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content issues Archives - LINX

ECJ to rule on whether Facebook must actively seek out hate speech

By | Content Issues, News

The Austrian Supreme Court has asked the European Court of Justice to rule on whether Facebook should actively search for hate speech posted by users.  The original lawsuit against Facebook was filed by Eva Glawischnig, the former leader of the Austrian Green Party, in 2016, after Facebook refused to take down what she claimed were defamatory postings about her.

Last year, an Austrian appeals court ruled in favour of Glawischnig, ordering Facebook to remove the hate speech postings – both the original posts and any verbatim repostings of the same comments – not just in Austria but worldwide. The Austrian Supreme Court has asked the ECJ to look at two issues: 1. Whether Facebook needs to actively look for similar posts, instead of just reposts, and 2. Whether such content needs to be removed globally.

The case comes amidst concerted pressure in Europe for social media platforms to do more to tackle hate speech. A new hate speech law in Germany, known as the network enforcement act, requires companies to remove or block criminal content within 24 hours, or seven days for complex cases, of it being reported. The law has already attracted controversy, despite only being actively enforced since 1 January 2018, after Twitter deleted a post by the German justice minister, Heiko Maas, dating back to 2010 before he was appointed to the role, calling a fellow politician “an idiot”. Twitter has also deleted anti-Muslim and anti-migrant posts by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and blocked a satirical magazine’s account after it parodied the AfD’s anti-Muslim comments. The German Government has said that an evaluation will be carried out within six months to examine how well the new law is working.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has kept up the pressure on tech companies calling for them “to step up and speed up their efforts to tackle these threats quickly and comprehensively” and reiterating that it would “if necessary, propose legislation to complement the existing regulatory framework.”

UK Government publishes Internet Safety green paper

By | Content Issues, Malware and DOS attacks, News

The UK Government has announced proposals for a voluntary levy on Internet companies “to raise awareness and counter internet harms”. The government has said that the levy would target issues such as cyberbullying, online abuse and children being exposed to pornography on the Internet.

The levy is one of a series of measures proposed in the Internet Safety Green Paper, which is the result of a consultation launched in February. The other measures include:

·       A new social media code of practice to require more intervention by social media companies against allegedly bullying, intimidating or humiliating content

·       An annual Internet safety transparency report, to help government track how fast social media companies remove material that has been the subject of a complaint

·       Demands for tech and digital startups to “think safety first” – prioritising features to facilitate complaints content removal as functionality that must be into apps and products from the very start

All the measures will be voluntary although the government has not ruled out legislating if companies refuse to take part. In remarks that will be of concern to Internet companies, the Culture Secretary Karen Bradley hinted that the government could change the legal status of social media companies, to deem them publishers rather than platforms, which could mean even greater regulation of their users’ content.

“Legally they are mere conduits but we are looking at their role and their responsibilities and we are looking at what their status should be. They are not legally publishers at this stage but we are looking at these issues,” she said.

The consultation will close on 7 December, and the government expects to respond in early 2018.

Amber Rudd focusses on Internet in conference speech

By | Content Issues, News
Home Secretary Amber Rudd focussed on Internet policy issues in her speech to the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. The Home Secretary reiterated her demands for Internet platforms to do more to combat terrorism and child abuse.
Rudd announced plans to tighten terrorism laws to criminalise merely viewing terrorist content, as opposed to keeping a copy found on the Internet, as well as new legislation to criminalise publishing information about the police or armed forces for the purposes of preparing an action of terrorism.Internet companies, however, will be most directly concerned with the Home Secretaries demands directly of them.

“But it is not just Government who has a role here. In the aftermath of the Westminster Bridge attack, I called the internet companies together. Companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft. I asked them what they could do, to go further and faster.

They answered by forming an international forum to counter terrorism. This is good progress, and I attended their inaugural meeting in the West Coast.

These companies have transformed our lives in recent years with advances in technology.

Now I address them directly. I call on you with urgency, to bring forward technology solutions to rid your platforms of this vile terrorist material that plays such a key role in radicalisation.

