ISP web blocks and online censorship debate

The Christchurch mosque attacks prompted unprecedented action from New Zealand Internet Service Providers, who tried to block access to the video of the attack.  This has just been extended.

We are heading into some important debate about censorship and free speech.

Newsroom:  ISP keeps Chch web blocks after Govt intervention

New Zealand’s largest internet provider has reversed plans to stop blocking websites which hosted videos of the Christchurch terror attack, after a last-minute intervention by the Government.

In the wake of the mosque shootings, a number of New Zealand’s biggest ISPs took what they themselves acknowledged was an “unprecedented step” – blocking websites which were hosting a video of the attack live-streamed by the alleged murderer, as well as his manifesto.

In an open letter explaining the move and calling for action from larger tech companies, the chief executives of Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees said the decision was the right one in “such extreme and tragic circumstances”.

On Tuesday evening, both Spark and Vodafone told Newsroom they would start to remove the remaining website blocks overnight.

“We believe we have now reached the point where we need to cease our extreme temporary measures to block these websites and revert to usual operating procedures,” a Spark spokeswoman said.

However, less than two hours after its initial response, Spark said the websites would continue to be blocked for several more days “following specific requests from Government”.

Newsroom understands the U-turn came after Government officials held discussions with the company, asking it to keep the blocks in place until after the official memorial service for the victims of the attack took place on Friday.

No indication of how much persuasion was required to prompt a rethink.

The ISPs’ original actions have raised issues of censorship, with the companies acknowledging that in some circumstances access to legitimate content may have been prevented.

Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said website blocking had been “a really useful short-term tool” to stop the spread of the content.

“They’ve [the ISPs] been really clear with everybody that they took on the filtering responsibility because they wanted to play their part in reducing the obvious harm occurring in the aftermath of the attacks, and they did that.”

But this leads to an important discussion on censorship. There is already online material that is ‘censored’, as it should be (child porn, snuff movies, terrorism related material), but there will always be pushes for more limits and also less limits.

Thomas Beagle, chairman of the NZ Council for Civil Liberties, said he had sympathy for the approach taken by ISPs following the “ghastly” attack, but the public needed to ask questions about whether similar blocking would occur in future.

“That was an exceptional situation and people took exceptional action – of course, the worry is now that it’s been done once, are people then going to start thinking, we can do it for other things as well?”

While there was an argument that the companies were simply exercising their contractual rights, Beagle said their near-monopoly in the telecommunications market meant there was a significant censorship issue.

“Civil liberties are traditionally concerned with government interference, but I think that when you’re talking about the dominant players who have 99 percent of the mobile market or more…that’s also an effective form of censorship as well.”

However, more traditional censorship by the Government could “extend and grow in an undesirable manner”, and would require a significant public conversation, he said.

There needs to be a lot of meaningful public discussion on the degree of censorship – as there has been over the Chief Censor recently ruling the terrorist’s manifesto harmful and there for illegal to possess or distribute in New Zealand (the easy availability internationally renders this a weak means of protection).

Censorship debate begins

What is clear is that the debate how to censor offensive material online is just beginning.

There has long been debate over censorship, but major events and actions in response will always draw more prominence to the arguments for and against.

Cocker said he supported the development of a formal, government-led process for blocking objectionable content when necessary, which would allow greater specificity in how content was blocked and set up oversight measures to avoid abuse.

“Those are the kind of things that come back to a government agency being empowered to take that responsibility, then all the telcos have got to do is just add the URL to the list and block it.”

However, Beagle said there was a question of whether ad-hoc arrangements would be preferable to a formalised process, given the rarity of an event like the Christchurch attack.

“Is it better to say hey, this is so out of the realm of normal day-to-day business we shouldn’t actually try and cater for it?

“I think it’s safe to say that we shouldn’t be rejigging our entire security infrastructure, internet filtering and censorship based on a one-off event which is utterly exceptional in New Zealand history.”

That’s an important point. A repeat of what happened in Christchurch seems very unlikely. Security measures should be reconsidered to look at how to minimise the risks, but public freedoms and free speech should not be over-restricted due to an abnormal one off situation.

Stuff imposes extensive commenting restrictions

Yesterday Stuff announced new terms and conditions for commenting on their website, which puts a lot of restrictions on types of comments and topics that be commented on. This is a flow on effect of  Christchurch Mosque attacks.

