March 1, 2010
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he would consider introducing an internet ombudsman after Facebook tributes to two dead children were defaced with pornography.
Rudd said he would look into an idea put forward by Independent Senator Nick Xenophon to appoint an official who would be responsible for taking complaints and action against such material.
‘We actually need to do everything we can to combat cyber crime,’ Rudd said.
‘The role of cyber crime and internet bullying on children is, frankly, frightening and we need to be deploying all practical measures.’
Memorial pages on the social networking site for eight-year-old Trinity Bates and Elliott Fletcher, 12, who were allegedly murdered in separate incidents this month, have been vandalised with offensive material.
Rudd said responsible governments were obliged to act to protect children.
‘And this is where we get into this really stupid debate with what I’d describe as extreme civil libertarianism, which says any such move in that direction means the imposition of Soviet Communism a la 1980,’ Rudd said.
‘Look, it’s not like that. It’s not perfect, but we need to reduce the problem.’
Rudd also defended the government’s proposed internet filter, which is designed to block child pornography, terrorist material and other extreme and offensive information, saying it was in line with how movies and videos were censored.
He said the filtering, which will be carried out by Internet service providers, slowed the speed of web-surfing but only to ‘the equivalent to 1/70th of the blink of an eye.’
‘It’s not perfect, but let me tell you I will not stand idly by and allow this sort of muck to be put online without making an effort to reduce it, given the enormous impact it has on the safety of children,’ Rudd said.
The move has proved controversial among internet user groups as well as web giants Google and Yahoo!, and prompted activists to launch an attack shutting down government sites earlier this month.
26 February 2010 – by Joe McNamee
The Italian court’s decision in the Google/Vividown case is as incomprehensible as it is disturbing. Unfortunately, as the full ruling will not be made available for some time, we can only guess at the specifics of the court’s decision.
The three Google executives, rather than the company itself, were held criminally responsible for breaches of Italy’s data protection laws. The convictions could have been based on Google’s role as the provider of a ‘hosting’ service for videos or, secondly, with regard to the privacy of the individuals in the video.
Providers of hosting services may not, following an EU Directive of 2000, be held liable if they expeditiously remove material upon receipt of a notice that material is illegal. While there is some debate about when the item was actually taken offline, prosecutors argued Google ‘should have’ known about the video and that the internet giant should never have allowed the video to be uploaded. It seems both legally and logically implausible to argue that internet service providers of any type should live in a legal limbo, carrying out surveillance of their users based on a court’s belief they ‘should have known’.
On the second issue, the privacy of the boy victimised in the video, it seems difficult to see how credible the prosecutions evidence could have been as the Italian data protection authority did not support this case. In either scenario it seems very unlikely that the court decision was legally sound but the decision is part of a wider and profoundly dangerous trend in Italy with regard to freedom of communication, privacy and expression.
* Italy already has internet filtering laws that are almost certainly in contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights.
* In January 2010, the Italian government proposed measures for prior checks of all content to be placed on video hosting site, blogs and news media.
* Media freedom in Italy continues to decline according to Freedom House, who registered a further deterioration in the country in its most recent report.
In such a context, the ‘chilling effect’ of this judgement could be far-reaching. In an environment where the providers of online services have little or no legal certainty, the only realistic option would appear to be to err on the side of caution and censorship and many journalists and commentators seem to be taking the line of least resistance.
But in concert with the Italian government’s pre-existing plans to monitor all internet uploads this case could threaten user-generated content.
When legislation was proposed to outlaw anonymity online in order ‘to fight paedophiles’ it was quickly revealed that document was secretly authored by Univideo, the Italian union for the movie industry. So was the Union’s concern really child abuse or was it copyright?
Unfortunately, the situation in Italy appears to be a sign of the future rather than an isolated case. The European Commission is in discussions with industry ‘stakeholders’ about how to police the internet more efficiently for intellectual property infringements. The United States for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) proposes that internet providers put ‘measures’ in place to prevent infringements in order to avoid secondary liability for transgressions of their clients and the European Commission is also soon due to publish proposals for internet blocking. But don’t worry, its just to protect children; nothing sinister!
Joe McNamee works as Advocacy Coordinatory for European Digital Rights in Brussels (EDRi). He works on issues related to privacy, cybercrime, intellectual property, freedom of information/communication and related topics.
Opposition grows to internet filter
ARI SHARP COMMUNICATIONS CORRESPONDENT
February 25, 2010
Senator Conroy has won the backing of cabinet and is awaiting debate about the internet filtering plan in the party room next month. Photo: Andrew Meares
BACKBENCH MPs on both sides of politics opposed to the government’s internet filtering proposal are vigorously lobbying their colleagues, creating a potential roadblock to the plan backed by the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy.
A group of four young Liberal MPs – Simon Birmingham, Alex Hawke, Michael Johnson and Jamie Briggs – are leading the charge against the filter within the Coalition, while the Labor senator Kate Lundy is putting a case to her colleagues in favour of an optional filter.
Senator Conroy has won the backing of cabinet and is awaiting debate in the party room next month, while the Coalition is waiting for more detail. With the Greens indicating their opposition, the Coalition’s position is likely to decide the filter’s fate.
The government’s proposal involves internet service providers blocking access to websites that appear on a blacklist because of content that falls foul of Australia’s classification guidelines, including portrayals of sexual violence and instructions on committing crime.
