Internet censorship

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Internet censorship is generally considered to be the denial of access to certain websites or services on the internet, though attempts to ban internet anonymity could be considered to fall under this category. It is a subset of the things mentioned on the free speech page.

Censorship can be as local as a parent installing software on the computer their child uses to attempt to prevent them from seeing 'undesirable' content, or as global as the methods China uses to prevent a whole population from accessing content their government deems undesirable.

Both of the methods mentioned above are usually arbitrarily imposed on the audience concerned (the child in the first instance, the population in the latter.)

However, until recently, it has been assumed that in 'The West,' the public are generally allowed to view sites or use services without censorship - with a few exceptions - usually activities that are against the law 'in real life.'

For example in the UK it is illegal to access 'child pornography,' or 'terrorism' sites though there are a few anomalous areas - such as in the UK where 16 year-olds are old enough to have sex, but not old enough to photograph each other while they do it.

More recently, however, the list of 'illegal' things to view on the internet has included things that aren't illegal in real life, such as 'extreme (adult) porn.' For example, the case of Simon Walsh, previously a barrister until the trial, who was arrested for possessing 'extreme pornography' (6 photos attached to emails; 3 of the consensual and sexual use of a urethral sound, two of anal fisting and one in which the age of a young man was in doubt[1]) was a very public and embarrassing one for Mr. Walsh, however he was acquitted of all charges.[2]

Parental Internet Controls - UK - 2012

Consultation

http://www.education.gov.uk/a00211052/parental-internet-controls


Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 - Pornography - United Kingdom

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2008/4/section/63

Prosecutions

John Kerlen - Bexley Council/Cllr Melvyn Seymour - April 2013

Convicted for calling a councillor a cunt on Twitter, Mr. Kerlen is to be sentenced in May 2013, and could face up to a 6 month jail sentence[3] . He has also been handed restraining orders that order him:

  • Not to own, operate or write on a website or social media any criticisms of Bexley Council
  • Not to contact the victim directly or indirectly
  • Not to write directly or indirectly about Bexley Councillors on any site
  • Not to refer to the victim directly or indirectly on any site

Unnamed man - Poppies - 12 Oct 2012

Police in Kent have arrested a man after a picture of burning poppy was posted on a social networking site.

The force said in a short press release posted on its website that the man, from Aylesham, had been arrested on suspicion of "malicious telecommunications".

"This follows a posting on a social network site of a burning poppy,"[4]

Matthew Woods - April Jones - 6 Oct 2012

Matthew Woods (20) was arrested for posting on Facebook a sick joke[5] about April Jones - a schoolgirl who had recently gone missing - shortly after comedian Frakie Boyle wasn't arrested for posting a similar joke on twitter:

Jimmy Savile did an incredible amount of charity work towards the end of his life, just to be sure he could shag Madeleine McCann in heaven.[6].

Woods was accused of sending a public electronic communication which is grossly offensive and charged under section 127 of the Communications Act[7]. He pleaded guilty on 8 Oct 2012, and was jailed for 12 weeks, the maximum permitted, less a third for an early guilty plea[8]


Naturally, the joke was so heinous that it cannot ever be repeated, at least not on the news channels:

Wood[sic] has pleaded guilty to sending by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive.

Were you offended? We’d show you what Wood said but it’s so offensive that the media and courts have not included it in official reports. The news has been censored. You – you slack-jawed fool – cannot hear what Wood says. You might repeat it. And that would be awful. You could cause offence, even unwittingly.[9]

Not that it stopped lots of people from posting similar jokes on Sickipedia. With no arrests.

It appears that Woods' major faux-pas was to post the joke on the Find April Jones' Facebook page[10].

Azhar Ahmed - British Soldiers - Sep 2012

A man who posted an offensive Facebook message following the deaths of six British soldiers has been given a community order.

Azhar Ahmed, 20, of Fir Avenue, Ravensthorpe, West Yorkshire, was found guilty in September of sending a grossly offensive communication.

He said he did not think the message, which said "all soldiers should die and go to hell", was offensive.

Ahmed was also fined £300 at Huddersfield Magistrates' Court.