Immediately after the attacks David Farrar caused a lot of angst at Kiwiblog by imposing significant commenting restrictions, with anyone not identifying by their real name being put on auto-moderation (each of their comments needs to be approved by a moderator). There is still a lot of grizzling about it. From the last General Debate: (Monday, for some reason there wasn’t one yesterday):

DigNap15:

DF needs to change the name of this blog to
The sickly white liberal apologists blog.

Classical Liberal:

The moderation system is completely unfair to long term, reasonable KB supporters. I have always defended equal rights before the law for men, women, homosexuals, all ethnic groups.

But several of my perfectly reasonable comments are sitting here for hours.

I hope it’s just because it’s a slow Monday, not because the moderators have become immoderate!

Stuff updated yesterday – Terms and Conditions: User submitted content and comments

We (Stuff Limited) invite our readers (you) to post comments and profile information in a number of areas of the website.

The views expressed in the comments areas are not our views or opinions, nor the views or opinions of any of our staff or our related entities. We accept no liability in respect of any material posted in the comments areas, nor are we responsible for the content and accuracy of that material.

If you place reliance on material posted on this website you do so at your own risk, and you indemnify us (and our related entities) from any liabilities, claims, costs, loss (including consequential loss) or damage suffered or caused by reason of your reliance on any material posted in the comments areas.

Comment policy

Stuff welcomes comments from readers on our website.

We invite you to discuss issues and share your views. We encourage robust debate and criticism provided it is civil. But our comment section is a moderated online discussion, not a public forum.

We reserve the right to reject comments, images or links that:

  • are offensive or obscene;
  • contain objectionable or profane language – including use of symbols (we maintain a list of banned obscenities and comments featuring those words will be automatically rejected);
  • include personal attacks of any kind (including name-calling; insults; mocking the subjects of stories or other readers; or abusing Stuff journalists or contributors);
  • are discriminatory or express prejudice on the basis of race, ethnicity, country of origin, gender, sexuality, religion, or disability;
  • contain spam or include links to other sites;
  • are clearly off topic;
  • are deliberate lies or attempts to mislead. While we cannot review all comments for accuracy, we reserve the right to reject comments we consider, on the balance of probabilities, to be deliberate falsehoods;
  • impersonate an individual or organisation, are fraudulent, defamatory of any person, threatening or invasive of another’s privacy or otherwise illegal;
  • are trolling or threatening;
  • advocate or endorse violence, vigilantism or law breaking;
  • infringe on copyrights or trademarks;
  • are self-promoting;
  • violate the law or breach court-ordered suppressions or have the potential to breach future suppressions; or
  • constitute a contempt of court or that contain details of cases and individuals before the courts;
  • violate our terms and conditions for user generated content;
  • promote, advertise or solicit the sale of any goods or services;
  • nitpick other commenters’ spelling or grammar;
  • deny anthropogenic climate change;
  • deny the Holocaust;
  • add nothing to the debate;
  • just generally aren’t very nice.

That covers just about anything stuff decide they don’t want to publish – which is their their right on their website.

Those conditions are quite similar to what Whale Oil has operated under for several years.

Usernames are also bound by these Terms and Conditions and offensive usernames will be blocked. Using your real name is preferred best practice.

We reserve the right to cut, crop, edit or refuse to publish your content. We may remove your content from use at any time.

With rare exceptions, we will not usually enable comments on stories concerning:

  • 1080
  • allegations of criminality or misconduct
  • animal cruelty
  • beneficiaries
  • Christchurch mosque shootings of March 2019
  • court cases
  • domestic violence
  • fluoride
  • funerals
  • immigrants or refugees
  • Israel and Palestine
  • Kashmir
  • missing people
  • race
  • sexual orientation
  • suicide
  • Treaty of Waitangi
  • transgender issues
  • vaccination
  • vulnerable children

That’s a lot of topics deemed out of bounds for commenters.

They say they typically have several thousand comments a day submitted, so it’s a big workload monitoring them all.

Restricted or selective commenting is becoming more common.

Perhaps a reality is that media sites are not suited to open slather comments. Not only are they difficult to manage, they distract from their core purpose, to report news and to provide commentary.

Any site has the right to allow or not allow public comments.

Stuff: Our rights

We retain the right and discretion (but not the obligation) to edit, delete, reject or remove any comment which you post or seek to post in the comments or Stuff Nation areas.

As does any website owner or manager.