Mr Hawke said his biggest objection was that the mandatory nature of the filter took control out of the hands of individuals, while he also had doubts about filtering’s effectiveness.
”The government’s stated aim of filtering child pornography is not something that many people could disagree with, but the point is it won’t achieve that end,” he told the Herald. ”People will still be able to access that illegal content … and it will do all sorts of other things such as slow down the internet, plus potentially there will be lists of things censored that we don’t really want censored.”
One Liberal MP said older members of the party room were more sympathetic to the government position, while another claimed the issue was resonating with the electorate.
Despite the vocal opposition, McNair Ingenuity research released a fortnight ago found support for the filter running at 80 per cent.
On the Labor side, Senator Lundy has put forward an alternative ”optional filtering” proposal, by which households will be able to indicate to their internet service provider whether they want a filter rather than having one automatically put in place.
Senator Conroy remains resolute in his support for the filter, and through a spokeswoman noted the legislation was scheduled during the autumn session of Parliament, which runs until next month.
”The government believes this content has no place in a civilised society,” the spokeswoman said, noting the filter would bring overseas hosted internet material in line with Australian internet content and offline material such as DVDs and magazines.
The shadow communications spokesman, Tony Smith, said the Coalition supported measures to protect children from inappropriate online content.
(Entry by Dr. Yaman Akdeniz)
Good news and bad news at the same time. Glad the Lords thought the government’s plan was no good but at the same time they offered “court ordered blocking powers” as an alternative measure. Website blocking is a crude measure and it is not even half a preventative measure. It does not address the “problem” and by blocking access to websites the alleged infringements d o not disappear. What happens is that users are punished rather than the offenders who uploaded the allegedly infringing materials in the first place.
I have recently addressed the problems associated with regards to blocking access to websites within the Turkish context and my analysis can be found in an OSCE report: Akdeniz, Y., Report of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media on Turkey and Internet Censorship, January 2010, at <http://www.osce.org/documents/rfm/2010/01/42294_en.pdf>.
04 March, 2010
The government has been defeated in the House of Lords over measures to tackle online piracy after opponents said the plans could hamper digital innovation.
Ministers want the power to change laws on online copyright in future without the need for further legislation. The Lords said the ‘blanket nature’ of the clause was ‘objectionable’.
But their chosen replacement – giving courts the right to block internet sites which are infringing copyright – has also prompted criticism.
The government argued that the new Digital Economy Bill should include the power to amend copyright law to ensure legislation could cope with more technically advanced forms of piracy in the future.
But Google and Facebook were among the firms to express ‘grave concerns’ about the provision, saying it could allow ministers to ‘increase monitoring of user data even where no illegal practice has taken place’.
And on Wednesday, Lords voted to support a Conservative and Liberal Democrat amendment to the bill which paves the way for the clause to be scrapped. Lib Dem spokesman Lord Clement-Jones said it would be replaced with a measure allowing courts to use injunctions to force internet service providers (ISPs) to block certain websites. He said the ‘more proportionate, specific and appropriate’ measure, approved by 165 votes to 140, would tackle websites offering films or music illegally.
‘There are several sites out there on the web, many of which are based outside the UK, which refuse to stop supplying access to illegal content – indeed whose business plan depends on supplying illegal content,’ Lord Clement-Jones said.
“We cannot rely on the front bench of any major party to respect or understand the internet and modern technology” Pirate Party UK
‘At the moment it is not explicit what could be done about such sites.
‘This site-blocking remedy would give rights holders an explicit, swift recourse to courts to block access to those sites.’
He added: ‘I believe this is going to send a powerful message… that we do not believe in censoring the internet, but we are responding to genuine concerns from the creative industries about providing a process whereby their material can be satisfactorily accessed legally.’
But the amendment has caused just as much concern in some quarters.
The Internet Services Providers’ Association said it would lead to ‘blocking based on accusation rather than a court injunction’.
“I don’t think it would be sensible or appropriate to adopt this approach” – Lord Young of Norwood Green, junior innovation minister, on site-blocking
The Open Rights Group said the industry was ‘faced with an appalling sight’ – a choice between the government’s flawed stance, and that of the Lib Dems and Tories, who are ‘pushing an approach likely to produce straightforward threats, bans and withdrawals of sites with user generated content’.
Pirate Party UK, which campaigns on the issue, said the new measure does not require offending websites to be hosting the infringing material, only that such material is ‘accessible at or via’ the location.
Therefore, it said it could affect search engines like Google and sites like YouTube, adding: ‘Today’s events clearly demonstrate that we cannot rely on the front bench of any major party to respect or understand the internet and modern technology.’
Junior innovation minister Lord Young of Norwood Green said blocking websites was an ‘enormous step’.
He said it would be hard to block sites offering illegal content without also blocking legitimate material, and agreed that sites linking to other sites – such as search engines – could be adversely affected.
‘I don’t think it would be sensible or appropriate to adopt this approach,’ he warned during the debate on the bill.
A must read….
BBC News – Is it time to defend our rights?
Copyright is not the only thing that matters online, says Bill Thompson
John Young is a brave and tenacious man, an architect based in New York whose website, cryptome.org, has been a safe online repository for documents that someone, somewhere does not want published.