He will have to do 240 hours of community service over a two-year period.[11]

Daniel Thomas - Tom Daley,Pete Waterfield - 20 Jul 2012

After coming in 4th in the men's synchronised 10m Platform diving event at the Olympics, Daniel Thomas (17) tweeted some homophobic abuse to Tom Daley. Thomas was arrested on suspicion of malicious communications[12].

He was subsequently released without being prosecuted after Daley and Waterfield indicated they didn't want to press charges[13]

Liam Stacey - Fabrice Muamba - 17 Mar 2012

On 17 Mar 2012, Fabrice Muamba suffered cardiac arrest during a FA Cup quarter final[14]. Moments after Liam Stacey (21) started posting some allegedly "racially offensive" comments on twitter. However there is some confusion about what charge he actually faced:

He was initially charged with a “racially aggravated public order offence”, but after this was withdrawn – the minor problem being that his comments did not actually mention race – he is being charged instead, under the Communications Act 2003, with “sending a message that was grossly offensive.”[15]


There have been some inaccurate reports in a number of places about the offence with which Liam Stacey was charged. He was charged with, and pleaded guilty to, a Racially Aggravated s4A Public order Act 1986, and not inciting racial hatred.[16]

The end result is that Stacey pleaded guilty, and received a 56 day prison term.[17]

Paul Chambers - Robin Hood Airport - 6 Jan 2010

During the winter of 2009/2010, cold weather had affected many airports in the UK. On 6 Jan 2010, Paul Chambers (26), posted the following to twitter:

Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!![18]

He was arrested on 13 Jan 2010 and charged initially charged with making a bomb threat. This was subsequently changed and he was charged under Section 127 of the Communications Act for the offence of sending a menacing message.[18].

He was found guilty in May 2010, and fined a total of £2,000[18].

A Nov 2010 appeal in Doncaster Crown Court was dismissed[19], as was a High Court appeal in Feb 2012[20].

A second High Court appeal in Jun 2012 finally overturned the conviction in Jul 2012[21]

Internet Watch Foundation - Scorpions album - 5 Dec 2008

The IWF proceeded to block a single Wikipedia article covering 'Virgin Killer,' a 1976 album by the Scorpions, because it featured an unaltered image of the cover of the LP album which depicted a naked prepubescent girl. The block affected a large part of the UK's internet population[22]. The block was later rescinded with the IWF stating

the image in question is potentially in breach of the Protection of Children Act 1978. However, the IWF Board has today (9 December 2008) considered these findings and the contextual issues involved in this specific case and, in light of the length of time the image has existed and its wide availability, the decision has been taken to remove this webpage from our list.[23]

Government Censorship

Russia - Internet restriction bill - Jul 2012

Russian lawmakers recently approved a bill in the lower house of parliament that is causing quite a stir. The bill in question is meant to protect children from viewing harmful material specifically, but opposers are worried President Putin and the United Russia Party will use the legislation to censor and exert control over internet usage in Russia, according to Reuters. Many fear the government will try to shut down Facebook and Twitter among other social networking sites.[24]

Demands for Censorship

From individuals, made because "someone personally feels that since they don't want it available, no-one else should be able to access it." From corporations because they're "losing money" to an outdated business plan.

BPI - websites from UK consumers - 23 Oct 2012

internet providers have been asked to voluntarily block another three sites accused of piracy by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).

The BPI, which represents major UK record companies, has asked the ISPs to stop people accessing Fenopy, Kickass Torrents and H33T.

“Like The Pirate Bay, these websites are profiting illegally from distributing music that isn’t theirs, without permission and without paying a penny to the musicians, writers and producers who created it," a BPI spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "It is plain wrong."[25]

Susan McLean, Australian ex-policewoman - Prosecute internet users who cause offence - 17 Oct 2012

A leading cyber-safety campaigner has called on police to prosecute the creators of hate pages on social media following Facebook's decision to close down a page mocking Jill Meagher, the 29-year-old Brunswick woman abducted and killed last month.

Susan McLean, who spent 27 years with Victoria Police before launching her cyber safety consultancy three years ago, said police have the ability to prosecute the creators of pages that are in breach of Australian laws but appear to be unwilling to use it.

