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27th May

  Advert Censorship in 2015...

ASA and CAP publish their Annual Report
Link Here
asa annual report 2015

Advert Censor ASA and CAP (who write the rules) have published their Annual Report covering 2015. They issued the following press release:

ASA and CAP Annual Report 2015: The balance is shifting 26 May 2016

Figures published today [Thursday 26 May] show the changing landscape of advertising regulation continues to be dominated by online ads, with the number of internet cases standing at over double those of the second most prolific medium, TV (8,633 compared to 3,920). Meanwhile, the mass-viewing nature of TV ensured that ads on the box generated the greatest number of individual complaints from consumers (11,611), taking back the top spot from the Internet.

The league table was released today as part of our and the Committee of Advertising Practice's (CAP's) annual report. The report also shows how advertising regulation itself is changing, owing to a rebalancing from complaints-led work towards more proactive interventions in markets where consumers are facing harm. Examples include a new approach to broadband pricing, sector-wide advice for osteopaths on how to advertise responsibly, and new guidance for vloggers on the disclosure of paid-for endorsements.

Consequently, while the number of consumer complaints about ads declined by 7.9% to 29,554, 2015 was a record year in terms of the number of ads that were changed or withdrawn as a result of our regulation (4,584). While this figure has risen 32% since 2014, it still represents only a small proportion of the overall advertising landscape -- data also published today suggests fewer members of the public saw problem ads in 2015 - 17%, down from 22% in 2013.

The report also shows which sectors and media received the most complaints during 2015. Notably, complaints about ads on public transport increased 153% - primarily owing to the high-profile and controversial Are you beach body ready? ad.

The most complained about sector was Leisure (films, DVDs, computer games, gambling), with 3,932 complaints about 2,530 cases. Meanwhile, the financial sector saw a 78% rise in complaints, driven primarily by the Moneysupermarket.com ad featuring Dancing Dave , which was the most complained about ad of 2015.

Conversely, the alcohol sector saw complaints decline by 37% to just 118 about 90 ads.

Guy Parker, Chief Executive of the ASA said:

The ASA's ambition is to make every UK ad a responsible ad and recent changes show how our regulation is becoming more proactive and having more impact. Alongside our important work resolving consumer complaints, we've taken proactive action in areas that make the biggest difference for the public. As well as the record number of ads changed or withdrawn, the volume of our compliance work has trebled to almost 5,500 cases.

The figures we've published today also show how protecting consumers, particularly children, online continues to be an urgent priority.

In 2016, we'll be implementing changes to broadband pricing, as well as examining gender discrimination in ads, and exploring ways to reduce children's exposure to ads for age-restricted products in social media.

 

27th May

  #Censors...

Instagram censors content tagged with lesbian and gay terms
Link Here
instagram logo Instagram is blocking lesbian, gay and bisexual content, by censoring images collated under a range of gay hashtags.

The blocked tags include #lesbian, #gays, #lesbians, #bi. Some other hashtags such as #gay, are not.

When attempting to browse certain hashtags, users are shown a select few images, along with the following message:

Recent posts from #lesbian are currently hidden because the community has reported some content that may not meet Instagram's community guidelines.

A spokescensor for Instagram told HuffPost UK that these hashtags have been restricted to a top posts setting, which is reserved for hashtags that contain a large amount of violating content .

When a hashtag is censored in this way, Instagram removes the most recent section and only display 33 top posts , which have been approved by moderators. This will remain the case until the hashtags are no longer used to post violating content .

Users can still post images using the hashtag, but the images just won't collate on the page.

 

27th May

 Commented: More suffocating EU legislation...

Revision of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD)
Link Here  full story: AVMS...EU law on internet video censorship

european commission logo A new legislative proposal amending the AVMSD has been adopted by the European Commission on 25 May 2016. The reform brings the Directive in line with the new realities. Share A media framework for the 21st century

Viewers, and particularly minors, are moving from traditional TV to the online world, while the regulatory burden is much higher on TV. The Directive therefore introduces flexibility when restrictions only applicable to TV are no longer justified. At the same time, it ensures that consumers will be sufficiently protected in the on-demand and Internet world. This is done while making sure that innovation will not be stifled.

The idea is to achieve a balance between competitiveness and consumer protection.

What's new?

The main new elements of the proposal are summarised below:

  1. The Country of origin principle (COO)

    COO is a cornerstone of the Directive . It will be maintained and facilitated by:

    • simplifying the rules which determine the country having jurisdiction over a provider,

    • establishing an obligation on Member States to inform about what providers are under their jurisdiction and maintaining an up-to-date database to ensure transparency,

    • clarifying cooperation procedures between Member States regarding permissible limitations to COO.
       

