US, UK Separately Introduce ISP Censorship Bills

Via XBIZ, lawmakers in both the US and UK have separately proposed measures to censor or tax access to mature content online:


Legislative Attempts to Filter Porn in the U.S. Are Mounting

New Mexico will join about two dozen other states that will slate legislative attempts in 2017 to force ISPs and makers of PCs and mobile devices to install porn filters. Read more>>

Despite previous attempts, introducing mandatory filters in the U.S. for objectionable content has never come to fruition, because such proposals would be struck down as violations of both the 1st Amendment and the Commerce Clause, which does not permit individual states to regulate Internet commerce by filtering.


U.K. Digital Economy Bill Moves Forward to House of Lords

Members of the House of Commons today approved the third reading of the U.K. Digital Economy Bill, effectively sending the draft legislation to the House of Lords for consideration. Read more>>

What Trump Win Means for Adult Biz and the Internet

Impact on the adult industry:


Studio Heads Weigh In on Trump as President

Donald Trump triumphed last night, and now the adult entertainment biz is trying to figure out what it all means. Read more>>

“… Trump went on record saying that pornography should be illegal,” (Penthouse owner Kelly) Holland said. “Face it, Trump is the puppet. The strings will be pulled by his ultra-conservative vice president, [Mike] Pence, his presumptive attorney general, [Rudy] Giuliani and the rest of the alt-right that will pull the strings.


Impact on the Internet:

From DSL Reports:

Trump Could Spell Big Trouble for Broadband, Net Neutrality

While Hillary Clinton was seen as overly-cozy with telecom in her own right, new President elect Donald Trump is already laying the ground work for an administration that could spell major trouble for broadband consumers, broadband competition, and the nation’s new net neutrality rules. Trump has made it clear he vehemently opposes net neutrality, despite repeatedly making it clear he’s not entirely certain what net neutrality even is.

More from DSL Reports

On a positive note for companies like AT&T, Trump has given every indication that he opposes net neutrality — despite seemingly not understanding what it is. And while his telecom policy proposals have been murky at best, a Republican-controlled FCC is likely to kill numerous policy efforts including cable box reform and efforts to bring additional competition to bear on industry incumbents.

More from Gizmodo:

Donald Trump does not support net neutrality. Actually, he thinks it will lead to the censorship of conservative media. “Obama’s attack on the internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target conservative media,” he tweeted in 2014.

UK Age Verification Proposal Omits Privacy Protections

Even as the American organizations CDT and FSC work to promote consumer privacy for adult websites, UK authorities continue to plow ahead with their ill-conceived plan to require mandatory age verification for consumers to access adult material. (A similar plan in the US was defeated in court partly over First Amendment concerns regarding the right to receive controversial speech anonymously.) The UK has designated the British Board of Film Classification to perform age verification, but astonishingly, the law makes no provision to protect the privacy of adult-website visitors.

As described in this petition, “The Digital Economy Bill currently before Parliament will introduce compulsory age verification without guaranteeing privacy protections for subscribers. This omission risks users’ personal details and private sexual preferences being exploited for commercial gain and/or leaked into the public domain.”

Discussion of the Digital Economy Bill by The Independent

Update: adult industry stakeholders held a protest outside Parliament today against the bill, which they say “imposes state censorship and surveillance of consensual adult sexual content in the U.K.”

Can You Guess Which Country?

First Amendment lawyer J. D. Obenberger recently wrote at Xbiz:

Censorship starts here with porn. It always does. And, as always, this repression of speech starts with the proclaimed aim of “protecting the children.” Given the haphazard record of actual prosecution for distribution of porn and its selectivity against the lowest hanging fruit, least capable of defending itself, the thought that porn is a pretextual target for more sinister and wider purposes — and to justify the acquisition of tools for general censorship — has special appeal.

He might well have been referring to the USA or the UK, where officials have recently argued for laws prohibiting strong encryption on the pretense of preventing crime, but in this case he was writing about his experience visiting Russia, which can serve as a cautionary tale for Western democracies.

The article itself is fascinating and well worth a read: http://www.xbiz.com/articles/legal/210029

Trump Signs Anti-Porn Pledge

According to XBIZ and other news outlets, GOP presidential candidate (and former Playboy cover model) Donald Trump has signed an anti-porn pledge promulgated by a notorious pro-censorship organization called “Enough is Enough.” Most of the pledge is standard “save the children” fare with scant reference to adult erotica, but concerningly, it also affirms the false claim made this year by the Utah legislature — and now enshrined in the GOP platform — that online adult content is a hazard to public health.