Kiwiblog Comments Policy:

Who has the right to post comments on this blog?

Apart from me, no-one at all has the right to post comments. Posting is a privilege, not a right.

Okay, so who is allowed to post comments here?

Anyone at all, up until the stage I ask them to stop or suspend them

There are plenty of other places that people can comment online, so it’s not really a restriction on free speech – before the Internet there was far less freedom to speak via newspapers, radio  and television.

Online discussion and debate will no doubt continue to evolve.

It’s not “democratic crowd sourcing of the moderation”

It’s not “democratic crowd sourcing of the moderation”, it’s a small number of people abusing moderation at Kiwiblog to censor comments.

A few numpties continue to abuse the Report function at Kiwiblog that is intended to counter abusive comments. This shows on a thread starting with this comment:

Surely Knott:

Lol. It’s not mob censorship – it’s democratic crowd sourcing of the moderation. And it’s a blog for grown ups so we don’t need to be protected from ideas, generally.

It’s not democratic when five people can target and effectively censor comments – and they don’t look like they’re acting like grown ups.

Further on in that thread:

It took some time for this to go into moderation, suggesting a gradual accumulation of REPORT clicking. But this is a clear abuse of the reporting function.

From Kiwiblog’s Comment Policy:

The other way you can signal you think a comment is unacceptable, is to click on the link which says “Report Abusive Comment”. If a certain threshold is reached of people reporting it, then the system will automatically hide the comment from view, and place it into moderation for a moderator to review. This can be the quickest way to remove an abusive comment from view. This should not be used for comments you merely disagree with, but only ones that are abusive.

A second comment has also been parked in moderation:

Pete George

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Linking to a source is normal practice, especially when there is more detail there.

In the site Comments Policy – https://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/comments_policy – there is no indication that linking to a source is a problem. I have never seen DPF say not to do it. I have had a strike for doing it.

Accusations of ‘link whoring’ amounts to a form of trolling to try to disrupt or discredit or censor. Reporting ‘link whoring’ seems to me to be an abuse of site processes. It is used to try to suppress free speech, something that is against the pro-free speech principles of Kiwiblog.

These comments are clearly not abusive, so this looks like a clear case of ongoing abuse of the reporting function – more mini-mob censorship.

Update: on a thread on this at Kiwiblog from Muttonbird:

Interesting that the comments policy left out some important additional information on the report process outlined by Mr Farrar when it was introduced in 2014.

Note that this feature should not be used on comments just because you disagree with them. If you continually report comments that are not abusive or trolling, then I’ll suspend your account. The up and down vote buttons are what you use for agreeing or disagreeing with a comment. This feature is for comments that are highly abusive.

https://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2014/09/an_easier_way_to_report_comments.html

Perhaps Mr Farrar needs to update his comments policy and clarify just what he wants this feature to do and the conditions under which it should be used. Because I don’t see a lot of suspensions happening right now for flagrant misuse.

https://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2019/01/general_debate_8_january_2019.html/comment-page-1#comment-2397658

Mob censorship in action at Kiwiblog?

I posted about some over the top comments and a ban at Kiwiblog on Thursday. There was no General debate at Kiwiblog that day, so I posted a comment and link on it yesterday. There was some reaction to it for a while, but then it disappeared into moderation – not just the comment but the whole thread.

It is still hidden in moderation nearly a day later.

Perhaps David Farrar is otherwise occupied and hasn’t had a chance to check moderation over the last day, or maybe he chose to leave the comment and thread in moderation – that would be his choice.

But of more interest – is this a form of mob censorship?

Some of the reaction was predictable (for Kiwiblog), like ‘igm’:

Do you not think Ardern deserves abuse . . . wake up you tosser!

But ‘redeye’ tried this old trick

That’s pretty disgusting link whoring for mine.

People post comments with links all the time – that’s a fundamental way the Internet works. Bloggers link to source material a lot – it is what many political blogs are based on. It is widely accepted.

DPF himself has Kiwiblog set up to link to posts at other blogs – including Your NZ. There were a lot of clicks through to here on Thursday from an automatic Kiwiblog link. I don’t see that as ‘pretty disgusting link whoring’.

Link whore accusations are just one of many forms of trying to attack and discredit the messenger or source.

This comment came up from starboard (a long time KB commenter):

PG reported for link whoring.