  2. Commercial Communications

    The proposed modifications aim at reducing the burden of TV broadcasters while maintaining, and even reinforcing those rules seeking to protect the most vulnerable. For example, the revised AVMSD:

    • maintains the strict 20% limit on advertising time, but gives broadcasters more flexibility as to when ads can be shown,

    • it allows more flexibility in putting product placement and sponsorship,

    • it encourages the adoption of self- and co-regulation for the existing rules seeking to protect the most vulnerable (alcohol advertising, fatty food, minors, etc.).
       

  3. Promotion of European works

    The proposed modifications aim at enhancing the promotion of European works by:

    • allowing MS to impose financial contributions to providers of on-demand services established in other MS (but only on the turnover generated in the imposing country),

    • putting on-demand players under the obligation to promote European content to a limited level by imposing a minimum quota obligations (20% share of the audiovisual offer of their catalogues) and an obligation to give prominence to European works in their catalogues,

    • low turnover companies, thematic services and small and micro enterprises are exempted from these requirements.
       

  4. Prohibition of hate speech

    The grounds for prohibiting hate speech will be aligned to those of the Framework Decision on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia ( Decision 2008/913/JHA ). This prohibits incitement to violence and hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to sex, race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin.
     

  5. Protection of Minors

    The proposed modifications aim at simplifying the obligation to protect minors against harmful content. It now says that everything that 'may be harmful' should be restricted on all services. The most harmful content shall be subject to the strictest measures, such as PIN codes and encryption. This will apply also to on-demand services.

    Member States shall ensure that audiovisual media service providers provide sufficient information to viewers about harmful content to minors. For this purpose, Member States may use a system of descriptors indicating the nature of the content of an audiovisual media service.
     

  6. Platforms

    Video-sharing platforms will be included in the scope of the AVMSD only when it comes to combat hate speech and dissemination of harmful content to minors.

    Platforms which organise and tag a large quantity of videos will have to protect minors from harmful content and to protect all citizens from incitement to hatred, based on new EU-specific terms in the revised AVMSD. Fully in line with the ecommerce Directive , this builds on existing efforts by the industry and will be implemented by co-regulation.
     

  7. The Audiovisual Regulators

    The independence of audiovisual regulators will be enshrined into EU law by ensuring that they are legally distinct and functionally independent from the industry and government (eg they do not seek nor take instructions), operate in a transparent and accountable manner which is set out in a law and have sufficient powers.
     

  8. ERGA (The European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services)

    ERGA will have a bigger role in shaping and preserving the internal market, for example in assessing EU co-regulatory codes and will take part in the procedures derogating from the country of origin.

    The role of the European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services (ERGA) will be set out in EU legislation.

What's next?

Once adopted by the European Commission, the legislative proposal is sent to the European Parliament and to the Council.

Offsite Comment: Onus on Companies

cdt logo 27th May 2016. See  article from cdt.org

There are positive messages in the document, but also some problematic ones. CDT has consistently pushed back on proposals that would endanger the internet as an enabler of free expression, public debate, and access to information.

...See full article from cdt.org

The Centre for Democracy and Technology describes itself as:

CDT is a champion of global online civil liberties and human rights, driving policy outcomes that keep the Internet open, innovative, and free.

 

25th May

  Nothing to Hide...

The case against the UK ban on extreme pornography. By Nick Cowen
Link Here
nothing to hide The Adam Smith Institute has just released a new paper by Nicholas Cowen of Kings College London: Nothing to Hide: The case against the ban on extreme pornography.

In it, Cowen makes a robust case against the current prohibition on acts that are legal to perform--and yet not to record--show it to be expensive, dangerous, and illiberal.

The executive summary of the paper reads:

  • The ban on possession of extreme pornography was introduced in 2009 and extended in 2015. The law, as drafted, bans depictions of some sex acts that can be conducted safely and consensually between adults, with a specific risk of prosecution posed to LGBT minorities.
     
  • The Crown Prosecution Service reports more than a thousand offences prosecuted each year, implying significant enforcement costs that could be deployed effectively elsewhere.
     
  • A significant minority of the British population enjoy sexually aggressive fantasy scenarios but do not pose a specific risk of committing violent or sexual offences.
     
  • Access to pornography has increased dramatically in recent years, yet social harms imputed to pornography (especially violence against women) have reduced moderately but significantly.
     