The pledge also calls on private companies to partner with the government in “voluntary” efforts to reduce the supposed threat of minors seeing adult content, which sounds to me like an attempt to reinvigorate the age-verification and de-anonymization schemes which the US Government promoted in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s before they were mostly struck down by the courts. Such partnerships could also include more surveillance and data sharing by private companies, ostensibly to protect minors from being chatted at by perverts, but effectively invading everyone’s online privacy along the lines of the proposed “Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).”


Trump Signs Pledge to Crack Down on Porn If Elected

In a development that could sway stakeholders in the industry, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump signed a pledge two weeks ago stating he would aggressively enforce existing laws that prevent the sexual exploitation of children, including federal obscenity laws, child pornography laws, sexual predation laws and the sex trafficking laws. Read more>>

Sky Broadband Latest UK ISP to Block Adult Sites

According to Wired UK, Sky Broadband is the latest UK Internet provider to block adult websites by default for new customers as well as for existing customers who haven’t yet elected to opt out. As the article notes, the plan includes some potential pitfalls:

[T]he first time a user goes to a restricted website, they will be invited to amend the filter settings, or turn it off altogether. However, only the account holder will have the ability to do this – not necessarily a hurdle for families, but potentially a problem in shared houses of adult occupants. Sky’s announcement does not specify what filters will be used to determine whether a site is “inappropriate” or not.

I thought it would be interesting to see how this blog is filtered in the UK, as determined by https://www.blocked.org.uk/ (image below)

Open Rights Group report on this blog

Open Rights Group report on this blog

Google Accused of Manipulating Search Results to Favor Clinton

Among the many controversies which have characterized the 2016 US presidential primary season thus far, an article at financial news site Marketwatch now claims that Google’s search engine manipulates autocomplete results to conceal alleged wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton, a claim that the company denies. Urban-legend resource Snopes ran its own tests and explains the apparent bias by observing that Google, unlike Bing and Yahoo, disallows all autocomplete results that disparage persons.

Even if the claim of pro-Clinton manipulation is inaccurate, however, it is worth noting that Google does have close ties with the current Administration and possibly Mrs. Clinton. For example, see this article at QZ:

The stealthy, Eric Schmidt-backed startup that’s working to put Hillary Clinton in the White House

Also see Julia Angwin at Backchannel, who states that Google did manipulate search results during the 2012 elections to favor Barack Obama.

Users who want to avoid Google search entirely may wish to use privacy-friendly search services such as https://ixquick.eu or https://duckduckgo.com which do not rely on Google to power their results.


Also of interest: this bizarre screenshot of a Google search about Adolf Hitler posted by a user at voat.co:

Google search result

Really, Google

Utah Lawmaker Opens New Salvo Against Free Speech

Reopening old battles over free speech online, Utah legislator Todd Weller (R) is proposing a measure which would require that ISP’s block Utah customers from accessing adult content unless they specifically opt in. Further, he proposes that all smartphones sold in the state must come with adult-content filters enabled.

In view of the US Supreme Court’s rejection of previous attempts to censor online speech, the Utah proposal seems to me little more than political grandstanding which would burden the state’s taxpayers with court costs for fruitless litigation.

CBS News: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/utah-lawmaker-touts-sweeping-porn-restrictions-for-isps/

Tech Crunch: http://techcrunch.com/2016/05/23/utah-representatives-want-to-install-porn-blockers-on-all-cellphones/?ncid=rss

Pete Ashdown, the founder of Xmission, a local ISP provider in the state, called the proposal “unrealistic,” comparing it to censorship in China.

XBIZ article:


 Utah Lawmaker Seeks Porn Restrictions for ISPs

Utah state Sen. Todd Weiler, who led the successful charge to declare pornography a public health crisis, is planning to introduce legislation designed to heavily restrict access to porn across the state.

The Great Firewall of Britain

Xbiz reports that UK ISP Sky Broadband will soon be switching on adult-content filters by default:


Sky Broadband Switching On Porn Filters by Default

All new and existing Sky Broadband customers will be receiving an email soon asking if they want to turn their porn filters on. Read More>>

In related commentary, GHacks’ Martin Brinkmann says:

The Internet filter, or Great Firewall of Britain, is not effective in protecting children. While it blocks a good chunk of adult websites, it is overreaching in nature which means that legitimate sites are blocked by it as well.

Also see http://www.infoworld.com/article/3017962/open-source-tools/should-isps-filter-the-internet-for-their-customers.html?

EU Net Neutrality: Good and Bad

According to DSL Reports, last week the European Union approved, with little debate, a relatively weak set of net neutrality rules with many loopholes for ISP’s. However, a hidden gem in the new rules is that they prohibit default blocking of classes of content, such as the UK’s infamous default porn filters, so the UK may have to change its law to make the filters opt-in: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/eu-rules-uks-porn-filters-are-illegal-a6711756.html

Censorship

Censorship, courtesy opensource.com, CC license