Soon after that the comment disappeared into ‘moderation’. This was probably automatic. From the Kiwiblog comments policy:

If your comment has disappeared, it has probably been reported as being potentially abusive. A moderator will review the comment and decide whether it meets out comments guidelines.

I don’t know why it’s still there after a day but that’s not the issue.

What is of interest though is that a small number of people (depending on how the moderation trigger is set) can effectively censor a comment and thread if they want to. DPF may eventually release reported comments from moderation, but by then the audience has moved on.

This is the first time I have seen it happening at Kiwiblog, I don’t know how common it is, but I wonder if it is used as a deliberate means of suppression of comments and threads, a form of mob censorship.

On a blog that generally leans strongly towards free speech this is a bit of an anomaly.

UPDATE:

Morrisey at Kiwiblog:

Mr George has got it exactly right. DPF keeps away from the fray, generally, which is admirable; however the “Report” function is routinely, cynically abused by a small group of grumblers. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the same half dozen haters of free speech pushing that button compulsively.

https://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2019/01/general_debate_5_january_2019.html#comment-2396211

Comment from muttonbird:

It is a common practice on that blog. I have had several comments disappear in the same way. From memory just one was restored by the lone moderator.

Pete. It requires just 5 users to hit the report button for the comment and all replies to disappear from general view. And yes, if you have said something which really gets under the snowflakes’ skin they’ll use it regardless of whether it could be called abusive or not.

As is Farrar’s laissez faire, fact-free attitude to blogging he might restore the comment or he might not. Remember Kiwiblog only recently got the sub-comment feature having previously been a linear only comment structure which was a nightmare.

https://yournz.org/2019/01/05/mob-censorship-in-action-at-kiwiblog/#comment-337203

More on Stuff’s climate change conversation control

Not surprisingly there has been a lot of discussion on Stuff’s decision to exclude climate change “scepticism” from articles and discussions. See Anti-climate change comments no longer allowed.

I linked to that post on Twitter and got this response:

In political debates ‘ignorance’ and ‘differing views’ are often confused. There seems to be increasing attempts to shut down discussion at variance to one’s political view – this is common from political activists, but when major media like Stuff do it, it becomes alarming.

A key quote from Stuff:

Mature adults can disagree about the impact of climate change and how we should react. We’ll feature a wide range of views as part of this project, but we won’t include climate change “scepticism”. Including denialism wouldn’t be “balanced”; it’d be a dangerous waste of time. The experts have debunked denialism, so now we’ll move on.

I think it is alarming that they implied that “scepticism” of an issue as reliant on science as climate change would be excluded. Scepticism is a fundamental tenet of science.

Using the term ‘denialism’ is also a concern – that is often used to dismiss any arguments that question and aspects of climate change and action to mitigate it.

It reminds me of people holding religious power condemning anyone who doesn’t by their dictates unquestioningly.

We welcome robust debate about the appropriate response to climate change, but do not intend to provide a venue for denialism or hoax advocacy. That applies equally to the stories we will publish in Quick! Save the Planet and to our moderation standards for reader comments.

Certainly “hoax advocacy” and arguments that aren’t based on facts or commonly accepted science should not be supported, but Stuff implies they are going much further than that.

Adam Smith:  Stuff admits it is a biased rag and not a newspaper

This is totally disgraceful. A newspaper now saying it will censor any views that differ from the viewpoint it chooses to advocate for.

It means that all stories in Stuff should be read as opinions not as fact. It means their journalists are advocates, not reporters.

Whilst this may well have been the case for many years, their blatant disregaard for alternative views, especially in such a public way is very concerning.

Yet Stuff  should be applauded as well for openly stating their bias, but will they clearly state that bias when publishing articles on climate issues?

Clearly, they will not publish climate sceptical articles. In that regard it could well be argued, they are failing in a publication’s duty to hold authority to account.

That was also discussed at Reddit:

Stuff has a terrible comment section which does not encourage proper discourse, does not have adequate moderation against hate speech or racism, uses a completely pointless and easily rigged voting system, and only requires an email address to post anonymously.

For a news agency these are appalling standards in my opinion. As a news agency you should be holding yourself to certain standards when it comes to reporting the news and yet those standards are completely disregarded when it comes to their social media aspect. Why? Why work so hard on reporting in a quality fashion just to have all your readers scroll down to an absolute cesspit of a message board after they read the article and risk having that as their parting impression? Why open comments to controversial subjects when you’re well aware most people are just going to announce their opinion regardless of what your article has just said? Why claim you stand up for things you care about but allow users to post vile comments? Why close comments on hugely important but non-controversial issues?