  • While some survey evidence claims a correlation between individual use of pornography and sexual aggression, econometric evidence suggests this is not a causal relationship and that, if anything, increased access to pornography can reduce measurable social harms.
     
  • The ban itself represents a potential risk to political integrity. Like the ban on homosexuality in much of the 20th century, prohibitions on private sexual conduct can be used to silence, blackmail and corrupt individuals in positions of authority and responsibility.
     
  • There are better policies for reducing violence against women in the dimensions of criminal justice, education and economic reform.
     
  • The prevailing free speech doctrine in the United States shows that it is realistically possible to simultaneously tackle damaging forms of expression and maintain strong protections for innocuous forms.

Sam Bowman, Executive Director of the Adam Smith Institute said,

Most people don't want the government in their bedrooms, but that's what extreme porn laws do. This report highlights just how bad these laws really are -- they turn millions of law-abiding adults into potential criminals simply for enjoying consensual spanking or dressing up in the bedroom. The evidence is very clear that pornography does not drive violence, and indeed it may reduce it. These are badly drafted laws that should never have made it to the statute books, and this report confirms the urgent need for the government to scrap them."

Nick Cowen, author of the paper said,

The extreme porn ban criminalises depictions of sex acts even if they are safely performed by consenting adults. We have seen the law used, in particular, to target and expose gay men. Each such case represents a personal tragedy and a disgraceful use of our criminal justice system's scarce resources. The costs of the law are disproportionate to any public benefit, and as implemented cannot plausibly protect women's interests for which the ban was supposedly introduced.

...Read the full paper Nothing to Hide briefing paper [pdf] from adamsmith-private.squarespace.com

 

25th May

 Offsite Article: Age verification: Credit cards, classism and social exclusion...

Link Here  full story: UK Governments Consults on Age Checks for Porn...Government proposes censoring porn websites that are not age verified
why would A response to government plans to try and ban internet porn. By Pandora Blake

See article from pandorablake.com

 

24th May

 Offsite Article: Fear and censorship in Germany...

Link Here  full story: Free Speech in Germany...Criticism of refugees or Turkey now banned
Spiked logo The prosecution of the Pegida leader reflects the elite's contempt for the people. By Sabine Beppler-Spahl

See article from spiked-online.com

 

24th May

 Offsite Article: Censorship by Copyright...

Link Here
mumsnet The Guardian follows a case where a building company gets nasty over a bad review on Mumsnet

See article from theguardian.com

 

23rd May

 Update: Raging Bitch...

Brewery launches free speech group with damages won from Michigan's drinks censors
Link Here  full story: Drink Censors in the US...Objecting to beer labels
raging bitch beer This month Flying Dog Brewery is launching a 1st Amendment Society, funded by the damages the Maryland company won from Michigan officials who tried to ban its Raging Bitch Belgian-Style IPA.

The new organization, which will sponsor a journalism scholarship and talks on freedom of speech, is the product of a six-year legal battle that began in 2009, when members of the Michigan Liquor Control Commission took offense at the Raging Bitch label, which the agency had to approve before the beer could legally be sold in that state.

The Raging Bitch label features an illustration by Ralph Steadman shows a wild dog presenting human female genitalia as well as possessing semblances of human female breasts.

Michigan's alcohol regulators did not like the label. Initially, in November 2009, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission said the name of the beer and Steadman's message ran afoul of a rule prohibiting labels deemed to promote violence, racism, sexism, intemperance or intoxication or to be detrimental to the health, safety or welfare of the general public.

See  article from reason.com for a full description of the subsequent court battles.

 

23rd May

  Fat Bottomed Girls Twerking...

Tanzanian music censors are 'shocked'
Link Here
chura dance video Snura Mushi's latest popular hit Chura has not only led Tanzanian authorities to ban the video and its distribution, but they have also banned the artist from performing until the video is edited,.

The information, culture, arts and sports ministry's head of information and censorship Zawadi Msalla said the government was shocked at the video , and that the ban was enacted due to the immoral acts featured in the video.

Msalla said that Mushi has been instructed not to distribute or release her controversial and immoral video in other social media, such as Whatsapp, Instagram, Facebook and several others , adding that people who distribute the video will be charged according to the 2014 Cyber Crime Act.

Further, the artist has also been banned from performing publicly until, Msalla notes, the video is changed and then registered at the National Arts Council.

Mushi's Chura video consists solely of scenes of several women in dresses twerking on a beach and has 640,000 views on YouTube since its release on 25 April 2016.

