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Censor Watch

2019: November

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Dutch TV channel bans Love Island over #MeToo concerns...

Great, they'll now have enough time in the schedules to treat Dutch viewers to a re-run of Little House on the Prairie

Link Here 30th November 2019
A Dutch broadcaster has banned seduction-based reality shows after claiming the programmes encourage sexual harassment

New episodes of Love Island and The Villa have been cancelled by RTL after male contestants were accused of ignoring refusals to their sexual advances.

RTL have temporarily pulled the plug on any shows in which sexual seduction plays the main role, the broadcaster said.

These kind of programmes no longer fit in the era of #MeToo, said Tina Nijkamp, a former director of Dutch broadcaster SBS6. I was already surprised that RTL had ordered even more of such programmes.



Offsite Article: Adtech industry summarises the impossibility of internet user profiling under GDPR...

Link Here30th November 2019
Why not cut to the end game and ban it? If clear and informed consent is required, then very few will sign up, profiling has nothing positive to offer people, only negatives

See article from



Offsite Article: Core censorship...

Link Here30th November 2019
Full story: iPhone iCensor...Apple is censorial about apps for iPhone
Indian subscribers notice that Apple's TV+ service is being censored for India

See article from



The price of censorship...

BBFC raises its prices on 1st January 2020

Link Here29th November 2019
88 Films has tweeted an image of a BBFC letter detailing a price rise of 1.4% on 1st January 2020.

The BBFC provides examples of the cost of classifying an average length cinema film (104m) will now be £1074 + VAT.

The BBFC provide a rather meaningless average home video submission off 77m (half way between a TV episode and a feature film, but neither representative of one or the other). The price for that will be £752 + VAT. Which probably means closed to a grand for a 90m film.

Now of course one may say that such commercial information is not really relevant to film censorship, but it is. The higher the cost of censorship the less likely it is that small market film will get a commercial release at all.



Surely a job for diplomats, not TV censors...

Ofcom set to investigate complaint against Chinese propaganda channel CGTN

Link Here29th November 2019

A former employee of the UK's consulate in Hong Kong has filed an official complaint to Ofcom about the broadcast by China's state-run CGTN of a confession he says he was forced to make.

Simon Cheng, a Hong Kong citizen who worked for the UK government for almost two years, was detained for 15 days on a trip to mainland China in August. Mr Cheng says he was forced to confess to soliciting prostitution.

CGTN aired the confession in the UK as evidence of his alleged guilt.

The channel is the international arm of China Central Television (CCTV) and airs on UK platforms including Sky.

Ofcom told the BBC: We have received a complaint about a programme broadcast on CGTN which we are assessing as a priority.

In September, the media regulator said it was investigating whether CGTN broke impartiality rules in its coverage of the Hong Kong demonstrations. In May, it launched an investigation into a confession aired by CGTN of a British investigator.



Rest in Peace Peace TV...

Ofcom suspends broadcasting licence after repeated broadcast of religious material inciting murder

Link Here28th November 2019
Full story: Ofcom on Religion...ofcom keep religious extremism in check
Ofcom issued a draft notice to suspend the broadcasting licence of Club TV Limited, after its channel Peace TV Urdu repeatedly rebroadcast material that we had previously found incited murder.

Ofcom has a duty to suspend a broadcast licence if we are satisfied that the licensee has broadcast a programme likely to encourage or to incite the commission of crime; that it has therefore contravened its licence conditions; and that the contravention justifies the revocation of the licence.

On 18 November 2019, having received Ofcom's draft suspension notice, Club TV surrendered its licence. Its sister company Lord Production Inc Limited, which held the licence to broadcast the English language Peace TV service, also surrendered its licence at the same time.

The Peace TV and Peace TV Urdu services are no longer broadcasting.



H for horrific...

The BBFC reminisces about its history of remarkably few changes to its categories

Link Here28th November 2019
The BBFC (@BBFC) have tweeted:

A little piece of BBFC history for you, to mark #throwbackthursday: There used to be an H classification, which stood for Horrific.

In fact there is an interesting page on their website that outlines this history of BBFC film certificates. There were hardly any changes from when they started in 1913 until 1970.

1913 Universal U and an advisory A

The A was for more adult oriented films but as all films were highly censored at the time there was no need to be any more restrictive than that.

1932 Universal U , advisory A and an advisory H

The advisory H for Horrific was introduced to indicate horror themes. Films were still highly censored and there was still no need to be restrictive about the ratings.

1951 Universal U , Advisory A and a restricted X (16+)

For the first time an age restricted 16+ X category was introduced. This replaced the H certificate.

And that's it until 1970. Note that local authorities held sway over the BBFC and had their own rules, eg with London requiring children to be accompanied when seeing an A rated film.



Updated: Screened in the wrong postcode...

Vue Cinemas ban the gangland film Blue Story after violence breaks out at a Birmingham screening

Link Here28th November 2019
Blue Story is a 2019 UK crime drama by Andrew Onwubolu.
Starring Stephen Odubola, Micheal Ward and Khali Best. BBFC link IMDb

Blue Story is a tragic tale of a friendship between Timmy and Marco, two young boys from opposing postcodes. Timmy, a shy, smart, naive and timid young boy from Deptford, goes to school in Peckham where he strikes up a friendship with Marco, a charismatic, streetwise kid from the local area. Although from warring postcodes, the two quickly form a firm friendship until it is tested and they wind up on rival sides of a street war. Blue Story depicts elements of Rapman's own personal experiences and aspects of his childhood.

Vue Cinema bosses have decided to pull the controversial gang film Blue Story from all its venues after gangs with machetes terrified families when the film was being screened at an inner city cinema in Birmingham.

Two schoolgirls, a boy and a man were arrested and seven police officers suffered minor  injuries as dozens of officers swarmed the area just after 5.30pm on November 23. People were evacuated as Vue cinema managers decided to close the venue.

Showcase Cinemas later announced that it was following suit and cancelling all screenings at its cinemas, but soon changed its mind and resumed screenings. Odeon is continuing to screen the film but with extra security staff on hand.

The cinema film was passed 15 uncut by the BBFC for very strong language, strong violence, threat, sex, drug misuse.

Update: Resuming

28th November 2019. See article from

The boss of the Vue cinema chain that banned a London gang film after a mass brawl in Birmingham has told the BBC he plans to resume screenings by the weekend. And indeed the film was once again being screened by the weekend.

Vue banned Blue Story after saying there had been 25 serious incidents in 16 of its cinemas. But its chief executive, Tim Richards, said it was now looking at beefing up security to restart screenings.



Extract: Out of control, unaccountable and unconstrained...

David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, takes on the surveillance industry

Link Here27th November 2019

Just last month WhatsApp sued an Israeli surveillance company, the NSO Group , in a US court. The case alleges that the messaging platform was compromised by NSO technology, specifically to insert its signature product -- spyware known as Pegasus -- on to at least 1,400 devices, which enabled government surveillance (an allegation that NSO Group rejects ).With Pegasus in their hands, governments have access to the seemingly endless amount of personal data in our pockets. The University of Toronto's CitzenLab has found the Pegasus spyware used in 45 countries.

The global surveillance industry -- in which the NSO Group is just one of many dozens, if not hundreds, of companies -- appears to be out of control, unaccountable and unconstrained in providing governments with relatively low-cost access to the sorts of spying tools that only the most advanced state intelligence services previously were able to use.

The industry and its defenders will say this is a price to pay for confronting terrorism. We must sacrifice some liberty to protect our people from another 9/11, they argue. As one well-placed person claimed to me, such surveillance is mandatory; and, what's more, it is complicated, to protect privacy and human rights.

All I can say is, give me a break. The companies hardly seem to be trying -- and, more importantly, neither are the governments that could do something about it. In fact, governments have been happy to have these companies help them carry out this dirty work. This isn't a question of governments using tools for lawful purposes and incidentally or inadvertently sweeping up some illegitimate targets: this is using spyware technology to target vulnerable yet vital people whom healthy democracies need to protect.

... Read the full article from



Off message...

EU plans for extending censorship laws to US messaging services falters

Link Here26th November 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in EU...EU introduces swathes of internet censorship law
The European Commission is struggling to agree how to extend internet censorship and control to US messaging apps such as Facebook's WhatsApp and Microsoft's Skype.

These services are run from the US and it is not so easy for European police to obtain say tracking or user information as it is for more traditional telecoms services.

The Commission has been angling towards applying the rules controlling national telecoms companies to these US 'OTT' messaging services. Extended ePrivacy regulation was the chosen vehicle for new censorship laws.

But now it is reported that the EU countries have yet to find agreement on such issues as tracking users' online activities, provisions on detecting and deleting child pornography and of course how to further the EU's silly game of trying to see how many times a day EU internet users are willing to click consent boxes without reading reams of terms and conditions.

EU ambassadors meeting in Brussels on Friday again reached an impasse, EU officials said. Tech companies and some EU countries have criticized the ePrivacy proposal for being too restrictive, putting them at loggerheads with privacy activists who back the plan.

Now doubt the censorship plans will be resuming soon.



Bollocks to Brexit...

Essex Police decide to censor an election slogan from the side of a Mini.

Link Here26th November 2019
Full story: Public Order Act...Enabling police censorship

Two anti-Brexit campaigners have been left outraged after Essex Police officers pulled them over and forced them to remove a 'Bollocks to Brexit' slogan from their car.

A passenger of the Mini that was pulled over on the M25 near Brentwood, said that the officer bordered on deranged due to their anti-Brexit slogan. He claimed that the officers said the slogan was against section 5(1) and (6) of the Public Order Act 1986 and asked it was removed immediately.

He called 999 with concern for his personal safety, but was promptly informed that calling 999 was another offence.



Fake justification...

Nigeria is the latest country to extend internet censorship using the pretext of 'fake news'

Link Here26th November 2019
Nigerian lawmakers have proposed legislation that would hit Internet users with steep fines or jail time for spreading what authorities decide is 'fake news'.

Under what is known as the social media bill, which the Nigerian Senate advanced last week, police could arrest people whose posts are thought to threaten national security, sway elections or diminish public confidence in the government, according to the draft text.

Authorities could also cut the Internet access of those that violate the regulation.

Nigerian social media users are widely condemning the new internet censorship proposal.



Offsite Article: Big Brother is watching you watching porn...

Link Here26th November 2019
Full story: Age Verification in Australia 2007...Internet censorship hiding as age verification
Australian proposals for facial recognition on porn sites are creepy and authoritarian. By Tarric Brooker

See article from



Contract for the Web...

Tim Berners-Lee launches guiding principles for governments, companies and citizens

Link Here25th November 2019

Last year, the inventor of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, called for governments, companies and citizens from across the world to take action to protect the web as a force for good.

Today, we stand together to launch the result of that call: a new Contract for the Web.

Experts and citizens have come together -- bringing a diverse range of experiences and perspectives -- to build a global plan of action to make our online world safe and empowering for everyone.

Launching the Contract, Sir Tim said: The power of the web to transform people's lives, enrich society and reduce inequality is one of the defining opportunities of our time. But if we don't act now -- and act together -- to prevent the web being misused by those who want to exploit, divide and undermine, we are at risk of squandering that potential.

At this pivotal moment for the web, we have a shared responsibility to fight for the web we want. Many of the most vocal campaigners on this issue have already recognised that this collaborative approach is critical.

Brett Solomon of Access Now, said:

Only through real commitment and concrete action from all members of the internet community -- especially governments and companies -- will we make the necessary reforms to put people and rights back at the center of the internet.

The Contract gives us a roadmap -- embodied in 76 clauses -- to do that. For governments, the Contract requires them to ensure all their citizens can connect to the internet all of the time.

We have seen the damaging effect of internet shutdowns around the world. The Contract makes clear that no one should be denied their right to full access to the web.

For companies, the Contract says they must make connectivity affordable and accessible to everyone, and to protect and respect the rights and freedoms of people online.

To restore trust in the web and its power for good, people must be in control of their lives online, and crucially they must be empowered with clear and meaningful choices around their data and privacy.

The Contract sets out policies and proposals to ensure companies place these considerations front of mind, and that none of their users are excluded from using and shaping the web.

And crucially, we all have a responsibility as web users to create the web that we want. The Contract calls on all citizens to build strong communities that respect civil discourse and human dignity.