Act now. Honour your moral obligations.”

— Home Secretary Amber Rudd

The Home Secretary announced that the government would be funding Project Arachnid, web-crawler software developed by the Canadian child protection Cybertipline, designed to search out child abuse imagery online.

“It is software that crawls, spider-like across the web, identifying images of child sexual abuse, and getting them taken down, at an unprecedented rate.

Our investment will also enable internet companies to proactively search for, and destroy, illegal images in their systems. We want them to start using it as soon as they can.

Our question to them will be ‘if not, why not’. And I will demand very clear answers.”

— Amber Rudd

Rudd also doubled down on previous attacks on end-to-end encryption in person-to-person messaging software

“But we also know that end to end encryption services like Whatsapp, are being used by paedophiles. I do not accept it is right that companies should allow them and other criminals to operate beyond the reach of law enforcement.”

— Amber Rudd

Speaking earlier at a conference fringe event, she hit back at critics who accuse her of fighting a war against mathematics, saying

“I don’t need to understand how encrpytion works”,

— Amber Rudd

And accusing tech experts of “patronising” and “sneering” at politicians who want to regulate technology.

UK prime minister calls on internet firms to remove extremist content within two hours

By | Content Issues, International, News

The UK prime minister, Theresa May, has told internet companies that they need to go “further and faster” in removing extremist content in a speech to the United Nations general assembly. The prime minister said that terrorist material is still available on the internet for “too long” after being posted and has challenged companies to find a way to remove it within two hours. The material in question can include links to videos glorifying terrorism and material encouraging converts to commit terrorist acts.

In her speech, May said:

“Terrorist groups are aware that links to their propaganda are being removed more quickly, and are placing a greater emphasis on disseminating content at speed in order to stay ahead.

Industry needs to go further and faster in automating the detection and removal of terrorist content online, and developing technological solutions that prevent it being uploaded in the first place.”

The UK, together with France and Italy, is demanding evidence of progress by the time of a meeting of G7 interior ministers in Rome on 20 October.

Electoral Commission proposes voting ban for social media trolls

By | News
The Electoral Commission has suggested social media trolls who abuse politicians should lose their right to vote, in a submission to the Committee on Standards in Public Life.
A voting ban could “could act as a deterrent to abusive behaviour”, the Commission wrote in comments on the CSPL’s investigation into intimidation in the 2017 General Election. The Electoral Commission is the UK’s regulator for general and local government elections.The Electoral Commission wrote
 

21. In some instances, electoral law does specify offences in respect of behaviour that could also amount to an offence under the general criminal law. This is often because electoral offences have special consequences, in that their commission could invalidate the election result and result in the person convicted losing their elected office and/or being subject to a period of disqualification from being registered as an elector, voting in an election and standing for election (section 173 RPA 1983). It may be that similar special electoral consequences could act as a deterrent to abusive behaviour in relation to candidates and campaigners.

Cloudflare critiques own decision not to serve Daily Stormer

By | Content Issues, Hacking, News

Yesterday, Cloudflare ceased to provide caching and DDoS protection services for a far-right blog, the Daily Stormer, following claims by the latter that Cloudflare secretly support their ideology. Cloudflare’s CEO has published a lengthy and thoughtful analysis of their decision, beginning

Now, having made that decision, let me explain why it’s so dangerous.

One interesting tidbit concerns the nature of the pressure Cloudflare was under

“In fact, in the case of the Daily Stormer, the initial requests we received to terminate their service came from hackers who literally said: “Get out of the way so we can DDoS this site off the Internet.”

In an internal e-mail obtained by Gizmodo, Prince was blunt about his reasons for terminating Daily Stormer:

This was my decision. Our terms of service reserve the right for us to terminate users of our network at our sole discretion. My rationale for making this decision was simple: the people behind the Daily Stormer are assholes and I’d had enough.