Well, we know why. You don’t actually care. You want to retain visitors as long as possible and you know that engagement is the key and you clearly don’t give a fuck how they go about it. And this stand, this stand against climate deniers, is your attempt to try and claw back some iota of self-respect.

Your peers are closing their comment sections because they know it has failed miserably.

Like countless other news outlets, NPR found itself overwhelmed by trolls, anonymous contributors who had too often hijacked comment threads with offensive and inappropriate submissions.

Wise-up, Stuff.

I linked to my pos

Stuff seem to be limiting their coverage and discussion to “the appropriate response to climate change”. What an appropriate response is should still be very much up for discussion, and that should allow for questioning the responses that some advocate – some extreme responses are advocated by some, like rapidly eliminating the use of fossil fuels and halting meat production. Counter arguments should be allowed.

Trump supports “sick behavior” online

In a series of tweets Donald Trump says:

  • that Republican/Conservative voices are being unfairly discriminated against online
  • that “Censorship is a very dangerous thing & absolutely impossible to police”
  • he supports “sick behaviour” being able to continue,
  • everybody should be able to participate, “good or bad”

He keeps condemning ‘fake news’ – information online that he doesn’t like or doesn’t want published – but suggests that favourable fake news be able to continue unfettered.

What happens online across the political spectrum is bad enough without the president – someone in an extraordinary position of power and online reach – effectively promoting a war of words that presumably he thinks he can win.

He may end up being a big loser personally (he is aat risk of that at least), but the online community loses out bigly with the sort of behaviour he is defending, promoting, and doing.

Speaker demands that media censor baby coverage in Parliament

Ahead of Jacinda Ardern’s return to Parliament next week (she ‘returned to work’ yesterday but seems to have worked from home in Auckland) the Speaker Trevor Mallard has warned media off acting like paparazzi in Parliament – fair enough.

The ban only applies to baby Neve and not to Ardern.

But Mallard has also threatened severe repercussions for ‘accididental’ or incidental shots of Ardern’s baby, and this is quite controversial, especially to the degree Mallard has explained it.

Stuff: Warning to journalists who take unauthorised photos of returning Jacinda Ardern’s daughter Neve

Parliament’s Speaker Trevor Mallard has issued a warning to journalists planning to take unauthorised photos of returning Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s baby Neve.

The Parliamentary Press Gallery was informed that any journalists who took unauthorised photos would have their accreditation removed and their employer would also be penalised.

That’s harsh.

The only time photos or video featuring Neve could be taken are in a single specified area (level 1 foyer of Parliament House) or by invitation only.

That seems draconian.

A spokeswoman for the speaker said most parents who are members of Parliament might not want their childrens’ photos taken and as part of a family-friendly parliament, parents’ choices would be respected.

The rules were not new and all photos taken in the parliament precinct needed permission and that would continue to remain in place, she said.

Parliament’s filming and photography protocols apply to anyone seeking to film or interview politicians on the parliamentary precinct. Non-accredited people had to seek permission on a case-by-case basis.

So it seems to be a reinforcement of existing rules.

But media are allowed to film and photograph in parts of Parliament.

However, accredited journalists – the Press Gallery – had greater freedom of movement under the rules to interview, film or photograph MPs in some additional public areas.

The rules allowed Press Gallery journalists to film or photograph members on the parliamentary forecourt and steps, the level 1 foyer of Parliament House, corridors outside select committee rooms, the reception areas of Parliament and Bowen House, as well as outside the Beehive Banquet Hall.

This is where things get tricky. If the baby ends up in the background of an interview Mallard says that must be edited out – that is, part of the interview must not be shown.

I don’t think Ardern will pop up in shot with Neve when Kelvin Davis or Clare Curran are being interviewed to effectively censor the shots to save face.

But Ardern (and Gayford) must have some responsibility to remain discrete with Neve and avoid those parts of Parliament where filming may take place,

An interesting discussion and clarification on Twitter:

Newshub:  Speaker threatens to kick journalists out of Parliament over PM baby privacy

Graeme Edgeler: Is it required to delete like the text says, or prohibited from airing (so maybe blur, reaction shot, b-roll over audio etc?) like says in the audio? There’s a massive difference.