Roya Mahboob, NewNow Leader and CEO of Digital Citizen Fund, said:

The Contract gives us concrete actions to build a web that works for future generations, especially girls and women. Women face a disproportionate set of barriers in accessing education, setting up businesses or working outside the home across the globe. We need to see the web as a pathway to unleash their power. That is why The NewNow has taken part in the core group of organisations developing the contract.

For the first time, we have a shared vision for the web we want and a roadmap for the policies and actions we need to get there. And we have a powerful new tool to hold companies and governments to account -- to ensure they're living up to the commitments they make.

At launch, the Contract for the Web -- led by Berners-Lee's World Wide Web Foundation -- has the backing of over 160 organisations, including Microsoft, Google, Electronic Frontier Foundation, DuckDuckGo, CIPESA, Access Now, Reddit, Facebook, Reporters Without Borders and Ranking Digital Rights. Thousands of individuals, hundreds of organisations and the governments of Germany, France and Ghana all signed up to the Contract's founding principles.

The launch of the Contract is just the beginning of our fight for the web we want. But it is a critical milestone. In an era of fear about technology and the future, we must celebrate vehicles for change and a hopeful future.

Thanks to the determination, dedication and drive of all those involved, we now have a Contract for the Web that can drive real change.

Back the Contract for the Web at



Following UK's lead...

Irish MP set to introduce bill to require ISPs to impose default internet censorship of phones until the user gets age verified

Link Here25th November 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in Israel...Legislation proposed to let police block websites

A Galway MP to bring forward a bill in the Irish Parliament to prevent children accessing pornography on phones.

Fianna FŠil spokesperson on Youth Affairs, Anne Rabbitte, is hoping to bring a bill before the DŠil in January.

The proposed legislation would mean under 18s using pre-pay mobile phones would have to prove their age when accessing certain content.  She says the bill means companies would have an automatic adult filter that will need age verification before being removed.



Strong words...

Ofcom to consider sanctions for a channel airing threatening language directed at a critic of the sikh faith

Link Here24th November 2019
Full story: Ofcom on Religion...ofcom keep religious extremism in check
Ofcom has rapped KTV, a channel broadcasting to UK Sikhs, for a show in March 2019, in which a viewer complained of material shown in the live discussion programme Panthak Masle .

Presented by Jagjit Singh Jeeta, it featured a panel of guest contributors, five of whom were spiritual and community leaders. The topic of discussion was Harnek Singh, also referred to in the programme as Neki, a Sikh radio presenter resident in New Zealand who has been raising questions on and criticising various aspects of the Sikh faith since 2013.

The viewer complained that the programme was likely to encourage or incite crime or violence. The complainant said that the programme tried to incite fear and terror towards Harnek Singh and included threats of violence directed towards him.

KTV said that during the live discussion, the presenter was shocked -- and didn't expect this sort of language from such religious people. It said that the host initially did not know how to react but maintained his professionalism and later did mention that these comments were not the views of KTV and that Ofcom would not appreciate them. KTV added that after the programme, the host was extremely upset as he felt he had been misled by the guests and was shocked that such religious members of the community would behave in such a way.

Ofcom considered the Licensee failed to provide sufficient and effective challenge or context to the extreme views presented within this programme. For all the reasons, Ofcom considered that the programme provided a platform for several guests to express views which amounted to indirect calls to action and were likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or lead to disorder. In Ofcom's view, this indicated a fundamental lack of understanding of the Licensee's compliance obligations under the Code.

Ofcom considered the breaches in this case to be extremely serious. Ofcom has put KTV on notice that it will consider these breaches for the imposition of a statutory sanction.



UK film directors trade group introduces strict rules about nudity in auditions...

Guardian feminists hope that the extra hassle will mean the end of the nude scene

Link Here 24th November 2019
The professional body for UK directors has released its first set of guidelines for directing nudity and simulated sex in TV and film.

Directors UK has advised a ban on full nudity in any audition or call back and no semi-nudity in first auditions, and have instead suggested performers wear a bikini or trunks and bring a chaperone.

The group also suggested that if a recall requires semi-nudity, the performer and their agent must have 48 hours' notice and the full script.

And that the production must also obtain explicit written consent from the performer prior to them being filmed or photographed nude or semi-nude.

The release of guidelines follows the #MeToo movement, and the revelation that some in the industry demanded sexual favours for work.

It all seems reasonable enough, but a feminist columnist in the Guardian is rather hoping that the rules will lead to the end of the nude scene. Barbara Ellen writes in an article from :

All of which is commendable, but shouldn't audiences also change their attitudes? As it is, certain men weirdly seem to presume that they have a right to see women naked. Guys, calm down -- you bought a television subscription or a cinema ticket, not a VIP seat at a lap-dancing show.

Let's face it, most nude scenes are gratuitous -- even when integral to the story, nudity could usually be suggested without anyone actually being naked. Yet here we are, two years since #MeToo, and actresses are still not only having to strip but being denounced for hating doing it. While on-screen nudity is a choice, and some are fine about it, too many others feel uncomfortable and obliged.

Perhaps the new guidelines will help people such as Clarke in the simplest, most effective way possible -- making it a damn sight more difficult to justify asking them to get undressed in the first place.



ICO delivers its new internet censorship rules to the government...

But it can't possibly let you read them...because of data protection y'now

Link Here 23rd November 2019
Full story: ICO Age Appropriate Design...ICO calls for age assurance for websites accessed by children
The Information Commissions Office (ICO) earlier in the year presented draft internet censorship laws targeted at the commendable aim of protecting the personal data of younger website users. These rules are legally enforceable under the EU GDPR and are collectively known as The Age Appropriate Design Code.

The ICO originally proposed that website designers should consider several age ranges of their users. The youngest users should be presented with no opportunity to reveal their personal data and then the websites could relent a little on the strictness of the rules as they get older. It all sounds good at first read... until one considers exactly how to know how old users are.

And of course ICO proposed age verification (AV) to prove that people are old enough for the tier of data protection being applied.

ISO did not think very hard about the bizarre contradiction that AV requires people to hand over enough data to give identity thieves an orgasm. So the ICO were going to ask people to hand over their most sensitive ID to any websites that ask... in the name of the better protection of the data that they have just handed over anyway.

The draft rules were ridiculous, requiring even a small innocent site with a shopping trolley to require AV before allowing people to type in their details in the shopping trolley.

Well the internet industry strongly pointed out the impracticality of the ICO's nonsense ideas. And indeed the ICO released a blog and made a few comments that suggest it would be scaling back on its universal AV requirements.

The final censorship were delivered to the government on schedule on 23rd November 2019.

The industry is surely very keen to know if the ICO has retreated on its stance, but the ICO has now just announced that the publication date will be delayed until the next government is in place. It sounds that their ideas may still be a little controversial, and they need to hide behind a government minister before announcing the new rules.



Testing a breach of human rights...

Police are challenged in court about their unjust recording incidents as hate crimes as decided by the person being easily offended

Link Here23rd November 2019
Full story: Free Speech in the UK...Harry Miller unlawfully denied his right to free speech by the police
The unfair and unjust way that police record non-crime hate incidents has been challenged in the High Court.

Former police officer Harry Miller was contacted by Humberside Police in January following a complaint over supposedly transphobic tweets.

The court heard he was told he had not committed a crime, but his post was being recorded as a hate incident.

He is taking action against the College of Policing and Humberside Police. Miller argued that the guidelines breached his human rights to freedom of expression.

His barrister, Ian Wise QC, told the court his client was deeply concerned about proposed reforms to the law on gender recognition and had used Twitter to engage in debate about transgender issues. Wise said Humberside Police had also sought to dissuade him from expressing himself on such issues in the future.

This, he said, was contrary to his fundamental right to freedom of expression. Miller has never expressed hatred towards the transgender community, he said. He has simply questioned the belief that trans women are women and should be treated as such for all purposes. His views, he added, form part of a legitimate public debate and cannot sensibly be regarded as 'hate speech'.

The hearing was schedule overr two days.

Offsite Comment: Putting the thought police on trial

23rd November 2019. See article from



A step too far...

BBC receives about 200 complaints about a same sex dance routine

Link Here23rd November 2019
Strictly Come Dancing's recent same-sex routine had sparked almost 200 complaints .

The corporation's Audience Services arm received 189 complaints after Graziano Di Prima and Johannes Radebe danced together during a performance from Emeli Sandť.

The report published by the BBC states that complainants said it was offensive to feature two men dancing as a pair. 

TV watchdog Ofcom also confirmed to HuffPost UK it had received one complaint, but their protocol is that people should speak to the BBC's executive complaints unit first.



Iran succeeds in cutting off its country from the rest of the internet world...

Beware of politicians like Merkel suspiciously urging the EU to seize control of data from US tech giants

Link Here 22nd November 2019
Full story: Iranian Internet Censorship...Extensive internet blocking
Access to the internet is gradually being restored in Iran after an unprecedented five-day shutdown that cut its population off from the rest of the world and suppressed news of the deadliest unrest since the country's 1979 revolution.

The digital blackout that commenced last Friday is part of a growing trend of governments interfering with the internet to curb violent unrest, but also legitimate dissent.

The internet-freedom group Access Now recorded 75 internet outages in 2016, which more than doubled to 196 last year.

But Iran's restriction of the internet this week was something more sophisticated and alarming, researchers say. Iranians were cut off from the global internet, but internally, networks appeared to be functioning relatively normally. The Islamic Republic managed to successfully wall its citizens off from the world, without taking down the internet entirely.

Iran, Russia and of course China have all been taking action to design a local internet that continue to operate when the plug to the outside world is pulled. This has taken years of preparation to ensure there are local services to replace the core US based essentials of Google, Facebook, Paypal and co that are absolutely irreplaceable in most countries around the world.

And of course the effectiveness of the shutdown in Iran will surely spur on ther oppressive regimes that liek waht they saw.



Russia seems inspired by the Iranian internet shutdown...

Russia demands that all computers and devices should be sold with pre-installed Russian software

Link Here 22nd November 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in Russia...Russia and its repressive state control of media

Russia has passed a law banning the sale of devices, including smartphones, computers and smart TVs, that are not pre-installed with Russian software. The law will come into force in July 2020.

Proponents of the legislation say it is aimed at promoting Russian technology and making it easier for people in the country to use the gadgets they buy. But of course the move also enables better surveillance and internet control for the authorities.

Foreign apps will still be allowed for the moment though as long as there are Russian alternatives installed too.

The legislation was passed by Russia's lower house of parliament on Thursday. A complete list of the gadgets affected and the Russian-made software that needs to be pre-installed will be determined by the government.



Screaming won't help...

Advert censor bans poster for Halloween event

Link Here21st November 2019

A poster and a billboard promoting a Halloween event, seen in Norwich in September 2019:

The poster stated Norfolk's Biggest Scare Experience PRIMEVIL SCREAMING WON'T HELP! and featured an image of a lumberjack holding a chainsaw and wearing a bloodied hessian mask and apron. Further text stated Street Performers, Bar, BBQ, Hot Snacks, Live Music, Refreshments and 17 Nights of Terror -- 5 Frightening Haunts.

Three complainants challenged whether they were likely to cause fear or distress for children and were therefore inappropriate for outdoor display.

ASA Assessment: Complaints Upheld

The ASA noted that ads had appeared on outdoor poster sites, and that two of the three complainants had reported their children becoming distressed by the image. We acknowledged that Dinosaur Adventure had replaced the ads after having been notified of the complaints. We noted the lumberjack character's prominence in the ads and the menacing look he gave, baring teeth and showing the whites of his eyes. Alongside the blood-stained apron, chainsaw and mask, we considered that the image was likely to distress young children, and that it was unsuitable for display where it was likely to be seen by them, particularly but not only in combination with the text PRIMEVIL SCREAMING WON'T HELP!, which was presented as though it was written in blood.

The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Norfolk Dinosaur Park Ltd t/a Dinosaur Adventure to ensure that future marketing that was likely to cause fear or distress for young children did not appear where they were likely to see it.



Travel Warning...

German Foreign Office warns travellers to Turkey that the use of VPNs there is illegal

Link Here21st November 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in Turkey...Website blocking insults the Turkish people
The German Foreign Office has warned travellers to Turkey that they could face legal repercussions if they are caught using a VPN in the country.

