minds of regulators it's not quite gambling. For them, the only way it would be gambling is if players could
actually retrieve the money that they invested into the product.
However, ARJEL also believes that loot boxes do contain questionable psychological hooks that work very similar to slot machines and roulette wheels in terms of luring gamers into a feeling of needing to spend more money in order to acquire the
item they seek.
As we have been covering in the last couple of articles, a controversial EU Copyright Directive has been under discussion at
the European Parliament, and in a surprising turn of events, it voted to reject
fast-tracking the tabled proposal by the JURI Committee which contained controversial proposals, particularly in
and Art 13
. The proposed Directive will now get a full discussion and debate in plenary in September.
I say surprising because for those of us who have been witnesses (and participants) to the Copyright Wars for the last 20 years, such a defeat of copyright maximalist proposals is practically unprecedented, perhaps with the exception of
. For years we've had a familiar pattern in the passing of copyright legislation: a proposal has been made to enhance protection and/or restrict liberties, a small group of ageing millionaire musicians would be paraded supporting the changes in
the interest of creators. Only copyright nerds and a few NGOs and digital rights advocates would complain, their opinions would be ignored and the legislation would pass unopposed. Rinse and repeat.
But something has changed, and a wide coalition has managed to defeat powerful media lobbies for the first time in Europe, at least for now. How was this possible?
The main change is that the media landscape is very different thanks to the Internet. In the past, the creative industries were monolithic in their support for stronger protection, and they included creators, corporations, collecting societies,
publishers, and distributors; in other words the gatekeepers and the owners were roughly on the same side. But the Internet brought a number of new players, the tech industry and their online platforms and tools became the new gatekeepers.
Moreover, as people do not buy physical copies of their media and the entire industry has moved towards streaming, online distributors have become more powerful. This has created a perceived imbalance, where the formerly dominating industries
need to negotiate with the new gatekeepers for access to users. This is why creators complain about a value gap
between what they perceive they should be getting, and what they actually receive from the giants.
The main result of this change from a political standpoint is that now we have two lobbying sides in the debate, which makes all the difference when it comes to this type of legislation. In the past, policymakers could ignore experts and
digital rights advocates because they never had the potential to reach them, letters and articles by academics were not taken into account, or given lip service during some obscure committee discussion just to be hidden away. Tech giants such
as Google have provided lobbying access in Brussels, which has at least levelled the playing field when it comes to presenting evidence to legislators.
As a veteran of the Copyright Wars, I have to admit that it has been very entertaining reading the reaction from the copyright industry lobby groups and their individual representatives, some almost going apoplectic with rage at Google's
intervention. These tend to be the same people who spent decades lobbying legislators to get their way unopposed, representing large corporate interests unashamedly and passing laws that would benefit only a few, usually to the detriment of
users. It seems like lobbying must be decried when you lose.
But to see this as a victory for Google and other tech giants completely ignores the large coalition that shares the view that the proposed Articles 11 and 13 are very badly thought-out, and could represent a real danger to existing rights.
Some of us have been fighting this fight when Google did not even exist, or it was but a small competitor of AltaVista, Lycos, Excite and Yahoo!
At the same time that more restrictive copyright legislation came into place, we also saw the rise of free and open source software, open access, Creative Commons and open data. All of these are legal hacks that allow sharing, remixing and
openness. These were created precisely to respond to restrictive copyright practices. I also remember how they were opposed as existential threats by the same copyright industries, and treated with disdain and animosity. But something wonderful
happened, eventually open source software started winning (we used to buy operating systems), and Creative Commons became an important part of the Internet's ecosystem by propping-up valuable common spaces such as Wikipedia.