 

23rd May

 Offsite Article: Obscenely out of date definitions...

Link Here  full story: UK Governments Consults on Age Checks for Porn...Government proposes censoring porn websites that are not age verified
bbfc 100 years of censorship Response to the Government consultation on Child Safety Online: Problems with the existing classification system. By Pandora Blake

See article from pandorablake.com

 

23rd May

 Offsite Article: Censors from a bygone era...

Link Here
Spit Your Grave Region NTSC A rare press foray into the era of the video nasties with the authorities revealing that they are still miserable gits

See article from kentnews.co.uk

 

23rd May

 Offsite Article: Bad News...

Link Here
ghostery know about website trackers Research shows that news websites are more aggressive trackers than porn sites

See article from motherboard.vice.com

 

22nd May

  On a repressive note...

Religious censors in Turkey issue a fatwa banning sexual music
Link Here

Istanbul Sokaklari Kramp Artists are facing severe difficulties under Erdogan's rule in Turkey. On 15 February 2016, The Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs, issued a fatwa -- a religious ban -- on sexual music.

The Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs is a governmental institution responsible for managing the religious affairs in Turkey. It is infamous for its scandalous fatwas.

On 15 February 2016, a new fatwa hit the news. The Directorate distributed a 2016 calendar, in which they included a Q&A for each day. On the page for the day 24 August, the question was What is the place of music in religion? Which types of music are halal (acceptable for Islam)? The answer started with some general information:

According to Quran, there is no proof which shows that making or listening to music is a sin. In this sense, the types of music which do not contradict with the fundamental beliefs of our religion and with the general moral values are unobjectionable.

Then came the but :

BUT... making or listening to music which includes expressions or depictions that arouse sexual desires or which show haram things as beautiful is a sin.

The fatwas by the Directorate, whose members are all appointed by the government, are not legally binding or cannot be used as legal opinions or precedents, but they have practical effect. They form public opinion. They direct the central and local governments about what type of art and which artists to support. They encourage public prosecutors to start cases against Islamically unacceptable art works and artists. They present legitimacy for the government's change of legislature. They are influential.

An imam, previously with the rockband Kramp , who now runs the band Firock , is opposing the Directorate's fatwa from a religious perspective.

 

22nd May

  'Have mercy on us and leave us alone'...

Lebanon's government censor bans song for asking god to leave us alone
Link Here
Ya Balad Bachar Mar Khalife   The censorship bureau of Lebanon's General Security Directorate has banned Bachar Mar-Khalife's song Kyrie Eleison because it supposedly contains offenses to God as the singer talked to God in the song saying, 'have mercy on us and leave us alone' .

The authorities further stated that if Bashar Mar-Khalife wants to promote his album in the country then he must delete the song from the album. Authorities also cllaimed in their statement that the song included words that could be interpreted as sexual innuendo.

 

22nd May

 Offsite Article: The Daily Mail recommends...

Link Here
neon demon spanish The Neon Demon, a 'grim film featuring murder, cannibalism and lesbian NECROPHILIA that even shocked Cannes'

See article from dailymail.co.uk

 

21st May

 Update: Government must ensure it protects free speech...

UK free speech campaigners join to voice their concerns about the government's new counter-extremism plans...
Link Here  full story: Extremism in the UK...UK government introduces wide raning ban on extremism

groups against extremism law logo A broad coalition of campaign groups including the National Secular Society has warned that proposals contained in the Queen's Speech could criminalise a wide swathe of speech.

Campaigners say the government's planned Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill must be carefully crafted to avoid damaging freedom of expression.

 Jodie Ginsberg, chief executive of Index on Censorship said:

The government's move to counter extremism must not end up silencing us all," "We should resist any attempts to make it a crime for people of faith to talk publicly about their beliefs, for political parties to voice unpopular views, and for venues from universities to village halls to host anyone whose opinions challenge the status quo. We urge the government to use its consultation to ensure this does not happen.

The government's plans to tackle extremism through a new civil order regime and other measures must not undermine the very values it aims to defend, free expression organisations said on Wednesday.

Index on Censorship, English PEN, the National Secular Society, the Christian Institute, ARTICLE 19, Big Brother Watch, Manifesto Club and the Peter Tatchell Foundation welcomed plans to consult on the matter, following their demands earlier this year.

The proposals for a new law, outlined in the Queen's Speech, are more ambiguous than earlier proposals made by this government, but nevertheless leave open broad measures to police a wide swathe of speech and should be resisted, the groups said.