It is the first time that a formal warning has been made about using VPNs in the country, but it comes from the highest level and is one that travellers from all countries should be aware of.

Under the dictatorial leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's slide towards authoritarianism has been remarkably swift. In the government's drive to control the internet and restrict its political opponents, Turkey has sought to block VPNs , banned the use of encrypted messaging services , and routinely blocked social media sites and instigated total internet shutdowns at politically sensitive times. Hundreds of thousands of websites are now inaccessible in Turkey, which has ironically driven more and more Turkish citizens and ex-pats onto VPNs in order to enjoy free access to the internet.




China cancels art exhibition by Hung Liu

Link Here21st November 2019
A month ahead of its opening in Beijing, an exhibition by Chinese-American artist Hung Liu was canceled after local authorities objected to some of the works and refused to issue import permits for others.

According to Liu, Beijing cultural authorities have voiced concerns about nine of her works, including the painting Twelve Hairpins of Jinling (2011), which shows 12 schoolgirls in uniforms wearing gas masks, and a 1993 self-portrait based on a photo of her a young, rifle-toting fighter at the end of China's Cultural Revolution. Another painting that was objected to by authorities is Abacus (1988), which loosely translates to Seven-Up Eight-Down, a phrase in Chinese that describes agitation.

Liu reluctantly agreed to withdraw the nine works from the exhibition, focusing on more recent works and works that had been exhibited in China before. But that did was not enough to ease the concerns of the authorities in Beijing.

The cancellation comes amidst growing trade tensions between the United States and China and signifies increased censorship of political art in China.



Christian self flagellation...

App takes snapshot of the porn you are watching and emails it your elders and betters

Link Here21st November 2019
A creepy software app lets evangelical Christians out themselves as porn addicts to their own church leaders and friends.

The app, Covenant Eyes , recognises when a user is viewing a porn site. The app then takes a screen shot of the site and emails it to a list of acquaintances, clergy, and anyone else the user has designated as someone willing to help with that person's porn addiction.

The app, which also filters and blocks porn sites.



Offsite Article: Breaking the internet but improving privacy...

Link Here21st November 2019
The AdTech showdown is coming but will the ICO bite?

See article from



Scary censorship...

ASA dismisses whinge about a Halloween event poster

Link Here20th November 2019
From the same advertising campaign but presumably not the poster used at Newcastle station

A poster for Terror in the Trees , a forthcoming Halloween event, seen on 26 September 2019 at Central Station in Newcastle upon Tyne, featured a clown with a sinister looking face and ragged clothes holding a red balloon.

The complainant, who considered the ad distressing for children, challenged whether it was likely to cause fear or distress. Response

Beamish Hall Ltd said they had taken into account that there was no close-up of the clown's face and considered the content was not inappropriate for an ad which promoted a Halloween event. They said they had taken advice from the CAP Copy Advice team.

ASA Assessment: Not upheld

The ASA acknowledged that Beamish Hall had taken advice from the CAP Copy Advice team, whose view was that the ad was unlikely to be considered a breach of the Code.

We acknowledged that the ad had appeared as an outdoor poster and was therefore likely to be seen by people of all ages. We considered that the dishevelled look of the clown, the bloodied appearance of his nose and mouth and his deep-set eye sockets gave a sinister look to his appearance. However, there were no other elements that we considered contributed more to causing distress, such as threatening facial expressions, violent body language or gory wounds. We acknowledged that the red balloon would be recognised by some adults as a reference to the film IT, but that young children were unlikely to be aware of that association. While we acknowledged that the image would not be to everyone's taste, we considered it was unlikely to cause fear or distress for adults or children. We therefore concluded that the ad was not in breach of the Code.



A warning to babe channel broadcasters...

Ofcom announces a targeted monitoring exercise to ensure that babe channels are following the rules

Link Here19th November 2019
Full story: Babe Channels...Ofcom have it in for free to air babe channels

Note to Broadcasters

Daytime chat and adult chat television services

Recent complaint assessments and investigations1 about television channels promoting telephone chat services have highlighted concerns about the sexual nature of content on some of these services. This note reminds broadcasters responsible for such services of Ofcomís guidance on daytime and adult chat services.

Channels promoting audience interaction through premium rate services are subject to the BCAP Code as they are long-form advertising services. The BCAP Code contains rules that ensure audiences, including children, are protected from material that may cause them harm or is offensive.

Ofcomís guidance published in July 2013 states that channels offering Ďdaytime chatí and Ďadult chatí services must be placed within the Ďadultí or similarly identified section of a platformís electronic programme guide. The guidance also clearly sets out what Ofcom considers to be acceptable to broadcast on these services, both before and after the watershed.

During daytime chat content, presentersí dress and behaviour should be non-sexual in tone and apparent intent. Therefore, presenters should wear clothing that adequately covers their bodies (in particular their breasts, genital areas and buttocks). Presenters should not wear revealing underwear, swimwear, gym wear or fetish clothing.

Between 21:00 and 05:30 on cable and satellite platforms and midnight and 05:30 on terrestrial platforms, broadcasters may promote adult chat services. Adult chat broadcasters should ensure that the transitions to more adult material at 21:00, and from adult chat to daytime chat at 05:30, are not unduly abrupt. For example, no shots of bare breasts should be broadcast before 22:00. Additionally, the guidance lists examples of content that these broadcasters should avoid altogether. These include images of presentersí anal, labial or genital areas, real or simulated sex acts and sexually explicit language.

Ofcom has made clear to licensees in published decisions what sort of material is unsuitable in daytime chat or adult chat advertising content broadcast without mandatory restricted access.

Ofcom is putting daytime chat and adult chat broadcasters on notice that as a result our concerns about these servicesí compliance with the BCAP Code, we are commencing a targeted monitoring exercise of all services broadcasting daytime and adult chat content. Ofcom will consider any breach relating to the broadcast of sexual content on these services to be potentially serious and will consider taking appropriate regulatory action, which could include the imposition of a statutory sanction.



More privacy, less state snooping...

Microsoft announces that it is in the process of implementing options to use encrypted DNS servers

Link Here19th November 2019
Full story: DNS Over Https...A new internet protocol will make government website blocking more difficult

Windows will improve user privacy with DNS over HTTPS

Here in Windows Core Networking, we're interested in keeping your traffic as private as possible, as well as fast and reliable. While there are many ways we can and do approach user privacy on the wire, today we'd like to talk about encrypted DNS. Why? Basically, because supporting encrypted DNS queries in Windows will close one of the last remaining plain-text domain name transmissions in common web traffic.

Providing encrypted DNS support without breaking existing Windows device admin configuration won't be easy. However, at Microsoft we believe that "we have to treat privacy as a human right. We have to have end-to-end cybersecurity built into technology."

We also believe Windows adoption of encrypted DNS will help make the overall Internet ecosystem healthier. There is an assumption by many that DNS encryption requires DNS centralization. This is only true if encrypted DNS adoption isn't universal. To keep the DNS decentralized, it will be important for client operating systems (such as Windows) and Internet service providers alike to widely adopt encrypted DNS .

With the decision made to build support for encrypted DNS, the next step is to figure out what kind of DNS encryption Windows will support and how it will be configured. Here are our team's guiding principles on making those decisions:

  • Windows DNS needs to be as private and functional as possible by default without the need for user or admin configuration because Windows DNS traffic represents a snapshot of the user's browsing history. To Windows users, this means their experience will be made as private as possible by Windows out of the box. For Microsoft, this means we will look for opportunities to encrypt Windows DNS traffic without changing the configured DNS resolvers set by users and system administrators.

  • Privacy-minded Windows users and administrators need to be guided to DNS settings even if they don't know what DNS is yet. Many users are interested in controlling their privacy and go looking for privacy-centric settings such as app permissions to camera and location but may not be aware of or know about DNS settings or understand why they matter and may not look for them in the device settings.

  • Windows users and administrators need to be able to improve their DNS configuration with as few simple actions as possible. We must ensure we don't require specialized knowledge or effort on the part of Windows users to benefit from encrypted DNS. Enterprise policies and UI actions alike should be something you only have to do once rather than need to maintain.

  • Windows users and administrators need to explicitly allow fallback from encrypted DNS once configured. Once Windows has been configured to use encrypted DNS, if it gets no other instructions from Windows users or administrators, it should assume falling back to unencrypted DNS is forbidden.

Based on these principles, we are making plans to adopt DNS over HTTPS (or DoH) in the Windows DNS client. As a platform, Windows Core Networking seeks to enable users to use whatever protocols they need, so we're open to having other options such as DNS over TLS (DoT) in the future. For now, we're prioritizing DoH support as the most likely to provide immediate value to everyone. For example, DoH allows us to reuse our existing HTTPS infrastructure.


Why announce our intentions in advance of DoH being available to Windows Insiders? With encrypted DNS gaining more attention, we felt it was important to make our intentions clear as early as possible. We don't want our customers wondering if their trusted platform will adopt modern privacy standards or not.



Museum of Censorship...

Wolfenstein 3D is unbanned in Germany after 27 years when a court accepted that video games are an art form and can so claim exemption from a law banning Nazi symbology

Link Here18th November 2019
Full story: Games Censorship in Germany...German politicians target video games
Wolfenstein 3D is a 1992 US first person shooter by id Software

Wolfenstein 3D is considered one of the grandfathers of the genre. The game was a hit from 1992, building on other popular PC shooters at the time such as DOOM .

However the game was banned in Germany in 1992 for its Nazi symbology. Until now. Wolfenstein 3D has now officially been removed from the German Ban list, more than 25 years after the game was released.

The change of heart is based on a court ruling made in 2018, involving a web-based parody game Bundesfighter 2 Turbo . The game, which is a parody of politicians, featured right-wing leader Alexander Gauland who transformed into a Swastika as one of his special moves. The developers appealed the symbology censorship applied to the game with Germany's attorney general, who ruled that the exemption of art applies to video games. This then overrules games censorship rules previously applying to Nazi symbology in German games releases.



Commented: Celebrating diverse humour...

Venue manager resigns as mayor overturns ban allowing Roy Chubby Brown to perform in home town Middlesbrough

Link Here18th November 2019
The head of Middlesbrough Town Hall resigned in protest at the town's mayor lifting a ban on controversial comedian Roy Chubby Brown.

Mayor Andy Preston made the heroic decision in August, and free speech denier Lorna Fulton, who had run the council venue since May 2018, resigned September as a result.

On Tuesday, Mayor Preston said the comic, from Middlesbrough, could come home. Last year, Middlesbrough Town Hall said there was currently no place in the programme for this show. 'Defend his right to perform', but in a Facebook post on Tuesday, Preston said Brown would perform there in the New Year. He explained

Many big comedy names are controversial - in fact, that's really part of what comedy is. Many comedians say things that some people may find offensive.

Personally, Chubby Brown's act isn't my cup of tea - but I respect and will defend the right of Chubby to perform his act and for those who do find him funny to spend their hard-earned cash on tickets to see him.

If you find Chubby Brown's act offensive, there's a simple answer - don't go to see him.

Brown's manager Tony Jo told Teesside Live :

 I'd like to thank the mayor for his support in clearing the situation up and Roy is looking forward to his return. He's absolutely delighted. It will be a very emotional night for him and he can't wait.

Offsite Comment: That Terrible Moment When You Have To Defend Roy Chubby Brown

18th November 2019. See article from




Updated: Joined up censorship...

Speculation put to rest that the Lady and the Tramp will be censored for the new streaming service Disney+

Link Here18th November 2019
rDisney is promising an extensive near complete library of its films to be made available on its new streaming service, Disney Plus. This has necessitated a review of content in order to bring it up to date with modern-PC sensibilities.

It has already been reported that a very notably absent film from the catalogue will be the Oscar-winning 1946 animated musical Song of the South , that deals with the post civil war period in the United States and the abolition of slavery. It inevitably included themes and depictions that are now forbidden.

Also for the chop is the Dumbo scene featuring the character of Jim Crow, a charcater naming referencing US racial segregation laws. Then there's the seduction of twin Barbie dolls in Toy Story 2 -- where a character by the name of Stinky Pete is seen promising the Barbies roles in Toy Story 3 . This was judged out of order on #MeToo grounds.