Similarly, the Internet has allowed a great diversity of actors to emerge. Independent creators, small and medium enterprises, online publishers and startups love the Internet because it gives them access to a wider audience, and often they can
bypass established gatekeepers. Lost in this idiotic "Google v musicians" rhetoric has been the threat that both Art 11 and 13 represent to small entities. Art 11 proposes a new publishing right that has been proven to affect smaller
players in Germany and Spain; while Art 13 would impose potentially crippling economic restrictions to smaller companies as they would have to put in place automated filtering systems AND redress mechanisms against mistakes. In fact, it has
been often remarked that Art 13 would benefit existing dominant forces, as they already have filtering in place (think ContentID).
Similarly, Internet advocates and luminaries see the proposals as a threat to the Internet, the people who know the Web best think that this is a bad idea. If you can stomach it,
read this thread featuring
a copyright lobbyist attacking Neil Gaiman, who has been one of the Internet celebrities that have voiced their concerns about the Directive.
Even copyright experts
who almost never intervene in digital rights affairs the have been vocal in their opposition to the changes.
And finally we have political representatives from various parties and backgrounds who have been vocally opposed to the changes. While the leader of the political opposition has been the amazing Julia Reda, she has managed to bring together a
variety of voices from other parties and countries. The vitriol launched at her has been unrelenting, but futile. It has been quite a sight to see her opponents both try to dismiss her as just another clueless young Pirate commanded by Google,
while at the same time they try to portray her as a powerful enemy in charge of the mindless and uninformed online troll masses ready to do her bidding.
All of the above managed to do something wonderful, which was to convey the threat in easy-to-understand terms so that users could contact their representatives and make their voice heard. The level of popular opposition to the Directive has
been a great sight to behold.
Tech giants did not create this alliance, they just gave various voices access to the table. To dismiss this as Google's doing completely ignores the very real and rich tapestry of those defending digital rights, and it is quite clearly
patronising and insulting, and precisely the reason why they lost. It was very late until they finally realised that they were losing the debate with the public, and not even the last-minute deployment of musical dinosaurs could save the day.
But the fight continues, keep contacting your MEPs and keep applying pressure.
So who supported internet censorship in the EU parliamentary vote?
Mostly the EU Conservative Group and also half the Social Democrat MEPs and half the Far Right MEPs
The Montreal International Jazz Festival has explained its decision to censor a
show featuring a white woman singing songs composed by black slaves.
Festival CEO Jacques-Andre Dupont said the decision to abruptly cancel SLAV partway through its run was made for a mix of technical and human reasons, including security concerns raised by the escalating vitriol surrounding the show. He
also said that the show's star, Betty Bonifassi, had broken her ankle and indicated she was no longer able to continue.
He said that while many protesters were peaceful, the festival and the theatre where the show was performed were concerned by the aggression of some protesters and the rising division and anger surrounding the show. He said Bonifassi's decision
to not continue was prompted both by her injury and the criticism.
Dupont said the festival and the production company would absorb what he said would be hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses associated with cancelling the show, including paying the performers.
SLAV, one of the hottest tickets at this year's jazz festival, was the subject of protests claiming 'cultural appropriation' of black culture and history. It was described as a theatrical odyssey based on slave songs and a journey through
traditional Afro-American songs, from cotton fields to construction sites, railroads, from slave songs to prison songs.
Black activists denounced the show and its mostly-white cast, and U.S. musician Moses Sumney cancelled a gig at the festival in protest.
Amid a storm of international media attention, the festival announced Wednesday it was cancelling the remaining performances and apologizing to anybody who had been hurt.
The renowned Quebec playwright Robert Lepage who directed the show criticized the decision to cancel it, calling it a direct blow to artistic freedom. He said in a statement that actors pretending to be someone else is at the very heart of
When we are no longer allowed to step into someone else's shoes, when it is forbidden to identify with someone else, theatre is denied its very nature, it is prevented from performing its primary function and is thus rendered meaningless.
In May, Tanzanian bloggers lost an appeal that had temporarily suspended a new set of regulations granting the country's Communication
Regulatory Authority discretionary powers to censor online content.