The new legislation will include giving law enforcement agencies new powers to protect vulnerable people -- including children -- from those who seek to brainwash them with extremism propaganda so we build a stronger society around our shared liberal values of tolerance and respect , according to the background notes accompanying the Queen's Speech.

More specifically, the government proposals are to legislate:

  • Stronger powers to disrupt extremists and protect the public.

  • Powers to intervene in intensive unregulated education settings which teach hate and drive communities apart.

  • A new civil order regime to restrict extremist activity, following consultation.

  • Closing loopholes so that Ofcom can continue to protect consumers who watch internet-streamed television content from outside the EU on Freeview.

The new proposals should avoid creating an environment that could make it even harder for people of all faiths and ideologies to express their beliefs and opinions, the groups said. Current legislation already prohibits incitement to violence and terrorism, and a compelling case for broadening them further through civil measures has not been made.

Jodie Ginsberg, Chief Executive of Index on Censorship said:

The government's move to counter extremism must not end up silencing us all. We should resist any attempts to make it a crime for people of faith to talk publicly about their beliefs, for political parties to voice unpopular views, and for venues from universities to village halls to host anyone whose opinions challenge the status quo. We urge the government to use its consultation to ensure this does not happen.

The groups said plans to introduce new laws in this area presented three main risks:

1. Definitions

It is still not clear how new legislation would deal with the problem of defining "extremism" in a way that would not threaten free speech.

The government has previously defined extremism broadly as "the vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs". The continued lack of a clear definition risks outlawing any political expression that does not reflect mainstream or popular views.

Britain already has a host of laws to tackle the incitement of terrorist acts, as well as racial and religious hatred. The government has previously been criticised for the broad definitions of "terrorism" in existing legislation, and the definition of "extremism" in the Prevent Strategy. The proposed bill must not introduce new vague terminology and widen the net even further.

"The government's approach to extremism is unfocused. Unless we can make them see sense, the range of people who could find themselves labelled 'extremist' by their own government is about to get a whole lot wider," said Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute.

2. Nature of new civil orders

The government is ambiguous on whether they are still considering "extremism disruption orders" or "banning orders" within the package of civil measures. Though the promised consultation is welcome, these draconian measures are clearly not off the table.

Baroness Manningham-Buller, former head of MI5, has said previously that extremists need to be exposed, challenged and countered. The proposed measures would have the opposite effect and should not find their way into the new civil order regime.

"Extremism banning orders could mean political activists -- or any other activists deemed to be 'anti-democratic' -- such as environmental activists -- could be outlawed in future, thereby undermining democracy itself," said Jo Glanville, Director of English PEN.

Extremist disruption orders (EDO), suggested under earlier plans for the bill, could have a similar chilling effect on free expression and democracy. Under original plans for EDOs, the police would be able to apply to the high court for an order to restrict the "harmful activities" of an "extremist" individual. The definition of "harmful" could include a risk of public disorder, a risk of harassment, alarm or distress, or the ill-defined "threat to the functioning of democracy".

Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society, said: "The prosecution thresholds for EDOs -- as originally envisaged -- are worryingly low -- civil, not criminal -- yet the consequences of granting of such an order, even if not broken, are likely to be very serious, e.g. rendering the recipient unemployable. Few faced with such a threat are likely to have the resources to mount any defence as proceedings will be at the High Court."

"No convincing case has been made for the necessity of new measures to restrict free speech. Existing measures are already deterring individuals and groups from engaging in open debate on important issues. The plans re-announced today, though watered down, do not sufficiently address criticism the government has received; they not only threaten to further chill legitimate speech, but may also fuel divisive ideologies and make us less safe," said Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.

3. International implications

Governments across the world -- such as Russia, Turkey and Egypt -- are increasingly using national security laws to censor free expression, including in the media. The government's moves are likely to legitimise and embolden these efforts, setting a counter-productive example.

UN and regional human rights experts have jointly raised concerns regarding the potential impact of broadly defined initiatives to counter violent extremism on the free expression of minority and dissenting views. They have called for responses to violent extremism to be evidence based, and to respect international human rights law on freedom of expression and non-discrimination.

Conclusion

We call on the government to consult widely with all stakeholders, including civil society and minority groups, to ensure that a bill intended to tackle extremism does not undermine one of the values at the heart of democracy: that of free speech for all.

 

21st May

 Offsite Article: Saving New Zealand from harm...

Link Here
andrew jack National Portrait: Dr Andrew Jack, Chief Censor

See article from stuff.co.nz