A new addition to the list is the cartoon Lady and the Tramp from 1955. The film has a song featuring a short appearance of two conjoined cats called Si and Am. The term 'Siamese Twins' is now frowned upon so it seems likely that this allusion will have to be overdubbed for release on Disney Plus.

According to IMDb, an early pre-release cut of the film had a much longer appearance featuring the cats, but this was mostly deleted in 1955 as it was decided that the awkward restricted movement of the cats didn't really fit in with the rest of the film.

Update: Warnings not cuts

14th November 2019. See article from

The Disney+ streaming service has now started and so commentators have been finding out ho Disney has addressed 'inappropriate content'.

Well the good news is that Disney has opted for warnings over cuts. The Verge writes:

Some of Disney's older movies streaming on Disney+ will include disclaimers about the cultural context of certain scenes that are considered outright racist and prejudiced today. The disclaimer on certain titles is found within the description box, and reads, This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions. The Verge also notes that warning only runs before the movie and does not appear again in the video.

One popular example floating around Twitter is Disney's 1941 animated feature film, Dumbo . An infamous scene at the end of the movie finds a group of crows singing about seeing an elephant fly. The scene relies on a series of racist stereotypes to get through the song, including naming the lead character Jim Crow, a mocking term used to insult black men. The scene is still in the version streaming on Disney+.

It's encouraging to see Disney acknowledge the darker elements of its past film and TV content, but this disclaimer is also the bare minimum, writer, critic, and Disney expert Josh Spiegel told The Verge:

Frankly, a lot of Disney+ subscribers might not even notice the disclaimer, instead of just clicking Play on a title.

Update: Grunkle Stan's Fez

18th November 2019. See article from

Gravity Falls , a popular Disney cartoon series, has been on the receiving end of Disney's censorship blade. The series ended only a couple of years ago, but the character of Grunkle Stan has had the symbol removed from his fez in the first part of Season 1.

The symbol was supposed to be a fish but the theory behind the change was that maybe it too closely resembled the crescent moon, the symbol of islam. It seems unlikely that there was anything intended by the resemblance.



Sensitive changes...

Google to withhold details from advertisers about where people are browsing on the internet

Link Here17th November 2019
Full story: Gooogle Privacy...Google's many run-ins with privacy
In what sounds like a profound change to the commercial profiling of people's website browsing history, Google has announced that it will withhold data from advertisers that categorises web pages.

In response to the misuse of medical related browsing data, Google has announced that from February 2020 it will cease to inform advertisers about the content of webpage where advertising space is up for auction. Presumably this is something along the lines of Google having an available advert slot on but not telling the advertiser that the John Doe is browsing an STD diagnosis page, but the advertiser will still be informed of the URL.

Chetna Bindra, senior product manager of trust and privacy at Google wrote:

While we already prohibit advertisers from using our services to build user profiles around sensitive categories, this change will help avoid the risk that any participant in our auctions is able to associate individual ad identifiers with Google's contextual content categories.

Google also plans to update its EU User Consent Policy audit program for publishers and advertisers, as well as our audits for the Authorized Buyers program, and continue to engage with data protection authorities, including the Irish Data Protection Commission as they continue their investigation into data protection practices in the context of Authorized Buyers.

Although this sounds very good news for people wishing to keep their sensitive data private it may not be so good for advertisers who will see costs rise and publishers who will see incomes fall.

ANd of course Google will still know itself that John Doe has been browsing STD diagnosis pages. There could be other consequences such as advertisers sending their own bots out to categorise likely advertising slots.




The BBFC belatedly publishes its 18 rating for the uncut store exclusive 4K Blu-ray release and 15 for the cut Blu-ray and DVD

Link Here17th November 2019

Brightburn is a 2019 USA Sci-Fi horror thriller by David Yarovesky.
Starring Elizabeth Banks, David Denman and Matt Jones. BBFC link IMDb

BBFC advised category cuts were required for a 15 rated cinema and home video release in 2019. The uncut version is available on an HMV exclusive release. Uncut and MPAA R rated in the US.

Summary Notes

What if a child from another world crash-landed on Earth, but instead of becoming a hero to mankind, he proved to be something far more sinister?


BBFC uncut
US Theatrical Version
run: 90:28s
pal: 86:51s


UK: The US Theatrical Version was passed 18 uncut for strong gory violence, injury detail for
  • 2019 Sony store exclusive [uncut on 4K Blu-ray, cut on Blu-ray] R0 4k Blu-ray/R0 Blu-ray Combo]
Nordic: The Nordic release is uncut and 15/16 rated for:
  • 2019 Sony [English audio + English subtitles] R0 Blu-ray at UK Amazon

US: Rated R uncut for horror violence/bloody images, and language.

BBFC cut
UK Version
cut: ~17s
run: 90:11s
pal: 86:35s
15UK: The cut UK Version was passed 15 for strong gory injury detail, violence, language after BBFC advised category cuts adding up to a 17s difference in running time:
  • 2019 Sony RB Blu-ray
  • 2019 Sony R2 DVD
  • 2019 Sony VoD
  • 2019 cinema release
The BBFC commented:
  • This film was originally seen for advice at which stage the company was informed it was likely to be classified 18 uncut but that their preferred 15 classification could be achieved by making reductions to two scenes featuring both strong gory images and a dwelling on the infliction of pain and injury. When the film was submitted for formal classification these scenes had been acceptably reduced.



Stark Raving Dad...

Michael Jackson episode of the Simpsons missing from Disney+

Link Here16th November 2019

The launch of the Disney+ streaming service has feature in censorship news a lot this week but another incident is now being reported.

One of the biggest selling points of Disney+ has to be the entire back catalogue of The Simpsons episodes that are available -- thanks to the recent acquisition of 20th Century Fox by Disney. However, fans have noticed that there is a notable absence in the earlier seasons.

The Season 3 opener, Stark Raving Dad , has been omitted due to its featuring Michael Jackson. The missing episode saw Homer Simpson being sent to a Mental Institution after going to work in a pink shirt. Whilst committed, he meets fellow patient, Leon Kompowsky -- a man who believes himself to be Michael Jackson, voiced by the singer himself, credited as John Jay Smith.

In fact the censorship seems wider than Disney+, the episode has been banned from TV and it is reported that it will be missing from any future disk releases too.



There's no pleasing the Parent's TV Council...

Disney+ stills needs to add parental controls to keep PG-13 rated movies out of reach

Link Here16th November 2019
Full story: Parents TV Council...US moralists whinge at TV sex and violence
US moralist campaigners of the Parent's TV Council wrote:

Disney created a safe platform compared to other streaming services ...BUT... Disney could go the extra mile and add more parental controls. PTC President Tim Winter said:

Disney+ is an 80% streaming solution for families, and we applaud the company for its focus on making family-friendly content. So far, the biggest challenge we see with Disney+ is that it does not include parental controls or content filtering. While the company has promised not to include R-rated content, by its own admission , Disney+ was not designed exclusively for children.

Research from PTC indicates that PG and PG-13 movies might not be appropriate for children. After all, the MPAA allows up to two F-words for PG-13 movies.

Even titles from Marvel and Star Wars franchises contain higher levels of violence, and some PG-13 titles may include harsher language or profanity, sexual innuendo or suggestive dialogue. To be an even more ideal streaming platform for families, Disney+ must give families the ability to allow filtering, Winter said.



Slasher morphs into chick flick...

Black Christmas is remade as a PG-13 rated film that needs 'to be available to a younger female audience'

Link Here15th November 2019
Black Christmas is a 2019 New Zealand / USA horror mystery thriller by Sophia Takal.
Starring Imogen Poots, Cary Elwes and Brittany O'Grady. IMDb

Hawthorne College is quieting down for the holidays. One by one, sorority girls on campus are being killed by an unknown stalker. But the killer is about to discover that this generation's young women aren't willing to become hapless victims as they mount a fight to the finish.

Blumhouse and director Sophia Takal's remake of Bob Clark's Christmas slasher classic Black Christmas will be released this Christmas. It has been rated PG-13 by the MPA for violence, terror, thematic content involving sexual assault, language, sexual material, and drinking.

Co-writer April Wolfe took to Twitter to explain the PG-13 rating, writing:

Here's the deal: We wrote it with an R in mind. When they did the test screenings, was clear that this movie needed to be available to a younger female audience because the subject matter is timely. Also, I want to indoctrinate girls into horror. Doesn't make it any less vicious!

Update: Box office flop

20th December 2019.

Predictably the combination of feminist movie and PG-13 rated violence found few friends and the film flopped at the box office.



Boo, Hiss?...

So what is the politically correct silent gesture to replace booing one's displeasure, eg at the ludicrous idea that applause should be replaced by jazz hands?

Link Here15th November 2019
Metro UK Lifestyle editor Ellen Scott appeared on Good Morning Britain to call for clapping to be banned.

The call comes after Oxford University's Student Union voted to ban clapping replacing it with jazz hands or a silent wave. Student Roisin McCallion explained the reasoning behind the policy to Metro :

The policy was proposed in order to encourage the use of British Sign Language clapping during our democratic events, to make those events more accessible and inclusive for all, including people who suffer from anxiety.

Ellen Scott appeared on Good Morning Britain to argue in favor of banning clapping. She claimed:

So it's actually not just about people with anxiety. It's also people who use hearing aids. Clapping can be disruptive to that. People who have sensory processing issues, it can be very distressful and overwhelming to have those loud, sudden noises.

When asked if there would be a penalty for people who clapped, Scott answered:

I don't think there is going to be a penalty, frankly. I don't think anyone is going to say, 'You need to leave.' But if you were persisting with clapping even though you've been requested to do something. That's not very polite is it? I think people understand if you were requested to do something in a specific context, you can do it.

[Clapping] is normal, but that doesn't mean it can't change.The real world could change. Maybe we'll become more inclusive, which would be a great thing. I don't think it's a bad thing to be over accommodating.



Hardcore propaganda...

After being censored by YouTube Chinese mainlanders take to Pornhub to distribute videos criticising the Hong Kong protesters

Link Here15th November 2019
The US internet giants have got a little too effective at censoring user uploaded videos sonow the world is looking for less well policed alternatives.

An Chinese mainlanders found a temporary alternative in Pornhub. A few Chinese nationals created a channel called the Chinese Communist Youth League. They then posted videos boosting the agenda of authorities in Beijing and criticising the Hong Kong protesters.

One shocking video calls rioters cockroaches, a term Hong Kong police have used, and shows a man being set on fire after arguing with protesters. Nearly a dozen of the videos appeared in total which had about 9,000 views and gained 32 subscribers.

A rep for PornHub told The NY Post on Thursday the firm has taken down the videos in question.



The Freedom of Thought Report 2019...

Three countries have repealed blasphemy laws but 59 remain that criminalise blasphemy or the criticism of religion

Link Here14th November 2019

The push to abolish blasphemy laws is proceeding apace in many western countries. This is a trend that must be welcomed as a victory for freedom of thought and expression, and for the campaigners who have been pushing for reform, both in countries like Malta and Denmark where the laws were sometimes employed, and countries like Canada and New Zealand where they had been out of use for decades or longer. In an interconnected world, it is important that bad laws, no matter how seemingly inactive, should be actively abolished, both because of the risk they may be reactivated, as Ireland saw, but also because they set a dangerous precedent in a world where at least 69 states still have blasphemy or quasi- blasphemy laws on the books.

Victories for freedom of thought and expression

Since the publication of last year's Freedom of Thought Report, three more countries have abolished the crime of blasphemy, in all cases as part of reforms designed to remove laws considered anachronistic or contrary to twenty-first century human rights standards.

In December 2018, the Canadian Senate voted for repeal, as part of a bill intended to remove outdated legislation. Under Section 296 of the Canadian Criminal Code, dating back to 1892 the crime of blasphemous libel was in principle punishable by a prison term up to two years. Despite a good faith provision protecting opinion delivered in decent language, the law had historically been used to prosecute satire and criticism.