Let me be clear: this was an arbitrary decision. It was different than what I’d talked talked with our senior team about yesterday. I woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the Internet. I called our legal team and told them what we were going to do. I called our Trust & Safety team and had them stop the service. It was a decision I could make because I’m the CEO of a major Internet infrastructure company.

Having made that decision we now need to talk about why it is so dangerous. I’ll be posting something on our blog later today. Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the Internet. No one should have that power.

Read the whole blog post on Cloudfare.com and Prince’s internal e-mail on Gizmodo.

Update note: This article was updated on 18th August to add the quotes from and link to the e-mail obtained by Gizmodo.

Report reveals that cyberbullying is not as prevalent as feared

By | Content Issues, News
A study led by Dr. Andrew Przybylski of the University of Oxford found that cyberbullying – bullying that takes place over the internet – is not as prevalent as feared. The study comprised a survey of over 110,000 people and it found that just one percent of adolescents reported being bullied online but not in person.
Furthermore, the study found that those who were bullied online reported a lower emotional impact from the bullying online as opposed to bullying that happened face to face.Dr. Przybylski said, “There is a vanishingly small percentage of people who are bullied only online”. He went on to add that: “It has crystallised in the public imagination, and it’s easy to get drawn into these fears, but just because it is new it does not mean it’s a new behaviour.
Dr. Przybylski said that cyber bullying is merely a “new avenue to victimise those already being bullied in traditional ways, rather than a way to pick new victims” and urged efforts to be directed at building resilience as opposed to managing online behaviour.“The report can be read here.

Russia and China move towards banning virtual private networks

By | Content Issues, News

Both Russia and China are in the process of banning virtual private networks (VPNs), a tool that creates a secure, encrypted connection between a computer and a server operated by a VPN service. They are used by many to access material and websites that have been blocked by a government.

China has started implementing rules regarding VPNs that were approved in January 2017 that would require all VPNs to apply for a licence from the Chinese government – this licence would require VPNs to block access to websites and other online material that the Chinese government does not approve of. Two VPN services – Green VPN and Haibei VPN – have already said they would be closing down services in mainland China after receiving “notice from regulatory departments.”

In Russia, the State Duma (the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia) unanimously adopted the first reading of new legislation that would ban the use of VPNs as well as online anonymiser web browsers such as the Tor browser if they do not block access to a list of websites prohibited by the Russian government.

The move by both countries come at a time when VPNs and encryption are under increased scrutiny from governments around the world. You can read more about the situation in Russia and China from The Register.

Baroness Howe tables Private Member’s Bill

By | Content Issues, News
Baroness Howe has tabled a private member’s bill seeking to broaden the definition of what is classified as extreme pornography.
Baroness Howe, a crossbencher and life peer in the House of Lords, has tabled a private member’s bill demanding a broadening of the definition of what constitutes “extreme pornography” in the 2017 Digital Economy Act. She advocates defining “extreme pornography” to include videos that either wholly or partly portray scenes that were “produced solely or principally for the purposes of sexual arousal” and did not receive a certificate from the video works authority because it did not believe there was a suitable classification certificate. The amendment would extend to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.As a private members’ bill, it is unlikely to become law, but the initiative does maintain the Baroness’ campaign of pressure on the government in this area.

You can read the private member’s bill here.

Former GCHQ head criticises Government’s approach to encryption

By | Content Issues, News, News Sources
The former head of GCHQ, Robert Hannigan, has expressed criticism over the Government’s stance on encryption technology. Hannigan described encryption as an “overwhelmingly good thing” and criticised plans by Home Secretary Amber Rudd to install backdoors into encrypted communications as unworkable and dangerous: “Building in back doors is a threat to everybody and it’s not a good idea to weaken security for everybody to tackle a minority.”

The comments from Robert Hannigan echo those of Max Hill QC, the independent reviewer of counterterrorism legislation, who strongly condemned the Government’s approach to encryption. The growing barrage of criticism from pillars of the security establishment give renewed strength to industry warnings that undermining encryption will weaken UK security, rather than protecting the public.