Reed Fleming: Good. Neve isn’t actually an elected member of Parliament and should be able to visit Parliament without being filmed – just like hundreds of members of the public do every day. Calm down.

Henry Cooke:yeah but if clarke walks past the background of a shot with Neve in his arms while a minister says something newsy it seems ridiculous that we would have to delete the video

Reed Fleming: A shot with Clarke walking past in the background, out of focus surely isn’t what the Speaker is targeting. Chasing them across the bridge probably is. I don’t think it’s an unreasonable or onerous rule to follow.

Henry Cooke: Yeah but Reed that exact example was actually brought up and he did say we would have to delete it.

Reed Fleming: that seems an absurd application of a reasonable rule. hope you’d broadcast that example regardless.

Graeme Edgeler: Henry confirms that the rule the Speaker has sought to impose is the stupid alternative of the two alternatives previously described. Don’t air it? Sure. Run a reaction shot? Sure. Blur the background? Sure. Delete the footage of eg a minister making a newsworthy statement. GTFO.

This may all be moot – if Ardern and Gayford don’t wander past when the cameras are rolling it may never come up.

Talking of censorship:

I know that Mallard had blocked me from his pre-speaker Twitter, but I don’t recall ever interacting with his @SpeakerTrevor account. I have no idea why he doesn’t want me to see what he tweets as Speaker. Is Parliament a secret society?

And – it’s a bit ironic that Mallard has banned baby shots but promotes himself with a baby photo. I think that’s the baby of an MP, taken in the House.

EU rules could ‘destroy the Internet as we know it’

The European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs has voted for controversial Internet rules that could fundamentally change how the Internet is able to work, in Europe at least (I don’t know if the rules could apply elsewhere in the world).

They have been dubbed a ‘link tax’, and ‘censorship machines’. Both would make operating a site like this not worth the effort or cost.

The rules still require approval by the European Parliament, but they are causing major concern, for good reason.

Independent: EU COMMITTEE APPROVES NEW RULES THAT COULD ‘DESTROY THE INTERNET AS WE KNOW IT’

An EU committee has approved two new copyright rules that campaigners warn could destroy the internet as we know it.

The two controversial new rules – known as Article 11 and Article 13 – introduce wide-ranging new changes to the way the web works.

Article 11 would have the effect of severely limiting linking to and part quoting news sites, something that a lot of the dissemination of information relies on and is a key to online discussion.

Article 11 introduces a “link tax”, requiring that internet companies get permission from publishers to use a snippet of their work. On websites like Google and Twitter, for instance, a small part of the article is usually shown before someone clicks into it entirely – but, under the new rule, those technology companies would have get permission and perhaps even pay to use that excerpt.

Facebook would similarly be affected.

It would also probably make it impossible in practical terms for blogs like most political discussion blogs to operate as they now do.

Article 13 would add to administrative difficulties for large operators like Google, Twitter and Facebook, and would make running smaller sites like this not worth the cost and effort.

Article 13 has been criticised by campaigners who claim that it could force internet companies to “ban memes”. It requires that all websites check posts against a database of copyrighted work, and remove those that are flagged.

That could mean memes – which often use images taken from films or TV shows – could be removed by websites. The system is also likely to go wrong, campaigners say, pointing to previous examples where automated systems at YouTube have taken down a variety of entirely innocent posts.

Smaller sites might not even be able to maintain such a complicated infrastructure for scanning through posts, and therefore might not be able to continue to function, activists claim.

TNW also describes the rules in EU votes for memes ban and censorship machines — what now?

Article 11 (a.k.a. link tax) would force anyone using snippets of journalistic online content to get a license from the publisher first — essentially outlawing current business models of most aggregators and news apps. This can also possibly threaten the hyperlink and give power to publishers at the cost of public good.

Article 13 (a.k.a. censorship machines) will make platforms responsible for monitoring user behavior to stop copyright infringements, but basically means only huge platforms will have the resources to let users comment or share content. People opposed to the proposal worry that this could lead to broader censorship, threatening free speech via parody, satire, and even protest videos.

The rules still have to pass through the European Parliament.

The committee’s vote doesn’t automatically make the Copyright reform and its controversial articles law. Instead, it cements the European Parliament’s stance on the issue — which is highly influential — before entering the final stage of the legislation process.

However, there is a way to change that. Plenary is the European Parliament’s tool to bring matters out of committee and put up for a vote in the Parliament itself, i.e. have all 751 MEPs vote instead of only 25. But there needs to be enough support in Parliament for this to happen, so opposers have already started campaigning for a plenary session.