Then, in March 2019, the New Zealand parliament voted to repeal blasphemous libel, again as part of a package of measures to remove anachronistic laws under the Crimes Amendment Bill. The move follows decades of campaigning by Humanist NZ, a national partner in the End Blasphemy Laws campaign. In their submission to a public consultation on the bill to remove Section 123 of the criminal code, Humanist NZ argued for repeal of blasphemy on the grounds that it was detrimental to the country's capacity to challenge rights violations committed under so-called blasphemy laws abroad, an argument that was taken up by Justice Minister Andrew Little in favour of repeal. Later arguing for the repeal, Little declared that blasphemy law was out of place with New Zealand's position as a bastion of human rights.

And similarly, in June 2019, once again as part of a wide-ranging overhaul of the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedures, Greece dropped the two articles outlawing blasphemy. There were some words of criticism from leaders of the Greek Orthodox church, however wider public reaction was minimal, and the move was welcomed by the Humanist Union of Greece, which had lobbied on the move for many years, as well as other campaigners for free expression.

Cultures of taboo and regression in law

The divide between countries respecting secular freedom and those which do not is growing however.

It was welcome and celebrated news in October 2018 that a Pakistani Christian woman, Asia Bibi, was finally pardoned from blasphemy allegations dating back to 2009, and was freed and fled to Canada in May 2019. However, the fate of dozens or hundreds of others accused of blasphemy in the country is more obscure and deeply troubling. One relatively well-known case, Junaid Hafeez, a lecturer accused of blasphemously discussing the life of Muhammad on a closed Facebook group, remain in prison in solitary confinement. His first defence lawyer quit after receiving death threats, his second defence lawyer was murdered. Others have been disappeared and then charged with blasphemy in connection with accusations that they merely joined atheist groups online. Extrajudicially, blasphemy accusations lead to mob attacks and murder. Despite occasional attempts to argue for reform, all critical discussion of Pakistan's blasphemy laws stands to be criticized by Islamists as itself an act of blasphemy, leading to the condemnation and sometimes the assassination of those who even suggest reform of the law.

Meanwhile in Saudi Arabia, a number of accused apostates or blasphemers, some of whom were previously sentenced to death, including Ahmad Al Shamri, Ashraf Fayadh, Waleed Abu al-Khair, and Raif Badawi, have disappeared into the prison system.

While the blasphemy situation in Pakistan is perennially horrific, and the situation for apostates and blasphemers in Saudi and other states enforcing conservative taboos is nothing to be emulated, a number of other countries have actually increased penalties for such crimes in the past year alone.

The case of Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkheitir has shaken Mauritania since 2014. Accused of blasphemy and apostasy over an article he wrote about religion and slavery, as a member of a commonly indentured caste himself, Mkheitir was reviled by Islamist groups and leaders who repeatedly dogged his trial with rallies calling for his death. Mkheitir was imprisoned from early 2014, and handed a death sentence before the end of that year. The death penalty was subsequently commuted, and after years of isolated imprisonment he was pardoned by the Supreme Court in 2017, but he remained in detention until finally being allowed to leave the country in 2019. The entire long episode is a story of gross injustice against an innocent man, and could have served responsible lawmakers as a basis on which to talk about the perils of allowing extremists to incite hatred under the guise of blasphemy and apostasy allegations; could have moved the state toward just reforms. Instead, they opted for entrenching extremist demands, actually increasing the penalties for apostay and blasphemy to a mandatory death penalty as of April 2018.

After some years of staged implementation, the kingdom of Brunei has increased penalties for various crimes against religion including aspotasy and blasphemy, as well as adultery and gay sex. These are now capital crimes. The sultan has said that a moratorium on the death penalty will be preserved. However, indefinite prison terms are a terrifying prospect for people simply trying to live their lives and express their beliefs. The persecution of innocent people is a high price to pay for an entirely impossible attempt to impose cultural homogeneity across a society on questions concerning religion and personal morality.

A world divided

Despite the victories in Europe, Canada and New Zealand, then, it remains the case that 69 countries outlaw blasphemy or criticism of religion under similar laws, 6 of those carrying a death penalty.

Meanwhile at least 18 countries outlaw apostasy (the mere fact, or announcing of the fact, of leaving or changing religion), 12 of those carrying a death penalty.



Safer travel to the US...

US Federal Court rules that border police must has reasonable suspicions that a mobile device contains illegal contraband before searching it

Link Here14th November 2019
In a major victory for privacy rights, a federal court has held that the federal government's suspicionless searches of smartphones, laptops, and other electronic devices at airports or other U.S. ports of entry are unconstitutional.

In recent years, as the number of devices searched at the border has quadrupled, international travelers returning to the United States have increasingly reported cases of invasive searches.

Documents and testimony we and the Electronic Frontier Foundation obtained as part of our lawsuit challenging the searches revealed that the government has been using the border as a digital dragnet. CBP and ICE claim sweeping authority to search our devices for purposes far removed from customs enforcement, such as finding information about someone other than the device's owner.

The court's order makes clear that these fishing expeditions violate the Fourth Amendment. The government must now demonstrate reasonable suspicion that a device contains illegal contraband. That's a far more rigorous standard than the status quo, under which officials claim they can rummage through the personal information on our devices at whim and with no suspicion at all.



Offsite Article: The War of the Worlds...

Link Here14th November 2019
Recalling a time in 1953 when the BBFC was lobbied by Great Yarmouth Council to reduce its rating from 'X' to 'A'

See article from



ASA bans ad for kids social media app that encourages amassing followers through 'likes'...

But surely healthier than ASA's PC world that encourages amassing followers through complaining, whingeing, victimhood, getting all offended, and bullying others who don't agree

Link Here13th November 2019

A TV ad for PopJam, a social media app designed for 7 to 12 year olds, seen in July 2019 on CITV. An on-screen image of a phone showed an illustrative scroll of a PopJam news feed which displayed various users' PopJam virtual artwork. Large text on the right of the image stated LIKES with a heart emoji and with an increasing figure. The next clip showed an image of a phone with a different virtual drawing on its screen. Large text to the left stated FOLLOWERS with an image of a number rising quickly from 96 to 10,000. A star emoji was seen increasing in size as the figures increased. A female voice-over stated, Get likes and followers to level up.

A complainant, who was concerned that the ad's encouragement to get likes and followers to level up could be detrimental to children's mental health and affect their self-esteem, challenged whether the ad could cause harm to those under 18 years of age and was irresponsible.

ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld

The ASA understood that PopJam was an app designed for 7- to 12-year-old children and that the ad was seen on a children's TV channel. The ad featured the claim get likes and followers to level up, which we considered explicitly encouraged children to seek likes and followers in order to progress through the app. We understood that there were other ways of advancing through the app, but that was not explained in the ad. We considered that the suggestion that the acquisition of likes and followers was the only means of progression was likely to give children the impression that popularity on social media was something that should be pursued because it was desirable in its own right. We were therefore concerned that the ad's encouragement to gain likes and followers could cause children to develop an unhealthy perception that popularity on social media was inherently valuable which was likely to be detrimental to their mental health and self-esteem. As such, we concluded that the ad was likely to cause harm to those under 18 and was irresponsible.

The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form. We told SuperAwesome Trading Ltd t/a PopJam not to use the claim get likes and followers to level up in future and to ensure that they did not suggest that gaining popularity and the acquisition of likes and followers were desirable things in their own right.




Indian film censors cut Ford v Ferrari

Link Here13th November 2019
Ford v Ferrari is a 2019 USA / France action sport biography by James Mangold.
Starring Christian Bale, Matt Damon and Caitriona Balfe. BBFC link IMDb

American car designer Carroll Shelby and driver Ken Miles battle corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford and challenge Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966.

The film was cut by India's Central Board of Film Certification to blur out alcoholic drinks and to mute the phrase son of a bitch.

A source close to the film told timesnownews:

We know we've to blur out the bottles because they carry brand name and CBFC guidelines do not allow that. But a mere glass being blurred out is something I'm hearing for the first time.

Adding that studios are often prepared in advance for such cuts, the person added, You know the committee is going to send the print back with such cuts. Can't do much about it. It's frustrating. .

For comparison the BBFC passed the film 12A uncut for infrequent strong language, moderate threat

Update: CBFC pedantry

17th November 2019. See article from

Tushar Karmarkar, Regional Officer, of The Central Board of Film Certication (CBFC) Mumbai has denied blurring the alcohol bottles in Hollywood film Ford v Ferrari.

It seems that in fact the alcohol blurring was pre-cut by the distributor as the CBFC has a rule which bans alcohol from U/A movies, So although the censors are correct in their pedantic denial, the film was cut solely to comply with CBFC rules.

According to a CBFC official document, a copy of which is with Hindustan Times. The specified cuts are:

  • The muting or replacing words such as sons of whore , son of a 'bitch'; an
  • insertion of anti-smoking disclaimers and a static message wherever a smoking scene appears.

But Karmarkar says, It (the blurring) was voluntarily done by teh distributors, as per our records.



Offsite Article: These new GDPR rules were meant to protect our privacy. They don't work...

Link Here 13th November 2019
Imagine if ITV had to offer an option to let viewers opt out of adverts whilst continuing to watch for free. There would soon be no ITV. Yet the EU cloud cuckoolanders are trying to force the internet to offer that same option

See article from



The Best of the Best II...

An update to the cuts history

Link Here12th November 2019
Best of the Best II is a 1993 USA action crime thriller by Robert Radler.
Starring Eric Roberts, Phillip Rhee and Chris Penn. BBFC link IMDb

In an underground fight club, blackbelt Travis Brickley is killed after losing to the evil martial arts master Brakus. Travis' death is witnessed by Walter Grady, the son of his best friend Alex Grady. Alex and his partner, Tommy Lee, vow to avenge their friend's death by defeating Brakus and shutting down the fight club.

Thanks to Anthony who wrote:

I bought the Best of the Best: The Complete Collection UK Blu-Ray 2016 4Digital Media set, and can confirm it to be completely uncut. In this release you once again see all of the shots of James' vomiting and the finger-blowing-off scene was also there.

In fact this shows that the distributors have quietly used the US Unrated version when putting to together the collection.

Cuts history

Cut in the US for an MPAA R rating. The US cuts of about 6s for an MPAA R rating were:

  • Missing some shots of James throwing up when he is fighting Tommy, 
  • The shot of James finger being blown off.
  • Also a bad guy getting shot is let off with less bullet wounds than in the uncut version.

This was further cut in the UK for an 18 rated cinema release in 1992 and the follow up DVD in 1993. The UK pre-cuts were:

The duel between Tommy (Philip Rhee) and the Asian, ponytailed gladiator has been severely shortened for the U.K prints.  A lengthy segment of the fight in which the gladiator uses two pairs of silver nunchakus is missing. The scene lasts twice as long in the uncut version, which has been shown in the past on Sky.

This UK cut version includes the cuts for an MPAA R rating.

The R rated version was later passed 18 without further BBFC cuts for 2005 DVD.

Meanwhile the film was released uncut and MPAA Unrated on US DVD in 2007.

A UK Blu-ray release featured the uncut version in 2016 but the BBFC database hasn't been updated with an uncut version.



Fact checking...

The silly perennial story they governments and their staff are accessing porn whilst at work

Link Here12th November 2019
Its a perennial silly story that gets repeated around the world, that Net Nanny type software reports how many attempts to access porn are made by government ministers, or their staff, or whatever.

Journalists are quit to jump to the conclusion that people are trying to watch Pornhub whilst at work.

In the latest example New Zealand's prime minister has ticked off public servants after it was revealed that staff at several ministries had their access to explicit material blocked hundreds of times. Documents showed, among staff from other ministries, Department of Conservation staff have been blocked from accessing pornography websites 148 times since January 29.

In reality 148 times is hardly any, 15 times a month for the whole staff. And of course there is an easy explanation for those 148 times. Sites like Melon Farmers are often classed as porn by internet filters as the reason for blocking them from children. Fair enough Melon Farmers frequently references porn and may indeed not be suitable for children...but it is not a porn website. Those 148 access attempts could easily explained by blocked access to Melon Farmers.

In fact I would argue that 148 blocked access attempts in 10 months rather proves that the staff in question are NOT spending their time watching porn.



Offsite Article: UK shows how not to regulate tech...

Link Here12th November 2019
Nobody said it was easy. But it shouldn't be this hard either. By Amol Rajan BBC Media editor

See article from



Offsite Article: Free speech. A lesson for young people...