Officially dubbed the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations, 2018 , the statute requires online content creators -- traditional media websites, online TV and radio channels, but also individual bloggers and
podcasters -- to pay roughly two million Tanzanian shillings (930 US dollars) in registration and licensing fees.
They must store contributors' details for 12 months and have means to identify their sources and disclose financial sponsors. Cyber cafes must install surveillance cameras, and all owners of electronic mobile devices, including phones, have to
protect them with a password. Failure to comply with the regulations -- which also forbid online content that is indecent, annoying, or that leads to public disorder -- will result in a five million Tanzanian shillings (2,202 US dollars) fine,
a jail term of not less than a year or both.
These new regulations are already forcing young content creators--and often poorer ones--offline. For a country like Tanzania, whose GDP per capita is 879 US dollars --and where approximately 70% of the population lives on less than two dollars
a day--the financial burden of these new laws means it is impossible to continue blogging.
A shock poll by Reuters/Ipsos reveals that the Democrats are shedding millennial votes, with support dropping by 9% since 2016. This shift is most pronounced among white millennial men, who now favour Republicans over Democrats by 11%.
The Democratic Party seems to have adopted a rather toxic mix of identity politics and political correctness that blatantly sneers at white folk, especially men. So perhaps it is hardly surprising that the party has been losing support from
white millennial men. But the party's malaise seems more widespread than that, plenty from the minority communities are voicing their disquiet at being presented in a permanent state of victimhood, especially as the previous administration
didn't actually do anything to help them break out from such a state.
Anyway a passionate and eloquent YouTube video by Brandon Straka seems to have inspired a movement to #WalkAway from the Democratic Party. Straka notes of his original reason for aligning with the Democratic Party was his belief in free speech
and equality for all. And then insightfully notes that as the party lurches towards identity politics and authoritarianism, then he cites exactly the same reason for walking away.
I suspect that Donald Trump has changed politics around the world for a few years yet to come. You may, or may not, agree with his policies, but he has been seen to be going out on a limb to do something positive for his electors. Maybe it is
no longer enough for other parties just to utter fine words, and do little more. People now expect their representatives to do something that actually helps.
Today we're releasing our latest desktop browser Brave 0.23 which features Private Tabs with Tor, a technology for defending against network surveillance. This new functionality, currently in beta, integrates Tor into the browser and gives
users a new browsing mode that helps protect their privacy not only on device but over the network. Private Tabs with Tor help protect Brave users from ISPs (Internet Service Providers), guest Wi-Fi providers, and visited sites that may be
watching their Internet connection or even tracking and collecting IP addresses, a device's Internet identifier.
Private Tabs with Tor are easily accessible from the File menu by clicking New Private Tab with Tor. The integration of Tor into the Brave browser makes enhanced privacy protection conveniently accessible to any Brave user directly within the
browser. At any point in time, a user can have one or more regular tabs, session tabs, private tabs, and Private Tabs with Tor open.
The Brave browser already automatically blocks ads, trackers, cryptocurrency mining scripts, and other threats in order to protect users' privacy and security, and Brave's regular private tabs do not save a user's browsing history or cookies.
Private Tabs with Tor improve user privacy in several ways. It makes it more difficult for anyone in the path of the user's Internet connection (ISPs, employers, or guest Wi-Fi providers such as coffee shops or hotels) to track which websites a
user visits. Also, web destinations can no longer easily identify or track a user arriving via Brave's Private Tabs with Tor by means of their IP address. Users can learn more about how the Tor network works by watching this video.
Private Tabs with Tor default to DuckDuckGo as the search engine, but users have the option to switch to one of Brave's other nineteen search providers. DuckDuckGo does not ever collect or share users' personal information, and welcomes
anonymous users without impacting their search experience 204 unlike Google which challenges anonymous users to prove they are human and makes their search less seamless.
In addition, Brave is contributing back to the Tor network by running Tor relays. We are proud to be adding bandwidth to the Tor network, and intend to add more bandwidth in the coming months.