Speaking of the Facebook page that made claim to the protective cloak of "controversial humour" while hosting deeply offensive material that supported rape and murder, Ms McLean suggested campaigners who were angry at Facebook were misdirecting their anger.

[...]

Ms McLean claimed police already have powers to pursue posters of such content. Under section 474.17 of the Commonwealth Crimes Act, it is an offence to use "a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence", punishable by three years in jail.[26]


Patti Boyle & Joanna Lane - Suicide websites - 19 Sep 2012

TWO mothers whose sons took their own lives are joining forces to pile pressure on the Government to ban websites selling 'death in a bag' suicide kits.

Patti Boyle, 54, of Purley, and Joanna Lane, 64, of Coulsdon, will march on Westminster today armed with a petition to demand ministers shut down websites "earning money from the death of our children".

[...]

Mrs Boyle, whose son Kevin – a high-profile chef trained by Jamie Oliver who took his own life after ordering a suicide kit online aged 26 – said: "I want to see suicide websites banned. I want them stopped at point of entry to the UK.[27]

Good luck with that one...

Mrs Boyle, who revealed the website Kevin used was traced to Honduras, Central America, is calling for a blanket internet service provider filter which effectively bans access anywhere in the UK.[27]

Thin end of the wedge there - should it happen, it'll move onto political speech, newspaper sites, mumsnet, and whatever sites Mrs Boyle currently feels she should be able to look at today.

Mrs Lane, of Southwood Avenue, whose son Christopher took his own life in 2008 aged 31, after ordering a book on the internet, will also use the Government's announcement to push for stricter laws.[27]

Mrs. Lane doesn't want to stop at suicide websites, she apparently wants it extended to the like of amazon.com and waterstones.com.

References

  1. The trial of Simon Walsh at Kingston Crown Court - Heresy Dungeon
  2. Extreme porn acquittal puts prosecutors in the dock - The Independant
  3. Freedom of speech row as blogger faces jail for calling councillor a c*** on Twitter - Mail Online
  4. Kent man arrested after picture of burning poppy posted on internet - The Guardiam
  5. ‘Troll’ arrested over April posting - Lancashire Evening Post
  6. Frankie Boyle says Jimmy Savile is shagging Madeleine McCann in heaven - Anorak
  7. Man charged over April Jones Facebook post BBC News
  8. April Jones: Matthew Woods jailed for Facebook posts - BBC News
  9. Stupid Matthew Wood sentenced by stupid court for stupid April Jones joke - Anorak
  10. Teenage troll jailed for 12 weeks after 'despicable' comments on April Jones Facebook page - London Evening Standard
  11. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-19883828 Azhar Ahmed sentenced over Facebook soldier deaths slur] - BBC News
  12. Tom Daley Twitter abuse: Boy arrested in Weymouth - BBC News
  13. [http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4548586/Tom-Daley-Twitter-troll-will-not-face-charges.html Twitter troll footballer will not face charges for Tom Daley abuse Read more: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4548586/Tom-Daley-Twitter-troll-will-not-face-charges.html#ixzz28ipuEBNk ] - The Sun
  14. Fabrice Muamba can recognise family, say hospital and Bolton - BBC Sport
  15. In defence of Liam Stacey’s freedom of speech - Ceasefire Magazine
  16. Liam Stacey’s conviction for tweet about Fabrice Muamba - Crown Prosecution Service
  17. Fabrice Muamba: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days - BBC News
  18. a b c My tweet was silly, but the police reaction was absurd - The Guardian.
  19. John Betjeman would have been prosecuted under Twitter joke laws, court hears - The Telegraph
  20. The “Twitter Joke Trial” - The High-Profile UK Legal Case On Social Media And Criminal Liability - Who's Who Legal
  21. Robin Hood Airport tweet bomb joke man wins case - BBC News
  22. Brit ISPs censor Wikipedia over 'child porn' album cover - The Register
  23. IWF statement regarding Wikipedia webpage - IWF
  24. Internet restriction bill raises concerns in Russia - Comfi News
  25. Big labels try for ISP blocking on 3 more 'pirate' sites - The Register
  26. Call for creators of hate pages to be prosecuted - The Age
  27. a b c Mums march on Westminster in bid to shut down suicide websites - This is Croydon Today