Link Here12th November 2019
You may not like what people are thinking, you may be offended by what they are thinking, but you need to KNOW what they are thinking. If Cameron had known what people were thinking he wouldn't have called the EU referendum

See article from



Offsite Article: Viruses have rights too you know!...

Link Here12th November 2019
The EFF reports on the possible consequence of making malware blockers, anti spyware or virus checkers legally liable for any incorrect blocking decisions

See article from



Just Jokering around...

The director of Joker speaks of a weird bathtub scene that had to be cut for an MPAA R rating

Link Here11th November 2019
Full story: Batman Movies...A history of controversy
Joker is a 2019 USA crime thriller by Todd Phillips.
Starring Robert De Niro, Joaquin Phoenix and Marc Maron. BBFC link IMDb

Joker centers around an origin of the iconic arch nemesis and is an original, standalone story not seen before on the big screen. Todd Phillips' exploration of Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), a man disregarded by society, is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale.

While speaking at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, Joker director Todd Phillips explained that there were a few scenes that he had to cut, the most notable of which was a scene had Joaquin Phoenix's Arthur Fleck doing something bizarre while inside a bathtub.

Phillips suggested that the scene that was removed is not sexually explicit in nature, but is simply too bizarre for a standard R-rated movie to handle. He spoke in vague terms at the film festival:

So the other thing that's great about Joaquin is that he's always up to try things -- the fridge was one of those. It wasn't in the script it was something that Joaquin just kind of did and there was a few others, there's only one other that's in the movie and it's when he's laughing after he goes to [Zazie Beetz's] apartment and he comes back down the hall and he's laughing alone in that living room, that was another one...

There were two or three others we shot, one that is amazing in a bathtub, but I don't think we can actually include it in an R-rated movie and it's not because it was pornographic, it was just insane.



'It's for your own good'...

Australia's internet censor warns gamblers to withdraw their funds from foreign gambling websites that are just about to be blocked

Link Here11th November 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in Australia...Wide ranging state internet censorship
Australia's internet censor will block gambling websites hosted offshore under new powers now in effect. Gamblers have been warned by The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to withdraw their funds now from any unlicensed overseas gambling sites before they are blocked.

Internet gambling sites such as Emu Casino and FairGo Casino which are run from Curacao in the Caribbean will be among the first to be blocked, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

ACMA said on Monday it will ask ISPs to block websites in breach of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 using new internet censorship powers now in effect. ACMA chair Nerida O'Loughlin said

In many cases these sites refuse to pay significant winnings, or only a small portion. Customers had also experienced illegal operators continuing to withdraw funds from their bank account without authorisation. There is little to no recourse for consumers engaging with these unscrupulous operators. If you have funds deposited with an illegal gambling site, you should withdraw those funds now.

ACMA publishes a list of licensed gambling services where people can check if online gambling websites are licensed in Australia on their website.



Online harms prefect...

Ofcom selects a new chief TV and internet censor

Link Here10th November 2019
Ofcom has chosen Melanie Dawes, one of the UK's most senior civil servants, to be its new chief executive, the Guardian has revealed. Dawes is currently permanent secretary at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The offcial announcement of a successor to Sharon White is not likely to be confirmed until after the general election and that could have an impact on her appointment, which needs to be agreed by the culture secretary.

Ofcom has said Jonathan Oxley, its group director of competition, will become interim chief executive as White is leaving at the end of November. Ofcom said Oxley did not apply to be permanent chief executive.



Targeted censorship...

Artwork featuring a black Jesus shot with an air rifle

Link Here9th November 2019
A portrait of The Last Supper which depicts Jesus as a black man has been shot with an air-rifle while hanging on the wall of a church.

The iconic painting which shows Christ and his 12 disciples during his last days before he was betrayed by Judas had been painted by artist Lorna May Wadsworth and was on display at St George's Church, Nailsworth, in the Cotswolds.

The church is considering looking into security measures to prevent a repeat incident.

Lorna said she only noticed the tiny pellet hole in the canvas when she was unpacking the artwork in preparation for an exhibition at Graves Gallery in Sheffield, starting on Saturday.



Offsite Article: The EU: a menace to internet freedom...

Link Here9th November 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in EU...EU introduces swathes of internet censorship law
Two recent ECJ rulings have serious global consequences for internet freedom. By Andrew Tettenborn

See article from



Offsite Article: Can't we campaign for less censorship for everyone!...

Link Here9th November 2019
Full story: Instagram Censorship...Photo sharing website gets heavy on the censorship
Guardian article calls for Instagram to ease up on censorship of a queer arts collective and anything not white average sized and CIS.

See article from



A stereotypically self deprecating Brit...

'Inappropriate' classic sitcoms already banned from BritBox

Link Here8th November 2019
BritBox, the new internet TV  joint venture from the BBC and ITV will not include classic homegrown series that are deemed to be inappropriate for fragile modern audiences.

The new £5.99-a-month service, which will also offer shows from Channel 4 and Channel 5, is aiming to compete with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

However, bosses have said a range of classic shows, such as the BBC's Till Death Us Do Part and ITV's Love Thy Neighbour , will not appear on the service because of content deemed racist or otherwise unacceptable.

Reemah Sakaan, the senior ITV executive responsible for launching the service confirmed that Till Death Us Do Part, Love Thy Neighbour, and It Ain't Half Hot Mum will all be absent.

There are numerous individual episodes of some shows that will appear on BritBox eg Only Fools and Horses and Fawlty Towers could be deemed inappropriate for modern viewing. However, it is understood that no Fawlty Towers episodes will be cut from the service, although they will run with warnings about offensive language, (and presumably censor cuts).



As always more rules means more advantage to the biggest players...

YouTube announces how it will restrict personalised advertising for videos directed at kids from 1st January 2020

Link Here 8th November 2019
Full story: YouTube Censorship...YouTube censor videos by restricting their reach

The US authorities came down heavily on Google for YouTube's violations of the 1998 US children's data privacy law called COPPA. This ended up with Google handing over $170 million in settlement of claims from the US FTC (Federal Trade Commission).

COPPA restricts operators of websites and online services from collecting the personal information of under-13 users without parental permission. The definition of personal information includes personal identifiers used in cookies to profile internet users for targeted advertising purposes.

So now YouTube has announced new procedures starting 1st January 2010. All content creators will have to designate whether or not each of their videos is directed to children (aka kid-directed aka child-directed) by checking a box during the upload process. Checking that box will prevent the video from running personalized ads. This rule applies retrospectively so all videos will have to be reviewed and flagged accordingly.

It is probably quite straightforward to identify children's videos, but creators are worried about more general videos for people of all ages that also appeal to kids.

And of course there are massive concerns for all those creators affected about revenues decreasing as adverts switch from personalised to general untargeted ads. ran a small experiment suggesting that revenues will drop between 60 and 90% for videos denies targeted advertising.

And of course this will have a knock on to the viability of producing videos for a young audience. No doubt the small creators will be hit hardest, leaving the market more open for those that can make up the shortfall by working at scale.



Offsite Article: Who fact-checks the fact-checkers?...

Link Here8th November 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA
Demanding Big Tech companies act as arbiters of truth is a terrible idea. By Andreas Vou

See article from



Freedom on the Net 2019...

Freedom House notes that social media are a growing conduit for electoral manipulation and mass surveillance

Link Here7th November 2019

Governments around the world are increasingly using social media to manipulate elections and monitor their citizens, tilting the technology toward digital authoritarianism. As a result of these trends, global internet freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year, according to Freedom on the Net 2019 , the latest edition of the annual country-by-country assessment of internet freedom, released by Freedom House.

Adding to the problem of meddling by foreign regimes, a new menace to democracy has risen from within, as populist leaders and their armies of online supporters seek to distort politics at home. Domestic election interference marred the online landscape in 26 of the 30 countries studied that held national votes over the past year. Disinformation was the most commonly used tactic. Authorities in some countries blocked websites or cut off access to the internet in a desperate bid to cling to power.

Mike Abramowitz, president of Freedom House said:

"Many governments are finding that on social media, propaganda works better than censorship. Authoritarians and populists around the globe are exploiting both human nature and computer algorithms to conquer the ballot box, running roughshod over rules designed to ensure free and fair elections."

Governments from across the democratic spectrum are indiscriminately monitoring citizens' online behavior to identify perceived threats--and in some cases to silence opposition. Freedom House has found evidence of advanced social media surveillance programs in at least 40 of the 65 countries analyzed.

Adrian Shahbaz, Freedom House's research director for technology and democracy said:

"Once reserved for the world's most powerful intelligence agencies, big-data spying tools are making their way around the world. Advances in AI are driving a booming, unregulated market for social media surveillance. Even in countries with considerable safeguards for fundamental freedoms, there are already reports of abuse."

The proliferation of sophisticated monitoring tools has reduced people's ability to freely express themselves and be civically active online. Of the 65 countries assessed in this report, a record 47 featured arrests of users for political, social, or religious speech.

Shahbaz said:

"The future of internet freedom rests on our ability to fix social media. Since these are mainly American platforms, the United States must be a leader in promoting transparency and accountability in the digital age. This is the only way to stop the internet from becoming a Trojan horse for tyranny and oppression."

Key Findings:

  • Declines outnumber gains for the ninth consecutive year. Since June 2018, 33 of the 65 countries assessed in Freedom on the Net experienced a deterioration in internet freedom. The biggest score declines took place in Sudan and Kazakhstan, followed by Brazil, Bangladesh, and Zimbabwe. Improvements were measured in 16 countries, with Ethiopia recording the largest gains.

  • Internet freedom declines in the United States. US law enforcement and immigration agencies increasingly monitored social media and conducted warrantless searches of travelers' electronic devices, with little oversight or transparency. In a number of troubling cases, the monitoring targeted constitutionally protected activities such as peaceful protests and newsgathering. Disinformation was again prevalent around major political events, spread increasingly by domestic actors.

  • China is the world's worst abuser of internet freedom for the fourth consecutive year. Censorship reached unprecedented extremes in China as the government enhanced its information controls ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre and in the face of persistent antigovernment protests in Hong Kong.

  • Digital platforms are the new battleground for democracy. Domestic state and partisan actors used propaganda and disinformation to distort the online landscape during elections in at least 24 countries over the past year, making it by far the most popular tactic for digital election interference. Often working in tandem with government-friendly media personalities and business magnates, semiautonomous online mobs transmitted conspiracy theories, inflammatory views, and misleading memes from marginal echo chambers to the political mainstream.

  • Governments harness big data for social media surveillance. In at least 40 out of 65 countries, authorities have instituted advanced social media monitoring programs. These sophisticated mass surveillance systems can quickly map users' relationships; assign a meaning to their social media posts; and infer their past, present, or future locations. Machine learning enables the programs to find patterns that may be invisible to humans, and even to identify whole new categories of patterns for further investigation.

  • Free expression is under assault. A record high of 47 out of 65 countries featured arrests of users for political, social, or religious speech. Individuals endured physical violence in retribution for their online activities in at least 31 countries.

  • Authorities normalize blanket shutdowns as a policy tool. Social media and communication applications were blocked in at least 20 countries, and telecommunications networks were suspended in 17 countries, often in the lead-up to elections or during protests and civil unrest.

  • More governments enlist bots and fake accounts to manipulate social media. Political leaders employed individuals to surreptitiously shape online opinions and harass opponents in 38 of the 65 countries covered in this report--another new high.

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.



Offsite Article: Those who care about privacy need not apply...

Link Here7th November 2019
Jobs microsite used for jobs at the ICO sets hundreds of cookies without visitors' consent

See article from



Offsite Article: Germany's Online Censorship Laws Inspire the World's Dictators...

Link Here 7th November 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in Germany...Germany considers state internet filtering
An anti-hate speech law written in Berlin has been copy-pasted by authoritarian regimes from Caracas to Moscow. By Jacob Mchangama and Joelle Fiss

See article from



Offsite Article: As cheap as chips...

Link Here7th November 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in Russia...Russia and its repressive state control of media
How Russia's online censorship could jeopardize internet freedom worldwide. In essence this is because they have found a way to censor the internet cheaply

See article from



But maybe the people are justifiably critical after years of parliamentary fiasco...

Three senior government ministers call on social media bosses to protect candidates from being insulted and harassed by the electorate

Link Here6th November 2019
Perhaps the Yanks can come to our rescue again!