If passed I think that this would have an adverse effect on many news websites, who rely on quotes and linking to promote and circulate their news.

Many news sites deliberately use Twitter and Facebook to attract readers and viewers to their own sites.

And I doubt they will appreciate the administration overhead of responding to all requests to link, unless they simply ignore them all.

The rules could also have a chilling effect on online discussion. In New Zealand some news sites allow discussion on their own sites, but most don’t, they rely on Facebook and Twitter to facilitate discussion.

EU rules would probably have a limited effect here in New Zealand, if any. I don’t know if the EU could impose or police their rules outside their own region. And if they could it would only apply to European news sources – it would create a censorship wall between the EU and the rest of the world.

So if passed by the European Parliament the proposed rules may only destroy the Internet as they know it in Europe – unless it had wider jurisdiction.

What if a trade agreement between New Zealand and the EU was dependent on abiding by their Internet rules?

If the proposed rules applied here now I would not have been able to post about it like this.

Thanks to ‘soundhill’ who brought this to my attention at Kiwiblog.

More Otago University censorship

Otago student newspaper Critic: Issue 13 is out and we’ve censored the Uni right back

https://www.critic.co.nz/

Otago University Proctor’s dumping of Critic magazine “regrettable”

A follow up to University of Otago confiscates Critic magazine.

Otago University now says the actions of the Proctor in seizing and dumping hundreds of Critic magazines was “regrettable” and they will meet with representatives of the Critic today. Given the furore over alleged theft and censorship some damage control is in order.

The Proctor is Dave Scott – Proctor’s office.

However this The Menstruation Issue will have turned out to be one of the best publicised issues of Critic ever

RNZ: Uni magazine pushes boundaries with menstruation cover

The Otago University proctor will today meet with the editor of student magazine, Critic, to explain why hundreds of copies of this week’s issue have been taken and destroyed.

I think that more than explaining is required.

Yesterday, the university admitted it had removed the magazines because it deemed the image on the cover objectionable. It depicts a pixel-style cartoon of a naked person with their legs spread, menstruating.

Critic editor Joel McManus said the magazines were distributed Sunday night and received a lot of positive feedback from students on Monday. Later that day he saw the magazines stands around campus were all empty – initially thinking they were picked up due to popularity.

“Then I realised every stand on campus was empty and we knew that someone had come through and cleared the whole lot.”

He was shocked that the university was responsible for the magazines’ destruction.

In a statement, a university spokesperson said it had been informed by the Dunedin Hospital and the Dunedin Public Library, both asking for the magazines to be removed from their foyers.

The University should have referred it to the students who run Critic to deal with their magazine distribution.

The University proctor then decided that the rest of the magazines needed to be removed from everywhere else.

A very poor decision, especially on campus.

“The proctor understood that the reason copies of this week’s issue had been removed from public places, was that the cover was objectionable to many people, including children who potentially might be exposed to it.”

About 500 magazines ended up in a skip bin on campus where they cannot be recovered.

The university said this was “regrettable”.

The proctor will be meeting with Critic today to explain what happened and why.

Draconian censorship and theft will take some explaining.

The chief censor’s office says while some will find the magazine cover offensive they don’t think it looks illegal.

In a statement, the chief censor’s office said on first viewing the cover seemed offensive rather than legally objectionable.

“It doesn’t hit our subject matter gateway criteria (sex, horror, crime, cruelty, or violence) and while the image does depict an explicit view of female genitalia, the image is not sexualised, nor is it particularly degrading or dehumanising.

“Generally speaking, cartoon or animated imagery does increase the psychological distance between the viewer and the publication.

“However, all films, videos and publications are classified using the same process, so the medium itself is not as important as the content and context.”

The editor of Critic gives his explanation:

The idea for the issue about menstruation came from a women’s-plus group on campus and meant to raise awareness of access to sanitary bins for trans students, Mr McManus said.

“Our team worked really hard putting the issue together and it’s an issue we’re incredibly proud of.

“It’s a cover that is challenging, but it definitely got people’s attention … so it was a real shame when, essentially, our readers haven’t had the chance to read it”

Critic online: The menstruation issue

I don’t particularly like the graphic cover but that’s irrelevant to this. Free speech and freedom of expression of a student magazine is a big deal, and the University proctor has really stuffed up here.