Oliver Dowden, Minister for the Cabinet Office, Priti Patel, Home Secretary and Nicky Morgan MP have called on social media bosses t protect them from abuse. They wrote:

To Mark Zuckerberg Facebook CEO
Jack Dorsey Twitter CEO
Sundar Pichai Google CEO

The UK General Election campaign starts tomorrow. We must ensure robust debate during the campaign does not mutate into intimidation, harassment and abuse.

Freedom of speech is a fundamental tenet of British democracy, and this includes the freedom to speak without being threatened or abused. We must tackle this worrying trend of abuse of people in public life and that certain groups are not deterred from standing or speaking freely because they fear for their safety.

It is important to distinguish between strongly felt political debate on one hand, and unacceptable acts of abuse, hatred, intimidation and violence.

Chief Constables continue to contact candidates in their force area to re-emphasise the importance of reporting any criminal offences, safety concerns or threats to the police. We know that you have also been working to tackle abusive behaviour on your platforms, including through delivering training on online safety and creating dedicated reporting channels. We welcome these measures - it is right that processes are in place to deal with cases of abuse or intimidation in an appropriate and timely manner.

As we enter this election period, we are conscious that there are a large number of new candidates who will be unfamiliar with how to seek help if they believe they are being subjected to abuse, and in some cases, illegal activity online. You will be aware that a number of MPs have also identified the online abuse and threats they receive as a particular concern as we approach another electoral event. Therefore we would encourage you to:

  • Work together to provide a one stop shop piece of advice for candidates which will include what content breaches your terms and conditions, where to report where they believe content may be breaching these, and what response they can expect from you.

  • Work with officials and the Political Parties to ensure that safety and reporting guidance reach the widest possible audience of candidates and electoral staff as soon as possible.

  • Have regular dialogue between you during the campaign to ensure where content or users are breaching your terms and conditions, this information is shared between you to reduce a lag time in action as abusive material or users migrate between platforms.

  • Continue to have an open and regular dialogue with the security, policing and electoral authorities. We will ask officials to liaise with you on the best way to take this forward.

Protecting our democracy and ensuring this election is fought fairly and safely is all our responsibilities. We trust that you are taking the necessary steps to ensure this is the case during the forthcoming election period, and look forward to you providing an update on this.



More acidic humour...

BBC defends Jo Brand on Have I Got News for You for her observation about the 'fucking' Queen

Link Here6th November 2019

The BBC defended Jo Brand after she used an expletive when describe the Queen during the latest episode of Have I Got News For You.

Brand was discussing the new book by Royal dresser Angela Kelly, and asked: Why does the Queen like wearing bright colours?'  The comedian answered her own question, saying:

Apparently because it helps her stand out in a crowd. That and the fact that she's the fucking Queen.

The remark sparked a few complaints on social media and so the BBC issue a formal response on its website saying:

We've received complaints from viewers who were unhappy with strong language regarding the Queen.

Our response

Jo Brand's joke was aimed at the fact that the Queen's former dresser claims in a book that the Queen wears bright colours to stand out in a crowd, but she should be instantly recognisable anyway as she's the Queen. Although we appreciate that strong language is not to everyone's tastes, we would like to assure you that this language was not directed at the Queen herself.

Have I Got News For You is a satirical entertainment show which offers a humorous take on recent News stories. Regular viewers expect the panellists and presenters to make comments about stories that are in the news and understand that these contributions are intended to be funny. Further Information



Offsite Article: Great battles of our time...

Link Here5th November 2019
Bloodmoon, a woke spin-off from Game of Thrones cancelled by HBO

See article from



Parliamentary committee criticises the GDPR/ICO consent model of data protection...

'When we enter a building we expect it to be safe. We are not expected to examine and understand all the paperwork and then tick a box that lets the companies involved off the hook'

Link Here 4th November 2019
The UK Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights has reported on serious grounds for concern about the nature of the "consent" people provide when giving over an extraordinary range of information about themselves, to be used for commercial gain by private companies:
  • Privacy policies are too complicated for the vast majority of people to understand: while individuals may understand they are consenting to data collection from a given site in exchange for "free" access to content, they may not understand that information is being compiled, without their knowledge, across sites to create a profile. The Committee heard alarming evidence about eye tracking software being used to make assumptions about people's sexual orientation, whether they have a mental illness, are drunk or have taken drugs: all then added to their profile.
  • Too often the use of a service or website is conditional on consent being given -- raising questions about whether it is freely given
  • People cannot find out what they have consented to: it is difficult, if not nearly impossible, for people - even tech experts - to find out who their data has been shared with, to stop it being shared or to delete inaccurate information about themselves.
  • The consent model relies on individuals knowing about the risks associated with using web based services when the system should provide adequate protection from the risks as a default..
  • It is completely inappropriate to use consent when processing children's data: children aged 13 and older are, under the current legal framework, considered old enough to consent to their data being used, even though many adults struggle to understand what they are consenting to.
Key conclusions and recommendations

The Committee points out that there is a real risk of discrimination against some groups and individuals through the way this data is used: it heard deeply troubling evidence about some companies using personal data to ensure that only people of a certain age or race, for example, see a particular job opportunity or housing advertisement.

There are also long-established concerns about the use of such data to discriminate in provision of insurance or credit products.

Unlike traditional print advertising where such blatant discrimination would be obvious and potentially illegal personalisation of content means people have no way of knowing how what they see online compares to anyone else.

Short of whistleblowers or work by investigative journalists, there currently appears to be no mechanism for protecting against such privacy breaches or discrimination being in the online "Wild West".

The Committee calls on the Government to ensure there is robust regulation over how our data can be collected and used and it calls for better enforcement of that regulation.

The Committee says:
  • The "consent model is broken" and should not be used as a blanket basis for processing. It is impossible for people to know what they are consenting to when making a non-negotiable, take it-or-leave-it "choice" about joining services like Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube based on lengthy, complex T&Cs, subject to future changes to terms.
  • This model puts too much onus on the individual, but the responsibility of knowing about the risks with using web based services cannot be on the individual. The Government should strengthen regulation to ensure there is safe passage on the internet guaranteed
  • Its completely inadequate to use consent when it comes to processing children's data,. If adults struggle to understand complex consent agreements, how do we expect our children to give informed consent? The Committee says setting the digital age of consent at 13 years old should be revisited.
  • The Government should be regulating to keep us safe online in the same way as they do in the real world - not by expecting us to become technical experts who can judge whether our data is being used appropriately but by having strictly enforced standards that protect our right to privacy and freedom from discrimination.
  • It should be made much simpler for individuals to see what data has been shared about them, and with whom, and to prevent some or all of their data being shared.
  • The Government should look at creating a single online registry that would allow people to see, in real time, all the companies that hold personal data on them, and what data they hold.

The report is worth a read and contains many important points criticising the consent model as dictated by GDPR and enfoced by ICO. Here are a few passages from the report's summary:

The evidence we heard during this inquiry, however, has convinced us that the consent model is broken. The information providing the details of what we are consenting to is too complicated for the vast majority of people to understand. Far too often, the use of a service or website is conditional on consent being given: the choice is between full consent or not being able to use the website or service. This raises questions over how meaningful this consent can ever really be.

Whilst most of us are probably unaware of who we have consented to share our information with and what we have agreed that they can do with it, this is undoubtedly doubly true for children. The law allows children aged 13 and over to give their own consent. If adults struggle to understand complex consent agreements, how do we expect our children to give informed consent. Parents have no say over or knowledge of the data their children are sharing with whom. There is no effective mechanism for a company to determine the age of a person providing consent. In reality a child of any age can click a consent button.

The bogus reliance on consent is in clear conflict with our right to privacy. The consent model relies on us, as individuals, to understand, take decisions, and be responsible for how our data is used. But we heard that it is difficult, if not nearly impossible, for people to find out whom their data has been shared with, to stop it being shared or to delete inaccurate information about themselves. Even when consent is given, all too often the limit of that consent is not respected. We believe companies must make it much easier for us to understand how our data is used and shared. They must make it easier for us to opt out of some or all of our data being used. More fundamentally, however, the onus should not be on us to ensure our data is used appropriately - the system should be designed so that we are protected without requiring us to understand and to police whether our freedoms are being protected.

As one witness to our inquiry said, when we enter a building we expect it to be safe. We are not expected to examine and understand all the paperwork and then tick a box that lets the companies involved off the hook. It is the job of the law, the regulatory system and of regulators to ensure that the appropriate standards have been met to keep us from harm and ensure our safe passage. We do not believe the internet should be any different. The Government must ensure that there is robust regulation over how our data can be collected and used, and that regulation must be stringently enforced.

Internet companies argue that we benefit from our data being collected and shared. It means the content we see online - from recommended TV shows to product advertisements - is more likely to be relevant to us. But there is a darker side to personalisation. The ability to target advertisements and other content at specific groups of people makes it possible to ensure that only people of a certain age or race, for example, see a particular job opportunity or housing advertisement. Unlike traditional print advertising, where such blatant discrimination would be obvious, personalisation of content means people have no way of knowing how what they see online compares to anyone else. Short of a whistle-blower within the company or work by an investigative journalist, there does not currently seem to be a mechanism for uncovering these cases and protecting people from discrimination.

We also heard how the data being used (often by computer programmes rather than people) to make potentially life-changing decisions about the services and information available to us is not even necessarily accurate, but based on inferences made from the data they do hold. We were told of one case, for example, where eye-tracking software was being used to make assumptions about people's sexual orientation, whether they have a mental illness, are drunk or have taken drugs. These inferences may be entirely untrue, but the individual has no way of finding out what judgements have been made about them.

We were left with the impression that the internet, at times, is like the Wild West, when it comes to the lack of effective regulation and enforcement.

That is why we are deeply frustrated that the Government's recently published Online Harms White Paper explicitly excludes the protection of people's personal data. The Government is intending to create a new statutory duty of care to make internet companies take more responsibility for the safety of their users, and an independent regulator to enforce it. This could be an ideal vehicle for requiring companies to take people's right to privacy, and freedom from discrimination, more seriously and we would strongly urge the Government to reconsider its decision to exclude data protection from the scope of their new regulatory framework. In particular, we consider that the enforcement of data protection rules - including the risks of discrimination through the use of algorithms - should be within scope of this work.



Cold hearted...

The Government claims that Channel 4 will have blood on its hands if it broadcasts Smuggled

Link Here4th November 2019
Channel 4 has been warned by the Home Office that it will have blood on its hands if it goes ahead with a programme in which contestants attempt to smuggle themselves into the UK. According to the Telegraph a Home Office 'source' branded Smuggled as insensitive and irresponsible

Presumably the government thinks that the programme will give people ideas that may prove dangerous.

The channel delayed screening the programme two weeks ago after the bodies of 39 Vietnamese illegal migrants were found inside a lorry container on an industrial estate in Essex.

However, the first episode of Smuggled, a two-part series billed by Channel 4 as the largest test of our borders ever conducted by the media, will go ahead tomorrow with four contestants successfully entering the UK illegally.

Among the first quartet attempting to enter the country is one hidden in the back of a motorhome, another secreted behind the driver's seat of a lorry, a third piloting a rubber dinghy and a fourth using a false passport whose photograph bears scant resemblance to its bearer. Hidden cameras record their progress.

Smugglers will be shown on Channel 4 on Monday 4th November at 9pm.



Updated: Delta Airlines claims it was a ghastly mistake to censor sacrosanct gay content...

Olivia Wilde complains about a cut airlines version of her film, Booksmart

Link Here 3rd November 2019
Booksmart is a 2019 USA comedy by Olivia Wilde.
Starring Skyler Gisondo, Kaitlyn Dever and Lisa Kudrow. BBFC link IMDb

On the eve of their high school graduation, two academic superstars and best friends realize they should have worked less and played more. Determined not to fall short of their peers, the girls try to cram four years of fun into one night.

Olivia Wilde's coming-of-age film, Booksmart, was critically acclaimed, but if you happened to catch it on an airplane, you didn't see the movie as she intended.

In a series of tweets Wednesday, Wilde, who directed the R-rated movie, explained that a third-party editing company that censors films for airlines removed several scenes from Booksmart that centered on female sexuality.

Among the changes: the words genitals and vagina were cut, although the word fuck was left in, and a consensual love scene between two women was omitted.

What message is this sending to viewers and especially to women? That their bodies are obscene? That their sexuality is shameful? Wilde asked. I urge every airline, especially those who pride themselves on inclusivity, to stop working with this third-party company, and trust the parental advisory warning to allow viewers to opt out if they choose.

However Delta Airlines responded to the tweets implying that it was ok to censor anything it liked, including straight sexuality, but obviously it was an error to censor gay sexuality. A representative for Delta Air Lines told People magazine that Delta uses films edited by a third-party company to censor anything in the movie that violates their guidelines:

Still, Delta's content parameters do not in any way ask for the removal of homosexual content from the film. We value diversity and inclusion as core to our culture and our mission and will review our processes to ensure edited video content doesn't conflict with these values.

Update: Gay themed scenes unbanned

3rd November 2019. See article from

The airline Delta has now said it will start showing fuller versions of the films Booksmart and Rocketman that were controversially edited to remove scenes involving LGBTQ love and sexuality.

The airline said the edits were made, unrequested, by a third-party vendor, with Delta picking the version for in-flight viewing. It said it has now put in place new measures to ensure the movies do not omit the LGBTQ scenes. A Delta spokeswoman said:

Studios often provide videos in two forms: a theatrical, original version and an edited version

We selected the edited version and now realize content well within our guidelines was unnecessarily excluded from both films. We are working to make sure this doesn't happen again.

The studio has agreed to provide a special Delta edit that retains the LGBTQ+ love scenes in both Booksmart and Rocketman that will be on our flights as soon as possible.

Delta made no mention of restoring heterosexual scenes that have been censored in other movies, and made no comment about whether their censorship rules going forward will be based on equality for all, not the few.



Suicyder: Juice from the Noose...

The Portman Group bans packaging of a small high strength cider brand that references suicide

Link Here3rd November 2019

UK drinks censors at the Portman Group have banned the packaging for a high strength cider named Suicyder produced by The Bearded Brewery.

The Bearded Brewery stated that it was a small, independent brewery with no intention of selling Suicyder to larger shops and suppliers. It highlighted the wider use of the word suicide in the branding of UK ciders, and noted that 244 beers, ciders and breweries also used the name internationally.

The Portman Group wrote in an adjudication:

The Panel discussed the product name 'Suicyder' and noted that this appeared in combination with a human skull, a noose and the wording 'juice from the noose'. The Panel considered that these three elements in combination were unequivocally creating a direct link to suicide.

The Panel discussed the product name and imagery in the context of wider societal awareness of mental health issues and considered that it was inappropriate to link alcohol to suicide. The Panel also considered that it was highly irresponsible to portray death by hanging in such an obvious manner, linking the name with its play on suicide, with a prominently placed noose alongside the other elements of the brand logo.

The Panel noted the company's point that multiple other producers reference suicide on alcohol products but sought to remind the company that it could only consider the product that was subject to complaint. In this instance, the Panel concluded that the product name 'Suicyder', when used in combination with imagery that depicted a hanging method of suicide, created a direct link between suicide, alcohol and dangerous behaviour and accordingly upheld the product under Code paragraph 3.2(b):

A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any association with bravado, or with violent, aggressive, dangerous, anti-social or illegal behaviour.

The company decided not to work with the Portman Group advisory service to amend their product in line with the Panel's ruling. Therefore, the Retailer Alert Bulletin below will be issued asking retailers not to order the product,



Ticking timebomb...

The TikTok app is under investigation in the US over data concerns and also about content censorship

Link Here3rd November 2019

TikTok has surged in popularity over the past year, becoming not just a place for music mashups, but also short memes in the spirit of Vine. However, the rise of TikTok has also piqued the interest of US federal officials, who are worried that the China-owned social media network could be storing user data improperly or censoring content.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CIFUS), which reviews buyouts from foreign companies for national security risks, is said to be investigating unpublished concerns.

US senators are also worried about TikTk's collection of user data, and whether the service censors content in the U.S.



Adding Client-Side Image/Message Scanning Breaks End-To-End Encryption...

Mischievous snoopers are suggesting that encrypted messages should be pre-scanned in the name of protecting children

Link Here 3rd November 2019
Full story: Internet Encryption...Encryption, essential for security but givernments don't see it that way

Recent attacks on encryption have diverged. On the one hand, we've seen Attorney General William Barr call for "lawful access" to encrypted communications, using arguments that have barely changed since the 1990's . But we've also seen suggestions from a different set of actors for more purportedly "reasonable" interventions , particularly the use of client-side scanning to stop the transmission of contraband files, most often child exploitation imagery (CEI).

Sometimes called "endpoint filtering" or "local processing," this privacy-invasive proposal works like this: every time you send a message, software that comes with your messaging app first checks it against a database of "hashes," or unique digital fingerprints, usually of images or videos. If it finds a match, it may refuse to send your message, notify the recipient, or even forward it to a third party, possibly without your knowledge.

On their face, proposals to do client-side scanning seem to give us the best of all worlds: they preserve encryption, while also combating the spread of illegal and morally objectionable content.

But unfortunately it's not that simple. While it may technically maintain some properties of end-to-end encryption, client-side scanning would render the user privacy and security guarantees of encryption hollow . Most important, it's impossible to build a client-side scanning system that can only be used for CEI. As a consequence, even a well-intentioned effort to build such a system will break key promises of the messenger's encryption itself and open the door to broader abuses. This post is a technical deep dive into why that is.

A client-side scanning system cannot be limited to CEI through technical means

Imagine we want to add client-side scanning to WhatsApp. Before encrypting and sending an image, the system will need to somehow check it against a known list of CEI images.

The simplest possible way to implement this: local hash matching. In this situation, there's a full CEI hash database inside every client device. The image that's about to be sent is hashed using the same algorithm that hashed the known CEI images, then the client checks to see if that hash is inside this database. If the hash is in the database, the client will refuse to send the message (or forward it to law enforcement authorities).

At this point, this system contains a complete mechanism to block any image content. Now, anyone with the ability to add an item to the hash database can require the client to block any image of their choice. Since the database contains only hashes, and the hashes of CEI are indistinguishable from hashes of other images, code that was written for a CEI-scanning system cannot be limited to only CEI by technical means.

Furthermore, it will be difficult for users to audit whether the system has been expanded from its original CEI-scanning purpose to limit other images as well, even if the hash database is downloaded locally to client devices. Given that CEI is illegal to possess, the hashes in the database would not be reversible.

This means that a user cannot determine the contents of the database just by inspecting it, only by individually hashing every potential image to test for its inclusion--a prohibitively large task for most people. As a result, the contents of the database are effectively unauditable to journalists, academics, politicians, civil society, and anyone without access to the full set of images in the first place.

Client-side scanning breaks the promises of end-to-end encryption

Client-side scanning mechanisms will break the fundamental promise that encrypted messengers make to their users: the promise that no one but you and your intended recipients can read your messages or otherwise analyze their contents to infer what you are talking about . Let's say that when the client-side scan finds a hash match, it sends a message off to the server to report that the user was trying to send a blocked image. But as we've already discussed, the server has the ability to put any hash in the database that it wants.

Given that online content is known to follow long-tail distributions , a relatively small set of images comprises the bulk of images sent and received. So, with a comparatively small hash database, an external party could identify the images being sent in a comparatively large percentage of messages.

As a reminder, an end-to-end encrypted system is a system where the server cannot know the contents of a message, despite the client's messages passing through it. When that same server has direct access to effectively decrypt a significant portion of messages, that's not end-to-end encryption.

In practice, an automated reporting system is not the only way to break this encryption promise. Specifically, we've been loosely assuming thus far that the hash database would be loaded locally onto the device. But in reality, due to technical and policy constraints, the hash database would probably not be downloaded to the client at all . Instead, it would reside on the server.

This means that at some point, the hash of each image the client wants to send will be known by the server. Whether each hash is sent individually or a Bloom filter is applied, anything short of an ORAM-based system will have a privacy leakage directly to the server at this stage, even in systems that attempt to block, and not also report, images. In other words, barring state-of-the-art privacy-preserving remote image access techniques that have a provably high (and therefore impractical) efficiency cost, the server will learn the hashes of every image that the client tries to send.

Further arguments against client-side scanning

If this argument about image decryption isn't sufficiently compelling, consider an analogous argument applied to the text of messages rather than attached images. A nearly identical system could be used to fully decrypt the text of messages. Why not check the hash of a particular message to see if it's a chain letter, or misinformation ? The setup is exactly the same, with the only change being that the input is text rather than an image. Now our general-purpose censorship and reporting system can detect people spreading misinformation... or literally any text that the system chooses to check against. Why not put the whole dictionary in there, and therefore be able to decrypt any word that users type (in a similar way to this 2015 paper )? If a client-side scanning system were applied to the text of messages, users would be similarly unable to tell that their messages were being secretly decrypted.

Regardless of what it's scanning for, this entire mechanism is circumventable by using an alternative client to the officially distributed one, or by changing images and messages to escape the hash matching algorithm, which will no longer be secret once it's performed locally on the client's device.

These are just the tip of the iceberg of technical critiques, not to mention policy reasons, we shouldn't build a censorship mechanism into a private, secure messenger.



Offsite Article: What's so unethical about my Jordan Peterson documentary?...

Link Here 3rd November 2019
Many people don't like seeing the human side of the polarising professor. By the director Patricia Marcoccia

See article from



Fake news...

Thailand opens its new internet control center

Link Here2nd November 2019
Thailand's Digital Economy and Society (DES) Minister, Buddhipongse Punnakanta, has launched the government's 'anti-fake-news' centre at the head office of the country's state telecoms company TOT.

Buddhipongse said that any challenged infomation will be verified within two hours by the centre. The verification process is said to include both human and artificial intelligence. He added:

Some 200 organisations in our network will each send two people to serve as contact persons within 24 hours who have to receive cases and help verify whether their obtained information is true or false.

The centre will look at the top 10-20 most-shared news items or messages on social media platforms, including Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter.

People are also allowed to send information they find suspicious to the centre so it can be checked and verified with relevant organisations. The verified information will be shared through online channels.

Any information deemed as infringement will be forwarded to the Royal Thai Police for investigation.

The center will employ about 30 checkers who will target news about government policies and content that broadly affects peace and order, good morals, and national security.



Telegram from Beijing...

Hong Kong government turns to internet censorship to restrict protests

Link Here2nd November 2019
Hong Kong has been dealt its first court ruling that censors the internet after a court ordered the banning of certain online messages related to protests.

On 31st October Hong Kong's High Court issued an interim injunction banning people from disseminating, circulating, publishing, or re-publishing on any internet-based platform or medium any information that promotes, encourages, or incites the use or threat of violence.

Two platforms were named in government press release announcing the order. A local Reddit-like forum LIHKG and the messaging app Telegram.

The government of pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam stated that these platforms and mediums have been abused to incite protesters to participate in unlawful activities, such as damaging targeted properties.

The injunction was issued at the request of Hong Kong's Secretary of Justice and the ban will be effective until 16th November when a full court judgement will be announced.



Offsite Article: Maybe a few Gremlins in their thought processes...

Link Here2nd November 2019
A Collider article claims that the MPAA decision to introduce the PG-13 rating was more about merchandising to children rather than the content of the movies.

See article from



Offsite Article: Out of tune with the British people...

Link Here2nd November 2019
High Court claims that the Tunein app which connects users to worldwide open radio internet streams, somehow breaks copyright rules

See article from



Offsite Article: WhatsApp sues Israeli firm...

Link Here1st November 2019
Facebook heroically takes on hacking and snooping specialist NGO who used a vulnerability in Whatsapp to plant snooping software on activist's phones

See article from



Offsite Article: A Russian controlled internet...

Link Here1st November 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in Russia...Russia and its repressive state control of media
A detailed look at some of the measure moving towards an isolated Russian internet

See article from



Offsite Article: Netflix expands into a world full of censors, particularly in Turkey...

Link Here 1st November 2019
Full story: Netflix Censorship...Streaming TV to a variety of censorship regimes
The company is having to navigate different political and moral landscapes, and calls for government oversight, as it seeks subscribers worldwide.

See article from

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